The whole story
Over the last decade Ada’s brilliant medics, scientists and programmers have developed the best AI-powered diagnostics engine in the world. The engine reduces the average lead-time for the diagnosis of rare diseases from 14 weeks to 14 minutes.
But the business was facing problems. The journey to turn the “engine” into a viable consumer product was faltering – perhaps understandably, given the complexity of the challenge. People disagreed over direction. Key staff had left. What should have been an exciting, happy and productive time had turned into anything but.
Ada’s leaders are both visionary and hard working. They were doing everything they could resolve the problems. They ran strategy workshops. They tried to set OKRs across the business. They hired in yet more talented, senior people. But progress was slow, investors were complaining, and tiredness was setting in.
We took them for coffee and, having listened to the issues, offered to help. The team was cynical that we could. One of the leaders is an ex-management consultant, and knows that game. Plus any number of advisors had already been and gone. So we said: give us one week, and access to ten of your people for just 40 minutes each. If we don’t come back with some new insights and a helpful plan, fire us.
Seven days later, our WorkForces toolkit had completed its own diagnosis. In one simple table, we set out the hidden structural, operational, political and cultural bridges and barriers ahead. We then ranked them, and drafted a 6-month change roadmap that prioritised the highest impact, lowest cost fixes.
In partnership with Ada’s leaders, we set to work. First, we went deep on leadership itself. We coached the senior team to understand their natural preferences and biases. We supported them on communication and how to embed organisation-wide accountability. Next, we consulted on strategic planning. We supported the leaders through the difficult process of agreeing direction between themselves. We also helped them to manage investor expectations. Finally, we trained in new behaviours around the use of technology. This helped develop better organisation-wide collaboration and communication.
This wasn’t easy. Change is hard at the best of times. But it can be even harder in long-term working relationships. This is because behaviour has often become habit. There were times when change felt impossible. But, to their credit, the leaders pressed on.
Six months later, it was all change. A new strategy was forming. Investors were happier with progress. Leaders were better connected and more insightful about their and others’ behaviour. And the numbers were up.
The key insights
- The value of change work depends on good diagnosis. It’s easy to try solving the wrong problem.
- Diagnosis doesn’t need to take months if you have the right tools.
- When committing to a change programme, don’t be afraid to start small.