The power of the one-day hack

We have a new client in Vietnam who have had some training and coaching, read the books, and now needed a demonstration of what Teal Unicorn can do.

The client has an upcoming celebration event for the company with 200 guests. This was the perfect project for us to demonstrate better ways of working. The planning was bogged down across the silos in the organisation and the time is getting close – it has been stuck for more than 2 months. They hadn’t even come up with the concept for the event, with a few weeks to go. (We’ve all been there).

So Cherry got a group together for a single-day hack in which they agreed, designed, planned, and started the implementation of the event.

Here is a translation of Cherry’s first report:

When helping this organisation, we could see how they developed things in a waterfall-type approach, in stages across siloes. This is very time consuming, extremely wasteful and of course poor quality, and means everyone – all teams – are overwhelmed, busy.

When mapping their value streams, showing how they exchange information and interact with each other, I had this conversation:

“You need to change the work system so that everyone can see – make work visible [See our new book Working Naked, out next week]. I think that the current overload is because everyone is rushing, no one knows what the work is, no one knows what will come next, how much work awaits you…”

“We’re very transparent, everyone sees it. We are pressured by clients – jobs keep coming in so fast that we have to run within their deadline.”

“Maybe you’ve done it but it’s not good enough, you should try Kanban to see everything better.”

“We don’t think it will help to solve the problem we’re experiencing being overwhelmed and tired. We have already got job management software. Blah blah blah.”

“Another problem I see is how you are organising work. Creating a proposal to pitch to a prospective client takes more than15 days, plus time to edit it according to the client’s feedback that took it to 21 days. That is really too long, very wasteful, and there are many opportunities lost. If you follow the Open method you can finish it in 4 days. 5 days max.”

“We’ve optimised, allocated, and coordinated so well, we can’t shorten it any more. And if there is a shortcut, there are still other jobs coming.”

“But you will get everything done quicker and better, and the $ value you make will be sooner.”

“I don’t feel convinced.”

“You don’t have to believe me, pick a project and work with me for a day, I believe you’ll be convinced. Let’s give it a try!”

And here, in one day we included everyone involved in the flow from start to finish, and completed planning of the entire large project.  We answered:

– Who is this product for? What do they expect? What characteristics do they have?…

– What is our aim?

– How do we define success?

– How to measure success?

–  Come up with the event concept

– Design the event step by step, assigning jobs

– Put everything on the kanban board to follow up on what to do next.

Looking back at the results after a day’s work wowed everyone. People said that before joining this workday they didn’t believe it would produce such a result:

“I was pretty skeptical about the outcome, I didn’t believe people who don’t share my expertise can come up with ideas or do what I do.”

“I didn’t know I was creative, everyone just knew me as a manager until now.”

“If we were working in the old way, I would not participate in product development, only receive the brief and do coding as requested. It takes 3-4 days just to clarify information, whereas today I only spent 1 hour [the IT developer was only invited in the afternoon, people hadn’t even thought they’d need him] to understand everything and ask immediate questions and get feedback, and I will do well especially because I know the flow and understand the purpose.”

And so on….

All 13 participants were wowed 🤩, and so am I.

My advice to people who think they’re doing well:

🌸 Look at the results you and the system have created.

🌸 Look at the people working in it: are they happy and prosperous?

🌸 Look at your customers: are they happy?

If the answer is NO then you probably need to reevaluate how you are managing and how the organisation works. Be Open!

Ps. It would be great to post photos of the workshop results, but because of confidentiality, I should show off my portrait that one of their artists did in five minutes instead.

People were amazed at how much they had managed to achieve in a day after so much deadlock, and they all want to continue working this way in the future.  A different group is doing another one today!

The CEO is very very happy.

What is especially amazing is that Cherry never knows what’s going to emerge from the day. We apply the principles of Open Space and other collaborative ways of working, to allow not just the results but the process for the day to be emergent.

She can be a bit sleepless the night before but she is confident, clever, and assertive on the day, keeping them focused, moving ahead, working hard. Dr VU rocks. I’m so proud of her, and of all the good that Teal Unicorn is doing for so many people now.