Obvious organisational impact (OOI) – the currency of change agents

I’ve been at Atomic for six months now.

As part of my onboarding, I have spent a significant amount of time with current customers to get a sense of what’s going on in their worlds and why they decided to become a customer of Atomic. It’s a cool way of getting under the hood of our company and the value it brings.

And I’ve noticed some patterns emerging that I thought would be of interest.

As much as each customer is different, there are some striking commonalities regarding what they’re trying to achieve and how they’re going about it.

The people

The first thing that struck me was the similarity of the people – the actual buyers we’re working with inside these companies.

While working inside different companies and in different roles, they all fit the loose definition of a progressive change agent.

They’re not satisfied with doing what’s always been done just a little bit better. They’re legitimately interested in wanting to do something different – to make a breakthrough and achieve a step change.

Whether they’re in marketing or digital – or are a developer – they all recognise the need to achieve this breakthrough to do something different.

The process

The second thing that struck me is all the buyers voiced a similar perspective on a really important factor in their role.  While they referred to it in different ways, I’ve ended up thinking about it as Change Oxygen.

They all understood that there was a finite amount of it – and that it runs out quickly if you’re not careful.

And they were all thinking about how they could accelerate their plans while also increasing their oxygen so they could continue making change.

It might sound a little abstract – but they all had stories about how change initiatives had stalled. Or very big projects that started with a lot of investment, only to be wound down nine months later because conditions changed.

One had previously been in a role where they were involved in a three-year board-funded project – only to have that funding stopped at month 10. This is the reality of Change Oxygen running out

Each of them had created a response to that – one that was more than just simply shipping stuff. It wasn’t just about getting quick wins or ensuring they delivered their plan agilely.

It was about ensuring they did enough things to create Change Oxygen.

The concept

Change Oxygen is created by the delivery of Obvious Organisational Impact.

A definition of OOI

OBVIOUS – everybody agrees that what the company did caused a good result (i.e., not a correlation), regardless of their role – including the C-suite and board. 

It’s obvious. There are no questions or politicking about it – and no view that it was just luck.

ORGANISATIONAL – what was done influenced the things that the organisation values.

Every organisation has a strategy and plans that help achieve it. ‘Organisational’ means that what was done affected the organisation as a whole and added value.

IMPACT – what was done caused good things to happen in the metrics that matter. 

This is more than just ROI. This is an improvement in the metrics that the CEO reports to the board.

So, what?

I’ve shared this concept with a number of the customers – and they liked it. 

But then I started to think about it in conjunction with the challenges that the customers I’m dealing with now most often voice – and two key challenges keep coming up repeatedly.

The first is marketing and digital alignment.

We have a platform that helps with in-app messaging – and it does some clever things.

But we often hear of a misalignment between what marketing and digital want to achieve.

The second is stalled transformations (i.e., the Change Oxygen running out for major initiatives).

Customers may have thought they had a certain runway, only to find that they didn’t. Meaning they had to course-correct their approach and or shut initiatives down.

Marketing and Digital Alignment

Getting these two functions on the same page is a challenge.

We often hear stories from marketers about how difficult the digital team is to deal with. They have their views of what’s important and can be pretty religious about the technologies they use. They have roadmaps and sprint plans that they don’t engage with marketing on. Turning things around quickly is hard and creates frustration.

But equally, we hear from digital folks that marketing can be unrealistic. They don’t understand how hard things are to do. Some are just “jazz hands” marketers who want to create brand campaigns that don’t do anything. Or, they just don’t understand.

Let’s be clear – getting these teams aligned is critical if you want to deliver better in-app experiences.

What’s interesting, though, is that both teams have the same Change Oxygen realities.

I’m talking to a marketing team at a bank. They’re 18 months into a $2 million deployment of Adobe Experience Manager and haven’t shipped anything yet. They’re operating in a bank with financial performance issues that have just announced layoffs. And they’re feeling the lack of oxygen.

I’ve also been talking to a digital lead and an energy company. They developed an app that everybody was happy with – and spent a lot of money and a few years doing so. But 9 months in, the usage isn’t what it needs to be. Competitors are delivering new features – and the pressure is building because there’s a growing feeling that the team is slow to deliver incremental improvements. They’ve just heard that the board has kicked off a review of the whole project. Oxygen is running out.

So, you’ve got two teams with the same oxygen issues and needs.

It makes sense that they would collaborate on a shared approach to jointly deliver the things they each want to progress – and deliver OOI to the organisation.

So, as we look at each team’s portfolio of initiatives, we can create a sprint plan based on the backlog of things they’re working on. The first things in the sprint plan are those that the teams have mutually agreed will deliver OOI for both  – the things valued by both teams. Then, once the OOI initiatives are delivered,  they can look to continue some of the longer-term projects or term plans.

Stalled transformations

This one is more straightforward. When we work with organisations that are doing significant transformational programs, we always observe the complicating factor of organisational politics.

Challenges can arise when the team is overly focused on delivering the plan. 

‘I’ve been to the executive and achieved sign-off. I’ve been to the board and achieved sign-off. Therefore, we have a green light to execute the plan’.

Sometimes, it’s easy to miss that the context around your plan has changed – and what the organisation valued yesterday isn’t necessarily what it values today.

You might have ticked off 60% of your plan and even be ahead of schedule. But what if questions start being asked about what value has been delivered to the company and whether the plan is worth the burn rate and investment? 

These questions can eliminate organisational oxygen.

Like marketing and digital alignment, as you build out the roadmap of things you will do, you need to prioritise initiatives that will deliver OOI before looking at your longer-term plans. 


So, there you have it. A couple of takeaways from what has been an exceptionally valuable onboarding experience with our customers. 

Hopefully, this is interesting and valuable. I am a bit of a geek as it relates to transformational change. So I’d love any feedback you’ve got – does the content resonate, or is it shit? Either way, I’d love to know. 

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