The story is fairly common: Middle-aged man goes to the doctor for a checkup—and is immediately diagnosed with high blood pressure. The first step is some hypertension meds to get him out of immediate danger, but he must also slowly begin to lose the extra weight, stop smoking and drastically improve his diet.
The challenges facing businesses are not all that different. We may recognize the larger, systemic root causes we need to address, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have immediate fires that have to be put out.
Traditionally, the ways to address these tactical and strategic issues have been limited, but a new methodology is striving to deliver both short-term relief and long-term success.
Is the traditional getting tired?
Let’s look at the conventional method for business assessments first:
- Spend a lot of time understanding the current state
- Figure out where the company wants to go in the future
- Identify the gaps
- Innovate some solutions and possible scenarios
- Choose the best one and build a road map to get there
A tested, tried-and-true approach to be sure, but unfortunately it does nothing to solve those pain points that simply can’t wait for the larger strategy to emerge. To put it another way, you can’t ignore the dripping water pipe in your basement even though you know you’ll be renovating the whole house eventually.
Agile may be the answer
The next evolution of assessments still values that time-honored method but adds a sensible approach to certain tactical aspects—a perfect way to solve immediate pain points while still working toward the larger goal. It essentially transforms what’s traditionally a waterfall assessment technique and turns it into an agile process by balancing the long-term plan with the short-term needs of your business.
And this rise of agile beyond just the IT jargon you may be accustomed to is paying dividends for business leaders, says Darrell K. Rigby, et al, in Harvard Business Review:
“Innovation is what agile is all about … These days most companies operate in highly dynamic environments. They need not just new products and services but also innovation in functional processes, particularly given the rapid spread of new software tools. Companies that create an environment in which agile flourishes find that teams can churn out innovations faster in both those categories.”
By continuing to build a strategic plan while tackling some of the more urgent tactical matters – automating a laborious manual process, for example – the company can realize value much more quickly.
Keep in mind this is not trying to do 20 things at once and figuring out the strategy as you go, but rather pinpointing one thing your business needs to tackle now and then working it into the larger strategy. (After all, if you wait until you know everything, you likely don’t know anything because technology is changing so much.)
Reap the benefits of a new approach
Why is this important? This shift in assessment approach means you’re going to get results more quickly than what you’d get from a large traditional assessment. It means that if you have a particular challenge in your business – something you know you need to solve right away – you can address it while you continue to build your strategic direction in parallel.
This is not without risk, of course – nothing is – but by keeping an idea of the larger strategy in mind, you can reduce that risk by making tactical decisions that would work well within those strategic options. For example, if you needed a new financial technology tool, you could ensure the tool you chose would work well with any of the tools that might be selected as part of the strategic changes.
While never 100% accurate, shoot for that 80/20 rule: If you’re able to eliminate 80% of your pain right away, it’s worth tweaking the remaining 20% on the back end. And for those companies with enough need from a tactical standpoint, the risk is more than acceptable.
So, if your company has the equivalent of high blood pressure – or if your current challenges are giving it to you – let us know how we can provide the prescription you need, to not only keep you alive but ensure your company’s long-term good health.
Rod Mack is Chief Delivery Officer at Veracity Consulting, a tech consulting team of trusted advisors, ready to deliver unique solutions to the toughest business challenges of commercial and federal clients across the U.S. Learn more at VeracityIT.com, and share your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter @engageveracity.