Ancient Chinese Philosophy introduces yin and yang as a concept of dualism, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually complement and connect each other in the natural world. We encounter yin and yang pairs in our professional world too. Meet one such pair from your workplace; Mr. IT and Mr. Business. They both undoubtedly have opposite and complementary strengths. Yet, time and again, they go in different directions. When they get out of sync, problems arise. Projects and initiatives struggle. Money runs out, heads roll and business goals seem much further away.
Yin and yang contain an essence of each other represented by a smaller circle in each half. The essence flexes as the circumstances change. The answer to an organisational problem could lie in technology one day, but business the next. A breadth of skills spanning across business and technology enables people to find the right solution. Having said that, the depth and breadth of knowledge and skills, as well as the aptitude to acquire these skills varies with individuals. No-one can be the same. As a way forward, define bridging roles that span across business and IT. Follow it up by recruiting suitably skilled individuals in these roles and support them adequately, so that they can help teams drive successful business outcomes.
Years ago, whilst trying out various IT roles, one of my managers gave me an invaluable advice to concentrate on acquiring business skills. He had a view that technical skills were less important for business growth. I did not fully agree with him but took his advice on-board. Since then, I have made an effort to learn business processes and understand business challenges, without relinquishing my core technical skills. When fulfilling hybrid roles, such as a Solution Architect or an Enterprise Architect, my objective is always to solve business problems with technology. I must admit that, with this strategy, I invariably succeed in driving successful business outcomes.
Yin and yang are also the starting point for change. When something is whole, it is unyielding. So, when something is split into two halves – yin/yang - it upsets the equilibrium, but it brings in a dynamic and healthier whole. Traditionally, we see that the Lines of Business (LoB) are the profit centres, hence forming the core of an organisation and budget. IT is the cost centre at its periphery providing services. This disparity fosters discontent and stifles creative and independent thinking creating an army of service providers, who do enough to stay under the radar and nothing more. Despite the claims to the contrary, most organisations operate based on a hierarchical, budget driven management structure. Budget holders alone make key decisions and hold the key to incentives across the organisation. Others either simply accept their fate or find ways to transition to a position that will give them power. As an IT Architect, I carry out work that is different, but no less important, to my business counterpart to deliver value. Even so, I sometimes hit the ceiling in terms of ability to influence decision making.
On the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, technology turns from a mere enabler into a differentiator, presenting challenges and opportunities at an unprecedented scale! Do you want to meet these challenges head-on and stay ahead in the game? Establish partnerships at all levels amongst all those who create value. This will prevent one dimensional and rigid management frameworks that are susceptible to failure. In addition, your business and IT teams must join forces and commit themselves to achieve the organisational vision. It’s time to think differently, to think Beyond Budgeting!
Yin and Yang are one vital force, the primordial aura. Wang Yangming