Yet all really important innovations and changes normally start from tiny minorities of people who do use their creative freedom. – Ernst F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered
I think the people at McKinsey, the globally renowned management consultancy, often come up with models and ideas worth mulling over.
For example, in a recent article, Oliver Bossert and Driek Desmet explained how tech companies operate.
And that’s worth knowing because your business, whatever it is, will also one day become a tech company.
The energy industry, where I spend most of my time, is not known for the short lifetime of its assets.
Things change slowly, but even here, things are changing.
We have the Internet of Things, real time control and Blockchain all jostling for space alongside venerable fifty-year old wires and meters.
So, how should you prepare for this new tech world – what is the model to try and follow?
The one that’s getting a lot of attention is anything as a service.
Bossert and Desmet explain that tech companies operate platforms.
A platform is a collection of activities and technology that deliver on a business goal.
It’s not enough just to be the expert anymore – you need the tech to help you get the end result.
And you can’t just be a techie with no business or domain experience – you need the business sense to get there too.
So it’s the combination – technology plus people doing activities that get you there.
It doesn’t look like you can get people entirely out of the system – you’ll need some for helping users at least.
The point of a platform is that you can sell that as a service – because what people are paying for is the end result – the business goal that you deliver.
So far so good, but this is where some of us would look down a different path to the one mapped out in the article.
Mainly because it’s geared at big companies that have lots of platforms.
And then the big business mindset kicks in – where you allocate money to the units that do best and you start with big teams and still stay agile.
All of which sounds like really hard work.
If I were you I’d move on at this point and read Getting Real: The smarter, faster, easier way to build a successful web application by the folks at Basecamp.
They argue that you never need more than three people to build the first version of your software.
If you need more then actually what you need is either different people or you need to do less stuff.
And that approach feels much closer to a real lean system to me.
Small groups of people working on things they really care about – something that solves a problem they have right now – those are the people that come up with something useful.
Larger groups tend to come up with something that delivers what you asked for but not what you need.
That’s the thing about business goals.
Many people are very good at shooting their arrow and then drawing the target around where it’s landed.
They’ve hit their goal if you count hitting the bullseye as what you want.
A service, on the other hand, is delivered when the person getting it is happy.
And that is a harder thing to fake.