Inspect and Adapt

“You’ve got to be willing to lose everything to gain yourself” – Iyanla Vanzant

The title of this post states two key elements of the agile approach. But this post is not application of these principles to software, it’s application of these principles to yourself.

I have been spending a fair amount of my personal time in reflection. Thinking about where I am, the skills I carry and have been successful in my career, the things I enjoy doing (or do well) and the things I don’t do as well. My fears, my life/work balance, the whole “kit and kaboodle”.

The reason I have been doing this lately is I have been taking a keen and unbiased look at where I am at right now, what I have helped build and thinking about what it takes to get it to the next level. As unsettling as it is to personally discover this, I don’t know if I have the skills to be the “feet to the ground” to achieve this next rung of success. I feel that I am at a point to either adapt or “get out of the way” to get to that next level.

I have focused a lot on encouragement of self-management and self-organization and structuring teams so that commitment and outcomes matter so that they can be empowered to have open conversations about real potential delivery and meet those commitments. I have protected and defended teams to the best of my ability to support their ability to focus and deliver, which on the average they do successfully over and over again. I started with an idea of how software should not be built under overly prescriptive processes and the value of showing “early and often” to stakeholders would support a value-driven approach that would not leave stakeholders unsatisfied, teams demoralized and dreams unrealized. I had a drive to bring the ideas of value-driven software development to the public sector and show that it could be a successful way to approach delivering software. I made commitments to leadership to make them successful by driving the idea by hiring the right people and building the right organization under which this could happen. I met these commitments and integrated the idea (with a lot of great people) into something never seen before in the public sector in my arena.

What I have learned through thinking through all of this is that I did just like a founder would do in a startup. Through sheer will, vision and drive; I assumed any role necessary to build what was in my head and make it work. The small group of believers gathered people along the way that help keep moving and we stood up something amazing. Yep, we did this and I am really proud of what we have done here. But as proud as I am, I have made a startling revelation for myself, I live in the world of ideas and unrealized possibilities not the world of day to day business operations.

The Visionary and the Integrator

One thing that I have recently learned from a couple of books I have read recently (“Get a Grip” (Wickman and Patton and “Rocket Fuel“(Wickman and Winters). The first book outlines what Patton calls the EOS (Entrepreneur Operating System) process and the latter is a deeper examination into (2) key roles in business that they identify; the visionary and the integrator.

The Visionary

This role in a business is typically a founder. Described as the person that has “20 ideas before breakfast” and someone who often has difficulty with the detailed level. Basically a “big picture” person who carries a vision and is looking externally to the company for charting the future. This person can potentially whiplash the business if leading the ship.

The Integrator

This role is the engine that gets things done in the business. This person keep the “trains running on time” and assumes the realist point of view that is focused on getting things done. This role is adept at taking the vision and direction and making it into a business plan that can be executed. They are the balancing part of this relationship with the visionary to filter all of those ideas streaming out to help the visionary focus on refinement of the gems that they can create a plan of action around and drive the organization.

Through a lot of personal discovery for myself, I have realized that I tend to have more of the traits of a visionary than an integrator. I like to live in the world of ideas and unrealized possibilities of an organization and what they “can be” but have little stamina to see them created into actionable items that and can become easily bored when dropped into the minutia of details. As painful as it was for me to personally realize this for myself (as I am in a role now that has me doing both roles), I like, and am successful, at building things, but I do not like, and am less successful, at running things.

I think I never realized before I read these descriptions that I was in that startup mode mentality where I needed to play both the visionary and the integrator roles for the part of the organization that was being built on the onset.

Although, I am able to “do” both roles, I do not “enjoy” both roles (therefore making me inefficient at the needs of the integrator role). I have just recently realized that the only way for me to continue to bring the highest value to this organization in moving to the next level is to find that key integrator role (or roles) or move out of the way for someone to take it a new direction to continue to add value and find the next passionate thing for me to build that holds the highest value for an organization and the highest personal satisfaction for me in doing what I love.

It’s a very scary and liberating at the same time to have some realization of what a core strength is for you might be and then figuring out how you use it. I truly believe that gaining these types of insight help me figure out how I can do the absolute best for the people I work with. It also helps me realize that I never stop discovering who I am and what I have to offer. I merely refine it.

In light of what things I am learning about myself, I leave this post with a quote from Albert Einstein:

“Try not to become a man of success but a man of value”


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