Do names like AT&T, Apple, and Bellsouth ring a bell? How about Dell, EMC, Cingular, or VMware? Of course, they do. In my career, I have been a part of teams that worked with and within these companies to tackle big-time, high-scale, and difficult challenges. We have helped companies turn changes, challenges, and consolidations into profitable ventures. We have done many things that have never been done before, and in some cases, not duplicated since. My career has been a Harvard Business Review Case Study waiting to be written. Perhaps one day, I’ll write a book to describe the journey in detail. After many years building and running numerous cloud services for Dell/EMC/Vmware/Virtustream, I decided I wanted to take on a new challenge. I wanted to use what I have learned over the years to help others do a lot of the things my teams were charged with doing. The core mission was to create a company that *WE* would have wanted to engage to solve the problems and challenges we faced.
Technology Pathfinders was born out of this idea. With a friend, we began building a new organization built to serve those facing the most difficult challenges of being a service provider. Speaking of service providers, isn’t every technology organization a service provider in some context? Some “consulting” companies come in, convince management the existing teams are not capable of handling things, and recommend more consulting to solve the deficiencies. Our approach is much different. We recognize all teams and people are on a path, a journey, to cope with the challenges and rapid changes in the technology world. Ultimately, to be successful, you cannot have an organization run by consultants. Your team must be able to get the job done. We are here to help guide you and your team on that journey.
Now that I have defined our purpose, let me give a little perspective on leadership that I have learned over the years. Here are the four keys to building a great technology organization in this tech-centric world.
1. CULTIVATE MERITOCRACY
The best teams I have worked on CULTIVATE MERITOCRACY. I have found that in the technology world, we constantly face new and interesting challenges. That is one of the best things about being in this field. Everyone has smart people with varied experience and backgrounds. Diversity of thought and approach is key to getting the optimal solution. Everyone must feel empowered to throw out ideas, but more than that, they must feel obligated to do so. If you build a team that works on the best ideas or combinations of them regardless of where they come from, you will have one of the foundational building blocks in place. Guard against the tendency to go with what the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person with an Opinion) says every time. Evaluate all the options and opinions fairly. Doing this will generate a wellspring of ideas and approaches you never thought was possible. Additionally, even for those who do not win the argument, you achieve a level of buy-in that is not possible when there is no opportunity to give feedback.
2. INVEST IN YOUR TEAM
In order to have a great team, you have to INVEST in them. Investment of time and energy into building trust, cultivating meritocracy, building key foundation skills, and creating a culture to which individuals want to belong. Filling in gaps in knowledge and time go a long way to making a team more successful. Culture is difficult to “create” from the top down. It is best treated as a guided exercise and driven by leaders at all layers of the organization. Investment of TIME and ENERGY is much more important than an investment of dollars in my experience. This is much bigger than “training.” On every team I have been a part of, this investment has paid big dividends but it has also been a big commitment. Commit to investing in your TEAM and it will help you get to the next level.
You must be able to ADAPT quickly to survive, and you have to adapt continuously to thrive. Agility and speed are another major building block of success in technology organizations. It is hard to know what the future holds in any industry, but technology evolves faster than most. For this area, I use the description “Organizational Yoga.” Just like real yoga, teams must practice building the skills they need and progress means experiencing some pain. Adaptability and speed are the answer to almost any problem that arise. Being able to run fast and change directions quickly make all the difference. The alternative is near perfect planning. The challenge of precision planning is that the variables change faster than plans can be updated, communicated, and executed. This calls for a skill I refer to as “technical orienteering.” Orienteering is the use of a map and compass to find your way from one place to another. Rather than spending time to update a route on a map, the skill is dependent on you finding your place on the map, determining the next waypoint, and successfully getting to the waypoint. Orienteering is the perfect metaphor of the agile, adaptable team. While others are busy drawing new maps, the adaptable team is busy making s’mores on a campfire at the next destination. But sometimes you need to…
4. KNOW when you need help, and don’t be afraid to get it.
Getting critical expertise can be a big win for many organizations. In most cases, it can make you more efficient; in others, it is the difference between success and failure. You know what you need better than anyone, but sometimes, all teams end up getting tunnel vision. Fresh perspective drives fresh thinking and new solution pathways to the challenges all technology organizations face.You KNOW you have the team who can face the obstacles, but you don’t necessarily know the treacherous steps now in front of you. This is where Technology Pathfinders enters.
We have been down these paths before. Think of us like expedition guides for your technology journey. You know what you’re doing. You have tremendous experience climbing difficult terrain. But when facing Everest, even the best guides depend on the native Sherpa people to support their climb.
Our job is to help, teach, and fill in gaps where appropriate, but never to take over. One of the barriers we experienced with using consultants was getting our technical teams to engage with them. Our approach helps technical teams get past the fear of criticism and consultant takeovers, and get on to identifying the key challenges so they can be solved. This means business results are delivered quicker as your team see us as an investment in them instead of as a threat. We know how to be a service provider (because we built one and ran many services), we know how to drive improvements in a service (because we have done it dozens of times), and we know how to get things done with execution on an unprecedented scale in many environments.
We have a strong desire to help our customers and their teams. Making our customers successful is our obsession. We are keenly aware of the uniqueness of every situation. We are highly adaptable and understand what works for one situation may not work for another. We know a few things because we have seen a few things. That is our core value proposition.
Whatever change or challenge you and your team faces, you can conquer it. Technology Pathfinders is the team here to guide you to the top.