Telstra CIO makes space for IT mistakes

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Telstra CIO makes space for IT mistakes

Builds Telstra's culture for the 'knowledge era'.

Telstra has established a space for IT team members to publicise their mistakes and what they learned from them as part of the telco's move to create an adaptive, "agile" culture internally.

Chief information officer Patrick Eltridge delivered a rare report card on its two-year-old agile transition at an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia lunch this week.

Part of the agile transition was establishing a "learning culture" where mistakes weren't hidden but were made public and used as an opportunity for learning, he said.

Eltridge himself participated in the initiative, revealing internally the lessons he learned in establishing Telstra's first ever, company-wide list of projects.

He saw organisational culture change as a key tenet of Telstra's adoption of agile. 

The new culture needed to be "adaptive, ready to challenge existing constraints, and ready to seize emerging opportunities", he noted.

Eltridge described culture as "the fiefdoms that have built up over time and the mythologies that have become legend, the moral fibre of an organisation that makes sense to us, feels safe, even if aspects of it are perceived negatively".

In order to change the culture of the organisation, Eltridge sought to understand the culture and then find a path to make the changes he needed.

If "culture is the way we do things" then adopting an agile operational mode was as much about changing culture as delivering on projects, he noted.

"Agile is not just a software development methodology. Agile is a way of working. It's a set of social, technical and management practices, principles and behaviour that drive a more productive and enjoyable experience," Eltridge said.

Building an agile culture was underpinned by values of courage, accountability and trust.

Importantly for the business, there are clear, measurable benefits that come from an agile culture.

The benefits are many in Eltridge's view and include assurance that business value is delivered, improved customer satisfaction, better risk identification and management, and higher quality.

These bring higher profits, with cost and time savings emerging as "happy by-products" of the culture and methodological change.

Eltridge said he endeavoured to create an organisation that was suited for the "knowledge era" and able to adapt to the rapid pace of change.

He hoped to engage people in the change process by presenting a vision of the future and then working with his team to develop a plan for change. This plan would be designed by those involved in the change rather than being foisted upon them.

Eltridge noted that his team's agile culture and methodologies were now being emulated in other parts of the business, in a bid to improve internal and external service delivery functions.

The change was reflected in new contracts and engagements with partners and customers, Eltridge said.

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