Looking back over my career, it is only in hindsight that I found the language to express the issues in projects that I ran or services that I represented; and what I could have done differently to improve on my performance and that of my team.
When you're in the thick of it (and yes, some scenes from the satirical comedy are very reminiscent of actual experience), it's very difficult to keep a rational observational view of what's going on around you. It's especially difficult when you're having to work across teams or with people in different departments as the stakes are higher - you're more visible and you feel more accountable for the team you represent. People tend to protect their boundaries, their areas of control, and those on the periphery are easy targets. Before you know it, it gets emotional and personal. Blame gets levied and parried.
So whose fault is it? These issues are not just a symptom of one's personal skill and attitude, it's also a symptom of a broader malaise in the Organisation. How can we assess the opportunity for partnering success? I use the term Organisation Partner Maturity.
The need for measuring Organisation Partner Maturity.
Successful partnering is not one size fits all. The approach varies depending on the organisation's ability to engage and reciprocate. There is no point expecting an infant to get advanced maths questions right. We automatically as adults adjust our tone of voice, the topic of conversation and expectations and language when we wish to communicate with a child. Yet in a work context to a limited degree we place expectations on our peers to automatically understand our world from our perspective using our language. It's as if anybody else who listens in has to learn advanced maths before they can speak to us. So, I use three levels and these terms put a measure on the time frame you spend your day in.
Reactive Partner: Are you focused on the problem that has occured?
Service Partner: Are you chasing the delivery of today?
Strategic Partner. have you settled todays operations with time to spare so that you can plan for the future?
The first point is, if you spend more time in one time frame than another, then that is the partner badge that fits. The second point is that you can only act in that time frame, courtesy of the organisation you are working with. If you attempt to plan a renovation when the house is on fire you will find your priorities rapidly rearranged. So, being successful in an organisation means reciprocating what it needs, in the language, manner and tone that it understands. If you want to see how you can influence the way key stakeholders behave towards you, see here for more information
To help measure these three levels, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the causes and symptoms of Organisation Partner Maturity. I outline six drivers below:
1) Strategic Alignment
At the highest level I boil this down to two things:
The ability of the organisation to create a meaningful set of outcomes that engages people across its length and depth.
The ability of the organisation to execute a plan that deliver those outcomes.
2) Partner Competency
This is our skill, attitude and behaviours as an individual to add value to the execution of that plan, mentioned above. As discussed in my other post, A job description is a reflection of the line manager's pain points; and my experience suggests the prescription may not necessarily be the cure for the organisation's concerns. Reading between the lines, the failure modes may be hiding in plain sight. An simple example is where the scope of the role is too broad and requires more skillsets than one person can successfully master by themselves. The successful candidate, especially under duress, will resort to their core experience / strength, often when the organisation needs something different (which itself may not realise). Another example will be the lack of appreciation of the time required to successfully conduct an element of the role.
3) Business Stakeholder Maturity
It is pretty standard to find a "demand" or "business" side and a "supply side" in the technology space. When we are operating at the boundaries of teams there is often friction around this boundary. Examples include a requestor keeps changing their mind, or a requestor makes a decision too late for delivery to occur within a deadline or they often dictate to you what they think you should be doing rather than questioning how technology can achieve an outcome.
4) IT Function Capability
Whether you represent a code shop or a network team, it's the orchestration of processes, the skills and the people to deliver a service to a broader group of internal or external clients. Erratic flow of work through the organisation, choke points, approvals or poorly defined metrics contribute to performance issues. The perception of this service drives the reputation of this team and consequently the business stakeholder's attitude towards them.
5) Organisational Stress
We all have "day" jobs - activities that require constant attention in order to keep the business, well, in business. Recruitment, training, manufacturing, service delivery, sales are such examples. Yet, in order to improve the way we work those activities require change. How much change can we cope with before we suffer from burnout? Have allowances been made such as delegation and secondment? Have additional skills been brought to help manage the change?
6) Capacity and Finance
The ability of the organisation to adapt is wholly dependent on the resources it has at its disposal. I've seen many situations where, whilst the intent may be well articulated in the project description or the purpose of the team, there is simply not the time nor the finance to deliver the outcome to a professional standard. Whether it is an over-optimistic planning process, naked ambition placed before reality, or a compromised budget deal that splits thin resources, capacity and finance are two key elements that drive the opportunity for successful partnering.
Measure Effectiveness - Determine your Organisation's Partner Maturity Level
Invariably you'll find that there is a mismatch between the partnering level that groups of people are operating at and the level you want. Click on the link below to download the template to discover what level you operate at with respect to a particular team.
This template takes the above drivers, levels and explains the symptoms that allows you to have a conversation; where teams think they are and where you think they are. Once your colleague has had a chance to read the symptoms they can place a mark on the scale at the side. You can do the same. The resulting differences can ellicit expectations on what is achievable today and what needs to be done to attain the required level of performance.
A lot of the anxiety in managing stressful situations can be avoided by helping people understand where the organisation is currently at and setting realistic expectations on performance. This disarms the natural tendency to blame other people as they can have a concrete discussion of some of the drivers that affect the level of partnering performance. As a result this can build trust and open up a conversation about what can be done today despite the situation; or indeed start the conversation about what needs to be done differently so that their expectations can be met in the future.
To find out more about our competency-based courses that can build collaboration, improve performance and plan for the future, click on the link below: