Readiness to Serve

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Reading time ~2 minutes

A couple of years ago a friend said: (I’m paraphrasing here)

My team are paid a huge pile of money to do nothing most of the time.

As an analysis team for a financial institution their goal was to be immediately available at the first sign of an anomaly in the system. Like every other good analysis team in the city, their goal was to identify and find a means of exploiting the next new anomaly before anyone else in the world did. When the rest of the world catches up, their edge is lost – until the next time.

Many times I see organizations saving pennies on billions of dollars of revenue to ensure they keep their teams “busy” or “fully utilized”.

  • If your teams are always busy, how will they be able to cope with the next bump in the road?
  • If your teams are always busy, how will they be able to stop and see the big picture?
  • If your teams are always busy, when will they have enough time to stop and sharpen their tools?
  • If your teams are always busy, who is looking around to see what the rest of the world is doing?
  • If your teams are always busy, who will you have available to exploit the next change in the market before your competition?

Unless money really is that tight, staff up your teams or balance your investment portfolio not just to deliver your current needs but also provide sufficient capacity to be “ready to serve” when the next anomaly hits your market.

Creative Freedom & Product Ownership

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After nearly 2 years of blogging internally for my employer and building up an internal online community readership of nearly a thousand subscribers, I’ve been looking forward to getting my voice to the outside world. I have a lot to say, opinions on most things in the software industry and enjoy sharing.

Having made the personal commitment and investment to do so, I find that 2 days later the words are all there but can’t find form. Where’s all the inspiration that caused me to do this gone?

I know my intended audience, I know the sort of things I usually write about are interesting, I have complete creative control and no real constraints on what I can and can’t say for the first time in years! What happened?

Complete creative control with no constraints?… Oh!…

Complete creative control makes life harder, not easier!

When you move to an environment where you are both delivery team and product owner, how do you go about putting some of the safety rails back up to get back on track and delivering successfully?

Whilst over in the US last week I saw a biography on “Pink” –  I’ve just learned a great lesson from her experiences.

Creative control for Pink’s first album was governed by her record company and whilst very successful, she sought a greater say in her future output.

For her second album, Pink contacted an artist she greatly admired and against the wishes of her record company, developed an album of new material on her own terms. In developing the album she had a clear goal and vision; pair up with a personal heroine, take control and prove she could deliver.  Pink broke the rules and had something to fight for.

On hearing the output, record bosses conceded she’s achieved something special and the album was a massive global success. Following its success her songwriting partner saw a huge surge in demand for her skills and Pink was given complete creative freedom and trust for her next album. – She’d massively over-achieved her goal.

Album#3 didn’t go so well. Her partner was no longer available, complete control was hers but there was no focus. Development was a strained, long process and whilst it did eventually ship, sales performance was generally poor.

Does this sound familiar?

Needless to say Pink’s output did recover.  Now I’ve found my voice I need to re-check both my original vision and my constraints.

After mentioning that I was about to write this post, a good friend and colleague sent me a link to this old business week article from the VP of Google’s search products. It frames the whole constraint thing better than I can – well worth a read.