The new life of Joe – Part Two – Managing Complexity


Selina Colander is up in Joe's face.  Joe Freeflier, the new IT manager for the Sales, Marketing, and Public Relations IT group, called an all-day meeting for the project managers to attend a complete budget and timeline review for all in-flight projects.  Selina is not sure it is a good use of people's time.

 "Don't get me wrong, Joe.  You have every right to see what is going on."  Selina was clearly frustrated, but went on explaining.  "I'd really appreciate it if you would talk to me before calling a meeting like this."  

Selina continued, "I would have pointed out that the team already has a standing monthly meetings to discuss progress and more importantly, demonstrate features.  We call it our "retrospective."  As for status, we have a portal with current information that is continuously updated directly from the projects.  The retrospective meeting lasts all day for you, but the project managers and developers only spend an hour in the room, and they don't have to prepare.  They are primarily demonstrating progress, not talking about it.  If you want data, that is in the portal."


(Author's note: this is the second part of a series of blog posts about Joe Freeflier.  The first post can be found here.  The third and final post can be found here.)


Joe was pleasantly surprised, as he has been many times in the past few days.  Selina spent the next hour walking him through the portal and the underlying organizational structure.

"We have six teams.  They are:


  • Strategy and planning,
  • Sales Process Development
  • Marketing Process Development
  • Public Relations Process Development
  • Shared Services
  • Business Intelligence

"Everyone runs on a cadence with releases every two months.  The dates don't move.  Each of the Process Development teams are able to deliver more frequently, but not less frequently.  The Shared Services team may deliver upgrades to many services, but they will all occur on the same day: the tenth of the month of January, March, May, July, September, and November. 

"Funding comes in through the Strategy and Planning team that allocates projects to each of the Process teams.  These teams own the user experience and all long-running business processes and workflow.  However, they do NOT own a single database among them.  Not one.  All operational data is managed, and all services delivered, by the shared services team.  The Business Intelligence team is responsible for managing the reporting infrastructure.

"This allows us to avoid a huge amount of overhead," Selina pointed out.  "We did a study to show the amount of time that we spend in managing our projects.  We figured that good project management could reduce project risk by about 15%, but we were spending about 30% of our net time on project management, oversight, and control.  The distraction was huge.  Everyone was worried about managing the projects, to the point that we were forgetting to demonstrate progress on a regular basis.  Michaela changed all that."

At the mention of her former manager's name, Selina brightened.  She clearly had immense respect for Michaela, and Joe got the impression that if she could, she would have followed her when she left and moved out west.  He was really glad she had stayed. 

Joe thanked Selina and then spent the next hour alone, thinking about how he was going to take over this team.  They had created a system, not just a set of processes.  They had not been busy fixing little things about software development, like his last team.  They had started over, starting with the basic principles. They had rewritten the rules, and now he had to learn them, and quick, before he screwed up this machine by tinkering where it wasn't broken.

What surprised Joe the most wasn't that Michaela had created a good system, but that it moved so quickly.  It was all he could do to keep up.  Perhaps he didn't need to. 

If he could go back in time and take a newspaper press operator from the 17th century, where a newspaper was printed one sheet at a time, and put them into a modern newspaper facility with the paper whizzing by so fast that you couldn't see it, they would be starting over from scratch.  He wondered if he wasn't starting over as well.

Better to learn the ropes first.  He headed off to his next meeting, this time with the lead architect for the IT group.  He was to learn about the Business Process Management technology that the process teams used. 

Something told him that this was not going to be boring...

(Author's note: this is the second part of a series of blog posts about Joe Freeflier.  The first post can be found here.  The third and final post can be found here.)

Comments (2)

  1. Joe was in a good mood when he walked into the meeting with his Process Management leads for the first

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