2 minutes with Stephen Morris
24 October 2019
Posted by: Abi Walker
How did you come to agile/business agility?
I ‘found’ agile from working over a decade at cloud-computing providers in the UK. These environments are uncertain and high-change with (what feels like) a daily onslaught of new tech, new products, new people, new clients and change in the marketplace. Delivering a world first without a team being hired yet wasn’t unusual!
As you might expect, detailed planning – even for infrastructure - fell well short, so I found the value early of inspecting/adapting to deliver the best value. A BCS talk in 2007 took me first to programme management (and good programmes are agile) and then later to Scrum, Kanban and other more recognisably ‘agile’ techniques.
What's your current job title?
Director, Trainer, Coach, Consultant - honestly, that varies!
What do you actually do?
I jointly own Open Square, and we help IT leaders to build teams that ROCK. Teams that ROCK are those that are completely connected with purpose, that act like magnets for more great people and that, despite the uncertainty, deliver.
We do that through a combination of teaching, partnering and mentoring in our bespoke Open Leader Method™ leadership programme.
What Agile techniques do you use in your day to day life?
With a relatively new business, testing, learning and failing fast are definitely central! More practically we’re never far from a Kanban board for day-to-day visibility.
Before working at your current company, what is the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
At 18, I took complaint calls at the Independent Tribunal Service’s ‘President’s Office’. Callers wanted to solve process or case review issues that were stopping their benefits being reinstated, and most were upset or even desperate. Some of the calls were very difficult, but I got a buzz when I was able to help and that gave me an early grounding in listening and customer care!
What's the biggest issue you see in your community at the moment?
For me, alignment of IT with the businesses they are part of. It galls me to hear IT leaders say things like: “The business doesn’t know what it wants!” or “We have to fit with their processes”, and inversely ‘the business’ saying “IT just do their own thing” or “they’ve done it wrong again”. Are they not part of the same business?
This can be a complex “them/us” problem to unpick in a given organisation, but it is very much worth it. Alignment at least cuts waste and if we want our steps towards organisational agility to stick, essential.
That’s easy: Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. If you’ve never read it, you’re genuinely missing out. It should be required reading in business schools and for anyone leading others.
Guest blogger bio
For over a decade, Stephen Morris has held senior leadership and consulting positions for cloud-computing providers and other companies with very high scale and complex IT. He was named “Most Influential Business Leader” in the 2016 UK Agile Awards, with one of his teams receiving “Most Improved Agile Team” the same year. Stephen now runs his own business, consulting, training and mentoring IT leaders that want to grow, build amazing teams and deliver better, more consistent results.