Since 2007 I conducted an independent research effort (The Liquid CIO), with the aim to understand if it is possible to think of an IT organization that is truly innovative and engaging, without the limiting effect of the client-provider paradigm and its major structural consequences (i.e. span of control, divisionalization, lack of personal autonomy, etc.).
After a couple of years gathering industry insight and enriching my own conclusions with a bunch of rizomatic related stories from education, science and management, I designed a transformation path to a truly liquid service organization, that thankfully started testing in real life since 2011, within a major financial institution in Latin America.
The transformation designed includes elements from traditional management and constructivism in education for structure and change management, both powered by disruptive process design and mathematical optimization technologies.
Now we are somewhat a different organization, with more distributed decision making processes, a stronger and more efficient innovation pipeline and better service management practices. Although still working on this transformation, and with a lot of experience gathered from past years, at some point we know this is just the beginning of a long and exciting trip.
Latin American Bank
+1000 IT employees
After years of tuning our industrial-like IT relationship and service management processes, we still needed to do something to close the gap between the value provided and the opportunity lost perceived from those who used to act as “internal service clients”.
We used mathematical programming for every team member (previously addressed as employees) to gather and coordinate people and resources, managing both short and long term tension between their own desires from what work to do and organizational convenience at every point in time.
There’s also a huge change between a set of words used to describe actions and states within a client-provider paradigm that we needed to change from its roots. One of the most important whas the shift between requirements to opportunities. The idea is pretty simple: we don’t ask for services to each other, but propose and capture common opportunities. In this context, we’re no more service providers but truly business partners.
We’re currently working on transforming traditional management as an optional coaching service for employees.
For our organization, this is a significant change.
The changeover was relatively quick. We implemented major changes within a couple of months, but persists a long term effort related to organizational culture shift.
The first challenge that we faced was to design an actionable path towards the liquid organization that we were thinking on for a while. But right after that, the next challenge was to develop a desirable story for all of our team. They are +1000 people that have different expectations on their jobs, ages and feelings about what an organization and their own work have to be.
I wish I could tell a specific set of actions that lead us to a rapid “common story” development, but this is a complex, human and non linear process that takes t i m e. So I think it was more like the work of an artisan rather that a production line, but anyway we could tell that requires a huge amount of energy, time and conversational skills.
Besides this, we also face a set of more technical challenges, like developing supporting tools for really flexible ad hoc processes, designing complex mathematical decision models, designing reputational qualifiers for individual and collective contributions, enabling individual autonomy, define actionable practices for opportunity valuation, etc.
The only metrics that we think are relevant besides those for personal use and improvement, are the ones that have a direct impact on resource allocation, opportunity competency and personal career paths.
So we focused on business value contribution over time, and personal reputation from the teams that you worked for.
In terms of the whole IT organization, we focused on aggregated value and different polling mechanisms to gain insight from everyone in and out the organization (just for clarification, because we prefer not to talk in terms of organizational boundaries).
Lessons could include:
Develop a common and shared story for change
Don’t think on how to enable change and innovation, but how to stop disabling it!
Don’t be afraid to challenge dogma relating process design
Trust the team members and enable personal autonomy at all cost!
Enable change with contributions from different domains (including science and arts!)
- Do not be afraid to show the performance and work of a group as it is happening.