In today’s episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast, Dan Neumann is once again joined by his colleague, Quincy Jordan. Quincy is a principal transformation consultant and agile competency lead who has been with AgileThought for just over two years. Prior to AgileThought, Quincy was the transformation lead for Pivotal’s Atlanta office, where he consulted with clients to help them reach enterprise scale. Quincy also served as a principal consultant and agile coach at SCRUMstudy.com for over six years.
Today, they’re talking agile psychology and the rise of the agile Jedi. They go beyond the general skills and practices of agile to the key mindset pieces and various ways of thinking. Similar to a Jedi, agilists also need to go on a journey of mastery to improve all aspects of their skills. So, tune in to find out more about agile psychology and begin your path to becoming an agile Jedi.
Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and not completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar]
Intro [00:03]: Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner by AgileThought. The podcast for practitioners and leaders seeking advice to refine the way they work and pave the path to better outcomes. Now here’s your host coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.
Dan Neumann [00:16]: Welcome to Agile Coaches’ Corner. I’m Dan Neumann and today I’m joined by Quincy Jordan, one of my colleagues. And we are going to be talking about agile psychology, rise of the agile Jedi.
Quincy Jordan [00:27]: Hey Dan, happy to be here again. Agile Coaches’ Corner. Always a pleasure,
Dan Neumann [00:33]: A little request for people that are listening to this and if you’re loving it, um, if you wouldn’t mind just hopping out to your podcast platform and giving us some stars and a review and that’ll help the, uh, the content, get out to other folks who maybe would also get benefit from it. So I’d appreciate that. And, uh, of course if you have any questions or comments, so we’d love to hear those at firstname.lastname@example.org. So that’s, uh, that’s the plea for a little bit of assistance, but it’s been awesome to see the, uh, the numbers keep growing and, and, uh, some of the engagement from folks, you know, we get some emails with ideas for content and we’ll be talking about certifications here hopefully in another few episodes. I’ve got to do a little bit more digging. Uh, the question is kind of like which certifications are valuable to the people who get them and then which certifications are employers asking for from a value in the marketplace standpoint. So I think that’s a pretty interesting topic. We’ll look to try and provide some content on and just a few episodes in the future.
Quincy Jordan [01:32]: Absolutely. Yeah, I think that will be really nice episode as well.
Dan Neumann [01:36]: Awesome. Well, let’s, uh, let’s get to the content of the day then. The agile psychology and rise of the agile Jedi. What got you, what got you thinking agile psychology, Quincy?
Quincy Jordan [01:46]: Um, well, so when I used to, I mean I still do, but when I used to, uh, specifically teach Scrum Master training, uh, several years back and, um, one of the things that I would emphasize was that, uh, in my opinion, those that really had an easier time transitioning into the Scrum Master role were those and want to say transitioning into transitioning from project management. Um, because that’s really a large part of how a lot of this started, you know, that a lot of companies said, Oh, well, we’re going to do Scrum, so we’re going to take all of our Scrum, all of our project managers and now they’re going to be Scrum Masters. Um, and as we know, that does not always work out, you know, the best. Um, but for those that I, you know, would observe had the easiest transition, uh, were those that were a little less, uh, into the metrics of everything in a bit more into the people of everything. Um, and so those who were a bit more in tune into how things were impacting the teams, um, as from a human standpoint, uh, seem to have really an easier time getting teams to perform better. And so that just kind of got me thinking along the lines of, okay, well what’s the psychology that’s happening there? What’s, what’s going on? And that really is what kind of started the original thought around. Um, agile psychology, you know, for me and the whole rise of the Jedi, um just kind of a play on Star Wars and just thinking about the Mastery, you know, the Jedi is a, is a Master of, you know, certain skills in that kind of thing. And so I really just tie it back to, uh, what I see as going beyond agile coaching to like a true Mastery of agile, uh, psychology and how you influence versus manipulate and all these other things that I’m sure we’ll get into today.
Dan Neumann [03:57]: There are that subset of project managers that really, to their detriment, even as project managers in a traditional sense, to their detriment, are more concerned about did the process get followed, then did the outcome get achieved? Or how is the process affecting? So, um, and I think that really becomes more evident in agility when we’re trying to do Scrum or trying to inspect and adapt and, um, the focus becomes more, well, did we do the standup, was it in 15 minute boxes? Did you check the box on the three questions yesterday, today, and the impediments. And off we go. So, so let’s, let’s pull on that coaching thread a little bit.
Quincy Jordan [04:36]: Sure. And, and it’s kinda interesting that, uh, that you went down that line because it made me think about how, uh, for those, you know, project managers, you know, to a large degree, I mean, it’s kind of like their fault, but it’s kind of not their fault, you know. So the definition of a successful project per PMI, uh, you know, is it’s on time within budget and scope. All right. So that has, excuse me, that has nothing to do with, uh, you know, how did everyone fare during that time? You know, do you have a team that is now sustainable that can continue working together? Or did you get through it? You know, you were on time, on, you know, in budget and all that stuff. Um, but by the time you got to the end, like everyone wanted to kill each other, like no one wanted to work with any anyone anymore. So, you know, for me, that brings the question of, okay, well how successful was that? You know, really was it truly successful? Yes, you got the result. But sometimes it’s not. It’s not just about the result of the project. It’s also, um, are you contributing to a sustainable model? Um, and a sustainable business model, which then gets us towards business agility, you know, and those kinds of things. So when we are looking at coaching and we’re kind of pulling down the thread, pulling on the thread of agile coaching. So in the true sense of coaching, if you think about sports analogies and so forth, um, even to the point that Scrum, you know, comes from rugby and all that. So a coach really by definition helps to, uh, an individual team to create like a new skill. Um, and within that skill they’re also maybe executing on a strategy, um, that the coach has developed. It does not necessarily, uh, say by definition that they really truly have changed the thinking. That is something that we seek to do as agile coaches. Um, but a coach by definition does not necessarily change the thinking. They change maybe some habits, they change some, some behaviors. And I hesitate to even say habits, but it definitely changed some behaviors. Uh, and so from an agile psychology standpoint, what we’re really looking to get to is a place where when core decision making has to happen, the influence that has taken place, that’s where the person goes in their mind to make those decisions. So it’s kind of like I’ve heard it used before that, well, you know, if I squeeze your fruit, what kind of, it’s going to come out.
Dan Neumann [07:30]: Anyway, that analogy made me uncomfortable. But yeah, it’s okay if you paint a lime orange, it’s still a lime over there because where you’re going with that.
Quincy Jordan [07:43]: Yeah. So, so yeah, it’s, and I say that from the standpoint of, you know, what kind of fruit comes out of here, you know, what kind of, what’s growing out of you,
Dan Neumann [07:52]: What kind of, what kind of tree are you? Yeah. Good to clarify that.
Quincy Jordan [07:57]: Yes, that is good to clarify.
Dan Neumann [07:58]: Well, and I think, you know, back to the project manager, um, you know, you can, you can take, uh, so hopefully we’re not bagging on project managers. I was a project manager in a waterfall environment. We did contracted stuff. Um, and you know, the business is still an ongoing concern. Plenty of money was made, lots of partners are doing very well. Um, but I think sometimes when organizations go towards agility, they, they take the project managers who are limes, they spray paint them orange and they call them an orange. Like, but it’s still the same essential body, right? It’s still the same fruit and it’s still internally it’s doing the same thing. So it’s just, you know, we, we put a facade over it and try to think of it as something else.
Quincy Jordan [08:43]: And I think those are the types of things that come into play with agile psychology that we’re not going to pretend that, you know, this lime is no longer a lime. So, so if we don’t, then this now puts us in a position where we can truly start working towards, uh, you know, transformative type, you know, uh, changes, not just behavior changes, but true changes along the lines of, you know, thought process. Um, and so you mentioned that about the project managers. Uh, same thing happens with, uh, BAs. You know, so plenty of your companies they take, they say, Oh, well, you know, we’re going to go agile and we’re going to have a, we’re going to use for almost a framework. So we’re going to make all of our BAs Product Owners well that doesn’t always work the best. Um, sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t, but it, it takes understanding the psyche of those roles that are coming from in the psyche of the role that are going into to know whether or not this is probably going to be the best transition, um, for them. So when I think about, uh, for example, BAs, BAs are really good at gathering a lot of information to really good at dissecting a lot of information to really good at pulling things together. Where they tend to struggle is making decisions with that information. And that’s what a product owner has to does. So from an agile psychology standpoint, I would say, Hey, look, this person is a BA. We are considering moving them into a Product Owner role. Let’s evaluate their decision making. So we’re not questioning whether or not the BAs are good at gathering information. What we’re needing to evaluate and, uh, make sure of is that they can make good decisions with that information. Because that’s what a Product Owner has to do. They have to make some of those final decisions. And many BAs are not accustomed to being in the hot seat of, okay, you make this final decision, you set these priorities. Um, it’s not just finding out what someone else said. You have to gather this information and then make decisions with it.
Dan Neumann [11:14]: And so tying that back to the part where you’re saying, Hey, you know, a lot of times coaching gets mistaken for just teaching a new behavior, teaching a skill. So the BA example that might be like, do you have a product backlog? Do you have product backlog items in there? Is it refined? Et cetera. But really the mindset shift hasn’t happened. They’re still perhaps viewing that product backlog as the requirements in that, you know, we, we flesh it out completely, we hammer through it in iterations less than a month and off we go. So yeah. So I think that’s a nice example of, you know, teaching behaviors on skills versus having a shift in mindset. Yeah. Okay.
Quincy Jordan [11:54]: Yeah. And you know, we’re also, you know, when we’re talking agile psychology, we’re also evaluating things like, how do you read the room? How do you read micro-expressions, uh, and, and can you pick up on microaggression? You know, can you pick up on all these things? And then not only can you pick up on it, but then what you do with that information. How do you turn that information into hopefully a positive, uh, experience? And, and I would say, you know, by and large, I think that’s one of the biggest differences that I think of when, when I’m thinking through, uh, what I’m calling agile psychology versus let’s say agile coaching is getting into the experience that, uh, those, that you’re influencing, you know, are having, uh, so, you know, when we’re thinking through influence, say versus manipulation. All right, so in my mind, those are, uh, two sides of the same coin. And what makes the difference between the influence versus manipulation is the intent. Uh, so, um, in many environments we are accustomed to really people being manipulated into, um, trying to get results. Um, even if you say, well, you know, what, what are their motivators? What’s gonna motivate them? Okay, well let’s, let’s give them breakfast. All right, well that’s great. Okay. But are you giving them breakfast because you care about their wellbeing or are you giving them breakfast because you’re trying to get them to work at 7:30 in the morning, you know, every day. So, you know, so what are you trying to do? And we as humans, sure, we may appreciate, for example, the breakfast, but we pick up on whether or not someone is manipulating or whether or not they’re truly trying to influence. And like I said, it comes down to, you know, the intent and if you’re operating in agile psychology, you know, you want to influence, not manipulate. So you want to understand how can I best help this individual or this team, um, to understand their challenges and bring the best out of them. Uh, and so I’ll kind of stop there. I feel like I’ve been going a little long. Just give me a chance.
Dan Neumann [14:23]: No worries. No worries. Yeah. Um, I’ll elbow my way in if we have to verbally elbow him. Yeah. I think the influence versus manipulation is kind of interesting. You know, the, uh, you can get compliance, um, with, with different things and you can manipulate it. I think, uh, Oh gosh, I listened to the Dave Ramsey podcast. He’s a financial guy, but one of the phrases he says something along the lines of those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still. I think it was something that he made me his mother said or whatever, and she probably didn’t event. But it’s, you know, you, you don’t want to just manipulate people into doing something. You really want to, uh, explore the, the opinions and what underlies some of that behavior and the why of it so that potentially, you know, there’s a chance to, um, re-examine some of those foundational beliefs that underlie that behavior and influence maybe a different path that’ll get them better results.
Quincy Jordan [15:24]: Yeah. So that just kind of sparked something in my mind. So, you know, when we’re talking about really understanding the why, you know, I wonder oftentimes how many agilist uh, or agile practitioners to, maybe stay away from trademark things,
Dan Neumann [15:44]: Well, I guess that’s agilist, that can be kind of a pejorative term too.
Quincy Jordan [15:51]: But I wonder, you know, how many folks really, truly think about the why behind the Agile Manifesto. So if you think about the first part of the Agile Manifesto, interact interaction of individuals over processes and tools. Uh, so we’re human, you know, in humans interact and when humans interact, uh, it’s not always, uh, an outcome that we can predict, you know, at many times. And we, you know, so if you dig into the psyche of, sure, agile goes beyond it now. Uh, but it started in and is still by and large in the IT space. And I say that to say the fact of the matter is most of us, or many of us, not most, but many of us went into the IT space because we like ones and zeros. Like we like things that are, you know, very consistent. Um, you know, what to expect. And I have met individuals that, especially in the early days of agile, that were very expressive, that I started working with computers because I didn’t want to work with people.
Dan Neumann [17:08]: Well, at least they admitted that yes, that’s a step in the right direction.
Quincy Jordan [17:14]: Uh, and, and I’ve been part of transformations where people, you know, have said, Hey, I, you know, I don’t want to do this agile thing. Like, I don’t want to be collaborative. I don’t want to work closely together. I just want to do my code, do my thing, and go on about my business. Um, and so for that person, you know, that was their choice and that’s what they needed to do. But the current landscape is going in more and more in the direction of you can’t be IT and not know how to get along people. So you have to be more collaborative. Now you have to understand, um, you know, intonation in, uh, people’s voices and you have to be able to pick up on, Oh wow. I actually just kind of ticked this person off, but I didn’t realize it. Like, I didn’t intend to. Uh, so you have to be more cognizant of those things now than, than what IT folks or technical folks, you know, have to do in the past.
Dan Neumann [18:15]: You’re saying that, I guess I’m thinking what types of resources maybe have you found helpful, um, around maybe building some of that, that mindset or some of those? Um, well, yeah, mindset and skills. So for somebody who actually A has to care that they’ve upset somebody else, right? And then B has to have an interest in repairing or undoing the damage there.
Quincy Jordan [18:38]: Yeah. So, so let’s say one, like early in my career I spent a lot of time focusing on critical thinking type training on active listening type training. Um, and not that I am an expert at those things per se, but I see the importance in them. And specifically active listening, uh, I believe puts a person in that space almost better than anything else because it somewhat forces you to empathize with the person that you’re trying to listen to. It forces you to really put your own thoughts aside in genuinely listened to the other person’s, um, thoughts that are coming forward to help you see their point of view. Because oftentimes that’s not what we do. And that’s not how we’re conditioned. We’re really, have been condition to do is to listen enough to hear enough to form a rebuttal to win their argument. Like that’s, that’s what we’re mainly conditioned to do. Um, and that doesn’t make for a very healthy, uh, team environment, um, because that really means that people aren’t really empathizing with one another. They’re not really listening to one another. So, um, definitely the critical thinking type things. Uh, but the active listening, I think it is not really intended for the reasons that I’m saying, but I’ve found that it helps to develop those skills, um, a lot more than, uh, than many. You know, many other, uh, things that are along those lines.
Dan Neumann [20:18]: So I get to practice active listening now. So that active listening is one of those skillsets and I think what you’re describing is it helps the other person know that they’ve been heard, which is valuable to them. And it helps make sure that you are actually hearing what was communicated back.
Quincy Jordan [20:36]: Yeah, it is. And if you think about, and I didn’t even with the time that I spent four years just kind of focusing on this to a degree, it wasn’t until 2018, um, I sat through a session on active listening with Heidi at Agile2018. I forgot Heidi’s last name. I can find it later. Uh, but she did a really good session on active listening and she did a drill or an exercise where we focused in, we started one sound by tapping our legs, um, tapping our thighs. And then she said, okay, now listen for the other sounds around that. And then listened for the other sounds around that. And I was able to see how you could zero in on, like you could adjust your listing and zero in on certain sounds with a lot of different sounds going on. And what it made me think of is I do, I’ve done that with sight, you know, where you can look at an object and then you can look past that object and then you can look past the next object. You can still see all three but you’re focusing on one. And uh, and so doing that exercise, really, I don’t, it did something, you know, for me that it was like, wow, like I can, I can really focus in on all these different sounds, but focusing on one, even though I hear all the others and in a very intentional way.
Dan Neumann [22:24]: That’s interesting. It reminds me of a, an NPR story. So national public radio, we have a lot of listeners outside of the United States. So national public radio, they have a lot of interesting things. And one of the episodes, and I forget even which podcasts, but it was a blind gentleman who teaches people to see their surroundings by clicking. So basically you make a clicking sound with your mouth and you can hear the echoes off hard surfaces and soft surfaces. Um, and he was even, uh, teaching a kid to climb a tree by clicking and listening for like the branches are. Yeah, it’s rowdy stuff. And I’m like, man, my wife accuses me of not even hearing her. And I’m like, I’m sure she is louder than a click echo. But it’s interesting to think how you can really develop these skills that, like you said, on their face. So you don’t think of audio like you do visual where you can focus on, you know, your nose and a foot out in an infinite distance, like, you know, the moon and things like that. So that’s pretty cool. Any other, uh, any other skills as people try to lean towards agile Jedi-ship?
Quincy Jordan [23:32]: Yeah. So, you know, I mentioned earlier about understanding micro-expressions, um, and you know, really it’s, so there is another, another training, um, set of training that I’ve done that has helped with that as well, which is negotiations. So, um, negotiating training, uh, helps a lot with that as well because you learn in it and that kind of gets into the intent of influence versus manipulation. Um, but you learn how to read micro-expressions, how to read, um, you know, when the corners of the mouth go up slightly versus down slightly, like what that means. Uh, you know, if the eyes begin to squint a little bit or they get bright and, uh, what all those different things can indicate. Um, and so and, and so again, like those types of skills are very useful. The agile psychology part comes in and what you do with those skills. So, uh, so for example, um, it’s, it’s kind of funny, my, my son is, uh, he’s, he doesn’t like for me to do certain things with him, uh, where I’m asking him certain questions because he knows that I can pick up like really quickly on whether or not he’s telling the truth or whether or not, you know, he’s kind of holding something back. Uh, and so if you learn some of those same skills, you can utilize that with teams as well. And so let’s say you’re going through, um, your daily Scrum or a retro and you pick up on hey something this person is saying, not that they’re not telling the truth, but something’s missing or something. You know, there’s a part that isn’t being said.
Dan Neumann [25:31]: Something’s being left out.
Quincy Jordan [25:35]: Yes, and so the agile psychology part says, well, why, why is this person doing that? Not, well, I think you’re leaving something out and I’m going to jump down your throat about it, or I’m going to put you on front street in front of the rest of the team. That’s not the intent. The intent is to now take that information and empathize with, well, why would they do that? What’s causing them to do that? What are they afraid of? Because chances are there’s some fear that’s happening. So if they’re afraid of something, then something must be wrong. So that would give me the information to dig further and maybe pull that person aside and say, Hey, well, you know, what’s going on? And this is where we would start using some of the soft skills. So those are some of the other things that would come into play. Hey, you know, so what’s troubling you right now? Or is there something that you know, I can help with or maybe just help you think through? Um, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that, you know, again, something cataclysmic is wrong but something’s obviously bothering that person and it may not have anything to do with work. It could be something personal going on. Uh, and so that’s why I kind of take it back to the intent that if you empathize with the person, if you actually want, just show that you care about another human being, then it can help to put you in a better position to help that person to change their thinking in a way that’s positive for the holes, positive for them, is positive for the team, is positive for the organization.
Dan Neumann [27:15]: That’s awesome. What else might, uh, might people need to know on this topic? Um, and actually as I asked that, I think one of the things we talked about was this isn’t for manipulation. Like, uh, I’m not a huge Star Wars fan. I’m very casual, but there’s the, these are not the droids you’re looking for. Right. There was the manipulation of the weak minded stormtroopers I think in one of the early, maybe episode four. Yeah. The first one. Yeah.
Quincy Jordan [27:43]: Um, yeah. So yeah, so it’s not, it’s definitely not about manipulation. It’s about influence. Um, and it’s, it’s heavily about Mastering these types of things that we’re talking about now. Mastering the soft skills, Mastering reading, micro-expressions, uh, Mastering, seeing micro-aggressions when they happen, not to you, but when they’re happening between teammates, uh, because those conflicts are taking place and Oh wow. There is something that we need to resolve here. And so if you look at it from a Scrum context, well that will be really important for a Scrum Master to be able to do because if that becomes an impediment to the team, well, who’s responsible for removing impediments for the team? Well, that can also include two or three teammates that for some reason don’t get along or one teammate that, um, you know, just really kind of ticks everyone off. Uh, and it, it actually makes me think about, so there was a situation, um, a couple of years ago and, um, this was the first time I’ve ever seen this in 20 plus odd years of experience. Uh, but this individual literally threw a full on temper tantrum in the room with the team and some leadership, you know, as well. Um, and it wasn’t, it wasn’t a surprise that it was this individual. It was just a surprise that an adult would actually go to these extents, um, in a team meeting and, but you could actually see it coming. Like if you knew what to look for, you could see the expression on his face. You could see, you know, the water was rising, you could see it coming. And, um, but I, unfortunately, I wasn’t in the, it wasn’t my role to step in and try to diffuse that. Uh, and to some degree I almost felt like it didn’t need to be diffused. I felt like it, it actually somewhat probably should have happened just to, for everyone to see to what extent, you know, the problem was. Um, but if I were, let’s say I were the Scrum Master in that case, or I was the agile coach in that case where I was in the posture where I should be the person to step in and diffuse, that it’s really important to be able to pick up on those things. Um, really quickly. And, and in that case, it was fortunate that it was a tantrum. Uh, but there are unfortunate cases that have gone much further, you know, than tantrums, uh, where, you know, things have gotten really bad and, uh, as, I don’t want to say agile psychologists, but as you know, from an agile psychology standpoint, uh, if you understand those things, um, in an agile environment and why that could occur and why it would be important to help that individual to better express themselves, um, and to help others to allow that person to better express themselves, uh, then it makes for a healthier environment and a healthier environment means that people enjoy, you know, working together even if they don’t enjoy the work. If they enjoy working together, that still will produce a better outcome.
Dan Neumann [31:14]: Awesome. Hey, thanks for exploring. The topics of kind of going beyond skills and practices of mindset in different ways of thinking.
Quincy Jordan [31:24]: Yeah, absolutely.
Dan Neumann [31:25]: What is on your continuous learning journey these days? Are you, are you reading anything? I know you’re a fairly busy with some things. I don’t know if you’re still making some time for a long form or short form reading.
Quincy Jordan [31:38]: Um, well, I’m constantly reading. I’m constantly learning new things. Uh, there isn’t, I’m not into a new book at this time from the last time, uh, but I definitely like to do a lot of, uh, you know, LinkedIn articles, a lot of, um, industry reading. I do find myself leaning towards more things about understanding why people make the decisions that they make and how to effectively communicate with people effectively reach people. Um, you know, it’s, I would not proclaim to have Mastered, you know, those areas. Uh, but I am, you know, definitely on kind of a constant search to improve in those areas. So anything that has to do with better understanding of people, you know, showing more empathy, um, understanding more empathy. And like I said, more importantly how to use that information effectively once you have it. I think that becomes the key. Like we do a of gathering of information. We’re in a knowledge based society where, you know, we gather just as much information as possible, but we don’t always emphasize now that you have it, what can you do with it to be effective to help others?
Dan Neumann [32:58]: Cool. Yeah. Maybe we can, uh, get together and maybe find a couple of links to some specific things that people are interested in that topic and, and drop them into the show notes.
Quincy Jordan [33:06]: Absolutely.
Dan Neumann [33:07]: Awesome. Hey, thanks Quincy. Appreciate the time today.
Quincy Jordan [33:10]: Sure. Thank you Dan. Happy to be here again,
Outro [33:14]: This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views, opinions, and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.
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