Organizational design – problems

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I want to share my view on what problems are created by functional departments and hierarchical structure. Only organizing your company around value can solve these problems. But for that you need to have a bit different view on things and another level of transparency. Every team must know how they “earn money” (in quotes because it might mean different things in different companies). Don’t you think that we use Scrum to solve exactly the same problems?

There are couple problem areas around this topic

Separated thinking

  • Developers is responsible for non-functional requirements: response, multi-language, hardware
  • Product people are responsible for business only decisions
  • But real business decision consists of both things and you can find right balance without having information from both worlds. The only answer to this is cross-functional teams with different expertise. Like startups!

Functional departments make it difficult to focus on value creation for clients

  • For example IT team. They understand that there are 40 servers, but it’s not always to map this to value creation and prioritize this properly. Especially when you have lots of teams. Basically it is not obvious that there might be serious impact for business if hardware purchase is late for couple of days. KPIs are often introduced to control the process, which leads to other problems like gaming metrics and etc.
  • Similar problems occur with billing departments who monitors e.g. travel costs between offices. If to analyze single expenses number it might look high, but you must understand there is a business decision behind each travel.
  • Functional departments with unique knowledge must change their thinking from control to self-service and information sharing. To challenge that even more, same services could be bought outside the company if they are of better quality.

Decision making

  • It’s very easy to end up in a situation that you are doing something because someone told you. Team does things not because the boss comes and tells what to do, but because you know the market and want to achieve something interesting
  • When you know what value is created by your team and you know how you “earn money”/”create value” this question doesn’t occur at all. You just do what is necessary and when it’s necessary. You know that you won’t be able to survive if not doing valuable things

It seems that organization that is built around value fosters

  • Right behavior
  • Desire to achieve results faster
  • Increase of transparency and information sharing: e.g. I try to share as much info as I understand my self – cost index, expenses and etc.
  • Understanding that you know and want to bring value, but not just do some stuff
  • Destruction of comfort zone. I had a post about comfort zone here.

Will be giving speech about this topic during Agile Day Riga

“5 Whys” vs “What if”

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“5 Whys” is a great method to find root cause of problems. If you browse internet you will find several examples of applying this technique. Some of these examples are really trivial and questionable. There are reasons for that:

  • Tendency for investigators to stop at symptoms rather than going on to lower-level root causes.
  • Inability to go beyond the investigator’s current knowledge – cannot find causes that they do not already know.
  • Lack of support to help the investigator ask the right “why” questions.
  • Results are not repeatable – different people using 5 Whys come up with different causes for the same problem.
  • Tendency to isolate a single root cause, whereas each question could elicit many different root causes.

But don’t you think there is one more reason? What if due to lack of knowledge, experience and context understanding you treat something as a problem, but it’s not actually a problem. With a small twist by asking “What if” instead of “Why” we can start focusing on innovation rather than problems.

As an example 5 or 10 years ago everybody treated data growth as a problem and while asking “Why” questions we were building archive servers, reducing amount of data collected, changing features and etc. But obviously someone asked “What if” question and we have new trend about big data and we have technologies that enable us to do that.

Want to experiment? Combine “What if” with “5 Whys”.

Culture hacking in action: shared resource

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It seems there shouldn’t be a problem. If it’s a dedicated projector for a meeting room, why should you take it and don’t bring it back? But crowd behaviour sometimes is weird and unpredictable even though everyone alone is a very sane and smart person.

What did we try?
– Emails explaining the situation. Did it work? NO!
– Talking in person by a coffee machine. Did it work? NO!

Decided to try another thing – infographics and visualization. Do you think it will work? What else could we try? (e.g. nailing stuff to a table? :))

Caution