Monday, October 8, 2018

Running ”Anti-Fragile” IT by Following “Digital Principles”

The digital ecosystem is dynamic and keeps expanding, it is important to broaden the IT outlook and envisions the bigger picture of digitalization.

Digital organizations are organic, complex and living. Companies across sectors ultimately respond to the external environment as geopolitics, rapid innovation, and social expectations change the business landscape and blur the digital territories. A digital organization has the high degree of interdependence, IT is the integrator to glue all important business factors such as people, process, and technology to the differentiated business competency. IT leaders should set digital principles, ensure the organization has fine-defined objectives, processes, and indicators with clear accountability and responsibility to deliver business objectives and manage innovation and IT portfolio effectively.

Listen before telling: With frequent changes and high velocity, it’s important to build a working environment that is conducive to communication and collaboration, and consensus decision-making, in order to adapt to changes or solve problems with speed. When you are in a position of authority, you have lots of opportunity to tell and lots of leeway in how to do the telling. However, be careful, you do not want to come across as having a solution looking for a problem, perhaps starting with some listening would help. Especially for digital leaders today, it’s important for you to guide the organization in the right direction after you “seek first to understand.” The best way to improve communications is to stop talking and listen. Antifragility equals more to gain than to lose; equals more upside than downside; equals asymmetry, likes volatility. Thus, listen to the business partner’s pain points and develop an approach with business units. If you do not listen, you will never get the two sides of the story. Asking questions is crucial to learning for everyone involved. However, without being able to listen with an open mind and heart, just asking questions may fall on "deaf ears."Communication has occurred when the message is received and understood. To have this happen reliably requires a bidirectional and reciprocal cycle of questions and answers. It is a leadership responsibility to provide a safe environment for everyone at any level to question and speak candidly without anxiety or fear. When IT becomes both a “listening and telling” organization, it has the better ability to tolerate volatility, present the high qualification to make effective decisions, grasp better opportunities to integrate with businesses and show resilience to recover from failures.

Priority over busyness: Many IT organizations suffer from overloaded tasks and overwhelming information. They become fragile when they get stuck in the daily busyness and deal with short-term pressures only. To reinvent its image and build up a long-term reputation as an antifragile business partner, IT should have a strategy to set the right priority, prioritization brings transparency and improve IT management effectiveness and efficiency. Keep in mind, there is no way to create a definitive prioritized list without more business context. Business justification for the IT services is a joint responsibility. IT must lead building the justifications. If you leave it to the business, priorities will change with every shift in the wind. IT prioritization shouldn't be to work on only the things for which you have staff, it should be to maximize what you can accomplish through creative leverage of your talent pool and limited resource to improve business weakness, strengthen the business strength, and build business competency. Build an antifragile IT organization by improving transparency. There needs to have clearly defined roles and authority structure, processes, and dynamic prioritization all wrapped up in an adaptive operation plan that turns out to be most critical. The staff should know the big picture and know what their role is in it. Ensure people committed and incentivized to the plan/priorities. The critical thing for IT leaders is to identify significant problems and set the right priority to solve them smoothly.


Prevention is better than cure: Future brings change; change means more opportunity for advancement or failure, but failure is more likely if you're not ready for the changes or have better methodologies to solve problems. In practice, there is a lot of rushing around trying to fix problems after they have occurred. Ben Franklin knew well: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (preventative measures). Sometimes this is a matter of management blindness."Things are going OK now so they will be OK in the future." That attitude will lead the organization to the fragile status and even cause the business to fall unexpectedly. Risks are simply potential problems. Preventing problems requires people/systems to analyze and predict the possibility of a problem. Risk assessment is important and the top leadership team should be aware of and work with management to plug holes and mitigate risk. One essence of effective management principle for running an antifragile organization is the ability to sense and deal with problems in their smallest state (spirit form) before they become the flame of the day.

The digital ecosystem is dynamic and keeps expanding, it is important to broaden the IT outlook and envisions the bigger picture of digitalization, develop the antifragile characteristic which means that IT has better ability to tolerate volatility or even thrive from it. Organizations rely more and more on technologies; the IT department has more and more to overcome in operating in an antifragile sate with the solid performance and better ability to deal with volatility. The management of IT is the integral management discipline to ensure that the business as a whole is superior to the sum of pieces. By setting digital principles and developing the next digital practices, IT is moving up its maturity from functioning to firm to delight, running full speed with less friction, and help the company achieve long-term business prosperity.

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