I recently had a scheduled call with a client that was aimed to level-set expectations around some upcoming Agile Consultation work that I’d booked. The work was specifically to help them visualize and build their workflow. I had my Sales Engineer come with me, as we both had the suspicion that the client had also bought a tool on the promise it would help them become more Agile.
Becoming “Agile” is not about a tool, just like visualizing and building workflow isn’t about setting up a Kanban Board. Being “Agile” is about the people and their interactions.
I’ve seen this a number of times, where a client seeks a tool to become “more Agile”. Usually a Director or higher executive, spends money on training some or all of their staff, more often opting out of the training themselves. After a short period of time, they realize that the promise of better results isn’t looking promising. So they then seek additional funding, and invest in a tool with the promise that “this” will help their teams become “more Agile”.
It became quite clear that this was the case with this client, as their original request “to help our people become more agile”, suddenly changed to “help us use this tool”. As most people in this field understand, the first Value of the Agile Manifesto is to value “Individuals and Interactions Over Processes and Tools”.
I have that Value deeply embedded in my mind, as I’d had the fortune to work directly with two of the original twelve signatories of the Manifesto, and we often talked about the genesis of the Values. The creators of the Manifesto were people who had lived the mindset that this client presently maintains. Through similar experiences as my client, the Signatories began to foresee the pitfalls of the old mindset, and simply sought a better approach to become more agile.
So this particular client has the hallmark of having the old mindset. With great care, the Sales Engineer and I were able to demonstrate that the tool can support the interactions of their teams as they incrementally develop their products. And we would be happy to use the consulting dollars to look at their teams, leverage the training they already had, help visualize their workflow and ultimately help them understand that Agility comes from developing the Agile mindset.
By the end of the call, two of the three team members fully understood that they were perhaps going down the wrong road by placing the value of the tool over their people and the interactions of their teams. In this specific case, the third person had arrived to the meeting late, was the most senior person in the room, and in my belief, had missed information that might have also changed their perspective. It is impossible to know, but I strongly suspect that none of the three were in a political position to change course. Whether they had directly invested in the tool or not, is immaterial.
The agreement is now on hold, and that is probably the best thing for our client-vendor relationship in the long-term. We could have provided training on the tool and taken their money, but that would be unethical. As an Agile consultant-salesperson, and all of us here at Berteig, we deeply understand the nuances of the Manifesto, and as such, we need to sell and deliver what is right for the client.
For now, the personal and financial investment they made with respects to the tool will need to be seen through. Which I respect, for all the business, political and personal reasons. There is a high likelihood that their original request will resurface in a number of months. Obtaining “agility” is a journey and often takes such time.
It appears to me there are more jobs available for Scrum Masters than ever before! Why is it so hard for some people to find employment with Agile teams?
The problem is entirely predictable. And for those eager to work in Scrum teams, the answer is also predictable. I’ll explain.
Having taught Scrum to more than 2000 people, I have ongoing dialogue with many former students who are struggling to find opportunities to serve Agile teams and gain experience as a Scrum Master. I have struggled to understand this dilemma because my experience was very different – I learned of Scrum in 2007 and simply asked my workmates:
“Would you like to try Scrum…I could be our Scrum Master?”
Unanimous reply: “Yes!”
That is not the common experience. Many organizations are willing to send their staff to Scrum training for the sake of ‘Professional Development’ but only some of those organizations intend to develop Agile teams. That pattern has created the current condition in which many recently-trained Scrum Masters are eager to apply their new knowledge but do not have organizational support to do so.
I opened my inbox today to a question from a former student of my Scrum class. Let’s call her Jane:
“Hi David, I wanted to get your advice on a dilemma I have. I’m back on the job market and several companies are looking for Scrum Masters which is great to see. I was in your CSM course last year and would love to work with a Scrum team…but I didn’t have the opportunity with my former employer. How can I gain experience if all the available jobs require 2+ years experience? What advice do you have for me?”
Jane is not alone. The job market (today at LinkedIn) offers 591 positions in Canada for keyword ‘Scrum Master’ – and all that I’ve scanned require 1 or more years’ experience in the role.
In contrast to the dilemma described above, I have a totally different problem: I am contacted a few times per month by recruiters and hiring managers who ask me if I’m looking for a new contract.
Where’s the welcome mat for newcomers? Do jobs exist for enthusiasts with no prior experience?
I believe so.
The dynamics we’re observing in the job market for Scrum Masters are well described by Everett Rogers in his paper called “Diffusion of Innovations” (1995). You may recognize his theory by the following bell curve:
I assert that Scrum has achieved “Early Majority” market penetration. And you might be asking what evidence I have to support that claim – of course, other than the fact that opportunity knocks frequently at my door but never at Jane’s. I’ll describe the patterns I’ve observed in the market.
The authors of Scrum (Ken & Jeff, and others) were the Innovators. When I first took on the role of Scrum Master (2007), knowledge of Scrum was limited to a few enthusiasts and early adopters. Worldwide, a few thousand had learned of Scrum; in Canada, perhaps a hundred or so. None of my friends or workmates had prior knowledge of Scrum; there were no job advertisements for Scrum Masters; there were no public training classes; many of the well-known books on the subject had not yet been written; and there was exactly one Certified Scrum Trainer in Canada: my colleague, Mishkin Berteig.
By 2012, awareness of Scrum was spreading. It was a buzzword among start-ups and software development firms and a few brave souls were socializing the practice in large enterprises. Despite the increasing awareness, the number of people who had served as Scrum Master in a proper Scrum team was, I’d estimate, less than 100 in Canada. Yet, anyone with “Scrum” on their resume was considered rare and hiring managers among the early minority adopters were eager to snap them up. A swell of “Agile Coach” contractors was starting to emerge and anyone willing to hang that shingle was considered an expert. I’d argue their enthusiasm often out-weighed expertise but it was a new frontier after all and sheer enthusiasm counted for a lot.
By 2014, I noticed 2 patterns emerge. First, young tech companies in Canada (the ‘early early adopters’) were no longer hiring Scrum Masters. They considered Scrum expertise (or willingness) an obvious requirement of all new hires – like table-stakes. Second, large enterprises were starting to post job advertisements for Scrum Masters. These two patterns infer that the ‘late early adopters’ were onboard.
By 2016, evidence of ‘early majority’ adoption was mounting. I received frequent requests to speak at hospitals, marketing agencies, industry events, ‘Leadership’ seminars. Our federal Government departments started recruiting, not only Scrum Masters, but Product Owners too. Small armies of young MBA grads were being sent by their big consulting firms to my Scrum classes to “get certified”.
So, in 2018… Jane is certainly asking “what does it mean for me?” Well, it means there’s more opportunity than ever before. That is certainly true and awareness and demand for Scrum continues to grow. It also means I see a vast landscape of opportunities, but Jane sees closed doors – unfortunately for her.
There’s good news in this story for Jane… I promise!
Let’s think about the mindset common among the ‘early majority’ adopters. They are risk-averse, but not so much that they ignore market opportunities. They live by a simple rule: “the 2nd mouse gets the cheese.” They watch the early adopters carefully hoping to spot advantageous patterns. (Scrum is one of those.) And when they see a trend, they don’t pounce on it immediately – remember, they’re pragmatic. They will want to hire Scrum Masters, but they’ll be careful about it: perhaps they’ll hire contractors rather than commit to full-time/permanent roles; perhaps they’ll require 5+ years’ experience hoping to acquire one of the early adopters who helped prove the efficacy of the new method; perhaps they’ll train internally hoping to gradually adjust and minimize disruption. They’ll be reluctant to “take a chance” on a new hire without proven experience.
Those pragmatic habits of the early majority adopters make it difficult for them to hire Jane.
5 to 10 years from now, Jane’s job search may get a lot easier. Why? Let’s think about the mindset common among the ‘late majority’ adopters. They are risk-averse – to the point they ignore new trends and look instead for so-called “best practices”. These organizations are doubling-down on Waterfall right now and sending their staff to PMP exam-prep courses. They still think Scrum is a buzzword. But they’ve taken note when Brian Porter, the CEO of Scotiabank said publicly, “we’re in the technology business. Our product happens to be banking.” They’ve felt some shock when Alex Benay, CIO of Government of Canada talks about agile procurement and relentless incrementalism. They will start hiring Scrum Masters when they’re shown evidence that Scrum is teachable, repeatable, reliable, and so-called “normal”. They will believe (and trust deeply) that the community has developed well-established and standard methods which can be taught and learned systematically. They’ll find the senior practitioners too expensive; and they’ll look to less experienced practitioners, like Jane, as a bargain. They’ll be less concerned about in-the-trenches experience and more interested in industry norms.
Those risk-averse habits of ‘late majority’ adopters will make it easy for Jane to find employment – unfortunately though, the salary range is likely to be average at best.
(Let’s not discuss the Laggards today – they’re just funny. They’re the reason your office still has a fax machine and your car still has a cigarette lighter.)
Jane! I promised good news. Here it is…
Even at this stage of ‘early majority’ adoption, you’ll find some people who are on the edge of innovation. Look for those enthusiasts and visionaries! You’ll not find them easily in the big employers (banks, telecoms, etc.) You’ll find such people in start-ups, small tech firms, product companies. Those organizations are not looking for the stodgy corporate mindset – they’re eager to find other enthusiasts and they’re willing to take a chance. They’re more interested to forge new paths than to follow others – so they’re excited by Jane’s willingness to forge her own new path and they’ll want to help her!
So, what if Jane herself is not ready for that level of risk? Well, on one hand I feel every Scrum Master must develop high risk-tolerance. But I understand not everyone starts there. Jane might seek the sense of job security and stability common in large enterprises. In that condition, my advice to Jane would be: consider taking a job as not a Scrum Master but as a team member. If you’re a Project Manager or Developer, or Business Analyst in the past, hunt for those opportunities then look for ways to transition into a new role. That is, after all, the type of pragmatism the enterprises (early majority) appreciate.
Happy job hunting!
*** Thanks to Massimo for the conversation we had on the train yesterday.
Thanks to Brian.
Thanks for Valerie who reviewed and helped improve the article.
This article is adapted from a session proposal to Toronto Agile Conference 2018.
Leadership occurs as conscious choice carried out as actions.
Everyone has the ability to carry out acts leadership. Therefore, everyone is a potential leader.
For leadership to be appropriate and effective, acts of leadership need to be tuned to the receptivity of those whose behaviour the aspiring leader seeks to influence. Tuning leadership requires the ability to perceive and discern meaningful signals from people and, more importantly, the system and environment in which they work.
As leaders, the choices we make and the actions we carry out are organic with our environment. That is, leaders are influenced by their environments (often in ways that are not easily perceived), and on the other hand influence their environments in ways that can have a powerful impact on business performance, organizational structures and the well-being of people. Leaders who are conscious of this bidirectional dynamic can greatly improve their ability to sense and respond to the needs of their customers, their organizations and the people with whom they interact in their work. The following list is one way of describing the set of capabilities that such leaders can develop over time.
Create Identity: Real leaders understand that identity rules. They work with the reality that “Who?” comes first (“Who are we?”), then “Why?” (“Why do we do what we do?”).
Focus on Customers: Real leaders help everyone in their organization focus on understanding and fulfilling the needs of customers. This is, ultimately, how “Why?” is answered.
Cultivate a Service Orientation: Real leaders design and evolve transparent systems for serving the needs of customers. A leader’s effectiveness in this dimension can be gauged both by the degree of customer satisfaction with deliverables and to the extent which those working in the system are able to self-organize around the work.
Limit Work-In-Progress: Real leaders know the limits of the capacity of systems and never allow them to become overburdened. They understand that overburdened systems also mean overburdened people and dissatisfied customers.
Manage Flow: Real leaders leverage transparency and sustainability to manage the flow of customer-recognizable value through the stages of knowledge discovery of their services. The services facilitated by such leaders is populated with work items whose value is easily recognizable by its customers and the delivery capability of the service is timely and predictable (trustworthy).
Let People Self-Organize: As per #3 above, when people doing the work of providing value to customers can be observed as self-organizing, this is a strong indication that there is a real leader doing actions 1-5 (above).
Measure the Fitness of Services (Never People): Real leaders never measure the performance of people, whether individuals, teams or any other organization structure. Rather, real leaders, practicing actions 1-6 (above) understand that the only true metrics are those that provide signals about customers’ purposes and the fitness of services for such purposes. Performance evaluation of people is a management disease that real leaders avoid like the plague.
Foster a Culture of Learning: Once a real leader has established all of the above, people involved in the work no longer need be concerned with “safe boundaries”. They understand the nature of the enterprise and the risks it takes in order to pursue certain rewards. With this understanding and the transparency and clear limits of the system in which they work, they are able to take initiative, run experiments and carry out their own acts of leadership for the benefit of customers, the organization and the people working in it. Fear of failure finds no place in environments cultivated by real leaders. Rather, systematic cycles of learning take shape in which all can participate and contribute. Feedback loop cadences enable organic organizational structures to evolve naturally towards continuous improvement of fitness for purpose.
Encourage Others to Act as Leaders: Perhaps the highest degree of leadership is when other people working with the “real leader” begin to emerge as real leaders themselves. At this level, it can be said that the culture of learning has naturally evolved into a culture of leadership.
Stay Humble: Real leaders never think that they have it all figured out or that they have reached some higher state of consciousness that somehow makes them superior to others in any way. They are open and receptive to the contributions of others and always seek ways to improve themselves. Such humility also protects them from the inevitable manipulations of charlatans who will, form time to time, present them with mechanical formulas, magic potions, palm readings and crystal ball predictions. Real leaders keep both feet on the ground and are not susceptible to the stroking of their egos.
If you live in Toronto, and you would like to join a group of people who are thinking together about these ideas, please feel welcome to join the KanbanTO Meetup.
Register here for a LeanKanban University accredited leadership class with Travis.
Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a topic that has not been fully addressed on this site, nor in the agile or corporate world, yet it has great ramifications for anyone choosing or hoping to practice Agile and/ or Scrum.
My purpose is not to connect the dots for anyone, but simply to introduce the idea. If you go to the site below and read the materials and watch the videos, you may understand for yourself the importance of emotional intelligence in all that you are endeavouring to do. Thanks to John Hawthorne for pointing this out to me – enjoy.
You want to be practicing Scrum! You’ve taken Scrum training, received your industry certification, and perhaps even experienced being a Scrum team member. In your heart you believe Scrum is the right tool and approach for you, and you believe your current organization and your customers could really benefit from Scrum practices.
However, for whatever reason your organization is either hesitant to consider Scrum or believes it’s a bad idea. Perhaps there was an experience with a poorly executed pilot. Perhaps your leadership see it as being too risky.
What do you do?
This article explores how you could subversively practice ScrumMaster-ing in your workplace without getting into trouble or breaking the rules. (Ssh…we won’t tell!)
Before you even begin strategizing, you need to ensure that what you do aligns with the Scrum values, namely:
Doing Scrum subversively will certainly take considerable courage, focus and commitment on your part. Be aware you will be challenged to respect the existing organizational culture and norms, and your organization may push back on your efforts.
You also need to acknowledge that the very act of being subversive means you are not being completely open or transparent that you are trying to practice Scrum.
Or you could tell your workmates, “I’ve had this terrific training in Scrum and could we try a few of the techniques to see how they work?” Then introduce something as simple as time-boxing or holding retrospectives with your colleagues.
You will also want to ensure what you do is harmonious with Scrum Theory and the pillars of empirical process, which are:
1. Transparency 2. Inspection 3. Adaptation
Normally, one could say there’s a direct conflict between being transparent and being subversive. Keeping this in mind, it is imperative you be absolutely transparent on the actions you are taking and what the specific goals, outcomes or learnings are that you hope to achieve.
However, given the circumstances you’ll likely choose to not use Scrum terminology to describe what you are doing. In other words, describe the practices and activities that you are implementing or recommending, express their benefits and what you hope to accomplish, but don’t explicitly call them by their Scrum name.
As for Inspection and Adaptation, those approaches should be perfectly aligned with your intent to try to help your company become a learning organization. That means you will need to park your ego at the door and accept the results. If your learning shows your subversive Scrum activities do not provide the benefit you’re aiming for, you will need to stop them regardless of whether you think they should work.
Let’s explore some activities and practices you may want to tactfully consider to help your organization benefit from Scrum (without actually “doing” Scrum).
1. Lead by Example
As someone that appreciates the values of Scrum, you should aim to educate others and provide them with a similar understanding. That means practicing these values in how you show up and in everything you do, even explicitly calling out certain actions when they are a prime example (whenever it is appropriate).
This does not mean preaching! Instead, it could be sharing your thoughts about something when contributing to a decision, or simply pointing out when and how something that aligns with the values contributes to a better team, a better experience, or a better solution.
Leading by example also means being human and honest when mistakes are made or when failures occur. This can be particularly risky in an organization that has not embraced Agility, or where failure is frowned upon. That is where you need courage, and a commitment on your part to hold improvement of the work above your own individual career needs.
2. Communicate More
Make a concerted, conscious effort to communicate with your team and partners more. For example, get up out of your seat and spend more time in informal face-to-face discussions rather than sending e-mails or chat messages.
Perhaps you can have short, informal meetings with just the team either daily or several times a week to see what’s been done, what needs to be done, and what challenges the team is facing. The key here is to keep it short, focus on what is needed to move work forward, and define actions to address issues. Then always follow up and make sure the actions are being pursued and that progress is shared with the team.
3. Be Open And Transparent
Although you may consciously choose to not use the proper terminology and language of Scrum, the key is to always be honest about what it is you are trying to do, why it’s important, and what the desired outcomes are.
To this end the goal should be to become an organization that “learns about learning”, constantly tries to improve, delivers value faster, and applies new knowledge in the best possible way. Scrum may be a fantastic catalyst for that, but there are many other approaches that will achieve similar results.
4. Use Better Meeting Practices
Another approach to consider is improve meeting experiences by time-boxing and defining a specific scope for each meeting. Setting a time limit and outcomes for a discussion helps create a sense of urgency, manage expectations and focus the conversation on the most important topics. The facilitator will need to enforce these constraints, otherwise you lose the effectiveness of the practice.
5. Have One or More Key Stakeholders Empowered to Make Product Decisions
This may be a considerable challenge in organizations where there is little appetite or understanding about Scrum practices, but do what you can given your authority and influence. If possible, try to have a single voice (key stakeholder) defined as the person with the final authority on the product or service that your team is delivering. Work with that individual to set them up for success by connecting them with the other stakeholders, perhaps facilitating discussions with them, and showing the key person(s) effective techniques for prioritizing the work that is being asked for.
6. Limit Efforts to What Matters Most
One practice that is important to apply, but often difficult to master, is focus. Limit work and discussions to the most important tasks and activities, and request that other discussions on lesser-important work be delayed. Always try to focus the conversation back to what is currently the most important work.
On occasion you may even want to point out times when plans were well-defined in advance but ultimately changed a lot when the actual work was in progress. This indicates the waste in planning too much up front and in constant task-switching. When done in conjunction with time-boxing this practice becomes a little easier.
On a macro scale, try to limit development to smaller chunks of end-to-end deliverables. In other words, deliver small things often all the way to completion as much as possible (e.g. to a staging environment). Then show the outcome and deliverable to stakeholders and customers, explaining that although the final product may not be done, this is to get them something fast and gather feedback.
7. Reflect on Learning
When possible, ensure that reviews of completed work happen frequently. Ensure the outcomes, functionality and value is shown and that learning (for the product as well as the methods) are part of the discussion.
Without becoming intrusive, seek stakeholder feedback frequently and informally. Be willing to demonstrate an ability to pivot plans based on that feedback.
As a team, hold informal retrospectives of how you worked together. If the term “retrospective” is contentious, consider calling them something else, such as a debriefing.
8. Visualize and Display Work
Have your own personal backlog and list of current activities visible at your desk. Use post-its to represent all work that you have on your plate, and ensure it is always up-to-date. Prioritize the work items you have coming up, and visually represent this as a rank-ordered list of things that you have to do.
It won’t take long for people around you to notice what you are doing and ask about it. Use this as a great opportunity to educate others on the values of transparency and focus.
9. Keep Your Team Size Appropriate
If you are on a particularly large team, see if it is possible to split that large team in to smaller groups. The benefit is more face-to-face time and interaction across the new team, an increased sense of belonging and commitment to the new team’s purpose, and it should also be easier (in theory anyway) to get decisions made and increase alignment.
The challenge will be finding a logical way to split the teams to mitigate dependencies of people, skills and products, and ensuring the new teams can still collaborate with one another. Geography might be a good way to split the team if you are distributed, but you would need to ensure all the skills to deliver the solution exist on all new teams.
10. Push for Automation
If you are in a development environment where tools, automation and engineering practices are not currently being used, and they could be of value to your organization, then start investigating whether it is possible. Tools and automation aren’t cheap or easy to implement, but they dramatically encourage you and your teams to collaborate better and they enable the adoption of Scrum practices such as fast delivery of value.
Be confident that your own creativity may help you unlock ways of practicing Scrum methodology without disrupting your organization’s practices.
You may or may not be able to implement all of the above actions but, as one Agile coach says, “it’s all about how YOU show up, how YOU are.” In the final analysis, your example, your enthusiasm, your courage will be the best you can offer.
From Essential Kanban Condensed by David J Anderson & Andy Carmichael
“Kanban is a method for defining, managing, and improving services that deliver knowledge work, such as professional services, creative endeavors, and the design of both physical and software products. It may be characterized as a “start from what you do now” method—a catalyst for rapid and focused change within organizations—that reduces resistance to beneficial change in line with the organization’s goals.
The Kanban Method is based on making visible what is otherwise intangible knowledge work, to ensure that the service works on the right amount of work—work that is requested and needed by the customer and that the service has the capability to deliver. To do this, we use a kanban system—a delivery flow system that limits the amount of work in progress (WiP) by using visual signals.
I’ve been reading the above book on Kanban (the alternative path to agility) to familiarize myself with the method before taking the Kanban course by Accredited Kanban Trainer Travis Birch.
Two points from my learning are the principles of “Change Management” and “Service Delivery.”
Kanban regards “Change Management” as an incremental, evolutionary process as Kanban is utilized. For example, Kanban starts “with what you do now.” A business agrees to pursue improvement through evolutionary change, which happens over a period of time, based on experience and understanding. If one is using Kanban for the first time, there may be some awkwardness at the beginning, with a number of people trying to understand the principles, and how the visual board works. As the work goes on, understanding is increased, and with the new learning, change occurs in a very organic way. Acts of leadership are encouraged at every level. Changes can occur in all sectors: within individuals, within the environment, and in the cumulative outcomes of the work.
“Service Delivery” in Kanban requires that there is an understanding of and focus on the customer’s needs and expectations. The work is managed by people self-organizing around the work, and by the limiting of work-in-progress (WIP). This can help people feel that they have the right amount of work to accomplish with the right amount of time. WIP limits are policies that need to be made explicit in order to establish flow. The work on the board is “pulled” into the in-progress section only as people become available to do the work. An employee can focus on bringing higher quality to the work, and not feel threatened by a backlog that is crushing them. Policies are evolved to improve outcomes for the customers.
Of the nine values outlined in Kanban, three are directly related to change management and service delivery. The first is “respect;” by limiting the work-in-progress, respect is shown for the employee’s time and efforts, along with respect for the customer’s expectations. “Flow” refers to there being an ordered and timely movement to the work being done that is not overwhelming. “Transparency” occurs because everything is visible on the Kanban board and it becomes clear what is being done, when and by whom.
It’s been proposed that Scrum is for teams and Kanban is for services. In that way, they are both essential to the improvement of many organizations, especially those in which pure Scrum is not enough. They are complimentary from the perspective of improving business.
“Kanban has principles and general practices, but these must be applied in context, where different details will emerge as we pursue the common agendas of sustainability, service-orientation, and survivability. As a result, the journey is an adventure into unknown territory rather than a march over familiar ground” (from Essential Kanban Condensed)
“Business engagement alone is a necessary but not sufficient condition for Agile to succeed”
It’s taken a while but now it’s well understood amongst seasoned Agile practitioners that Business engagement is necessary for successful Agile implementations. Just when we thought engaged Business owners were enough, we’re now realizing Business engagement alone is not sufficient. The impact of corporate shared services, especially Human Resources (HR), on Agile adoptions or transformations are often overlooked. In fact, Agile practitioners often bypass HR in their zeal to quickly change the way they work and the related people processes.
“Companies are running 21st century businesses with 20th century workplace practices & programs”
– Willis Towers Watson
It’s not just IT departments practicing Agile but 21st century businesses overall that are characterized by flatter organizations and an insatiable appetite for small ‘a’ agility. Agility that is pushing and breaking the envelope of current HR processes and tools. Agile individuals and teams are very vocal when it comes to calling out technical obstacles in their way. The same could be said when it comes to HR related obstacles that impact Agile individuals and teams. If we listen, here’s what we would hear:
“Can we team interview the candidate for attitude and fit?”
“I was an IT Development Manager. What’s my role now?”
“My manager doesn’t see half of what I do for my team. How can she possibly evaluate me?”
“With no opportunity for promotions in sight, how can I advance my career?”
“Why do we recognize individuals when we’re supposed to be focused on team success?”
“Charlie’s not working out. Can we as the team fire him?”
As the volume increases, how will HR and HR professionals respond?
“2016 will be the year of Agile HR … most HR teams have no clue what Agile HR means”
– HR Trend Institute
The reality is that most HR teams have no clue what Agile is, never mind how it will ultimately rock their world. Most Agile initiatives emerge from the grass-roots or are driven independently by IT functions with little to no involvement from HR. HR sits on the sidelines and watches IT “do their thing”. There is a misconception that Agile exclusively falls under the IT domain; overlooking the fact that the core of Agile is about the people and culture – the sweet spots of the HR profession.
There are three significant change movements gaining momentum:
Reinventing the way we work – whether it’s IT adopting Agile or an organization becoming more nimble.
Reinventing HR – where HR is moving beyond its historical focus on basic people administration, compliance and transactions to a valued place at the executive table; ensuring context and alignment across the business to generate Customer delight.
Reinventing organizations – as the level of human and organizational consciousness evolves from valuing meritocracy, accountability and innovation to valuing self-management, wholeness and evolutionary purpose. (See “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederic Laloux: http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/)
All three have the common denominator of people; an integral part along the entire timeline of each movement. As these three movements overlap – at the intersection – will be HR. So, who better to help navigate the emerging paths of each change than “the People’s people”?… otherwise known as “HR”.
An analysis of the Human Resources Professionals Association’s (HRPA) Competency Framework shown below can help guide which HR competencies will have the greatest impact (on a scale of 1 to 10) on Agile.
“How do we get HR started towards their destiny?”
If you’re an Agile team member, invite HR to start a conversation about what Agile is and how they can help you and the team.
If you’re an HR professional, here are some suggestions:
Learn about Agile
Visit with your Agile teams during sprint reviews or daily scrums
Talk to your friends and colleagues about their Agile experiences and challenges
Review in-progress HR process & tool changes through an Agile lens
Partner with IT and other Agile implementation stakeholders to guide the success of Agile
To help HR take the first step, here are some suggested Agile learning resources:
(Originally posted in June 2015 – Updated October 2016)
Photo Credit: BERTEIG’s Valerie Senyk facilitated a group session on “What Do We Mean by Transformation?” in Orlando 2016.
Professional Development opportunities are everywhere and they are easy to find at any price-point on any topic at any location. The hard part is deciding how to spend your time.
It is important to think about why you attend conferences. Most importantly, why do you choose some conferences over others? Do you want to learn from peers in your field? Do you want exposure to the latest industry trends? Are you looking for a new job? Or do you just want to be blown away by great people?
I attended the Agile Coach Camp Canada last weekend in Cornwall, Ontario, and that incredible experience has caused me to reflect on the variety of conferences I have enjoyed in recent years…and why I choose some over others.
Like any great product, successful conferences have clear and focused goals which create specific opportunities for their participants. Conference organizers choose location, venue, date, duration, registration cost, format, theme, etc. The best conference organizers are courageous and willing to make difficult decisions in order to compose their events with utmost respect to the collective vision and goals of the attendees, sponsors, and founders. The organizers of Agile Coach Camp Canada, for example, are dedicated to creating an event in which the agile coaching community can “share in an energizing and supportive environment”. That’s it! A clear and compelling vision. This clarity of vision guides decisions like whether to host the event in a metropolis (which may result in larger numbers and more sponsorship opportunities) or away from large cities (think overnight “camp”) — this is one formative decision of many that make Agile Coach Camp Canada so intense and unique year after year.
Some background: This was the 6th annual Agile Coach Camp Canada and the 2nd time that I have attended; the event generally starts on Friday evening and includes supper followed by lightning talks, Saturday uses Open Space Technology to produce an agenda followed by supper and socializing (late into the night!), then Sunday morning wraps-up with retrospection then everybody leaves in early afternoon; the cost per person is between $300-$500 for the entire weekend including meals, travel, hotel room; the event is often held in small-ish towns like Guelph or Cornwall which are a few hours from a major airport. Having been there twice — both times just blown away by the community, their expertise, their emotional intelligence, their openness — I understand very clearly the responsibility of conference organizers and I have gained new respect for the difficult decisions they must make.
Upon reflection, I know that I attend the Agile Coach Camp Canada because (a) I learn a lot and (b) I have bonded deeply with my colleagues. Those are the two reasons that I will return next year and the next. I do not attend that event with an expectation to develop new business, or attract new leads, or stay on top of industry trends — instead, I will look to other conferences for those opportunities.
What/where/when is your next professional excursion? Do you know what you want to get out of it? Here’s a tip: choose one objective from the list below and find a conference that delivers exactly that!
Business development: Find new or reconnect with existing business contacts.
Professional development: Find or explore opportunities for career enhancement.
Learning: Listen/watch/share with others who practice in your areas of interest.
Community building: Connect and communicate with people with interests or qualities that you appreciate.
Market exposure: Evangelize a product or service for a captive audience.
Advanced training for leaders, executives and change agents working in Agile environments.
Your success as a leader in an Agile organization requires looking beyond Agile itself. It requires a deep understanding of your organization and your own leadership path. To equip you for this journey, you will gain a strong foundation in understanding organizational culture. From there, you will learn key organization and leadership models that will allow you to understand how your organizational culture really works.
Now you are ready to start the journey! You will learn about organizational growth – how you may foster lasting change in your organization. Key is understanding how it invite change in a complex system. You will also learn about leadership – how you may show up more effectively. And how to help others.
Though each Certified Agile Leadership course varies depending on the instructor, all Certified Agile Leadership courses intend to create awareness of, and begin the journey toward, Agile Leadership.
Graduates will receive the Certified Agile Leadership (CAL 1) designation.
We create a highly interactive dynamic training environment. Each of you are unique – and so is each training. Although the essentials will be covered in every class, you will be involved in shaping the depth and focus of our time together. Each learning module is treated as a User Story (see photo) and we will co-create a unique learning journey that supports everyone’s needs.
The training will draw from the learning areas identified in the overview diagram.
“If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.” – Edgar Schein
Why Culture? Clarify why culture is critical for Organizational Success.
Laloux Culture Model: Discuss the Laloux culture model that will help us clarify current state and how to understand other organizations/models.
Agile Culture: Explore how Agile can be seen as a Culture System.
Agile Adoption & Transformation: Highlight differences between Agile Adoption and Transformation.
Dimensions of Culture: Look at key aspects of culture from “Reinventing Organizations”. Where are we and where might we go?
Culture Case Studies: Organizational Design: Explore how leading companies use innovative options to drive cultural operating systems.
Leadership & Organizational Models
Theory X – Theory Y: Models of human behaviour that are implicit in various types of management systems.
Management Paradigms: Contrast of Traditional “Modern” Management practices with Knowledge worker paradigm.
The Virtuous Cycle: Key drivers of success emergent across different high-performance organizational systems.
Engagement (Gallup): Gallup has 12 proven questions linked to employee engagement. How can we move the needle?
Advice Process: More effective decision-making using Advice Process. Build leaders. Practice with advice cards.
Teal Organizations: Explore what Teal Organizations are like.
Leading Through Culture: How to lead through culture so that innovation and engagement can emerge.
VAST – Showing up as Leaders: VAST (Vulnerability, Authentic connection, Safety, & Trust) guides us in showing up as more effective leaders.
Temenos Trust Workshop: Build trust and charter your learning journey. Intro version of 2 day retreat.
Compassion Workshop: How to Use Compassion to Transform your Effectiveness.
Transformational Leadership: See how we may “be the change we want to see” in our organizations.
Leading Through Context: How to lead through context so that innovation and engagement can emerge.
Leadership in Hierarchy: Hierarchy impedes innovation. Listening and language tips to improve your leadership.
Working With Culture: Given a Culture Gap. What moves can we make? Work with Culture or Transformation.
Complex Systems Thinking: Effective change is possible when we use a Complex Systems model. Cynefin. Attractors. Emergent Change.
Healthy “Agile” Initiatives: How to get to a healthy initiative. How to focus on the real goals of Agile and clarify WHY.
People-Centric Change: The methods we use to change must be aligned with the culture we hope to foster. How we may change in a way that values people.
Transformation Case Study: Walkthrough of how a transformation unfolded with a 100 person internal IT group.
There are two main audiences that are addressed by this training: organizational leaders and organizational coaches. The principles and practices of organizational culture and leadership are the same regardless of your role. Organizational leaders include executives, vice presidents, directors, managers and program leads. Organizational coaches include Agile coaches, HR professionals, management consultants and internal change leaders. “The only thing of real substance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.” – Edgar Schein
One concept that is integral to BERTEIG’s vision is for the company to grow organically through systematic capacity-building of its team…Which is one reason why I attended Coach’s Camp in Cornwall, Ontario last June. However, I discovered that my understanding of coaching in an Agile environment was totally out to lunch, a universe away from my previous experiences of being an acting and voice coach.
Doing a simulation exercise in a workshop at Coach’s Camp, I took the role of coach and humiliated myself by suggesting lines of action to a beleaguered Scrum Master. I was offering advice and trying to solve his problems – which is, I learned, a big no-no. But I couldn’t quite grasp, then, what a coach actually does.
Despite that less-than-stellar attempt, I was curious to sign up for Scrum Alliance’s webinar called “First Virtual Coaching Clinic,” September 13, 2016. They had gathered a panel of three Certified Enterprise Coaches (CEC’s): Michael de la Maza, Bob Galen, and Jim York.
The panel’s focus was on two particular themes: 1) how to define and measure coaching impact, and, 2) how to deal with command and control in an organization.
The following are some of the ideas I absorbed, which gave me a clearer understanding of the Agile coaching role.
Often, a client is asking a coach for a prescription, i.e. “Just tell me/ us what to do!” All three panel members spoke about the need for a coach to avoid being prescriptive and instead be situationally aware. A coach must help a customer identify his/her own difficulties and outcomes correctly, and work with them to see that achieved. It’s helpful to share stories with the client that may contain two or three options. Be as broad as possible about what you’ve seen in the past. A team should ultimately come up with their own solutions.
However, if a team is heading for a cliff, it may be necessary to be prescriptive.
Often people want boundaries because Agile practices are so broad. Menlo’s innovations (http://menloinnovations.com/our-method/) was suggested as a way to help leaders and teams play. Providing people with new experiences can lead to answers. What ultimately matters is that teams use inspection and adaptation to find practices that work for them.
A good coach, then, helps a client or team find answers to their own situation. It is essential that a coach not create unhealthy dependancies on herself.
It follows that coaching impact can be measured by the degree of empowerment and courage that a team develops – which should put the coach out of a job. An example mentioned was a case study in 2007 out of Yahoo which suggested metrics such as ROI, as well as asking, “Does the organization have the ability to coach itself?”
Other indicators that can be used for successful coaching have to do with psychological safety, for example: a) on this team it is easy to admit mistakes, and, b) on this team, it is easy to speak about interpersonal issues.
When it comes to ‘command and control’ (often practiced by organizational leaders, but sometimes by a team member), the coaches offered several approaches. Many individuals are not aware of their own behaviors. A coach needs to be a partner to that client, and go where the ‘commander’ is to help him/her identify where they want to get to. Learn with them. Share your own journeys with clients and self-organizing teams.
A coach needs to realize that change is a journey, and there are steps in between one point and another. Avoid binary thinking: be without judgement, without a definition of what is right and wrong.
The idea of Shu Ha Ri was suggested, which is a Japanese martial arts term for the stages of learning to mastery, a way of thinking about how you learn a technique. You can find a full explanation of it on Wikipedia.
Coaching is a delicate process requiring awareness of an entire organization’s ecosystem. It requires patience and time, and its outcome ultimately means independence from the coach.
Have I built capacity as a potential Agile coach? Not in a tactical sense; I won’t be hanging out a shingle anytime soon. But at least I‘ve developed the capacity to recognize some do’s and don’t’s...
That’s right: capacity-building IS about taking those steps…
Watch Mishkin Berteig’s video series “Real Agility for Managers” using this link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBZPCl3-W1xpZ-FVr8wLGgA?feature=em-share_playlist_user
“Each week there are more and more exciting items to share with our ever-increasing newsletter subscriber list of leaders who, like you, are creating positive change in organizations across Canada.”
Rachel Perry, Content & Community Coordinator
Recently we sent out a newsletter with some really great announcements! Here is a snippet from the weekly REALagility newsletter.
“Not only do BERTEIG coaches have fantastic insights to contribute to the advancement of the Agile industry, but also our Learning Events – for CSM, CSPO, CSD, SAFe, or Leadership – in both Toronto and Vancouver – continue to expand. In addition, multiple avenues for offering encouragement and support in a variety of ways are opening up all the time.
If our weekly newsletter were to include all the news, it would be 100 pages!
Sure, that might be a bit of an exaggeration but, truth-be-told, instead of putting EVERYTHING in the newsletter we share just key highlights, along with a warm invitation to hop on over to the Agile Advice blog where more knowledge, announcements and entertaining posts can give you plenty more details than what can be expressed in a weekly communication to your inbox.
We are excited to share that last month Agile Advice was viewed 18,000 times. Not only will you find more articles posted than ever before, but you will also discover a new development on the World Mindware page on Agile Advice; detailed accounts of hundreds of positive statements about BERTEIG’s coaches who are some of the leading Agile coaches in the world.
This week we featured Agile Leadership coach, Michael Sahota, on Agile Advice. In September, he will be presenting training for the Certified Agile Leadership (CAL1) training in Toronto. He was the second person to receive the designation to teach this class and the first to offer the training world-wide. He will also be offering a webinar this Wednesday, 24th Aug – register here.”
If you haven’t signed up for our weekly newsletter yet, I encourage you to consider giving it a try.
The Certified Product Owner training I attended recently has me reflecting on when I first heard about Agile.
My introduction was in 2012 on one of those really cold, dark wintery nights in the now-famous Fort McMurray, Alberta.
Garry Bertieg had invited me to consult about a challenge we were facing in a community development initiative. I remember it being so cold and dark I didn’t want to leave the house. But I was curious about what innovative team-building technique he wanted to share so I went to check it out.
We weren’t dealing with a business issue. And it wasn’t tech-related. But it was complex and it dealt with many groups, many individuals, and many Institutions. He felt Agile methods could help.
He presented some basic concepts from OpenAgile. He had a large poster board, sticky-notes and Kanban-style columns showing how items can move across the board while in progress on the way to “done”. He also presented the Learning Circle Model. I just made so much sense to me instantly. He remarked that he was surprised to see me so receptive to the material so quickly. It just made so much sense. This Learning Circle has formed the foundation of how I work ever since.
It was as though it combined the best of everything I had experienced in teacher’s college, in community development and in serving in community-level leadership roles for a decade.
I started applying what I learned from that 3-hour session immediately and I saw the results instantly.
At the time, I was operating independently, so I didn’t have a manager to run anything through, and I was running a neighbourhood children’s class, responsible for supporting more than a dozen volunteers, teachers, and other coordinators. The OpenAgile model was a perfect fit and I attribute a lot of the success of that neighbourhood class to the framework within OpenAgile.
At the time, I knew nothing of Scrum, Kanban or even the way Agile first evolved from IT software development. I didn’t know any of that. But I started working with Agile methods then and continued until now.
Certified Product Owner Training Took My Understanding To a New Level
Last week I had another agile-style life-changing experience in the Certified Scrum Product Owner training lead by Mishkin Berteig & Jerry Doucett.
I entered the class with an open mind, willing to learn, and eager to apply the learning in whatever ways are applicable in my current circumstances.
At a very foundational level I gained a new understanding and appreciation for the role of the Product Owner in creating the product backlog. I understand that is key.
I also enjoyed the simulation exercise of creating a product. The team I worked with at the table was excellent and worked so well together. At one point, we made this Product Box which demonstrated our vision for our product.