Podcast Ep. 81: Quincy Jordan on Transformations Amid Disruptions

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Episode Description:

In today’s episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast, Dan Neumann is joined by repeat guest and AgileThought colleague, Quincy Jordan. Quincy has been with AgileThought for just over two years as a principal transformation consultant and agile competency lead. Prior to AgileThought, Quincy was the transformation lead for Pivotal’s Atlanta office, where he consulted with clients to help them reach enterprise scale. Quincy has also served as a principal consultant and agile coach at SCRUMstudy.com for over six years.

Today, Dan and Quincy are talking all about disruptions in these unprecedented times. Right now, disruptions, especially in the transformation space, are incredibly challenging. Though, there is a silver lining: Disruptions can lead transformations where they wouldn’t have gone without an extra push. So, in this episode, Quincy and Dan highlight some of the transformations that they’re currently seeing within companies and the silver lining of what it could mean in the long term.


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Key Takeaways:

  • Transformations currently happening within organizations:
    • Airlines have had to revisit their business model and rewards programs (such as extending rewards points)
    • Companies are making rapid adjustments and shortening their feedback loops
    • Companies also have to respond quickly, which is causing them to figure out what they need to respond to and prioritize
    • Companies have a new focus that has emerged: They need to figure out the true problem that has to be solved
    • Companies are needing to figure out creative ways to continue operating during this time
    • They are adding services (like curbside pickup) and figuring out what services to subtract (offerings that are not applicable or appropriate during this time)
    • Obtaining professional certifications have gone remote as well (such as on Scrum.org)
    • Companies and individuals are understanding what is currently important to focus on and are moving more quickly to get it in place
    • They are figuring out how to limit their risk by figuring out what to respond to and what not to
    • They are limiting risk by shortening their feedback loops (sometimes to even a matter of days)
    • They are leveraging their infrastructure and ability to use cloud technologies to scale up and roll out new changes
    • They are making sure that the company’s values stay central to the decisions
  • Final thoughts and questions around transformation:
    • COVID-19 has challenged the agile space as many of its principles are grounded in being in-person/communicating in person
    • It has been proven that remote facilitation and coaching is possible
    • When someone’s back is pushed against the wall, all of a sudden new solutions arise because you have to evolve
    • It’s not just about Lean or agile; it’s about figuring out the right problems and solving them as quickly as possible
    • What things are being disrupted that will lead to true transformation?
    • What things are being disrupted that are paused that will be revisited later?
    • What disruptions that are happening now will create a new normal?
    • Are we changing for now and then going back, or is this a permanent change in how we do things?
    • There is more need and delivery on remote agile coaching and remote transformation consulting due to not being able to go on-site. Will this be more of a permanent offering going forward, or is it just transient until everything settles down?



Mentioned in this Episode

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

Intro [00:03]: Welcome to 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 [00:16]: Welcome to this episode of the Agile Coaches’ Corner. I’m Dan Neumann and happy to be joined today by Quincy Jordan from his working from home location. How are you doing Quincy?

Quincy Jordan [00:27]: I’m good Dan. Thanks for having me again. Happy to be here.

Dan Neumann [00:29]: Awesome. Yeah. Hey, you know, and I just wanted to take a minute to, for folks that are listening to kind of appreciate that they’re taking some time out of their, um, their regular day, their life to listen to this. A lot of folks, uh, listen to podcasts as part of a daily commute and at least in the US I think all 50 States at this point are under some kind of work from home order. So daily commutes for most people aren’t a thing anymore. And there’s so much other media and I think concern for, you know, jobs. We had 16 million Americans file for unemployment in the last two, three weeks, something like that. So, um, do really appreciate with all the stuff going on in the world, that people are taking a little bit of time to, uh, to listen and we’ll invite them, you know, if, uh, be curious to understand how this has been impacting them too, so they could email us at podcast@agilethought.com and kind of share how this disruption has been affecting your life. And that does bring us to the topic of disruptions.

Quincy Jordan [01:31]: Yeah. It’s, uh, these are, you know, what’s the phrase that many are using? These are unprecedented times. So we’re, we’re definitely experiencing some things that, uh, we haven’t experienced before, you know, in our generation, you know, and anyone that’s around that did experience something similar, you know, maybe 1918, the Spanish flu and all that stuff, uh, you know, they would have been, you know, young kids maybe not remember, you know, some of those things as, as, uh, clearly now. Uh, but yeah, there’s a lot of disruption that’s happening, um, in specifically in the transformation space. Uh, and it’s, it’s actually both, um, both the challenging and good, you know, at the same time. Um, so yeah, there’s some interesting things going on.

Dan Neumann [02:21]: Yeah, there’s a lot of challenge. I don’t know if, to me the good seems like the silver lining on the cloud and it’s sometimes you’ve got to really look for that. Yeah, for sure. Um, I know were fortunate to, you know, given the what’s happening with some of the, uh, employment that we’re fortunate to still be employed. Right. And, and um, you know, getting paid to put together a podcast as part of that. But uh, you know, if people were part of agile transformations, digital transformations, those types of things, the, the phrase of the unknown unknowns come to mind. Cause if you go back six months, this wasn’t on anybody’s, nobody was thinking if what, what happens if all 50 States are under lockdown? What happens if there’s a global pandemic and how does that affect our business? So, yeah, very different. Kind of a refocus on business survival.

Quincy Jordan [03:12]: Yeah. And it’s interesting, you know, too that you say that because, so it’s, it’s not all 50 States right now. It’s, I want to say, I think it’s maybe 44.

Dan Neumann [03:22]: So we have a couple of holdouts.

Quincy Jordan [03:23]: Ironically Nebraska is one. And, um, and so what’s interesting about that is they were asking, well, what do you think? And they were talking to one of the senators, they said, well, what do you think is different? You know, why is Nebraska not, you know, having to have, stay at home orders and all those kinds of things. Then there were a couple of things that they mentioned that I thought were pretty important. Um, one, they said the first thing is people kind of follow instructions there. That’s like the first thing. Um, so if they come out and they say, you know, uh, stay at home, you know, only do the necessities, you know, only go to central places, you know, those kinds of things. Then they kind of follow those instructions. Um, the other thing was I said, Oh, so it doesn’t hurt that there’s one household per 10 mile area but, you know, it just made me think about how some organizations are, uh, they’re going through a transformation that is much harder than what other organizations, you know, are going through. Um, similar to, you know, Nebraska is having an easier time, you know, with this than many of the other States. Um, and it’s most of the States that are having a challenging time now, just like it’s most companies that are having a challenging time now. Um, but it’s interesting that when disruption like that happens, it’s not equally distributed. You know, it’s, it’s, that’s not the way it typically goes and that’s not the way it’s going right now. Um, yeah. So I just thought that was, you know, kind of a interesting point. And you know, you mentioned about that, you know, there’s, there’s a silver lining that sometimes you do have to look at, uh, you know, pretty closely, you know, to see it. Uh, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Um, you know, not that there isn’t, you know, some, you know, very unfortunate, you know, things that are happening. Um, you know, of course, you know, health is, you know, risk and, um, you know, and we definitely don’t want to make light of that, but, um, but there are some good things, you know, that taking place as well. You know, I was reading, uh, an article that was stating how, uh, scientists are able to detect, uh, movement in the earth, uh, that they normally can’t detect except for at Christmas time because there’s so few people on the, on the street. there are so few cars, so few trains running. So they’re actually being able to detect things in seismic activity that they normally can’t except for once a year. Um, and so, you know, so they’re, they’re just, it’s, I just mentioned that to say that when things are being disrupted, it opens, uh, ideas or, um, thoughts or discussions, conversations that otherwise just won’t happen because things aren’t being disrupted that way.

Dan Neumann [06:36]: No, that makes sense. That I, uh, this morning, obviously by the time this is on the air this morning will be a little base in our rear view mirror. But, um, it was Mike Rowe who’s famous for doing the dirty jobs episodes on, um, uh, discovery channel, I think it was. And he was talking about, uh, he was asked for advice for small businesses and he said he was kind of remiss to give any, because the response is so contextual. Yeah, there’s these global themes that are happening, but the impact to each individual person to each small business, each big business is really contextual. And so finding advice that applies universally, he kind of, he kind of waved off on that, but, well, let’s talk about some of the, the, the transformation and obviously there’s been a lot of, uh, the rug has been pulled out of a lot of plans. Um, I know I’m, I’m not in the air. I fly a lot on Delta airlines and that’s, um, that they’re going to have to revisit a lot of their business model. They’re going to have to revisit how they do rewards programs this year because so many people are used to traveling, are not. Um, so they’re going to have to respond.

Quincy Jordan [07:47]: And interestingly enough, they, they have, um, and, and I see that they’re making, they’re constantly making adjustments to it. So they’ve extended rewards points, like if you were, um, platinum, um, which I am, and I’m sure you are.

Dan Neumann [08:06]: You’re only platinum?

Quincy Jordan [08:10]: Which may say a lot about how much we travel. They’re extending yeah. And they’re extending, uh, you know, their requirements. So they’re extending things. So companies are, they’re making adjustments, but not only are they making adjustments, they’re having to make them very quickly and they’re having to, uh, shorten the feedback loop. Uh, because I can, I could actually see it from the time that I, you know, call to cancel a flight to the to literally, maybe like a week or two later, they change, you know, what their response was. So, you know, the time that I did it, it was okay, well you can, you can, uh, get a full refund and, uh, was it in, we’ll wave one change fee, you know, I think it was like up to 12 months or something like that. And then the very next week it was something more extended than that. Uh, and so companies are having to respond really, really quickly and which is causing them to have to figure out, you know, what they need to respond to really quickly.

Dan Neumann [09:21]: And, and so, and that’s, that’s key actually. You and I travel probably the same amount. It’s just I can’t get anywhere directly from, from my small city airport. And you live in Atlanta, so, um, you know, I, we’re probably traveling just as much, but, um, yeah, deciding what to respond to is one of those, I think really important things to figure out. There’s so much that could be responded to. There are so many options. It’s a matter of figuring out what’s the most important thing to respond to now.

Quincy Jordan [09:51]: Yeah. So there’s, there’s definitely a new focus, um, that has emerged where, uh, companies are having to say, okay, what is the, what is the real important thing? What is the true problem that we’re solving? So if we look at, you know, even the companies that have shifted from say, you know, many of the restaurant, uh, you know, chains or, or businesses, uh, and not even, not even restaurants, but just, you know, even, you know, I think about, I had to go get, uh, a router, um, to expand, uh, because we were running into bandwidth problems. Um, and so I, you know, went to best buy thinking I was just going to know, just run in, grab a router, um, come back out. And when I pulled up, they said, no, you can’t come in. Place it online. We’ll go in, we’ll get it for you and we’ll bring it out to you. Uh, and I’ve even seen online where there’s a best buy employee who, you know, basically hooked up a remote control car to a basket. And literally that’s how they’re delivering to customers. So customers pull up in a parking lot, you know, they drive the remote control car with the basket on top out to the employee. And uh, I mean, not the employee, but the customer. They opened the door, they grab it and then they drive it right back. Uh, and so, you know, like you said, six months ago and no one necessarily would have been thinking to do that. Um, but it’s proven to be a necessary thing that companies are, um, having to figure out creative ways, you know, to continue to, um, you know, make revenue to do business, to provide services, to add value to people’s lives. Uh, and you know, it’s, it’s creating some creativity, you know, I’ll say it that way.

Dan Neumann [11:49]: Yeah. I saw the, um, actually we had a, an Amazon delivery show up the other day and the dude just rolled up in his Nissan. It wasn’t the, it wasn’t the Amazon prime truck. It was just a dude in his Nissan. And I just thought that I was, that was wild. Um, so adding services and then I think also importantly, figuring out what services may be to subtract if there are, um, some concepts or some offerings that just aren’t appropriate right now. And the news headline that made me think of that was about Amazon, um, killing off or suspending one of its delivery services that competed with UPS and FedEx to refocus those people back into the warehouse.

Quincy Jordan [12:30]: Yeah. And it, it makes me think of, you know, what things are, what things that, what are the things that are being disrupted that will lead to true transformation and then what things are being disrupted that are being put on pause and will be revisited later. Um, you know, because I see transformation as being, uh, you know, once a thing has gone through its transformation, you really don’t see the thing you used to see, but you can’t recognize it. You don’t see a butterfly and see a Caterpillar, you know, it has transformed, you know, into that butterfly. Now you know, its function, its habits, its practices, those things are different. So, yeah, it definitely brings the question, you know, in my mind of what disruptors for you know, transformation and what disruptors you know, that are happening now as a result of all of this. Uh, we’ll create a new norm that becomes what we have transformed into.

Dan Neumann [13:42]: Yeah. The, the, is it a transient thing where we’re changing for now and then we’re going to go back versus is that a permanent change in how we do things? Yeah, we’re seeing more, more need and more delivery on remote remote agile coaching, remote transformation consulting. Uh, because a lot of the governments, a lot of the clients who said, you, you can’t come onsite. And, uh, so that is certainly a place where we will see what happens. Will this be more of a permanent offering or is this just transient until it’s a chance to, um, get back in airplanes, go back to other cities and, and see how that, that changes. But, um, some of the professional certifications, uh, Sam Falco, who’s been a co-host here on a regular basis, we have, um, now Scrum.org is enabling their professional trainers to deliver remote training courses, which Scrum.org would never have done that before. Um, and it’ll be interesting to see what, whether that sticks or not, whether that gets undone.

Quincy Jordan [14:45]: Yeah. And it’s, it’s definitely, I think it’s definitely challenged. Uh, you the agile space, um, maybe a bit more than even some others. Um, from a, from a culture standpoint within that space. Um, there are so many that have been so headstrong about, in, in so dogmatic about you have to be in person. Um, and I’m a strong advocate for being in person, uh, you know, but at the same time, I’ve, I have typically always looked at face to face communication as being just that. We’re face to face now. Now we’re not in person, you know, but I see your head nods. I see your facial expressions. I see your

Dan Neumann [15:35]: You can see my COVID grizzly Adams beard.

Quincy Jordan [15:38]: Yes. I see the smell underneath there.

Dan Neumann [15:42]: Yeah. Thank God this is only audio, but no personal care when it comes to shaving went out the window long ago.

Quincy Jordan [15:52]: So, you know, I mean there, there are, um, there’s some changes, you know, that’s, that’s happening and uh, in, you know, as you pointed out, you know, scrum.org, you know, I thought that scrum.org, SAFe, Scrum Alliance, I mean many of the, uh, you know, certification bodies out there, uh, I thought that Hey, you know, I was very interested to see how they were going to respond. Um, because this is actually actually something that I’ve brought up like several times over. I don’t know, maybe like over the past four or five years and just on different, you know, discussion boards and, you know, and so forth. And you know, initially the response was, Nope, going to be in person. You know, we’re not going to remote. That was the initial, you know, response and by, um, some, you know, very specific instructors and so forth. Um, you know, as well, especially in the safe space. And, you know, and I said to myself in a couple of others, I say, you know what, I’ll give it two weeks. They’re going to change that because they’re going to have to, like, you’re not going to have a choice if there’s, if they’re keeping up with what’s going on, they’re not going to have a choice. Either they’re going to do that or they’re not. So if you start thinking about, okay, well what’s needed to survive, what survival skills you know, are going to start kicking in from a business standpoint, then that’s when people are going to start challenging those things that, um, have become, uh, what do we call them? The in is it GASP, you know, the generally accepted Scrum practices. Yeah. So what we call that in scrum, but basically the equivalent of that in the overall agile space or just in general? Like, so, okay. If you start thinking in lean terms, well, what are the things that you really can cut out and adjust Uh, you know, to become more effective. Uh, and, you know, the fact that our matter is, many of these things can be delivered remotely. Um, you know, we can do remote facilitation, we can do remote coaching. Uh, we can do remote view, you know, uh, virtual communities, which, you know, we’ve started doing as, as a company. Um, other companies have done similar things. So it’s, you know, it’s when really, you know, someone’s back is kind of pushed against the wall or, or they’re in that position in that posture where they almost felt like they don’t have a choice, then all of a sudden you really start thinking of things that you just didn’t think of before because you almost didn’t have to, you know, and when we’re being disrupted in this way, um, I don’t like all the negative things. I don’t like all the, uh, you know, I don’t like, you know, that people are dying of this, uh, you know, uh, don’t like any of those things. Um, but I do have an appreciation for how resilient, you know, we are as human beings. You know, we think that we can’t do certain things or we think that we’re too, you know, it’s too uncomfortable for us to do a certain thing until we have to do it and then all of a sudden we go through our own transformations, um, as a result of being disrupted.

Dan Neumann [19:19]: Yeah. It’s a, you know, from a business standpoint and I echo all the things you said about the human standpoint and that’s the human side. That’s, you know, one of the things that got my uncle interested in marathoning and ultras and you know, a hundred mile foot races and things like that was just seeing what he could do and challenging himself to do that. Um, from a business standpoint, yeah scrum.org said you can’t do remote. And then once they realized they needed to do remote, if, if they were going to provide any value to the business, then it was a matter of, uh, re-factoring repurposing their content. So it’s not a day or two of death by powerpoint. It is a completely redone experience to give as much of that in classroom face to face. You know, video cameras are on, they’re using mural as an interactive whiteboard of sorts. Um, and so I think they’ve come up with a really compelling offering for people who still want to get Scrum certifications in this strange time we find ourselves in. And so they moved out, they knew what they had to respond to, which is one of the things they said, here’s what’s important for us to focus on now. And they moved really fast to get that in place. So that’s two of those keys.

Quincy Jordan [20:28]: And I liked that slight change that you just made because initially you said when they realized that they need to, and then you just changed and said when they had to, and that’s exactly what it, what it has been. They had to. You know, it’s not just that they needed to, you know, if, you know, if, if a person’s head is on the water, I mean, you know, do they need to come up for air? No, they have to come up, right.

Dan Neumann [20:54]: Yeah. You don’t need to come up for air, but survival is optional. Uh, so, so limiting that risk, right? They, they figured out what to respond to. There’s a bunch of stuff they didn’t revisit. Um, there, there are some things that they did move fast on them. And then, um, another way to limit the risk is to shorten that feedback loop.

Quincy Jordan [21:16]: Yeah. So, you know, we typically, so if you say for example, like in a Scrum context, you know, more often than not, you know, sprints are, you know, roughly two weeks and the majority of the time they’re going to be two weeks. Yes, they can be from one to four. But, you know, I think in a majority of cases, two weeks seems to work out best for a lot of teams. Uh, but in this new environment, uh, you know, for the companies that are in, in particular senior leadership that are having to respond, you know, well, they can’t take two weeks, you know, they’re not able to, um, they’re not able to at all. So they’re having to, uh, shorten their feedback loop to either a matter of days or a week, you know, at the most. Uh, so, and I would say for senior leadership is, is really within a day or a day or days, uh, in, within, um, you know, teams, they’re having to, uh, shorten those two, you know, a week. And, and that may be temporary, you know, just to be able to respond quickly. But isn’t that a large part of what being agile is all about? Isn’t that a point? Isn’t that a significant point in going through digital transformation or an agile transformation, um, that you want to be able to adapt quickly? And I also think that the entire whole new wave, I mean, it’s not new now, but the whole wave of, you know, going agile and doing agile or being agile and so forth over the past several years really helped prepare us to deal better with something like COVID-19 than what we would’ve done 10 years ago. Like, could you imagine if the majority of the companies were still in a waterfall mindset and, you know, abruptly got thrown into this? That would have been horrible. You know, so fortunately the mindset was already there. Um, for many of us and for many companies, you know, to be adaptable in ways that we had not thought of.

Dan Neumann [23:26]: Yeah. And leveraging the infrastructure and the ability to um, use cloud technologies to scale up to roll out new changes and something, I think it didn’t occur to me until just now and we were kind of kicking around some ideas or some things we wanted to touch on. Just making sure that the values of the company stay central to the decisions. So there are lots of lots of ways I would think companies could violate their principles, violate their values to try to respond, but then, um, you know, then you lose something about yourselves, your organization, things people have come to trust on you. And so making sure that, um, as you take a path forward that values are kept central to that, you know, how are you going to treat your people in this new strange thing we find ourselves in for now?

Quincy Jordan [24:13]: Yeah. It’s, yeah. You know, I like to think of it this way. You know, that it’s not just about being lean. It’s not just about being agile. It’s not just about increasing quality. But it’s all three of those things. Plus figuring out the right problems to solve as quickly as possible. And that’s exactly what is happening. And understanding what, what the right problems are means that you have to understand the values within the company to understand, okay, these are the problems that we need to solve and we need to do them quickly.

Dan Neumann [24:42]: Yeah, I love it. And let’s, uh, let’s leave it there for the sake of our, our time box together. And, uh, again, welcome feedback from people on what they’re experiencing and in anything that they’re doing or topics they’d like to hear about with, with the new challenges. So Quincy, what are you reading or consuming as part of your, uh, continuous learning there while you’re confined mostly to your house?

Quincy Jordan [25:05]: Well, you know, I would say most of my reading these days really have a lot to do with trying to understand what’s happening, uh, in terms of COVID-19 and, and, you know, society and so forth. So, it’s not about right now for me, it’s not so much about, you know, catching up on, you know, reading in the traditional manner, but just, you know, really getting a good understanding of what’s going on and, and what does this mean, you know, for our society. Um, and, and how to guide, you know, my, you know, our 14 year old son, you know, with what, what this will mean for him and what he tells his kids, you know, 20 years from now.

Dan Neumann [25:43]: Yeah. It’s um, I think the long form reading and things like that is something I put on hold. I know I started doing some, uh, some development and um, Microsoft Visual Studio with Xamarin cause I was kind of curious about the ability to put together a little mobile app to help, uh, communicate non-verbally during conference calls. So yeah, I dusted off the old computer science major and um, well we’ll see if that ever becomes issue. But it was a, it was a fun thing. And like you said, then you know, children and what, how do you help them in this, uh, this place we find ourselves in for now too.

Quincy Jordan [26:17]: Yeah, absolutely.

Dan Neumann [26:19]: Well, with all the other things going on, I do appreciate you taking some time to share with the community through the podcast, Quincy.

Quincy Jordan [26:25]: Hey, thanks for having me again, Dan.

Outro [26:29]: This has been the Agile Coaches’ Corner podcast brought to you by AgileThought. The views, opinions, and information expressed in this podcast are solely those of the hosts and the guests and do not necessarily represent those of AgileThought. Get the show notes and other helpful tips for this episode and other episodes at agilethought.com/podcast.

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