Carlos Leyva

Silicon Stories

Chapter 3: Process Patterns

Call to Arms Pattern

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Call to Arms concerns itself with motivating the troops to perform at the extraordinary levels required to deliver compelling solutions. The pattern should be delivered early by the executive sponsor (e.g. the Producer) and subsequently (at critical points in the project) as deemed necessary by the Director. The importance of the mission must be constantly reinforced.

If this is a mission critical project, and by definition any project purporting to deliver a competitive advantage would be, then a number of key (and important) stakeholders must take an interest in it. You know you have succeeded in infecting the extended team (i.e. all the players as opposed to just the IT players) with this meme when you see the pattern used by individual, non-management contributors.

Ned Johnson, the man primarily responsible for turning Fidelity Investments into the financial powerhouse it is today, delivered many Call to Arms messages by his mere presence:

His chief passion seemed to be computers: the installation, maintenance, and use of the giant mainframes that would be the backbone of the company in the 1980’s was what most engaged him, and he was constantly in the computer room, watching, asking questions, tinkering with the machines. Naturally, his staff thought that he was pouring too much money into computer capacity, and viewed his obsession as folly. Naturally, they would be proved wrong as soon as the bull market [of the 1980’s] began.

In the many years that I have spent in this business, I have rarely witnessed key executives paying close attention to their technology projects, even those deemed to be mission critical. How do you think the employees at General Electric might have felt, in the days of Jack Welch, if he started hanging out with a project team? My guess is that they would have been motivated beyond belief. The Call to Arms meme would spread through his organization like wild fire.

Delivering the message is important, but the pattern will replicate itself faster by the things that you do.

Supporting Cast Pattern

The Supporting Cast pattern relates to the edification of certain individuals and groups that have immense power to contribute significantly (or not) to a project’s outcome. Depending on the project, the supporting cast might include prospects, customers, domain experts, quality assurance, technical writers, office administrators, contractors, junior staffers, and secretaries. It is important for the Director to make a concerted effort to propagate this meme by including the supporting cast in appropriate meetings and celebrating their contributions. It is critical that the supporting cast be edified and made to feel important because:

Do not confuse this pattern with altruism. If you value the prize (i.e. competitive advantage) then you will propagate this meme out of pure selfishness. Oftentimes the best insights come from places where you least expect them.

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