What can IT organizations learn from the Houston Astros’ historic win?

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They did it! I never really thought they would. But they did – last week the 2017 Houston Astros became MLB World Series Champions. I’ll say it again…the 2017 Houston Astros, my home town team, are World Champions!

But why on the earth am I writing about this on the Tasktop blog? Because it turns out that there are some interesting parallels between winning the world series and successfully delivering software at scale. Both are high intensity, high stake journeys that heavily rely on teamwork, deft coordination and complex collaboration.

Winning the World Series isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes time. It takes clever management (often on the fly), a clear strategy and above all else – clean execution. It requires input and support from all levels of the organization. It demands hard work, flexibility and willingness to try new things and not fear failure. And of course, it takes talent.

Incredibly, the Astros have been building this team for over seven years! It’s been a long and arduous journey that has seen its fair share of ups and downs (especially ‘downs’…the Astros lost 100 games in a row in a three-year period between 2011 and 2013). Such poor form could’ve broken even the best of teams. But not the Astros.

Not even when they were down 3-2 in games to the New York Yankees. They kept getting back up. ‘Resilience’ has been a popular watchword about the Astros. Another was ‘process’. As I watched all the interviews with the team and post-game analysis, I noticed a reoccurring mission statement which was basically: “Believe, trust and stick with your process.” Sound familiar?

Defining, building and optimizing your Value Stream Network – the highly-complex collaboration between all teams, tools and processes that help enterprises plan, build and continuously deliver software – is also something that doesn’t happen overnight (nor does it just ‘happen’ by wishful thinking and luck alone).

Like the Astros, you have a vision and you chip away at it in a strategic manner, keeping faith in a well-planned process. You focus on aligning players and addressing key plays, or what we call in large-scale software delivery ‘Integration Patterns’. Concentrate on all the direct and indirect inputs, and work out how to transform them into powerful outputs. For the Astros, that was a George Springer home run. For an organization, it’s an innovative software feature that works straight off the bat (pun fully intended).

Of course, there is one very distinct key difference (beyond the whole baseball/software thing): the Astros’ plan took seven years to come to fruition – but if you get your Value Stream Network right, you’ll see the benefits very quickly. Especially as you build out and optimize different stages across the pipeline, generating value at each stage as you build to end-to-end value from ideation to production.

The Astros’ remarkable journey has taught us a lot about unity, collaboration, belief and process, and IT organizations can learn a lot from this unlikely cast of characters – as I’m sure a lot of smaller startups and digital disruptors have too…