Podcast Ep. 28: Misconceptions and Interpretations of ‘The Agile Manifesto’ with Arie van Bennekum

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Episode Description:

In today’s Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast episode, host Dan Neumann is excited to bring on an agile thought leader from the Wemanity Group, a chair-elect of the Agile Consortium International, and co-author of “The Agile Manifesto”— Arie van Bennekum. Arie is incredibly passionate about agility. Originally, Arie came from a very traditional environment as a developer and technical designer, but later switched to RAD and DSDM and then got involved with communities and began publishing, training and coaching. Now, as a thought leader with the Wemanity Group, Arie focuses on helping individuals and organizations adopt the agile approach.

Today, he and Dan will be discussing common misconceptions and interpretations of “The Agile Manifesto.” They discuss the context in which “The Agile Manifesto” was first authored; how to transform from a traditional company to a more agile one; important aspects of using the agile method; some fun additional facts about the creation of “The Agile Manifesto”; challenges around business value, agnostic agile and important pieces that are often forgotten when moving to an agile method; and much more.


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Key Takeaways:

  • Facts about “The Agile Manifesto”:
    • Authored at the Lightweight Methods Conference in 2001
    • It’s a distillation of values and principles behind several lightweight methods that were in use at the time
  • Important aspects of using the agile method:
    • Agility is a way to avoid waste
    • Experimentation is at the heart of agility
    • Do Scrum by the values and not just by the rules
    • Empowerment of the team and great communication
    • A hunger for learning is key
    • “Perfection is not a state; perfection is an ambition” (you are constantly moving forward with agile)
    • Intentionally practice the basics and make it a natural part of work
    • Tooling is continuously changing in agile, so keep up that hunger
    • Don’t become complacent or sloppy with how you do the discipline
    • Implement improvement after Sprint Retrospectives
    • Innovate
    • Face-to-face communication is the best way to convey information
    • Alignment on how the team works and great team structure
    • And of course: the four values and 12 principles of “The Agile Manifesto”
  • What is agnostic agile:
    • Being agnostic with agility (i.e. one size does not fit all, one framework is not the answer, etc.)
    • Don’t be dogmatic
    • Keep up with all learning
    • Explore all the agile practices and methods



Mentioned in this Episode:


Like what you heard? Check out our podcast page for more episodes full of interesting discussions, agile insights, and helpful resources.



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 the Agile Coaches’ Corner. I’m your host, Dan Neumann. Thank you for downloading and listening to this podcast. If there’s a topic you’d like us to discuss her guests you’d like us to consider having, go ahead and shoot us an email at podcast@agilethought.com or tweet it to us with the #AgileThoughtPodcast. I’m really excited today to have a thought leader from Wemanity and a co-author of “The Agile Manifesto”, Arie van Bennekum joining us today. Of course the opinions and thoughts you’re going to hear expressed here are those of myself and of Arie and not necessarily those of AgileThought, other companies or other people. Arie, let’s start by getting a glimpse into the context that you folks were operating in when “The Agile Manifesto” was first authored.

Arie van Bennekum: [01:05] When we wrote the money faster, all of us were like working in a different way for some time. I was at recently with James Grenning at my Dutch office. We met at the Dutch office and in 1999, he met Ward Cunningham on programming and test driven development. So he changed, I started my change in 1994. You’re not on your own, you’re never on your own. You do these kinds of experiments because in the mid 90s was about experimenting. You do them with, with other people. And um, uh, so you know the areas of agile innovation, like, like with the Scrum community or the or adaptive or crystal or, or DSDM community that I represent. It is all in, all driven by a whole lot of people. And what we did was give a good, giving it very simple and concrete access points. Um, and that I really love, you know, the manifesto is still very simple, although also open for a whole lot of interpretations. But it’s really cool.

Dan Neumann: [02:10]  So Arie, you’re talking about misconceptions and interpretations of the manifesto and I’m curious what you’re seeing. One of the misconceptions I see is that people think you folks got together and just imagined a new way of working as opposed to what I think you were describing, which is capturing the way you folks had been working in lots of different ways of distilling the commonality about that way together.

Arie van Bennekum: [02:34] Yeah, you touched exactly on the right point. Um, and, and I made my change very consciously. It was in the mid 90s and, and very sad story Is that my reason for change, we’ll explain in a couple of seconds. It’s still valid. No, you read it in, I’m living in the Netherlands. I, we at least to touch newspapers everyday and uh, the Dutch government still very capable to get the headlines by failing on IT projects and the last horrible one was from, I think it’s like three and a half weeks ago where they, there’s, there’s a governmental organization of 2,200 people. I’m not going mention the name of the person who ran it, but 2,200 people and here we go. They estimated a project early 2018 for 36 million euros. What is it like 40 $45 million, something like that, something like that. Then within the year they said, oh sorry, you know, 36 we need basically 95 so they went 2.7 and then early this year he said, oh no, we need another 25 million euros. So in the meanwhile they already spent 65 million, which is uh, over 30,000 euros per individual employee. Waste total total waste. Mid nineties it happened to me that I was working on a government project and with approximately 30 people, we started in November, 1993 and in May 1994 all of a sudden the projects got cancelled. This is like, you come in, almost everyone was an external, you come in at 8:15 in the morning at 10 in the morning they say oh do you have time? We have, we have a project team meeting. At 10:15, Everybody’s out. Literally outside the building, just do this right? 30 people seven fulltime on. So this is millions, right? Wasted. And uh, I made, I never want to do this again. Um, and the stories kept on coming, you know, project here, uh, gone the average, this is statistic from 2013 or something, the Everett’s Ip project in the metal and discloses at 189% of the original budget. So times two, and I made them a model decision, I’m not going to do this anymore. And I remember going down or driving from the client to the office, I spoke with five of the six managers we had at the consults for my workforce. And I just said, I don’t want to do anymore. And I didn’t know what was out there. I had no clue. And one of them gave me a call, he said, I have something that’s really, really for you. So, and he got me into rapid application development and I always always say, this is where the experiment started and I’ve never stopped. This is mid 1994. And so by the time that we rolled the money festival, I was already seven years experimenting and I was doing large group agile, if you want to call it that because I had 20 people, 30 people. I think my largest project at the time was like 85 people working for months in a row because they’re really big solutions and in parallel and you know, I did always full delivery so I had uh, people for software development people for, for uh, uh, data conversion people, technical implementation, people for education and training people for etc. And then there were marketing and communication. So you had one big, today we call it the product backlog. We have one big requirements list, uh, and many areas of the requirements list needed different expertise, but it’s still development. You know, if you do a marketing campaign, there’s development, if you do recruitment campaign, there’s development right? So the delivery is there. That was my experiment and I think this is also why some of them said there and went right to my face and said your your methods are not so lightweight. No, I went from scratch. You know when, it was absolutely zero to final delivery. Um, so I did, I covered the full thing later on there were things like uh, uh, uh, Scrumming projects and safe game on. But you know, I always call it corporate agile and that’s what you need because if you have a very fast IT department, then marketing communication is not introducing your product to the world. You’re late. And I think today agile is about having better value delivered earlier to the market with a better internal quality because if you had the wrong quality people swipe left and we go to the next one.

Dan Neumann: [07:03]  Yeah, the cost of change is low.

Arie van Bennekum: [07:03] Right, I live half my life at airports. And this is, this is not a joke. I buy at the airport, dishwashers washing machines, I buy everything and it’s like, you know, I’ll do it. You Google it. And you know the best place to hide in the world? Second page of Google. So you take the first page of Google here, take the first one, the second one, and you, and the moment that filling the basket or getting the details or doing the payment is not working. Swipe left, next. That’s how it works.

Dan Neumann: [07:39]  Yes, so better value and better quality are two of the outcomes you were stressing with the agility. And actually you touched on something that I learned when you did the keynote in Indianapolis, which was, uh, you folks were at a lightweight methods conference when the manifesto was formed. Did I understand that correct. From your talk?

Arie van Bennekum: [07:57] Yeah. I think I showed in Indianapolis the original photograph of the, of the screen that said, you know, this meeting is in this room. You know what and it’s a lightweight method.

Dan Neumann: [08:10]  Yeah. So, getting together and then, and then distilling from that, uh, the different ways of, of working. And I love the fact that you’re still experimenting. Um, yeah. And I think business agility with that still, that still feels to me like an area of experimentation for the industry as a whole. So a lot of times the technology groups are pretty good at this delivering value or building in quality and there’s DevOps and that’s coming along. But really then having the whole business be agile where and when it’s appropriate I think is still cutting edge for, for a lot of organizations.

Arie van Bennekum: [08:47] Like in Indianapolis if there’s 800 or 900 people at the conference and I said people often like talking to me. Oh Wow. And I think, oh my God, I do this for 25 years. Yeah. So for me it’s like, okay, if, if, if that is what is required for me, you know, bringing that message again. Uh, otherwise I remember that in 2003 I wanted to do a publication on, on the pro delivery of agile on behalf of DSDM and I, I represented the DSDM with the manifesto and said, your honor, I want to talk to the IT part because everybody’s talking about IT. I don’t like this. It’s, it’s about, it’s about delivery. And then it is, okay. if do this, it’s not on our behalf. We do IT only. And if you want to do that publication in 2003, you do it on your own personal title. Now, the fun part is that the DSM consortium, uh, has renamed its own consortium name and the conference into the agile business consortium. And it’s the, as an agile business conference, the ABC four years. Right. Um, and I always say that the, um, uh, the, the, what I liked these and because I’m an agnostic, uh, I use is, uh, you know, like other extreme programming practices. I use the retrospective from Scrum. I use a lot still from DSDM. But the big, big, big thing in the DSDM for me is, uh, how they focus on business failure. And failure is not something that the product owner defines. Well, failure is something that you calculate that you base off with big data analysis, uh, with facts and figures, you identify the priorities. That’s my, and that’s what I like about DSDM.

Dan Neumann: [10:31]  One of the challenges that I see with business value is it’s often arbitrary or it’s the hippo, the highest paid person’s opinion based on based on nothing in a lot of instances. And so that that discipline to calculate based off facts and data that’s available I think is still a challenge. And a lot of the, the reason I think there’s so much interest in agility, like you said, you’re, you’re coming in and talking about something that for you is, you know, 10 plus years old is a lot of the bigger, what I would call more traditional institutions, finance, insurance, really large corporations are, I don’t want to call them late adopters, but they’re now discovering that this agile thing might have some value for them and trying to get on. And what I’m afraid they missed though, is the experimentation part. They’re trying to go purchase safe and install it or they’re trying to duplicate the Spotify model internally or they’re, they’re doing Scrum by the rules, but not by the values that are in there. And so they’re missing this opportunity to bring in lots of other really good practices that might be appropriate because it’s, it’s almost like they’re afraid to experiment or don’t know how to experiment.

Arie van Bennekum: [11:45] It’s even worse. I think the same organization what I got in my state of shock in May 1994, like, and proudly announced that they implemented safe without changing the organization and then, you know, you’ll have a major mess up. I’m using the polite and uh, uh, I, Spotify is not a model. This is how it broke for Spotify. You find your own way and people tried to do it the cheap way. And what people do not understand if you really want to work, agile itself is not complicated. You know, things like the agile rituals offering the most essential visual management is second, right? But the point is in this, there is empowerment of the team, different, uh, decision making processes, empowerment of people, different way of documenting, reporting, communication. And this requires a paradigm shift, And a paradigm shift is a shift of how the world, which is approximately most difficult thing that you do. And the point in time where all organizations are open to agile is because the pace of innovation, the technology is not only facilitating people in their job. For example in banks, you know, we have things that are so handy that you can do so they can fire people because they can do the same work now with a, with less people because you automate everything. But the big point in technology is it disrupts business models and those business models in a very severe way. And if you are not on time, you will lose your ground. If I look at an organization like TomTom, or an organization like Nokia, no, like 50 years ago they were big Nokia a little longer maybe, but they were big. TomTom was awesome. One of the best in the world, maybe the best in the world. Um, at Nokia when the time, when we wrote the manifesto, almost everyone in Nokia amazing and they lost because they couldn’t keep up with change. They stuck to their own uh, um, uh, products that they made too long. And they have now a different business model. They do different kinds of products. Uh, TomTom, a similar thing. Um, if you don’t keep up, I was, I was talking to a gentleman who is responsible for innovation on a pretty large Telco in Europe. He is on the board, 14,000 people, eight people on the board. He’s on the board responsible for innovation and I always like to say you’re 1994 telcos made money with phone call minutes in 2004 thry make money with text messages. In 2014, they were making money with uh, Internet access. And then I looked him in the eye and I said 2024, you have no clue. And he looked at me in the eyes and said Arie, 2020, I don’t know. And this is not because he is a stupid person because he is not aware of his profession, but he recognizes that technology might bring an innovation to the market tomorrow that disrupts his current business model. Um, when whatsapp was introduced to the market, a company of maybe a couple of thousand people, right? Most Telcos, at least in my country, were pushed to the edge of bankruptcy within three months, within three months. And this is simply because they were making money with, you know, with text messages for free. Right? Uh, so sorry. Paid for text messages and then whatsapp offered the Internet for free. And there you go, and look at Uber’s the taxi service. It’s not just in IT. We have a model in most of the European countries, at least in western European countries where you have to get permits to be a taxi driver. You pay a lot of money for this. And then we have Uber coming into the market and everybody panics in weeks and then you go to court and they tried to stop Uber, remember? And they managed to stop for awhile. This is what technology does and if you’re not agile is the corporate capability to respond to change and opportunities. So you facilitate innovation. Tech is in every simple professional domain. Even if I live in the countryside around me, there are farm houses, they have milking robots and you know, all those kinds of things. Tech is in every profession in the world.

Dan Neumann: [16:08]  Absolutely. Yet I know, I was fascinated when I saw like the John Deere tractors where they’ve got the, the harvester with the, the wagon. I’m using the horrible tip farming technologies, but that the, the other tractor with the wagon and they were autonomously driving next to each other and one was harvesting and dumping into the other. And it’s just, it’s amazing. Amazing. Um, and so, so the world’s changing fast and there’s lots of different agile frameworks out there. I’m curious what I’ve seen that you’re involved in something called agnostic agile. And I would love for you to touch on that cause that was something I hadn’t been aware of it prior to your talk that you gave at Agile India. I think much like “The Agile Manifesto” when I heard about it, I was like, oh, that kind of makes sense for me. I read the manifesto and obviously still continuing to really internalize that and put it into practice as much as I can and, and helping clients do that. And then the agile manner or sorry, the agnostic agile also made a lot of sense when I read through that. So maybe you could introduce some other folks who might not be familiar to that. To agnostic agile.

Arie van Bennekum: [17:18] Yeah. Um, what I, I tried to explain to people, you know, if you just talk to people it doesn’t work. So I like to make official, if I explained this one, now we’re on audio, right? So visual is a little bit complicated.

Dan Neumann: [17:33]  But we can always, um, we can put it up with the show notes and make the visual available afterwards too.

Arie van Bennekum: [17:38] I can, yeah. And I can, I can send a picture of the visual that I’m talking about. I like to make a matrix matrix and I make the Matrix under and umbrella. And agile is the umbrella expression. It’s covering so many agile methods. So agile is a concept and when we were in 2001 writing it, everyone had his own reason for working different uh, uh, differently for a couple of years. And we have people focusing on very small groups like individual pairs. We have people focusing on team and we had folks who focused with individual pairs. For example, if you do pair programming it’s focusing on just two people. Scrum is focusing on you know, the, the, the real agile team in terms of 9 or less, uh, and I was doing large loop. How can you do in cohesion working with 25 people with 30 people, with 80 people, how to do it. But also we had different objectives in, in working differently. So people focusing on quality, people focusing on efficiency and people focusing on the value. My explicit focus was value. And also efficiency. Scrum is in my opinion, a lot of focus on, on efficiency, less on value. And for example, I’ve seen programmers focusing on quality. So if you are an agilist, if you are a practitioner, I would say you have the concept of agile, then you have the methods and you have the practices and every method is more more than one practice. And as a practitioner you cherry pick from the, from the methods. What helps you most. The methods are for me, centers of innovation and this is where you pick practices. For example, I think the dailies, the daily achievement meetings, the daily Scrum. The daily stand up. The dailies practice as an example, we have the methods so we have the concept. So as a practitioner you cherry pick from what helps you best. And this is also based on retrospective. Yeah. Your work. You say, hey, how can I do this improvement? Look where I need the improvement and you cherry pick a practice. Um, what I miss in 95% of the age of people that I meet is that kind of knowledge, that kind of practice. And also what I mean is very often is that kind of ambition to really know. I meet people at agile conferences that say, you know, to be honest, I, I, I know everything about it. There’s not much to learn from me anymore. And I go to a conferences like Indianapolis, I always attend all the sessions because I know I can learn from other people. And that hunger for learning is what one of the, one of the most important characteristics of the two agilists. And we don’t write this down in any market, uh, but being open to other people’s best practices, number one, and, and that umbrella with the, all the practices in there for me always proven very helpful. And it’s an eye opener for most people like talking about it and we wrote that one down in the, in the agnostic aglie and it says basically don’t be dogmatic, people before learning and explore all the agile practices and methods. That’s basically what it says.

Dan Neumann: [21:05]  Yeah, I think that curiosity partnered, the way you phrased it, the hunger for learning is super important as opposed to just the following of something else. And so I related even though if we are following a framework, so if somebody is following the Scrum framework, really trying to understand why the framework works as opposed to looking at it and deciding right out of the gate that you’re going to do Scrum but you know, Scrum, but we’re not going to do all these other things or purchasing a framework because peers in your industry are following that framework. So I see other people doing safe. I see the marketing information on safe, so I got safe is the thing I’m going to go get the truck load of consultants in to, to back in as opposed to, um, really identify what that outcome is in knowing about the different models out there and really experimenting then for what makes sense in your context. And I don’t, I don’t know if that’s, that will shift as we get, um, maybe a new generation of business leaders in or if the schools that teach about business start to shift towards a different way of, of teaching or introducing this curiosity. I’d be curious to see what happens in the market, um, over time because there are other agile methods out there yet to be invented. You know, it’s not just picking from a recipe book of things other people have already done. I think of like mob programming.

Arie van Bennekum: [22:39] I love this kind of things. You know, if people say, no, this works, tell me, tell me how it works. Show me because I want to see it. And, and I, in my opinion, that’s what the world of agile is. Sometimes people ask me, you know, what do you think? Five or 10 years from now. What I hope is that, uh, this, this kind of when we were asking, you know, at school system, I think, I think so because where I come from, the northwest Europe schools are the most traditional environments you can imagine. I saw an expression and it’s, it’s, it’s supposed to be a quote from Winston Churchill. I saw it at the client site in Bucharest and it says, um, perfection is not the state. Perfection is an ambition. So being perfect means that you change a lot. So people who are perfect, change a lot. And if you just get out the word, eh, perfectly replaced by agile because what people think is okay, we’re working in the traditional way, which is, you know, method A and you know we’re going to move to method B which is called agile and then we’re there. No, you’re never there. No. Agile is not, not the state. Well, you can talk about it maybe from a mindset perspective with the daily practices is not something that you fix. I always have organizations to transform to agile and they say if, if you are transforming to agile and I come back after three or six months, you are supposed to be working in a different way because you do retrospectives when you improve over time. Right? And then then you’re there and I think the old school managers and you and I know there are still so many, they just see it going from one to the other and that’s the only thing they do. And then we have the old paradigms that are knocking on the door. Oh, paradigms define your reflexes on the stress. So things are not…If you work agile in the beginning, everything that you do for the first time, for the second time or the third time, you’re not an expert. If you’re really good at playing football, you know, top league football, European soccer, soccer, you do an awesome job. And then you decide, okay, now we’re going to play hockey. It doesn’t take two days of training and you’re in the top league of hockey. I’m sorry you don’t. It takes practice and it takes a good coach to get you there and you have to get all those old mechanisms out of your brain because you’re doing a different ball game now. And that’s what people forget.

Dan Neumann: [25:03]  Related to that sports metaphor, football European style or football American style. One of the, one of the things that I think gets forgotten is, you know, I watched um, oh I don’t know, it was probably Peyton Manning. They were just doing a little, a little video of his workout and he was doing an incredibly basic activity, like basically navigating around some cones. I’m sure it’s something he’s done thousands and thousands of times, but see you’ve got a top level athlete still intentionally practicing some of the really basic moves of the game. And, and so as people are going, let’s say from a traditional place to a place of more agility where it makes sense, that intentional practice, whether it’s practicing your coding or or practicing deployments and, and rolling them back if something goes wrong or just that, that mindset of practice. And experimentation in, in making it a repetitive kind of natural part of the way you do work, um, can also get lost as well.

Arie van Bennekum: [26:03] And you get sloppy when it gets routine, routine kills. All right. So, and also, especially in the, in the world of agile, if you do agile, there’s also always tooling involved. Tooling is continuously changing. So keeping that hunger and, and you know, we were new and it’s a new profession, so there will be so many areas to improve and to get better. The point is if you don’t, you die as a company. Agile makes you future proof. And it’s not that I say this because I happen to be there in 2001 but again, agile is the corporate capability to respond to change and change is more evident than ever. And basic innovation is only going up, it will never go down again. So the capability to respond is only becoming more important and this is what we need to realize.

Dan Neumann: [26:56]  Yeah. I want to emphasize that point you said the routine kills at and so becoming complacent or sloppy with, with how we do the discipline because while it hasn’t, hasn’t failed before or we’re content to stay at the level of agility we are with the current processes and that retrospective then, continuing to focus on how to get better. You know, if you’re, if you’re just a few sprints in, if you’re doing an iterative model or a few iterations in doing iterative and you’re like, oh, we’ve got this agile thing, we don’t need the retrospective. That’s a very dangerous mindset to take. Yes. How, how fast can we get out of the retrospective.

Arie van Bennekum: [27:40] Or we do a retrospective but we don’t implement an improvement. Management says to get better teams all the time. I need to give him time for improvement. What managers do is they don’t give them time for improvement but they expect them to get better anyways, which is stupid. So stupid. We have in the Netherlands we have a movement called the Purple Crocodile. And um, if I am correct, invented by doctors, your general practice doctors in villages and towns, um, and it was initiated by the doctor who wrote the prescription of medications for a patient and sent it to the pharmacy and uh, they said there was no before on it. What do you mean before? So I need to write before on the prescription? Yes. Why? I don’t know but it needs to be there. This kind of stupidity is what managers are good at and they hide behind a quality management system or, yeah, but you know, this is how the process is. This is how, this is how the audit trail is. And, and, and this is where you need to integrate all the way she died. Very simple.

Dan Neumann: [28:57]  Well, I’m going to have to Google up the purple crocodile and the Dutch and see what that’s about. That has not made its way over here to the U.S. as far as I know, but I’m intrigued by that. Uh, one other thing. And as we’re coming to an end here. I’ve got a couple more topics I just wanted to touch on. One of the things that surprised me is the amount of discipline that I perceive from the folks that signed “The Agile Manifesto”. So the co-creators of it. So, so yourself and that other group, um much more, I don’t know. And not, not to say there’s a lot of engineers and in a good way, so really disciplined folks about the framework or about the approach. And I feel like agility a lot of times is misperceived as this. Um, only a touchy feely feelings kind. Uh, um, iterative, we make it up as we go along approach. But yourself and all those other co signer’s um, pretty disciplined group. That’s my perspective.

Arie van Bennekum: [30:02] Yeah. Agile has the myth that says we can do whatever we like. And I think you have to do what is needed. Um, and the success in agile comes with the quality and the discipline that you apply using the agile rituals and ceremonies if you like. Um, this is what, for example, the daily, I meet people and this is a quote. Yeah, we do the daily once a week because it costs so much time. No, for me, yeah, you can laugh about it but always makes me cry to tears because the idiocy in because why do we do a daily? We do a daily to get, keep the team aligned and to detect impediments asap so as a team we can solve them instantly and we can do it at the end of the sprint we deliver? If we don’t solve, we delivered less and we waste time on someone who was seeing it and maybe some on the other person as the the solution, the heartbeats where you have heavy, no two, three days, well half an hour with all cycles, so everyone who has the authority to accept or reject is essential because if I do, it’s only at the end of a sprint. People might say, okay, this is not what I asked for and you have, you have a delay and it’s about avoiding delay. So doing that thing is the core of agile working. If you don’t understand, this is why I have unhappy product owner. Okay. How much did you sell often? Did you see your product owner? Yeah, we saw twice every week. The refinement and that at the, at the end of the sprint or even worse. Here we go. We have the business people and then we have the development team will put the product owner in the middle. So the business people talk to the product owner, the product owner talks to the team, the team talks back to the Product owner, and then they talk back to the business, which means that we have already four interpretations on the same topic. You know what interpretations are? Wrong. So you need to get people at the table face to face. It says face to face communication is the best way to convey information, so don’t do it on the last day. My coworker was having a nice publication. I think it’s a little bit more than two years ago on Linkedin. What he said, you know, the demo was not an acceptance. You build acceptance, and I thought, Yay, thank you very much. You, you build acceptance. You don’t have an acceptance meeting at every sprint. You know what the problem is with an acceptance meeting? People might not accept, right? Yeah.

Dan Neumann: [32:30]  You’ve deferred all that risk into this one big bang at the end.

Arie van Bennekum: [32:33] Yeah, exactly. And people don’t get this. Also, for example, if you look at the four values of the manifesto, we do left and we do not do right. No, right is still good, but left is more important. Yeah. So we do have a process because if you have a daily, that’s a process period. But it’s about people in the communication that’s more important. Right? So this guy, oh, can you hear my, uh, now I’m getting emotionally involved. This is really what upsets me because if people, if people stay away you, you were talking about the elements. If people stay away from these basic elements and discipline, agile is in that situation, not successful because of it. And then we’ll blame agile for it instead of looking at themselves saying, hey, you know, we’re messing up the system. And uh, and I think this is the reason because we were doing this before writing the manifesto. I need agile coaches that never read “The Agile Manifesto”. Interesting, isn’t it?

Dan Neumann: [33:35]  That is interesting. I will admit at one point I was going to interview for a position that was called agile coach back in the day. And I thought, I better make sure I have these values memorized in case that’s on the interview test. I’m guilty as I was transitioning from a fairly low Scrum master with some experience to thinking now I want to kind of take this out in the world and see how it goes. It was like, oh, I probably have a pretty shallow understanding of some of these things and it’s time to really kind of burrow in deeper and try to understand it. But yeah. Um, and that’s where I like when we’re talking about agility to introduce folks to the 12 principles behind the manifesto. The manifesto statement itself is, is interesting and easy to remember, but I feel like the principals are a lot more meaty and allow you to look at your new idea, your new experiment and go, okay, is this thing quote an agile thing or not? Well, does it support or contradict the values? And um, and even if it contradicts, okay, it might not be a natural thing. It still might be the right thing based on your, your context. Maybe the work you’re doing is more assembly line than, than knowledge creating discovery. So, okay, so maybe it’s not agile. Maybe that’s still okay.

Arie van Bennekum: [34:57] I think it was Jeff who said Scrum is about being efficient. Um, uh, from, from that perspective, uh, I use a lot of lean principles. For, so for example, if you have service desks, they don’t do development, they have like 300 tickets a day as a team and they can use a lot of DSDM practice. So you, you’re just looking at, this is why I like make the drawing of the umbrella, but if you’re a team like this, this is what really can help you. Yes. I had a, I had a, I had a service desk. People were struggling because they had at the end of every day still, you know, plus a hundred tickets open and they were just leaving the office with all those tickets open was very feeling, very unsatisfied for them. And we help them with those principles and we managed to bring it down to at the average at the end of everyday 10 open tickets they were so happy and I think the clients too, because they got help process.

Dan Neumann: [36:13]  Oh for sure. That was um, I ran into a similar scenario and the tickets were effectively closed. The user no longer had the problem, but the, the mechanic, the discipline of going into the system and closing out the tickets, they were too busy trying to handle more tickets and so part of it could be discipline, like take the last 15 or 30 minutes of the day and just close out the tickets so that you have real insight into the system and hopefully if that’s truly a wasteful activity, they can do something to automate that process in the system to make it less laborious going forward. But, but some of that, just the discipline of, Hey, we’ve got the 300 tickets, let’s go close out everything that’s not truly active so we know where to focus tomorrow. Okay. You touched on the teams not doing the daily stand up or the daily Scrum more than weekly and and, and some of those other dysfunctions. Oh, not getting sign off from the product owner. It’s interesting to hear how many times people say, well, we don’t have the time for the daily stand up or the standup’s not valuable or the customer’s not available to us, but they’ll deal with all the dysfunction and the waste that comes from that lack of availability or poor team structure versus going after the root cause. Okay. The daily standup’s not valuable because you have a core team structure. So fix the team structure or the customer’s not available. Let’s find a way to make them available so we’re not wasting more time in the long term.

Arie van Bennekum: [37:50] This is what I like so much. That’s one of the things I really like about DSDM. Uh, what I learned from DSDM is if you go into agile working, agile working is different. It’s based on different paradigms. If you are going to work totally different than people are used to, you need to make sure that you are aligned on how you’re going to work. And I call that foundations. It’s a working agreement. This is how we go into work. So I, you know, if I think back about the second half of the 90s and beginning of the sentence, let’s say from 1995 to 2005 when I did commercial agile projects. I think I spent half my time being a, you know, I don’t know how you want to call it, but you know, managing multiple teams in an agile way. So the Scrum Master or the agile project manager, whatever you use, I don’t care. I was spending half my time running around the building, making sure that people are on time. Making sure that I have alignment with my client, that his people or her people would be in those sessions. That I have working agreement agreements say now we are aligned because I can deliver faster. I can deliver for less money, really high quality, but only if, if you, if you collaborate. And then if you don’t want to collaborate like this, obviously it’s not important enough for you. And let’s, and this is it, this guy, because you cannot do work, you know, in a traditional way, traditional way, one day in Scrum or any other agile way the next day without aligning. And how are we going to do it? Because people, people need to see the value of things. And what happens in this situation is the, uh, people will, um, uh, how do I say this properly? Now, if you go into agile working dailies, if you have to learn them in the beginning, it’s like, okay, what am I doing here? What have you achieved yesterday we’re going to achieve today? Okay? Do you have any impediments to make that work you need properly sliced user stories, a strong definition of done, uh, those things. It’s not all in place in the first week. So people need to learn. So in the beginning it’s not perfect, but nevertheless you have to keep up with it. And this requires a strong agreement. Okay, this is how we word this requires a strong agreement on implementing change and improvement. And just realizing this means that if you go from where you are today to agile or the next level of agile, learning takes time. You’re not perfectly one goal. And that’s something that people forget. And I, I’m 55 myself and I always make the joke on stage, you know, you know the worst people for change, worst people for change are people over 50 with gray hair and a beard. And you look at me now, right? So it’s the worst.

Dan Neumann: [40:42]  I would kill for gray hair right now. I just don’t have any.

Arie van Bennekum: [40:50] But I, this is, this is really like the most because why they have been in the company for, I don’t know, 20-25 years. So the, the company paradigm, the old paradigms are stuck to their bones and their DNA and you’ll have to change this. And those are the kinds of people that can make or break anything in the company. And at the same time because they’ve been in the company for so long and you want to, you want to capitalize on the knowledge from the professional, from the business. So you want to have them in and this is what you have to make a combination of who you go into, anything, where the transformation and transformation as a transformation means from not agile to agile 1.0, but also from agile 3.0 to 4.0 right. You need those people in and there will be always people resistant to change. And then also agile, totally resistant to change because I see those great people all of a sudden adopting one agile method and that’s the only thing. And everything else is bullshit and it’s not true. And Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah.

Dan Neumann: [41:47]  Yeah. And so I want to be respectful of our time box and your time and I want to, um, we usually ask people kind of what they’re reading or what’s inspiring them or where, where you’re learning. And so, um, you mentioned agile three to four. What, what, what kind of um, concepts are you exploring or what’s kind of feeding your, your brain these days, your thought leadership?

Arie van Bennekum: [42:13] Um, my thought leadership is I’m on, I’m on the edge of information still. I think we’re just at the beginning. Um, corporate corporate transformation, right. Actually very important. I’m writing my book and publishing it in one to two months they’ll be out because so many people ask, oh, when you publish a book, because I never wrote the book and now I’m going to write my book. Actually three this year and the first one is, and that’s for me the driver is I call it, “You’re the Architect of Your Own Life.” That’s the title. And I am exploring what, and I saw it in a photograph, someone on the media on a horse and uh, I don’t know how you call the, the rope?

Dan Neumann: [42:52]  The rains or the bit in its mouth.

Arie van Bennekum: [42:54] Yeah, yeah, yeah, exactly. And they tie it to a plastic chair that weighs 2.5 kg and that, and the horse stands where it stands because the horse thinks I am, I am here, locked into this chair. And this is how people think. People let themselves lock in. And I am, I am because people said, you know, it’s, uh, doesn’t work for our company. What? The company is based on people and the way they interact, only we might’ve formalize it, but it’s about people and their interaction. So any organization, every simple organization, big smoke can change because it’s always a group of individuals. And I cannot change you. You can not change me. We can only change ourselves. So what agile coaches should do is give people windows to the future so that they, they, they get this feeling of, oh, let’s try to change. Let’s try to get there. Let’s try to do this. And then you have all those integrals to changing in, in the same direction together. And this is where you come from, change. It’s not easy, but that’s what you do. So this is where I am at the moment. Uh, and my second book will be about the, about agnostic agile and the concept of heartbeats because a lot of people lose those heartbeats. And the third one will be explicitly on agile transformations and how to do them. It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s for me those three elements that have been always very successful in what I do. It’s also what agile becomes fragile. Um, because you know, if you don’t do that interaction concept, really disciplined it, it goes around in circles. So this is where I am at the moment still. And like you see in Indianapolis, you notice, right, that it’s really, people are really struck by it and it’s now 2019. So still people are very, oh wow. So it’s still a lot of, a lot of things to do there.

Dan Neumann: [44:40]  Oh, that’s fantastic. So three books this year it sounded like, or ones coming up and the other ones. Okay.

Arie van Bennekum: [44:48] July, September and December.

Dan Neumann: [44:50]  Wow.

Dan Neumann: [44:52]  That is, that is, uh, to me that’s an amazing level of output. So I’ll look forward to those.

Arie van Bennekum: [44:58] I tried to keep them, you know, like easy maybe. So, not too, too big because I remember when I did my, my first, uh, no change in 1994 with the development, that was a big book. And uh, I tried to keep it simple because, because I want to give the essence to people so they can, they can, if it’s a mindset, how to get there, just the mindset and then from there on, if they’re open to other people’s practice, then they will get there. So it’s about being open to change and other people’s learning. So that’s, that’s the most important one. And I’m, I’m very much amazed. This is why, in Wemanity, we have quite a few psychologists working as agile coaches because it’s about human change. Clinical psychology, organizational psychologist, social psychologist.

Dan Neumann: [45:46]  Yeah. Yeah. And actually just one of the podcasts two episodes ago was with a psychologist. So ironically enough, he does a professional coaching as well as he’s a psychologist for professional athletes with two of the Florida professional teams. And it was really interesting to see how much of what he was sharing translated over into the software. You know the technology world as well. Well, Arie, I really appreciate you taking some time. Obviously you’re, you’re quite busy with your travels and your offering and just a, you know, your general working, so really appreciate you taking time to join us.

Outro: [46:24] This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner Podcast brought to you by agile thought, get the show notes and other helpful tips from this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.

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