This is a Summary of the third chapter of a book Daysha DevOps published titled 1Faat (one feature at a time). The book is an ongoing summation of our consultants' experience as they help our clients to transform digitally.
A prevalent issue in organizations (particularly regulated entitites) is the avoidance of reasonable risk-taking, often hindered by a fear of the unknown that impedes progress. If we define “reasonable” as a small change to a process that can be swiftly reversed with a prior understanding of potential adverse effects we still face a challenge that what one person deems reasonable might be seen as reckless by another. This blog and Chapter 3 of 1Faat explains how to align peoples appetite for risk while looking outside your own organisations four walls and firewalls.
Failing to take risks prevents the introduction of new ways of working, and without these innovations, achieving 1FaaT.™ becomes unattainable. Ron Westrum notes that both power and rule-oriented organizations tend to be inflexible, emphasizing the significant influence of organizational memory. However, this prompts the question: Is all wisdom confined within our organizational boundaries? The existence of business partners and external consultants suggests otherwise. In its role as a partner to customers, Daysha DevOps has pursued two main strategies to assist in leading change and driving for continuous improvement.
Approach A involves diving in headfirst to demonstrate our capability in handling challenges, essentially showcasing our ability to tackle alligators and, in the process, learning how to drain the swamp. The benefit of this approach lies in the fact that our teams, lacking domain knowledge, can ask unconventional questions and bring in external perspectives from other customer experiences. However, there’s a potential drawback: after spending considerable time addressing immediate issues, there’s a risk of losing credibility as experts in new ways of working unless we take a break to implement process improvements. In other words we become part of the problem – and are not seen as the solution.
Approach B suggests advocating for swamp drainage while advising the customer to temporarily halt alligator-battling activities to make time for essential changes. This method involves assisting the customer in distinguishing between what is important and what is merely urgent.
Drawing from our others clients experience is a significant value add for our new customers. Our mentoring work will challenge a CTO to consider what good looks like based on what we have learned elsewhere and in context of the challenges facing a specific client at a specific moment in time.
Groupthink does not propel an organization forward; rather, it keeps it entrenched in the status quo. This phenomenon is notably prevalent in various industries, including financial services, where IT executives frequently transition exclusively between banks or insurance companies. This pattern is not unique to finance but extends to sectors like pharmaceuticals, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), utilities, and government organizations.
Exemplary IT executives possess the ability to seamlessly transition across industries, injecting fresh perspectives into their new roles. It’s essential to recognize that when hiring such executives, they often bring a capacity to appreciate the value in existing practices that may not be internally recognized.
A noteworthy but unfortunate reality is that organizations perceiving themselves as uniquely distinct are often the least inclined to look beyond their internal boundaries. Being unique doesn’t necessarily equate to possessing unique excellence or intellectual property; it can also signify being uniquely outdated. Daysha DevOps has encountered situations where clients, despite being embarrassed about their internal state, require a high level of trust before opening up about their challenges. Leaders need to ensure that a no blame culture exists or willingness to change is crushed.
To instigate transformative change, it’s essential to conduct research both within and outside your industry and then strategically recruit the right expertise. Self-education is a crucial starting point, and engaging with case studies is a particularly impactful method. Through blogs, video content, or conferences, you can learn from peers who have successfully implemented the changes under consideration. Attend meetups if conferences are financially challenging. When it becomes evident that peers or competitors can release features faster, it sparks a realization that there’s room for learning within the organization. This awareness triggers healthy debates, which are essential for progress. Passionate disagreements, when channeled correctly, can lead to urgency and energy within the organization, especially among individuals with extensive tenure and customer-facing experience.
Here are some additional suggestions:
Leverage the power of video, especially older videos that vividly illustrate the temporal gap between your current state and the desired transformation. Examples like IG Group’s four-year journey ending in 2016 can be insightful.
Begin with case studies within your industry before gradually expanding to unfamiliar sectors, especially from a cultural perspective. Ensure that cultural transformation accompanies engineering-related case studies to avoid a focus solely on technology. Click through on the link and let us find a relevant case study for you.
Hire senior executives from companies that have succeeded in achieving 1FaaT particularly those from outside your industry. Encourage them to build teams, combining individuals they’ve worked with previously and internal team members willing to step up.
When appointing a senior executive from another industry, carefully explore their background and engage them in discussions about change principles and methods. Confirm their commitment to educating more senior executives on new ways of working.
Well-read individuals on the topic of change are more likely to succeed. Develop a list of books aligned with your C-suite’s perspective on change, such as “The Goal” for those with a business focus and “The Phoenix Project” or the DevOps Handbook for those in technological roles.
Create a revealing moment in an interview by having a colleague engage the potential hire on a potentially contentious topic is a good way to understand how an individual reacts to push back. Observe the candidate’s listening skills, empathy, and ability to make a compelling case. Don’t be discouraged if this encounter dissuades the candidate; it’s a quick and cost-effective way to identify compatibility.
Provide an in house mentor to new IT executives joining from outside the sector, ensuring the mentor has experience across different parts of the business. This mentorship helps the new hire absorb context and achieve quick wins.
It’s crucial for new hires to bring their proven partners into the organization. Collaborate with procurement to broaden the Preferred Supplier List (PSL). Assess whether existing partners have contributed expertise, experience or efficiency and determine whether you need more of the same at a lower cost or new ideas and approaches. Utilizing methods like Wardley mapping can help identify what should be in-house and what can be outsourced.
As the organization opens up to online resources such as case studies, conferences, and meetups, leaders discover peers who have successfully integrated sensible risk-taking into their businesses. Sharing these insights internally, whether through book clubs, lunch-and-learn sessions, or site visits, dispels the myth of being “unique.”
Therefore, a thoughtful and strategic approach is vital for successful transformation.