The AO process

The term “process” is a little overrated for AO. Like I explained in the previous paragraphs, the model has an intrinsic “Agile” nature. It means that data has to precede framework and not the opposite. This sounds a bit high level I confess, but it is important to be as much beliefs-neutral as possible. Shifting from a robust structure to a very nimble responsive organization cannot happen in a big bang. The change is a learning process to ensure that all parts of the big system called enterprise are finding their places in the new model.

By default, every enterprises are considered as in “Structure” and you start to ask following questions without any explanations:

  • What is your Agile?
  • What are your pains?
  • How far do you want to go?

These questions are asked at any level of your organization from the top to the bottom. Once all the answers collected, consolidate bottom-up. From all this data, you will see patterns emerging that will help you to set up the transformation backlog.

This part is on purpose high level. The aim is to define the strategy and to start with an aligned strategy. The tool that I use is called Hoshin Kanri (HK). HK has been agilized by focusing more on facilitation than on the tool. We want to ensure that everyone in the company is focused on the right strategy from the CEO to the house keeper.

We want to avoid the usual wrong manner like:

  • Top-down waterfall strategy
  • Mandate and implement
  • Do the same thing better
  • Do, do, do, do, do
  • More is more
  • Less is more when it means more with less people

Initially Hoshin Kanri has been influenced by Deming PDCA´s and Drucker´s management by objective. The Agile way of doing it is to assume that the first strategy is maybe wrong and it will be improved empirically over time. 

How far can a strategy be accurate? The strategy is what motivates people from your enterprise to work together. Making money is a consequence of good execution, it is not a strategy. The 1990´s have been the emergence of management. Great models like Lean have been denatured to become mostly a cost killing excuse.

A company can have a five year plan as long it is high level and revisable. And that plan should come from the company and not from a consulting company. Notice that the “outsourcing” model has been applied all over the organization allowing senior management to not-be-accountable for their decisions.

A good strategy is one year based, a great is quarterly based. In some cases, when your organization has become fully autonomous like in the AO model, then the strategy becomes wisdom, what brings us together.

The strategy, wisdom or True North has at least following components:

  • Company culture (attention, Agile cannot be the company culture)
  • Assets, know-how, strengths (SWOT analysis)
  • Market, trends, development portfolios
  • What words describes you?

The process I use when applying the AO approach is asking the same questions at each level of the organization, like:

  • What is the problem you try to solve?
  • What is your agile?
  • If we reach your agile in a year, it looks like what?
  • How do you organize work?
  • How does your work flow looks alike?
  • Whereabout are you in that work flow?
  • How do get information?
  • If you keep your situation and your salary, are you doing the same job?

These questions are just an example to illustrate what I intend to understand, like

  • Are you using your full potential?
  • Are you happy at work?
  • How is the level of information in the organization (Robitaille model).
  • Is there a workflow or a value flow?

These questions and measures (data) are asked at each level of the enterprise and then consolidated in a collective workshop. That data is a “chaos” interpretation of each subsystem. The purpose of the workshop is to build on the top of each “data”, the main picture of where we want to go. In coaching terms, it is the “design the alliance”.

From that “alliance”, I will ask the question what kind of organization might support that purpose. And, then I will ask who want to commit where? That question sounds a bit provocative but in fact it delivers the level of trust and fear that the organization has.

As example, a couple of years ago, I run a workshop for the managers of a hotel. During the workshop, we worked on the value stream of each of the managers. That value steam has then been consolidated as a big picture. The managers visualised that 60% of their activities where duplicates (another manager doing the same). They removed the necessary work and they improved their working model. Since that time, very quarter, all the managers and employees of that hotel are doing the same exercise to ensure alignment and optimisation of their work.

Visualization of work is key. Often enterprises are visualising their work in complicated and obscure powerpoint. These documents are mostly clear for its designer and not engaging of the those in charge. 

Posted in: AO method

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