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A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility Paperback – October 2, 2017
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Mark Schwartz is a rare combination: a deep thinker who has also applied lean, Agile, and DevOps principles at the highest level, leading an extraordinary Agile transformation in the US Federal Government at USCIS. In this book, he shows how modern IT lead-ers succeed by driving business outcomes rather than operating an order-taking function. This shift in organizational mindset is critical to any successful technology transformation but requires substantial changes in behavior at every level, and Mark's thorough analysis will prove invaluable to leaders who must execute it. (Jez Humble, CTO, DevOps Research & Assessment LLC)
This book should be required reading for all technology and business leaders who are serious about digital transformation. It takes you on a provocative, fun, and comprehensive tour of the key areas that will promote and ignite agility, creativity, learning, community, and collaboration. This book may be about taking a seat, but this is no time to be sitting still! IT leaders will be convinced that their job is now about incentivizing and inspiring courage, passion, and technical excellence in service of business objectives rather than blindly servicing requirements. You will find practical advice on how to deal with projects, scope creep, IT assets, governance, security, risk management, quality, and shadow IT. (Jason Cox, Systems Engineering, The Walt Disney Company)
In his first book, The Art of Business Value, Mark brought together aunique understanding of modern techniques―Agile, DevOps, andContinuous Delivery. In A Seat at the Table he grabs hold of theseconcepts and disrupts the conventional dynamics around the role ofthe CIO in any organization. His progressive thinking is unmatchedand a must read for leadership and practitioners of all kinds. (Luke McCormack, former CIO of the Department of Homeland Security)
High-performing organizations see technology as a strategic capabilityof their business. The walls, inertia, and confusion of seats, sides,and responsibilities does not exist for them. Yet many organizationsstill retain legacy mind-sets and behaviors that limit their opportunitiesto improve, innovate, and inspire their people. Mark shows thesteps needed to break free of these challenges and unlock potential,speed, and growth. His advice is pragmatic, practical, and to the point. (Barry O'Reilly, co-author of The Lean Enterprise)
“Agile” is more than a new software development practice; it is a newway to think, engage, and lead. As Mark Schwartz points out in hiscompelling new book, A Seat at the Table, when CIOs re-conceptualizetheir role based on Agile principles, they will stop worrying about havinga seat at the table, and start realizing all of the full potential of IT. (Martha Heller, CEO of Heller Search Associates and author of Be the Business: CIOs in the New Era of IT)
I use to feel guilty when someone would ask me how do I get my leader-ship to understand DevOps if they refuse to accept it. My answer was, basically, you can't. Now I can give them a copy of A Seat at the Table. (John Willis, co-author of The DevOps Handbook)
If you're a CIO, read this book. If you're not a CIO but work closely with one, read this book. Mark Schwartz is the best of iconoclasts. He brings deep insights from his unique erudition and real-world experience―ranging from a startup to government agency―in untangling the dilemma of the CIO in the second decade of Agile. There aren't many people who can swing from Horace to Daniel Pink without losing a breath. And there aren't many who can critique Agile and Waterfall with equal insight. This is a surprising book―well worth your (20%) time. (Sam Guckenheimer, Product Owner, Visual Studio Team Services, Microsoft)
Fresh thinking and useful advice fill the pages of Mark Schwartz's A Seat at the Table, which strikes an encouraging, instructive tone about the future of IT leadership and the CIO's expanding business role. “If we cannot know the future, then we have to think a bit dif-ferently,” he writes. And he does just that. Mark's argument that IT executives must change their behaviors―dropping the “command and control” mindset in favor of community building and Agile leadership practices―resonates throughout this well-organized, thoughtful book. While attaining that “seat at the table” often refers to CIO career goals, the ideas and approaches explored in this book are essential reading for anyone hoping to advance in the IT profession today. (Maryfran Johnson, Executive Director of CIO Programs, IDG (International Data Group))
Mark Schwartz's A Seat at the Table will be one of the most important books on technology and business leadership of our generation. (Gene Kim, researcher, founder of IT Revolution, and co-author of The DevOps Handbook and The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win)
As with his book The Art of Business Value, Mark Schwartz directly confronts the tensions that exist across the corporate IT landscape, showing us how we got here and what to do about it. Almost every page contains a situation I've seen in my day-to-day work, but that have not been articulated before. [A Seat at the Table is] required reading for anyone seeking to understand how IT should work with an organization to achieve success in an Agile age. (Ian Miell, Lead Software Architect, Financial Services)
About the Author
Mark Schwartz is an iconoclastic CIO and a playful crafter of ideas, an inveterate purveyor of lucubratory prose. He has been an IT leader in organizations small and large, public, private, and nonprofit. As an Enterprise Strategist for Amazon Web Services, he uses his extensive CIO wisdom to advise the world's largest companies on the obvious: time to move to the cloud, guys. As the CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, he provoked the federal government into adopting Agile and DevOps practices. He is pretty sure that when he was the CIO of Intrax Cultural Exchange he was the first person ever to use business intelligence and supply chain analytics to place au pairs with the right host families. Mark speaks frequently on innovation, change leadership, bureaucratic implications of DevOps, and using Agile practices in low-trust environments. With a BS in computer science from Yale, a master's in philosophy from Yale, and an MBA from Wharton, Mark is either an expert on the business value of IT or just confused and much poorer.
Mark is the author of , which – he is proud to report – has been labeled by his detractors “The Ecclesiastes of Product Management,” and “Apocryphal.” The book takes readers on a journey through the meaning of bureaucracy, the nature of cultural change, and the return on investment of an MBA degree, on the way to solving the great mystery … what exactly do we mean by business value and how should that affect the way we practice IT? He promises that A Seat at the Table is more canonical and less apocryphal.
Mark is the winner of a Computerworld Premier 100 award, an Amazon Elite 100 award, a Federal Computer Week Fed 100 award, and a CIO Magazine CIO 100 award, which strongly suggests that there are less than 99 other authors you could better spend time reading.
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All managers, CIOs or not, deal with extreme uncertainty on a daily basis. The most successful CIOs will be those who best position their organizations to adapt and respond to unexpected events. This is a book that will show you how.
Take the time to read the excerpt with the introduction, TOC, and first 2 chapters.
Maybe Mark makes trouble because he’s has been troubled by his own role as a CIO during the Agile revolution. In “The CIO” chapter of AoBV, he tells a story about being called-out by the CEO for a project which delivered exactly what the business had asked for within budget and on time but was nevertheless, as Mark puts it “a disaster”. His reaction to the CEO at that time was the all-too-common, that’s on the them, not us -- we did our part. Mark’s CEO responded “You’re missing the point. I have trusted you with an investestment in an IT system. Your job is to make sure I get a good return on IT investments. I am not getting a good return.” This was a wake-up call for Mark and he clearly had much more to say on this than he could fit into one chapter of AoBV.
In his latest book, A Seat at the Table, Mark gives us a tour-de-force on how to close the gap between the Agile team and the traditional IT department. This time, he makes trouble for everybody. But stick with him. You’ll be glad you did because Mark will make you laugh and make you better.
In ASaT, Mark continues to to stir-up trouble for the Agile community. He doubles-down on what he calls Agile’s “fist pounding, this must change” echo chamber. He points-out the hypocrisy of how the Agile team expects management to stay out of the way unless there is an impediment, in which case they expect a bit of command-and-control to remove it. He also makes quite possibly the most provocative criticism ever made of Agile: “I am not sure that the Agile approach fully accounts for how the Agile team can deliver value -- and I think it should.”
Now, if you were to read those excerpts out of context (as I’ve presented them here), you might get the idea that Mark is opposed to Agile but nothing could be further from the truth. Wait until you read what he has to say about Waterfall.
Comparisons of Agile to Waterfall are easy to come by but Mark does it in a fresh way. In ASaT, he’s actually put his finger on the fatal flaw of Waterfall. He calls it the “contractor-control model”. This shines new light on something that, as Mark puts it, “is so ingrained in us, we don’t even know we’re doing it”. He further explains how traditional IT is still locked-in to that model and how its insistence upon imposing certainty where it isn’t possible is not only self-defeating but actively destructive.
Mark saves his most potent venom for Chapter 4 on planning, in which he launches a devastating assault on the plan-driven approach. Using reductio ad absurdum, Mark enumerates what he calls the “articles of faith for the PTW-WTP (i.e. “plan-the-work / work-the-plan”) religion”. It is both hilarious and boldly provocative. How provocative? Quoting this passage to management actually landed me in hot water for a couple of days. That is high-praise in my mind. Thank you Mark, sincerely.
A Seat at the Table is not just critical though. As one might expect from a scholar like Mark. It’s researched, constructive and novel. Beginning each chapter with a passage from a philosopher, he sets the stage for moving IT from a service provider to a driver of outcomes; replacing the plan-driven, control paradigm with ‘shaping behavior', a shift from ‘buy’ to ‘build’, a fresh look at Enterprise Architecture (EA) and a concept that I hope Mark is considering as the subject for his next book, impeccability -- although I suspect it’ll be EA.
This book is not just for CIO’s. If you are in IT, consider yourself an Agilist, want to understand more about Lean or DevOps, this book must be on your shelf, in your Kindle and part of your audiobook library. It’s that important of a work. Then, I challenge you to experiment with and advocate for some of the ideas put forth. Doing so will take courage. It may even put you at risk, but at least you’ll be choosing that risk and you’ll never wonder if you could have done more.
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