In my role at ZapThink I get to speak with people at all levels of many organizations, from the most technical of developers to the most senior executives in the C suite. And I have found that everyone in the enterprise – from one extreme to the other and everyone in between – can suffer from tunnel vision.
Tunnel vision is a problem most familiar among the techies. “I could finally get some work done,” is the common lament, “if it weren’t for all the damn users!” Because of their deep technical strength, whether it be a developer, sys admin, or other role, these professionals tend to immerse themselves into the technical minutiae. Their work conversations drip with jargon, and asking them to interact with people who are not so similarly focused pushes them outside their comfort zone. Hence the phrase “tunnel vision.”
People on the business side of the fence aren’t immune from their own form of tunnel vision. I’ve met many an executive who sees their technical illiteracy as a point of pride. “Don’t confuse me with that technical mumbo jumbo,” the exec opines, “that’s what my IT folks are for!” Whenever they must interact with some piece of technology, they end up with arbitrary requirements that serve to hide their discomfort. Hence so many requests to move this button over there, or to change a ringtone or graph color.
Such tunnel vision results from the common organizational approach that builds and reinforces silos within the enterprise. Divide people up by expertise or specialty so that each team or committee consists of like-minded people with similar perspectives on a common set of problems. And thus the product managers meet with other product managers, the executives meet with other executives, the Java developers meet with other Java developers, etc.
However, not every organization suffers from such paralyzing silos – or at least, not everywhere in the org chart. There are in fact several movements afoot in companies across the globe that purport to cut across silos in order to achieve greater levels of agility in the organization, and as a result, deliver more effectively on the true business needs. In fact, three in particular come to mind:
· Agile methodologies. Instead of separating the stakeholders from the developers, throwing supposedly fixed requirements over the wall from one silo to another, include the stakeholders in the development process. Iterate frequently, and involve stakeholders along the way. Get the process right and the result? Better software.
· Dev/Ops. As Cloud leads to increasingly automated operational environments, the role of the ops personnel shift to working with developers and the rest of the software team to roll out better solutions across their full lifecycle. Don’t simply iterate development, iterate deployment as well. The result? More agile software.
· Next-Gen Enterprise Architecture (or what I call Agile Architecture in my book, The Agile Architecture Revolution). Put all those static EA artifacts in a drawer and instead focus on supporting consistent, comprehensive governance across all levels of the organization. Establish the policies and related processes and tools at the organizational, process, technology, and information levels across the company in such a way that all such policies are consistent with each other and have built-in mechanisms for evolving as needs change. Such EA touches everyone in the enterprise. The result? An agile organization that leverages continuous business transformation to achieve long-term strategic goals.
Do you have what it takes to succeed with Agile software methodologies, Dev/Ops, and Next-Gen, Agile Enterprise Architecture? Every organization has the innate ability, given that people are always able to learn new skills. The real question is: do you have the courage?