Link: Research: For Better Brainstorming, Tell an Embarrassing Story

we found that the “embarrassment” teams generated 26% more ideas spanning 15% more use categories than their counterparts.

Candor led to greater creativity. Thus, we propose a new rule for brainstorming sessions: Tell a self-deprecating story before you start. As uncomfortable as this may seem, especially among colleagues you would typically want to impress, the result will be a broader range of creative ideas, which will surely impress them even more.

Source: Research: For Better Brainstorming, Tell an Embarrassing Story

Programming your organization for loonshots

Here’s an an idea for a formula for figuring out how much innovation an organization will do. I never know how good math is for this kind of thing, but it adds structure to programming an organization to be innovative, rather than career advancement seeking:

In organizations, the competing forces can be described as “stake in outcome” versus “perks of rank.” When employees feel they have more to gain from the group’s collective output, that’s where they invest their energy. When they feel their greatest rewards come from moving up the corporate ladder, they stop taking chances on risky new ideas whose failure could harm their careers.

Also, getting people to do new things by manipulating their desire to try new “tricks”:

Companies usually invest in training employees with the goal of better products or higher sales. Send a device designer to a technical workshop, and you’ll probably get better pacemakers. Send a salesperson to a speaking coach, and his pitch delivery might improve. But there’s another benefit: A designer who has learned new techniques will want to practice them. Training encourages employees to spend more time on projects, which reduces time spent on lobbying and networking.

Speed, Accuracy, and Flexibility, IBM circa 1920

The purpose of a sales force is to bring a company’s value proposition—its “deal”—to customers. That value proposition results in the development of a company’s “go-to-market” strategy, how it will implement that plan. Central to that activity can be a direct sales force, people who meet face-to-face with customers, a typical approach with complex and expensive equipment. For simple products, a catalog or store can suffice, and today even a simple website will do. In 1914, ITR’s and Hollerith’s products were complicated, and so one had to make a clear case about why customers should buy them.

There was considerable consistency across the decades about IBM’s value proposition. Watson explained to a new batch of executives that, “We are furnishing merchants, manufacturers and other businessmen with highly efficient machines which save them money.” For the larger IBM community, he followed with, “That is why we are going to make more money for this business.” He spoke about how IBM created value. By 1920, Watson was preaching that the way to accomplish C-T-R’s goals was “to serve better industry’s vital requirements—the need to conserve time, motions and money.” He introduced a signature for IBM sales literature, too, that delivered a sound-bite value proposition used for decades: “Speed, Accuracy, and Flexibility.”

From IBM: The Rise and Fall and Reinvention of a Global Icon.

Link: The skills leaders need

people tend to assume that confident individuals are competent, when there is no actual relationship between the two qualities. Those confident people are then promoted. Overconfidence afflicts both sexes, but men more so; one study found that they overestimated their abilities by 30% and women by 15% on average.

Source: The skills leaders need

Management, as practiced by a young IBM

Of course, there were countercurrents. Managers wanted to control activities. That impetus for control and management of potential risks led to the rise of bureaucracy, characterized by highly defined processes. Generations of executives micromanaged people all the way down the organization while fighting the growth of paperwork and “signoffs.” Such behavior also originated with Watson Sr., who exhibited such contradictory behavior. A vast number of decisions came to him, so many that when his son Tom took over the business in the mid-1950s, one of the first things he did was reorganize IBM to move decision making out of headquarters and into the broader organization.

Yet, simultaneously, the Old Man admonished employees to take individual responsibility for running their “piece of the business,” a phrase used frequently by executives with their staffs. Reflecting back on his first ten years at IBM in 1924, Watson Sr. told a class of the company’s executives that, “It is our policy not to burden any one man, or any group of men, with the responsibility of running this business.” 17 He gave thousands of talks to employees extolling these themes and a positive philosophy about IBM sales. By the early 1920s, this eternal optimist had begun telling salesmen that only 5 percent of all business information was handled by data processing, leaving 95 percent yet to be seized, a magnificent sales opportunity. He spent more time talking to his employees around the world than most future CEOs at IBM would. He met continuously with customers and public officials, far less so with the media.” from “IBM: The Rise and Fall and Reinvention of a Global Icon (History of Computing)” by James W. Cortada

From the history of IBM book I’ve been reading. See more…

Q&A on the Book Evidence-Based Management

The most important issue in organizational data quality is whether you have the data you need to test whether your beliefs about the organization are really true. So if I believe my organization has a reliable backoffice in terms of transactions, do I have the data that show how many errors are made a day or a month for a given volume of transactions.? Counts tell us almost nothing; we need rates, like errors/daily volume. If I am relying on my impressions, I am talking to myself.

Source: Q&A on the Book Evidence-Based Management

Link: Employees should work on hard things, not easy things

‘For a business to thrive, each employee must ultimately be worth three times their wages to the business. That means if someone is getting paid $60k per year, their worth to the business likely exceeds $180k. People often underestimate what they are worth. One way people, especially more junior employees, underestimate themselves is by failing to spend most of their time on things that are really hard for them to do. All employees (not just entry level employees) should strive to have at least 70% of their time doing things that are really difficult. These are the tasks that require the most thought, rigor, and attention. And these are the tasks that result in the most growth.’

Of course, this assumes a capitalist view of work. Work is there to generate profit, not help people pass the time (find value in being alive) and making sure they have the means to eat and such.
Original source: Employees should work on hard things, not easy things

Link: How to make innovation programs deliver more than coffee cups

‘“a lack of connection between innovation teams and their parent organization. Teams form/and are taught outside of their parent organization because innovation is disconnected from other activities. This meant that when teams went back to their home organization, they found that execution of existing priorities took precedence. They returned speaking a foreign language (What’s a pivot? Minimum viable what?) to their colleagues and bosses who are rewarded on execution-based metrics. Further, as budgets are planned out years in advance, their organization had no slack for “good ideas.” As a result, there was no way to finish and deploy whatever innovative prototypes the innovators had developed – even ones that have been validated.”’
Original source: How to make innovation programs deliver more than coffee cups

Link: 6 questions with winner of the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Leadership Award

“They won’t get comfortable with failure if you make a very big deal about it and keep reminding them that they failed. I normally tell them, ‘You found a way that doesn’t work, let’s go find a way that does.’ They are probably more sensitive to the voice of the leaders, so if the leaders are basically saying, ‘Hey, no big deal, let’s dust ourselves off, and here’s the next cool thing to go try,’ they can move on very quickly and get excited about something new.”
Original source: 6 questions with winner of the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Leadership Award

Link: 6 questions with winner of the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Leadership Award

“They won’t get comfortable with failure if you make a very big deal about it and keep reminding them that they failed. I normally tell them, ‘You found a way that doesn’t work, let’s go find a way that does.’ They are probably more sensitive to the voice of the leaders, so if the leaders are basically saying, ‘Hey, no big deal, let’s dust ourselves off, and here’s the next cool thing to go try,’ they can move on very quickly and get excited about something new.”
Original source: 6 questions with winner of the 2018 MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Leadership Award

Link: Management Support in Agile Adoption

“In the global survey 82% of respondents reported that getting more support and commitment from all levels of management is a high or medium-term priority. In addition to this research, conversations we have with senior IT professionals all report that as IT has become ingrained in most, if not quite all, business processes it is essential that everyone involved in operating the business needs to be aware of how IT is being used and how it can change daily operations. Without management commitment across the organization, things will get better and change, but not as quickly or as effectively as they could.”

1.) The middle is always frozen. But, thanks because middle management is supposed to, is designed to make sure the process is followed, not dynamically change it all the time.

2.) The business should know how to computer.
Original source: Management Support in Agile Adoption

Link: Measuring Trust and Its Impact on Leadership and Organisational Change

‘trust enables teams to “make decisions faster (and revisit them less often).” He pointed out that it encourages teams and individuals to “proactively admit to and learn from mistakes instead of scrambling to hide them.”’
Original source: Measuring Trust and Its Impact on Leadership and Organisational Change

Link: How to build a business case for DevOps transformation

“Here are a few signs that your company should consider transitioning to DevOps:

Does it take a long time to deliver features?
Are features underutilized?
Do you not know the utilization of features?
Do you have downtime during maintenance or deployment windows?
Do your customers tell you your site is down before you know it?
Do outages occur repeatedly for the same reason?
Are customer feature requests implemented in a way that doesn’t actually fulfill the customer’s needs?”

Original source: How to build a business case for DevOps transformation

Link: Why Haier Is Reorganizing Itself around the Internet of Things

There’s of course Halo Effect to look at over 5 years with this kind of thing, but here’s a relatively new model for corporate strategic and operational “culture.” Plus, Sheinhardt Wig Company microwaves.
Original source: Why Haier Is Reorganizing Itself around the Internet of Things

Link: Donald Trump Didn’t Want to Win – and Neither Did His Campaign

“During that first month, Walsh’s disbelief and even fear about what was happening in the White House moved her to think about quitting. Every day after that became a countdown toward the moment she knew she wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. To Walsh, the proud political pro, the chaos, the rivalries, and the president’s own lack of focus were simply incomprehensible. In early March, not long before she left, she confronted Kushner with a simple request. “Just give me the three things the president wants to focus on,” she demanded. “What are the three priorities of this White House?”

It was the most basic question imaginable — one that any qualified presidential candidate would have answered long before he took up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Six weeks into Trump’s presidency, Kushner was wholly without an answer.

“Yes,” he said to Walsh. “We should probably have that conversation.””

** Managing is complex, but starts with some pretty simple tasks.
Link to original

Link: There’s a Trick To Getting Entitled Employees to Stop Complaining and Do Their Jobs – Management Matters – Management – GovExec.com

Getting jerks to do their job by having their peers manage them.
Link to original

Pivotal Conversations: The management perspective on transforming Allstate, with Opal Perry

I’m always interested to hear how management manages to change how software is done in large organizations – it can seem impossible! As ever, Allstate provides a fascinating stream of information here, and I was lucky to get the chance to interview Opal Perry there on how Allstate has been doing with all that cloud-native stuff.

Check out the listing on SoundCloud, and be sure to subscribe to the podcast if you like it.

Also, if you want to hear more, Matthew Curry and I had a similar conversation a few weeks ago at OSCON.

Often, people just won’t change, or, there is no magic to thaw the frozen mind

Under the auspices of “how can we DevOps around here?” I’ve had numerous conversations with organizations who feel like they can’t get their people to change over to the practices and mind-set that leads to doing better software. The DevOps community has spent a lot of time trying to gently bring along and even brain-hack resistant people and there are numerous anecdotes and studies that doing things in DevOps/cloud native/agile/etc. way not only make businesses run more smoothy and profitably, but make the actual lives of staff better (interested in leaving work at 5pm and not working on weekends?)

Still, for whatever reasons, the idea of “the frozen-middle” is reoccurring. In government work, there’s often the frozen-ground” with staff throwing down their heels as well.

Most of the chatter on this topic is at the team level, and usually teams in already flexible, new organizations (like all those logos on scare-slides in presentations from people like Pivotal: UBER! AIRBNB! TESLA! SOFTWARE-IS-EATING-THE-WORLD, INC.!) If you’re already in a company that can change its culture every year, the pain of these “frozen” people is almost nil in comparison to being in government, a 50-100 years old company, or otherwise “in the real world.”

Right here, I’m supposed to establish empathy with these frozen people to get them to change. I should stop calling them “frozen people” and treating them like “resources,” and think of them as people. That is all true, but what do I do after I’ve cavorted with them in empathy splash-pads for months on end and we still can’t get them to configure the firewall so we can do the DevOps? What do you do with enterprise architects who have become specialists in telling you how impossibly fucked up everything is? How do you work with all those “frozen middle-managers” who are acting as a “shit umbrella” (or maybe in this case, a “rainbow umbrella”?) to all your fanciful DevOps notions?

There’s one last ditch tactic: money and firing. When it comes to changing the culture in a large orginizations, this is the big hammer that upper-level management has. That is, the middle-manager’s manger is the one who has to tools to fix the problem. By design, the surest, easiest, sanctioned way to change behavior is to change cash pay-outs and other compensation based on not only the performance of people (management and staff), but their willingness to adapt and change to new, better ways of operating. That is: you reward and punish people based on them doing what you told them to do, or not.

There’s all sorts of “little and cheap” things to do instead of bringing out the big hammer:

  • Giving out acrylic trophies, showering people in attention from high-level execs
  • Fame and glory internally and externally
  • T-shirts (no, really! They work amazingly well)
  • Sanctioning goofing off (“we may have a 15 day holiday policy, but, you know, you should leave work at 4 every day and don’t log vacation”)

Matt Curry covers most of these management-hacks in a great talk on changing large organizations. But let’s assume those aren’t working.

At this point, “leadership” (middle-management’s management) needs to reward and punish the unfreezing or freezing. If middle-management changes (“unfreezes”), they get paid more. If they don’t unfreeze at least their pay needs to freeze, and at “best” they need to get quarantined or fired (as a tone-note, back when I was young and the idea of getting “laid-off” or “RIFed” started being used I reprogrammed myself to only ever say “fired” in reference to loosing your job: those soft, BS words obscure the fact that you’ve been, well, fired – so, feel free to s/// whatever more HR-correct phrase you like into there).

If you look at the patterns of change in most companies going cloud native, they do exactly this. Organizations that successful change so that they can start doing software better set up separate “labs” where the “digital transformation” happens. These are often logically and physically separate: they often have new names and are often “off-site” or well hidden, in the skunk-works style. They do this because if they stay mentally and physically in the “old” system, they end up getting frozen simply due to proximity. The long-term, managerial strategy, here, is an application of the strangler pattern to the “legacy” organization: eventually, the new “labs” organization, through value to the business and sheer size, becomes the “normal” organization.

The staff process they use – almost as a side-effect! – is to only move over people who are willing to change. I’d argue that “skills” and aptitude have little to do with the selection of people: any person in IT can learn new ways of typing and right clicking if the company trains them and helps them. We’re all smart, here.

What happens is that you cull the frozen people, either leaving them behind in the old organization (where there’s likely plenty of work to be done keeping the legacy systems alive!), or just outright firing them. That’s all brutal and not in the rainbows and sandals spirit of DevOps, but it’s what I see happening out there to successfully change the fate of large organizations’ IT departments.

You don’t really hear about this in cheery keynotes at conferences, but at dark bars and (I shit you not) in quiet parking garages I’ve talked with several executives who paint out this unfreezing-by-attrition process as something that’s worked in their organization. One of them even said “we should have gotten rid of more people.”

This pattern gets more difficult in highly labor-regulated industries – like government work and government contractors – but setting up brand new organizations to shed the frozen old ways is at least something to try.

And, barring all else, as I like to say, if nothing is working, and people won’t actually change, Pivotal is always hiring.

If that’s too grim, don’t despair! My buddies have a much light-hearted, hopefully whack at the problem in a recent discussion of ours:

Setting goals is important for DevOps success

For my monthly column over at FierceDevOps I wrote about the importance of setting goals. I was motivated to write this by this point being repeated in Leading the Transformation many times, e.g.:

Management needs to establish strategic objectives that make sense and that can be used to drive plans and track progress at the enterprise level. These should include key deliverables for the business and process changes for improving the effectiveness of the organization.

It made me think that most of the corporate failures I’ve seen over the years were due to management being vague about what they wanted and what the team should be doing. Someone has to set the goals and, at the very least, it’s management’s job to make sure its done (they don’t have to do it, though I tend to think they do: they just need to make sure it happens).

Anyhow, check out the piece!