What’s Your Minimum Viable Action for Change?
At a recent Innovation Breakfast workshop, I asked participants to send in a business challenge they faced in their organization. It had to be short, but important. Many of the challenges or questions sounded like these:
- Our own bureaucracy is getting in our way.
- We ask ourselves too many critical questions and thwart breakthroughs too soon.
- How do we find the time for research and exploration while managing a busy workflow?
- How might we create the time and space to innovate?
- How can we communicate better between the different silos of our company?
- How might we inspire a culture of curiosity within our organization?
I found it interesting that most of the challenges had little to do with customers, markets, or products (although a few did). Instead, they mostly focused on their own internal culture and people. They mirrored a common truth in business today: all of us have our heads down, trying to finish the tasks in front of us. They shed light on a common desire: we all want things to be better, more forward thinking, with closer, personal relationships.
That’s a good picture of reality for most of us. We know change and innovation is critical but we can’t figure out how to fit it in.
A challenge with the questions above is that they are BIG. One can imagine an endless stream of meetings to address these, with lots of talking and emails, and little change. The opportunity, for the people asking, is to keep reframing those questions into something smaller, meaningful and, most importantly, doable.
In that sense, larger “stuck” organizations might copy successful start-ups in the way they create a minimum viable product (MVP). The MVP is the smallest, fastest, most effective example of your business idea that you can finish and deliver to early adopters or customers. The goal is to not constrain your output and to not fasten in endless “enhancements” before going to market. It means that you’re in a continuous improvement mode as you grow.
Since none of us have endless time, space or money at work, creating a minimum viable action for change makes a lot of sense. Not seeing that culture of curiosity? Dig in and find out what the minimum viable action your staff could do (NOW!) to start testing to change that culture. Bureaucracy getting in the way? Start working on the smallest actions you could develop to change that behavior.
You can prototype and test organizational change at a scale that doesn’t overwhelm the system, that shows benefits and impact, and allows you to test and revise before you scale your effort. In fact, this is an example of service design, which doesn’t differ all that much from product design.
So many of the questions submitted to the workshop reflected frustrating, internal attitudes that make up the culture of any organization. The common wisdom says that if you can change what people believe, you’ll change how they act. But Mark Earls, author of Herd, stands that wisdom on its head. Instead, he believes, to change the way people think, you need to change the way they act. If you want to change the culture of the organization and what people believe in, you need to start changing, slowly, what they do. Luckily, that’s something within the power of every leader and manager.