4 survival strategies for IT chaos

Your IT survival guide for the new business normal: Four steps for mastering the world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.

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3. Be a Chameleon

Unable to completely control her environment, P&G's Clement-Holmes has embraced a management strategy based on what can be controlled.

"VUCA is a lot about what you don't know. What we want is for people to focus on what they do know and can control," she says. For example, rather than waiting to get 20 people together for a meeting, which could take as long as 12 months given conflicting schedules, "get the people you have now and trust those people to start working on the problem," she says.

"In VUCA, you're making things up as you go along. We tell people not to wait for everything to be 100% perfect and don't make the simple complex. Go with your gut and your best professional instinct," she adds.

As an IT leader in a VUCA world, Clement-Holmes says her totem is a chameleon, the lizard whose eyes can rotate and focus separately to observe two different objects simultaneously. This is because IT must pivot between long-term growth and short-term efficiency gains, "regardless of VUCA," she says.

"At P&G, we have to increase revenue by billions every single year, and we've had our share of headwinds like commodity costs, the global recession and economic instability in Europe. There are a lot of levels of uncertainty, and it will never go back to the way it was," she says. "The pace of change is also different. Before, the windows were wider and longer and you had more time."

At the same time, IT must aggressively drive cost savings and productivity improvement. That means much shorter planning cycles and a need to continually reinvent the IT organization.

"Predicting what the business will be five years out is not realistic," she says. "Five years is forever. IT years are like dog years."

Two years ago, P&G created an incubator organization called FLOW, which Clement-Holmes describes as "a kind of special forces to quickly address really wicked business problems with dedicated full-time staffers with the right skills."

In a FLOW initiative at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, members of the team quickly set up a P&G-sponsored house where Olympians could visit with family members. "They needed to have it up and running in two weeks," she recalls. "With FLOW, we can staff a project with the right staff with the right skills in less than two days."

She likens the group to a medical triage unit. "They assess what you need and get you going out the door to the right place. But if they need to do surgery on the spot, they can do that, too." Every year, 20% of FLOW team members are transitioned out of the unit "so we have more people with a mindset of agility," she says.

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It’s time to break the ChatGPT habit
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