Uncovering the patterns by Hugo Froes — Issue #9
Whether we’re talking about large product organisations are a small startup, there can be so much happening simultaneously. Identifying patterns and the connective tissue can become a super power.
I’ve often heard the expression “Our organisation is a mess and we need to take control of it” or something along those lines.
At first glance, this usually seems blatantly true and I can’t think of a single organisation that has grown and not gotten a bit confusing with that growth.
In some cases the enthusiasm to fix things and constantly evolve practices is widespread across the organisation and we have bubbles of change popping up all over the place.
Other organisations seem to be less enthusiastic about change and we see few or none of those change bubbles.
In both cases however, the organisation is still able to deliver something. The organisations were able to achieve their current level of success in some way.
So does that mean we leave things as they are? Do we just assume that they will survive?
Yes and no…
Yes, in the sense that we need identify what is working well. We need to understand the culture and how they’ve been able to achieve their current level of success.
Building on that, will help us to build on the existing strengths and amplify them for better impact. It will integrate with the culture and make any needed changes feel more comfortable.
No, because in both cases there are dangers.
In a dynamic organisation that embraces change, there can easily be duplication of work or an easy misalignment of practices if they evolve in different pockets. There is also such a thing as too much change which just creates constant discomfort and ambiguity for the team.
When talking about organisations more resistant to change, the issue becomes the increasing complexity and practices that aren’t equipped to deal with scale or adaptability. Work can easily become a chore in these cases, diminishing enthusiasm and innovation in the long run.
Where to start? Finding the patterns
I’ve found that one of the simplest ways to start creating impact is simply just connecting the dots.
I start by identifying various change initiatives that may be happening across the organisation. You may find that that two or more groups are working on something really similar and have no idea the other group(s) are doing the same.
Make sure to connect the people. Do you need to be the connective tissue? Do you need to be the driver that makes things move from conversation to action? You’ve just uncovered one opportunity.
Are there key people that should be talking more often? Introduce them. Be the middle person to help them understand why and how they should be talking. Potential opportunity number two.
If you manage to be a more neutral role, like mine, that looks across the organisation in a more wholistic way, then you can start identifying key practices that are happening at the various stages and how that impacts the teams/group.
In this case, I can more easily identify good practices to try and scale to the rest of the organisation, or problem areas that we can work to fix.
This is the third way patterns can help uncover opportunities and unlock your organisation’s super power.
How do I pattern match?
Hopefully the reasons and value of pattern matching are obvious at this point, but I don’t want to just leave it as a conceptual idea, but rather share some of the techniques I use.
This is a point I bring up constantly and anyone who has spoken to me about my work, will have heard me mention it.
I start as soon as possible identifying key people to keep informed or to help spotlight both positive and negative issues.
Sometimes these are the managers of groups, or people in tactical positions, but that have been identified as people with the change and growth mindset (People who aren’t afraid to experiment and who are always learning and discovering new ways of working).
Sketch it… or spreadsheet it out… whatever works for you
I’ve found a few options that work well for me and have helped me in connecting the dots and identify key areas to focus on:
- Miro — I personally love using Miro to start connecting the dots as I can visually create a map of the people and how they are connected.
- Key players — Whenever I start a new initiative, I usually create a 1 pager to start laying down and organising my thoughts. I always like to add a section with the key people connected to that piece of work. That way, the list is directly in the context of the work.
- Extended community — As soon as you start identifying people who are great to discuss change initiatives with, I suggest creating a sort of community of practice. Add those people to a slack channel and quickly, you have a resource for support. Make sure to add people with a growth/change mindset, but that will challenge your thinking and in some cases argue against you.
- Stakeholder mapping — I personally don’t always use it, but I know of people who swear by it and I’ve personally seen how mapping out stakeholders can sometimes be really beneficial.
You can do all of these on a whiteboard, in a notebook, on Miro or in spreadsheets. Just choose the option that works best for you.
At the end of the day, it’s not about always taking control of the mess, but rather about finding ways to make it work for you.
Finding patterns and connectivity in the various moving parts of the organisation become invaluable and often create an unexpected connectivity.
This is a glimpse into how I do pattern matching, both in terms of logic and in the tools/techniques I use.
Do you have another approach? I would love to hear more suggestion
Originally published at https://www.getrevue.co on March 16, 2022.