“Control your process, control your projects”

In 2002 I worked for a multi-national technology organization delivering awesome products to consumers around the world. In the early 2000s, the company was in a race to be the best product company on the planet. I was on an Enterprise team whose duty it was to help the Business document how different pieces of the organization worked together to deliver value and enable products to be built “better, faster, and cheaper”. Looking back it was the right play at the right time and soon we would be the best product company on earth, even if just for a quarter.

The team I was on at that time had a motto, “control your process, control your projects”. If you understand the processes used to deliver value to your customer and they are repeatable, then any project should be aligned with the Business priority, on time, on budget, with zero defects or in other words a “controlled project”.

Eighteen years later, I’m still helping organizations to define and articulate how value is delivered, but the stakes are much higher. “Anthony, we need to deliver value faster to our customers with high quality so we [can] survive”.

“Understand your value stream, deliver your products”

In the early 2000’s we and other companies had time to document, evaluate, and align teams and product delivery models to the documented process of the organization. Nowadays, time isn’t a luxury that anyone can afford.

Competition and innovation in today’s business landscape in technology, healthcare, finance, medicine, etc… are moving faster than at any time before (i.e. Technology Is Moving At A Breakneck Pace – Are Companies Keeping Up?). In addition, nimble start-ups and tech companies in finance & healthcare are innovating on business ecosystems (i.e. Fintech is eating the World) and redefining feedback loops with lean approaches. What makes these organizations so effective is that from day 1 their business models revolve around the customer value stream, the organizations (or departments) are structured in a way to maximize the delivery of value, and they have built-in feedback loops to improve the value delivery cycle.

What this really means is that organizations that have been around for a while and haven’t invested time & effort in understanding and documenting their value streams have to play catch up while simultaneously trying to innovate like their more nimble competition (even though current products may not align with the future value streams).

Portfolio Kanban - Reduce Overburden - Improve Flow

Document your Value Stream – Take the first step

If you work for an organization that may not have a documented process or defined value stream, then there’s no time like the present to consider asking & understanding the following questions:

  • In my department or organization, what is our process for delivering value to the customer?
  • If it’s not documented, how can I begin documenting the customer value stream?
    • What should be in & out of scope for the initial pass?
  • Once a preliminary value stream is documented in your area, consider the following:
    • How many steps does it take to get:
      • Initial feedback from the customer to build something of value or solve a problem? (e.g. product problems, improvements, etc.)
      • Feedback from the customer on initial product delivery (e.g. product design, prototype, etc.)
      • Feedback from the customer on product refinement (e.g. Features in the first release, second, etc.)
  • Does the value stream need to change to reduce the steps for customer feedback?
  • Does our current work process need to change to better map to the customer value stream?
  • When will we revisit the value stream for improvements based on customer or product delivery feedback?

Learn more about Value Stream Mapping. I’ve included one of my favorites in the link.

The list above is not exhaustive but is enough to get you started. Consider using a Kanban board to track the work (or answers from above) to better understand & document your value stream.

There are great articles on Kanban Zone that help get you started in using Kanban & don’t forget to use one of the standard templates to help you improve how you deliver awesome products to your customers.

In my next article, we’ll look into how value streams can be enabled by Kanban boards & by multiple teams all working to increase the flow of value delivered to customers.

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About the Author: Anthony Oden

Anthony Oden, Kanban Coach at Kanban Zone
Agile Enterprise Transformation coach with a specialty in Product Owner & Product Management activities. In-depth experience in large scale organization Agile transformations. Helping teams and organizations apply good SAFe, Scrum, Kanban, ATDD, BDD, and Pair Programming practices. Focus on building and bringing up working groups into high performing teams.