Three Ways to Rethink Your Business

Three Ways to Rethink Your Business

I received several thank you's for the previous newsletter, Three Tips for Coping When You're Supposed to Lead. I'm delighted that the issue resonated with so many of you. I've worked with several clients over the past weeks to help them rethink their projects, portfolios, and their business. Here are the questions I've been asking to help people think differently.

Tip 1: Start with Your Ideal Customers/Clients

Amy, a senior manager, was convinced her organization needed different customers. She told me, “These nice people have no more inflow of cash. We could decrease the price to anything above zero, and they wouldn't buy anything from us. We need new customers.”

Amy's ideal customers were no longer ideal. She needed to find more customers. You might not have that problem—you might have to offer other solutions for your current customers.

Consider this series of questions:

  • Are our customers able to buy from us now?
  • If so, what might we change to offer our customers something of value?
  • If not, do we want to find different customers?
  • If we want different customers, what problems can we solve that we want to offer them?

Amy first asked the senior management team, but the team couldn't see options. Amy thought they might suffer from groupthink.

Amy decided to ask each cross-functional team or workgroup to answer these questions. She organized the teams in a 1-2-4-all structure. She requested each team or group appoint their own facilitator. All the teams and groups ran the meetings as a lean coffee. Many teams discovered possibilities the senior management team had not considered. The facilitators posted the answers in a shared document.

Amy's management team sifted through the document, asking about short-term and long-term possibilities. They discovered several possible customers they had not yet considered. Those discoveries led the management team to rethink their goals.

Tip 2: Ask, “What Goals Do We Need Now?”

Amy's organization now had several possible new customer bases. They could select some small projects as experiments. She then asked this question:

  • What's the smallest goal that would inform our next work?

Some teams worked on ways to change their supply chain and distribution. As with many organizations, if they could support their end consumers, the organization had much better chances of bringing in cash.

Amy's teams already worked as cross-functional teams working on feature sets. She used the ideas in flow-based roadmapping to create small experiments. Instead of delivering an entire feature set, the teams used how little thinking to create smaller goals.

Several other teams are focused on short experiments to see if any of these new possible customer segments really were appropriate for the organization.

Tip 3: Focus on What's Possible

Amy asked each team to keep their focus on the new customer segments, what these customer segments needed as a way to think about what was possible. Yes, the teams needed to deliver their specific features or work. And, Amy wanted to keep everyone focused on the big picture—what would bring these new customers to the organization?

Amy knew that our expectations shape our reality. She wanted everyone to use the growth mindset to continue to learn and create a new reality.

Amy's organization is in the early part of their experiments, creating their new normal. However, the organization is rethinking their business and learning as they proceed. That's as much as they can do right now.

Rethinking our businesses (and society) is not a one-and-done. It's a continual loop, rethinking how we work and what we do. These questions might help you and your thinking. If you've tried something else, I'd like to know. Please hit reply and let me know.

As promised, here's a link to my Collection of My Rapidly Remote and Managing in Uncertainty Writing. Have questions? Let's chat.

Learn with Johanna

See Distributed Agile Success for all of my self-study classes with Mark Kilby based on our book, From Chaos to Successful Distributed Agile Teams: Collaborate to Deliver.

Take a look at Your Management Mentors for my self-study class with Esther Derby about Make the Most of Your One-on-Ones.

New to the Pragmatic Manager?

Are you new to the Pragmatic Manager newsletter? See previous issues.

Here are links you might find useful:

Till next time,


© 2020 Johanna Rothman

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