Our Journey

Cover photo for article 'Our Journey'

I really dislike the word “journey” - it feels trite and overused in the modern technology movement. But I’ve had trouble finding a more fitting description for what’s going on here at American. “Quest” perhaps? I like that – reminds me of MP and the Holy Grail. But “quest” implies an end point and I think we all know that transformation is a continuum, not a destination.

So, journey it is.

Our journey started with our fervent desire to simply stop being the long tent pole in any effort. I was so sick of hearing “We want to do this super cool thing but it’ll take IT a year to deliver.” We all knew there had to be a better way. And beyond that, we knew that our competitive advantage wouldn’t come from any one discreet accomplishment – in this industry if it’s a good idea it’s just a matter of time before someone copies it. No, the competitive advantage would not come from WHAT we did but rather HOW we did it.

So HOW do we change our HOW?

We started with recognizing we didn’t know the answer to that and only through dedicated intentional learning would we figure it out. So we read. We went to conferences. We talked to those who had already plowed the trail. We experimented. We trained. We learned some more.

Just like all challenging journeys, there has been blood, sweat and tears on this one. And many moments of doubt. Did we miss the fork back there? Did we bring enough snacks? Is everyone keeping up? And we’ve had lots of setbacks. Early in the journey when we were starting to introduce the concept of MVP our business colleagues said “Well, you can use MVP but we want the M to stand for “Maximum”. We want you to deliver the Maximum not the Minimum. I mean, duh, IT, isn’t that obvious?”

Yes, there have been a lot of tears on this journey.

I think there were three things that allowed us to persevere:

  1. Terrific leaders who kept the faith (even when I didn’t I’m embarrassed to say)
  2. Terrific team members who through their grass-roots efforts made steady, measured progress
  3. Terrific partners both inside and outside our organization who provided enormous help

It all comes down to people doesn’t it?

I know I’m talking in the past tense here “kept the faith”, “made progress”, “provided help”. Sounds a bit like we’ve arrived.

We haven’t.

But we have passed a few mile markers and it’s really nice to see them in the rear view mirror. Like last year we developed an improvement kata around “deploy when ready” for AA.com that said: “When a developer submits a pull request, their code is in production within 1 hour and every step of the process is automated.” Then we all sat around and laughed at how ridiculous that sounded. We were so far away from that ideal.

But this year that’s exactly what we’re doing.

The mile markers help us see how far we’ve come but they simultaneously show us how much further we have to go.

Fortunately though, we’ve got terrific people and lots of Twizzlers and Red Bull. Let the journey continue!

our author(s):
Maya Leibman