Technological maturity, not an age thing
In a recent post, Digital Clarity Group President, Scott Liewehr, made this critical observation: “never conduct a technology selection without also selecting the service provider.” He talked about why this step is critical for our clients, and also reviewed factors we consider when evaluating providers (their methodologies, product fluency, ability to empathize with our clients’ circumstances, ability to lead clients through critical decisions, etc.). These factors are all relevant and valid, but I want to introduce another factor that we, at Digital Clarity Group, believe is also critical for selecting a technology partner: perspective.
There is no end to the number of “maturity models” related to technology – CMM, PCMM, BPMM, and on and on. Each of these models seeks to describe a path to increased value-add through technology services. Each model describes a series of stages that moves the IT organization from chaos to a well-oiled machine (most commonly depicted with stair steps or some other image reflecting upward movement). Unfortunately, few (if any) of these models describe the roadblocks you must overcome to make these shifts or exactly what must change for the shift to occur. Across my next few posts, I will describe how perspective explains precisely if and how these shifts will occur and it also predicts the roadblocks that prevent change. Included will also be a review of steps any service provider can take to remove roadblocks and improve delivery performance.
Perspective, as used here, is a concept that was introduced by Robert Kegan, across a series of publications (see Kegan or even better Kegan and Lahey). Simplified, perspective describes a way of seeing the world that affects all of a person’s beliefs and behaviors – relationships, data, judgments, fears – everything. Kegan’s concepts were the basis for a new model for individual capability that goes a long way to explain why a person does or doesn’t perform effectively in a job. Over the years I have come to realize that this model can also predict and explain organizational performance, based on the perspective of senior leaders and other key stakeholders. For our purposes here, there are three different perspectives you will see among service providers.
- With the Technological perspective, individuals and organizations focus on methods, and define value as delivering outputs that meet accepted standards. Individuals and organizations with this perspective would be inclined to believe they’d find an answer in the technology alone, and they would often get stuck if clients don’t slavishly follow direction. This perspective is always associated with the early stages of maturity models, where people are reactive and narrowly focused.
- Where as the Transactional perspective, individuals and organizations focus on relationships, and define value as meeting the stated needs of key stakeholders. Individuals and organizations with this perspective seek to make their clients “happy”, and they struggle to find latent needs or surface and resolve conflicts across stakeholders that often cause projects to slow or stall. This perspective is typically associated with the middle stages of maturity models, where the different groups begin to negotiate predictable roles, goals, and measures, and they have the ability to address the one-on-one conflicts that technological types often struggle to resolve.
- Finally with the Transformational perspective, individuals and organizations focus on organizational purpose, and define value around achieving that larger purpose and satisfying latent needs, knowing that they often must confront individual agendas and also surface and resolve conflicts among all key stakeholders. People with this perspective are almost always described as “strategic”, and this perspective is always associated with the most advanced levels in maturity models where value is created by anticipating needs, preventing problems before they emerge, and creating unexpected value to purpose.
It’s a logical assumption that it is next to impossible to advance on any maturity model until, and unless, you get enough key people to advance to the next perspective. The next blog post in this series will focus on what blocks people from shifting perspective, and what can be done to help individuals and organizations overcome those obstacles.