My professional journey began in a call centre when I was just 17 years old. Day after day, I interacted with customers facing various challenges—from those in distress over their accounts to those seeking assistance for their families or new homes. My objectives were clear: firstly, to excel as a customer-focused agent—the first point of contact between customers and our company; and secondly, to contribute to our team’s success by achieving our set KPIs at an individual and team target. At this time, although my objectives were clear, I didn’t quite understand Why I added value and how this contributed to the overall goals of the business.

Fast-forward to today. My journey into the world of technology a decade ago has been both rewarding and chaotic. In the fast-paced, ever-evolving tech landscape, chaos seems inevitable. The rapid changes and complex demands of engineering and platform management often create a sense of overwhelming disorder. Yet, within this chaos, I found opportunities to transform confusion into clarity.

Why, then, is it crucial to understand the value of our contributions and the overarching purpose—our “light on the hill”? How do these insights impact morale, well-being, and productivity, both individually and collectively? Let’s delve into that.

Understanding the Landscape: Initial Chaos

Over the years, I’ve learned that whether you’re part of a Support, Engineering, or Platforms team, the challenges are manifold. We’ve all grappled with fragmented processes, diverse technologies, rapid changes, and communication breakdowns—common scenarios in siloed teams or where communication channels are unclear. Such environments necessitate continuous updates and adaptations, which can be both exhausting and disorienting.

Despite these daunting challenges, I can assure you that with the right strategies, mindset, and support, it is possible to reign in the chaos and bring about clarity.

Creating Shared Understanding

One quote that has resonated with me over the years comes from John Doerr’s book, “Measure What Matters”:

“Ideas are easy. Execution is everything.”

“Measure What Matters: How Google, Bono, and the Gates Foundation Rock the World with OKRs” by John Doerr

This insight has been a guiding principle for me. Having great ideas is one thing, but executing them effectively is another. Often, execution can lack direction and collaboration, creating silos and leaving paths unclear. Here’s how I’ve learned to bring clarity to our work:

  • Define Your Objectives: Clearly identify the primary goals that align with the business objectives and focus on delivering value.
  • Cultivate a Culture of Collaboration: Encourage collaboration among cross-functional teams to achieve common goals and break down silos.
  • Establish Clear Communication: Use tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams to ensure transparency and maintain open dialogue.
  • Set Measurable Outcomes: Break down the vision into specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) milestones, giving the team clear direction.

Simplify, Simplify, Simplify

During a transformation of our core business systems and processes, a mentor’s advice stuck with me:

“Simplify, standardise, and automate,”

as stated by Duanne O’Brien, CTO of Serko Ltd.

This approach has been pivotal in our success. Once we established a clear vision, the next step was to simplify our processes and ways of working to enhance efficiency. This meant:

  • Standardising Procedures: Simplifying common tasks to reduce cognitive load and ensure consistency.
  • Adopting Agile as a Toolbox: Emphasising “people over process” and Leveraging the different agile methodologies (Kanban, Lean, Scrum, XP) can help manage and prioritise work effectively. Remember to use what is needed for the team to succeed. It is not about applying all; it is about continuous improvement.
  • Automating Toil: Using automation tools for routine tasks, freeing up our engineers for more complex, value-added activities.

Growth and Optimising the Practice

The debate over whether leveraging tools and platform learnings can enhance practice and drive greater value is ongoing. By adopting modern DevOps practices and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, we can bridge the development-operations gap and make informed, data-driven decisions that optimise processes and improve outcomes. This involves:

  • Investing in Training and Development: Continuous learning is crucial in tech; we invest in our team through training programs and conferences, encouraging internal knowledge sharing and collaborative projects.
  • Adopting Modern Practices: Practices like clean code and DevOps clarity by making code easy to understand and processes transparent, enabling teams to work more efficiently and effectively. Together, they provide direction through standardised procedures and continuous feedback loops, delivering greater value by ensuring high-quality, reliable software that meets user needs and adapts quickly to changes.
  • Making Data-Driven Decisions: Using real-time data to inform our choices rather than relying on intuition.

Cultivating Adaptive Resilience within a Team

Ultimately, the key to transforming chaos into clarity lies within the team itself. It’s about cultivating a mindset where challenges are seen as opportunities for growth and resilience is about moving forward, even when conditions change.

  • Encourage a Growth Mindset: It is not always easy to see the opportunity when there is change. Creating a culture where challenges are seen as opportunities for growth and encouraging team members to embrace change, learn from failures, and continuously seek improvement.
  • Support Well-Being and Work-Life Balance:  A healthy team is a productive team. Support the well-being of team members by encouraging work-life balance, providing internal support material/initiatives for well-being and fostering a supportive/safe.
  • Recognise and Celebrate Success: Celebrate milestones and achievements to maintain morale and motivation. As a team, Ka Pai cards or channels are an excellent way to encourage the cross-recognition of peers, which is essential to creating a culture of appreciation and acknowledgement.

Transitioning from chaos to clarity is not an overnight process—it requires a clear vision, streamlined processes, effective technology use, and a resilient team culture. By emphasising these elements, engineering teams can turn challenges into opportunities, creating significant value and achieving long-term success.

To encapsulate this journey, I reflect on a powerful quote from Gene Kim’s “The Phoenix Project”:

“Improving daily work is even more important than doing daily work.”

This is the essence of our journey from chaos to clarity—it highlights the critical importance of continuous improvement and refining practices, which are essential for transforming chaos into clarity and ensuring sustained success.