The success of an Agile transformation stems from three key areas: behaviors driven by an Agile mindset at all levels of an organization, adherence to frameworks, and a relentless pursuit to deliver value to the customer.
One of the more nuanced tactics I use to
drive rapid, incremental delivery of value to customers is called vertical
Think of a development project like a tiramisu.
Each vertical slice of tiramisu contains many decadent layers of flavors and varying
textures. Each portion is delicious because the combination of layers is better
than eating one layer at a time. To do so would reduce the value of the culinary
Similarly, a large item on your
product backlog can be sliced up into smaller pieces either horizontally (that
is, so the work only relates to a single architectural layer) or vertically (so
the work spans multiple architectural components).
The CFO Leadership Council recently hosted its 9th annual national conference in Boston. Andrey Alekseyev and I were fortunate enough to be in attendance for the first time. Over 400 senior financial executives gathered in Boston, MA for two days to discuss and dig deep into the complexities of being a modern CFO. In case you missed it, we took notes. Below are our key takeaways and summaries of a few memorable sessions.
As you would expect, CFOs are focused on the staples of financial success—namely, ROI and outcomes. But the modern CFO is also concerned with far more than just the finance function of their organization. Today’s CFOs are invested in digital transformation and what technology can do for their business across the entire organization. In a way, this strategic shift has revolutionized the role of forward-looking CFO.
Originally presented at SIM Connect Live 2019 (“Make Winning Normal: Maximizing Agility with High-Performing Teams”), the following concepts offer a new way for IT organizations to implement disruptive technologies and innovations at scale:
The Pace of Change and the Adoption Curve
The pace and complexity of new technologies and innovations have only been increasing over the past years and show no sign of letting up. We consistently hear the following questions from IT leaders:
- How do I maintain a competitive advantage while keeping up with the pace of change?
- How do I ensure my organization can effectively adopt new technologies?
One way to address these questions is by examining the Adoption Curve as described by Geoffrey Moore. The Adoption Curve details the distributions and tendencies of a population as it adopts an innovation.
Standardized reporting is an intricate type of reporting process that aims to produce consistent, reliable, actionable information from disparate systems or sources. A reporting process is standardized if it can be applied across different business units or sub-units in an organization. The processes that generate and collect the data to be reported on must remain the same across all the business units.
For an organization to understand the status of conditions in real time, and make decisions quickly, standardized reporting is required. A universal understanding of information enables clarity and transparency. Clarity supports effective communication based on trust. And studies show that effective communication leads to enhanced productivity and deeper customer relationships (Source).
It’s not a stretch to say that data consistency creates a competitive advantage over other organizations that do not have standardized reporting processes.
Let’s say you’re planning to repaint your living room this weekend. You shop for supplies online: drop cloths, painter’s tape, and brushes. Alexa, innocently, puts scrub brushes in your cart instead of paint brushes. The delivery arrives the next day. Do you have the tools you need to get the job done? The scrub brush has a handle and bristles! The bristles can be dipped into the paint! Will it require more work to create the desired outcome with a scrub brush rather than a paint brush? My guess is, no matter what, it’s not going to be pretty.
It’s not that the scrub brush is a bad product. On the contrary,
it’s probably the highest rated scrub brush on the web. The issue is that you
need a paint brush specifically designed to apply paint evenly and precisely.
You need the right tool for the job.
Flash forward to the work week: How often are we using the
wrong tool for a job?
Even if you’re not a superstitious person, it’s likely at one
point in your lifetime you knocked on wood in an attempt to appease the gods of
fate. Or maybe you made sure to close up that umbrella before stepping into
your house. A couple seconds to rap on wood here, a few seconds of standing in
the rain there—minor inconveniences to soothe away the universe’s impending
spells of bad juju.
The reality is that no, wood is not magical. And opening an umbrella indoors doesn’t shepherd evil ghouls into your home. These quirky habits
don’t add tangible value to our lives.
However, superstitions like these aren’t made up out of nowhere. They often arise from practical behaviors which may have made sense at one point, but lost their fundamental meaning after passing through generations. (Are umbrellas indoors really bad luck? Or did someone long ago get a bad poke in the eye?)
These learned behaviors take root over time, through
generations of practice and habitual routine. They reassure people that no
unintended consequences will come their way if they unquestioningly perform
things a certain way—the way they’ve
always been done.
Similarly, superstitious behaviors are alive and well in your
organization. IT superstitions aren’t supernatural but rather the culmination
of each user’s quirks, a natural evolution of processes, systems left
unchecked, and a game-of-telephone effect.
The presence of “manager” or “director” in your title does
not make you a leader. Being a leader is not about officially holding the power
to make a decision, supervising others while they do the grunt work, or making
the most money. Leadership is a skill, not a role. Leadership is the ability to
connect with those around you and shepherd a team toward a successful outcome,
to see the bigger picture, and to do what’s right—not what’s easy. You don’t
need a specific title to do that.
As a company embarks on a journey of digital transformation and immense change, the expectations of IT leaders change as well. Two general archetypes have emerged, but in reality, individuals fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two extremes. Both archetypes can be extraordinarily valuable in the right situation. Each can also be incredibly ineffective when placed in the wrong context.
Detailed schedules and beautiful Gantt charts might stop the screaming for visibility into your project, but they won’t help you sleep at night. In the back of your head, you’re waiting for the binky to fall out—for the project timeline to slip—and everyone starts crying again. Here’s how to break the habit of leaning on these common IT project management crutches.
Almost 30 years ago, when my wife and I were proud and exhausted new parents, we found that pacifiers would help our newborn twins sleep. This strategy worked for a little while, but when a binky fell out of one of their mouths, they cried. One of us would get up, put it back in place, and enjoy a few more moments of rest until it fell out again. We always say that one of the things we would do differently as parents is to have not used pacifiers. The boys became dependent on them, and they only postponed the inevitable.
Binkies remind me of how IT teams often use detailed timelines
and project plans.
How is it that some people can inspire us to strive for greatness while others turn us off?
For me, one of those amazing leaders was my high school biology teacher, Mr. Kaziersky. He knew how to engage, inspire, and motivate his students to achieve outstanding results. Our classes consistently outperformed our peers on AP exams and SATs. What was so remarkable was that he didn’t always have the best or brightest students. There was something about his approach and the learning environment he created that enabled us to thrive.