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IT Leadership // Digital Business
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5/4/2015
08:06 AM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Nordstrom VP: Take Emotion Out Of Agile Transformation

Mapping each step of a dev process can make the transformation more fact-based. It might look like micromanagement, but Nordstrom's Courtney Kissler calls it "honoring reality."

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Doing lean and agile development of mobile apps sounds like a cool way to work, right? But at Nordstrom, getting there first meant doing some boring, ditch-digging work of mapping out every single step that every employee took to deliver a new version of the retailer's mobile app.

That "value-stream map" showed Nordstrom took 28 weeks to deliver a mobile app version, said Courtney Kissler, Nordstrom VP of e-commerce and store technologies, in a session at the Interop Las Vegas Conference, held April 27-May 1.

A 28-week mobile-app cycle looked terrible. It made it clear to everyone that lots had to change, and helped build momentum behind lean and agile adoption. But even more, having every step mapped out showed how each team needed to change its approach. For instance, people realized that taking four weeks to provision a server was one piece of this 28-week problem, so they considered how they could change that as part of the overall push to remake this process.

"Then it became a non-emotional conversation, which is a critical component of why we're seeing this in more teams now," Kissler said in her presentation during the event's Applications Track. "This made it fact-based."

Through a lot of process changes, Nordstrom now is delivering a mobile app version every month. That pace is based on a business decision regarding how often customers want an app, not what IT is capable of producing. "We landed on a monthly cadence, but it's not a technology constraint," Kissler said. "The business actually can release whenever they want."

Courtney Kissler, Nordstrom's VP of e-commerce and store technology.

Courtney Kissler, Nordstrom's VP of e-commerce and store technology.

Things such as value-stream mapping fall under a larger lesson Kissler shared for doing lean and agile transformation: "Honor Reality."

I really liked this lesson for IT leaders. Too often, as managers, we assume how things are really working. Where delays and mistakes creep in, our estimates can be far from reality. Or, if teams aren't following processes or rules, we don't take time to figure out why.

Kissler compared this "honor reality" work to being a student, in what she calls the need to "go and see" what's really happening. Kissler has gotten pushback on this idea from people who label it micromanagement. "No, it really isn't," she said. "You're going and helping the team; you're connecting to the work they're doing. You're showing that it's important. You're asking questions. You're not telling them what to do; you're actually becoming a student. You're getting connected to their reality."

[ Is your mobile strategy broad enough. Read Enterprise Mobile Strategy, Meet The Connected Toilet. ]

Kissler shared a lot of lessons about transforming to lean and agile in her session, but I particularly liked the hands-on approach Nordstrom took here to honor reality. We often talk about making data-driven decisions. Nordstrom's value-stream mapping shows how sometimes we have to go and create that data ourselves.

"Make the conversation as much about data as possible and not about emotion," Kissler advised. "A lot of the skeptics come around once they see it."

What do you think about Kissler's "honor reality" perspective? Is this something you try to practice in your organization? Would you want to work for someone who brings this kind of approach? Tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in ... View Full Bio
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tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
8/17/2015 | 7:50:14 PM
Re: analysis
@batye: And it will be like that for a while. At this point people are becoming use to and accepting of the turnover. Tech changes used to be really dreaded. Now they are expected!
tjgkg
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50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
8/17/2015 | 7:48:50 PM
Re: analysis
@batye: Every year when i read the proxy booklets for the companies i own stock i get sick. The amount of compensation for the top executives is beyond ridiculous. Thankfully shareholders are starting to make noise.
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2015 | 11:07:12 AM
Re: analysis
@tjgkg, yes, but technology changing just to rapidly... and it get outdated too fast...
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2015 | 11:00:34 AM
Re: analysis
@tjgkg sad reality when Co... becomes too big and too greedy...
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2015 | 9:34:36 AM
Re: analysis
@batye: Change is happening in the new companies that are forming. And one of the good things about the Silicon Valley companies was their use of stock ownership which did share the wealth (and pitfalls) with the employees.
tjgkg
50%
50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2015 | 9:32:51 AM
Re: analysis
@batye: It is amazing that Apple has been able to get away with charging premium pricing for so long. Their products are great but in the electronics field prices tend to drop quickly. Except Apple. Although i do think that they are getting major push back with the watch. Sales have really slowed as the device, while really useful for me, is definitely over priced.
tjgkg
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50%
tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
7/7/2015 | 9:30:10 AM
Re: analysis
@batye: At $7000, gaming hardware is indeed expensive. And yes you can't just replace it unless you are rich. How long is the cutting edge hardware good for before the software overpowers it?
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/5/2015 | 7:53:38 PM
Re: analysis
@tjgkg, yes it sad reality of corporate world.... i do hope to see change...
batye
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50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/5/2015 | 7:52:16 PM
Re: analysis
@tjgkg, yes as Apple charge full price... but save money... via minimalist approach.... to packing and info... 
batye
50%
50%
batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/5/2015 | 7:51:03 PM
Re: analysis
@tjgkg, yes... plus this days with cheap laptops/desktops is cheaper to get rid of it... thank do repairs... gaming hardware is pricey and you have no way around as only to repair it...
Page 1 / 4   >   >>
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