Cross-functional teams should work simultaneously within or across the five stages, iteratively moving new customer value opportunities to delivery and customer feedback.
The focus should be on delivering the items of highest value quickly to get the most benefit from metrics and feedback and improve the next sprint. For example, customer feedback could kick off a requirement for new insights, or it could mean radically rethinking a particular feature on the roadmap. This iterative feedback approach enables the cross-functional team to continuously improve the items that create real value for the customer and business.
As the team implements more and more iterations, the level of organisational digital fitness increases – delivery accelerates while the lead time between stages narrows to the point where new features can be imagined, designed and delivered within days (or even hours).
Implementing the above method in fast iterations can be considered the target state for the cross-functional team, but it will take time to get there. Starting this process requires mobilising stakeholders and setting the operational pace we want to continue with.
Setting up and accelerating the method
Four foundational sprints will set the pace for teams that are completely new to this approach. Time pressure is a hygiene factor to motivate team collaboration and innovation. This approach is not about getting everything right first time, but rather setting a strategic foundation that can be built upon, using new methods of cross-functional collaboration, fast iterations and customer feedback of key value points.
The four sprints can take different shapes, but typically will involve:
- Starting with stakeholder and team alignment on a clearly-defined problem;
- Building a foundation with deep inside-out and outside-in insights;
- Setting the vision;
- Building the experience map and service blueprint, along with prototyping and validating artefacts.
These four sprints build a strategic foundation that creates business value and that can be validated with customers, setting up the team for success.
Sprint 1: Getting started with alignment
One of the biggest barriers to getting things moving quickly is a lack of buy-in or commitment from stakeholders. One thing that compounds this problem is that many organisations can have siloed internal functions that don’t effectively collaborate with one another.
To get everyone to up their game, it can be useful to go offsite to a neutral location and use an external facilitator to start people off thinking and doing things differently. One great alignment exercise is to collaboratively identify top-priority problems to address.
Problem definition enables stakeholders to align and agree on the key challenges the business faces before jumping into priority solutions. A typical approach is for stakeholders to take several minutes to quickly identify all the key business problems that exist, then group them together by customer problem areas. They will then prioritise the issues based on the collective viewpoint of the group, identifying the customer impact and business impact of each problem.
After this exercise, it’s important to do a deep dive on the identified issues to develop a full 360° view, which be done by asking questions about how the problem affects the customer, competitiveness, the business, technology and operations. Elements that are unknown or that are missing metrics can be taken into an insights phase for further validation. The goal of problem definition and the 360° view is to understand and identify key challenges for the customer and business to enable stakeholders to prioritise where resources should be focused.
Sprint 2: Building a foundation for insights
Based on the knowledge developed through the problem definition exercise, assumptions mapping is an excellent technique for imagining the potential opportunity spaces that are available to solve a selected problem. Assumptions mapping involves asking questions about what makes (or could make) the product or service desirable, feasible and viable. It typically leads to thought-provoking conversations across functions. Once the team agrees upon the opportunities and challenges, these are mapped to a grid shown below: