Setting up Remote Teams for Success by Aligning to a the Vision: A Miro-Based OKR Triangle Mapping Exercise

Real digital transformation is about technology riding shotgun

It’s almost a given that there will be misalignment between multiple teams in complex organisational structures. Across the industry, the technology teams are gradually shifting from the role of Responder to the Driver of competitive advantage. In the process of this shift there are usually major misalignments in a vast number of areas, from language, to assumptions, to objectives. The gap needs to be closed pretty quickly to secure talent as well as ensure the ongoing success of board-sponsored digital plays.

My experience is that erring on the side of an over-emphasis on vision and OKRs is worthwhile. We may guess we all all getting the same picture, but rarely do we spend the time to take into account the complexities and time it takes to reach the most useful common ground. In my mind this is worth the investment, if only for one strong reason. Distributing to the edge (for fasted response times) means that within a day there are hundreds of (sometimes critical) decisions that are entrusted to each individual. These decisions will go mainly unnoticed but will be made based on the individual’s attempt to respond to fit in what is best for the team, initiative and organisation. (e.g. iterative decision-making via the OODA loop).

One of the most important summaries of the map forward is a set of Objectives and Key Results (“OKR”). A great resource on the science behind these is the work by John Doer especially his book “Measure What Matters”.

But Teams frequently lack an understanding of the big picture.

People have trouble boiling down their own team’s OKRs, let alone linking these to the objectives of the organisation or adjacent teams. I run a useful exercise called the “OKR Mapping Exercise” that starts building muscles memory of the teams to start thinking of the various puzzle pieces needed to achieve the overall vision.

What are the Benefits of Investing in this Hour?

  • It primes each individual to be able to make optimal decisions. It usually created a better focus and ability to prioritise based on what matters by referring back to the overall context of the intiative.
  • Teams and individuals understand how they need to connect with each other areas of the organisation to be able to deliver the outcome. This fosters what I call “value-driven collaboration” and it reduces the risk of silo wastage and skipped out important stakeholders/knowledge.
  • It empowers and gets the motivates each everyone. It fosters high performing teams and cultures. It gives each individual a “why” as they understand how they contribute to the real success in a complex organisation. (e.g. Daniel Pink’s Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose motivation model)

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Future of Payments eBook

Last month, working with the Contino team we published the Future of Payments eBook.

The idea was born out of long standing frustration encountered with payments providers & teams struggling to take advantage of public cloud. As payments numbers continue to grow, there is also a serious need to leverage the vast datasets locked away in payments databases in order to increase their agility and improve the overall client ecosystem.

I started to ask the reason why payments was lagging in cloud adoption & dropped this into a mindmap (Mindnode), outlining the challenges, the value potential and solution options.

The intention was to provide a call to arms with a quick, tangible step to adopt a data streaming architecture that blasts through the “analysis paralysis” challenge that has subverted many previous attempts.

The time seemed right with the a number of overlapping events:

  • Prevalence of streaming architectures.
  • Desire for payments to modernise ecosystems.
  • Ease of public cloud adoption & agility benefits.

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The Trouble & Flows with Tech-Strategy: Converging Knowledge Through the Strategy Lifecycle

Tech strategy formulation and execution are a high risk activities.

It can feel like succeeding in the cutthroat digitally competitive marketplace is like attempting to:

  • hit a bullseye (“achieve product-market fit”).
  • on a moving target (“fast shifting digital personas”).
  • while standing on quicksand (“rapidly changing tech capabilities”).

An understanding and balanced hypothesis across each major lever is needed. This requires the convergence of multiple disconnected skillsets and specialties.

Bringing tech & non-tech teams together to create a detailed strategy is difficult. Hitting the right tone, level of detail and subject matter is a delicate balancing act. Most strategy sessions fall short by either diving into technospeak, or sticking to meaningless business platitudes.

Why do tech strategies usually fail to deliver value? An example of some common pitfalls that eventuate:

  • A general misunderstanding (built into a set of assumptions) on the details of a technology or engineering approach.
  • The tendency for “silver bullet thinking”: i.e. having expectation that purchasing a product or adopting a set of standards will directly correlate to competitive advantage.
  • Underinvesting by viewing tech strategy as a set of purchasing decisions rather than an in depth business transformation.

Now for the good news.

There are in depth resources available that really help bridge the gap between technology & business strategy. While there are many others that I didn’t have time to mention, the below have been invaluable to my experience in progressing effective strategy when collaborating with a combination of tech and non-tech audiences.

The below covers some guidance starting points for guidance across the strategic lifecycle:

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The Problem with Underpants Business Models

One of our clients was implementing an AI initiative. The MD of the business unit invested heavily but further down the line, was becoming impatient on the initiative outcomes. He was focusing on concepts like revenue, optimisation, entering new markets. What he was hearing about was, AI, cloud and training models. An ongoing joke developed that this product was based on the “Underpants Business Model”. In the Southpark episode, Gnomes draw a blank when trying to connect their fervent activities with profit. (The 30th episode)

Gnomes Planß

The problem with Underpants Business Models

These gnomes may sound ludicrous, but how many of these Underpants projects have we all been involved in? Companies are simply not great at setting a clear vision and communicating this to employees and partners. This counts for overarching visions (e.g. Vision statements) as well the interpretation of the vision on a contextual micro-level. There is a huge cost to not setting a clear vision, including:

  • Wasting technology investment. Tech is fast, vast and any lack of clarity flows through to a sub-optimal “Frankensteinesque” product.
  • It hinders experimentation. Without clarity, there can be no useful metrics on the intended arrival point and there are weak feedback loops. This can breed Zombie Projects rather than a portfolio of rapid, incremental products.
  • It destroys employee engagement. At a time when attracting and retaining talent is key, a lack of vision makes every day a Sisyphean task. Sisyphus was condemned by the gods to push a bolder up and hill continuously without any end point. People need to see their efforts making an impact to the result and an endpoint.

Setting a vision

In the very first instance you need to know what game you are in. This can be confusing in the current context. Are you in:

  • EXPLORATION MODE: searching for new features, products, markets or business models? Or are you in:
  • EXPLOITATION MODE: taking something that already works well and optimising it for competitive benefit.

An EXPLOIT vision could involve focusing on cost optimisation, faster speed to market, growing sales. EXPLORE required activities involved in finding a new product, market or meeting an unmet need.

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Point everything in the same direction

It’s no secret that modern enterprises have grown scarily complex in the digital age. But are they more complex than they need to be? Many of the best approaches favour simplicity because it cuts through the noise and offers clarity. Assigning a single metric (“One Metric That Matters”) for a set period of time can be a powerful antidote to organisational confusion and is a powerful message that clarity is valued over more content.


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