Using Talent Well during Disruption

It’s safe to say that the world is in a state of disruption that organizations are navigating all at the same time. The book Zone to Win describes how to organize in times of disruption. 

Moore’s premise is that during stable times every company plays in three of the four zones. However, when disruption happens, a fourth zone comes into play … the transformation zone.

Companies die when they transition poorly from stability to disruption. In terms of the book, we can say that the company killer is when the organization fails to add the fourth zone well. 

So what exactly are these magical four zones?

The Four Zones of Play

  • Performance - money generating zone
  • Productivity - cost and risk reducing zone
  • Incubation - market tester zone
  • Transformation  - disruption zone

Augmented by Wildcat Venture Partners to visualization provided in Zone to Win

Many organizations need to play what Moore calls Zone Defense. They need to add the fourth transformation zone or die. For example, let’s say a company writes software for the logistics supply chain serving hospitals. Previously the market valued long term stability and foresight. The essential feature was tight automation integration between hospitals and suppliers. Now the market demands adaptive responsiveness. The biggest feature is now the biggest market impediment because it requires a two-week set up time for every new supplier. The winning product will be whoever shows the administrator the problem they are going to have between 12-24 hours from now. 

When the transformation zone comes into the mix, it takes resources from the other three zones. At the same time, executive function redirects to the new transformation zone. 

Each of the three always-active zones have to do a different job with less resources. To do that well, it’s essential to re-align who’s working on what.

Getting Rid of Unimportant Products

In the productivity zone, you have products that simply aren’t generating enough money. Any product that makes the cut should be contributing at least 10% of the company’s revenue, according to Moore. Products that don’t meet this criteria either need to be cut or merged.

Meanwhile, the incubation zone products are trying to prove a market before transitioning to performance. However, transitioning takes more than time, it takes organizational disruptions. There’s only so much disruption a company can handle. Limit your disruptions to ONE.

As such, the window of opportunity is now closed for incubation projects to transition. Everything in the incubation zone needs to find an alternate exit. Such exits include cancellation, sell-off, or stripping for technology to enhance the performance zone. 

Making Important Products Efficient

There have been inefficiencies in the performance zone up to now, and that’s been all right. After all, consumer demand has given enough revenue to cover these inefficiencies. Now revenue is dropping. At the same time, the transformation is taking resources.

Significant resources are trapped in the performance zone. Each important product includes some less-important parts. The performance zone needs to vigorously find and eliminate efforts on those less-important parts. The transformation gives more important things for these people to do.

The purpose of the productivity zone is to make the performance zone more efficient. The resources are now diminished for all three common zones, and the productivity zone provides the solution. This is one of the most important areas to focus on in a disruption. 

A powerful example are bugs. Bugs are one of the most pervasive problems in the performance zone. They cost customer loyalty. Hint: this is not the time to lose loyalty! Bugs cost you significant manpower in customer support, operations, and data recovery. As such, moving your now limited talent and resources to a bug prevention mindset is now a top priority for the productivity zone. 

Creating a bug prevention mindset is challenging even when everything’s going well. How do you initiate a cultural change during high disruption?

Making Culture Change Easy

Culture change is hard. However, changing behaviours is easy one habit at a time. The good news is that enough of those habits adopted sustainably do change the culture. 

But which behaviours? Which habits? Answering this question incorrectly can be too costly for the productivity zone. However, Arlo Belshee’s (@arlobelshee) twenty years of intentional testing lets you skip the testing stage and go straight to increasing your efficiency. 

When he started Deep Roots, we created three guarantees for delivering technical excellence through habits.

These guarantees provide the assurance to organizations for making their products efficient from the code up. Our habits increase developer productivity so that you can free developers for your transformation. They prevent bugs to improve loyalty and free up your operational staff for your transformation. Additionally, the new habits allow you to reduce the cost of retrofitting technology so that you can mine your innovation zone for technology to help your performance zone.