People, Process or Technology...Which is more important?
If you have been in the corporate world or in the technology field, I am sure you have inevitably seen the three overlapping circles that show the famous jargon term of people, process and technology. An example of this is on the cover of this blog. Having been in the industry for over 20 years, I start to have an uneasy feeling when I see another slick powerpoint presentation that is done by a high paid consultant who has gotten his masters in powerpoint and/or spends hundreds of dollars on high paid infographics. Don't mean to knock on nice infographics as most people are visual learners including myself. It's just as I am getting older and wiser or you can even say more jaded, I am skeptical of fancy presentations that have little substance and always paints a perfect picture.
Outside the of the powerpoint world... aka real world, you can have the best project plan that takes into account people, process and technology but still run into issues as soon as the project is started. In today's blog, I am going to share my experience with you and give you insight into some great leaders as to why one piece of this framework is the most important. This is just my opinion and shouldn't be taken as a poor reflection of the usage of this framework to outline proper resource alignment.
The title of this blog is "People, Process or Technology." Which is more important? So, I will give you a clue- it's listed first for a reason... that's right People! We are a tech company that continues to leverage the latest processes and technology but wouldn't be anywhere without our people. I am not the only leader that believes that concept. Another famous CEO was quoted as saying the following: "It's not a faith in technology. It's faith in people."...You may have heard of him; his name is Steve Jobs. Ironically, it is said that he was really tough to work for and wasn't the best people person.
Currently I lead Key Cyber Solutions (KCS), a small business group made up of amazing technologists who continue to do great things in servicing our clients in the government, commercial, education and health industries. I am amazed at how they continue to inspire me to learn more and become a better leader. To that token, I look towards other great mentors to help grow our leadership skills and keep us focused on what's important. This has become even more prevalent as COVID-19 has impacted all of us in some way. Like most small businesses throughout the country, we had to make some tough choices but continue to persevere as we know there will be life after Covid. I am most proud of the fact that throughout this whole crisis we have never laid off any employees. In some cases, business leaders have no choice but to let go given the state of their business, but whenever possible I encourage you to make letting employees go the last option. You will see more about the importance of this choosing to do what's right for your employees as we discuss some great leaders that have focused on the people side of the equation. Here are three of my favorite leaders that will hopefully inspire you to do the same with your people.
First up, one of my favorites is Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group. He is a man who dropped out of school at the age of 16, suffers from dyslexia, and is a self-made billionaire who continues to do great things and shake up industries. I had the opportunity to hear him speak a few years ago, and have recently listened to his book the Virgin Way, Everything I know about Leadership on audible. The book is not narrated by him but yes they picked Gildart Jackson who has a similar English accent to keep you engaged. His passion to not follow the traditional model and shake up legacy industries is inspiring and motivating for someone like me who is also attempting to do the same in the US Federal Government Contracting industry. His focus on having fun, creating a family within your employees that live and breathe the characteristics of your brand are what continues to make Virgin successful. His philosophy of his employees can be summed up in the following quote: "Train people well enough so they can leave. Treat them well enough so they don't want to."
Next up on my list is in not your traditional corporate figure but is a well known author and motivational speaker named Simon Sinek. If you haven't heard of him, I encourage you to listen to some of his TED talks. He has written several books- one of his more popular books is Start with Why, how great leaders Inspire everyone to take action. Simon started a movement in 2009 that has touched millions and has had over 28 million views on TED Talk. Sinek starts with the key question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential and more successful than others. Most people start with WHAT because it's the easiest thing to communicate. Then they may discuss the HOW, but rarely the WHY. In order to inspire, invert the order. Start with WHY (purpose), then HOW (values and actions and differentiators), and then WHAT (products and results). At KCS, we spent a lot of time focusing on the why and that has continued to bring us success and propels us forward. Our Why started off with the frustration of what was happening in the IT contracting industry where I noticed employees being treated as numbers on a spreadsheet and everything being valued as Lowest Priced Technically Acceptable by the industry. This frustration led to the start of KCS. We wanted to create a culture where we provide well trained software and cyber security engineers that develop and protect our customer’s critical technical needs, always challenging assumptions and inspiring to innovate new solutions. At KCS, our why is about the people we employ and the people we serve. This can be summed up into the following formula, "Employee Satisfaction=Customer Satisfaction" Just like an algebraic equation. In order for our customers to be satisfied, we need our employees to be satisfied. This formula only works if you work toward making both sides of the equation equal. So to sum this up with one of my favorite Simon Sinek quotes “Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.”
The last on my list of great leaders is Warren Buffett, an investor, business tycoon and philanthropist. As of August 2020, Warren was listed as one of the 7 richest people in the world. His investment strategy was based on the notion of investing in great companies/products who not only solved a problem but was also operated by amazing people. My reason for picking him is that he made his wealth and decided to give most of it away to philanthropic foundations including the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation to help people in need. He took it a step further and encouraged his fellow billionaires to also follow his lead by donating their wealth through givingpledge.org. My favorite quote by him is, "If you're in the luckiest one percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think about the other 99 percent."
In conclusion, it's imperative that you ensure that your team consists of the appropriate people with the ideal skills, experience and attitude to help you solve your problem. Practical experience is priceless and too many organizations have only theorists and consultants. Once your people are committed, consider the process which is defined as a series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. Keeping that in mind, ask the question: What processes do we need in order to solve this business problem? A good place to start is by identifying the big, key steps. Once those are in place you can then focus on a more detailed level by looking at process variations, exceptions, interdependencies and supporting processes. This is where you might do an "As is" "To Be" mapping. Now review these processes with your stakeholders. Ensure that they’re aware of what’s expected from them and let them guide you with regard to possible gaps and issues. This will lead you to ultimately selecting the most appropriate technology. With your people and processes in place, you can now look at technologies which will support them. We all know it takes all three elements to complete projects and lead great organizations but don't forget at the heart of this should always be people first.