Digital: Disrupted: Get Past the Dogma and Get Productive
June 2, 2023
In this week’s episode, Paul sits down with Shaun Rankin to dive into a conversation around a dogmatic approach to data. Shaun discusses how relying on data standards can actually hinder productivity in an organization, and how to find the balance between pragmatism and dogma.
Digital: Disrupted is a weekly podcast sponsored by Rocket Software, in which Paul Muller dives into the unique angles of digital transformation — the human side, the industry specifics, the pros and cons, and the unknown future. Paul asks tech/business experts today’s biggest questions, from “how do you go from disrupted to disruptor?” to “how does this matter to humanity?” Subscribe to gain foresight into what’s coming and insight on how to navigate it.
About This Week’s Guest:
Shaun is a data specialist with over 30 years of experience spanning data strategy, data governance, data analytics, and data lake initiatives. He has led data strategy at major banks such as Key Bank and Citizens Bank, and is an expert at strategically aligning people, processes, and technology through analytics and collaboration.
Listen to the full episode here or check out the episode transcript below.
Paul Muller: The nice thing about standards, it was once said by computer scientist, Andrew Tendon, is that there are so many to choose from. For anyone who's been in IT for more than a minute, you've either chuckled to yourself at that one, or you've heard it before. It reflects the nature of our rapidly evolving industry. The fact that we struggle to keep up with the tension that exists between innovation, the tension between proprietary interests, and our love of predictability of standards. And it's the latter part that we want to talk about today. I wouldn't mind betting that you, our listener, are either a victim of or complicity and or possibly both when it comes to trying to build and or maintain standard processes, procedures, technologies, methodologies, ontologies, all the ologies that exist in your business. The standards themselves are great, aren't they? When we are the ones creating them. But they tend to suck when they're enforced on us by outsiders, especially pesky government agencies.
Yet in the world without standards, it just seems like it'd be an unbearably chaotic and wasteful place to live. I mean, why would we want to reinvent the wheel each time, yet we do, don't we? So, how do we, can we even find a harmonious balance in the tension between the dogmatic pursuit of standards and the way of doing things and the pragmatic way of just getting things done? Now, before we get into that discussion, please take a second to check out today's sponsor at Rocket Software to see why over 10 million IT professionals rely on Rocket Software every day to run their most critical business applications, processes, and data. Well, our guest today I'm excited to say spent a great deal of their time trying to thread the needle between those two pragmatism and dogma. He's a specialist in all things data, with over 30 years of experience spanning data strategy, governance, and data analytics, as well as you know, big data, big data lake initiatives and so forth. And for a range of major financial institutions and banks such as KeyBank and Citizens Bank. He's also an expert at helping align people, processes, and technologies from a strategic basis through analytics and collaboration. Welcome to the show, Shaun Rankin.
Shaun Rankin: Thanks, Paul. Good to be here!
PM: It is absolutely fabulous for you to be here. I haven't seen you face to face since Florida. How have you been?
SR: I've been good. Florida was a great trip and been busy, real busy.
PM: Where do we find you today?
SR: I'm in Akron, Ohio.
PM: Oh, lovely stuff. Well, thank you for taking the time to spend on the topic. Before we jump into dogma versus pragma, I'm not even sure you can say that. You know what I'm trying to say pragmatism, but we do a little thing we like to call the lightning round on the show. And unlike other shows where they put the lightning round at the end, we put a house at the start. So, you ready to do this?
SR: I'll do my best.
PM: All right, let's limber up. First question I ask everybody who joins the show for the first time is, what would people say is your superpower, Shaun?
SR: Smooth negotiator.
PM: When did you realize you had that superpower?
SR: Probably maybe eight or nine years ago. Just this week, our CIO said, hey, that Rankin did a masterful negotiation through that standard. Ironically.
PM: Is it something you knew you had, or you had to have it pointed out to you?
SR: I knew, I knew, but it's affirmation. It's always good to get affirmation.
PM: Great. I want that superpower. Alright, next question. The most disruptive technology of all time?
SR: I think it's the internet, and it's not just the internet, it's we've created this virtual space that is boundless and now we can do marts and videos and all kind of things. Whatever we can dream up in this ethereal space.
PM: Couldn't agree with you more. All right. The best quality a leader can have.
SR: I think the best quality for a leader is sensitivity, right? Compassion, really connecting with a person, having their finger on the pulse of things that aren't said.
PM: Taught, or is that something they just have to have, do you think? Is it a skill that's teachable?
SR: So, it's an awareness of others. Maybe is an easier way to say it, right?
PM: Yeah. I guess my question, is that a skill that you think can be taught or is it just something people innately have?
SR: I think you can learn it, yes.
PM: Yeah. I wish some people I knew would take the time to do that.
SR: Yeah, right. It’s a choice. You have to choose to want to listen and be aware and conscious of others. So, once you make the choice, then you can learn it, but some people don't. They are not at the point of making the choice.
PM: Right. That's fascinating. So you do think it is very much just about switching something on? I hadn't thought about it as being really that much driven by the individual's desire versus something that had to be, as I say, to be actively coached on. It's a really good point. You've obviously been doing this a little while. I'm sure you've met a number of early cadets in the industry. What's your advice to people starting their careers?
SR: Be bold and courageous. Be genuine. Okay. Take a bite. The apple is bigger than you can chew. It's okay. You're going to stub your toe. Don't try to be so perfect. Go test and learn.
PM: Amen brother to that. All right. The first thought that comes to mind when you think of the word dogma?
SR: Honestly, bureaucracy.
PM: Interesting. We're going to get into that in a minute. All right, final question. If you could use technology to solve one world problem and you just get one, Shaun, what would it be and why?
SR: Silence. I think we have a lot of noise in the world and if we can just get some silence, it may help us contemplate.
PM: You just blew my mind. All right, we're switching the podcast off now. Ladies and gentlemen. Enjoy the next 45 minutes of silence brought to you by Shaun Rankin. I love it. That's brilliant. I always give an award to everyone who has a first of a kind. Yeah, there you go. You get the award. I did not see that one coming. Alright. Hey, before we get into the topic of dog pragmatism versus dogma, tell us a bit about your background. How did you come to be doing what you're doing?
SR: Sure. So, I've been in technology my entire career. I started as a summer intern in 1986 in the telecommunication industry doing business intelligence reporting and have just stayed in the data space pretty much the whole way, you know you get from reporting, you get to data marts, you get from data marts to warehouses, then you realize you need a customer master, then you realize you need some governance, data architecture pieces of it and then you need to tie the whole story together. So now you need enterprise data strategies. Some of that then in late eighties, early nineties was a consultant, consulted with a bank for four years. So, they hired me in and I've been in banking for 30 years.
PM: Curious question without notice. How have you seen the world of data change over the last 30 years in that regard? Cause I'm guessing obviously the audience can't see my face, but I was somewhat shocked by the use of the term AI obviously going back 30 years ago, I consider it to be relatively modern. Would you say the industry's remained somewhat static with a few tweaks or has there been some fairly radical changes along the way?
SR: No, there's been definite game changers. Certainly, they'll go back to the internet right. Now there's an internet of things. There's so much data, there's so much volume. The AI ML pieces that are going on, how do I ingest data? The one that we're chewing on now with metadata and some of our Rocket software is how do I understand complex systems? If I have a thousand data points in 200 different places and they connect through 300 strings, how do I even understand that If I want to understand data, assess inventory and the movement of data through a system, I'm not even sure I know how to answer the question or even if I could show it in a three-dimensional space, how do I actually get value out of that? And I think all this data and the relationships between them, we're at a point now where we can actually think a little more three dimensional than just a spreadsheet, rows and columns. And we need a higher order of processing to even know what question to ask. So yeah, there are all kind of game changers happening.
PM: Follow on question to that. I'm guessing, I'm imagining 30 years ago you started looking at data, the business is not necessarily thinking about terms like governance and compliance associated with data outside of some of the obvious stuff like don’t leave it all lying around for people to find. Have you noticed or how would you characterize the level of government or regulatory interest in what’s happening with that data over the last 30 years?
SR: Yeah, it continues to grow. It continues to elevate expectations. The controls get to be more onerous. Certainly 9/11 had a complete shift and now we need a lot more control than we used to, you know, you start to run into financial crises and then the regulators want to get even more engaged. There was the whole privacy piece that drove a ton of engagement. CCPA and then the European control on data and it’s this data is about me and you should have a right as an individual to know where is it, who's seeing it, and to stop that right at request. So yeah, it's getting bigger and more involved.
PM: And I bring it up because when we talked about defining the word dogma during the lightning round, the first word that jumped to my view was bureaucracy. And I bring that up. Cause of course when we think about bureaucracy, we often think of government. We can be self-created in terms of a business, but they are definitely almost synonymous with it. So, I guess that's my little segue of saying maybe if you want to just start with, if I could go one step back actually, which is what got you thinking about this concept of dogma or your frustration with dogma. And you actually went to the point where you even created a bit of a, I'll call it a white paper, that I was fortunate enough you sent me a draft of where you've started to flesh out your ideas about it. What got this bug in your brain about the dogma of data?
SR: As I've been traveling through and working, I could start to see a lot of needless process, some of that, the regulatory oversight. We're being asked a question, you need data quality controls. Accuracy is a dimension of data quality. They read it in a book, they don't understand it, but they read it in a book. And so, they're saying, what are you doing about accuracy? And it's hard to explain to them, it's really tough to answer accuracy because they're not data experts. So I try this analogy, what time is it? What time is it? No, what time? How do you know what time it is right, it flows, it changes. You can't answer. And they're asking us to say, did you know at that point in time that that was the right thing? Just as an analogy, what's your address? What's your phone number? What's your email?
Those things aren't volatile, they have a tendency to change, but we're being asked to say, can you validate the accuracy? So now what do I do? Do I put a host of people in a room and they're always calling you and saying, is this still your email address? Is this still your email address? Right? It's an interesting thing. And just pieces like that. Maybe some company standards as we're trying to do new things and keep up with things that are happening in the industry. I see parts of our organization, or they actually hang on to standards and say, no, you cannot go to the cloud. We don't do the cloud. Are you kidding me? The entire world is in the cloud. All of our data's already in the cloud. So, breaking through some of those dialogues because of a standards perspective, some of the oversight, I see a lot of folly if you will. And so, we're trying to drive revenue, we're trying to save costs, we're trying to get better insights. Those are all impediments to us driving new innovation. And that’s when I really started getting engaged is when I could see that it's slowing business objectives down.
PM: All right. So, let's talk about maybe some of the roots of dogma because I don't know if anyone sets out to become, well actually maybe let's talk first about the title of your white paper. Because you talk about the idea of productivity through dogma, which when first reading makes me think I'm going to be more productive if I employ dogmatic principles about things. That sounds counterintuitive. Do you want to talk about the title?
SR: Yeah, sure. So look, we don't want to throw the baby out with a bath water. There's a need for process. We don't want to reinvent the wheel as you said, right? But we've got to get past the rule set. We've got to use those boundaries, but that enable the innovation to happen. And we get stuck on the rules, the standards, the dogma. And so, if you want to be really productive, you have to say, okay, this is just barely good enough. Now let's go and enable the human aspect of it. So, I want to get through the dogma. I don't want to spend a lot of time on the rule set. I want to say, okay, those are the rules, we're good. Then get into actually doing what you're supposed to do given a set of rules.
PM: Alright, so basically, it's getting to productivity via the dogma thing as quickly as possible. I'm not going to be more productive because I'm dogmatic. Got it. All right. So, let's talk about it. So why do people cling to this sort of dogmatic approach to the degree they do? Because I think if you woke up in the morning and said, I'd want to be more bureaucratic, they'd probably not come to work. I don't think anyone wakes up in the morning thinking, I know what we need is to gum up the works with unnecessary bureaucracy. What we need is to cling to the past like a rock. I don't think anyone wakes up in the morning with that idea. Yet everywhere we go we seem to see people almost fetishizing sometimes process, the way things are done, or the way things should be done. Why do you think it is, it's almost like an intrinsic human characteristic that we, and or maybe a business characteristic or organizational characteristic that we tend to default to this as a position. What's going on do you think?
SR: Well, we need to know the rules of the game, right? There's a goal and an objective. So, people want to know how do I color within the lines, if you will? And that's a good thing. I find myself when I'm bringing new employees into the company, what is the process to get them an ID to get them a laptop? I ask for process. So, I can appreciate that we need some process, but there's also pieces of it where we've lost sight of the purpose of process. So, people do process because the person before them used to do this. I get an email, it has a spreadsheet, I update the spreadsheet, I send it out. They do it just because that's the way that it is right. There's process that exists for process sake, if you will.
PM: I guess what's going through my mind though is if we don't have, well let's take a canonical, at least to my example, you kind of alluded to it before, master data management. One of probably what I would describe as the most challenging parts of dealing with data. So just as you say, there are some data that is temporal, right? So, we have this issue of what is the accuracy of the data? And to your point, in fact, Heisenberg has his all uncertainty principle. If you measure it deeply enough, it will be inherently wrong the second you measure it because the process of measuring it will change it. But without getting into quantum physics, that's definitely a tricky one. But even what is an address is a simple one. Do you mean my home address? Do you mean my work address? Do you mean it by GPS location?
Maybe I've got two houses. I mean I own two properties potentially. That's just a simplistic one. People's names, I mean, let's not even get into, well companies is a classic one. I remember from my old world we'd try and do a sales report to try and determine how much revenue we're making by customer, but we had customers who had different business names for the same business. And you'd have to ask yourself, well am I talking about a particular geography or a business unit? Some people wanted to slice and dice it by business unit. Other people wanted to just look at it as the total roll up number. And we would have endless arguments about what do we mean when we say our customer. So, I can see the need for some of these dogmatic pursuits of certainty. To your point, what are the rules of the game?
How do I define them to the point where I know how to play it and to win it? How do I make sure that if the competition is to not go to jail for breach of compliance rules. That's a pretty big gotcha. Right? And if I'm a board member, I'm going to index towards dogma and certain dogma. Cause I want certainty. I want to de-risk my world. Is that a fair characterization of why this sort of dogmatic approach tends to be, as I say, almost that default setting in business and particular as it relates to things like compliance? What are your thoughts?
SR: I think that it starts from a good place. And while I talked about goals, objectives, winning the game, revenue, that there are reasons for it. You bring up another one, risk management and every company has to take risk, and some are regulated industries. If financial work risk, you need to be pretty sharp about risk. There are penalties. What tends to happen is we start with the good reason for dogma and then we lean in on it too much and we grasp on the dogma as opposed to what's the objective of the enterprise? I'll just lean in on risk averse and then I'll be risk averse about everything. The fun dialogue we have is information security. We could eliminate a hundred percent of the risk. We'll close all the doors, we won't have any customers, then we don't have any risk. So, we got to get to this balance point of how you set it up in the beginning. You need to manage risk, you need to go for revenue. You don't want to put people in jail, you don't want to be unethical. That's another good one. As you're working with customers and their data, but it's not just the rules of the game that's going to help you get through that.
PM: Alright, so I'm looking at two polar situations at the moment. One being pure anarchy. We do whatever we need to do, we just kind of figure it out as we go. It's a vibe, it's jazz. We'll all be safe, we'll work it all out on the seek. Forgiveness, not permission will be cool, clearly not a great idea as appealing as it might be for some of our audience. And then you've got the flip side of it, which is, let's just set everything to minimize risk. So maximum compliance, minimal risk, we'll kind of deal with the crustiness of it because that's okay because no one ever got fired for buying IBM. You know, no one ever got fired for being too compliant. What are some of the risks associated with taking that sort of dogmatic, maximum compliance kind of approach?
SR: A couple come to mind. One is you stifle innovation, right? Change is happening at a massive rate. There's huge competition across the markets. We're all being asked to move faster, so we got to be creative. And the minute you say, hey, I, I'll stick with the cloud example, I would like to use the cloud to get some more compute power. Our standard says for privacy, we don't put customer data in the cloud. So, message end, and then most people give up. And the advice we gave earlier, be bold, be courageous. You need to be persistent. Some people who spend time and energy to go fight the fight and say, I get we don't put customer data in the cloud for privacy reasons, but we're missing this opportunity for revenue. I can't process terabytes of data on our current internal system. So, you've got to go push through the dogma, you got to go knock down some of those standards and get people to think differently.
So, you actually stifle innovation and most people will, they're all so busy, they'll just go to the next email rather than actually try to figure out how do we get past this? The other one is atrophy, so we build a process, we might even automate the process and then time passes a year, two years. And we don't know we have somebody that owns that process or other than they do it, they don't know why we put that process in place. They don't know why we set up that swim lane, why these teams are involved. They just work the process. So, when it comes time to change it or when we run into a customer or some human dynamic that doesn't fit that process, the system breaks. I have a process that people do by rote and so now I need to change, and we can't, right? Because this is the process.
PM: So, you gave two examples that I like one not directly related to this, but it seems similar opposite, which was the example of trying to develop a writing instrument that would work, a ballpoint pen that would work in space. Do you want to just talk a little bit about that?
SR: True story. It's the late fifties, early sixties. We're having a space race between Russia and America trying to send people into outer space. And when you're in space you need to write things down. So how are we going to use pens in outer space? And zero gravity, there's a pen, there's ink in the pen and it goes down, right? There's gravity that pulls it down. Well now I'm in zero gravity, how's that going to work? And America spent millions of dollars and figured it out. And they actually have a pen that pushes ink towards the tip in zero gravity. Our friends in Russia in the space race said, here's a pencil. We are so stuck on the dogma of how am I going to get the ink to the tip of the pen that we're missing the goal and objective, I need to write something down in space.
PM: That's a great one. And I think the other one you talked about in the context of things like automation, but also just the way things are done and people forgetting, maybe losing sight of context is you actually used a real-world example, didn't you? Of somebody who was basically trying to fill out tax forms.
SR: Yeah, recent graduates during Covid and this is their first job, first time doing their tax returns. They go online, they fill out the forms, the government says, we don't know who you are. They reject the tax form, please contact this website and it’s appropriate, we want to make sure you are who you say you are before you get a refund or we accept this return and we haven't seen you before.
PM: And now are just too frankly in the banking finance world. Your customer laws, I mean they're basically, it's a similar kind of thing, right?
SR: Yeah, very similar. And so, you go online and they're asking you questions. What credit do you have? Do you have a credit card? Do you have a student loan? Do you have an auto loan? They actually use other sources of data to validate that you and your driver's license, your social security number are who you say you are. You need two points to compare to say, is there a consistency or accuracy here maybe, right? And this person had no debt, so there was no second point to compare to. So, the process then said, please contact our office. Go visit them, bring your driver's license with you so that we can see you and see your driver's license and say, yep, you are indeed who you say you are. The offices were closed. And the machine said, go to the website to get your ID verified. So now there's a circular logic here is I can't go to the office, the website won't verify me. There's an automated process. I'm outside the standard process. Now what?
PM: I had that same thing happen to me, similar sort of thing. I had to prove my identity to a government service. And I was stuck in this loop where it sent me to a phone thing. It asked me to key in my number that I didn't have. And in order to get my number, I needed to use the website, which instructed me to go to the phone service. And I was stuck in this bureaucratic, weird loop that just kept going around and around. Absolutely frustrating. Everybody thought they were doing the right thing, but we've lost sight of the objective. We were trying to build a pressurized pen when a pencil could have done. Again, my point being, I suppose my question being no one set out to be that stupid. Let's call it what it is. It's just boneheaded stupidity. How did that happen? How can we identify that stuff and what can we do to break the back of that problem without breaking the business and exposing ourselves to unnecessary or reckless risk? Because really ultimately what we're trying to avoid here, how do we find the balance between dogma and pragmatism?
SR: I always like to start with focusing on the people, getting into an understanding of who that person is first. Then you can actually identify what the goal objective is, what their purpose and mission is, and then stay focused on, we need to write something in space as opposed to, how do I get into the tip of the pen? There's a human element here that we tend to overlook when we put a process in place, when we put automation in place, we're forgetting that there's a people dynamic side of it. I'm trying to lean hard left onto, let's embrace the people side of it as opposed to automating it out of the process.
PM: I guess I'm thinking going back to your point about take some risks, which in essence was your message to young people starting their careers. Is part of the problem that people are so terrified of failing or getting it wrong that they default to it and we are not giving them, whether it be the psychological safety or the organizational safety to even speak up. Let's be really clear to even say, hey, I've spotted a bit of insanity here because you might be talking about an insanity your boss created, your boss's boss is created, right? I mean, I think the way people, the cliche is calling somebody's baby ugly, apologies to all the babies out there who are listening for whatever reason, but because that's the problem a lot of the time these people might see it and they're like, I don't want to be the one who brings up the fact that the emperor has no clothes because I'm worried about retaliation. I'm worried about being seen as a troublemaker. Is that what you mean by focusing on the human element?
SR: Yes. I was more on the consumer side of it.
PM: Sorry. Yeah, good point. Yep.
SR: But I do like that as well. Or I want to go deeper on this. I have a fairly large organization. You want to get to know the people that are in that organization. You want to understand what those people's mission or purpose or objective is. Some people don't even think about “what do I want to do with my life.” Look, I got a job, I'm doing a paycheck, I punch the clock, I answer my email, I go home. I don't cause any stress for other people. That's a good thing. And what I want is for us more in that human condition, why are you here? Why are you coming to this place? Why do you get up from bed and turn off the snooze? And get people to really think about what matters to them. And if that mission and what motivates them, lines up with company objectives, awesome. Now you're going to have a much more productive workforce. Maybe it doesn't line up, that's great. Now I don't have somebody who's just punching a clock. They can go pursue something else that motivates them, brings them joy, happiness, as opposed to, oh, I got to drudge myself into work every day.
I want us to get aligned with our personal purpose and then what corporate or revenue or life mission, purpose that we want to pursue. Because that's what then brings about satisfaction. That's what brings about happiness and then productivity.
PM: The human factor. And I'm glad you raised that, both from the side of the people administering and hopefully breaking or innovating around the established processes, procedures, the internal dogma, but taking a human-centric design perspective for the customer of that approach as well. And we've got to look at both. My fault, I literally had forgotten all about the customer in this whole thing, which is I guess is exactly your point, right?
PM: Your facial expression. I wish people could have seen it. You were nodding yes. You finally get the point of the, we're 30 minutes into the conversation, you finally switched on Paul. Yes. Think about the customer. That's the problem with all of these things. Got it. Alright, moving on. Any other thoughts on how we can crack the back of this problem? Are there some prescriptions you have for us?
SR: So, I'm an agile advocate. So, iterations, right? It's evolution, not revolution. So, take the process today, do it, learn from it, and then tweak it. We don't have to invent the next big thing like the internet. Just continuously improve. Just allow for the evolution naturally to occur, enable that evolution to occur, enable people to test and learn, enable them to fail early, learn, get better.
PM: Yeah, I go back to that earlier point that we were just discussing though. I think it's an easy thing to say. It's a remarkable manager and leader who is able to create an environment where that failure is, I'd hate to, I want to use the word if not encouraged, but well managed without consequence for the individuals involved that they are able to do that takes some risks and it not impact their career. The words get banded around a lot. I'm not sure where we always follow through on it.
SR: It takes some vulnerability as I talk about customer or colleagues. You got to be human yourself. And when you could acknowledge your humanity, which comes with weaknesses, it's easier to embrace and celebrate other people's uniqueness and wins and failures and watching people grow from those failures and from the wins.
PM: Yeah, no, I agree. Other thoughts then as we sort of wrap up? I mean you talk about, actually I was looking at your white paper, something about following the herd. What does that mean?
SR: We stole this one from Disney. Disney fan got a Disney thing behind me. So, in any crowd you have early adopters, you have detractors, and then somewhere in the middle maybe 60, 70% of the herd. And the detractors can take a lot of energy trying to spend time and energy convincing them to rethink, to move, etc. So, what you do is you ignore the detractors. You don't spend one ounce of energy trying to convince them to change their thought or their process. You take their early adopters, you make them wildly successful, and then you celebrate their success very publicly and openly. And then the herd in the middle will tend to follow. So rather than wasting time and energy on the detractors, just take the early adopters and make them successful.
PM: And why do you think that's so important in the context of dealing with breaking these log jams around dogma and because who are the detractors? Sorry, maybe that's really the question I meant to ask is as you're describing, so I'm thinking who would in their right mind be saying that they are okay with pursuing the status quo? Who does that?
SR: Well, look, there's natural tension in any organization. So, you've got a sales side and you have a risk side, you've got operation side, you have a security side, they have a job to do, it’s good. There are standards in place that were put in place for a reason and they're good. There are people that know them and that have been in that space for some extended period of time. So, they start to clinging to them, I know how to do my job because this is what the process is I need to do. I'm comfortable. And that's okay, right? There's a need for that. But though the world is changing so fast that we've got to enable the change. So rather than trying to convince everybody, the herd and the detractors or trying to convince the detractors, just start making success and wins in with the innovators with the early adopters.
PM: No, I love it. Perfect. One of the things you talk about is the Korn Ferry exercise. I've never heard of it. What is it about?
SR: The corn ferry exercise was they're trying to teach us how to do agile, how to be product owners in an agile thing, in an agile environment, how to enable productivity of individuals. How do you get a team to be more productive? And so, what they did was they ran three quick iterations within an hour, and they said, okay, Rankin, you're the product owner and here's three people that you have that work for you. And they put colored blocks on the table, and they blindfolded the people and they said, you have to use your non-dominant hand. And the idea was, I want you to stack the blocks, just stack them as high as you can. Those three people, product owner, you can't touch them, but you can all talk. So, they can't see and they can't use their normal dominant hand. So, you'd go through the exercise in three minutes, and you'd build, you'd be able to stack two or three blocks.
They ran the second iteration and said, okay, product owner, you're going to sit with the team and you're going to plan what you're going to do and then you're going to be quiet and watch them do their work. And second iteration was better, and they were able to stack maybe six blocks or eight blocks without any talking. And then the third iteration, and this really drove it home, was they took the product owner out of the room, and they said, team, go do what you do. And there were teams that were stacking two and three towers and stacking 20 blocks and all that. It's like get out of the way of your team. Let them be innovative, productive, your oversight tends to stifle it. And it was an eye-opening exercise for us.
PM: Fabulous stuff. That's fabulous stuff and I really appreciate you sharing that story. Alright, well that about wraps it up for today. I know you've got a very busy day ahead of you. I really cannot thank you enough. I remember the colonel of this conversation back when we were in Florida together and it's just great to read more of your work. I'm looking forward to seeing it evolve and publish. It is a really fun and important and gnarly topic. It's not a topic that I think is going to go away. I think bureaucracy tends to just creep in when we are not looking for all the reasons we talk about. It's a safe place for people to go. If you are the person who created their bureaucracy, you might just want to keep it that way because it works for you. But it's also, as you say, it does hold us back in terms of innovation, stifles creativity, and at the end of the day, it impacts our customers. And that's a point you made really clearly today. So, thank you so much for joining us. Looking forward to, as I say, seeing more of your musings and writing. Shaun, if people are interested in getting in touch with you, do you have social media or anything that they can go to?
SR: I've got a LinkedIn profile at Shaun Rankin.
PM: Great. We'll put that into the show notes. Alright, with that one last question. Now show sponsor Rockets Software. You've mentioned them a couple of times, so thank you for getting that in. There you go. You win a prize. They've got a set of values. They talk about the things that matter to them, their corporate values, which I love reading out at the end of every show. Empathy, humanity, trust and love. That's what matters to Rocket. Just curious what matters to you right now?
SR: Those are awesome, but I mentioned the trust thing. I've invested a good year and a half weekly meeting on trust because it accelerates speed if we can just trust each other. But for me, what's top of mind are two things. I'll go back to what I said at the beginning. Courage, right? Ever since 9/11 in a whole host of history in the past 20 years, we've been living in fear and we need to be pulled and courageous and try things and speak up and like in your example, be courageous. And then the second thing is a little mercy, right? We're human. It's okay. Embrace the struggle. Forgive yourself a little bit for your mistakes, right? Don't try to be so perfect and then give each other a little bit of encouragement.
PM: I’m into that. Shaun, thank you so much for taking the time. I really do appreciate it. It's been a fabulous thought-provoking conversation and thanks again to Rocket Software for bringing us another episode of Digital: Disrupted and thank you all for listening in the routine. Folks, if you like what you've heard do give us a thumbs up on your Apple, iTunes, Spotify, whatever you happen to be listening on via Zoom. If you've got one of those, you can also reach out to me at Xthestreams on social media, particularly Twitter show sponsor at Rocket. So you've got any questions for our guests, Shaun, or ideas or topics you want to hear covered, just shout out. We'd love to hear from you. With that, we'll see you all next week. Stay disruptive everybody.
SR: Thank you, Paul.