At AgileThought, we’re at the beginning of our own transformation. We have a new leader in our Agile Consulting Practice and recently hired several new coaches. We are assembling a team of Agilists who love helping people solve complex business problems and are motivated to instill an agile way of thinking into the mindsets of our clients. Perhaps the timing of Joshua Kerievsky’s keynote address at the Agile2016 conference entitled “Modern Agile” was perfect for our team. Joshua’s call to the agile community to update the principles of the Agile Manifesto aligned with our team’s recent conversations. As we continue to see more executives, leaders and non-software companies approach us about applying agile to their lines of business, the timing is right for a more modern way to break agile out of the realm of software teams once and for all.
As our group of agile consultants huddled together to discuss our takeaways from Agile2016, one theme seemed to resonate with all of us: this year the focus was on people. In recent years the focus of the keynotes and other popular talks was on more technical topics like scaling frameworks and certification paths. All three keynotes this year addressed the need to return the focus of agile to the people who are involved and affected by it.
In the first keynote of the week, Jurgen Appelo addressed the audience with a session entitled “Managing for Happiness.” His core premise, and the premise of his book of the same title, is that teams that are happy are more productive and effective. He offered several ideas he has implemented at his company (personal maps, delegation boards, merit-based bonuses) that focus on putting his people first. His passion for his team was evident, and it set the tone for the week.
Managing for Happiness by Jurgen Appelo
- Build for meaning
- Innovate management
- Accelerate learning
- Run experiments
- Embrace playfulness
- Nurture happiness
- Manage the system
The middle keynote, Kerievsky’s “Modern Agile,” was a bold challenge to the 2,500 conference attendees to recognize it is time to make agile more accessible to people who don’t write code for a living. He made several memorable statements, but here are a few that resonated with us:
1. Scrum is Dead.
While he didn’t say this explicitly, he certainly came close. He talked about the arbitrary boundaries of the sprint which is stumbling block for many teams, and he quoted a couple of notable stalwarts who apologized for creating the concepts of story points and velocity. He emphasized that teams should focus on continuous flow rather than sprints.
2. Create Balance First.
In a moving story and video about his daughter learning to ride her bike, Kerievsky memorably made the case for starting with balance. He contrasted an example of a child, who unsuccessfully learned to ride by pedaling first, with his daughter, who trained on a bike without pedals.
She first learned to catch herself from falling until she was able to balance herself. Only when it was safe did he add back the pedals and shifted her focus to going
3. Update the Agile Manifesto.
For many years, people have been talking about the need to update, change or modify the agile manifesto. Groundbreaking as it was in the early 2000’s, it is now 15 years old and the world has changed significantly. Ironic as this discussion usually is, since the premise of agile is to continuously learn and adapt, the manifesto remains in its original form. Rather than complaining about the problem, Kerievsky proposed a solution: faster. The analogy was clear and striking: too many teams start their agile journey going too fast without knowing how to “catch” themselves from falling. In other words, these teams are not balanced and are not set up for success. By the way, his daughter learned to ride her bike in one day!
- Make people awesome
- Make safety a prerequisite
- Experiment and learn rapidly
- Deliver value continuously
4. Culture over Practices and Process.
The “If you have a culture of fear none of your fancy practices or processes will help you,” quote made the rounds on twitter throughout the conference and sparked a ton of discussion. Given that this statement was made to a room full of agilists, coaches and vendors who pride themselves on fancy practices and processes, it was quite a bold and powerful statement.
Kerievsky’s focus on people is evident in two of his four principles: “Make People Awesome” and “Make Safety a Prerequisite.” His two pillars of Modern Agile – “Respect for People” and “Continuous Improvement” – hammer this point home even harder. His proposal elevates the core principles of agile outside the realm of software and modernizes them to be utilized by the rest of the business world.
The final keynote, Leadership for Genius Tribes, was delivered by Carrie Kish. Carrie defined a tribe as a group of 20-150 people that come together to complete a piece of work. When most speakers at an agile conference talk about 20-150 people, they focus on the mechanics of scaled agile. Carrie focused on the powerful force of culture and how to develop tribes that will change the world.
Grounded in years of research, Carrie provided statistics, stories, characteristics and behaviors found in each type of tribe.
- Stage 1 – Life sucks (2%) – Get a new tribe!
- Stage 2 – My life sucks (25%) – Change the environment!
- Stage 3 – I’m great! (40%) – You’re right and nobody cares!
- Stage 4 – We’re great! (22%) – Create great teams.
- Stage 5 – Life’s great! (2%) – Create teams that can change the world.
She encouraged us to listen for values by asking – and not deviating from – the 4 Big Questions:
- 1. What’s working?
- 2. What’s not working?
- 3. What else can be done?
- 4. What else?
At the end, she challenged us to discover our outrage (passion), upgrade our competition, create some time pressure and make history.
At AgileThought, we are on a mission to spread agility to all businesses across Tampa Bay, Florida and the United States. We are not just focused on software. Modern Agile is a manifesto for organizational agility (our own included!), and we want to make agile transformations safe for all of our clients – from the software teams, to the finance department, to marketing and HR. Every member of the organization should see, feel and experience the direct benefits of working in an agile way.
That’s why we want to help companies adopt an agile way of thinking when tackling their biggest business problems.
We want to make our clients awesome and create a safe mechanism for them to learn Agile. The conference was an inspiration for our team. We returned more energized than ever to collaborate with our clients and spread the message of agility.
Let’s begin the conversation and uncover how embracing an agile mindset could help you create happier employees and customers, discover the rallying cry within your organization and inspire your tribe to greatness.