Why Are Enterprises So Slow?

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  • “one throat to choke”: From ownership comes responsibility. A lot of the political footwork in an enterprise revolves around trying to not own technologies.
  • If there’s a common thread to these factors in reducing risk, it is to shift responsibility and power from the individual to the corporate entity. If you’re a regulated, systemically-significant enterprise, then the last thing you or the public wants is for one person to wield too much power, either through knowledge of a system, or ability to alter that system in their own interests.
  • The corollary of this is that it is very hard for one person to make change by themselves. And, as we all know, if a task is given to multiple people to achieve together, then things get complicated and change slows up pretty fast as everyone must keep each other informed as to what everyone else is doing.
  • The reality is that – as I said above – taking responsibility and owning a technology or layer of your stack brings with it real costs and risks that you may not be able to bear and stay in business.
  • So however great you are as a team, you’re delivery cadence is constrained to a local maxima based on your external dependencies, which are (effectively) non-negotiable.
  • How to fix things:
    • Senior leadership support
      • Bezos big mandate (2002):
        • All teams expose data through service interfaces
        • Teams must communicate with each other through these interfaces
        • No other communication is allowed other than service interfaces over the network
        • It doesn’t matter what technology they use
        • All service interfaces must be designed to be externalizable
        • Anyone wwho doesn’t do this will be fired
    • Reduce complexity
    • Cross-functional team (product, marketing, sales, etc.)
    • Use your cynical old heads