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The Who Is Where All the Leverage Is

Leading the journey to becoming a more agile business based on a well-structured, integrated and holistic multi-year plan is easy to say, but it’s very hard to achieve without an extremely talented team. Decades of transformation work have continuously reinforced the idea that if you have the right WHO – Structure, Leadership, Culture and Talent – in place, that team will be able to figure out, articulate, lead and deliver the WHY, WHAT, HOW and WHEN that makes the most sense for the organization.

Furthermore, within the WHO, we at The Feld Group Institute would argue that Leadership matters the most. The power of a great leadership team lies in its ability to build a great culture and structure while being able to identify, attract and retain the best talent. If an organization fails to get the leadership right, it will never achieve its desired results, no matter how clear and compelling the agenda is.

These are the 4 components of WHO that MATTER.

Structure – how the team is organized and the decision rights
Leadership – who sits in key leadership positions
Culture – how and how well the team works together
Talent – skills and competencies of the IT workforce

Structure Matters

The way the group is organized should reflect the accountability, responsibility and decision rights that are required to get the mission accomplished. The IT structure should align with business capabilities. Those capabilities that need to be unique across business units or departments can be owned by leaders and an organizational structure that we call “verticals.” For the capabilities that can be made common and would be leveraged and reused multiple times across those “verticals,” they can be owned by leaders and an organizational structure that we call “horizontals.” Very few enterprises are fully decentralized (unique) or totally centralized (common). Therefore, designing the structure toward the Future Vision capabilities is a critical component of a successful transformation. Being explicit about roles, responsibilities, decision rights and conflict resolution (RACI) is foundational to success in this kind of matrix and collaborative organization.

Leadership Matters

It matters who the leaders are that occupy the vertical and horizontal positions. It takes a different type of athlete to have the deep knowledge of the business vertical versus the technical savvy and pattern recognition skills to negotiate and implement at the horizontal intersections. Good entrepreneurs in highly decentralized teams and leaders that are successful administrators in a highly centralized structure will struggle in a large matrix where there are critical dependencies and services delivered and consumed in order to deliver the business outcomes required.

Culture Matters

The dependency model, matrix organization structure and team sport described above is what makes culture so important. It’s impossible for precise and detailed RACI models or rule books to cover every possible situation and interaction. It’s equally difficult to have such exact plans and rigid approaches in an agile and fast-churning world of business and technology. You can get close with these kinds of tools, but conditions are always fluid and heterogeneous. This gap must be covered by a culture based upon a team-oriented workforce and an unselfish and supportive mindset. As with basketball, you can have great athletes, a great coach and a terrific game plan, but you still need to play the game. That’s culture, or chemistry, is what differentiates true championship teams.

Talent Matters

In the end, this is a technical business that requires planning, designing, coding, testing and running. An organization must have the right mix of skills, levels, roles and competencies. It’s not about having more people. If we have too many people, the wrong people or the wrong mix (too many of this and not enough of that), it can be very difficult to be productive or deliver at all. It’s about having great people in the right mix and doses.

Digital Transformation, especially for a large, complex legacy company, can be very challenging. This can feel as daunting as moving the world. Archimedes said, “Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” I believe that our leverage on this move-the-world kind of challenge is the WHO – and especially the leadership. Find the best leaders, continuously work to develop your leaders, and they will make the rest happen.

Author: Charlie Feld, Founder, The Feld Group Institute
Connect with Charlie Feld on LinkedIn

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Russell Villemez

Affiliate, The Feld Group Institute

Head of Technology Strategy, Dialexa – a Feld Group Institute partner

Highly regarded CTO and change agent with IT strategy and enterprise architecture expertise.

Russell Villemez is an Affiliate with the Feld Group Institute and the head of Technology Strategy at Dialexa, a Technology Research, Design and Creation firm that works with organizations on initiatives such as Operational Transformation, Business Growth, and New Venture Creation.

During 17 years in operational roles and 15 years in consulting roles, Russell has worked across a variety of industries in both executive leadership positions and as a subject matter expert. Russell thrives on the scale and complexity of leading major change agendas in large corporate environments.

Recent consulting clients include AmerisourceBergen, the American Automobile Association, Brinker International, Cubic, Equifax, and Cox Automotive. A common thread is the client’s need for strong leadership during a period of change—whether motivated by acquisitions, spin-offs, competitive pressures, or other factors. Clients also benefit from Russell’s expertise in enterprise architecture, agile development, application portfolio rationalization, technology and architecture strategy, as well as business strategy and commercial software product development.

Recognized as a versatile IT executive, adept at solving complex problems with innovative solutions, Russell’s capabilities and achievements span a continuum from business-strategy formation to hands-on IT solution development. His extensive career achievements include pioneering the first use of relational databases in high-volume transaction systems in the ‘80s, applying voice recognition DSPs in public intelligent network services for consumer markets in the ‘90s, and leading large-scale adoptions of open systems, object technology, and middleware frameworks in complex business environments, often in advance of commercially available software products.

Prior to joining Dialexa, Russell served at HP as Enterprise Services Chief Technology Officer for the Americas, leading a global capability for embedded Account CTOs in large enterprises. Russell began his career at Accenture, where he first crafted his consultative problem-solving approach, later honed at A.T. Kearny and the Feld Group. Russell’s deep telecom experience is built upon numerous director and enterprise architect positions at AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Telstra, US West, Pacific Bell, and Sprint, and as V.P. and CIO for WebLink Wireless.

Russell has a BS in Business Administration from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. In his spare time, Russell participates in amateur auto racing, and is a driving instructor with the Porsche Club of America.