The Lotus Blossom funnel: improving the sustainability of the change process

In this post I introduce the lotus blossom-funnel, an effective method that can contribute to the lasting success of any change process in your organization. A digital institution with more than 1,000 employees and a reputation established over more than 20 years has came to observe that simply introducing and utilizing agile methods will be ineffective in the long term if those methods are not anchored in the underlying business strategy and organizational culture. In a recent agile change workshop, we took an in-depth look at this challenge.

 

Much ado about nothing

Two factors in particular made our workshop especially exciting. First of all, the top management team was aware—and had been for many years—that the traditional corporate hierarchy needed to be transformed into a more agile structure. This impression had been reinforced by involvement in Silicon Valley Innovation Journeys and by meetings held with leading players on the digital scene. A systematic decision had been taken to commission agile coaches to assist certain business units and their coworkers on the gradual path towards a more agile future. Secondly, the associated business strategy had already been conceived and communicated some way in advance. As a result, the company had already experimented with an agile approach by experimenting with various measures and initiatives in the past. These, however, were having no long-term effect, so that much of the energy released seemed to dissipate again within a short time. After a while, employees were starting to feel that they’d tried agile methods and wonder instead what might come next.

Our ambitious goal for the one-day workshop with the company’s entire board of directors, together with its HR, communication, and strategy managers, was to take the first steps towards identifying a common understanding of agility; on that basis, to sketch out some initial ideas for a sustainable corporate culture; and, not least, to find a rough explanation for the phenomenon of the dissipated energy.

 

A more agile organization—step by step

In the workshop, we used what is termed the lotus blossom funnel as a modified matrix technique. This allows us to gradually define the appropriate measures and initiatives for the business that will ultimately feed into a more agile organization and culture in the long term. The starting point for this method is—in line with its title—to funnel down, using impact levers, from the “big picture” at the business strategy level to the various practical measures and initiatives needed on the ground. The impact levers have a very specific function, in that they constitute the interface between strategy and implementation.

By using the lotus blossom-funnel, we can prevent managers and coworkers from falling into an inefficient pattern of apparent action that leads to no significant change over the long term. Even if this workshop might sound like a rather mundane preparatory task, this kind of “grassroots” work is vitally necessary for the introduction of a successful process of change.

The result: In just one day’s work with the company’s entire management team, we achieved clear results, evaluated existing initiatives, identified a shared definition as the basis for future work, and prioritized associated measures. In a second phase, the spotlight will be shone further on the initiatives and measures, which will be driven forward in a viral change campaign by internal “agile ambassadors”. In this viral change campaign, we will focus strongly on the power of the coworkers themselves, on achieving small but visible results, and on adopting an agile approach to errors and defects.

With the aid of our methods and process models, paired with senior managers’ willingness to consider fresh and bold ideas, we are firmly convinced that a viral change campaign can only succeed.

 

Agile methods with no long-term effects—Is this something you have also experienced? If so, how did you respond? And what do you think caused the failures?

What do you personally understand an agile approach to be? And: In your organization, do you have a common understanding of agility?

 

Photo Credit: Tim Swaan via Unsplash

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