Our approach to transformation and a short history of MVIs©
Rokker have been designing, launching, and transforming clients’ businesses since 2015. From day one we wanted ‘our approach to transformation’ to be a more practical, action-based version of consulting. We want to help clients to understand where their business (or business unit) is at a given time, what the objectives are, and how they can move from one state to another in a defined timeline. As someone once said to us, “what we ultimately sell is clarity”.
Our prior experience told us that this type of transformation was very rarely down to one person, team or activity, and we developed our PRISM© methodology, deployed alongside well-proven design thinking and research capability, to capture in the inputs and insights in a 360 degree way to give us the holistic data we needed to create a robust and creative strategy around a given business challenge.
For clarity, the first 2 stages of our process look like this:
1. Definition – Create alignment on objectives with all key stakeholders, identify opportunities and blockers early on, understand clearly the constraints, timelines and success criteria around a given challenge or objective.
2. Discovery – Using a combination of primary (including interviewing internal audiences), desk-based and network research we look to clearly understand the audiences, market, competitors, comparators, processes, technology, communications, resources and other ‘sails and anchors’ related to the task in hand. We have a dedicated research team, who support analysts and consultants to ensure our data and insight is focused and thorough.
Actionable transformation through Minimum Viable Initiatives (MVIs©)
Once we have this strategic intent and associated research and insight, we needed a way of clearly mapping the actions/activity required, across potentially multiple people/teams/external parties to move the business from one state to another, in a way which met the needs of a modern client operating in a fast-paced environment – this is how our (copyrighted) methodology of Minimum Viable Initiatives (MVIs©) came about.
When dealing with transformation you generally have two types; those with a binary outcome (done or not done) or those which form part of a corporate journey and are less binary (how right/wrong did you get it…). For example, the definition, vendor selection and deployment of a new piece of business software is the former; it is a transformation project that has a clearly defined outcome which you can measure success against (the new software is deployed and being used). In this case, strong waterfall project management, with a clear critical path, is an excellent way of managing a binary outcome. You know up-front what the expected result should be over a given time, and you can plan activities and resources around this – we would do that in this way at Rokker.
For those projects with a less binary outcome, for example the improvement of a ‘sales to production process’ or ‘a change in strategic direction for a business or business unit’ those with a more complex objective which could be influenced by market forces, for example the ‘launch of a new business unit or entire company’, we needed a much more agile approach – for this, we use MVIs©.
The inspiration behind MVIs©
To create the MVI© methodology we took learnings from Agile software development. Where you would have a ‘Minimum Viable Product’, which, in true Agile, is always evolving from a launch state, and its scope is based on customer/stakeholder input, not simply what the technology team ‘could’ develop. In the world of software/digital product, great Product Management is essential. What we ask our clients to do is think of the challenge we are undertaking as ‘the product’ and we then map the Agile process to this.
Firstly, we have an objective, this would be like your MVP scope. In Agile, you then have Epics, these are larger components which go together to make your product, in our world an Epic = MVI. Each MVI then has a number of tasks associated with it, and it has a clear owner, timeline and an Objective and Key Result (OKR), which we use to measure the effectiveness of each. These MVIs© can be cross-departmental, and either run by individuals or teams, but the owner is responsible for them being done. One of the benefits of MVIs© is they can be both contingent (one relies on a previous activity) or non-linear (they can be done in isolation). However they all go together to make up an objective, so no matter which ones you do, you cannot ‘not’ move yourself toward that objective in a clearly measurable way.
MVIs© can develop with your business
They are also truly agile and scalable, if the market changes, then you change the MVI© impacted, if someone leaves the organisation, again you just change the MVI© impacted; if the strategy changes or the business objectives change you can add or remove MVIs© and the project is still relevant. This is counter to Waterfall where broadly, everything is contingent, and it is usually unforgiving to major external forces. As the old saying goes ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’; your MVIs© are components of a plan which flexes to that engagement, giving you the weapons to achieve your objectives even if the landscape changes.
The other advantage of an ‘MVI© map’ (the way we define these over the agreed timeline) is that you can add more detailed MVIs© closer to you in time (these might be easier to define and control), and less detailed (but strategically important) ones further out, which you can then prioritise on a corporate roadmap, much like a good Product Manager would do with software, based on feedback from internal and external (usually customers) audiences. We can also use this to provide information like ‘ease of implementation vs ROI’ to identify quick wins as part of our action-bias.
We often think of a client’s strategic direction like a vector (in that it has a direction and a magnitude) and MVIs© are a way of ensuring that this corporate vector is heading in the right direction with the right force(s) behind it, or as a tool to course-correct if not.
To re-cap then, MVIs© are:
- Like Epics in Agile, they are medium sized activities that go together to form part of a larger transformation / objective
- Usually People, Process or Tool based but could equally be Research, Marketing, Communication or any other activity deemed necessary to reach the objective
- Underpinned by a set of tasks and OKRs, all of which are accountable and measurable
- In some cases, contingent but in other cases non-linear
- Adaptable to internal and external forces / changes
- Part of a wider corporate roadmap of transformation
- Efficient in that they are detailed within a controllable timeframe (short-to-medium term) but strategic in mapping objectives over a longer period
In our process, MVIs© are created in our Ideation phase and mapped in our Planning phase, on from that we (Rokker) can support a client in the execution or general management of these MVIs should they wish. In all cases, we would support measurement around the effectiveness of these on a quarterly or biannual basis.
Following on from Definition and Discovery we move into the following stages of our process:
3. Ideation – Taking the output and insight gathered through Discovery and then using both strong industrial logic, and a good amount of collaborative creativity, to define a well-thought through set of activities (MVIs©) which go together to achieve the wider objective
4. Planning – Once defined and agreed, we move to a Planning phase, where all MVIs© will be locked into a work plan, and assigned to an owner (internal or external), timeline, and OKR.
5. Execution – Where required, Rokker will provide wide project and programme management around the creation, optimisation and launch of initiatives as agreed in the above outputs. We deploy operational team members to work alongside/inside the client to ensure objectives are met.