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My Design for Change

Organisational change, restructure of teams, development of new structures, org charts – words that fill me with dread and excitement in equal measure. In 2021, what is THE ideal structure to deliver the foundations of digital transformation and how do we create a culture and operating model that enables every individual to be the best ‘them’?

I’m six months into my role at Boots UK and I promised myself, the team and my predecessor that I wouldn’t medal with structures just because I could, just because I was new, just because I wanted it to be how I wanted it. I promised I would wait until I was sure of the changes that were needed to enable us to be the best that we could be.

Becoming a dividual

I have loved Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari since the first moment I read it, one of the concepts in the early chapters he raises is the concept of a ‘dividual’. The idea that we are already ‘dividual’s’ rather than individuals. In fact, we are the sum of all of our parts as a collective. It’s something that springs to my mind as I consider how to create change with a culture that enables every skill of every person to shine through whilst at the same time allow learning and growth to be at the heart of the modus operandi of the team.

The Gartner Symposium in 2020 had a theme (as it always does) the ‘Composable Business’ meaning that organisations need to be made from interchangeable building blocks in order to be more resilient and adaptable to change and ultimately successful. The building blocks include a thinking organisation, capability in business architecture and foundational technology that enables innovation and creativity to ‘easily’ grow.

The ideas is that if you enable your organisational structure to excel in these areas then you will create a fabric that can deliver no matter the changing situations around you. But, lets define what these parts mean, not based on the Gartner definitions but based on some reality from my current organisation.

Thinking organisation: Anyone who has read more of what I have written knows I have a ‘fan boy’ relationship with Satya Nadella’s interpretation of a growth mindset. For me in the creation of my new culture, operating model and structure I want the ability to activate a growth mindset at the core of it. I look around my team now and, as a whole, we have this – an openness to everyone’s talents, a commitment to working damn hard every day and a love for the goal of the organisation. But, any structure we head towards I believe should enable anyone of the team to demonstrate their own attitude and aptitude to a growth mindset every single day! That becomes one of the guardrails for the new structure, it has to facilitate the growth of what we do, who we are and how we do it together.

Business architecture capability: I’m lucky to have access to the best enterprise architecture capability I have ever born witness to. The reason I think of it so highly, is the connected tissue it has to the ‘business’. When IT in some organisations flounders to stay business focused our EA function keeps the team grounded in not just the art of the possible but the science of what is needed. When I reflect on why that is, I believe it’s because they have very cleverly blurred the lines so artfully to be perceived by the business teams as offering a business architecture service as much as one that is able to consider the width of the enterprise. Any new way of working we consider deploying must build on this either formally, informally or if at all possible both.

Foundational technology (Enabling Innovation and Growth): This will be the hardest challenge in reality, in an enterprise organisation that is on its way to implementing a platform structure at a global level, to enable foundational structures and operating models that insist on the delivery of basics first. Oddly, this is the hardest consideration right now. Particularly the overlay of innovation and growth. But, through a new thesis in how we partner, through a vision of the way we adopt agility and by enabling the ‘dividuals’ in the team to be innovative with growth at the core of what we do, I think we can get this right.

It is a little obtuse though that the hardest part of creating a way forward for a technology team in 2021 is the technology part!

Make sure you dwell on the past

Outside of that, we need to look at what can we learn from the past, both the success in structures and experiences. Some parts of the team will be clear they can only look forward because ‘everything’ has been tried before! I’m not sure about this attitude at all, so much can be learnt from success and failure in the past, and just because it hasn’t worked before doesn’t mean it can’t work in the future.

I’ve said it before, the role of the CIO is now more a steward of the team, doing the best you can for the next person to be able to add to, a CIO is a three to four year role, if you are the same CIO beyond that then you better be reinventing yourself and the team in the role or you should have moved on to bring your own personal genetics to the next digital team and its transformation.

Keep the best and reset the rest

Keep the best and reset the rest, has to be the motto when setting about change, taking on somebody else’s structures means it will have their personal stamp and way of working written large into its DNA and therefore you need to carefully consider the ‘genetic sequence’ that the

Enterprise grade humility built on evidence-based assumptions that show the deliberate and thoughtful reasoning for the change I believe are the make up of a leader working towards an organisational change landing in the way it has been designed to. The language of empathy needs to be part of every situation, a willingness to work through change in a ‘rationalisation way’ with every part of the team, not in a flip-flop way that will see mixed messages of direction float to the top but in a way that allows you to listen, absorb and apply to the goal in mind, or if not to explain why not.

And that dear friends, is my design for change; to be carefully applied with the goal of success at its heart, with the feeling capability of the full nervous system at its reach points and with the change capability of every digit and limb to change as the ‘race’ unfolds.