CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2 - 24

It was very satisfying to see my engineers reach out to others in
different parts of the company, explain the urgency with which they
needed things done, and achieve their desired results.
Don't Let Process Get in
the Way of Progress

If you've ever led a tough development

While I fully expected them to tell me

project with tight deadlines and

my plan was ludicrous, none of them

high expectations, then chances are

did. I knew completion in 90 days

you've set up a hotline and given

was undoable, as did they, but we all

As we worked at speeding our

your engineers explicit directions to

wanted to strive and push ourselves

development time, we took the

call immediately should they hit any

nonetheless. And we thought, "If not

opportunity to identify and document

barriers. Then you've waited for the

90 days, what about 120 days?" Even

anything my engineers encountered

phone to ring, ready to spring into

in that time frame, or slightly longer,

along the way that either slowed them

action and help save the day.

we'd still be extremely successful.

down or potentially could have. As

Imagine how surprised you'd be if

So that became our aim, and hence

nobody ever called and your "Bat

the reason I felt I needed to set up

Phone" (Commissioner Gordon's

a Bat Phone. In order to meet such

secure line to Batman) sat silent, day

an aggressive development plan,

after day, months on end. I know the

my team members were going to

feeling firsthand.

have to obtain special allowances on

Direct Line to Action
In the fall of 2013, I had the
notion of launching an internal
development project. Historically,
we had commissioned design and
development to an external firm. But
for this project the procurement cost

established processes and procedures
used throughout Rockwell Collins. I
anticipated some head butting as they
crossed organizational boundaries,
and I wanted them to be able to reach
me at any time. I figured I'd get quite
a few calls saying, "I need your help
making this happen."

part of that initiative, for example,
my product engineering team needed
to run lab tests on the weekends.
However, those workflows were
interrupted by automated software
updates IT routinely ran during
off hours. So the engineers had to
approach IT and say, "Look, we know
this is hard because it's an automated
process, but here's the value that
our work is going to bring to the
company." Once IT understood the
potential business impact, it willingly
helped us out and made it possible for
us to work over the weekend without

was substantial - more than what we

But those calls never came - if not


believed we'd spend internally.

exactly a blow to my ego as a leader,

Likewise, we were able to expedite

This type of design and development
project would normally run anywhere
from 18 months to two years - way
too much time for my purposes. I
needed to get this program done
really fast, so I gathered together a
core team of five direct reports - four
engineers and a technical project
manager - and said, "Guys, I'd like
you to do this in 90 days."

CTO Straight Talk | 24

still a great surprise. In fact, it was
very satisfying to see my engineers
reach out to others in different parts
of the company, explain the urgency
with which they needed things done,

a request from one of my engineers
who needed multiple screens in order
to do his work more effectively. IT
delivered the right tools quickly.

and achieve their desired results. I

The same goes for help we got

loved seeing them take ownership

in expediting procurement.

and not come scurrying back to

Our company has a process for

me saying, "Dan, here's something

procurement. Sometimes, as was

slowing me down. Go fix it for me."

the case with this project, this


Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2


CTO Straight Talk - Issue 2