Don’t boil the ocean – a clichéd caution against over-ambition and a lack of focus. We imagine steam rising from waters, salty spray, a scene almost primeval. But is this good advice for organizations seeking meaningful and lasting change? Putting a kettle up might be okay for tweaking things as they are, but sometimes we need to act in a way more disruptive and reaching. Should we be willing to throw caution to the wind, just a bit, when faced with such a challenge?
A vision for organizational change imagines a rejuvenated and improved state of affairs, across a broad seascape. Otherwise it’s a vision for something less, a point initiative, a narrow improvement. IT practice is systemic, a cultural phenomenon based on hand-offs, stand-offs, and interlocking pieces. Wiggle a wrist, and the hand flexes, the elbow braces, while the shoulder, back, and neck, resonate in support. Wiggle enough parts and soon the joint’s jumping’! Likewise with organizational change. An ocean wave begets another, and so on ….
Consider the potential benefit of spreading our lessons learned across a wide span of initiatives that evolve together, each nudging the other to a success greater than the parts. Is boiling maybe synonymous with executing a well-orchestrated and calculated program for change?
Consider the standard frameworks out there like COBIT, ITIL, CMMI, and other favorites, whatever might be right for what’s at hand. These are templates to frame change, end-states of the ocean successfully boiled, manuals of how to agitate the molecules of various process and service areas, to heat things up, to get us to where we’re heading.
Be cautious of under-ambition. It is difficult to effect meaningful and sustained change in just one or two service or process areas. It’s all interrelated, and the idea that the organization can neatly isolate these practices is not always an effective one. Look to advance meaningful combinations – like Change, Release, Software Configuration, Test Data, Environments, and Quality Assurance – as a package of ability which over time evolves to higher levels of maturity.
© Michael C. Simonelli, onthegocio.com, 2013