Step four: Thin-slice the work
In the first two steps of the micro-transformation model, we showed you how to design outcome-driven, cross-functional coalitions and pods (Step One), and then use immersion to accelerate their transformation process (Step Two). Then in Step Three, we explained how to get everyone working using an easy to follow framework called the Starter Kata. Now, we’ll describe how to simultaneously test the future state and deliver key organizational outcomes using the Starter Kata and a technique known as “thin-slicing”.
As shown in Figure R below, thin-slicing can be used to design outcomes that require deep organizational collaboration to achieve, but are narrow in terms of scope.
Figure R: Example of a thinly-sliced transformational outcome
This technique provides transforming organizations with an ideal way to achieve three important objectives. First, it provides transforming organizations with a straightforward way to ensure the transformation process is inclusive. Second, because thin-slices are intended to integrate many layers of the organization, it allows the organization to test and refine the future state hypothesis across many interaction points. Third, because thin-slices are designed as real-world exercises, the business benefits from the eventual value they generate.
When taken together, the thin-slice approach can provide a powerful alternative to more traditional transformation models that employ top-down or bottom-up approaches.
Top-down models often fail because they “push” the transformation agenda down onto the organization in a revolutionary rather than evolutionary way, creating push back among the rank and file. The bottom-up approach, by contrast, tends to be more evolutionary and have broader support from the lower levels of the organization, but tends to fail in the end due to a lack of leadership awareness and support.
The aim of thin-slicing is not to change the organization in one shot. Rather, choosing narrow slices that represent a microcosm without your organization is an approach designed to get all levels of the organization (the macrocosm) working in the future state end-to-end. Naturally, working this way helps to ensure the transformation is a more inclusive process that will enable both broader organizational participation and learning.