Success Ladder – From Need to Value

Alonso Alvarez

Alonso Alvarez

Success Ladder – From Need to Value
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Identify Business Needs

In the previous article we talked about a cyclical approach to value management using the Value Validation Cycle. That model may sound reasonable, but it is also quite abstract. It takes more to achieve its purpose: the “Success Ladder” that incorporates the Value Validation Cycle’s steps to go from the business need to value delivery.

The Success Ladder always starts with the identified business need and ends with the desired outcome, but it also incorporates a variable number of steps and components to complete the ladder. Each need and/or problem can be approached in many ways, but an effective way to get closer to the solution is to imagine what achieving success looks like, then work backwards to determine the steps needed to get there.

Working backwards is comprised of a series of intermediate steps designed to determine the:

  • discovery of the need and its audience
  • stages that facilitate the delivery of the solution
  • recognition that the expected result has been achieved

Or, from another perspective:

  • the value hypothesis
  • the means to validate it
  • the evidence that confirms it

Identify Barriers

Generally, the Success Ladder looks like this, although it will vary in length depending on the number of intermediate steps needed:

Each of the steps has results that take it to the next step on the scale. As these progressive steps get closer to the desired result, they help to identify the barriers of achieving the next step. The barriers of each step are solved with a series of capabilities that can be addressed in various ways. So, moving step by step helps to specify the final process (project, activity, initiative) necessary to achieve the desired end result.

The start (problem or need) and the end (what the expected result looks like) can be easy to imagine and manage. But let’s explore the intermediate steps in a little more detail.

Breaking Through the Barriers

Each step has a result. That result is what we get after breaking through some kind of barrier. When barrier or blockage can only be eliminated by actions, a new step or results is created. Results require actions, investment, effort, etc. to eliminate the barrier. Actions involving alternatives (Solution Options) that must be analyzed, evaluated, and addressed.

Find Solutions to a Problem

In this model, when talking about Solution Options, we recognize that there is not a single solution for each problem. (A single solution involves detailed planning in advance and elimination of possibilities). Instead, this model uses a progressive approach that is based on evidence.

The intermediate steps pave the way to the end state using the Solution Option as a vehicle. The intermediate steps are structured in three blocks:

  1. Discovering the need for a solution
  2. Creation, delivery, and deployment
  3. Recognition of the value delivered by the solution (a necessary step to consider it a success)

Each of these steps has both a value delivered hypothesis and validation of that value. In other words, all progress is based on the identification and delivery of value and are articulated with a solution whose purpose is known, but whose path is discovered.

Measure Results with KPIs

The way to define the validation of the hypotheses proposedin each stage is through key performance indicators (KPIs). KPI identification is one of the basic elements on which the entire model is based. The appropriate choice of indicators allows us to understand what the desired value consists of, how to identify it, and how to determine if it has been reached.

Anticipate Problems

One of the best features of this working model is its ability to anticipate problems. Based on common sense solutions such as anticipating (defining the “what” of the desired result, and not the “how”) and making it explicit (listing the steps that lead to it), it adds another basic dimension such as empiricism and evidence. In other words, anticipate:

  • the expected value associated with each step
  • the final objective of the step
  • how to determine if the objective has been achieved

Curiously, although it sounds like an agile framework, this cycle and model are born from the world of Business Analysis.

Tips for Applying the Success Ladder

These two articles are only a small introduction to this working model that helps organizations structure their ideas and translate them into value. To finish, some reflections from this model:

  • We should potentially ignore small problems or at least prioritize them based on impact.
  • You should validate the desired business result before designing a solution.
  • The objectives of the solution must be identified based on the business objectives. And they should drive the results that deliver the most value.
  • Projects must add value (obvious , but is it always done?). Plan minimum projects for maximum value. Eliminate clogs, noise, “fluff”.
  • Measure progress, analyze data, and continually ask yourself if we’re going in the right direction, or even if it’s worth going down that road at all.
  • Create improvement strategies based on identified (and measured) gaps.

Next Steps: Learn More About Business Analysis

Learn and experience the Success Ladder technique in our Establishing Business Value and KPIs course. During this class, we will experience the Success Ladder to help you analyze the business situation, select the best solution, and develop metrics to validate the solution.

I also recommend taking a look at the Success Ladder in action! Kathy shares an example of how to use this framework in her Focus on Value: Apply our Success Ladder Framework article.

— Alonso

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About the Author

Alonso Alvarez

Alonso Alvarez

Alonso Alvarez, Netmind Lead Expert in Enterprise Agility, has over 25 years of experience and a successful track record of increasing personal and team productivity through agile methods. His knowledge spans agile related methods of Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, SAFe, Management 3.0, and Lean into software engineer areas such as cloud, video, and content management. and has played many roles in the software industry, including Developer, Consultant, QA, Project Manager and Department Manager. As an instructor, his objective is to help students gaining new skills and knowledges; as coach and mentor, he helps them overcome challenges and difficulties by putting in practice new ways of working and organizing. He is passionate about innovation, future forecasting, and overall agile philosophy, frameworks, and methods. Alonso is certified and experienced Scrum Master, Product Owner and Agile Coach. Author of two books and several articles about Agile methods and practices. Mountain bike, nature, cinema, traveling and photography are his other passions. Connect with Alonso on LinkedIn.

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