…Is it possible to change behaviour from ‘beat your colleague’ to ‘beat your competition’?

I have spent many years at work in startups and have become accustomed to teams of people spending their energy working together to create things and solve problems. But I have spent most of the last year supporting enterprises adapt to the changing needs of the IT market, most specifically helping with DevOps and Continuous Delivery. Perhaps I am a little slow in reaching this conclusion but it dawned on me recently the most significant difference between the two environments.

In pretty much every enterprise I have visited over the past year ALL I have witnessed is a ‘beat your colleague’ behaviour.

Is it possible to change behaviour from ‘beat your colleague’ to ‘beat your competition’?

Let me provide some examples that we can work with.

– We’re not contracted to do that!

This is a direct response when working with a professional services delivery team on behalf of a major IT vendor. The vendor has sold a transformation project and has subsequently carved up the work between its many divisions. During the implementation phase each division is battling for revenue and trying to limit the work it must perform. Let battle commence. I guess there is no need to explore what the client is experiencing!

– Them Vs. Us

A forward-thinking vendor proposed a transformation programme to a very large  financial services customer that will modernise application delivery and operations. The proposal is fully-costed and the vendor is prepared to invest and back up its proposal by taking underwriting financial risk. I have not spent much time myself working out whether the vendor could deliver, that could come later. The team responsible for managing the estate decides the best defence is to create its own business case that simply matches the vendors proposal.

No-one has a good break down of costs and no-one is prepared to collaborate to produce one. A simple mathematical exercise that takes little notice of the detail in the proposal.

–  Down to Earth With a Bump

An organisation that I had come to rate quite highly as a visionary causes me to come down to earth with a bump. I had worked with this organisation some years ago to help develop their ideas for a very early cloud. The person leading it impressed me and certainly talked a good story. However, as I re-engaged I found that the business has decided not to consume the service that he pioneered and had removed itself from using any subsequent offerings. I have my own theory on some of the issues that happened here but the bottom line is that the technical team and business are at odds; is this an issue of agenda or of capability?

Hearing the arguments between proponents at board level is quite an eye-opener.

– the Technical Design Authority who makes promises of delivery without any  idea if, or how, they can be implemented

For much of my career I have been the Technical Design Authority. This is a role that has caused me many nights lost sleep and considerable worry, it is also balanced by some great experiences and lots of learning. No-one knows everything and there is great power in accepting ones weaknesses, but to execute this role one has to be diligent and explore the implications of a design decision. For the past year nearly every TDA I have worked with has been in sales mode and unable to conceive of the implications of implementation. Simple things like understanding that Data centre migration is not the same as IT modernisation; they may have overlapping or parallel paths but moving a workload from location A to B does not provide any benefit unless one also modernises the platform and manner in which it operated.

I am not sure these behaviours can be changed but I am prepared to give it some thought…