Years back I worked with a top-notch Project Manager. He was more business-centric than technical but he led technical projects. We worked on a few large projects together, he as the Project Manager and me as the Solution Architect. One was a large consumer-facing custom application and the other was the implementation of the E-commerce platform Hybris. In getting to know this PM I asked him what his keys to success were and he quickly responded with the principles of ODI. I said I never heard of that so please elaborate.
ODI was an acronym for Organization, Division, then Individual. The principle was based on the concept of a hierarchical decision-making process. How will the decision I need to make for the project best benefit the Organization, then the Division, and finally myself? So this PM always used this lens when he was faced with difficult decisions. Should he take concerns to leadership? Should he push back on schedule forecasts? How can he close budget gaps? No matter the needed decision he did it in this weighted format of the company first then the division and finally himself. The principle was that in doing so the organization will thrive as well as the division thus improving his position. You could call it a trickle-down mentality but it worked well for him as he was a highly functioning team member and top performer. I adopted this principle into my working model. I consider it a win-win-win approach. Think of others before we think of ourselves.
The flaw in this principle is that if just a few people invert the model and focus on what is best for them first then their division and finally the Organization the impact will have a detrimental cascading effect across the Organization. Imagine a room full of 100 people waiting for a meeting to start. There is a table with 100 bagels on it, one for each member. If each member takes one the system works. If one person decides to get more than one for themselves or starts to take multiple for their teammates the system quickly breaks down. Observers see what is happening and they quickly revert to a self-fulfillment model. The original plan has been upended by an individualistic approach.
In the context I was taught this principle, Organization was the company we were working for and the division was the IT group. But the principle can be applied to all walks of life. Think how better our world would be if our Politicians all used this principle. What is best for the country, then the party they represent, and finally themselves. In today’s political landscape, it seems to be 100% inverted.
The principle is easy to state but difficult to follow. This is where strong leadership needs to take charge and lead by example. I have worked on many a project as an Enterprise Architect and tried to explain to business leaders that if they focus on this principle they will escape the model of technical debt accumulation. One organization I worked for used a balanced scorecard approach for its project portfolio. Projects were scored on red-yellow-green status for budget, schedule, and customer satisfaction. The internal customer requesting the project would assign a red, yellow, or green to these three categories. The problem with this model was it supported Goodhart’s Law of when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure. Teams were being rewarded for short-term gains that created long-term pains. Projects were cutting technical corners and hiding technical debt implementations to deliver the project on time and within budget thus meeting customer satisfaction. I proposed we add a new metric to the scorecard, architectural compliance. This metric would be scored by the Architecture Review Board which would evaluate the deployed solution for adherence to reference architecture, standards, patterns, and practices. The ARB would document any delivered technical debt. In this way, the company would have visibility to the quality of solutions delivered. But adding this metric would mean impacting team success and individual bonuses as this scorecard metric was a key performance indicator to measure bonus structures. Initially, leadership agreed with my approach and looked to add the metric but as the individual and division impact started to show they quickly reverted to the old scorecard. This was a missed opportunity to put the needs of the organization over those of the division and individual. I truly believe had they stayed the course the company would have thrived over time thus exceeding the reward structure the current model offered.
It’s a difficult thing to hold to your principles but I have seen it done by people I consider great leaders and results-oriented professionals. Consider the principles of ODI the next time you are faced with a decision and see how you can create a win-win-win approach for all parties.