CIO Playbook: Managing Change with Agile 'Flow'

The modern CIO mandate includes maintaining operational stability while driving change through innovation. Industry analyst and CXOTalk host, Michael Krigsman, speaks with CIO and author, Fin Goulding, about leading successful transformation in established organizations.


Sep 07, 2018

The modern CIO mandate includes maintaining operational stability while driving change through innovation. Industry analyst and CXOTalk host, Michael Krigsman, speaks with CIO and author, Fin Goulding, about leading successful transformation in established organizations.

Fin embraces change, transformation and innovation in equal measures. Always at the forefront of Technology and not frightened to experiment or challenge the status quo. He is currently the International CIO at Aviva Group with technical responsibility for Europe & India with a remit to kill legacy, drive their Digital agenda by introducing the next generation of Agile based on Flow Principles and to disrupt the insurance business by collaborating with FinTech/InsurTech startups.

In his recently published book "FLOW - A Handbook for Change Makers, Mavericks, Innovation Activists and Leaders", Fin explores what he calls the new world of Agile. The second book, "12 steps to FLOW: The New Framework for Business Agility" delves into more detail and is backed up by a comprehensive training program.

Prior to Aviva, Fin joined Paddy Power as the Group CIO & CTO for Europe where he pioneered DevOps, Kanban, Continuous Delivery and an early variant of Flow where he discovered that Technology and Process change is relatively easy compared to cultural change.

Fin has an extensive international background and held the position of CIO at Sabre Holding’s off-shore Global Development Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Whilst working with Sabre, he was the CIO of Travelocity Europe and CTO of where he developed his skills in Personal Branding, Coaching, Mentoring and Leadership Development.

Before focusing on e-commerce and the mobile space, Fin worked predominantly in Financial Services & Banking, holding senior leadership positions in companies such as First Data Europe, Visa International, HSBC Bank, RBS Bank and Nat West Bank in Europe. He has worked in many countries around the world including the USA where he was the Senior Vice President of Technology Solutions at VISA in San Francisco.


Michael Krigsman: Our guest today on CXOTalk came to me; he was introduced to me by somebody. I thought, "What an interesting person," because he is a CIO at a very large insurance company, very old company that's undergoing its own change. He also wrote a book about IT, about projects, and about transformation in general. I thought, "Wow, he is an interesting guy," and so that is our show for today, transformation and something called 'Flow,', which our guest will explain.

I'm Michael Krigsman. I'm an industry analyst and the host of CXOTalk. We're live with Episode #303.

Before we continue, I want you to subscribe on YouTube right this minute. Please subscribe on YouTube.

I'm really thrilled to introduce Fin Goulding, who is the CIO at Aviva. Fin Goulding, welcome to CXOTalk. It's your first time here, and I'm delighted to welcome you.

Fin Goulding: Thank you very much. It's great to be here. I'm looking forward to this.

Michael Krigsman: Fin, please tell us about Aviva and tell us about your work.

Fin Goulding: Well, as you said, we're an insurance company, a very large, global company, and we have the standard product offerings in the general insurance space, life and health, and probably around 30-plus million customers worldwide. We're in quite a number of countries. It's a huge organization, as you say, that traces roots back 320 years ago to its original start. It's obviously merged and changed in all those years. I'm the international CIO, so I look after the technology teams across Europe, stretching out to India, but I'm based in Ireland where the majority of my closest team is that I work with.

Michael Krigsman: Fin, as an organization that is 320 years old, how do you manage the change? Obviously, it's still in business, which means it's doing something right. It has to have evolved over all of this time, and so how do you manage the change? By the way, is that what we would call, today, digital transformation?

Fin Goulding: That's an interesting phrase because I've met lots of people that I ask them what they mean by digital transformation, and I don't get really a good answer that comes back to me. I think it's a way of a number of organizations saying they need to change; they need to adapt. There are threats in the marketplace. Maybe their business model is under threat, and we hear about disruptors, et cetera.

The way that we've approached things, and our CEO talks about it a lot, is to be kind of a disruptor ourselves in the industry and working with smaller organizations that we bring into our value chain. But, I would say, for us, it's about changing and improving and getting a bit of focus on customers and better outcomes for customers. That can mean changing technology, offering more solutions which are online or whatever it happens to be. I think it's that word "digital" is the bit that kind of gets people a bit confused. I'd say we're all trying to improve our businesses.

Michael Krigsman: It's really about business improvement and the digital part, these days, of course, comes into play because the change in technology is one of the drivers of updating processes, training people, and so forth.

Fin Goulding: I'd say you're right. What happens is that a lot of people didn't have a digital capability in their large enterprises and actually put a focus on delivering digital solutions. I think most of us now have them. It's just, how do you actually improve those customer journeys to provide something that's valuable that you serve your customers correctly and that also grow at the same time as an organization? All these channels come into play. It just happens to be that it gets stuck into that kind of digital word. We do a lot of normal interactivity with our customers where we do happen to have slick systems, which are in the background as well as in the foreground.

Michael Krigsman: Fin, whether Aviva or other companies, this notion of customer experience or, as you were saying, improving customer journeys, why is that so central to the concept of digital transformation, just in general?

Fin Goulding: You think that that's what customers expect these days is to have a frictionless way of working with you, an enjoyable experience to be able to get information fast without having to go through maybe some older processes, et cetera. It's a get to play. If you don't have these capabilities, whether it be mobile, tablet, or online, you're really not going to get very far with today's customer base, basically.

Michael Krigsman: Because of the emphasis on the customer, that needs to be the focal point for transformation and, of course, a subset of transformation, therefore, is digital transformation.

Fin Goulding: Exactly. I think a lot of organizations talk about getting close to their customers. They talk about bringing the customer at the center of everything they do, but do they really do that? It's the question that I kind of posed and some of my colleagues as well, which is, how do you actually get to a point where you're doing things which customers need and want, you're delivering value for them, and part of that is not about the transformation from a technology point of view. It's about a mindset and making sure that you are actually putting together a portfolio of work which is appropriate. It's not technical. It's that other part at the beginning of the funnel, shall we say.

Michael Krigsman: Let me ask a kind of devil's advocate question for a second here. You're talking about all of these nontechnology things and, yet, you're the CIO. Historically, the role of the CIO was to focus on tech. Yet, we're having this discussion about customer experience. What's going on with that?

Fin Goulding: I think what's happening is that many organizations are adopting ways of working, and a lot of the CIOs will know this, but maybe some of the other audience don't know about agile. An agile way of working came from the technology world, so how do technologists work together to deliver solutions quickly, of high quality, frictionless, and not using the old ways of working? Essentially, what's happening, and that's where I've kind of seen something that needs to be adapted from this way of working, is to encompass your business, your leadership, your executives, even your customers into a more business agile way of working. Using some of the techniques that were used in the technology space, broadening that a little bit more, and getting us an end-to-end solution, which is not just agile in the technology world; it's actually much wider.

Michael Krigsman: Now, what are the impediments to being able to adopt this kind of mindset inside an organization? I know that you wrote a book called Flow that addresses this point. Tell us about the impediments, and then we'll talk about how to address it.

Fin Goulding: Yeah, so some of the impediments, and this comes also from organizations which are adopting techniques to deliver software quickly like dev ops and things like that, which is where you're bringing teams together outside of the normal structure of organizations and putting them together with holistic, hybrid teams that have responsibility to deliver things from an idea through to actually making something go live, shall we say. Traditional organizations have traditional structures and teams, and traversing those teams horizontally can be difficult when you're implementing some of these techniques because you end up getting some inefficient handoffs or ways of delivering work that requires stops and starts as other teams get involved in the process.

Flow was describing a way of making things go from beginning to end in a nice [way] without stopping and analyzing how work gets for interplay, analyzing the best way of operating is, looking at where the blocks are and where things have stopped, and saying, "Is there a way of fixing this?" Quite often, it comes down to a process change, a team member change, or a structural change. Sometimes that can be difficult.

Michael Krigsman: Is this really mostly about process and handoffs? Is that the key focus?

Fin Goulding: I think when people talk about agile, the one thing that they do actually uncover quite quickly is where the team gets stopped, it's waiting for something, there's a blockage, someone needs to sign something off, or some other process needs to be completed. No, Flow is more about, okay, how do we understand the best way of working and actually use a framework and also a little bit of culture, a little bit of philosophy in terms of what's the best way of doing this.

Actually, following a rigid process or methodology is something that we don't recommend. We say that perhaps you can just pivot around something or find another way of doing this rather than getting totally blocked and, actually, having a bit of fun because that's why I come to work. I want to have some fun. I don't want to be frustrated by things that don't work.

Michael Krigsman: I want to remind everybody that we're speaking with Fin Goulding, who is the CIO for international at a very, very large insurance company called Aviva in Europe. Right now, there is a tweet chat happening using the hashtag #CXOTalk. Please, join us and contribute your thoughts. Feel free to ask questions of Fin.

Fin, maybe peel back the onion for us because, on the one hand, it sounds so simple, "Okay, well, we're going to make sure everything flows and remove the blockage at interconnection points," yet, it's not quite that easy.

Fin Goulding: No, I wish it was. No, it's about really getting people more socially active in the way that we work, but also going right back to the source, which is customers, understanding customers, segmenting them, providing solutions which fit their needs, and getting things which are of a value right at the beginning. The more valuable work that you're actually defining with a customer in mind and bringing it into a process whereby you're actually then starting to determine what the priority is, it's like value in is value out, and that's the way we kind of look at it.

That first part is around understanding, are we actually serving the needs, is our strategy feeding the needs of the people that are most important, which are our customers? Then, as it comes into our world, can we get our executives and managers visualizing all that work, prioritizing that work, feeding in things which are business as usual, regulatory, or mandatory things as well, but making sure there's a sufficient amount of strategic work going on that's important? Doing that, we use a series of visualizations like an adaptive portfolio of work that you can see on the wall, and getting people involved, so getting executives out of their offices into a standup way of working and interacting with staff at all levels to actually shape the work that's going to be built by the people that are at those ceremonies.

Michael Krigsman: How do you begin to introduce this into an organization?

Fin Goulding: Yeah, it's tough. Maybe I shouldn't tell you because there'll be some people watching this from my organization. You kind of sneakily have to start with some of these standup ways of working, which does come from the agile world. My management meeting used to be something that I would do once a month. Now it's 15 minutes a day using a very simple technique of actually visualizing the work that we need to do and having a list of backlog and things that we're doing, things which are done, and showing that visually amongst quite a wide range of people.

You start using that with the leadership team. They kind of thing, "Oh, well, this is agile? We just stand around, and we make decisions based on Post-It notes?" Well, kind of, yeah. I mean it's deconstructing the work to a level that's actually starting to see progress. You're starting to see the "done" column start to fill up. Running your meetings in that way is the first part.

The second is to visualizes all the work that's happening in your company. What happens then is that you visualize everything and put them on cards and put them on the walls. You actually go, "Wow. We need a bigger wall. There's so much going on."

That, to me, is something that I think a lot of executives and senior leaders don't have any concept of the amount of work that people are doing, and it can really help by removing things which are not that important. Again, it's another visual technique. That's the sort of beginning part, shall we say.

Michael Krigsman: When you start introducing these techniques into an established company that's not doing this, what are the points of resistance that you tend to have to overcome?

Fin Goulding: Yeah, you get some skepticism at first. I came, prior to Aviva, from a lot of dot-coms, ten years in dot-coms and from different parts of the world, including the U.S. and South America. I was kind of used to it, but in a large organization, yeah, there is some skepticism. There's a need, for instance, to have minutes or to have some formal process around the decisions that are being made.

What's happened in our organization is some of our teams actually just take photos of these walls as a better record of what actually happened and what was decided rather than having some formal document that maybe people don't read as much, shall we say. I think, by and large, a lot of people are very visual, and that's a good way of consuming information.

Michael Krigsman: We have an interesting question from Twitter, Arsalan Khan. It's a little complicated of a question, so I'm going to read this slowly, but it's good. "What do you think is the role of culture in terms of mundane business processes and archaic architecture that affects agile pursuits?" I think what he's asking is, the role of culture in dealing with legacy processes and legacy enterprise architecture.

Fin Goulding: It's a real tough one. I think that, in terms of culture, we have to have people with the right mindsets, and getting a mindset shift is really quite tricky. I find that when you're working in this way of working, you're actually interacting with people more frequently, getting faster feedback loops, et cetera.

If your culture has an element of social behaviors within it, it's a summation of all your values, and you're living it, you're actually believing in it, then I actually think it's a great way of energizing the staff that are around you. But, there is a need in a large organization with some of that process to unlearn ways of working. I got that from Barry O'Reilly who has written a book called Unlearn. It's just come out recently.

It's how to unlearn the ways that we've always done things. We've always done these 400 steps. Maybe we should just do these five steps.

The kind of legacy that we're talking about in terms of old systems, in reality, they're already going to be there. But, what we want to do is really empower people to have the ability to start chipping away at them and decommissioning and simplifying them and creating new platforms. It's investing in people to do that.

Yeah, it's not easy. I must admit. I think you have to, as a leader, get in amongst your team, roll your sleeves up, and do some work. In my case, it's just removing blockers and helping people to get the flow going.

Michael Krigsman: What still strikes me as pretty amazing is, you're a CIO, and we're having this conversation that involves enterprise architecture, that involves development processes and, yet, where it's sort of boiling down to is you need to know what's going on and you need to talk to people.

Fin Goulding: Yeah, you kind of want to have a way of working where you're pretty open. You take feedback in the moment. You give feedback in the moment. You're working with your team side-by-side. You're working on valuable work. And, it is; I think that you're absolutely right.

I looked at this world of technology and digital transformation. Suddenly, you realize, actually, what we need is a cultural transformation. We need to have people who are engaged and happy. We need to move people on that are not, the people that want to actually stop you from being successful. Why not get them to do the best work of their career in another place where they will be successful? They're maybe not happy with the journey that you're going on.

As a leader, you have to be much more in tune with people and making sure that you understand how to help them. That's unusual. In fact, in some organizations, if you're so far removed in a boardroom or sitting behind lots and lots of reports, and you're not actually working with people, it's very hard, I think, to evoke any cultural change unless you do that.

Michael Krigsman: Where should the locus of responsibility or accountability or control--I'm not even sure of the right word--where does it lie in the organization given the fact that you're talking about deeply technical topics like enterprise architecture, yet, at same time, you're talking about profoundly nontechnical topics such as culture change?

Fin Goulding: Yeah, I mean you don't throw away some of the traditional techniques of building a strategy or having alignment around what the important things are. The enterprise architecture really should be your roadmap to where you're going. As a CIO, you need to understand what those big things are.

As far as teams are concerned, to actually give them the opportunity to work, as a group that has no impediments, no inefficient handoffs, actually end-to-end, is very invigorating and empowering. You have these persistent teams that have the ability and the power to do work. You can shift mountains. But, we teach them how to break that work down into smaller deliverables because we can't do these mega projects anymore. It's much easier to do things step-by-step.

I always say that CIOs don't build systems. Our people do. If I can get our people engaged and happy, then they're going to do that work.

Michael Krigsman: Fundamentally, then, there's a type of training in terms of how to understand the goal, which is going to be embodied into your enterprise architecture. But then, as far as the process of getting there, to rethink the way that we go about that journey.

Fin Goulding: Precisely. It's about moving away from project management offices to, a degree, to value management. It's about doing things which are of priority and working with groups of people that are engaged and are actually working towards a purpose in conjunction with their counterparts in different parts of the organization.

We try to not say "business and technology." We try to say that we're all together as teams trying to achieve things. That's trying to get away from those old-fashioned handoffs and barriers between different groups. That kind of thinking is a little bit old-fashioned these days.

Michael Krigsman: It's a very interesting perspective that you're offering. At the same time, however, the reality is that, sure, we're all part of one team following one roadmap but, at the same time, the skills of people working in marketing, accounting, finance, whatever it might be, are completely different than the skills that are required inside the technology development groups. Therefore, correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems that a lot of what you're talking about is how to improve those interfaces because, sure, we're part of one big team, but we have very distinct and different sets of needs on both sides.

Fin Goulding: If you're in the same location working together, then you really can be a team. You get to learn each other's skills and disciplines. But, I've been kind of promoting, recently in my talks, how to work outside of your job description because I find that that is a limiting factor. There are many people that could do two things, and we just seem to restrict them.

I've worked with startups where the CEO has been doing testing, or the marketing chief has been doing programming. We kind of do get a little bit hung up on our job roles and we don't tend to sort of think, actually, we can roll our sleeves up and work together. That's what small companies do.

Trying to replicate that in big companies is by saying, "Right, we'll bring these persistent teams together, and we'll blur the lines a little bit of the job descriptions and get them to deliver outcomes." If I need to do some work within that team that's not generally what I do, well, then do it. They'll do it to a level that somebody else can verify that it's okay.

I'm never going to be a marketing expert tomorrow. I could certainly help the marketing team with picking up some of the load.

Michael Krigsman: Okay, but this raises yet another layer of complexity. You're saying people should wear multiple hats; basically, do what needs to be done. Yet, in many organizations, compensation is not tied to being a generalist. It's tied to doing one thing really, really well. Now you want me to be sort of looking out, taking responsibility, and being part of that team spirit, but that's going to cost me money because I can't focus on the thing that gets me my bonus. How do we handle that?

Fin Goulding: Yeah, that's a great point. I didn't say that my ideas were fully accepted by everybody. I did say that that's the way I feel it should be.

It's difficult because those kinds of ways of rewarding and compensating people have been shown that they're not always effective. I think there are more than just bonuses. I know that's important, but I do think that people do enjoy the outcomes that they deliver in doing something successful. That can be really rewarding in a different way.

I don't know. I think the instruments that we use today are a little blunt and they'll need some form of what I call HR 2.0, some new ways of working, people functions to understand, is there a different way of compensating maybe the team in their efforts, not necessarily always individuals? I'm coming to that more from looking and talking to more millennials that millennials themselves are saying, "I want to be part of a team and I want to be rewarded as part of a team, and not as a person just completely on my own." But, this thinking, it's not necessarily all nailed down.

Michael Krigsman: Yeah, well, the thing is that these days--this is what I think--it's only possible to accomplish that kind of end-user customer focus if you're breaking down the silos internally. That means that the nature of the work, the nature of the leadership, the nature of the expectations that leaders hold of the people inside the organization, and definitely the nature of compensation also has to encourage the sharing of information and the breaking down of silos. If you're not doing that, you will never be able to transform to present a holistic view to the customer of the business. It would be impossible, I think.

Fin Goulding: Yeah, I totally agree. Actually, getting people that don't normally interact with customers interacting with them is high on the agenda there as well, so they can see who they're serving and who they're working for. I do think that you're right. I cannot go into a big organization and say, "Right, you need to reorganize around this way of working," but we can do it in certain areas and pockets to show as a lighthouse how it does work. Maybe there is a way that you can actually traverse those groups with people working together in terms of understanding that this is actually achieving a great result at quite a rapid pace.

Yeah, you're right. Those are the challenges, and I think things are definitely changing. There's no such thing as a job for life anymore. We're talking about multiple trades, changing your professions throughout your working life, perhaps even working in a gig-economy where you're working at a completely different level. I think these are all things which are challenging traditional models, and we just need to be aware of it and see if we can actually adapt to it.

Michael Krigsman: We have another interesting question from Twitter, which is, "How does flow create value, and how do you recognize that value?" which, I guess, gets right to the central point.

Fin Goulding: Yeah. As I said before, if you're doing the correct work at the beginning of the flow, which is the customer innovation, customer segmentation, getting all that information together, which is, is our strategy being driven by the interest of the people that we're serving? That kind of beginning is where you actually cut out a lot of pet projects or maybe things that shouldn't get into the stream.

As you start to work across from programs to projects to initiatives to deliverables, these are things that you can actually attribute a value to. This is a value in terms of, if I build this feature, it will give me this return. Or, if I deliver this product, I'm going to get this return. You have to think like that.

Sometimes there is a value associated with even regulatory work because if we don't do it, we'll get a fine, for instance. There is a way of doing this and we, in our organization, have kind of lent on some of the lean software development techniques and some of the processes that you would get from value stream mapping and things like that, which I wouldn't want to go into all the detail right now, but that is a way of doing this. For everything single thing that you build, you should attribute some value. Otherwise, why are you doing it?

Michael Krigsman: How do you measure that value? I think that's another really complicated point.

Fin Goulding: Yeah, it is. Absolutely. Some of that is based upon, for instance, it's much easier in the digital world or in the product world where you can see whether you're actually getting more customers, acquiring more customers, or you're delivering more value, to then where they're buying these products and services. You can measure those using traditional analytic techniques that marketing folks that we were talking about earlier on will be very keen to see that, yes, we have delivered this new thing, that there is a great uptake, and we're able to prove it.

The other thing is that if you're not achieving it by looking at those benefits as it's actually live, you could quickly kill it. You can say that, actually, we've put this thing into life. It hasn't made what we were looking for. Therefore, we should take it out and reduce technical debt. It's a thing that's not necessarily widely done is that we actually are looking to see, in a test and learn way, that we're actually achieving adoption for that particular service or product. It's tricky but the teams are doing it, and I'm not going to give away too many of the secrets in case our competition is watching.

Michael Krigsman: Fair enough. We have another question from Twitter. Again, this is from Arsalan Khan. He says, "Customer feedback is important. But, as Henry Ford said, if he asks the customer, wouldn't they just prefer having a faster horse? If he asked the customer, they would say, 'Hey, I just want a faster horse.'"

Fin Goulding: Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: How do you balance that? I think it's a great question.

Fin Goulding: It is. If you're not taking the customer opinion into the way that you're actually forming your work, then the chances of it actually landing and being successful is a bit hit and miss at times. I do take the point that you wouldn't actually do necessarily everything, but at least you have to take that on board at the beginning of your assignments and your work.

For us, there's also that feedback in the moment where it's picking up information coming back from social media, coming back from contact centers, and distilling that down into an aggregate of the feedback. It's not an individual customer. It's coming from a wide range of customers.

If you're analyzing things and using dynamic segmentation, dynamic feedback, and dynamic analytics, you're able to see, "Oh, we can see that this thing is really popular, and this thing isn't." Therefore, you'd emphasize that more than something else, so it's not necessarily that I would talk to every individual customer one-by-one. It would be looking at groups.

Michael Krigsman: Looking at the aggregate of the data that you're collecting and then applying judgments about what makes sense.

Fin Goulding: Absolutely. Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: You have said that agile is dead.

Fin Goulding: [Laughter] Yeah.

Michael Krigsman: Given that you're talking a lot about agile, what does that mean, "Agile is dead"?

Fin Goulding: You have to be controversial sometimes to get heard in this world. What's happened is that, from a technology perspective when we talk about agile, we often see it with a capital A, almost like a product or a methodology that, in some circumstances, can be quite restrictive and prescriptive. The founding forefathers of agile that actually wrote the manifesto are actually starting to say, "Hang on. This is not what we said. What we wanted was for individuals to be agile, not to buy agile as a solution." That means sometimes pivoting quickly, changing, going down different paths, and not necessarily following something that somebody else has put in place that you now need to do.

There's a big movement amongst the community to say, "Let's go back to the principles of being agile, working together, emphasizing the culture a little bit more, less of the tools, and less of some of these techniques, which they themselves are even 10, 15 years old as well, and they kind of got stuck in the moment. Agile is not dead, but what we need to do is reboot it, actually free it, and actually give it a different way of delivering, which is to encompass the business. It's to encompass wider customers, and it's to use some of the more modern techniques.

Michael Krigsman: We have another comment from Twitter, a really good one, actually, again, from Donald. Donald makes the point that cultural change requires leadership that develops a genuine version. I guess it raises the question, what did we mean by the right type of cultural change? He also says that team diversity should be encouraged at the same time.

Fin Goulding: Yeah, I think diversity is extremely important. In fact, I'm in charge of inclusion and diversity here in Ireland. That's one of my side jobs, and I really enjoy that.

The cultural thing, it's easy to say it and it's much harder to do. I find that when people embark on cultural transformation, they get very transfixed on processes, methodologies, even values. They kind of miss this last bit, which is more, as I said earlier, about mindset and mindset shifts. What I try to do is I have this method of meeting everybody in the organization.

Every month or more, I meet 10 to 12 of our team at all levels. I just ask them, "What is it that we're doing that frustrates you, or what's stupid that we're doing?" The feedback is amazing. A lot of it is just giving people that ability to talk. You quite often hear in feedback surveys, "I don't get the opportunity to give my feedback."

I think it's important that leaders meet with everybody in their organization at some point, plus involve yourself in all the hiring. One great way to change the culture is to hire the right people with the right fit in the first place and not leave that completely to other people that may not understand what you're actually looking for. For me, that's one of the most important things is the front door.

Michael Krigsman: Yeah, and I think that gets also back to what we were talking about earlier is, hire people that have a natural propensity and comfort with communication and sort of wearing multiple hats to be sure that things are flowing, to use the title of your book, which also is related to the whole compensation. Basically, talent, I guess, is the broader umbrella, is a crucial, crucial part of this.

Fin Goulding: I totally agree. To put a bit more clarity around that multiple hats thing because it sounds a bit half-baked, but it's not. There is, actually, a lot of studies around what they're calling T-shaped people that have broad skills as well as lighter skills or pie-shaped, or even cone-shaped where you have a number of special skills that you're actually working towards.

I think it's fun to be able to do that within an organization and not get stuck in one particular area all the time. It broadens your output. In fact, I think most people that become CIOs have had to work in different parts of the organization. For instance, in networks, architecture, operations, or security to get that rounded view. Why not everybody else do it and actually have more enriching, meaningful jobs?

Michael Krigsman: Well, again, if we come back to the beginning of the conversation and the initial reference point that you established, which is improving customer experience, customer journeys, customer delight, you have to do that or it's just not going to be possible.

Fin Goulding: Yeah, I mean, therefore, if you're not wanting to do it, what are you doing? What is it that you're doing in your role? Maybe you're in the wrong place? I think that it's fun to actually interact with people that you're working for and you're serving in terms of customers. I think we have ways of bringing them into our organization, interacting with them, and even using techniques such as hack-a-thons and hack days to involve them in that process as well.

You're right. It's not for everybody. But, it's quite surprising when you get technicians who never get the chance to talk to customers who are involved in some ideation session, design sprint, or design thinking that really see the cause and effect of what they do. That's why I think it's quite fun.

Michael Krigsman: Well, certainly, for any type of high performing organization, they are going to be looking at and adopting these kinds of approaches that we're describing because I don't think it's possible to be a high performing organization of any type today if you're not doing that.

Fin Goulding: Yeah. Yeah, I think what's happening is the technique of visualizations using camera and board switches as a way of grouping work together, having teams from different disciplines working in the moment in the same location or via a video link or whatever on common projects is a way that we're seeing and driving more collaboration, getting better outcomes much faster, failing quickly. We don't fail in insurance; we pivot quickly.

There's a lot of that that goes on, which I find fun in the way that we're trying to work. Not only is this improving the business, but it improves people that are working in the organization as well.

Michael Krigsman: On the topic of improving the business, we have another question, which is, "How does flow address the needs of the changing insurance industry?" That's the industry in which you're operating.

Fin Goulding: Yeah. For us, what we see in flow is a mixture of techniques which are, from a customer value segmentation, innovation point of view, an adaptive portfolio of work, which is that kind of value management. There are team methods in terms of using lean software development, camera techniques. There's continuous delivery and there's cloud. All these things link together.

It means that we are deconstructing projects into smaller parts, delivering them quickly, seeing what works and what doesn't work, and then we can incorporate, into our work, new things that we need to address. For instance, let's say there's maybe some form of disrupter and we want to address that and have our own product that's going to be challenging that. We will not have to sit in a big change process waiting for resources to become available in two-year's time. That's just not the way it works anymore.

We can pivot fast. We can reprioritize. We can change things quickly, and we can actually insert, into the flow, new work that will address that issue if it's required.

Michael Krigsman: You raise another very, very important point, which we haven't really discussed, which is this need for speed. Nowadays, the business partners simply demand greater speed, which again cannot be accomplished with traditional projects and, therefore, creating the necessity to run an organization as you're describing.

Fin Goulding: Yeah. No, as a colleague once said to me, "To scale, you need to de-scale, so to do things on a smaller basis." But, it all assembles back like a mosaic into a picture that you can see.

For us, that speed has to be coupled with quality. Therefore, automation is key here. I'm used to, from the dot-com world, 50-plus releases per day. Large organizations and enterprises may still be working on monthly cycles or even slower than that in some cases.

Using these techniques gets you to the point where you can actually deliver smaller things faster but, at the same time, ensure that quality is there by incorporating a lot of automation and testing in the pipeline and delivery. Bringing that in does require some of the newer technologies, but we are using it in some of our traditional legacy and mainframe systems as well, so using a lot of the standup techniques, visualization techniques, and some of the delivery techniques even with those core systems, which have got an awful lot of value and history in them. It's just how you bring that out in a faster way.

You're right. There is a big expectation. But, if you're working on the right things in close collaboration with your business folks, you'll see that you'll actually end up working in a way that is delivering exactly what they want.

Michael Krigsman: Fin, we're just about out of time. As we close out, what advice do you have to CIOs that are listening to this that says, "Yeah, this sounds great, but how do I start? What do I do? I can't make it happen here. How do I make it happen here?"

Fin Goulding: It's always hard. We tend to recommend starting with a lighthouse project, something that's containable that you can actually see as an internal experiment where you've put all the people together who need to deliver something without an inefficient handoff somewhere else and see kind of the before and after of how this was working now; how it's actually delivering right now. A lot of it is around visualization and getting used to visualizations and putting stuff on the walls.

Sometimes facility departments don't like that, but we put on the walls simple things like thank you walls. We have a wall where people just write, "Thank you for helping me today," and we'll change that once a month. We clear it down and create a new one.

We have visualizations that show all the history of things which were blockages in the past, so we can learn from them. All of our projects are visualized. Like I said, use your management meeting. Visualize your management meeting into that kind of simple to-do, doing, done technique. You'll start to see visualization pop up everywhere.

Then, if you want to use the adaptive portfolio and some of the segmentation that we've been talking about, a lot of that is in the book. Not that I'm trying to sell the book, by the way. We have, actually, on our website, we've open sourced some of the diagrams and some of the techniques, so you can actually see them. We're really sort of saying to people, "Try these things, but not one size fits all. You would have to tweak it for your own organization."

I, myself, people reach out to me on Twitter and LinkedIn. I'm always happy to answer questions as much as I can and give people advice because I kind of did this for the community, for the CIO community, and for the betterment of the way that we work.

Michael Krigsman: I've really enjoyed this conversation. We hear the terms "digital transformation," "agile," "dev ops." They've become this kind of waving a flag. But, when you got in touch, I was so thrilled because I think, to drill down into the actual mechanics of how you do this, how you make these kinds of changes, which is precisely what Flow describes, I thought that would be very useful. That's why I titled this show The CIO Playbook.

Fin, thank you so much for taking your time and speaking with us today.

Fin Goulding: It's been a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

Michael Krigsman: We've been speaking on Episode #303 with Fin Goulding, who is the CIO for international at the very large insurance company called Aviva. Thanks, everybody, for watching.

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Published Date: Sep 07, 2018

Author: Michael Krigsman

Episode ID: 543