Organizational Optimization is what gives David Luke’s career credibility.
In this quick Q&A, David shares his insights on the major staffing and retention challenges tech leaders are facing and how IT teams can accelerate their approaches to innovation to stay competitive.
M.R. Rangaswami: What kind of staffing and retention challenges are IT leaders facing right now?
David Luke: IT leaders are experiencing a new phenomenon in today’s professionals: an influx of talent that is demanding to work in non-traditional ways. HR departments are finding it difficult to create a standard job class or role category. Executives and line managers alike are turning to firms like Consulting Solutions for a la carte solutions to address anti-patterns that are impeding their business.
Here are what I believe to be the top five challenges in our current labor market:
- Creating a safe space for employees where they can land, grow, and learn while delivering both innovative and traditional pieces of work. By partnering with HR and recruiting firms, leaders can develop a place where folks want to work, are able to grow their career to the level that they desire, and develop their knowledge / skills with a defined path forward.
- Attracting people who are late career that bring knowledge and maturity to an organization. These are the gems in our workforce that can not only deliver with speed but also mentor new professionals in the workforce.
- The ability to balance a lower-cost delivery with a world-class product and retaining those people that deliver that product.
- The decision between remote and on-site, which means ensuring that you are getting the talent that will accelerate your business by offering options for your people. There is some exceptional talent out there who would love to work remotely, and then there are also folks who thrive in an in person collaborative environment. Leaders need to weigh how they want their workforce to be shaped and potentially develop a blend.
- Although it’s an attractive practice, leaders need to understand some of the limitations of nearshoring/offshoring their workforce—fewer overlapped hours, decreased team retention due to offshore labor practices, and collaboration on a limited basis. Ensure that you weigh the cost savings versus delivering an exceptional product.
M.R.: Why is the “product owner role” so critical to delivery team success?
David Luke: Exceptional product owners use their superpowers to bring the product vision down to the team level. They focus relentlessly on prioritizing what is needed and what is wanted for their business, their stakeholders, and their customers. The best product owners can strike the right balance between being specific enough to provide clear direction to the team while still being flexible enough to accommodate changes and shifts in priorities that come from a deep and dynamic partnership with product managers.
These proverbial unicorns also have a deep knowledge of user needs and the experience that the business wants the customer to receive. They easily see the bigger picture and engage often with product managers, customer experience, and user-experience experts to define and drive the delivery of great products.
Elite product owners have an abundance of empathy in their toolkits. They’re able to read the pulse of the team, the customer, and stakeholders while balancing the push and pull to deliver great products.
What sets apart the truly outstanding product owners is the ability to effectively listen. Not just to the words but to the underlying messages and sentiments of everyone who they actively seek to communicate with as part of their rituals, ceremonies, and workdays.
Great product owners don’t just look inward; they excel at looking outward to the market, the competition, and the changing technologies that they work with every day. They know the goals and challenges and can articulate the path forward to lead their teams and their products to successful outcomes. They are storytellers, evangelists, and cheerleaders for their teams and their products. The word on the chest of their superhero suit is often “TEAM”.
M.R.: If technology is evolving faster than workplace structures can keep up, what must IT teams do to accelerate their approach to stay competitive and deliver results?
David: At the heart of any change to approach, regardless of its scope, lies the critical support of leadership. While grassroots efforts can certainly achieve success, a unified message and commitment from the top sets the tone for the entire organization.
To ensure an accelerated approach, it is also essential to establish governance and a defined way of working, while remaining open to adjusting these as you gain a deeper understanding of your company’s culture. With these foundational elements in place, you can then develop charters and set clear, measurable objectives and key results (OKRs) to guide your progress toward success. And most importantly, START THE WORK! Don’t get bogged down in planning—act and stay focused on delivering results.
Once you have established a new, accelerated way of working, you must set about to streamline your efforts and prioritize the things that are most important to your customers. Use your product owners, UX experts, and CX experts to gain the trust and pulse of your customers, as they are who you are building for, and they will tell you if you are getting it right. Leverage new practices such as design thinking to understand who you are building for, what their pains are, and how you can deliver products to eliminate or alleviate those pains.
M.R. Rangaswami is the Co-Founder of Sandhill.com