Breaking Down Silos: Where do we start?

Fascinating research from McKinsey’s most recent Five Fifty shows that CEOs “indicate two primary symptoms of silo syndrome: (1) inadequate information and (2) insufficient accountability or coordination on enterprise-wide initiatives”. 

As many of us may have read in Gillian Tett’s excellent The Silo Effect – wherein she shares multiple tales of what she terms ‘silo syndrome’, from City Hall in New York, to UBS bank in Switzerland, and Sony in Tokyo, even the most effective and motivated leaders in the world exhibit unproductive and uncooperative behaviour when they are ‘mastered by silos’. Others, however, show how institutions and individuals can master their silos instead.Here at Just3Things, we’ve been focused on the death of the functional silo for several years, working hard to build a platform for teams of all disciplines to use to align not only daily and weekly workstreams, but truly empathise with each others’ challenges and skill sets. Some of our tools focus on really practical measures, such as incorporating company-wide goals on all team pages inside the platform; whilst others are more complex, asking users to pro-actively declare alignment of their initiatives and objectives to their business’s strategy. 

Helpfully, McKinsey has broken down the four key measures that they have reported as effective in eroding these decades-old barriers.  We thought it might be interesting to take a look at each of these measures through the lens of our clients’ experiences, and the many conversations we’ve had this year around the realities of cross-functional collaboration:

 

  1. Get Informed about the Business Context:

    Employees and teams that remain overly-focused on the delivery of projects as opposed to taking the time to understand the underlying customer problem driving that piece of work are at greater risk of under-estimating new competitive threats.  At J3T, we find this issue manifested in a very tangible way when we ask new users of the platform to begin to align their team objectives to the overall corporate strategy. By default, we find many users will simply leave their objectives “ungrouped”, indicating that there is, in fact, some real confusion about why even significant programmes of work are being undertaken at the team level.

     

  2. Get Transparent with your Customer Data:

    Far too often, functional silos don’t just extend to difficulties in sharing marketplace research from team to team, but also to the inability to intelligently leverage key customer contacts and data from multiple databases and sources.  At J3T, we often hear that clients are most delighted by the feature we offer that automatically surfaces projects or initiatives that are similar to ones you are working on in the right hand rail of the platform itself. Why is this so impactful? Clearly, marketing and customer experts – all with the best of intents – have been duplicating customer acquisition, service and marketing efforts for years and there are far more optimal ways for us to be leveraging our valuable customer databases to ensure these inconsistencies don’t happen.

     

  3. Rotate Your Talent:

    By now, we all know that one of the defining hallmarks of Millenials and Gen Z in the workplace is their desire to accumulate a broad range of skills and experiences across a greater number of professional roles and industries throughout their careers.  To ensure you are listening to those aspirations and acting on them, managers must be aware of the future assignments and team constructs that their talent might want to be a part of (and not simply make the assumption that every employee is seeking a direct promotion in their current function!).  Here at J3T, we firmly believe the first and most essential step in exposing curious employees to opportunities in new functions and departments is to build transparency into the reporting of key initiatives at all levels of the company. In our platform, every employee can view the key priorities of any team across any function and learn the names, titles and job descriptions of the key players driving those priorities forward in an effort to democratise the traditional act of “internal networking”.

     

  4. Drive Accountability Across Small Teams:

    Finally, we know that once the initial steps are taken inside the enterprise to break down the traditional barriers of functional silos, often what are formed are smaller, more diverse teams of cross-functional specialists.  These “squads” (as they are sometimes called) are more ideally-suited to directly addressing customer issues by focusing on outcomes over outputs, but in order to ensure they remain focused on a scope of outcomes that is manageable and actionable, they must be given more autonomy to test and deliver. Distributing accountability to networks of small teams as opposed to the top layer of a traditional hierarchy is one of the most culturally challenging – but absolutely essential! – transformations that all J3T organisations grapple with. 

Product Owner

Location: Bristol


Just3Things are looking for a Product Owner to help us accelerate and create amazing things for our customers.

Who are we?

Just3Things is a software platform which helps organisations of all sizes to adapt quickly, collaborate effectively and deliver more. Born of the realisation that while over 80% of C-suite executives* recognise that they need to restructure their organisations to be more agile and responsive, very few of them know how or where to start; J3T builds technology to facilitate cross-functional team working and alignment of goals across every function and level of the company. We are passionate about building transparency into organisations to foster inclusive and empowered networks of teams, and believe in the power of prioritisation to drive measurable outcomes across companies. Just3Things was built and deployed from OVO Energy, one of the fastest growth businesses in Europe, and recently valued as a UK ‘Unicorn’. Therefore whilst the J3T company was only formed in 2018, the platform is established with a successful track record.

We now have over 5,000 users with a commitment from current clients to roll out to 10,000 more in 2019 and a healthy pipeline of new business. The key challenge for our platform is engagement of the end user – the problem space is easily understood and appreciated by the buyer but the platform is only as good as the data entered; appealing to the end user is key. Therefore user research to improve core journeys, feature sets, and simplicity of use are fundamental.

The Product team comprises six experienced and senior engineers, a UX designer and is headed up by a CPO with a wealth of experience in building B2B SaaS platforms. Together we have developed a highly effective and friendly team culture based on lean principles and user focus. 

*Deloitte Human Capital Survey 2017

What can I expect to do?

Your organisational superpowers and interest in lean/agile may have led you to perform Scrum Master or Project Management roles in the past. Perhaps you have done a hands-on Product Management role working closely with the development team, whipping a backlog into shape and swatting away distractions while involving the right people at the right time.

This role is about working with the Founders, Chief Product Officer and UX Designers to understand the ‘why’. You will help to create clarity from big fuzzy ideas, enabling the development team to effectively deliver against these.

You will be optimising the time of our developers – taking away noise, ensuring that sprints are always prepared and ready, and that developers have what they need to work effectively. We care about avoiding unnecessary context switching, about rapid iteration, learning cycles and, critically, we are focussed on outcomes for both customer and business.

What would make me successful in this role?

  • Ensuring a pipeline of ready work for dev, you get your hands dirty in writing stories, breaking down tickets, defining success criteria, etc.
  • Owning the state of the backlog: keeping it neat and ordered, knowing what to keep and what to say ‘thank you – goodbye’ to, Marie Kondo style
  • Own the running of sprint planning meetings, retros, daily stand-ups and other ceremonies
  • You know how to corral meetings and bring people back to the agenda firmly but with a sense of humour
  • ‘Stop starting, start finishing’ mindset, supporting our ‘release early, release often’ philosophy
  • You thrive on learning and continuous improvement
  • You have a perspective on product and development methodologies, but you aren’t dictatorial about them

Tools you’re ideally familiar with: 

  • Jira 
  • Trello 
  • Google Suite 
  • Google Analytics 

Nice, but not essential: 

  • SQL
  • Feature Flag Management

What’s in it for me?

  • Ability to have a real impact – we’re making it possible for organisations to truly realise their ideal of being agile, with adaptable empowered, purpose-driven teams. From start-up to corporate to bleeding-edge product-led organisations, you’ll go along the journey with all of them.
  • The opportunity and autonomy to reinvent, and change the course of a successful, mature product. To shape Just3Things’ future, and the future of our clients.
  • The strongest teams are diverse teams – unusually for a tech company our product and tech team is 50/50 female-male split, have a female leadership team and work tirelessly to create a safe-space for our team to thrive. With offices in beautiful Bristol and well-heeled, eclectic Kensington Church Street London as a creative we think you’ll enjoy the cultural vibe.
  • Opportunity to develop and grow – in such a fast growing business there’s a real opportunity for you to make your mark and try on different hats to build your experience. We value learners and recognise that people have passions both in and out of work so we embrace this and will support you as you reach for your career goals.

 

Interested? Apply now

Send your CV and application to hello@just3things.com

Outcomes Over Outputs – Interview with Barry O’Reilly; sought-after speaker, author and business advisor.

Managing Outcomes Over. Outputs : more than just semantics

One of the most consistent observations we have made here at Just3Things when working with our clients is the exponential difference in organizational culture, productivity and effectiveness when leadership and teams manage to outcomes over outputs.  

We spoke to one of the leading experts in this field, Barry O’Reilly.   Barry is the author of recently released Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results, and co-author of the international bestseller Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale  — included in the Eric Ries series, and a Harvard Business Review must read for CEOs and business leaders. 

He works with many of the world’s leading companies, from disruptive startups to Fortune 500 behemoths, to break the vicious cycles that spiral businesses toward death by enabling culture of experimentation and learning to unlock the insights required for better decision making, higher performance and results.

 

 

J3T: Hi Barry! Let’s start at the beginning – what is the difference between outcomes and outputs?

Barry: It feels deceptively simple but can make a huge impact on how you, your teams and organization perform: Outputs are what you expect to ‘produce’, the products, goods and services which result from an intervention. Outcomes are quantifiable changes in behavior you will have caused due to the output you created.

 

Output  Outcome
Launch newsletter signup Capture contact information of 25% of site visitors 
Certify 50 scrum masters  Reduce user story cycle time by 50% 
Invest $1,000,000 in online marketing campaign  Increase user activation rate per application download from 20% to 50% 
Add feature for ‘$50 Gift For Friend Signups’ to our user product page Increase our user growth rate by 20% in the next three months
Deploy scripts to automate software release to cloud infrastructure Reduce lead times for software releases by 50% 

 

J3T: So why is it better for teams and organisations to define Outcomes?

Barry: An outcome is the level of performance or achievement that occurred because of the activity, product, good or service your organization provided—more specifically the change in customer behavior that occurred. Outcome measures are a better indicator of effectiveness than output measures, for example if you completed the activity on time, on budget and scope but no customers use your product would you consider the effort a success? Outcomes quantify and assess how the product or process you created enable customers achieve the impact they are aiming for. 

Spending the time to define outcomes is always trickier than defining output but gives lots of advantages, including:

 

  • Allowing teams to create a shared understanding of why they are working on an initiative and what success looks like. 
  • Open up options for how teams could achieve the outcome they are aiming for. 
  • Increase the meaningfulness of work because teams can tie their efforts to results and gauge if they moving towards the desired outcome they seek (or not).
  • Creating more of an experimental approach – defining customer outcomes and asking teams to take responsibility at this level opens up the opportunities to experiment with outputs. Did X move the dial? No? In which case let’s try Y.
  • Balancing the need for long term planning with a ‘test and learn’ approach. Most large enterprises are adopting agile or lean ways of working based on the promise of delivering better customer outcomes faster — yet the majority still measure output as success. It can be daunting for stakeholders who are used to annual planning cycles and predictive controls such as time, budget and scope to switch techniques to manage uncertainty. Defining outcomes help engage stakeholders in valuable dialogue on what behaviors they expect to see from customers as indicators of success over  planning every feature that they will release that year with little real insight and limited customer feedback of they are useful, valuable or even needed. Ask stakeholders what they expect customers to be doing differently as a result of the output you create, then measuring and monitoring this can be a great way to help them get started. 
  • Not creating a culture of ‘busy fools’ – in many output driven organisations we see lots of activity and people working really hard, but without stopping to ascertain whether what they are doing (output) is creating any value for the customer or organisation (outcome) until the output is full complete. Our mission should be to learn as quickly and cheaply as possible if our effort is driving the results we’re aiming for.

 


J3T: Sounds great! So how do organisations start?

Barry: I encourage teams to think big but start small, and learn fast as they explore how to deploy an outcome-based approach to their portfolio of work. Don’t change everything all at once — start small, tiny in fact. Identify one product, or new feature or backlog item, start there by trying the following:

 

  • Keep asking ‘why are we doing X’ – for example why are we releasing this feature? What difference will it make and to whom? What change in customer behavior do we expect to see? 
  • Don’t get hung up searching for the one perfect metric or baseline data — start where you are and define what customer behavior you would expect or would be different if the output was available to the world].
  • Try to measure rates and ratios over totals — aiming for a percentage increase is better than saying ‘we can’t define this outcome and so we will see if we can get five customers use it’. Instead, say ‘60% of customers must use the feature’ to test its valuableness, and support an experimental approach’
  • Don’t forget that outputs can also be constraints to foster innovation – we typically think about outputs as a control metric (e.g. deliver this project with $1,000 or release this feature by this date) which force feedback cycles to happen, and reflect on our results. Use output metrics within reason as a forcing function for innovation, for example an outcome a customer success team might be responsible for could be increasing customer retention by 20% in the next month. 

 

J3T: What do you see as the key challenges to organisations defining outcomes?

Barry: One of the biggest challenges is that people are so used to managing to deadlines, budget and scope they don’t know how to measure value in any other meaningful way. 

When I present the idea of looking at outcomes they can see the benefit but don’t know how to start writing outcome based measure of success — it is daunting. 

Another barrier is trust between ‘business’ and technology stakeholders in organizations. Sometimes business partners can feel that you are trying to trick them, plus they to feel comfortable managing to output because it’s the way they have always managed initiatives. 

When people are time poor, the pressure is high and they have been sold new process as the way to succeed, their appetite to experiment is much lower. This is why thinking big but starting small is key, and showing people how the method works and could a better approach. The breakthrough comes by working, learning and unlearning together. Review your existing initiative dashboards, notice if the measure all output or outcome based. Try to identify and introduce one new outcome based measure on your dashboard that you can use as a pilot for a new way of work — then scale from there.

 

What if the metric is lagging indicator?

When people start to embrace outcome-based methods they often use metics such as revenue, profitability and customer satisfaction as a measure of success — but these are all lagging indicators. 

Businesses and teams need to think about how to also create leading indicators as the outcomes they are aiming for, and behavior they know mean the customers is on the path of success.

For example, at Netflix increasing revenue through customer retention of the service is a key outcome for the business. But if you’re working there, waiting each month for customer retention results, and even colerating your work to such a top line metric as customer retention, is challenging. 

That’s why creating leading indicators for the outcomes you aiming for is important and more actionable for the team. Therefore, if you’re working on the Search team at Netflix, and know retention is important you can ask a question such as, “what customer behavior in search would be a leading indicator for retention?” Maybe you’ll say the lead time from searching to starting a movie. You can then model and measure how quickly people can search for, discover and starting movie via your search functionality and see if that impact lagging indicators like retention rate of those customers. 

This takes work and skill but ideally you would look at a mix of leading and lagging indicators— you need to be thoughtful and have checks and balances. But getting started is the first step, so start small and learn fast when works for your context. 

 

 

What other behaviours can stand in the way of teams focusing on outcomes?

Leaders struggling to devolve decision making – or on the flip side, teams being afraid to make decisions. 

The incentives in place in a business make a huge difference too – leaders can say that the team should experiment, try out their ideas to succeed and work together toward outcomes but if leadership behavior shift when bonus are on the line, or paid out individuals on completion of projects on time, budget and scope this is totally mixed messages.

For me, the trick is to find  the cadence for your context; how do we get into the rhythm of making smaller more frequent bets and outcomes with leading indicators rather than creating big upfront plans with the output predicted in terms of time, budget and scope ? Every company has different requirements for different levels of fidelity of plans and some of this will also vary by stakeholder. 

Figure out how best your teams can keep stakeholders updated with the bets that they have made and whether this has moved the dial on the outcome metric you’ve agreed together matter. This is a very different way of working than planning everything out at the beginning of the year but the benefits you can realize in terms of organizational culture, productivity and effectiveness once you learn can be extraordinary.

 

J3T: We hear a lot about psychological safety – how important is this?

The quality of safety in organisations will directly impact the quality of information that you get. 

Ensuring that individuals and teams know how to design safe-to-fail bets is important to enable and make sure they feel they can learn from mistakes. How openly and honestly teams can and are willing to share their learning so that others can jump up the learning curve more quickly is an outcome every organization and leadership team to be aiming for. 

You can think big, start small and learn fast tomorrow by asking your teams on a scale of 1-10, how safe do they feel to share open and honest information? Accept the score they give, and start small to improve. Ask what you can do as a leader to help improve that score by half a point. Pick one suggestion for a week, try it and learn fast what works and doesn’t. Role model your efforts to unlearn outdated behavior and thinking as you seek to create a create of experimentation and learning to help others succeed. 

 

 

To learn more about Barry you can;

 

Read Barry’s blog at: www.barryoreilly.com

See what he has to say on Twitter: @barryoreilly

Subscribe to Barry’s podcast at: www.barryoreilly.com/podcast

Join Barry’s newsletter at: www.barryoreilly.com/newsletter

Just3Things offers you £100 off your booking for the L&D Influencers, Europe Conference

Join Kim Atherton, Chief People Officer from OVO Energy, as she discusses the challenges and opportunities presented by organisational transformations.  In an effort to bring more transparency across functions and ease the anxiety associated with any “re-org”, Kim actually built and implemented a new platform, Just3Things, to drive alignment and clarity of purpose.  She’ll be discussing OVO’s journey with Just3Things at this session.

 

For £100 off your booking, simply use the “FriendofKim100′ promo code and visit the website here.

Transforming Volkswagen Financial Services

Inspirational CIO, Christian Metzner, is transforming Volkswagen Financial Services to deliver better customer outcomes, faster

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to join VWFS’s two day PI planning session, alongside SEACON organiser Barry Chandler. I found the sessions hugely inspiring – the team were hugely excited about working in new ways to deliver value to their customers faster, and Christian placed huge emphasis on the importance of culture in achieving these aims. Read Barry’s blog about the two days here… 

Click here to view the content

£50 off tickets to Europe’s leading conference on Enterprise Agility, SEACON

On Tuesday 12th November 2019, leaders and practitioners from across Europe are coming together in London to share best practice and actionable insight on organisational transformation, entrepreneurial leadership and design thinking. 

 

With fantastic speakers including the CIO of Volkswagen Financial Services, Christian Metzner,  Deloitte’s Head of Enterprise Agility, Jon Smart, and Adventures with Agile’s founder, Simon Powers, it is going to be a really interesting day. Just3Things CEO and Co-Founder Kim Atherton will be joined by OVO Energy’s CTO, Ed Conolly, to talk candidly about the highs, lows and moments of near tears associated with implementing a network of customer journey teams whilst scaling one of the UKs fastest growth unicorn companies. 

 

Just3Things are offering £50 off tickets – please use the link below to book yours and we would love to see you there!

 

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/seacon-2019-the-study-of-enterprise-agility-conference-tickets-52387178461?discount=J3T@SEACONUK.COM

 

Missed our webinar? “Turning the Tanker”

Organisational transformation programmes in the financial services industry

 


Sandy Scales
Head of Agile Adoption
Royal London

Aaron Clift 
Head Of Digital Strategy, Portfolio and Innovation
Royal Bank of Scotland

Kim Atherton
Co-founder & CEO
Just3Things

Missed our webinar?

Not to worry! If you’re still interested in hearing from experts at Royal Bank of Scotland and Royal London about the realities of organisational transformation, you can access the recording now below.  Topics we tackled included getting employees “comfortable with the uncomfortable”, coaching leadership on how to “hold their nerve” in the face of setbacks, the road to building additional capacity as a business.
Give it a listen and drop us a line if you have any questions.

 

Want to download instead? Right click and press save here to download.

How do Co-Founders meet?

In the modern workplace, careers are not so straightforward. The Economist featured Kim & Erinn’s journey together in becoming Co-Founders of Just3Things (spoiler alert – like all successful relationships, it is all about having similar values).

Annual Planning in 2019: Dreaming Big and Building Consensus

As 2019 kicks off, many of us will sit optimistically in a conference room somewhere and dig into annual strategic planning for our team, our department or perhaps even our entire company.  It’s a time to place big bets for the coming year, and to anticipate and debate some of the challenges we are all experiencing in a business environment that seems to accelerate through increasing stages of flux and disruption with each passing quarter. Whether disruption in your sector takes the form of new digital platforms, direct-to-consumer upstarts or new regulatory changes, the one thing we can all agree on is that striking the balance between agility and stability is amongst the most important jobs leaders must undertake.

 

As a recent Harvard Business Review article rightly proclaims, businesses achieving this balance successfully recognise that in

“confronting disruptive change, the heart of the challenge is a human one. Leaders understand that they must allocate human and financial resources to new-growth efforts or face a future in which start-ups and other rivals overtake them. Yet they are often paralyzed by the status quo and disagreement about the future”.

(HBR, Nov-Dec 2018).

 

The first step towards resolving that inevitable disagreement, of course, is providing an appropriate venue for colleagues to present and challenge their various strategic goals and priorities. This is precisely the sort of collaborative and creative environment that Matt Pitt, Head of People Development at Veolia UK, was able to create one Friday in December, as he gathered his direct reports to start to shape a view of 2019 and beyond that was equal parts ambitious and executable.  In preparation for the one day offsite, Matt asked each participant to complete a “dream canvas”, using a popular format for documenting and analysing strategic missions:

 

Matt and his team were kind enough to invite Just3Things to listen in to their presentations and debates, as the various objectives and evaluation measures were actually captured on-the-fly inside the J3T platform.  This data capture allowed us to immediately visualise clear accountability for each deliverable and align the various goals to Matt’s overall vision. Each proposed metric for evaluating success was documented explicitly and was ready to track as soon as January 1 rolled around:

Goal data has been changed to ensure confidentiality of client.

 

Of course, once these goals, metrics and measures are re-visited in the post-holiday light, there will be adjustments made and new priorities may be set, but the fact that the initial targets that were agreed on the day are preserved and can be easily adjusted will certainly help re-align everyone for a fast start in January.

 

Undertaking the exercise of publicly declaring the alignment of your individual and team goals to the company’s overall strategy is essential, as it immediately reveals workstreams that may not be aligned to a key strategic pillar at all.  If those workstreams are still considered valuable, but aren’t underpinning the company’s “north star” vision in any way, further debate will need to take place to ensure everyone understands why that disparity exists.

 

Ultimately, a quick glance at Matt’s team’s dashboard will reveal that there is already a solid balance between innovation projects and incremental improvements to existing processes that will increase key measures like employee satisfaction:

Goal data has been changed to ensure confidentiality of client.

 

It was incredibly gratifying to see how comfortable Matt’s team were in openly anticipating challenges and setbacks to each individual’s proposed “dream” statements, and we hope that dialogue continues to shape adjustments to their top priorities over the course of 2019 and beyond.