There are three buzz words that are penetrating the corporate offices these days; “agile development”, “IoT” and the up and coming Four Disciplines of Execution (“4DX”). In my role focused on marketing, edge layer technology and internal software that monitors, alerts and distributes throughout the organization; I am living in the intersection of all three. What is profoundly interesting is how each one is focused on a unique industry with a completely different consumer demographic and yet the concepts of Agile, IoT and 4DX encourage identical behaviors. What is also entertaining is how organizations dismiss the other in an offhanded, sound-bite, oversimplified manner (sound familiar?) to promote the importance of their own perspective.
Not to belabor the point, but to clearly understand the common core principles of all three disciplines, we must be aware and accept the genesis of the discourse. Conflict, traditionally, points to either Love, Money or both. I wish it were that simple. In this case, I see it as lacking the accepting of having a “collective consciousness” across industries and within organizations. A common purpose or stated mission/vision to guide all organizations within the firm give a shared direction. Discourse comes into play when smaller teams or individuals feel isolated and disconnected from the rest of the team. Think about American football and how hard it is to keep offense and defense connected when they are treated as separated entities with different missions. In business, the same effects occur. For examples, in my training within Scrum Alliance, the instructor insisted that pure agile development does not allow for timelines or date driven expectations. This is the complete opposite of how businesses function and measured on the stock market. Everyone in the room experienced what I did in that moment with our own proverbial ‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ juggling the co-existence of both trusting the message while distrusting the messenger. Even in the history of the Agile Manifesto, Jim Highsmith states in a passive-aggressive manner, “Quite frankly, the Agile approaches scare corporate bureaucrats— at least those that are happy pushing process for process’ sake versus trying to do the best for the “customer” and deliver something timely and tangible and “as promised”—because they run out of places to hide.” I can also remember the CEO of a manufacturing company comments in my MBA class that stated software developers just enjoy, “…their hacky sack and table-tennis” as the benefits of the job.” There are millions of these spirited comments in the IoT industry and most have a reference to a refrigerator talking with the owner’s car. All funny and light-hearted, but none are productive in establishing a shared purpose for the team.
Having said that, if we focus on the core principles of each of the three approaches, one can not only see the similarities but the same kernel of truth. In short, all three have the following common principles:
- The importance role of the Self-Govern
- Federated Model for action and features
- Accountability and Responsibility
- Agile fits into this construct perfectly with self-regulating scrum teams determining stories, priorities, design considerations and user experiences. Reviewing the twelve principles of the Agile Manifesto, one can easily see the team-centric decision-making and ownership. “Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.” This is further emphasized in the “What is Agile” ten principles including, “The team must be empowered to make decisions”.
- In the IoT world, the importance of Self-Government is inherent in the consumer controlling what they use and how.
This theory is strengthened by the Paul Samuelson economic description of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, “that each individual in pursuing his own selfish good was led, as if by an invisible hand, to achieve the best good of all…” Consumers have an incredible about of options that they essential self-govern the valued products by ignoring the products and services less valuable or inaccessible.
- The 4DX concept in raising the effectiveness of delivery is based on a foundation of strengthen culture through engagement and building alignment. This is bluntly articulated through an established “rule”. Rule #3 states, “Senior leaders can veto, but not dictate. Simply put, employees become more engaged in a goal that they choose themselves….”
A Federated Model: A great story by General Stanley McChrystal, author of “A Team of teams goes like this… “I would tell my staff about the “dinosaur’s tail”: As a leader grows more senior, his bulk and tail become huge, but like the brontosaurus, his brain remains modestly small. When plans are changed and the huge beast turns, its tail often thoughtlessly knocks over people and things. That the destruction was unintentional doesn’t make it any better.”
- The rapid iteration (with Quality!) can only be successful with a small team focused on incremental releases. In larger teams, the messaging and focus becomes diluted which results in variation of message and outcome. Successful agile teams are small with laser-focus on the incremental releases. This dynamic approach aligns with all ‘team’ concepts with some limited number pf players all working for the same goal. Soccer and Football represent the largest number of teammates on the pitch at the same time with eleven. Flexible and nimble agile teams look to that same number of participants. (https://hbr.org/2012/08/why-less-is-more-in-teams)
- IoT aficionados don’t have to look further that the upcoming 5G network and architecture to see the value of the federated model. The power of 5G with wireless speeds up to 10Gbps will move away from the sole dependency of the cell towers and have to utilize mini-towers to support the 20+ billion IoT devices in 2020. This model is needed to support self-driving cars that will need instantaneous communication with absolute security. (On a side note, this technology is moving so rapidly, it’s best to keep an eye on what your customers will expect and how in the very near future. To quote Ferris, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it”.)
- 4DX efforts require a weekly discipline of the team in a weekly measurement. In agile vernacular, it would be referred to as a “stand-up”. Team conversations that last between 5 and 15 minutes, and take place standing up to physical remind the team to be brief and to the point. In a 4DX model, how many people can effectively conduct this exercise, hold each other accountable and be respectful of time? The hypothesis for this number would align with our sports model referenced above. Can you image have a weekly discussion with 40-100 people in a single room? (not without picturing one of three frames in a Dilbert cartoon.)
Accountability and Responsibility: As the head coach of the New England Patriots that have won five Superbowls, Bill Belichick is associated with the famous quote, “Do your job.” The emphasis is on the “your”. Stay focused on what you can influence and control and not to expend unnecessary energy on those outside of your sphere of influence. All three efforts have the same focus and accountability.
- The retrospective in Agile has teammates look each other in the eye and share the things that they did well and what did not go well. The best examples are not finger pointing activities, but based on learning as not to make the same mistake in the next sprint.
- IoT designs are accountable to the customer and the enablement of information flowing so effortlessly that regardless of the modality, the customer can manage their experience. For example, mobile banking allows for checks to the be deposited in the same manner as an actual branch. The lack of this functionality will drive customers away. This is very similar to the perspective of the ‘self-govern’, but what is different, is the customer’s behavior is immediate holding the service provider accountable by feedback and/or the discontinuation of service.
- The importance of measurement is captured in two data points. The first one, ‘Lagging’ measures, is represented by team goals and the second one is identified by ‘Lead’ Measures. Lead measures are predictable and we can influence them in a timely manner to have an impact on the Lag measures. For example, I can measure calorie intake and exercise as a lead indicator for the goal of losing weight. In the 4DX world, accountability is an incredibly important component of the scorecard. Measuring leading and lagging influential activities and sharing those efforts with peers in the weekly ‘stand-ups’ is a direct and personal manner to be held accountable for the very measurements that the collective team agreed in the first place.
Interestingly enough, the three pillars of Self-Governing, Federated Model and Accountability & Responsibility are nothing more than disparate lenses of “Teamwork”. Relying on those on the team to take initiative, collaborate and achieve the collective goal. With that as a baseline, it would be in the best interest of the IT, SW and LOB teams within the organization to celebrate the commonalities which are founded on the same principles rather than highlighting the differences. Exacerbating the divide is utilizing processes & designs that are catered to separate organizations. What would be best for the company is not only to embrace the “best-in-class” for each team as their own but to integrate all of the disciplines together. For example, utilizing the 4DX model to measure the lead indicators of g-ready stories, leveraging Agile to iterate the scorecard for 4DX or implementing IoT features that drive consumer utilization scorecards. The list is endless.
The foundation of success regardless of being 4DX, Agile, IoT, etc… are the people you trust, lean on and take risks with for the good of the firm. Stated by Nicki Lisa Cole, “The collective consciousness informs our sense of belonging and identity, and our behavior. Founding sociologist Émile Durkheim developed this concept to explain how unique individuals are bound together into collective units like social groups and societies.” Regardless of how…the ‘why’ is to blur the lines of organization construct to support the shared purpose of the organization staying true to the mission and celebrate the team along the journey. Best of Luck!