Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.
This is the next in the series of articles on DevOps. Today, the topic is about teams and productivity. Now, like most of you, I am conditioned to find out what needs doing before finding the people who need to do it. This sounds sensible and logical and for most ‘Good’ organisations, this is fine. However, Collins, found that Great Companies start with ‘Who‘ first – the difference between Level 4 and Level 5 Leadership.
Collin’s 3 principles for being rigorous is making people decisions:
In “How Google Works“, Schmidt states that the most important quality of a manager is their ability to hire great people and Google have a very rigorous process to hiring and retaining great staff. However, once you have great staff, they need to work as a team:
Avengers is the coming together of a number of well know superheroes to overcome an overwhelming evil. Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Hawk Eye, Captain America, Black Widow, Black Panther, etc. come together. At first its all about their individual skills and strengths all of which are impressive – Iron Man’s suit, Hulk’s invincibility, Hawk Eye’s bow skills, etc. However, when confronted by Loki and his legions, their individual strengths are not enough! They eventually recognise that their independent skills and haphazard behaviours are not enough to protect the planet – strength in diversity, unit, common goal and organisation are needed to save the world.
Drucker wrote a paper in 1999 describing how Taylor’s Scientific Management improved productivity of the manual worker and ultimately led to the Industrial Revolution, thereby creating the foundations of the developed world. His challenge is that the most important role of management in the 21st Century is to improve the productivity of the knowledge worker. I would thoroughly recommend that you read his paper: Knowledge Worker Productivity.
Drucker distinguishes six major factors that determine the productivity of the Knowledge Worker (taken from Knowledge-Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge)
“It is on their (knowledge workers) productivity, above all, that the future prosperity—and indeed the future survival—of the developed economies will increasingly depend.”
– Peter Drucker
A really great paper has been written on the 50 Ideas of How Google Works. If you don’t have the time to read the full book, have a look at these which provide a short narrative on each of the 50 ideas from ‘Building around small teams’ to ‘optimise for growth’- collectively they produce a culture and environment of high productivity, low fear, creativitiy and user-focussed value.
There is a strong correlation between the 6 major factors that determine the productivity of knowledge workers and the 12 principles of Agile:
In a later post, I may do a more in depth study in the correlation between the major factors of productivity and the Agile principles.
Over the last 3 years, I have seen a surge in productivity and quality, represented through high throughput of change, lower incident volumes and overall improved customer satisfaction – these are some of the key indicators identified in Drucker’s report.
A significant component of this is the way we developed our teams, aligned them to common goals and empowered them to deliver value.
Firstly, we identified who the Products were and then we brought all the teams that build and support the ‘Product’ together into one team. We then provided education and learning opportunities and adopted practices that facilitated more frequent interaction and reflection.
We then developed and assigned/recruited roles:
With the products and the teams in place, and with goals and targets emerging (See Episode 2), we empowered the teams to deliver – which meant less interference from me (See Episode 3). This requires a culture where truth is heard (Good to Great, Collins), there is increased trust at all levels (Leading at the Speed of Trust, Covey), leaders care personally and challenge directly (Radical Candor, Scott) which then leads to happier people (Scrum, Sutherland) and therefore more productivity (Happiness Metric, Scrum Inc.).
With Agile practices, visible workflow and visible workload, smaller increments of deliverables, greater communication and collaboration through ceremonies and less risk through smaller deployments, the productivity of the teams were greatly enhanced, as was morale.
The challenge is that this takes time – it requires all of us to go through the change curve and not everyone makes it – this requires great faith amid brutal facts. It requires the right vision, the right sponsorship, the right leadership, the right people and time… As Collin’s shows below, in the Flywheel Effect, there are a number of phases to go through and a process of ‘build up’ before you see breakthrough – Disciplined People, Disciplined Thought and Disciplined Action require character, patience, perserverence and hope. This is why there are lots of good companies and not many great ones.
So, like the Avengers, capable strong people in their own right, came together with a common goal, responsible for the whole product (Build and Support), empowered with mastered practices to do far more that any one of them could individually. We still have a long way to go and in some cases the challenge is now not with the performance of IT but the rate the business can identify and adopt change – a topic for a later article.
Ironman: We are the Avengers. How do we cope with something like that?
Captain America: Together.