Why Technical Waste Blocks your Pivot Speed

Imposed change on a global scale shifts how the world works. For example, the industrial revolution eventually replaced cottage industries with at-scale manufacturing. Similarly, the rise of the Internet shifted the meaning of expertise from what-you-know to what-you-can-find-and-apply. And now we are watching another global shift, from tolerating remote work to embracing it as a value. We are seeing the first glimmers of a new reality. 

Last week we wrote about mindshifts that are necessary to prepare your technical teams for the ways of working required by COVID-19. Now we examine how organizations pivot to those new mindsets, and what blocks us from pivoting quickly.

Looking at the Pivot Reality

Any pivot is started by a change in needed outcome. Right now, Zoom is likely pivoting to scale for supporting business subscriptions driven by the coronavirus, while customers of products like Salesforce see cost centers worth reducing. Either way, the critical aspect is recognizing the shift that coronavirus is causing. The pivot sequence then starts by then changing what choices the organization makes. Once people are aligned to the new way of thinking, the pivot finishes by changing the actions people take as a result of new choices.

Friction Makes Pivot Difficult 

Friction, anything that slows down your ability to pivot, falls into two categories. The first common type of friction is organizational inertia, or people and processes that drive the organization’s current way of thinking. The second common type of friction is technical waste, or anything that makes it hard to take different actions than you currently do.

Organizational inertia slows down the first phase of the pivot, where we change minds and processes. Meanwhile, technical waste slows the second phase, when we all think differently yet keep enacting our old patterns.

Organizational Inertia

Effective transformational change is required when an organization needs to change minds and processes. This requires intentional process and system changes. However, its root is strong, articulated leadership. Shared visioning provides everybody the direction necessary to explore and adopt new mindsets.

Technical Waste

Initially we immediately think of the obvious time wasters, such as more reviews and process meetings that add painful hours to implementation.

Meanwhile, we are referencing a more sinister form of technical waste. This kind of technical waste is invisible to most people and lays there like a dormant disease. Pre-pivot actions do not overly change legacy or low-quality code, and the disease stays dormant. However, new directions will require changing legacy or poor quality code, activating its full potential to block action.

This invisible disease in the code will add multi-week “refactoring” stories to each decision’s implementation. These stories feel inevitable, but there are ways to eliminate them.

Fixing the Friction

Establishing any pivot requires funding of the Productivity Zone, as we discussed in our article on using talent well during disruption. Productivity Zone programs and systems improve your business agility. In particular, they alter systems to reduce each kind of friction and speed up whatever pivot will come your way next.

The Productivity Zone runs transformational change efforts to reduce the cost in changing how we think. Simultaneously, the zone executes architectural improvements to reduce the cost to enact new potential directions.

But Wait! We have an Emergency Pivot!

There are pivots that organizations must eventually make to survive, such as Kodak and digital technology. However, there are pivots that demand immediate pivot or obvious doom. This is the kind of pivot we were discussing for organizations with customers looking to what gets cut during this economic shrinkage caused by the global pandemic. 

However, the good news is that emergencies provide natural alignment as everybody involved accepts the pivot inevitability much more readily. Unfortunately the bad news is that emergencies do not tolerate risk nearly as much even though the work product is likely going to need to be changed even more quickly. 

Lead through Organizational Inertia

The time dedicated during a “normal” pivot to change minds and processes is greatly reduced by an emergency. While good leadership transforms this uncertainty into clarity, the external factors that have convinced people cut down half the resistance. Emergencies decrease the time required to change minds and culture. 

Incrementally Improve Technical Waste

Meanwhile, the time dedicated to making it easy to enact the new decisions just got longer. Decreased risk tolerance makes it harder to fix the underlying disease. Not only does the Productivity Zone need to make bigger changes with less staff, but the reduced risk tolerance removes many of their standard approaches. Mitigating technical waste during an emergency requires new, lower-risk techniques. 

We Help you Fix the Technical Waste

Deep Roots has a deep focus on resolving technical waste, or in other words, shrinking the time it takes for you to enact the new decisions you made for your organization’s survival. Our techniques allow your teams to provide extremely high consistency guarantees. They will fix the code disease well within even the low risk tolerance required by today’s business environment.

Deep Roots trained technical teams can change code with near-zero risk and in tiny chunks that don’t disrupt delivery. Then they can safely cure the technical waste, speeding up the slowest part of your next pivot.