Have you ever read a book and said to yourself, “I want to lock my executives in a room and make them read this”?
Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration :-), but Mark Schwartz’s latest work is one that all levels of IT management should digest, especially executives. My copy is filled why highlights and I have pages of notes. It is near impossible to select a few points to focus on for a review, but…
- Do you want to know why it is a fundamental mistake to treat IT like a contractor versus being an equal partner in business outcomes? Read this book.
- Do you need ideas on how to align your company’s financial model with a truly agile development approach? Read this book.
- Do you want to improve outcomes, reduce costs, and turn your employees into value-generating entrepreneurs? Read this book.
In the end…
…business agility is what gives the practice [Agile] its name. Note that the goal of the technique is business agility, not just technical flexibility.
Those of us on the IT side can do everything faster, cheaper, and with greater quality, but we are still going to come up short unless that gets translated into actual value for our company and its customers. Schwartz shows how the silos we’ve created between “business” and “IT” (and the approaches and processes built with those silos) are impeding positive outcomes. He also makes a convincing argument that forcing people to stick to a project plan is the opposite of maximizing value. For instance:
You can control a DevOps initiative through continuous involvement and feedback, rather than by simply approving a plan at the beginning of an effort. Instead of checking on the project through periodic status reviews, you get to see and use completed work throughout—a much better way to gauge progress. You can continually adjust priorities and reallocate resources, as well as evaluate the quality of the work by seeing business results, rather than through a few weeks of user acceptance testing at the last minute.
In short, you trade perceived control for actual control.
Ultimately, by the time you complete reading this book, you’ll have the tools to “trade perceived control for actual control,” increase the value of your agility asset (something Schwartz notes doesn’t show up on a balance sheet), and turn an uncertain future into an opportunity:
Risk is the possible negative consequences of the uncertain future, while opportunity is the possible positive consequence of the uncertain future. Agility is the organizational characteristic that determines whether the uncertain future becomes on or the other–or simply the benign passage of time.
Given an uncertain future, anything that increases your cost of change also increases your risk. Anything that decreases the former also decreases the latter. Reducing the cost of change is the definition of agility. To put it bluntly, risk is lack of agility.
Now do you want your team, your department, and your company to reduce risk and become more agile?
War and Peace and IT provides you with ample evidence to either recommend or lead that change…along with a lot of the “how.” And, Schwartz does so in a fun, easy-to-read way…with a ton more guidance and wisdom than I’ve been able to touch on in this short review.
Now, time for me to figure out how to get the “why” and “how” before my execs, whether I can get them to read this book or not. 🙂