‘War Games’ and umami: Pulling my boots on and walking the walk

This is my first blog in awhile, and the reason for the gap is one of the most interesting aspects of my job here at CSC: the delivery challenge. As part of the governance team, I’ve developed core competency in asking questions and hearing the answers, sometimes despite the words spoken. A few times a year, I get to pull my boots on and go walk the walk.

A Fresh Pair of Eyes

The format of these engagements is fairly common. First is the discussion with the worried exec. This conversation covers the general area of concern — for example the risk of missing a deadline, technology jitters, the need to inject innovation, etc. Second is the approach. With a reasonable problem statement in hand, this can be standard, too:

  1. Listen to the people working the problem
  2. Listen to stakeholders across the board (internal, external, north, south, east and west)
  3. Parse this objectively against experience and foresight
  4. Identify the changes needed to move forward
  5. Get buy-in from necessary stakeholders
  6. Help communicate the changes
  7. Continuously improve by sharing the experience

Each of the points above comes with a unique timeframe and its own nuanced challenges, but that’s what the governance team is here to work out. In many engagements, the working collateral from point 4 is essentially what the people from point 1 (that you listened to) already had in mind for resolution. They simply haven’t achieved point 5 and 6 yet.

War Games

It gets really interesting when Point 4 starts to highlight a set of linked changes that could destabilize the environment and make even the most seasoned leader gulp a little. This is when Secret Procedure Entry 4.5 comes into effect – War Games. This is where you consider strategy, tactics and simulation to predict and establish the most effective order of execution.

In the 1983 film of the same name — which covers the light and heartwarming subject of possible global thermonuclear war — the AI computer eventually works out that, in playing tic-tac-toe, futility creates no winners. The computer suggests a “nice game of chess” instead. By being able to identify and remove futile acts that benefit neither party in the customer/supplier relationship, one can develop and/or maintain trusted advisor status. It brings to mind a great quote attributed to Michael Porter of Harvard Business School: “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” I could not agree more.

Reaching Point 5 is an achievement. That means, you know what to do, but you haven’t convinced anyone else yet. At this point, you can see a view of the future and a set of imaginary stepping stones to reach the goal.

Tech Umami

After a number of years in the tech industry, you begin to develop an additional sense of perception, something that could be equated to Umami – that imprecise, yet totally essential taste that delivers, in this case, the palpable tingling feeling when you discover an opportunity to improve an outcome. Tech umami is not always easy to find, but it can be like foraging for a truffle — the more times you have done it, the better chance you have of finding one. This is by no means suggesting that success excludes the inexperienced, as there are many great examples of people rewriting the rule book; it’s purely about playing the odds.

So why is all this relevant in a technology perspectives blog? It is because in our industry, one’s perspective on technology can make the difference between success and failure when trying to solve problems. If you remember only one thing from this post, remember this: Should you get through Point 4 and technology is the only thing that needs to change, then you didn’t listen hard enough.

Feedback is always welcome, so feel free to get in touch @glennaugustus

Image by fernand0 CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7579286

Glenn Augustus

As a Technologist in CSC’s Global Infrastructure Services, Glenn helps clients use technology to realise effective IT through the development of CSC’s infrastructure services portfolio. He has held a variety of senior architecture and engineering positions within CSC before becoming Global Offering Manager for CSC’s Storage as a Service and most recently Chief Technologist for Compute. Glenn lives with his family in the United Kingdom.


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