In this bonus episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast, Christy Erbeck, Chief People Officer at AgileThought, is serving as your guest host for today’s conversation with Steven Granese and Quincy Jordan.
In their conversation today, they discuss scaling and transformations, and how to lead organizations towards business agility.
Mentioned in This Episode:
- “What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful” by Marshall Goldsmith
- “Unlearn: Let Go of Past Success to Achieve Extraordinary Results” by Barry O’Reilly
- “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” by Simon Sinek
- “The Agile of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done” by Stephen Denning
Transcript [This transcription is auto-generated and may not be completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar.]
Intro: [00:02] Welcome to the 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.
Christy Erbeck: [00:11] Welcome to the Agile Coaches’ Corner. My name’s Christy Erbeck and I’m the Chief People Officer of AgileThought. And with me today are Steven Grenese, the managing director of our Transform practice and Quincy Jordan, a principal transformation consultant within that practice. Welcome gentlemen.
Steven Granese: [00:27] Good morning Christie.
Quincy Jordan: [00:28] Good morning.
Christy Erbeck: [00:29] Good morning. Well, thank you for joining me this early morning. Uh, we are upright in early to record a podcast about the role of scaling in transformations. And I believe the two of you know, more about that than anyone else I might know.
Quincy Jordan: [00:49] Well, thank you for that.
Steven Granese: [00:50] Yeah, that’s a, you know, it’s one of the topics that not only do we enjoy talking with our clients about, but we love to talk about that internally, the challenges of Scaling, and when is it appropriate to help one of our clients scale.
Christy Erbeck: [01:03] And we work with a lot of enterprise clients that have this challenge that they are either in the midst of scaling and going through a transformation of some kind where they are thinking about it, they’re considering it. And they come to us because we know how to do it. We’ve helped clients in the past do it. And we do it every single day. And you know, what we wanted to talk about today is some of the challenges and some of the opportunities even that occur when an organization begins to scale and to think about that and how do they process the scaling within the transformation? How do they make that whole thing work and not feel so much of a, like a culture shock to their people, but more of a culture change and a shift. What do y’all think about that?
Quincy Jordan: [02:00] So I think you actually kind of brought out a good point there, uh, in that there is a distinction also between transformation and scaling. So, uh, sure, uh, many enterprises, they want to scale and so forth, but what are they scaling? Are they scaling the right things or are they scaling bad habits? So part of that transformation is we want to make sure that we are transforming how people think so that when they make decisions, they’re making decisions in line with where we want those decisions to go. Then that is the type of thing that we want to scale. Now, how we look at scaling there’s, you know, any number of ways, you know, of doing that. And, you know, we have, you know, all really good experience and good stories and so forth, um, within AgileThought, you know, around transformation, uh, in scaling as well.
Steven Granese: [02:56] And you know, what’s interesting about the term scaling it’s it can be a controversial topic. Um, well we often find is we’re already working with clients that are, that are large enterprises. They’re already scaling, you know, uh, they may not have a formal agile, uh, scaling framework, let’s say, but, but they are already scaling their business. They’re already large. And so what some of the, um, frameworks that, that we can utilize and some of the agile thinking that Quincy was just talking about in a manner of speaking is about descaling. It’s about, Hey, you’re already large, you’re already have a large operation. Your business is already scaled. How do we break these problems down smaller into smaller pieces? And how do we help you to be more effective with, with your, uh, with your business outcomes in shorter timeframes. So even though you’ll hear this term scaling, the problem we’re trying to solve oftentimes is breaking the problem down smaller.
Christy Erbeck: [03:51] And that seems to be almost a more difficult challenge than scaling up.
Steven Granese: [03:57] It is. And, and frankly, we could probably talk about this topic for a long time here, right? So, uh, about, uh, you know, what are the core problems with scaling, um, when, when things are large, when things, when problems are big, when, when lists of work are big, uh, a lot can be hidden. It can’t, you know, it can’t see what the priorities are. For example, you can’t, you don’t have to make a decision about what you’re doing today, because you know, you’re working on an initiative that’s three years. It just so far out into the future. And so, so much of the, uh, you know, the, the tools and the frameworks that we utilize are about a sense of urgency. How can we break a problem down small so that we have to deliver something in a short amount of time, what that could be a month that could be two weeks. It could be a day. Um, and that’s hard, right? That’s hard for any of us, whether that’s in business or our personal lives to say, all right, I got this big, old challenge that I’m taking on. What do I need to do today? What do I need to deliver today? That is a difficult challenge. And that’s typically where we start with our clients, um, to help them figure out what do I actually need to do first.
Quincy Jordan: [05:02] So it’s also, you know, going along that line, you know, it just had me thinking about how, you know, when you break things, things down smaller, you know, in the way that you just described, um, and you’re able to deliver those things in smaller increments, well, that helps to set expectations properly with stakeholders. And by setting those expectations properly with stakeholders, by delivering those smaller chunks a bit quicker, and which also increases the transparency, then you also tend to have an outcome of more trust being built between, uh, your stakeholders and, you know, really the teams that are actually delivering for them, um, or that program, uh, and having that stakeholder trust is immensely important when they know what to expect when they know that, Oh, okay. We’re, we’re not expecting to come back three months later. And, you know, they have this wonder wonderful thing built for us. Uh, we’re actually seeing what’s being built along the way. And by the way, we’re able to give feedback as well during this process. Uh, so breaking things down in those smaller chunks, you know, I think is really, really valuable, really good. Uh, the other thing that somewhat came to mind to me, as well, as you were saying that Steven is about the buy-in that, uh, is needed for some of the leaders. And some of that buy-in has to do with the level of transparency that is there during the scaling. So if you think about in a traditional sense, you know, you have organizations where they’re very accustomed to using Gantt charts, that’s their world, that’s where they live. That’s how they know what’s going on, or how they feel they know what’s going on. Um, although we know historically in environments where there’s a lot of uncertainty that is really almost more of an illusion of them knowing what’s going on, but even though many want to take that agile, that I’m sorry, want to take that Gantt chart away. That’s fine. But if you do take it away, you need to replace it with something because people have a tendency to want to understand what’s going on. And some, one of the things that we’ve done with that is make sure that we employ roadmaps with our clients as well and those roadmaps, oftentimes help with those expectations, you know, as well.
Christy Erbeck: [07:37] Quincy, could you or Steven, either one of you, I love where you’re headed there because the distinction between how they have been working and how they will need to work or need to change often is really fuzzy when there’s unknown or when they’re beginning this journey. And so providing that clarity, providing the clarity to the leaders as to what they will need to do differently, or how they want you to act or behave or lead or measure providing the clarity to the stakeholders of how they’ll interact with the teams differently, even down to the team level of how the teams need to interact differently, that level of clarity and guidance, um, I think alleviates some stress and maybe some anxiety around what this new way of working looks like and would be like, um, could you, either of you talk a little bit about that?
Steven Granese: [08:36] Sure. Uh, Christy, um, one of the big questions, I think that that needs to be addressed up front, um, you know, by leadership. Um, and we, we, we talked to our clients about this right up front. There’s kind of two modes, I would say of adopting agile let’s. Uh, and I like talk about it as delivery versus transformation. What I, you know, what I mean by that is, um, let’s say that you’re interested in adopting an agile way of working. Are you, are you just focused on delivering, meaning improving your delivery or do you really want a transformation, meaning do you really want to change the way your business? Um, it’s a core question. And let me, let’s talk about that for a minute, because we work with clients. We’ve just talked to potential clients and ultimately what they want is they want to get a little bit better. They want to move faster. Um, but they don’t want to change anything. And to Quincy’s point a minute ago about adding on, Hey, we already have this way of working. We just want to add on, uh, you know, new reports or a new meeting, or maybe we’ll get rid of this one report, but replace it with something they don’t fundamentally want to change. Um, and they may not be aware of that. They’re not looking, they don’t necessarily think that there’s anything really broken or anything really wrong. Um, they don’t necessarily think that there’s that big of a problem. They just want to get better at what they do. Both are fine, by the way, there’s not a right or wrong, but it’s clarifying what the outcome is that they’re looking for. Um, because that will dictate so much of how they should do things. And frankly, if we’re, um, if it’s the client that we’re working with, it’ll dictate the way that we help them. Alright. And again, if you want to get 10%, 20% better output from your teams, versus we want to fundamentally look at the way our business operates, the types of customers we’re going after the way our teams are structured, the way our organization is structured, our financial incentives, everything. I mean, that’s all on the table for an organizational transformation versus delivery is not necessarily about, um, changing a lot. It’s really about how can we improve and make some, some improvements to what we already do.
Christy Erbeck: [10:59] So really having a clarity around why we are doing and what we’re looking to achieve is critical before starting down that path. Or if you were down that path and you have this aha moment of, Oh my gosh, we really only want to do this versus we want to do this whole big transformation thing, knowing that, and coming to that realization is pivotal in how you go forward next, I would assume.
Steven Granese: [11:33] It is. We have a lot of clients. The name of our company is AgileThought. Agile is right in the name of our company. We have clients that come to us, they know about our reputation for, for agile coaching, for digital transformations, for software development, um, cutting edge technology. Um, and so they’ll come to us and they’ll say, Hey, can you help us? You know, can you provide us with an agile coach? You know, we’re interested in adopting agile and that’s great. Um, one of the things that really makes us different as, as consultants, especially in our, in our transform practice is to your point, Chris, we like to ask the question why, and it’s, it’s a, it’s a dangerous question. It’s a, it’s a, it’s a slippery slope because, uh, you may not know why, and that’s okay. Um, or the Why could lead to this painful conversations or frankly it could lead to some really wonderful conversations ultimately. Um, but that question has to be answered first, especially if you’re looking at a true transformation, why are you doing this? You know, what are you, what is it that we you’re trying to change? Why are you trying to change? Um, are you confronting real organizational challenges and problems that you have? And again, when you, if you’re focusing on transformation, that’s really critical. If you’re focusing on delivering and getting, you know, incrementally better, those aren’t necessarily the questions that you’re looking to be asked or are looking to answer. Um, and so again, it fundamentally changes the way that we would work with, with one of our clients, but any true transformation needs to start with why.
Christy Erbeck: [13:01] And Steven, what if they want both, what if they want to improve how they deliver or change how they deliver, and they also want transformation, what happens then?
Steven Granese: [13:13] That’s the ultimate question, right? And that’s, that’s what we want to figure out most, most clients that we work with. Um, they’re not sure cause maybe they haven’t framed it in that way. Of course, most clients would want both. Uh, of course, um, because a true transformation will ultimately lead to better delivery. So maybe a better way of stating the problem that we’re talking about here is, uh, it’s not a verse. It’s not your delivery versus transformation. It’s really about timing. Um, you know, uh, a real transformation will take time. It’ll take, it could take a long time, you know, it could take a few years, um, but a true transfer, well, things will get worse before they get better. As a, as a, as a phrase we like to say to our clients. We’re going to break some things apart and put them back together. So as long as you’re okay with that, that’s, what’s truly important. You know, it’s going to take a little bit of time to do that. Versus if you’re trying to put a fire, if you have a project that’s, that’s not right going well. And it’s got a hard delivery date and you don’t have time to really change your organization. You just need to deliver this product. You just need to deliver this product on time, whatever it is that you’re doing right now, you just got to ship something and get it out the door. You don’t have time, at least in your mind, you don’t have time to break things apart and put them back together. Um, so that’s the real question is what’s your short term goal. Um, ultimately, you know, the real transformation, again, breaking things down, breaking your organization apart, putting it back together will lead to much better delivery. It’s just a matter of when, and that’s, that’s the question we want to help our clients with is, um, you know, when, when are the outcomes that you’re looking achieve, uh, it’s hard enough to figure out what the outcomes are. That’s certainly a challenge, but when do you want them? And that’s, that’s the critical question.
Quincy Jordan: [14:59] I think that also kind of leads us into a nice area to talk about, which is, um, oftentimes the outcome that is desired, whether, whether the organization knows it or not, but the outcome that is desired is really true business agility. Like that’s where oftentimes we really want it to go towards. Um, so, you know, there’s a lot of conversation that happens around, uh, teams, uh, being small and being nimble and being able to react quick, uh, to changes and demands from the business or customers. But you know, what happens when the organization needs to do that same thing, but to the market. When an organization needs to be able to respond and make changes to the market, to meet those demands quickly. And that’s where, uh, in many ways business agility comes into the picture that yes, we need to know the types of problems that we’re looking to solve. We need to know the type of outcome, uh, that we’re wanting, but we also need to have an infrastructure in place, a culture in place that allows the organization to move very quickly when that unknown market shift happens. So we can take, for example, uh, the entire COVID-19 experience that we’re all going through right now, uh, those companies that exhibited whether they set themselves up intentionally, uh, this way or not. Uh, but those that exhibited business agility have been able to adjust and transform in a much shorter period of time and have much better productivity than those companies that continue to plow forward and just say, well, you know, this will all be over in a matter of weeks or this will be over really quickly, and those companies didn’t farewell, you know, there, there are many that did not, there are many that went under within a matter of, you know, two or three months. So reaching that point of business agility through transformations allows organizations to be in a position in a posture that they can weather the storm, even when they don’t know what storm is coming. And that’s one of the things I really like about, uh, one is the entire agile mindset, the entire agile transformation, uh, way of doing things, uh, scaling that way of doing things. Uh, it, it just allows better reaction to the unknown.
Steven Granese: [17:42] Yeah, yeah. I think that’s fantastic. I kind of want to touch on that goal, even, even deeper on what you just said around business agility and kind of bring it back to what we were just talking about. And let’s maybe reframe some of the words: Lots of times when we go talk with a client, um, you know, they’re talking about using agile in it and that’s often that’s where it’s popular, that’s where it started. And so they’ll say, Hey, we need to use agile in our it department. We need to deliver, um, you know, we, there’s not trust that’s a word that you used earlier in this podcast, Quincy, a huge word. Um, there’s not trust between it and business. So oftentimes it is looking to deliver better. Um, but what you just said about business agility is really critical because oftentimes to really get the benefits, um, of working in this way of working in an agile way, it’s really about the business being adaptable and what you just said, Quincy, whether it’s reacting to, um, a global pandemic or what’s reacting to changes in their industry and their marketplace, um, that true business agility is, is what the desire is. And a real transformation is it’s a business transformation. It’s an organizational transformation. It’s not just about one department like it or other departments, frankly, that that could benefit from using, um, uh, different techniques like this. So that business agility, that the ability of the whole organization to adapt based on changing conditions, uh, in the world, in their marketplace, um, in their industry, whatever it is, I mean, typically that’s the longterm goal and that’s what we want to help our clients get to when we talk about transformations, when we talk about scaling frameworks, uh, D scaling with all these different tools and techniques that we talk about, the true ultimate goal is that business agility.
Quincy Jordan: [19:26] Absolutely. And so along those lines, maybe let’s, let’s unpack that even further. So what are some of the things that specifically, uh, leaders need to consider, um, with that? Uh, one of the things that I think about is, uh, encouraging the ability to, uh, learn unlearn and relearn like that is so critical within many organizations because when companies have past success, right, and they get stuck in that past success, uh, then they sometimes limit their ability to learn new things and do things in a new way. And it’s very difficult, you know, for, for many of us, especially for leaders, you know, that have that track record to unlearn some things that, you know, that was good for that time and that got you there. That was perfect, but we need to unlearn some of that stuff and learn some new things, um, to move forward to where we need to go and not get complacent or stuck in the past. So to speak.
Christy Erbeck: [20:40] I love that Quincy, you know, there’s a book by Marshall Goldsmith that says, what got you here? Won’t get you where you’re going next, or it’s something along that lines. We can put the actual book title in the show notes. And that book is from years ago. The book that I think you’re referencing is called unlearn. And that also is an amazing, um, book at looking at how, how do we learn? How do we unlearn and then relearn new behaviors. And, you know, you’re kind of inching into the, my world of people. And, and some folks listening might wonder why as a chief people officer talking about scaling and transformation and, and, you know, for me, the heart of transformation is the people. And because they’re affected, they’re affected by how they’re working today and they’re affected by how people or organizations will work in the future. And so understanding the challenges that they’re going through and, and the, the work and the effort that’s required for leaders at all levels within an organization to be willing, to take a chance, be vulnerable, be courageous in trying something new in being a learner versus being a knower and exhibiting that growth mindset to help their people, which then ultimately helps their clients and helps their organization and so on and so on.
Steven Granese: [22:13] Well, um, you know, we do a lot of work at AgileThought with, uh, with leaders. Um, we do a lot of executive training, leadership, training workshops, all kinds of things to help, um, to help our, our, our client leaders to get prepared for all, all the type of work that you’re talking about, Christy, whether it’s, um, working on the organization, the people inside the organization, the culture of the organization, whether it’s working on the business outcomes and making stakeholders happy, but there’s a different mindset. And that’s really what, what Quincy brought up there. There’s a different mindset that’s required. Uh, when you talk about just working in a modern, agile way, it’s not about, you know, we fall in certain frameworks to the T it’s really about, um, you know, am I clear as to where I’m going, um, in the future, do I know why I’m trying to get there? Um, and can I deliver in small increments and learn from, uh, from the feedback, um, you know, and it’s almost like in one, in one line, that’s kind of what we talk with with leaders about is because whether it’s traditional ways of working, but around for a long time, uh, of course you have to get, if you’re a business leader, of course, you have to get clear where you’re going. There’s, there’s nothing new about that. Of course, you have to, to help lead your people and help give them direction. But the difference now is how fast can you deliver something? And how fast can you learn? Um, that is the real question. How fast can, can you learn it? And Quincy said, uh, unlearn and relearn. So we’re using word learn a lot, which is really, really critical. But having as a leader, having the humility to recognize that everything can change in a second, um, and we have to continuously learn and unlearn and relearn. We’re always learning. Um, you know, it’s the arrogance to say, well, we figured it out. We’ve been successful. Um, you know, we’re the leader in this marketplace and that’ll never change that. What’s, that’s what makes a business, uh, vulnerable to, you know, to rivals or to, to, um, to new startups, um, or to just, uh, competitors coming into their market. And that’s what we want leaders to walk away from, from the work we do with them is to say, wow, I’m going to have to continuously adapt and continuously change my organization. And that’s just the reality of it. And if, if COVID has taught only one lesson to business leaders, it may be that, that at any moment, my business could be vulnerable.
Christy Erbeck: [24:42] Absolutely. Well, I would like to thank you both for being here and chatting with me about scaling in a transformation, and actually the distinction between scaling and transformation as Quincy pointed out. There’s a lot that we can learn and unlearn and relearn in this situation. And I look forward to the next time we can come together and talk more about this topic.
Steven Granese: [25:08] Thanks for having us today Christy. Appreciate it.
Quincy Jordan: [25:11] Yeah, absolutely.
Outro: [25:14] 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.