Unfolding plans 37 – structures get in the way

It is my belief that structures are needed yet that they get in the way of what we are trying to achieve.  This is demonstrated by inter-team rivalry, competition and the apparent differing priorities and objectives discussed amongst us as a service.

We have been successful in bringing the organisation through the last five years in a time of unprecedented austerity.   There are still issues to resolve though.  Our success has been most noticeable within our vertical silos and our failures within our horizontal layers.  We are good at working in stripes but not good at working in hoops.

Like many others we remain a siloed organisation.  What we need is to be more tartan, good both vertically and horizontally.  I must add though that our siloism, if there is such a word is more prevalent the higher up the structure you go.  Is this another example of how structures get in the way?

What I want for ICT Services is to become a self-organising service that delivers based upon demand.  The people who are best placed to know what to do are the ones that do.  The job of my team and management is to create the environment which allows that to happen.  I want a service that is highly customer focussed and highly technically competent.  Quality, agility, flow and trust will be our watchwords.

Over Christmas I managed to watch a lot of films.  They’re something I never really get around to as they take up too much time.  One of those I saw was Pollyanna, a very sentimental Disney film.  She is an orphan who goes to live with her aunt who in effect ‘owns’ the town and is much despised because of her control.  You may have seen it.

Needless to say, Pollyanna’s innocence and positive nature melts people’s hearts and gets them to see what is wrong with their community.  She persuades Reverend Ford, a fire and brimstone preacher to change his approach from the pulpit. ‘When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good—you will get that…”

We don’t have bad people but we have bad process, bad procedure and good people with skills that they are not using.  This is not their fault.  We need to identify what people are good at.  Not just technical skills, people skills, organizational skills, visualizing skills, communication skills.  We can make use of whatever skills they have.

So this is the structure that is needed and that I want, not siloed, at least not vertically.  We want to create delivery families, small teams of specialists who work together as a team and are skilled in specific areas.  These families will provide the feeling of belonging that seems to be required.  These families will move or flow to where they are needed depending upon the demand.  Sometimes they will be working with other teams depending upon the skills required.

Demand will fluctuate and at times there will be work that we cannot do because we are maxed out.  We need to be able to switch resources on and off as required or at least smooth our demand curve.

This is what we are working towards, a flexible, agile, self-organising, self-learning organisation.   Structured yet unstructured.  One organisation, one set of priorities.  What we need is a Pollyanna.

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