Recent events have taken the characteristics of a VUCA world to a whole new level. What will our “new normal” be? Nobody knows. However, I do know that organizations are going to have to re-evaluate many things. The very survival of businesses will depend on their ability to focus on initiatives that bring value, not only to themselves but to the customer. Economically, there won’t be any room for wasted time and effort.
Our Business Value Framework can help identify and develop valuable solutions for organizations. One piece of that framework is our Solution Option Success Ladder. In response to the need for re-evaluation and business optimization, I wanted to share a quick video. Hopefully, you can use this to help determine what brings value to your organization. (And, if you need help, please let us know.)
Success Ladder Framework Video Transcript
Today I am going to teach a technique that we cover in our Business Value class. This classes teaches you to ask the question, “Is it Worth It?”. In other words, should our company spend its time and money on this particular problem. If I had to summarize the key points of this class, there would be three:
- Know what you really need. Understand the business value of solving a problem.
- To choose or design a solution that delivers exactly what you need. Nothing more and nothing less. We are Goldilocks and we want a solution that just right.
- Last but not least, this class shows how to measure success of your solution by selecting appropriate KPIs or Key Performance Indicators. KPIs should measure that there is:
- A need for the solution
- That our solution is performing as expected
- And that it is delivering the business value that we want
Those three things are the foundation of our Business Value Framework, which we teach in this class.
In this lesson, I am going to focus on point number two: How do you choose or design a solution that would make Goldilocks happy? How do we get it just right? We do this by creating what we call a Solution Option Success Ladder. This ladder helps us envision what it takes to be successful so we can construct a solution that supports and delivers that success.
In this class we encourage students to bring a real, live project ideas to class with them. I am going to use an example from a previous class.
In this particular situation, the company was in the process of replacing their emergency notification system. They have facilities (refineries to be exact) all over the world. Many of these refineries are very large and somewhat geographically remote. And, unfortunately, there is the possibility that bad things can happen… weather, fires, and other events can cause a situation where the company needs to quickly locate all the employees that are onsite and determine if any of them need assistance. Then, they need to be able to dispatch the right kind of assistance to the right location within the facility. And, in an environment like a refinery, that is a lot hard than it is in an office building.
So, we started by creating what we call a Value Validation Cycle to ensure we understood the business need behind this project. The Value Validation Cycle showed us that they need a way to quickly locate and communicate with the employees in the event of an emergency. As with most business needs, there are typically a number of different solutions that you can propose.
No one liked my idea of micro-chipping all the employees but after we threw that idea out, there were a number of viable solutions. So how do you make sure you have everything you need and nothing that you don’t? That’s where our Solution Option Success Ladder comes in.
You start by taking the need that would initiate use of the solution and placing it in the bottom left corner of your ladder. In this case, you envision that an emergency has occurred at the facility. You then describe the successful outcome that we want our solution to provide and show that in the upper right-hand corner of the ladder. In our scenario, a successful outcome to the event is that everyone who needs to be helped, has been helped. So, for our solution option to be successful, it would need to provide timely, appropriate assistance to all employees during an event. We also want the employees to know that the emergency assistance system had been used and want them to believe that it worked well and be confident that it would protect them in future events. I know that is a lot but that is how we defined success for our solution. It gets used, it performs as expected, it allows the business to achieve an outcome, and really importantly, the solution is recognized as the source of that successful outcome.
Once you’ve done that, you identify all the results your solution has to deliver in order to get to the final outcome you need. It’s important to note that I’m not looking for process steps, I’m looking for results. It’s a subtle but important different that we discuss in more depth during class. It is also important to note that this is solution specific.
So, I am going to describe the ladder for a specific solution, one that involved the use of smart badges that contain chips that can send a return signal. If we wanted to look at other potential solutions, we’d build different ladders for them.
So, let’s identify the results that we need. You can identify results either by starting with the need and working forward or you can do what we call back-solve where you envision what happened just before our successful outcome and work your way back down the ladder. I am going to illustrate the Emergency Management Success Ladder by back-solving.
Let’s go back up to the successful outcome at the top of our ladder. We agreed that success when we were able to provide timely assistance to all employees who need it during an event.
If we are going to back-solve from that, let’s think about what has to happen immediately before the realization of that success. We dispatched appropriate assistance to all employees in need.
And, what had to happen to enable that? We had to identify people who needed assistance, where they were, and what type of assistance they needed.
And, what had to happen to enable that? We had to assess the status of any employees who didn’t check in and tell us they were ok.
And, what had to happen to enable that? We had to identify and locate employees who either didn’t respond or who did respond and requested assistance.
And, what had to happen to enable that? We had to initiate our safety check protocol, alert all the onsite employees, and collect responses.
And, what had to happen before we would do that? We had to have an event and need to ensure that everyone was safe.
TADA! Now we know what results our solution has to deliver, which is interesting and useful but here is where it gets really cool! We can come back to this ladder and identify the conditions that have to exist in order for my solution to deliver those outcomes. In other words, I can identify the key features, or stories, or epics, or capabilities or functions – but the key features my solution has to have in order to be successful. Let me show you an example.
Let’s look back at our second step, we need to send a check-in request to all our onsite employees. What conditions have to exist in order for us to do that? We have to:
- Know who is onsite right now, at any point in time
- Have a way to accurately determine their location
- Have to have a way to collect an, “I’m ok.” or, “I need help.” response from them.
Now in this scenario, let’s say that instead of giving everyone these tokens, we’re going to provide everyone with a cell phone, and we are going to have micro-cells throughout the facility. How would that measure up against the conditions that we’ve just identified? Well… under ideal circumstances, we could locate the physical phones so we’d know which phones were onsite, we could call or send a text to that phone in an attempt to establish communication, but does that necessarily translate to knowing where the person is? Or does it just tell you where their phone is? What if the batter is dead or they’re in an area where cell signals aren’t reliable? So maybe that solution doesn’t deliver everything we need.
On the flip side, you can use this to make sure that your solution contains only those things that we need. If someone starts advocating for a feature that isn’t a condition we need in order to deliver one of our critical results, it’s a lot easier to spot that and to ensure that we treat it as a want and not a need.
One more thing you can do – you can also identify manual conditions that your solution needs. As an example, in our fourth step, we need to assess the status of any employees who are in need of assistance. That’s probably going to involve some manual intervention and it’s probably going to require training for an in-house emergency response team and maybe even some equipment for responding to common medical conditions that might arise. Because, again, to be successful, our solution has to deliver the outcome of helping people. Just installing the communication system and turning it on, doesn’t deliver business success.
This ladder also allows us to establish our KPIs as I mentioned at the beginning of this conversation, but that is outside of the scope of what we’re going to talk about today. It is though, another deliverable that you get from using our Business Value Framework.
Here’s my shameless plug, if your organization has all the time and money in the world, then you probably don’t need to worry about identifying business value and ensuring that you create valuable solutions. For the other 99.9% of us, this class helps us guide projects in our organizations to ensure that we’re getting the most bang for our buck. Because, remember – we can do almost anything, but we can’t do everything.
Take a look at our Establishing Business Value and KPIs course to learn more techniques on how to be a value-focused organization. I hope this provides some structure to help make decisions during this critical time!
PS: My colleague, Alonso, recently wrote an article on our Success Ladder too! Read his Success Ladder – From Need to Value post to get some more insight!