How do you think about embedding TOC and flow into everything you do? "Engineering Reality at WiseTech Global: Core Conflict – Friend or Foe?" from James Powell was a fun talk from someone who clearly enjoys the work he is doing. It was also very fast-moving, and I didn't catch or absorb everything he described.
The core conflict in WiseTech, and many other technology-centric businesses has to do with the need to be fast and the need to be reliable. The successful business needs both, but the most common actions taken to meet the needs put the organization into the conflict spiral. If it isn't resolved or acknowledged, then the company will swing back and forth between the actions that promote speed (make changes!) and those that promote reliability (don't make changes!), damaging the ability of the company to succeed.
Rather than going down the path of the evaporating cloud, Powell talked about embedding the conflict in the core of the company. They have procedures/policies that ensure reliability. And they have procedures/policies on how to break the procedures so that they can go faster. They want to create a virtuous cycle instead of the vicious cycle that the active conflict usually creates.
One of the interesting elements Powell described in the growth of Wisetech is the idea of anti-patterns - fall-back responses to given situations. They have seen many common anti-patterns. But rather than letting them remain, they have developed "one liners" responses that anyone in the organization can use to break people out of the pattern. They keep track of these have ~35 of them, and they thoroughly documented for anyone in the organization. Examples:
- If it's worth doing twice, it's worth never doing it again. In other words, figure out how to automate it.
- Efficiency is not the goal of the system.
- Lead others, manage yourself.
- Anyone can talk to anyone about anything at anytime. Developed years before Elon Musk talked about this for Tesla or SpaceX.
- If this is a war of opinion, opinions need facts.
- If you feel conflicted between speed and quality, do both.
There is a lot more that he described. One of the big effects that they create is very rapid decision making and execution. When there is a conflict, the owners are put into a room and guided to come to a solution. If they can't quickly come to a win-win, they have available to them thinking black belts to help through the process (using thinking processes if needed).
One additional element Powell described is the impact on their customers. He used the phrase "spooky action at a distance." Their software is designed to embed the principles Wisetech has created. Interactions between the client and Wisetech embed these principles. The client picks up on these things and want to learn to do it themselves - especially when the client benefits from this new way of thinking.