The Larger Goal

The Larger Goal

One of the things I find really interesting, when working within different organizations, is how everyone feels they are the true center of the universe.  If they are in Security, they see things one way.  If they are in Program Control, they see it another.  Regardless of the silo, plug in the functional area name and there will be different processes to follow.  They each have a different agenda that motivates them.  Even those considered as project/program overhead (Human Resources) will have their own way of doing things.

Do I see something wrong with this scenario?

Do I think the organization could deliver more value if it were more goal driven and less process driven?

The answers? Yes and Yes

What’s missing?  I think it’s knowing where within the organization structure everyone is and how each can work together to reach the larger goals.

The larger the institution or project, commonly, the larger the bureaucracy that accompanies it.  We have our Executive bureaucracies, Director bureaucracies, and Manager bureaucracies.  Each step down the organizational chart, there is layer upon layer of bureaucracy.  Rather than the people at the top thinking more strategic and people toward the bottom thinking more tactical, there are just different shades of bureaucracy.  And you think that’s bad, each (functional) branch of the organization has its own bureaucracy.

Commonly, people become too focused on their key subject matter in their functional area and forget the goals of the project or organization.   I see motivations shift to support the process itself instead of the product or service to be delivered.  When asked to do something that may directly apply to the highest goals of the organization, like “Deliver the product to the customer by this date”, they act like their individual job is more important than getting the overall job done.  Instead of asking themselves what they can do to help the organization be successful, they may instead argue some point about how you didn’t submit the request in the correct format, to the correct person, at the correct time.

But this post is not about being pessimistic about bureaucracies.  I’m not saying we don’t need structure or processes.  This short story helps articulate what I’m trying to explain.

Perhaps you have heard the story of Christopher Wren, one of the greatest of English architects, who walked one day unrecognized among the men who were at work upon the building of St. Paul’s cathedral in London which he had designed. “What are you doing?” he inquired of one of the workmen, and the man replied, “I am cutting a piece of stone.” As he went on he put the same question to another man, and the man replied, “I am earning five shillings twopence a day.” And to a third man he addressed the same inquiry and the man answered, “I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build a beautiful cathedral.” That man had vision. He could see beyond the cutting of the stone, beyond the earning of his daily wage, to the creation of a work of art- the building of a great cathedral.

And in your organization or on your project, it is important for you to strive to attain a vision of the larger goal.

Like the images?  Find them at Pictofigo


4 Replies to “The Larger Goal”

  1. I once worked at a company that had a great deal of trouble making decisions – big or small – because everyone felt they were in charge, there was little delineation from titles and responsibilities, and as a result, every meeting was a fight. There was back-biting and in-fighting. In short, a miserable place to be. Steelray is so refreshing. No one minds venting their opinions on matters large and small. Everyone listens. When the right people make decisions, they are stuck to. There is no back-stabbing. It is unbelievable. We have discovered buy-in and how wonderful it is.

    Now, with goals, here’s what’s important that a lot of companies seem to miss: goals are METRICS. Metrics are critical to business success because what you can’t measure you can’t quality control or assess. Goals or metrics send you down a path that is clearly defined. All the process in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have direction. But you also can’t just disregard metrics or goals willy-nilly because they’re hard or you don’t like the work!

  2. Derek

    [Long comment follows]

    I forget who said this, but I am paraphrasing it – “If you want someone to behave in a certain way, treat them in the way you would if they already did it”.

    Organizations that are successful, yet people-oriented have discovered how to walk on the thin line between accountability and freedom to make mistakes. If you go deep enough, you will discover that the fear of being made “accountable” for a mistake leads people to create bureaucracies or complex processes.

    Let us take a software development example to discuss this important idea, specifically metrics. Initially, they are developed to show where the project is. Suppose, the metrics show the project is lagging. Next come the questions, why? or its variant where?. Some tasks did not complete on time. Which tasks? Design tasks. Why? Designers we hired gave a lower estimate. What was their estimate and what is their productivity? Oops, why are those 3 designers less productive than others? They are new to this domain/technology.

    In this whole Root Cause Analysis, we would have collected so many more metrics (phase-wise estimates, productivity, skills mapping, training hours etc). Finally, accountability has to be established – is it the designer, the project manager or the Human Resources guy who approved the hiring or the management who wanted the project to start running?

    As long as teams are focussed on people and not on “Let’s see how we can do better”, we will have these bureaucracies. You will also see a high correlation between companies that are people-oriented and their failure tolerance (as long as the intentions were right).

    In the case of the builders, treating workers with the respect that they are building something great and holy will cause them to feel good about themselves. Treating them as “lowly” workers, but expecting them to think big is a no-win situation.

  3. Derek,

    You just re-discovered Capabilities Based Planning developed several decades ago during the Quadrennial Planning Review of the US DoD.

    This CBP is part of Balanced Scorecards Strategy Discovery process, part of our Deliverables Based Planning(r), the Air Force’s (at least Space and Missile Commands) procurement strategy, DOE’s NNSA strategy and capabilities Program Management process.

    Welcome to the community of practitioners schooled in the RAND Corporation CPB materials deployed at SMC and TRW in the early 80’s.

  4. Derek,

    Regarding your pictures. Do you any domain or context for each of those. How an a “star” organisation on a 7 person biology research project (to avoid the SW-DEV anologies and follow your “agile works other places” suggestion – which it can).

    How about that “star” organization on the System of Systems (SoS) Future Combat System (FCS) prorgam with it’s requirement to:

    “Design and integrate 18 major weapon systems and platforms simultaneously within strict size and weight limitations, while synchronizing the development, demonstration, and production of as many as 157 complementary systems with the Future Combat System content and schedule.” (This is an actual requirement).

    The “star” for FCS would have to be the Lead System Integrator (LSI) (Boeing) and the System Providers (I worked on program last year). But at the end of the “star” legs are 100’s and sometimes 1000’s of people on individual Sub Systems.

    With a Domain or a Context in that Domain, I’m confused as to how to apply your suggestion.

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