Start with STIRR

Start with STIRR

Big Thoughts

26 October 2017 • Written by Jacob Creech

At Assurity, we’re privileged to work with some of New Zealand’s best and brightest organisations and support them on their growth journeys. In the process, we’ve identified common themes that lead to sustainable transformation and growth, rather than a ‘flash in the pan-type’ change.

We’ve created a model to help us understand what increases the likelihood of success for these organisations and identified four key pillars that lead to successful change and growth – Sustainable Transformation, Innovation, Responsiveness and Relevance (STIRR). While each pillar is independently useful, we’ve seen that there’s significantly more value when they’re combined.

In addition, we’re also building an assessment model so organisations can understand their maturity in each of these key areas, benchmark their growth and development, identify the right areas to focus on and develop and evolve a roadmap to increased maturity. Here are some questions and ideas so you can consider how it might help your organisation.

Sustainable Transformation


“Transformation isn’t a future event – it’s a present-day activity” Jillian Michaels

What does a successful, sustainable transformation look like? Ideally, it should engage people at all levels and roles of and within an organisation to ensure something that is long lasting. We need to build habits that support ongoing change, rather than generating short-term enthusiasm without long-term results.

We need to consider people, processes, structure, strategy and leadership as a collective and provide support in all areas to lead to sustainable change. This is how the Navy Seals deal with challenging situations – “We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training”. Given that, we need to make sure that base enables us to deal with our challenges rather than letting transformation falter. Old habits really do die hard. 


What values, beliefs, attitudes and habits do we need in place to build ongoing change? Do we have a safe environment where people are willing to be transparent and challenge the status quo? What behaviours have positive impacts on our sustainable transformation? Do we point the finger when we fail or do we treat it as a learning opportunity? This has a huge impact on the culture of the organisation. 


Which policies, processes and procedures do we have in place to enable people to get work done? If we’re working in a project-based model, how do we ensure that we can do what’s right for the organisation rather than for the project? How is work funded to ensure we focus on the right thing at the right time?  


What does our organisational chart look like? Who reports to who? What are the roles and responsibilities of our organisation? Who is empowered to make what decision and when? We need to ensure that people are encouraged to make the right decisions at the right time and have the right information to do so.


What are our goals, our measures of success? What’s our long-term purpose and vision? Is it something that’s widely understood and embedded in the organisation or is it just a statement we whip out when it seems relevant? We want to ensure that people understand and truly buy into our strategy and that we’re committed to it as an organisation. 


Our style, values, habits. Many organisations have a lot of management, but not a lot of leadership. To be sustainable though, we really need that drive. It should also be leadership at all levels, not just from executives, with the right people leading at the right time. We need to form networks of champions and change agents inside our organisation to enable sustainable change. 



“Innovation is seeing what everyone has seen, and thinking what no one has thought” Albert Szent-Gyorgyi

How can we build an organisation that’s ready and willing to disrupt itself? How do we develop ideas that surprise and delight our market? How can we make leaps ahead as a business? What are the things that will extend or improve our core business, what do our next generation offerings look like and what should we consider with regards to future new markets, new technologies or new product or service offerings? Looking out at these so called ‘three innovation horizons’ and developing strategy to support them is essential. 

For example, when Tesla first started producing cars, they had a strategy that addressed all three horizons. The core – first horizon – for them was the automobile… starting from a very expensive, limited production model, moving to medium volume, less (but still) expensive to a high-volume, mid-priced vehicle. Each generation borrowed optimisations and learnings from the one before it, gradually refined and enabling them to reduce cost.

With each new generation – the second horizon – technology evolved and battery technology continued to improve, enabling ever further range and more autonomy for their vehicles – driving autonomously on highways, self-parking and other functions each more advanced than the generation before it.

The third horizon continues to evolve, but the future they see is a world in which people no longer need to own cars. Like an autonomous Uber fleet, they come and pick you up and drop you off as and when. They’re looking at integration with their solar technology, the greatest issue being the storage of energy produced during the day for consumption at night through integration with the in-car batteries.

We need to consider all three horizons to deliver amazing work now and in the future. We have the skills and tools needed to support that ongoing innovation. What’s your organisation doing to focus on today, tomorrow and the future?



“The key to all motivation is desire, and the master key to creating desire is responsiveness to the needs, desires and interests of people” John R Noe

How can we best respond quickly to market and customer need? What should our organisation shape be to be able to turn on a dime? How do we enable and empower people to make the right decisions at the right time? Given that markets evolve, customers need change and unpredictable events often occur (take the recent earthquakes in New Zealand). We need to put structures in place to allow us to rapidly respond to this change, delivering smaller increments of work on a much more regular basis and change our focus based on the feedback we receive from the work we deliver. 

In a previous organisation I worked for, customers came to me and explained their requirements for work (developing websites) which I’d then go away and deliver. To my surprise, upon delivery, they’d identify things that shouldn’t be there and others that weren’t in their original requirements that should be there. So I altered my approach, delivering a small increment on a much more regular basis to solicit their feedback and adjust the plan accordingly, rather than the original plan-driven approach of before. This led to better outcomes for customers and a more engaged team as they knew they were doing work truly aligned to customer need and in a very responsive way. To achieve this, we needed a team structure that supported rapid delivery, a technology platform that enabled fast feedback and a culture that supported frequent interaction with customers.

Responsive organisations tend to exhibit interesting characteristics – being purpose-driven rather than purely profit-focused enabling them to focus on the big picture. Empowering rather than controlling, giving people the freedom to do great work and make the right decisions at the right time. Recognising that the best plans always change and there’s more value to collaboration than a big upfront plan. After all, requirements change and the best designs tend to emerge from systems over time. Most of all, responsive organisations value transparency, enabling them to take risks, learn and rapidly evolve according to changing customer need. 



“There is a big difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal one – never settle for satisfied” Shep Hyken

How do we know we’re building the right thing at the right time? How do we understand what people need from our product or services? And how can we determine whether we’re heading in the right direction to meet our customer need and continue to meet that need over time. Validation is an essential part of ensuring we’re doing the right thing at the right time and doing the right thing well – both critical to success. 

In another organisation I worked for, people came to me with numerous ideas for things I could develop but, with a finite amount of time and resource, I had to choose carefully. Instead of building products or services and then discovering if there was a market, I’d validate the idea before I built them, generating revenue to develop that idea – a common method used by start-ups to ensure they’re heading in the right direction and one that’s being successfully adopted by many large enterprises globally. Customers are great at explaining their problems but it’s up to us as experts to build the right solutions to those problems.

Understanding evolving customer need is an ongoing challenge and, rather than making assumptions about what’s right or wrong, spending time to observe customers and understand their problems or challenges can help craft solutions much more relevant to their needs. 

Now what?

When all of this is put together, we believe truly amazing things can and do happen. The key test for you is what are you doing in these areas to deliver and improve, now and in the future?

Want to know more? Talk to us about a STIRR assessment for your organisation. Let’s build that future together.

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