In Automatiseringsgids (AG) I read an interesting article about IT departments that don’t want change (= more work!), but should be at the core of new developments. Innovation is often related to technology. The author (Eelco Rommes) observes four patterns, which he calls anti-patterns because the effects are worse than the issue they intend to solve, that inhibit innovation in IT.
The four anti-patterns are:
- Stress of choice. Too many changes, too many projects – too much going on at the same time and nothing gets finished. It’s important to prioritize, select what is really relevant and probably stop some other initiatives.
- Isolation of issues and solutions. Applications for one specific task that are isolated and cause integration problems.
- Into the trenches. Risk avoidance, bureaucracy, tactics to block any change.
- Do-it-yourself IT. If IT can’t (or is not willing) solve issues, people start to look for solutions around the IT department. Prohibiting or giving these people a sandbox for good ideas?
How to dissolve anti-patterns? First, acknowledge that an anti-pattern is present that it is not a team issue, but a broader organization problem. Next, carry out a force field analysis. It provides insight in the forces, behaviours and reactions in relation to the anti-pattern. Insight in how the anti-pattern sustains in the organization and causes people to fight fires constantly, is important. The final step is to break the force field. Fire fighting should be turned into prevention.
It could be hard to recognize the fire fighting behaviour and change it, because people like to solve problems and get the rewards that are the result. Prevention is less satisfactory in this sense.
Long time ago I read a (Dutch) book about system thinking, which I found very interesting and an eye opener. There are many behaviours that are a reaction to something that involve a loop of reactions. Many problems are complex, but we often try to solve them in a simple way (fire fighting). It’s hard to step back and look at the bigger picture. Recognizing patterns of behaviours (the feedback cycles) is the only way to improve and learn. Peter Senge refers to this in his famous book The Fifth Discipline (Systems thinking is the fifth discipline). To become a learning organization and innovative, we need to see the whole instead of the parts, find the anti-patterns and break them.