Monday, July 21, 2014

6 Blind men and the Elephant – the awakening

Part 1 was published last week; this is the second and final part of the story.
So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

The CIO struggling with disparate views of the team who were unable to visualise the big picture and decided to leave it that way with his team providing the glue that held all of it together; he felt the effort of getting everyone to the same page will inordinately delay the project. So he chugged along for another few months keeping watch on the big picture; progress was slow but nonetheless there. Soon time came to put together all the pieces, get the system tested not just technically but functionally before the training and go-live.

This was one of the critical projects for the enterprise and the CIO; it was important and necessary for everyone involved that the project succeeds. The business teams who had always lived on an island looked from their window and kept trying to refine their view of the picture; it never crossed their mind that there were interdependencies which impacted the whole when they fiddled with their parts. The Project Manager kept reminding them of the uncomfortable truth which they kept denying putting an ostrich to shame.

Escalations to respective business and function heads brought everyone to the table looking worried and making the right noises. Admonishments distributed around liberally and pulling up done was deemed adequate response to the crevice that was getting bigger by the day. Not convinced that this was going to work, working with the CEO, the CIO decided to use some creative analogy to explain to the group why they need to acknowledge the elephant in the room and look at the unified view before the beast tramples all of them.

The CIO asked each functional lead to present their process maps and changes sought to the system; he put all of them through the paces noting down points that were discordant with overall progress. As a clear picture emerged through the noting the real challenge was as visible to everyone as the elephant in the room which no one could any longer feign ignorance about. Acknowledgement of the creature was a starting point towards redemption and everyone looked up to the CIO for the proverbial silver bullet.

He highlighted the fact that everyone had agreed to the commercial-off-the-shelf-solution (COTS) as the right choice before the project began; everyone also acknowledged that the solution has best practices that are used by many peers and competitors globally. The team had willingly agreed to adopt the new normal and reality to improve their operational efficiency. Some of those team members were no longer in the implementation team but representation of the organization process cannot be person or location specific.

The CIO went on to demonstrate how individual views were being projected as departmental views to the detriment of the project. Ignorance arising out of lack of experience or alternative perspectives manifested in the dialogue that the users had with the development and implementation team; their unwillingness to look at possibilities was driving the change averse behavior. They were good people who were proficient in what they did; they had invested their lives in maintaining status quo as it worked for them.

The CEO recognized the malaise and applauded the fact that the CIO had escalated the issue which has plagued many other non-IT projects too. No one talked about it openly and it had almost become part of the culture of the enterprise. She faced the nervous group which had difficulty in accepting that now they can no longer live with their view of the elephant; the whole had been uncovered, it was discomforting. Some of the team leaders were enthused, the rest mortally scared with no real choices but to change.

She promised to stay on top of the situation and asked for all progress reports to be marked to her and attend all review meetings; she expressed her disappointment at the progress and timelines and asked the CIO to recast them with a stretch achievable target which he readily did. The teams accepted the eventuality and assured the CEO that they will collectively own and deliver the project. Many moons later the CIO was in the news for a successful deployment of a complex solution, a first in many ways in his chosen industry.

Do you have an elephant in your backyard ?

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