David Poindexter's profile image, displayed in a round border
I'm David, a software engineer and cloud architect.
I specialize in serverless development, cloud architecture and implementation, and write about my experiences along the way.

What does organizational maturity even mean

This is a thought after a discussion with my leadership team about “maturity” of a business offering

These thoughts are my own, on my onw site, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of my employer

Organizations as a business entitity are no different than lifeforms. We need to think about 3 dimensions. The three dimensions I see are:

Today, I want to share a few thoughts aobu the “squishy stuff”

Here are some problems I’m trying to solve

What does mature mean

I would say that being “mature” in your offerings means you have gotten a few things down to where they are a second thought. They are so stable, understood, and engrained that someone would say “well yeah, why wouldn’t we do things this way?”

I doubt many organizations feel this secure in very many things. Much less if you are offereing services to said organizations. That response will always be, “Well, that depends on the services.”

How do you know where you are

This part takes a really deep self-reflection as an oganization. It takes bringing in the right people to ask the hard questions, and not gloss over deficiencies.

For example, if a new employe starts in engineering, how soon could they be expected to ship code to production? Is it Day 1? Is it Week 1? Is it Month 1? Longer? This could be the result of immature onboarding practices.

How do you know where you want to be

Do you want to be mature? Of course our gut-check answer is “of course we want to be mature, we’re a business!” Does that mean you must be mature to add value to clients and stakeholders? Does that mean you must be mature to entice current employees to stay, and future candidates to join?

Of course not.

But you would be well advised to at least take an assesment and determine where you are and where you want to be. If you want to be exactly where you are… you’re in the minority, but congratulations. You made it.

How do you know where you should be

Take a hard look at what you are hearing from the market, from your executives, from your sales professionals in the field. What are they hearing in personal interactions with customers/clients? Is there some thing they’re hearing that you aren’t seeing? Is there where you need to go?

Or is that something you make a decision and say “nope, we don’t do that”? A decision will be made regardless. It’s best that you have some inpput.

How do you get there

You need to get buy-in from leaders. I’m not talking about your VP/CIO/CEO. That’s management. I’m talking about the leaders on your team. The people doing the things. You need to get them together and present your case.

Be open to critique. It can be quite frank, or subtle with a crossing of arms, a facial expression. Every sign of resistance should be considered. Ask them in 2 settings. In groups, and personally, 1:1. Be open to feedback that while you may be completely open to, your colleage may feel they are going to rock the boat too much and upset you.

Does this mean you give up your authority to “make things happen”? Maybe. Maybe you were wrong. Maybe you were right, but can’t currently build the coallition. Regardless… your team needs to feel they are safe expressing things to you that either you don’t want to hear, or they think you don’t want to hear.

Trust-based vulnerability is the core of success.

What if people aren’t on board

You try your damndest to share the vision, and if that doesn’t work, it may not be a fit.

You will try to evangelize the vision to upper management and key stakeholders, as well as direct reports and directors.

If you try to share a vision and 90% of your employees and stakeholders can’t buy in, maybe re-think why YOU are here. It happens.

Closing thoughts

Youv’e heard the mantra about “forming, storming, norming, perfomring” Well this doesn’t apply just to Agile in dev teams. This is an organizational thing that we will all be dealing with… forever. It’s people and communications.

When you feel you aren’t mature (for reasons), you will naturally want to be more mature (for very good reasons). Having a definition for “mature” is a starting point. Then you make a path and get others on the boat. Then you set sail and captain the ship.

It’s that order.

If you’ve ever had these difficult conversations, won a change, lost a change, or have any other input on how I can make the above more clear, please let me know!