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4 survival strategies for IT chaos

Julia King | Sept. 10, 2013
Your IT survival guide for the new business normal: Four steps for mastering the world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

In contrast, "with a centralized backlog, if your feature makes it to the top and you've won, you're incredibly demotivated to stop that development," he says. "It makes people less willing to change priorities. A features team approach reinforces that you should always use your resources for the ultimate business value."

The bottom line, Merryman says, is "we've been through a whole slew of iterations to get it right, to come up with the right price, the right product and to sell it in the right way. Setting ourselves up to quickly try things and learn what works and what doesn't is a big part of our success."

- Julia King

3. Be a Chameleon
Unable to completely control her environment, P&G's Clement-Holmes has embraced a management strategy based on what can be controlled.

"VUCA is a lot about what you don't know. What we want is for people to focus on what they do know and can control," she says. For example, rather than waiting to get 20 people together for a meeting, which could take as long as 12 months given conflicting schedules, "get the people you have now and trust those people to start working on the problem," she says.

"In VUCA, you're making things up as you go along. We tell people not to wait for everything to be 100% perfect and don't make the simple complex. Go with your gut and your best professional instinct," she adds.

As an IT leader in a VUCA world, Clement-Holmes says her totem is a chameleon, the lizard whose eyes can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously. This is because IT must pivot between long-term growth and short-term efficiency gains, "regardless of VUCA," she says.

"At P&G, we have to increase revenue by billions every single year, and we've had our share of headwinds like commodity costs, the global recession and economic instability in Europe. There are a lot of levels of uncertainty, and it will never go back to the way it was," she says. "The pace of change is also different. Before, the windows were wider and longer and you had more time."

At the same time, IT must aggressively drive cost savings and productivity improvement. That means much shorter planning cycles and a need to continually reinvent the IT organization.

"Predicting what the business will be five years out is not realistic," she says. "Five years is forever. IT years are like dog years."

Two years ago, P&G created an incubator organization called FLOW, which Clement-Holmes describes as "a kind of special forces to quickly address really wicked business problems with dedicated full-time staffers with the right skills."


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