Aug 272013
 

In my recent blog post Choosing Your Point of Organizational Incoherence, I stressed the importance of making a choice on how to deal with systemic incoherence that is beyond your control as a CIO or a CTO. Technology, economy and society are not likely to be aligned anytime soon; emphasis on maximizing shareholders value might make it impossible for you to make certain strategic investments; and, unrealistic expectations about predictability of the software development process might make you want to tear your hair out. True and painful that these three factors and possibly many others might be, you can’t just sit on your hands waiting for all the moons to be aligned. You have to act now and pick your point of incoherence in order to address today’s needs. For example as mentioned in the previous blog post, a CTO client of mine has recently chosen his Scrum Masters as the preferred “point” through which to manage end-to-end incoherence in his company.

This blog post addresses dealing with (in)coherence at the vision level. My fundamental premise is that once you have picked your point of organizational incoherence, you will be able to deal with most of the tactical, operational and strategic challenges that might come your way. However, you will not be able to deal with vision issues through your chosen point of incoherence. The reason is straightforward: unlike tactics, operations and strategy, your vision must be sustainable and coherent. Figure 1 illustrates this critical difference between tactics/operations/strategy on the one hand, and vision on the other.

Tactics_Operations_Strategy_Vision_II

          Figure 1: The Level you are at Determines the Way You Deal with Incoherence

Consider two possible scenarios for your IT department circa 2015-2016, as follows:

  1. The vision of IT as articulated by colleague Stephen Andriole in his recent Cutter IT Journal article Out of the Gate and Running Wild: Why There’s No Stopping IT Now. In Stephen’s view, much/most of the decision making power and the corresponding budgets will shift from IT to the business units within the coming five years.
  2. The vision of competitive strategy advocated by Professor Rita Gunhter McGrath in The End of Competitive Edge: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business. In Professor’s McGrath’s view, resources are currently being held hostage in the business unit. In the not too far future she expects key resources to be held under central corporate control.

You can’t know now whether Vision #1 will prevail in the future, or whether it will be Vision #2. However, you need to stick to a single vision, be it one of these two visions or possibly another. If you do not do so you will not be able to: A) give your employees the long-term clarity they need in order to make autonomous decision; and, B) attain their genuine commitment, as distinct from compliance, to where you are leading them. The realism and flexibility you provide through your point of organizational incoherence at the tactical, operational and strategic levels must be counterbalanced through a sustainable and cohesive vision.

If you accept the premise of this blog post, you need to reconsider the way you handle, create artifacts for and articulate both strategy and roadmaps. I will address these critical aspects via either a forthcoming blog post or a Cutter Advisor.

 

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Israel Gat

Israel Gat is Director of Cutter Consortium's Agile Product & Project Management practice and a Fellow of the Lean Systems Society. He is recognized as the architect of the Agile transformation at BMC Software. Under his leadership, BMC software development increased Scrum users from zero to 1,000 in four years. Dr. Gat's executive career spans top technology companies, including IBM, Microsoft, Digital, and EMC.

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