Chow #140 – How do I structure my new tribe?

Daniel looks after the supply chain product in a 60-year-old company. He reports into the Chief Information Officer. Currently the systems run on a traditional mainframe with some interfaces to the external world using UNIX gateways. The software is developed and maintained by Peter with 12 of the company’s long-timers, who have grown up with these technologies for over 25 years. They are supported by 28 more team members with lesser experience.  Raghav, looks after the testing team, based out of India. His 18-person team has between 2 – 10 years of experience of providing quality assurance for this product.

Viktor, and 5 – 7 people from the business would be the ones who would provide the requirements and accept the product. They are reporting to the Chief Procurement Officer.

The company has now decided that they want to leverage open source technology on the cloud and move their supply chain system product to be more responsive.

The company is already in the midst of their enterprise agile transformation in the client facing division. Now they want to the supply chain division to take the plunge with this move to cloud based solution.

Daniel, has been appointed as the tribe leader. His reporting has been switched to the Chief Procurement Officer with a dotted relationship to the CIO.  He reaches out to Vikram his agile coach to discuss to bounce his thoughts on team formation. As Vikram how would you support this discussion with Daniel?

Suggested Solution:

Here are some thoughts (if the topics are not raised by the player):
• What could be the organization reason to align Daniel’s reporting to the CPO? (This will trigger questions on business goals, KPIs, and change that’s required)
• What has Daniel heard from all the key players involved? (Their perspectives, apprehensions, most importantly is he reaching out to listen to them)
• What’s Daniel’s perspective on the move to open source and cloud? (Is he looking at it from a technology perspective and/ or a business need. It’s hard to unlearn – earlier habits would have been dominated by technology perspective. What does he say as the opportunity and risk here?)
• How would he leverage Peter, Raghav, Viktor?
• Is he looking at his organization horizontally? (i.e. is he staying in the comfort zone, buying peace). Or is he feeling the need for a vertical slice of the organization (This will be the single biggest opportunity for constructing a true agile tribe)?
• What’s his thought on Keep the Lights On operations vis-à-vis the new innovative solution for SCM?
• What skills does his team lack? (remember veterans in technology can take a while to shift)
• What does he see as the age/ experience profile of the new members he needs? (Easier to say all are equal, harder to make it happen) Does he understand the dynamics of bringing them in and changing (or even upsetting) the established order?
• Do you still want him to have the discussions with the coach only? Is he ready to open up with his senior guys? (Vulnerability when openly expressed can then help at least some of the others to join in. Appearing brave, providing a solution may be very counter-productive)
• How does he intend to solicit the inputs from his team? (Can he get them to have a focused position – on what will be needed to succeed; what are their personal challenges; what help is needed)

In my perspective questions that lead to a self-contained team (by business sub process) is where the real value lies. (Easier to say, challenging to implement – Needs to be able to bring the key players on board in as much as get them out of their comfort zone).

I am normally a votary for making the change quickly and helping people to adapt to the new order. There are others who could believe that doing the change on a pilot basis, tweaking it, and then rolling out is a good way. Either way – it’s important to be nimble and not delay the implementation.
The most important thing is to see the value in the new way of working, help people (specifically most entrenched people) see how their past will be useful, but the need for them to learn and adapt to their new role is critical.

What do you think?

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