Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Where to Start ...

Need to Be Somewhere Different

So we have talked about the six principles, when executed well, that will lead to success. So you are in the middle of your organization and you want to be somewhere different.

Maybe the market has changed, maybe your leadership has changed, maybe you want to enter a new market or maybe your company has been acquired. Any of these situations will create space for change. In order to get through it well you need to know two things.
  1. Where are you today?
  2. Where do you want to go?

Types of Organizations

To help with this, I will describe some different types of organizations. Each of these organization types will require different types of org structures, talents and leadership. The principles discussed will still hold. The style will be different. You can use the following organization types to determine where you are today and also where you want to go.

Harvest (Maintenance)

The harvest organization is all about keeping the existing customers happy (to a degree). The product is proven and its value proposition is well established. Customers know what they have and like it. Organizations in this mode will provide support and fixes for customers to maintain the current value.

There is no plan to modernize or attack new markets. Cost and metrics drive most decisions and are balanced with customer satisfaction. These organizations manage to the margin. Organizations here risk  slipping into technical and third party debt that could force unnatural acts for the organization. Examples include loss of support for third party component, obsolete OS, loss of knowledge on key parts of the system and single points of knowledge failure in the organization to name a few.

Ride it Out (Maintenance with some features)

Ride it out is a lot like the harvest org with a little bit of spice. This organization will push features out on top of its maintenance product. It will do so in the name of customer satisfaction and also for sales. The sales part could be legitimate or it could be a carry over momentum in the organization from that is just what we do.

This organizations is also at risk of neglecting its technical debt in favor of pushing features. Organizations in this mode will usually shift into Harvest mode.

Saturated (Adding Features to Established Product)

The saturated organization, in most cases, has ridden the growth wave. That momentum and the need to squeeze out the remaining sells will lead this organization to create features to close deals. Not all of these features make sense and may cause the organization pain. This organization may have accumulated some organizational and technical debt along the way. Making money covers up a lot of issues. When the money and growth starts to slow, these organizational and technical debt items may become amplified.

Staffing may exceed expense ratios for R&D investment percentages. Reductions may occur and leadership turnover is likely.

Extend (Innovate on top of existing product)

The extend organization will look to create new revenue by integrating new value into their product or solution. This could come from partnering with other vendors, it could come from acquisition, and it could come from create new value on top of the existing product.

This organization could spring up to extend the growth curve of a product or business or it may spring up after the saturation adjustments play out.

Game Changer (Enter a new market)

Entering a new market creates the opportunity to extend financial and business growth  It requires research, investment and expertise. These skills are different than the skills needed in any of the previous described organizations. The game changer is best introduced as the current product is reaching maturity.

Chaos vs. Predictable

No matter what type of organization you have, it will fall on the continuum of chaotic to predictable. Healthy organizations need to strike a good balance between structure and flexibility. 

Healthy organizations will have the following

  • Planned and well executed work
  • Strong practice of continuous improvement
  • Well structured and supportable code
  • Knowledge base for training and support
  • Unit tests and other technical support that will help others maintain the code
  • Automated builds and deployments
  • Servant leaders
  • Strong regression support with automation
  • Metrics at development, qc, services, and support that impact org behavior
Organizations that struggle will have the following
  • Manage by fire drill. React
  • Growing technical debt
  • Tribal knowledge that is decaying
  • Blame game. Selfish leaders
  • Either little process or over process that is used to cya
  • Need for heroes
  • Lack of meaningful business metrics

Healthy organizations will have a better shot at maintaining what they have as well as being able to move and adapt with change.