Tom Peruzzi's thoughts on digital, innovation, IT and operations

Focus baby

Posted in general failures, organizational, startup failures by opstakes on November 27, 2017

(thanks to pixabay)

There are tons of books out there claiming the importance of focus. Hence it seems like it is not as easy as written. After having done more than 150 due diligences in the tech space in Europe, having fulfilled 4 Interims CTO positions and now being board member of a digital marketing tech company I still do read such posts and books about focus. Why? Because as Sean Covey has written in his book about the 4 disciplines of execution we have to differentiate between urgent and import.

Eisenhower knew about that already and there is a matrix named after him which easily makes the necessary action transparent:

And I assume everybody could name a few more. The important thing is:

You need to focus yourself in order to be able to focus the organization!!!

Reading a book – fine, reading a blog and listening to a podcast – fine too. You cannot demand focus without being focused. So how do I focus myself? Simple said, use the matrix above 😉 But that is half of the truth. How do you know what is important, which battles need to be won to win the overall war? Yes, it’s strategy time again but in a more lean way.

Strategy is team effort!

I like to share what I have learned in a company: Build a grand vision which allows people to connect to, become passionate and be addicted. How to do so? Let it be their strategy. Strategy work is no longer the CEO thinking in the dark. Foster a common understanding there to go (with special thanks to Laloux’s Reinventing Organization) by letting all participate and no, it is not a basic democracy, it is a shared believe system. If you have done the strategy work each department will need some time to think about how to best support that strategy and then please let everyone know, what the departments think they need to do. The larger the audience, the higher the commitment. (we have tested strategy know-how before and after that and reached incredibly high scores). It is then the leaders work to support the organization to focus on the strategic direction and get rid of everything else which is distracting, produces friction and does not support the path towards success. As we always have to face day-to-day operational duties you will get some friction and reluctance anyhow. Even if you have a good understanding of the strategy and the tactics to make it happen, still there are plenty of reasons to stop, wait, slow down or turn the wrong direction. This is where discipline and focus come into play again.

It is often no fun for nobody to meet on a regular basis, share the goals and metrics and talk about next important steps but without discipline and focus you will either have a lucky punch or run into really big troubles. Either you do waterfall or agile (which is strict too) you will need a methodology to focus on (maybe I use the word too often).

In order to achieve that routine towards success I do prefer 2 methods, the older “Get things done” method or the 4DX mentioned above already. While “Get things done” is build on “Set focus” “Set time limits” “avoid perfectionism” “realistic expectations” and “update the way you work” the 4DX is similar but different. 4DX wants you to set 2-3 WIGs (Wildly important goals) max for each department and then you have to find correct lag measurements (what you want to achieve, e.g. getting down to 80 kg) and lead measurement (what leads you in the right direction, eg. movement per day, calories ..). To ensure success the affected team(s) meet on a regular basis and discuss the numbers which are open and transparent and ideally the dashboard is generated by the team members itself. The lead and lag example is easy for weight reduction. It is not that easy for distributed development or other IT related tasks. Being a friend of Daniel Pink and Frederic Laloux I want to encourage you to let your team think about the measurements, it is always astonishing how creative your own employees are if you just let them grow and flourish. And again, you and your team need to be focussed to get the right numbers. Being the leader of a engaged team which is delivering on high speed you need to be really focussed in what you are doing ,how you tweak the team and how you support the team.

A good team has the right to have a good and focussed leader! 

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the knowing-doing gap

Posted in general failures, organizational by opstakes on February 8, 2013

Bildschirmfoto 2013-02-08 um 08.40.36There is a great book out there from Pfeffer and Sutton writing about the difference in knowing and doing. Even if you know it will not become reality you often start doing something in that direction. Even if you know this brings you into a dangerous situation, you keep on running. It is scary, honestly but human too.

The same often happens when talking about operations, QA and development. Some examples: Even if developers know that untested code often results in bad behaviour, stress and pain, the code gets deployed. Even if operators know that they should provide a service (the infrastructure and related daemons) they much more try to build barriers to “ensure stability”. Even if QA knows that controlling isn’t enough it is much easier to tell somebody that he did not reach the line instead of helping him/her coming there. We are all obliged to support the company we work for. If the company is run by idiots, please leave otherwise do your work as you promised with your signature.

We all live in a time where time becomes an evident issue, pressure is high, likelihood to fail too, but we are no longer allowed to fail even if a lot of enterpreneural books write about fail-learn-improve cycles. Often this happens as we react not like we know we should react. Business pressure, politics, friendships and sometimes the missing willing to change make us to some sort of organisational animal, no longer reacting rational in a human manner, much more rational in a corporate manner.

But as we are all obliged to Quality, as it is our wish to product high quality products/services, as achieving mastery is one if the fundamental personal goals of “running” we should try to bring in more evidence, react on what we know and not what best fits know and stop doing if we recognize the difference in knowing and doing. Another reason why this is that hard: the organisational culture has to support such behaviour. Saying “no” or “we must change …” has nothing to do with blaming, it’s a positive escalation showing new ways of working and thinking and propably (hopefully) better ones.  This has nothing to do with basic democracy, everyone should bring in his/her expertise and evidence to allow the company grow and prosper – knowing without doing isn’t enough!

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