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InfoQ Homepage News Jonathan Smart on Organizing for Outcomes - DOES 2022

Jonathan Smart on Organizing for Outcomes - DOES 2022

Jonathan Smart (Jon), the author of "Better Value Sooner Safer Happier", talked about organizing for outcomes at the 2022 DevOps Enterprise Summit in Vegas. Many organizations are on their journeys to moving away from their role-based siloed organization to adopting value streams and networks of multi-disciplinary teams. As Smart has helped many organizations in their journey, he shared some of his lessons learned, anti-patterns, and patterns that can help organizations succeed.

He shared three common anti-patterns: he first warned against rigid one-size-fits-all forced organizational design, that can seriously harm the organization and the people. He announced that there is no playbook or blueprint. And lastly, he urged us to consider the organizational design in the context of their evolution, not as an endpoint.

"Design is not a phase. Design is continuous, so it's about organizational evolution."

Before starting any reorganization, quoting Arthur W Jones, "Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it gets", Smart invites us to answer three questions:

  • What are you optimizing for, today, in your organization?
  • What outcomes do you want to optimize for? Is it cost, which is most often the case?
  • And are the targeted outcomes being measured; it's one thing to know the outcomes we pursue, but are they being measured?

Most organizations Smart met with couldn’t answer these three questions.

To help these organizations, Smart shared some patterns and anti-patterns to get started. The main pattern is to focus on Better Value Sooner Safer and Happier:

The things I would recommend focusing on are: number one "Better", which is quality,  number two "Value", which is unique to your organization, then "Sooner", which is time to learning and time to value, "Safer", which is minimal viable compliance and right sizing the control environment, and "Happier", which is happier customers, colleagues, citizens, and climate, because improving ways of working is not at any cost to the planet or to society and for me it's about humane ways of working.

Smart then talked about reorganizing for value and outcome anti-patterns and patterns through two fictitious organizations, one that is bound to fail and one that sets itself to succeed:

Company A embodies what not to do; how not to reorganize

They spend 12 Months in isolation designing the perfect organization, which leads to a further six months of job insecurity. They combine a massive, big-bang roll-out with cost-cutting and redundancies objectives. They operate from a top-down imposition mindset with a gold rush for the tribal leader role because power equals status which equals pay. They approach their organizational design as an end: when it’s done, they consider the transformation done, the change management support ends, and they declare success.

They lack an incentivization strategy: they experience accidental incentives and threats without focusing on establishing behavioral norms. There isn’t any consideration for the flow of value or their technical architecture. Their value streams fail because they’re still operating using sequential big batch processes. And there's a lack of measurable outcomes on why the reorganization happened in the first place.

Company B adopted good objectives and patterns to organize for value

In this organization, the why for the change is clearly articulated and communicated. The company identifies well-balanced and measurable outcomes, which are "Better Value Sooner, Safer, and Happier". There's an intentional approach around incentives and threats, and there is a clear incentive for the change across the entire company so that everyone understands the incentive, and everyone can get behind the change. Guiding principles are articulated to guide and enact daily decision-making.

Participation is not inflicted but rather invited. They start small with an S- curve adoption. The business and technical architecture are considered. And it’s a case of working out loud with transparency, communication, and storytelling. The support functions, such as finance, internal audit, compliance, etc. are involved. And ongoing ways of working support is provided with a recognition that changing how they're organized is just the beginning of the journey, not the end of the journey.

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