Fear of uncertainty: Delivery when driving change

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Fear of uncertainty really means a fear of losing control. When we feel like we are not able to control the outcome of future events, we anticipate disaster. 

In delivery, this thirst for certainty has translated over the years into rigid governance, telling people what to do, long term planning, Gantt charts and imposed deadlines. However, it’s beyond our ability to know what the future will bring. We cannot plan without errors, because we don’t actually know anything about the future before it’s already a reality.

Change as a Constant 

If you treat innovation and transformation as a one-off exercise, your differentiation quickly becomes normalised as customer expectations shift so rapidly; change has to become a constant. 

If you’re asking what your company will look like when the transformation is done, then you’re asking the wrong question. If you believe there’s a new fixed endpoint, you’re missing the point of agile and ignoring the dynamics all around you. To keep up, companies need to change continuously — it needs to be agile everywhere. Successful businesses are like chameleons. They go beyond agile practices. Transformation is being worked on every day, with everyone’s input, all the time. Change is a constant. However, giving up certainty doesn’t mean giving up predictability. 

Focus on problems, rather than projects, with a clear view of the outcome and break solutions down into smaller batches of value. Most importantly, learn what matters and will make the difference. Whilst you can’t be certain what the future holds, you can imagine it. Balance that with objectivity, leveraging data, insight and analytics to determine what is and isn’t going to make a difference. Enabled by a delivery engine that allows valuable work to flow without friction. 

Having a clear vision for your business and a set of outcomes remains important, but it’s unrealistic to expect to define a plan and it still be viable a year or two into the future. Your destination can be defined but the path that you take to get there must be flexible; embrace uncertainty and develop the capacity to be able to deal with it.

90 Day Value Cycles

To help bridge the gap between more traditional ways of working and moving to change as a constant, we passionately believe in 90-day value cycles. Asking a team to find ways to deliver value every 90-days feels purposeful and avoids “cargo cult” agile where the teams are wedded to the process rather than focused on outcomes. It helps develop a more responsive organisation where the ways of working are always changing and adapting to market needs, and everyone is always involved in improving the organisation.

Find the Steel Thread

When we are engaged with a client we spend more time listening than talking, to find a “Steel Thread” that we can use as the foundation stone for change, taking the complex and breaking it down into small, more manageable components. The “Steel Thread” is delivered within 90-days and then iterated around, but using what we’re learning from data, insight and analytics to determine the next set of changes. Our ultimate aim to help the organisation shift from value every 90-days to deliver value every single day.

Transforming “Through the Line”

Our approach helps organisations reduce time to value and offers something that can also assist in achieving their quarterly targets. But the deliveries aren’t tactical, the cumulative effect of these changes deliver a strategic legacy. It helps solve the tension of BAU vs Transformation, where large complex programmes are regularly pushed away rather than pulled. Value is often deferred so far into the future that many execs and employees may not even be in the organisation to see the results. We call this “Transforming Through the Line”.


The world is moving so fast these days that the man who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it.

― Elbert Hubbard


Many organisations still focus on big initiatives, massive undertakings with huge efforts and large numbers of people. We think if our undertakings don’t attract attention, they don’t matter. As a result, leaders often find themselves working hard against inertia – the resistance of any physical object to any change in its velocity.

So rather than battle against inertia, fuelling momentum is far more effective and a lot less effort. Small steps, even one step forward every day, can deliver exponential results. 

Teams focused on:

  1. Incremental value, not outputs
  2. A next step culture, that overturns the force of inertia to get things moving
  3. Removing obstacles, anticipating problems to maintain momentum

These give you an edge in today’s world of hyper disruption and competition.

Written by
Sullivan & Stanley