Just a small observation I made during AWS Transformation Day. While the entire theme for the event was on transforming business, the schedule had one track for “Culture and Organizational Change” alone. While Culture and Organizational Change is a broad and huge topic, but it is necessary and makes the difference for agility in rapidly changing and competitive markets. Amazon has been talking about this for years and they share their knowledge with their partners.
On an attempt to find out how organizations actually master this, the perspective most consultants and companies I talked to during the event shared with me was rather sobering. Anyone exhibiting at that event merely offered to run any software project under an agile management. No support, consultancy or even efforts to drive actual change, whatsoever, at least nothing that would exceed a traditional software project scope.
Cultural and Organizational Change is something requiring executive buy in and is killed quickly by means of exhaustive efforts to plan ahead. Culture needs to embrace the possibility to change quickly, throughout the process. And the wish for management is human, to have transparency and perspective early in the process, it is just as natural in the process for developers to stay vague for items that are not yet clear.
Any cultural change needs to embrace bi-directual communication and the ability to break down complex. On first thought this sounds easy, but requires plenty of cooperation and trust in a clearly defined team. Culture is rooted in clear understanding of roles, responsibilities and not to mention last, trust of all members.
Digitalisierung ist als Schlagwort allgegenwärtig. Trotzdem bedeutet es nichts anderes als grundlegende, marktwirtschaftliche Kunden- bzw. Marktorientierung. Lediglich die Geschwindigkeit, die notwendig ist, als Marktteilnehmer mit sich ändernden Marktsituationen auseinanderzusetzen stellt besonders große Organisationen vor eine Herausforderung.
Organisation wird in der Regel mit dem Ziel gebildet, um ein Produkt oder einen Service einer breiteren Kunden-Gruppe anbieten zu können und damit Skaleneffekte zu erzielen. Ein fertig entwickeltes, bestehendes Angebot wird in der Regel industriell gefertigt, von einer horizontal skalierten und auf das Angebot geschulten Salesforce vertrieben. Alle Abläufe zu Herstellung und Vertrieb genau dieses Produktes können gemessen und hinsichtlich Kosten und Gewinn optimiert werden. Das ist auch, was anerkannte Business Schulen in der Regel lehren.
Innovation dagegen findet häufig in einem technischen Zusammenhang statt, mit einem herangehen, in dem zwar die Idee und das Ziel feststehen, noch nicht aber alle Schritte feststehen die zu diesem Ziel führen können. In einem kreativen Chaos, das es erlaubt, werden auf dem Weg kurzfristige Richtungsänderungen umgesetzt, das Ziel stets vor Augen.
Es ist nicht in das Korsett starrer “Business Prozesse” eingebunden. Die bestehenden Prozesse sind in der Regel auch langsam entstanden, führen aber zu anderen Zielen. Organisation und Innovation finden mit unterschiedlichen Zielen statt.
Digitalisierung fordert aber beides von Wettbewerbern, die im Markt bestehen wollen und Ihren Kunden passende, innovative Lösungen anbieten möchten. Das fordert ein Umdenken in beiden Bereichen.
“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast” is a quote that is often attributed to Peter F. Drucker, but was apparently coined by Ford’s Mark Fields. Whoever said it, both have plenty of business acumen to take some credit for the thought behind it. There statement has lot of truth in it, looking into corporate structures.
With the arrival of digitalisation it is more true than ever before. All verticals struggle with fundamentally changing markets, forcing them to innovate in technology and services, and strive for new business models. In this environment it is crucial to embrace change, which enterprise culture often outright rejects.
Change Management has been a topic in management and HR for many years, and never has been so fundamental to organisational success as it is nowadays. Technology is converging at a breathtaking pace. The Internet of Things, as an example, requires electrical & mechanical engineers to cooperate with computer scientists and data analysts to produce a product a usability engineer designed jointly with a designer. Fundamentally different schools of though define the success of a product, and even consumer and enterprise grade of products converge in their appearance.
At the same time, the technologic ecosystem has outgrown individual organisations capabilities. Partnerships with technology vendors require management while intellectual property needs defence at the same time.
Organisations develop anti-patterns like “Silo Thinking” or “Not invented here” syndrome. While these cultural behaviours are tolerable in less dynamic situations, their effect can quickly go out of bounds and create a substantial counterforce to any change infused through external factors.
Embracing an open ecosystem and building on technologies developed outside the own organisation are fundamental to innovation. This open mindset is a prerequisite for any change into agility. Any strategy aiming for change ignoring these behaviours will be eaten by this exact culture. For breakfast.
Yesterday, a software engineer, also new to the organization, roughly told me the following. The way the organisation plans projects is so different to what he is used to as a software engineer. Planning projects with a horizon of 12 or even 24 months is something he says he just cannot wrap his head around.
While this is very common and necessary in the hardware industry, it is indeed something terribly alienating software people. Software is typically treated as a living product, that takes tiny changes at a time, it is more governed towards a direction to take than having the one exact goal it has to hit by a specific date.
These very fundamental goals both mindsets follow make it difficult for change to happen. While the software engineer above obviously has a point to make, he cannot reach the people he needs to reach, because both sides are just too far apart.
At the same time, I don’t yet have an answer to the problem, but the problem itself became so obvious when this colleague told me he just doesn’t know what to say. The digital world does not yet have a common language, not to mention a common way to think about approaching problems, and unless this hurdle is taken, change will only happen slowly.