Digital Revolution in an Agile Way

Podcast Ep. 144: The Digital Revolution in an Agile Way with Brian Pivar

Digital Revolution in an Agile Way
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Episode Description:

This week, Dan Neumann is joined by Brian Pivar, Senior Director of Data and Analytics at The Kraft Heinz Company. There is a lot of agile in the software community and Kraft Heinz is one of the companies practicing the agile way.

In this episode, Brian shares extensively about his career at Kraft and how he started the digital revolution in the organization, promoting a culture change and encouraging different ways of functioning through agile. Brian dives deep into his approach regarding recruiting and developing talent, as well as emphasizes the importance of following solid leadership principles that he details during this thoughtful conversation.

Listen on Apple Podcasts

Key Takeaways

  • Brian describes how Kraft Heinz got into the agile world
    • Brian joined Kraft Heinz three years ago to lead the Data and Analytics section with the goal of brining analytics to a more legacy company. The first two years they had a waterfall approach, hearing the organization’s needs and prioritizing the top ones while building a strong data foundation and team
    • One year ago, Kraft Heinz started the Digital Revolution journey and part of it was starting to run agile in the digital organization
    • Now, ten pods are running agile with over 100 people and Kraft Heinz is planning to double these numbers in one year
    • There is a plan to extend agile to other sectors of the organization
  • How did Kraft Heinz get support for the timeline they proposed?
    • The board of directors was the one supporting the migration to become a more digital organization from the beginning
    • There is a five-year road map, if you try to rush the process it won’t be successful
  • What are the aspects where alignment is needed? How can you enable a team to respond to a local context?
    • Some of the staff have the technical knowledge and they are learning more about agile in the process, through meetings and effective communication
    • All the conversion to agile and digitalization was done virtually, based on collaboration among staff, not always following Scrum
    • Listening to every idea is crucial to know what will and won’t work for a team
  • How does Kraft Heinz enable unique culture?
    • Brian was hired to enable culture change
    • Brian protects his team by stating how they will perform in a different way than the rest of the organization, following solid leadership principles in micro and macro levels:
      • Family first
      • Hiring develops the best
      • Big bold bets
      • Let builders build
      • Best idea wins
      • Ownership
      • Learn and be curious
      • Lead by example
      • Validated learning
    • At Kraft Heinz, they build a structure for builders, from an Associate Data Scientist to Data Scientist, Senior Data Scientist, Staff Data Scientist until Principal Data Scientist, this last one being a highly regarded position. They are also making the transition easier for those who want a pivot in their careers
  • Recruiting and developing talent
    • Brian’s five-year plan includes making Kraft Heinz to be seen as a tech company, not just a CPG company
    • Hiring young talent and developing it within the organization once the company has hit a steady stage
    • The culture is impacted by people working from their homes and not in an office with all the teammates, and Kraft Heinz adapted to these new circumstances through a buddy system

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcript [This transcript is auto-generated and may not be completely accurate in its depiction of the English language or rules of grammar.]

Intro: [00:03] 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. Now here’s your host coach and agile expert, Dan Neumann.

Dan Neumann: [00:17] Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast. I’m your host Dan Neumann. And today I have external guests that I’m excited about Brian Pivar, who is the senior director of data and analytics at the Kraft Heinz company. Brian, thanks for taking time and joining today.

Brian Pivar: [00:34]
Thanks for having me looking forward to it.

Dan Neumann: [00:37]
There’s a lot of agile in the software community, and we think of agile in tech startups, and financial companies that are wandering from maybe waterfall methods to agile companies. And I would not have thought of Kraft Heinz as being one of those companies. That’s doing some cool agile stuff. I’m curious if you can maybe introduce yourself a little bit and how, how Kraft-Heinz fits in and why we’re talking as part of the Agile Coaches’ Corner.

Brian Pivar: [01:08]
Sure. Yeah, this’ll probably be a little bit longer of an answer, but, but worth the context. So I joined Kraft Heinz about three years ago to lead the data and analytics organization. I was employee number one on the team with the task kind of building it out and bringing analytics to a more legacy company. Our first two years were a little more a waterfall approach, a little bit more of a just, you know, hearing all of the organization’s needs, trying to prioritize the top ones and make an impact while also building a strong data foundation and building a strong team. About a year ago now we started down this journey of what we’re calling a digital revolution and part of the digital revolution has turned out to be kind of running agile in the digital organization. So in about January of 2021, we launched a digital organization with three pods and those three pods were being run fully agile. Since then now we’ve expanded to about 10 pods, all running agile and the digital org now consists of over a hundred people. We’re planning on doubling that a year from now by, by a year from now, I should say, and having 20 pods running as both leadership at Kraft Heinz and even the board is very excited about the progress we’re making within the digital organization and, and running agile. I think there’s also an appetite from leadership that if this continues to work well, that we will start scaling agile to other parts of the organization besides just the digital work. So that’s a little bit about how you and I are talking and how agile is getting into Kraft Heinz.

Dan Neumann: [02:59] That’s super cool. And I was excited to hear about the way, the way that you’re scaling as far as the size. And I also think you did some interesting things about building support for the journey. One of the things I haven’t fully appreciated, probably even though I’ve been at this agile thing for awhile is how long a journey or a transformation or a revolution as you folks are describing how long that takes. I hear clients. Sometimes they say, oh, you know, we want to do the transformation in three months or maybe six months. But when you start talking about 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 years of agile journey, like, like you’re describing, I think it makes heads explode. And I’m curious how you got support for a timeline that seems reasonable.

Brian Pivar: [03:50] You know, I think there’s a, there’s a few reasons. One this, this asked to migrate to a more digital organization started from the board of directors themselves. So they realize we are behind in digital and they were willing to fund it and asked us to go and do the research to determine what’s the right timeline. What’s the right way of setting it up, et cetera. They didn’t come and say, you need to run agile and you need to do it in this way. Right? They just said, we’re behind in digital compared to our competitors, how do we not be behind anymore? We started working with some different consulting firms and they helped us with this journey and they helped us to say, guys, this is going to take much longer than three months. This is going to take years to do and, and start slow. And there’s kind of like the crawl walk run. And so year one was really crawl. And even within crawl, it was let’s start with three pods, prove those are working before we even scaled to any more pods. So we started with just three for about the first four or five months, and actually got some traction, got some wins, got some big savings at which point then we said, okay, you know what, we’re ready to start scaling a little bit. Now we’re at this point where like, we have a head of Scrum Masters, we have a Scrum Master chapter. We have an agile coaching chapter and agile coaching. We’re starting to get more of these chapters built and having a true organization around this that is going to allow us to scale better. We just put together kind of our five-year roadmap. So that’s kind of why I was alluding to multiple years. So now I’m starting to see where the journey’s going. And that is kind of a, I shouldn’t just say, oh, digital just did it to did it like Kraft Heinz is doing five-year plans and that kind of stuff. So we did it in parallel with what Kraft Heinz the greater org was doing, but got full alignment there. I think there’s an appetite to move faster from leadership, but there’s also the, like the push and pull of that, right? Like, yes, we want to move faster, but at the same, we can’t move too fast else will mess things up. So I think, I think right now we’re going at a good speed. And I think this kind of double next year is the right approach. Like I don’t know how much more we can do than that part of it also just comes down to hiring and developing people. You can only do that so fast. So if you try and scale too quickly, it’s not going to work out. So anyways, that’s a little bit about how we we’ve gotten there.

Dan Neumann: [06:22] That’s great. So what I was hearing was the board of directors said, Hey, we were behind in digital. They didn’t say, Hey, there’s SAFe for Nexus or Scrum. Like you guys should go do that. They were looking at the business, which is an inappropriate thing for a board of directors to be looking at. And they said, solve this problem for us. And then it sounded like you folks had the opportunity to figure out the how of solving that problem, right?

Brian Pivar: [06:48] It’s almost like, Hey, right now, this is something that we’re behind in. And we feel strongly that we can actually be ahead in this. And if we do get ahead in this, this could have huge impacts to the stock price and the business, et cetera. So that was their push. They kept it very vague to your point. They didn’t say do it this way or that way or anything. They said, explore, come up with a plan, share it with us. And then we’ll kind of guide you along the way.

Dan Neumann: [07:16] As you’re rolling out these, these pods teams are you, are you seeing places where you need alignment in the way that everybody maybe conforms to one way of doing things and then how do you also enable them to respond to the local context? So once you get so many pods, there’ll be things that one pod deals with that they might necessarily need to deviate in their approach from what other pods do. And I’m kind of curious how you folks have addressed that challenge.

Brian Pivar: [07:50] Yeah. So I feel like that’s kind of two, two different questions, so I’ll try and answer both of them. So we are getting some people more technical and in my field that may not have as much agile experience, but they have a lot of technical experience and we bring them on and with kind of the caveat of like, there’ll be able to catch on and learn agile and learn that ways of working. And I think some of them initially have some pushback around just meetings in general, Hey, there’s a standup, Hey, there’s these sprint reviews and sprint plannings and backlog refinement and all this stuff. And so I think that’s just is a little bit of a learning curve and, and getting used to what we’ve done recently is I sat down with the chapter lead for, for Scrum Masters and him and I went through all the calendars of all the different teams and said like, is there an opportunity to, to trim some things that we think don’t make sense? And we’ve now have it at roughly five hours a week is kind of the Scrum routines and rituals. And we feel that that is the right balance of kind of build verse structure that we’re looking for there. So I think that’s the first part of your question. What was the second part of your question?

Dan Neumann: [09:13]
We’ll come back to that. Cause I might actually have to jog my memory and I’ll try not to ask you two part questions. But what I heard you, what I heard you describing was looking at the calendars and trying to remove some meetings that are aren’t essential, or maybe they’re wasteful and what I’ve seen that, that extra meetings set up in addition to Scrum events. A lot of times it’s because those Scrum events aren’t serving their purpose. You know, we’re in Sprint planning, but we’re not actually coming up with a plan. We’re just randomly pulling some things. So then you have team members that need to get together more and more to do those plannings or the daily Scrum, isn’t a coordination meeting or the Sprint review, isn’t expecting an increment. And so you set up, you end up with all these meetings sprouting up. So I love that you guys are, are paring back meetings. Maybe that don’t make sense.

Brian Pivar: [10:06]
Yeah. And, and to, to tweak this conversation a little bit, one thing is like we’ve done this entire launching of digital, migrating to agile and Scrum, et cetera, all virtually, you know so there’s an added complexity to never really being in the office together. And so I think some of the, the builders, more technical builders on the team think any meeting that’s on their calendar is automatically like a Scrum routine. And it’s not necessarily, it’d be like, if, if you and another person you’re working with are sitting in front of one computer and watching something or building something together, that’s a, it’s, it’s something on your calendar though. Hey, we’re going to take an hour, we’re going to dive deep on this to a builder. They’re like, oh, my calendar’s filled, I have an hour this, but it has nothing to do with Scrum actually. It is just collaboration. Right? So I, I’ve also seen this overlap of collaboration overlapping in the builder’s mind sometimes with Scrum routines that aren’t actually there. They’re not overlapping though. You know, like they are completely different. So there’s been kind of a, a teaching opportunity and coaching opportunity there to say like, this is not Scrum at all. This is you building. It’s just, if we were in the office, you’d be in a room together collaborating. We’re just not. So your Microsoft teams on a call together collaborating. So yeah.

Dan Neumann: [11:35] And one of the challenges, because we’re remote there, isn’t the signal that I could really use some heads down alone time. There’s no signal to leave me alone. And you know, when a clock started, you know, when a one o’clock came around, we hopped on this call to do the podcast. We wouldn’t do this impromptu anyway, but there it’s the tyranny of the calendar. And if I was deep in something immediately prior to this, then I have to set that down. We do this, we do the next thing. And as a builder, as you say, they’re creative folks, that can be a very disruptive situation more so I think now that we’re remote because we’re driven off of calendar invites so much.

Brian Pivar: [12:17] Yeah. A hundred percent. So I I’ve been having this conversation recently within kind of the digital org’s leadership team on like, should we even structure calendars more so to have no meeting time on certain days or just afternoons or mornings of certain days. Right? So not just builders, but the whole org. Hey, all day for, I used to always do no meeting Fridays. I like no meeting Fridays. It’s like a good way to start the weekend. But also like you can just head, you know, on Friday heads down working the whole time, no meetings at all. No one’s having meetings. What, what me and kind of the, the chapter lead for Scrum Master have done is we’ve tried to put as many Scrum routines as we can on Tuesday and Wednesdays. So we’ve narrowed it down to two days. Now you have a standup every morning for 15 minutes, but then we said, besides that there’s nothing much. So maybe it’s Monday afternoons are no meeting Monday afternoons, maybe it’s again, Friday morning or afternoons. There’s nothing either. So I think we’re going to try and do more four-hour blocks across the whole digital org. No, one-on-ones no nothing, just no meetings at all heads down and quiet time. But I think it’s still something that’s evolving and like I try and I try and lead my team in a kind of best idea wins and we’re always pivoting and working toward whatever’s the right way of doing things. So it’s not like, Hey guys, this is how you do it. And this is it. There’s no other way. So as I’m kind of brainstorming with you on like, maybe it’s no meeting Fridays, maybe it’s, you know, four hours on Monday afternoon, I don’t know, we’ll experiment and figure out what’s the right way of working that people like, and then, you know, adopt that. So I think that’s still kind of a work in progress here as we go. But it’s going along.

Dan Neumann: [14:17]
For sure. Always, always a work in progress. Have you taken a formal approach to these types of experiments where, you know, you’re talking about evolving and trying to figure out which the, which ideas are the best and those win. And so it sounds to me like a very very much like a hypothesis, do an experiment, analyze the results and for a data and analytics team, I’m kind of imagining that’s a fairly formal mindset you folks might have.

Brian Pivar: [14:45]
I mean, it, it, it varies, right? So like in this, in this particular case, like, should we have no meeting Fridays or should we take four hours in the morning on Monday and four hours in the afternoon on Friday, I’m probably not going to have a true like treatment and control and you know, how statistically significant is the output of this. But I will ask everyone in the team like, I’ll do a poll and then based on the poll results, whatever the results are is what we’ll go with. So like, yeah, I’ll have it be data driven, but probably not to the level of like a true on full experiment. But, but yes, I want well, I guess there’s two fold, one best idea wins. I need to get every idea. So I need to make sure I’m open. Like I just said this, Hey, Friday morning, whatever, Monday morning, Friday afternoon, that may not even be the best idea. I want everyone on my team to, to bubble up all of their ideas so that we have kind of the full list, then try them out, then kind of get a formal quote, unquote, vote, see which one’s the best. And then even again, a month in say, is this working or not? Should we pivot a little bit? So sometimes I do it super formal and like, Hey, here’s a survey. Sometimes it’s more in one-on-ones and skip level One-On-Ones just asking for feedback on how things are going. And based on that, then I can action accordingly. So if one person says this isn’t working for me, I’ll just ask a few more people and say, okay, is this just a one-off or what? And then if it’s a few more people, then we may need to action more broadly. So I know that’s kind of a vague answer, but like, you know, everything isn’t, you need to, to have statistically significant, you know, it’s, this is just figuring out best ways of working. In my opinion, at least.

Dan Neumann: [16:43]
No, it makes sense you’re using the right tool for the right job for parts of your work, statistically significant and in actual facts and data makes sense for what you’re describing here, a little more subjective, a little more, how does it feel? And it totally makes sense to take a different approach to that. I’d like to talk about some of the culture things, and we’ll make sure to get into the hiring and developing facet, but what you described with Kraft Heinz of a well-established company, an old company, if you will, they make stuff, you know, they’re not a digital company that’s, you know, you’re talking about pivoting and Scrum and agile and experiments. How have you enabled a culture that’s different than, you know, the vast majority of the company to thrive, and survive without kind of being attacked by the DNA of the company that wants things to look like they’ve always looked like?

Brian Pivar: [17:55] It’s a great question. And I, I don’t know that I can summarize that in a few minutes, but I’ll try. So I, I was brought into Kraft-Heinz to be kind of a culture changer, right? They wanted someone like me to come in with this different mindset to help change the culture and the mindset of the company. So I think there was a willingness from executives from the onset that they wanted me in with this mindset. So that was the first thing. And if that wasn’t the case, I don’t know if I even would have taken the job because it would have been such an uphill battle. Right? And we went through in, in my interview process, cause I asked a lot of questions about this in particular, right? Like what’s the company culture, how’s it going to vibe with how I, I run a team and how my team’s culture is going to be. There were some overlaps which was good. So a couple of Kraft-Heinz cultural values, our ownership and meritocracy and meritocracy to me is also kind of the best idea wins. So like those two right there, it was like, okay, we got, we have some things going for us. So I don’t try and necessarily quote unquote shelter my team from the rest of the organization. But I do a little bit in that like my team is going to have our own culture and our own way of doing things that may be a bit different than the rest of Kraft Heinz, but that’s the type of culture that we’re going to build. So I’ve taken a lot of my cultural values just from my own experiences, but they are uniquely kind of my leadership principles that the, that are me. And I ask all of the leaders on my team to also do this exercise where you kind of develop what your leadership principles are. And they really shouldn’t change much, you know, over the years they may change a little bit, but like they should be fairly similar solid. And, and what your leadership philosophy is. So I went through this in my interview process. I try with every new hire to say, like, this is kind of the, the leadership philosophy and principles that, that I abide by in that the team is run on. And, and similarly, like any leader I’m hiring within the org needs to share similar, not the same, but like similar overlapping and how they like to, to lead. And so I I’m, I, if you don’t mind, I’ll just read through the bullet points really quickly. I don’t think I’ll go through examples. And then if you have questions or whatever we can dive in specifically. So first one I used to call it work-life balance. Now I call it family first kind of similar in concept though, but one sentence on it, like I don’t necessarily think working more hours equates to more output. My biggest breakthroughs have occurred at work while going on a run, sitting in a hot tub, in a steam room, just relaxing on a beach or something. You just have these epiphanies second is hire and develop the best. Third is, is big bold bets. Fourth is let builders build. Fifth is best idea wins. Sixth is ownership. Seventh is learn and be curious. Eight is lead by example. And nine is validated learning, which goes into a little bit of experimentation. So those are the philosophies I live by both at a macro and micro level. And I try and have my team do the same at a macro/micro level.

Dan Neumann: [21:29] I love it. And that, that gives people a framework to decide with so that they don’t have to go, Hey, a mother, may I please, you know, do X, Y, or Z, or what’s the right decision? Because if it’s aligned with these values that you’re talking about, then it gives them a roadmap for how to decide at a local level.

Brian Pivar: [21:50] A hundred percent. And as you and I were discussing both in our earlier conversation earlier today, this like my leadership principle, let builders build is like builders should have time to build. They shouldn’t be in meetings all day. So there’s this like balance that I think it’s part of the reason I’ve been pushing so hard for it is like, this is a philosophy I feel very strongly about if you’re a builder, you should build, you shouldn’t be in meetings all day and builders want to build, they don’t want to be in meetings all day. So and builders like working for me because they say go build, right? So it’s like all, and I will try and remove roadblocks to give them time and space to build. And they know that if they’re hitting roadblocks, they can come to me and I will remove those roadblocks so they can have time and space to build. So anyways, that’s, that’s one of those that I think you and I have touched on, and now you’re starting to see like more at a principle level why I feel so strongly about it.

Dan Neumann: [22:49]
I love it. I love that it’s connected to, to that principle. And so many organizations have, you have to go along a path. A place I was at a fresh out of college. You, I came in as a C plus plus developer, doing my best. And as you took on more responsibility, you either had to go up in architect path, which you quit coding, or you had to go up a project management path where you quit coding. There was, there was no let builders build, if you really want to have a successful career. And I use quotes because career means something different to everybody, but, but there was no path to really take on mastery, really be a thought leader and just wallow in the tech and the building and be the best that you could be. And that’s not their fault. That’s a very common model that we run into. And so it’s exciting to hear that builders can build there and I’m assuming builders can have a successful career or the journey they want to as part of their, their work life.

Brian Pivar: [23:53] Yeah. Glad you brought that up. I think that has been a a journey for me at Kraft Heinz to get this builder career established and built out the right way that I feel is competitive in the marketplace and attractive to builders. So it took, it took me a couple of years, but we now have it exactly, not exactly how I want it, but close enough. Right. So for builders in general, a software developer data engineer, business intelligence, engineer, data scientist, ML kind of builders in the analytics realm. We have now built out this individual contributor career path for you that allows you to be in high of a band as a very high end leader without actually having any leadership responsibilities. So you start it like an associate level. Then you move to like, let’s say, associate data scientists, then data scientists, senior data scientist, staff data scientists, principal data scientist, and a principal data scientist is a highly regarded position in and of itself. And, and so one we’ve built this structure out, two we’ve hired two principal data scientist to come in and they don’t have any people leadership responsibility. They’re just to your point, these, these master coders and master data scientists in their field with PhDs, 15 plus years experience and amazing to have, and, and they help recruit a lot for us as well. So I think builders are very happy with that. The second piece that we’ve been working on is you know, sometimes people want to pivot in their career. So I, I see this a lot. A data engineer wants to become a data scientist, a business intelligence engineer wants to become a data scientist and a lot of companies don’t make it easy to, to make that transition. So we’re trying to make it so you can pop laterally and vertically as well. So like, if you want, if you’re a regular business intelligence engineer, we will give you, Hey, here’s the six or eight bullet points you need to do and to make us feel confident that you will meet the bar to be a data scientist. And when you do those, we’re happy to have you hop over and become a data scientist. If that’s the direction you want to go with your career, realize you won’t get a quote unquote promotion, but you will have kind of this lateral move into this different career path. And that’s totally fine. We want to open those doors and help develop people the way they want to be developed. And so I think that’s been attractive to a lot of people as well. And I have a couple people on my team right now that are instead of shooting for a promotion vertically, they’re actually going for a lateral move to a different part of the org because that’s the direction they want to head with their career.

Dan Neumann: [26:49] That’s super cool. And one of the questions that I I’m sure I’ve screwed up in, in any number of interviews as well, where do you see yourself in five years? Well, I don’t know, like five years is a lifetime. That’s so far down the road and yeah, I’ve got some notions, but some cool thing might come up, you know? And let’s see what was 2006. If somebody would’ve asked me agile wouldn’t have been on the roadmap, I had no idea what agile was and I got introduced to it. I’m like, that’s pretty cool. And you know, by 2011, I was in a really different space than before. And it’s cool that you’re supporting people on their journeys, just like your agile journey as a company is going to shift, or your revolution will shift and maybe end up in a different place. You’re allowing people to find, find their paths. Are you so circling back to the recruiting and developing talent, are you finding, these are the types of things people are looking for, whether they’re millennials or older than millennials or fresh out of college, are you you finding this is a message that’s resonating in an environment they appreciate.

Brian Pivar: [27:59] Yes. Once we can talk to them. Yes. I think there’s, there’s the initial like, oh, Kraft Heinz isn’t a tech company, right? So like, there’s initial, like we need to let them listen to us. If they actually hear us, then they’re like, wow, this is actually pretty cool. But like, we’re not a Google, Facebook, an Amazon, et cetera. Right. Like we’re, we’re not today. That’s one of my personal, like five-year goals is to, to have people think of Kraft Heinz as a tech company, not just a CPG company. So if we do that, then to me, like my work here has been very successful. But once we can have these conversations with people, then yes, it’s very attractive to them. A lot of these tech companies do offer things like that, but you’re not used to a CPG company doing something like this. So I think that’s been very attractive to a lot of people I’ve also had now two more business analysts transition into full-time data science roles, and it took them a year. This was like almost pre digital organization. They said, Hey, I don’t want to get promoted. I want to laterally move to data scientist. We said, here’s the things you need to do, mapped it out and they’ve done it. So now we also have examples of people that have done this. I think for me, like the true measure of success is if we build this model properly, that five years from now, all levels of the org will kind of be self-built we’ll hire young people. They’ll do, we’ll develop them the right way. They’ll start moving up the ranks. And now we have this self-built organization, and hopefully we’re also partnering with universities and doing internships and other things that we’re bringing in top talent at a young age to start to learn about the organization, et cetera. So that’s for me, one of the next steps in how we evolve and build out the organization.

Dan Neumann: [29:57] That gives you a chance to really make sure the culture is the one that Kraft Heinz culture. Again, thinking back to my fresh out of college days, we had what were called core one training and then core two. And it was literally how to be a consultant. And, you know, 96 was when I started doing that, it was, do you have your business cards? I mean, that was like, if you had a business card and training, you got a buck, you know, and it’s, I remember that I had my business card. I was, I was a good kid but we learned more about the company culture and the expectations of work week and how we treat each other and how we present ourselves to the client. And yeah, you might be a year or two out of college, but you’re still face-to-face with clients. You’re still engaging. You’re helping them solve a problem, not taking orders. And what you’re describing with Kraft Heinz trying to recruit young talent and then develop it within the organization. So you get a, a sticky culture as opposed to kind of hiring in, in the middle and the top. And that brings with it a lot of times the culture that those people had before coming into an organization, that’s it? Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Brian Pivar: [31:12] Yeah. So, so I think we’ve had to do that for now, just to get us when you’re launching all these pods so quickly, I can’t just hire college students and develop them. I have to get butts in seats and start making an impact. But now that we’re like steady state, we have these pods going now. It’s like, how do we start thinking long-term about how to develop this in the right way. So that’s where my head is going now. And, and also like, I think I mentioned this to you a little bit, and you said, hey, my first week as a consultant, I had my business card. Like, what does this look like in this new hybrid model of work from home, but in the office? And what, what is the culture like when you’re sitting in an office by yourself at home and not in an office with all your teammates? You know, so we’ve had to tweak the onboarding experience a lot, because a lot of the onboarding experience pre-COVID was you’re sitting at a desk next to your whole team. If you have questions or anything, your whole team’s right there. Now that’s not the case. And you’re a little timid to just, you’re not tapping someone the shoulder, you’re actually having to call them or send them a message, which can feel a little more disruptive. So we’ve just worked out a very simple buddy system. So anyone new, we give them a buddy and their buddy is, you know, hit them up at all times. Your buddy is going to answer any you have, and you shouldn’t feel bad about asking them anything as a starting point, but it’s still is kind of this evolving journey of like, what, how do we build this culture in this new hybrid work environment that we’re going into?

Dan Neumann: [32:55] Yeah, we are, we have a buddy model as well. It predated the pandemic, but now it’s, it’s more important, I think. And, and we’ve intentionally not called it a mentor. We didn’t want to establish a power dynamic of, you know, you come to me and I will teach you, like, mentorship is still important, but it’s a buddy. It’s just a friendly face. That’s going to check in with you regularly during your first week. And, and obviously thereafter as well, you don’t get a buddy for just one week. More intentional then in the pandemic world.

Brian Pivar: [33:29]
And, and sometimes my, the, the buddies I assign are actually a lower level than the person that, their buddies with. So it’s not always hierarchical in nature either.

Dan Neumann: [33:40]
Oh, that’s an interesting, right. And it’s more intentionally then makes it even less of a, an implicit feeling that they’re really there to train you or mentor you. It’s literally just a friendly face who knows something about the company or, or knows other people who they can connect you to. And they don’t have to have all the answers. They just have some know who might have the answers. So, Brian, I appreciate that you took some time here to talk about the digital revolution that you have going on there at Kraft Heinz. And we touched on your journey as far as scaling some of the talent challenges, as well as some of the chartering that was done for the digital revolution. And I’m curious if you could leave us with any closing thoughts on that.

Brian Pivar: [34:29] Sure. You know, for me, the digital revolution has been very exciting chapter at Kraft Heinz. I think when I joined Kraft Heinz three years ago, this was the direction I was hoping the company would go. It, it took us two years of getting alignment, showing a little bit of what digital and analytics can do and building a strong foundation in data and in, in people that it can build stuff and builders to get this strong foundation, to get us to a place that we are ready to make the leap to this digital revolution. The exciting part is also the impact we’re seeing, right? So it’s not just like, oh, look, we have this agile part of the organization. This is cool. It’s like no, we’re actually making a big impact to the organization and hopefully the, the price of the stock eventually. I mean, the goal is that we’re making such a big impact that we’re moving the needle on, on how the market perceives Kraft Heinz. So that is very exciting. And I think we have some very aspirational goals around kind of EBITDA impacts that we think the digital organization can bring to Kraft-Heinz. The other exciting piece is like two of our pods have now seen millions of dollars of impact to Kraft-Heinz already in, in a couple of months here in this kind of, we’re still in the crawl slash walk phase of this journey. So we’re very, very excited about that. So anyways, those are kind of my closing thoughts on digital. It’s, it’s very exciting. What’s happening.

Dan Neumann: [36:14] And it sounds like an exciting journey, both for the people involved, as well as like you said, for Kraft Heinz, this is a new frontier for a very well established consumer packaged goods company. And so you’re, you’re taking them to a very cool place. So thank you for sharing some of your, your revolution story with us.

Brian Pivar: [36:33]
You’re welcome.

Dan Neumann: [36:34]
Cool. You strike me as somebody who keeps learning and keeps growing, and I’m curious, what kinds of areas of interest are on your continuous learning journey right now, Brian?

Brian Pivar: [36:45] Sure. So couple things, right. I’m always trying to be a better leader. So I’m reading a lot of leadership, both books and articles. So, and then secondly, like I’m trying to think through I, I found in the last year, I realized, I think a lot in systems, which is like, I think of things as systems not, not necessarily as a goal or whatever, but if we’re looking at something first, you gotta do this. Then it goes here. Then it goes here and how things flow and all of that. And so I’ve been reading a lot of books on that and I’ve been trying to find this perfect quote unquote book on thinking and systems. And I, I have a few in my Kindle that I’m flipping through and stuff, but I haven’t found the perfect book and in, in systems there’s one called like mental models and there’s, there’s a few I have, but they’re not exactly what I’m looking for. And then also I, I’ve been kind of working on my own kind of psychology. I’ve read a couple of Jordan Peterson books recently. And I’m reading a book right now by Patrick Bet David called your next five moves. And it’s actually kind of about yourself and how you strategize about your next five moves, but it applies to business. It applies to, you know, your organization. It applies to a number of things and a lot of questions and tactics that he talks about that has been helping me out as well. I would like Jocko Willinik a lot. So he just, he had a book came out like a year ago about leadership that I thought was really good as well, that I’ve been applying a lot of the last year.

Dan Neumann: [38:30]
Very cool. Well, we’ll you we’ll we’ll put some of those references in the show notes that can find it at And I’ll look forward to some kind of visual of your leadership principles. We can have the wooden pyramid and we can have the Brian Pivar I don’t know a diamond. There were maybe nine things. I think that makes a pyramid.

Brian Pivar: [38:50] If you do that, I need an octagon. Yeah. I got to cut it down to eight. It’s too weird of a shape.

Dan Neumann: [38:56] I like the diamond. Yeah, it’s a classic. Well, looking forward to it, Brian, and really appreciate you taking time and sharing today. Thanks again.

Brian Pivar: [39:05] Thank you for having me.

Outro: [39:09] 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

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