Musings about Leadership

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Letting go to lead

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Gino Marckx
May 31, 2021

Whenever the weather allows for it, we like to eat outside. At dinner time in our little courtyard in the city of Toronto, mother nature treated us to a beautiful scene. A few days later it turned into an invaluable lesson...

Two doves and a chick

A mourning dove landed on the fence, looking us straight in the eye. "What a wonderful sight," I thought, "I bet it's eyeing something on our plate." Without breaking the line of sight, the dove flew over to the side of the deck, even closer, testing the boundaries of its comfort zone.

"Roocoo! Roocoo!" A few minutes later mommy dove arrives, a little chick trailing inches behind her. The family reunited, they waggled to an open space a bit further away, while we watched the scene unfold at a safe distance. By now we realized that daddy had scouted the environment, checking our reactions to his proximity. He must have considered us safe, the little one would not be harmed.

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To our surprise, the adults took off, leaving the little one alone. Stunne...

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How many of you have been through something labelled as a digital transformation in the past 5 years? Many hands go up, and several people groan. It seems like we are in a constant state of transformation, which is true. Change is the new normal and transformation is the grandiose title given to the work we build around it. 

Yet many transformation efforts stall or even fail. We encounter many reasons for this, including market pressure, hierarchy and blame culture. Even gut instinct being the primary way to make decisions comes into play! Core to most digital transformation efforts is aligning technology to business goals, which often creates problems with delivering the desired change due to their different goals.

When technology departments drive the transformation, they often need help explaining the value. Ensuring stability to reduce rework through innovative techniques and tools may not resonate. Still, we do require change through transformation for our businesses to thrive. With...

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We rarely find the time to invest in personal development when we are heads down in our work and lives. Often it only occurs when a situation where something outside of our control frees up time. Even then, it takes an effort to invest in our personal development. However, it is you. You who always wanted to improve but never found time or resources to do it. It is you who has this opportunity to invest in your future today!

With the economy having slowed to a point where many organizations either have to fire staff or find them not fully occupied, this is the perfect moment to invest in that improvement there never was time for previously. Perhaps this is the time for your teams to be engaged in a program x-raying your delivery process, identifying initiatives that will set you apart from the competition, and enabling you to come out of this crisis ahead.

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Following on from my blog post covering the first two ideals from the Unicorn Project here, I’d like to continue discussing the next two of the five ideals from the book.

The next two ideals from the Unicorn project focus on two important factors of the improving flow in your organization:

  • Continuous improvement of work

  • Psychological safety

Part of the continuous improvement of work talks to the importance of challenging the status quo, something that can be difficult without psychological safety. Both are necessary to deliver better outcomes from working together.

Let’s delve into these two ideals.

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Your organization is changing and undergoing transformation. You’ve rolled out Agile (Scrum and Kanban), you’ve scaled it (SAFe, LeSS, etc.) and even applied DevOps practices (you’re using Kubernetes right? Isn’t that DevOps?) Yet still, millions later, the purported value has yet to materialize.

So how come, after all this work, we still have not realized the value?

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, perhaps we are still stuck in old ways of thinking. Real transformation requires new ways of thinking about the problems and in the case of the examples above, have we really changed? (Kubernetes is an orchestration framework for containers and does not equate to having adopted DevOps).

With millions spent already, what are we missing?

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You have an idea, a spark, concept of how your organization could do things better. Now all you need is to work out how. A typical pattern from here is:

  1. Realize you need more information or organizational buy-in

  2. Engage consultants to show you how

  3. Consultants leave

  4. You implement and realize all your goals!

Except step 4 so often doesn’t happen. You have the report, you’ve confirmed what you thought and have a solid plan, but at execution, everything goes wrong.

So what can you do to help your idea succeed once the consultants are gone?

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