2019 started ten weeks ago, and despite everything changes for everything to remain the same, I do believe in the energy that the perceptional change of year can fuel within us, and our organisations. I recently attended the CAS 2019 (Agile Spain Conference) in Alicante and I managed to get a good glimpse of the importance of humanity within our companies.
The two-day conference gave me lots of insights and amazing perspectives towards this year we just start, and in my new capacity as an RTE, I will definitely need them. I will just summarise the basic concepts of all the talks, workshops and speeches I had the privilege to listen to, apart from catching up with old Agile colleagues and meeting new and fantastic people along the way.
I will be very brief with each of the talks I attended, so I apologise for it. But if you’re interested in learning more about each one of them, please follow their authors in the provided links!
And please check the Youtube channel of the event for the speaker videos! https://www.youtube.com/user/agilespain
If you look closely, you’ll find me in this video!
We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for (Lyssa Adkins)
Lyssa Adkins, author of the incredible book Coaching Agile teams, opened the conference with a passionate speech about the new leadership in the 21st century where we all adopt the holistic view of things of the Integral theory and its correlation to the Agile manifesto, clearly stating the importance of the human bond being essential in the professional environment, much more powerful than using interactions as mere transactions, and how we spend more time talking about empowering people rather than actually doing it.
Instead of thinking about planning, planning and more planning crafting plans that no one can believe, we must use Agile on ourselves, become Agile superheroes.
If we are the leaders we’ve been waiting for, What are you applying from Agile that is worthy of yourself?
I burnt my roadmap… now what? (Gabriel Prat)
Gabriel Prat gave a very interesting discussions about the nonsense of the concept of Roadmaps. Their existence is only there to provide security and certainty, as investors spend sleepless nights thinking about them. But what is the point of several years’ roadmap? Does anyone care about them beyond a certain point? If the impact is not real, then we should stop working on it. Changing our minds is okay. And Delivery isn’t everything.
Start always with the WHY, then an specific objective that can be followed up in the future, estimate the impact, and finally grow your confidence before handing it to the customer, the one who can provide valuable feedback towards improvement. Remember: people buy not what you do, but why you do it.
Participative leadership in Chaordic organisations (Israel Alcázar)
Israel is one of my references of the Agile world. Every single year I am marvelled at his insights and his extraordinary capacity to execute lean Agile management. This year, he provided an absolutely inspiring and well documented talk regarding the unpredictability and scary vibes of the modern world, but also how we are also living an unprecedented knowledge revolution and model changes, also in organisations.
Using very known examples from companies who did not adapt properly such as Blockbuster or Nokia against Netflix or Kodak, he came up with the concept of the liquid organisation: like water, with cooperative work, working on reputation, collaborative decisions. This goes against in a way with the natural tendency of humans for order. But who is the CEO of a forest? Nature is adaptable, has a purpose, and it’s self organised. And manages to balance order and chaos.
The concept of Antifragility is an interesting one: the opposite of fragile doesn’t have to be robust. Like carbon becoming a diamond. And a chaordic organisation is the one able to achieve that balance between order and chaos. Like a human body, self organised, only accepts its own solutions. And a living system is in constant change, but doesn’t need a change management system. Are you in control of your own body? Can you manage it? No, we don’t. We don’t manage people, just their work. And collective intelligence is better, always. Seven people think better than one.
Most organisations still have a top to bottom structure, formal ones. This is the opposite to nature. Make no mistake: you need the help of your peers. You cannot do anything on your own. We need to equally distribute power, liabilities and rewards. Firm in purpose and principles, flexibility in our ways in form and functions. Guide principles. Promote diversity, complexity and change as part of our natural way of behaving within our organisations. Bring balance and use conflicts and paradoxes as an opportunity.
All of the above is participative leadership. Liberate structures, visual and lean thinking. Organisations are living beings, not machines.
No retrospectives (Toni Tassani)
Toni Tassani made a very strong argument against retrospectives… when they’re useless. A retrospective is only useful when it has a purpose and actions attached, and sometimes Scrum teams insist in having retrospectives “because they must”. There is no shame in not celebrating a retrospective: why don’t we focus in making them work? The point of a retrospective is continuous improvement, otherwise it’s pointless.
If teams are having “old-fashioned” retrospectives, it’s better sometimes to call them something else and do something that adds value to the team: Video courses? There are endless possibilities!
Challenge your beliefs: Do not let frameworks become a dogma. Retrospectives are an option, the focus is always continuous improvement. Consider other options.
Agile product design for third parties: is it possible? (Carlos Iglesias)
Carlos Iglesias explained the way he structured teams in a way that could be an end-to-end process between design and final customer. The team structure was divided in UX, front-end, back-end and Product owner. The sprints included one week between them ONLY for testing. The sprints were also iterative, with incremental deliveries based on UX, including dedicated Client sprints ONLY focused on Client insights and feedback.
It is as important to deliver as to enhance and focus on technical debt, pair programming practices, and the key practice of base and automation testing (1300 automatic deployments each 5 minutes, is 13 full days of a person!). And never forgetting that culture, transparency and Kaizen are essential for a team growth. Despite transparency hurts as it exposes the team, cooperation and human elements (diversity, honesty, fun, friendship, conciliation, creativity and companionship) should be part of our everyday routine. Factors are just stereotypes.
The liquid organisation (Arie Van Bennekum and Guillermo López)
Arie (co-creator of the Agile manifesto) and Guillermo gave a really interest speech about the concept of liquid organisation. Organisations should be seen as organisms: with their own DNA, its people, attitude and behaviours. Any organisation has the obligation to become liquid in the Digital world: small, strongly interconnected, anti fragile, shapeless. Organisations that understand shuhari, continuous flow, spherical resilience, adequate viscosity. A good recommended book about all this is Liquid manifesto.
Something is wrong when people work in Agile but the customer is not happy.
- Not what the business needs = Communication
- A lot of errors = Discipline
- Development runs over budget = Efficiency
- Development the solution over time = Business value
We need to:
- Avoid misunderstandings
- Avoid redundancy
- Avoid delay
- Tech and innovation, Shorter product life cycle, Globalize, Compete and Shorter time to Market
Dynamic reteaming (Heidi Helfand)
Heidi made strong points about the concept of handling team member changes, something I spoke about myself recently. Her insights were very interesting:
Teams that have stable memberships perform better, and this is a fact. However, change in the team shape is inevitable and we all should get better at handling it. Every time there is team member change, the identity of that team rewrites itself. Sometimes, we are glad some people leave as well. And yes, there are many warnings about productivity when a team member leaves… but what about the human side?
When your team members change, you’re not doing it wrong. Teams age and change, organically. Adolescence, creative destruction, rigidity trap, maturity….There are many different approaches to reteaming.
It’s important to add patterns to problems. For instance:
- Isolation pattern. Get better at it, allow different cadences, have maintenance into account.
- One by one pattern: Mentor should always be the first pair programming. Bootcamps. Build feedback loop. Reflect with people who are new hires. Every team has a story.
- Grow and split: If the team grows too much they must divide, and these divisions generate new identities. Large teams can work too, by the way! Maybe a retro about team compositions? Turn your video on! What is excellence for your team?
- Switching: avoiding knowledge silos.
Overall, very good food for thought when it comes to identify the usual suspects for team performance looking at their human side.
The democratisation of leadership (Gustavo Razetti)
Gustavo’s conference was so brilliant, so full of brilliant and empowering thoughts, that I could only try to summarise them as best as I could in the lines below.
There is a disarray between what the company wants their culture to be and reality. It is normally used as marketing to attract talent. Democratisation is not a Pollyanna approach, managing by consensus, getting rid of structure or anarchy & havoc. Only 13% of employees are truly engaged. This is REALLY bad for business. Culture isn’t soft, it has a MASSIVE economical impact. Micromanagement is not escalable!
Every employee is a sensor. Managers only see 9% of problems, TLs 74%, coders 100%.
Autonomy drives accountability. Babies learns to walk on their own. And internal motivation is the most effective. Intrinsic motivation, 3.0.
We all should let go of job titles!! They define how we see the world. If leadership is selfless, why make it exclusive? Power is an illusion. Resides in the eyes of those who believe in it.The REAL definition of power is being able to do things. And everyone has the ability and the responsibility to lead. Leadership is a behaviour: if you see something, do something.
Think of leading, not of leaders. Leading is fluid, not fixed. Power is not control, it’s possibilities. Everyone is responsible for change. We have turned leaders in superheroes (Elon Musk, Steve Jobs), but the millions of people who worked for them are not mentioned. And this is wrong too.
We need to liberate the ability to lead. Do what’s right = Wisdom. (Not doing things right)
Self-awareness is the path to wisdom. And not many people are self-aware: a study finds that only 15% of population are truly self-aware. If the CEO left the company, what would you like the first change to be?
Leading is being helpful: How can I help you?
Remove time wasters. Let people figure out things.
Unleash your leadership skills on the leadership dancefloor (Angel Díaz-Maroto)
Angel gave another (not less valuable by any means!) passionate speech about what it means to lead an Agile team. And making clear that leadership is a complex, multi-layered attitude that has nothing to do with titles.
Purpose: What for? Why do we use Scrum? What is the ultimate purpose?Context: What are we trying to solve? Needs to be intimately linked to the purpose and the other way around.
Let’s look at the concept of the collective dimension. Language, emotions, body = Be. Why I do what I do? We have the actions, but not the executions most of the times. The leader is the person actioning all the elements.
Love the ironic bits:
- “We do Scrum to do things faster”
- “Why experiment? We are here to do things by the book”
- “Let’s do SAFe. Agile is now installed in the company!”
Scrum is, actually, just a framework to inspect and adapt and experiment. A leader wants an affirmative being willing to make a team grow. A leader must be available.
Life after Agile? Resilience. Disruptive changes will be very, very frequent in the future industry. Organisations will need to build resilience in order to absorb and react to these changes. Do not believe in Agile transformations: Believe in the learning of absorbing disruption.
What is the framework Brawl? A framework for Drastic change simulation to build organisational resilience.
How not to die with disruption, essentially, if a game changer appears on stage? Make your boss jump!
Leading a company with no bosses (Jorge Silva)
Jorge was my last conference, but it was not at all the less valuable. How does a company with no bosses work?
Chinese pulse is an example of resistance.
The best strategy is not to compete but to cooperate towards more and better results. Trust is key, consent as well. Decisions are based in finding the non-strong opinion approach. Similar to planning poker.There should be policies regarding salary equality. We need to choose the right seeds. Not everyone fits a company. When choosing them, make them have three interviews – The last one with everyone you’ll be working with.
Do not stereotype millennials. They are maybe even more committed than most people. Do not focus just in work, do it in all other practices to encourage personal growth.Healthy organisations become more productive.
Decentralising decisions is essential for a company to grow in confidence and efficiency.
If there’s anything clear from all my notes above, is that the modern organisations focus on the human side towards happiness, productivity and engagement. The digital sectors have become in the last 10-15 years a giant laboratory of constant change and adaptation and this trend will continue. Only the strongest will survive the constant disruption and change, and being able to provide quality to customers quickly and efficiently will be the trial for many organisations.
I work for an company that is undergoing a massive Agile transformation. It’s “barely” been two years and the numbers don’t lie: it will take a long time to fully adapt. I am just a little piece of this transformation, but I am determined in helping my colleagues becoming the best version of themselves. I will not stop until my colleagues and friends feel they own the piece of leadership they deserve, and I will support a bottom-up model when it comes to decentralising decisions. We will become a liquid organisation, and our transformation will not just be a transformation: it will be a mutation into a disruption-absorbing entity able to provide value and quality to our customers while we constantly build stable, engaged teams that build incredible products with care and professionalism.
I’m so looking forward to my next conference next year! Maybe this time, after 6 years, I will dare to speak there myself?