I helped a good friend move furniture last weekend — a common request when you own a truck. She told me about a project at her new job (Marketing Data Analyst at a 23-billion dollar company). In April 2016, in an attempt to prevent a PR disaster, the executive team mandated a project (my friends project) to identify customer accounts still using an old version of a product. No longer supported, the product is still used by 50% of the customer base. Yikes! If that isn’t sufficiently dire, customers using the new product version have to replace a related product because a recent software release rendered the related product incompatible. Groan.
This failure occurred because two different — but related — products were built by two different teams that didn’t talk to each other, didn’t understand the dependencies, and didn’t think about the big picture. The company is losing major market share because of communication breakdown. This is the disastrous effect of siloed teams unaware of mutually critical information. In this case, the cost of “I didn’t get the memo”, was incompatible components, unsupported software, slow lead time, and delayed time-to-market — all affecting the company’s ability to retain market share. Invisible decisions destroy organizations.
It’s tough to anticipate the unknown. A look at the risks from a big picture perspective helps to communicate the imperative. But how and where to see all the risks partitioned across different teams? I suggest the use of risk tags. A risk tag is a flag on an individual work item. Each product team (or project team) tags work items on their team kanban board that have one or more of the following characteristics: dependency, blocked, expedite, delivered late, stated late, or stalled. The work flagged with risk tags can be consolidated on one big-picture risk board.
Since it easier to grasp ideas visually, here’s a picture of what this concept looks like:
Imagine the aha’s that could occur with this level of visibility. Important work is seen in one place — particularly high risk work involving far-reaching decisions.