A few years ago, I was actively involved in a Lean programme at a major Wealth platform, supporting the implementation of Lean tools and techniques across an Operational team. It was billed as a Business Process Re-engineering programme and delivered a number of benefits to the organisation; reducing waste, creating capacity and improving customer satisfaction. The core concepts of operational efficiency and process improvement achieved a significant amount of cost savings in spite of the system infrastructure, and in the absence of investment in system enhancements. It justified the introduction of the concept of Lean thinking in Financial Services and triggered a long term programme focusing on continual improvement being embedded within the organisation.

It was not without its drawbacks. The ‘adopt it all’ approach took people on a journey beyond simply process oriented improvement, but extended into office design, team structure and desk layout. The mantra was that ‘marginal gains’ (not really a term used widely then but now well understood) could target benefits that only major system transformation could otherwise achieve. The pursuit of operational excellence at any cost, did in fact come at some cost; asking people to clear their desks of personal possessions played with people’s emotions and mental wellbeing and resulted in apathy towards the whole Lean Programme. An obsession with MI, sometimes devoid of context and focused attention in the wrong areas. Implementing very short term tactical fixes, when effort could be expended on more sustainable, long term benefits, took people away from strategic developments and improvements – far outweighing the tactical changes.

In light of our experiences in that programme and subsequently in organisations where a ‘methodology’ has been implemented, we at Simplify Consulting have taken a more pragmatic approach to methodology adoption in our own client engagements. Many a time we’ve seen ‘Agile’ concepts implemented in an organisation with a culture and structure entirely opposed to leveraging the benefits of Agile. ‘Agile’ has all too frequently become ‘fragile’. We’ve seen Prince 2 applied inconsistently and without a core understanding of the value across a project team. We’ve rarely seen TOGAF applied to its full extent, but then even the greatest of advocates of TOGAF would recognise the myriad of challenges in ever fully implementing and embracing the extensive breadth of structure and governance TOGAF aspires to. Finally, we’ve seen change projects become lost in requirements definition phases through a relentless focus on documenting every possible scenario and step, all at the expense of forgetting the value that a simple conversation can achieve between a business analyst and a developer.

So our approach is more proportionate. All of the above tools and techniques have significant benefits if implemented selectively and appropriately. We believe in best of breed. Tailoring the methodology to our client and their business and most importantly to the problem statement itself, not only focuses on the tools and techniques that add value, but it secures buy in and adoption more successfully than a one size fits all approach ever could. You wouldn’t butter your toast with a steak knife, so why universally adopt Agile, when sometimes it’s simply not the right tool for the job? We work closely with our clients to understand what they already have; where they have gaps and where additional capability could unlock benefits while creating a culture of empowerment, ownership and collaboration. The very best methodologies leverage the creativity, innovation, determination and desire to succeed that live in all of us; they don’t simply provide a reference document against which a set of steps are followed independent of purpose or value.

Throughout the Simplify team you’ll find professional qualified expertise who are Prince 2, BCS, TOGAF, Lean, Six Sigma, Agile certified to name a few! Yet our belief is that the selective implementation of those tools and techniques sits at the heart of delivering successfully for our clients. Understanding the theory is the minimum; practically applying it appropriately is the skill. We’ll always invest in our team and ensure they have the knowledge and capability in their toolkit to bring expertise to engagements. But we’ll also continue to urge pragmatism and stress that the very best methodologies are tailored appropriately to the problem statement.

Let us know how we can help you with your change agenda by getting in touch today using info@simplifyconsulting.co.uk

Practitioners, Proportionate, Professional. Simplify Consulting. It’s what we do.

Carl Woodward