Published: Fri 28 August 2015
The past two days, I've been part of my IT department's annual strategic
conference–as a conclusion of the same we were promised a surprise guest speaker
who turned out to be (huge surprise)–
Practices versus Principles
Kent presently works for Facebook, and when it came to question time, this is
something that clearly many people were quite interested in because the
questions that got asked focussed on "how things work" at Facebook. The readers
of TLL are probably now familiar with impressive deployment rates quoted at
companies like Facebook and Netflix – so if there are multiple deployments of
new functions on a daily basis to thousands of servers, how, from a practical
point of view, is this made possible? As Kent pointed out, it isn't so much
about any particular technology or process, but rather about the attitude of the
workforce. Without values such as
trust, accountability, responsibility,
consideration held dear to every employee in the business, there's no point in
embarking on a discussion about how to get to this level of effectiveness.
Security versus Agility
Our resident security guy (who now bears the moniker "Mr NoFun") got to ask how,
from a practical point of view, these types of deployment rates can be achieved
whilst ensuring that security isn't compromised. Once again, the answer wasn't
so much about any particular technique or tool but rather about how the only way
it's possible to adequately trade these quality factors off is by making sure
everybody maintains a certain level of paranoia in everything they do.
From a practical point of view, of course, an organisation that large still
needs a dedicated white hat team to keep things "tight". When a weakness is
exploited, there's a retrospective, and the responsible person:
Goes through the exploit in detail and
Talks about how this problem will never occur again.
I'm hard-pressed to find an example of anybody openly admitting responsibility
for anything in our environment–quite the contrary in fact; the behaviour is
typically one of:
Hide any wrong-doing or incompetence;
Blame another functional area, if possible;
ever admit that it might be yourself that's at fault; Never consider a change in personal behaviour.
In my organisation, we're presently going through a perennial collective
tearing-out-of-hair about not doing things "right" and "how do we improve?".
Yet, it always seems to be the simple things that need correcting ... note that
I've used the word
simple here deliberately–although the solution is simple,
at least conceptually, the corrective behaviour almost always involves great
amounts of discomfort, that is, it may be simple, but one thing it is definitely
not is easy.
Silo versus Team
Kent made a good effort in using locally relevant metaphors (Rugby) and the
issue I'm about to talk about now leaves me exasperated every time I broach the
topic, mostly because it's one of those things that I've tried to get through to
my superiors and colleagues over and over again without much yield. A rugby
team works together to achieve a certain end, even though its constituents have
different roles and skills. Cross-functional teams working together to deliver
value as cohesive units seems like a concept that is just "par for the course"
from the point of view of Kent (and myself), and using the analogy of Rugby
brings the point home, so why is it so difficult for my colleagues to "get".
Unfortunately, the horribly misdirected objective of maximum "resource
utilisation" has proven itself to be a far too powerful siren of intoxication in
this case. I often find myself thinking of the words I read in a "make your
first million" book:
The reason why most people aren't millonaires is that they haven't found a
good enough reason to be.
That pretty much nails it when it comes to making millions and it's equally
applicable when it comes to improving any "situation" we may find ourselves in
(and correspondingly blame external factors for). How
badly do any of us want
to be in a situation other than the one that we're in? That's the bottom line.
Which brings me to my final topic...
Critical Success Factor #1 for Agile Adoption
When posed with the question around success factors, Kent wisely deferred to his
many years of experience in presenting the answer (who can argue against
emperical evidence)? Success in agile adoption
without fail relies on an
executive champion. Period. In contrast, as our annual strategic conference
closed out, I asked my boss where The Boss was (the relationship between my boss
and The Boss is the same as that between Will Riker and Captain Jean Luc
Picard). The captain of our ship was present in the first hour of the first
day of our two-day annual strategic conference, but nowhere to be seen
otherwise. There are many things that can, and should, be delegated but
leadership isn't one of them.