Ian Mulvany

March 7, 2021

How to think about technical innovation in a medium to large organisation.

#blog #todigest #scpb #strategy #innovation #engineering #design 

(I drafted this post when I was in my old role, but a lot of this carries forward to my new role too). 

I like shipping things, and I like working with teams to help them become more effective, but what if in the race to help us get faster I end up just adding a whole lot of complexity to the organisation I’m working with because I keep introducing the shiny new thing, instead of the useful and productive thing! 

Three posts that I have read recently have helped me think my way through this a bit, along with a good dose of confirmation bias, and retroactive story telling. 

In Choose Boring Technology Dan McKinley advocates strongly for limiting technology choices so that organisations have more cognitive capacity to think about how to solve actual business problems. For the the standout quite is 

Technology has global effects on your company, it isn’t something that should be left to individual engineers. You have to figure out a way to make adding technology a conversation.

In Forget monoliths vs. microservices. Cognitive load is what matters. | TechBeacon Matthew Skelton and Manual Pais go into some detail about the costs of cognitive load on developer productivity and advocate for elevating this kind of thinking over debates about monoliths vs Microservices. 

In Dear Agile, I’m Tired of Pretending - Columbus’ Egg - Medium it seems to me that Chales Lambdin rails against the drive to optimisation through the adoption of agile as a systems level process in contrast to the quest for value creation through a heterogenous approach to systems thinking. For me the two pull quotes in this long, and fascinating, if sometimes uncomfortable read are:

. Because real value is ensured by options, and options are generated by discovery. 


Have you ever heard of the Law of Requisite Variety? The component with the most options controls the system. 
Taking all of these views on board, what then is the responsibility of someone who has the title Head of Transformation

I think it is to have a remit and duty to think about what our future might look like, how to get there, and what kinds of product development, or technical tools, might help us get there, so explicitly to be pulling apart the as-is in the search for continued creation of value, with the recognition that probably a lot is already optimised. 

About Ian Mulvany

Hi, I'm Ian - I work on academic publishing systems. You can find out more about me at mulvany.net. I'm always interested in engaging with folk on these topics, if you have made your way here don't hesitate to reach out if there is anything you want to share, discuss, or ask for help with!