Leading The Game of IT Thrones by Jayne Groll

How do you lead IT through a digital transformation when every set of IT frameworks, practices and automation wants to sit on the Iron Throne?

IT loves its frameworks — be it Agile, ITIL, Lean IT, CobIT, IT4IT, Security or DevOps. Unfortunately, IT’s love affair with “best practice” frameworks has created an organizational landscape that looks more like the seven kingdoms than a smooth flowing business unit. Worse yet, each set of practices has enlisted an army of fierce loyalists to defend the honor of their sovereignty.

Acknowledgement: Game of Thrones series, George RR Martin, HBO

The net result is a fractured IT that does not speak the same language, does not have the same traditions and does utilize the same tools and techniques. The resemblance to a league of nations is uncanny.

So how do you lead IT through a digital transformation when every set of IT frameworks, practices and automation wants to sit on the Iron Throne?

The first step is to instill systems thinking into the hearts and minds of every IT professional. Systems thinking gives everyone an end to end perspective of how IT delivers value to its customer. Seeing IT as a single system creates a common mission that requires common language, common tools, integrated practices and shared accountabilities.

The best way to instill systems thinking is to conduct a current state value stream mapping exercise. A value stream map visualizes flow by capturing the steps that take a product or feature from idea to realization. More importantly, the value stream map illustrates the time that it takes for each step to be completed before the next step commences (including wait time between steps). The goal of the exercise is to create a unified understanding of where we are today so that we can identify opportunities to improve. By using time and quality as the key metrics, value stream mapping can help bridge practices and eliminate waste.

Value stream mapping requires nothing more than a set of sticky notes, a group of diverse stakeholders, socialization of the map for inclusive input and a skilled facilitator. When possible, it should be conducted in person so that the contributors can discuss, debate and negotiate on the way things are today. When coupled with a future state value stream map, improvements are identified, speed is increased, handoffs are reduced and systems thinking becomes institutionalized. This is a great starting point for any transformation.

So who wins the Game of Thrones? The business.

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