Why I decided to step down as CSDO and what’s next
At the end of the year, I will step down as Chief Service Delivery Officer at In The Pocket. If you’re wondering why someone in their right mind believes that now is a good time to leave a management role in a fast-growing tech business, read on.
Before getting into the why, I should explain how I got to this point. In the last decade, my career has co-evolved with In The Pocket. As the company grew from 5 to 180 people, I went through a leadership trial by fire.
I learned that agile software development doesn’t equal speed. At least not out of the box. I have seen speed and agility emerge, but always as a result of small teams of capable people coming together. There is more to team performance than individual capability, though. For collective intelligence to emerge, you need the right circumstances.
I discovered that companies have wildly different ideas about the kind of circumstances that enable high performance. Companies that do well in tech have learned to start from customer needs and work their way back from there. In order to quickly and successfully interact with customers, they shift decision-making and control to the edges of the organization.
This is a paradox. In order to get a handle on change, corporate leaders need to relax their grip. This is not the same as relinquishing control: distributed decision-making requires careful alignment between a company’s business strategy, operating model, and enterprise architecture. In other words, digital transformation goes well beyond IT. It impacts every single aspect of the organization.
Companies that refuse to accept this reality usually show signs of decrepitude: siloed departments with people shifting blame to each other, groupthink, death marches, Gantt charts that are decoupled from reality, big-ball-of-mud architectures, policy dictated by company politics instead of customer needs,... Many white-collar workers have come to accept these antipatterns as a fact of corporate life. I know from experience at ITP that there is another, healthier way.
In The Pocket is best-in-class in creating digital products because it has a razor-sharp focus on this mission. I want to become best-in-class at creating digital organizations. Although adjacent, that’s a different mission and it also requires laser focus. As a first step, I have started writing on organization design in a digital environment. This may turn out to be a long essay or a short book, but I will be creating it in public. If you want to see me disentangle digital transformation, subscribe to this newsletter or follow me on LinkedIn.
Finally, a word of recognition. When I’ll be leaving In The Pocket, it’s for the best possible reason. The culture we shaped together is so awesome that I want to export it to the world. Any healthy economic interaction should be win-win, and I definitely feel like I won from my service delivery years at In The Pocket. I’ve learned a lot about people, systems, and software, and it’s been an honor to work alongside so many talented people. Special thanks to Jeroen Lemaire, Pieterjan Bouten, and Louis Jonckheere for giving me the chance back in 2011.
To my fellow ITPeople: it’s been an absolute pleasure. I hope you not only keep the ITP Way alive but that you will build on it.
To all readers, don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to chat. If you want to follow me on this mission, be sure to subscribe to Substack.