While I am sure everyone on our team has experienced their own challenges working in a self-managed environment, let me take a minute and tell you about mine. The main challenge for me is when I see people making what I believe to be mistakes and then holding my tongue.
If you have not been following this blog, essentially our group has moved from a more traditional top-down, hierarchical structure to one of self-management. In a nutshell this means that we have created very clear definitions of all the various groups and roles within our department, encapsulated in each role or group as: purpose, domains and accountabilities. Each group and role has full autonomy and authority to accomplish its tasks however it sees fit, within those boundaries. While group leads can assign tasks to roles, they must also respect the autonomy of each role, which includes not telling a role or a sub–group lead how the work should be done.
All this is easy to say, but very hard for me to do. Anytime I see someone that I feel is making a mistake, it takes a great deal of effort to keep it to myself and let them down their path. Experience has taught me that what I think is a mistake often times turns out to be a better idea with better results than how I thought it should be done. Still, it is hard for me when I feel that someone is going to do something different from what I think, especially when I fear that the results of the action will have a negative impact on my accountabilities.
As I have already mentioned, in many instances I was eventually proven wrong. Instead, by enabling people to try different ways to reach their predefined goals often results in a better way ofperforming the task. Perhaps due to my personality, though, I still find it hard to let people do something that I believe should be done in a particular way.
A guest post on Stephen Orban blog on what initiate our XOIT journey and high level what we’ve done so far. I think it’s a good summery of all of our posts here during the last two years.
Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast: Friedkin’s Journey Toward XOIT & High-Multiple Cultures
View story at Medium.com
Posted in IT
Tagged Natty Gur
Self-management and empowerment pushes associates to perform work that they have not had the chance to do in the past. This creates scenarios where new associates, or associates who are just beginning their careers, are performing accountabilities that in the old world were only performed by those who were more experienced.
These scenarios are raising the question of “How can a low–level employee do a job like that??” (usually with very concerned look). As I am sure you can imagine, this comment typically arises from those associates with more experience.
From my perspective and from the XOIT philosophy, there aren’t any low–level employees. All the members of our group are associates that working to achieve the same purpose. While each one of us has different roles that need to be performed, there aren’t any low level associates. In fact, there are not any levels at all. IT is one holistic organism were all parts must operate together in order to perform well. XOIT enables people to do work that they feel they are better at, or can contribute more through. Enabling them to be exposed to new activities simply paves the way for their personal and professional growth. Sure, you should’t give them accountabilities on a high–risk project, but at the same time exposing them to new accountabilities is the only way for them to grow. Otherwise these talented and intelligent associate can end up doing the same work for years while their engagement and passion declines.
Friedkin Group’s IT, an organization focused on self-management and meritocracy, is seeking a leader with experience challenging software engineers to fulfill their full potential and working with all other IT domains. If you feel comfortable leading through your technical knowledge and influence, read on.
At Friedkin’s IT group, you will find a unique working environment where associates are encouraged to work in teams and self-manage, and where leaders drive results through their knowledge and skills, not their titles. We are looking for a progressive thinker to join our team. In this role, the candidate will work together with the IT Department to expand our software engineering and development knowledge and experience, all while being a part of this exciting working environment.
This opportunity will fill both leadership and non-leadership roles and will be accountable for creating new IT assets, acting as a liaison between IT and our internal customers, and ensuring that all of our groups are engaged in continuous improvement.
Success will require the use of your knowledge, experience, and interpersonal skillsets, and will have a significant impact on our entire IT group. Therefore we are looking for an individual that can both challenge people and be challenged by people, someone who demonstrates non-conventional thinking and an ability to drive and deliver results, and finally, someone that believes in work groups and what they can achieve.
One of the main goals of XOIT is to break the classical IT silos into hybrid groups with all the roles necessary to achieve a clear and defined purpose. While we can see this goal being achieved, we have also begun to see challenges with this approach. If you follow the XOIT methodology, there are two main challenges you will quickly experience: Misguided Meeting Focus and Context Switching.
Let me explain.
In the past people where organized in silo teams which were focused on certain IT domains or functions, there is a continued tendency to focus their meetings on what they used to do as opposed to the purpose of the meeting. With XOIT people find themselves participating in teams that are responsible for creating new assets, maintaining existing assets and defining strategies for IT. Regretfully the past still influences the present, and often when someone comes from a maintenance background, their focus remains on maintenance, regardless of the purpose of the meeting they are attending. This syndrome has caused us to miss one of our main objectives: to separate our focus, as a group, between strategy, projects and maintenance. Luckily the solution is fairly simple: if you start a group meeting with the purpose of the group and you stop all discussions that are outside of the purpose, it’s only a matter of time before everyone follows suit.
Context Switching is also related to the fact that people are involved in many groups; unfortunately, the solution for this is not easy at all. When people are participating in different groups (as everyone in XOIT is), every time they move from one group meeting to another, they have to switch their context to the current group. Changing context costs a loss of time because it takes time to do the switch, and also causes confusion – especially if you have to switch context multiple times a day. While we are aware that context switching is a challenge for us, we don’t have a resolution yet.
In this post I want to share the challenges we are aware of after one month of running in self-management way. The challenges are not order by any category, Just in the way they popped into my mind.
- Meetings, or number of meetings. That’s the main complain right now. To be honest we introduced technologies like Slack or GlassFrog that enable reduction of meeting and performing Governance functions without meetings, but people are not using them. We hope that’s a learning curve that will change in the future. While attending meeting I can still see people running those meeting in the OLD way, which required much more time and really doesn’t bring any value to anyone (except to the few of us that like to hear themselves talking)
- For managers it is hard to to the transition to leaders. In their mindset they are still managers with HR accountabilities. That create tensions between associate that understand self-management and adjusting their behavior and Ex-managers that understand self-management, but keeping on acting as managers.
- When new associates joining or moving from another business unit the transition is harder and it required very close and personal assistant and attention. It’s not a bad idea to closely assist new associate when he is starting new journey, but XOIT required more time and effort.
- People treat representative as a “Joke” up until the governance meeting start to touch the real challenges the group have (and any group have challanges). Due to that we sometime have the wrong personalities in the wrong role, which cause governance meeting not to follow XOIT. This issue usually resolved after the first true governance meeting.
Have you ever been in a project meeting where something is going south? Not only that, but you have 50 or more people all waiting to hear about it? I think it is safe to say that we have all been there. Let’s take it a step further. Let’s say that every person in this meeting represented a different aspect of the project and so they are trying to push their agenda, all while and everyone else is trying to prove to the rest of the group that they are the most talented and therefore, the savior of the project. The problem, of course, is that after 60 minutes of debate and shifts between different agendas, everyone simply leaves the meeting without any solution at all.
With XOIT, we are not an exception to the above scenario, but we are addressing this problem in a different way. When this situation starts to arise, before it gets too deep, we simply agree to set up a new sub-group within the project, define its purpose, and then let the main group (in this case, the project) to nominate a lead to this sub-group. Once selected, the lead can define which roles are needed as well as who is going to fill them. When the sub-group is set, all members not only know that they are accountable for the success of its success, but they are also aware that they have full autonomy and authority to run their group.
Lately we encountered two performance issues. One was related to networking latency; the other, reporting. In both examples we created two sub-groups and waited for the results. While the network latency group managed to decrease network latency from seconds to milliseconds, their main success was that they found a basic issue in our private cloud definition, and suggested a fix that will impact all current solutions running on this platform.
As for the reporting group, they managed to reduce the time to run some reports from 40 min to 4-6 second.
Both success stories are examples of how self-managed teams created solutions that would have been very difficult to achieve in a classical hierarchal or command and control environment.