Thursday, January 11, 2018

More thoughts on Organizational Transformation

My post yesterday generated some good criticism and discussion on Twitter. One of the common misunderstandings was the idea that I advocate the cascading of explicit goals down the organization.

This is exactly what I was trying to avoid. I am questioning now my proficiency in the language...

Anyway, when I said goals at each level inform the goals at the next next level, I created confusion. I'll try to clear things up a bit with some examples below.

I might have a goal (desired outcome) of reducing the company's travel spend by 50%. If I think I have all the answers, I could ban all travel for a period of time or create an onerous approval process. Both options that reveal my lack of regard for others in the organization and my arrogance.

Alternatively I could broadcast the goal - we need to spend half as much on travel - and some visibility into current spend vs. the baseline. After that I would leave it to those spending the money to figure out how to reach the target. They might prioritize travel, book flights earlier, use AirBnB instead of the W - lot's of options for most companies to spend less especially in the short term.

I have a goal that I want a simple software change to go from identified by the business to safely in production in half the time it takes today. I could specify Scrum, require unit test coverage, and demand a CI/CD pipeline - or - I could broadcast the goal and let the people closest to the work decide how best to reach it.

There might still be problems with this approach and it may be useful only in an ordered system - but I want to at least dispel the idea that I advocate passing detailed requirements or squishy objectives down through the layers of an organization.

What I want to do is increase the amount of information about organizational direction while also increasing self-organization and autonomy.

Goals or vector signalling will be vague and often frustrating for the people doing the work - that lack of detail coupled with a measurable outcome leaves room for creativity and discovery.

Thanks for reading - Mike

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