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Delivery at CYB: helping teams stay focused on outcomes

Ros Vaughan, CYB’s Associate Delivery Manager, writes about how best to keep teams on course to achieve agreed results
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Ros Vaughan

Product/Delivery Manager (Associate)

06 Jun 2023

It’s important for teams everywhere to be able to deliver. You always want to improve users' lives and give value for money to clients - but for the team members themselves, there is also a sense of achievement that helps with work satisfaction, general happiness and mental wellbeing.

But working in an agency can sometimes bring an acute level of scrutiny on whether value is being delivered and outcomes are being achieved. At Caution Your Blast Ltd (CYB) we recognise how important it is for our team to stay focused on the outcomes we set out at the start of any project. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at how we achieve that.

Early alignment to establish context

To be able to reach any outcome, everyone involved has to understand what they’re trying to achieve. That understanding starts forming as soon as the outcomes start being defined. At CYB, we believe that everyone involved in delivering the work should be involved as early and as much as possible in defining the outcomes that they are accountable for delivering. That involvement provides context about what is important and why (and how that is decided).

We use statements of work to define the outcomes we want to achieve with a client. This is a collaborative document between ourselves, our teams and the client to be clear about what’s most important to the client and what’s realistic for us to achieve.

During the creation of the statement of work, the team responsible for delivering the work are involved in agreeing whether those outcomes are achievable. If there’s a gap between what’s possible and what’s important, we have early conversations with the client to align expectations and make sure the outcomes focus on delivering as much value within the constraints.

Statements of work also give us OKRs to focus on. One of CYB’s favourite clients recently asked us to increase online engagement by 15% across a service (range of products). We enjoy these challenges: the team becomes empowered and responsible for delivering the measurable improvement; by putting their trust in us, the client is able to work on other areas knowing the job is getting done.

Kick-off and onboarding for understanding

With all of the best intentions, somehow the definition stage is never quite as smooth as you’d expect it to be. With multiple opinions, sometimes conflicting between what’s achievable and what’s ambitious enough, it’s easy for people to focus on certain elements and lose sight of full context.

When the outcomes for a piece of work are defined, the next step within CYB is to give the team time to reflect and understand the full scope of their work. We run full team kick-offs at the start of a statement of work to give the team plenty of opportunity to question and understand the context and agreed goals of the work. At this stage, we perform activities like assumption mapping and top-level delivery planning to interrogate our understanding of the outcomes and the work that might sit behind them.

Additionally, we always include psychological safety - my colleague Jon Sykes talks about that here.

Keeping everyone focused

Once everyone understands the outcomes and why they are important the team moves into the delivery phase. At this point the delivery manager role is critical in ensuring the team continues to understand what their outcomes are and stay focused on achieving them. Within the team that I support, we do this in a number of ways by:

  1. Articulating a sprint goal to define the delivery priority for the next fortnight. The sprint goal won’t summarise every story in the sprint, but it defines the highest value

  2. Reviewing the delivery plan as a team in retrospectives and planning meetings to discuss progress and the impact of any work reprioritisation

  3. Structuring the delivery backlog to reflect outcomes so it’s visible how the work ties to the delivery plan and helps achieve value

  4. Evidencing why work that doesn’t contribute to a team’s outcomes isn't the most valuable thing to work on

  5. Sprint countdown for stand-ups that shows the status work, how many days are left and team confidence in achieving our goal for each workstream so we can regularly think about whether anything is slowing us down

  6. Structuring team communications (sprint review, Scrum of Scrums, stand-ups etc) around progress or problems in achieving the outcomes

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Revisiting what’s important

As a team starts to deliver work, they will discover a wealth of information they didn’t have before - even on the most familiar product areas. It’s critical for them to continuously think about what they set out to do and whether it’s still the right thing to do, in the context of what they learn through delivery. Maybe you thought the work would be simpler to deliver. Or maybe you expected the work to have a bigger impact than it’s having. Or possibly, wider priorities have changed and the work isn’t as important as it once was.

It’s ok to change your priorities if you’re presented with new information. At CYB, whilst a statement of work defines the most valuable outcomes as work begins, the collaboration on ensuring they continue to represent the most valuable work is ongoing through delivery. 

Agile methodologies enable us to uncover insight through discovery, early delivery and investigation of assumptions. We analyse that information in partnership with our clients to decide if we need to respond to new information and redefine a team’s outcomes.

Clarity of outcomes = delivering value for money

Being outcome focused, ensuring a return on investment and delivering value for money should be three ways of saying the same thing: achieving what’s most important for an organisation.

The first hurdle is always in making sure there’s a clear understanding of what is meant by value delivery. The second hurdle is helping the team stay focused and communicating progress in achieving the outcomes. The third hurdle is recognising if your priorities need to change.  

Overcome these hurdles, and you give yourself a great chance of success.

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