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Agile Innovation Leaders

The Agile Innovation Leaders podcast with Ula Ojiaku is an insightful series of conversations with world-class leaders, experts and doers about themselves and topics spanning leadership, digital transformation, lean-agile principles and practices, innovation, entrepreneurship, and much more. Listeners will gain insights and actionable tips for building thriving organisations, teams and careers in an ever-changing business world.


(S4) E038 Brant Cooper on Lean Entrepreneurship
Bio Brant Cooper is The New York Times bestselling author of The Lean Entrepreneur and his new popular book Disruption Proof. He is the CEO and founder of Moves the Needle. He is a trusted adviser to startups and large enterprises around the world. With more than 25 years of expertise in changing industrial age mindset into digital age opportunity, he blends agile, human-centered design, and lean methodologies to ignite entrepreneurial action from the front lines to the C-suite.  As a sought-after keynote speaker, startup mentor, and executive advisor, he travels the globe sharing his vision for reimagining 21st century organizations. Bringing agility, digital transformation, and a focus on creating value for customers, he helps leaders navigate the uncertainty brought on by increased complexity and endless disruption.   Interview Highlights 01:30 Background 03:40 First startup 05:30 Learning from failure 06:50 The Lean Entrepreneur 07:30 Empowering employees 15:40 Learning through observation 19:00 Disruptions 22:00 Output vs Outcome 30:45 Working in teams 35:30 Aligning priorities 41:00 Disruption Proof 52:00 Take risks   Social Media ·         LinkedIn:  Brant Cooper ·         X/Twitter: @brantcooper ·         Email: ·         Website: ·         Website: ·         YouTube: Brant Cooper   Books & Resources ·         Disruption Proof: Empower People, Create Value, Drive Change, Brant Cooper ·         The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development: A cheat sheet to The Four Steps to the Epiphany, Brant Cooper  ·          The Lean Entrepreneur: How Visionaries Create Products, Innovate with New Ventures, and Disrupt Markets, Brant Cooper, Patrick Vlaskovits, Eric Ries ·         The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development: A cheat sheet to The Four Steps to the Epiphany: Brant Cooper, Patrick Vlaskovits ·         Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts, Brené Brown, Brené Brown ·         Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World, General Stanley McChrystal   Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku So I have with me Brant Cooper, who is the author of the books Lean Entrepreneur and his latest one, Disruption Proof: Empower People, Create Value, Drive Change. He also is the CEO and Founder of Moves the Needle. Brant, it is a pleasure and an honour to have you as my guest on the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. Brant Cooper Thank you so much for having me. I'm glad to be here. Ula Ojiaku Now Brant, as I start with all my guests, we want to know a bit more about you. So could you tell us about yourself growing up, your background, are there any experiences that have made a great impact on you that have led to you becoming the Brant we see today? Brant Cooper Yeah, so born and mostly raised in California, which seems to be somewhat unique these days, but also did travel around a bit. My dad was a Navy man. I don't know, I guess I was always a little bit different. I think a lot of us describe ourselves that way, but when I went away to school for college, most people were focusing on one major or maybe two majors because that was sort of the state of the world. It's kind of, this is a little while ago, but supposedly what you needed to do is go and get narrow expertise and then that was what was going to launch your career. But to me, that was boring. And so I wanted to take a little bit of everything. So chemistry and calculus and sociology and psychology and history and creative writing and literature. So I was sort of all over the map and I guess it's kind of funny, you can look back on your life and find these little threads that weave through everything. When I left college and got my first job, I remember specifically, I was in Washington, D. C. and I was sitting on the stoop of the house that I was living in and I was all like, really, is this it? Is this the rest of my life, is it working 9 to 5 doing, you know, what people are telling me to do. Wow. That doesn't seem like the bargain I thought it was. So I actually dropped out and wrote a novel, which was very sophomoric, because unless you're a genius, most 20-something year olds really don't know that much about the world. But anyway, it was sort of a, this empowering moment when I just sort of had faith in myself that I would always be able to take care of myself and figure things out. And so it's really one of these moments where the moment you feel like you can just leave a job, you get a tremendous amount of power from that. Most people go through their lives feeling like they have to do what their boss says and they have to live that life and it becomes, your choices obviously become quite limited. So I ended up crossing the country back to California, moved up to the Bay Area, worked in a few jobs there, tried unsuccessfully to sell my book, and then I joined my first startup. So this is the, you know, dot com era, the nineties, and it was really there at this startup that I caught wind of the fact that there were actually these jobs where you weren't supposed to just do what you're told, that your responsibility was to figure things out, to exercise your own creativity and your own intelligence, and nobody was going to sit there over your shoulder, that you were going to be held accountable to what you were doing or what you weren't doing. But you are literally sort of on your own and that was, again, sort of the second moment of feeling the sense of empowerment. And it's funny, because up to that point, I really, maybe I wasn't an A player as the startup likes to talk about the startup myths, you know, you have to go hire all those A players. Maybe I just wasn't an A player, but I used to be passed around like a hot potato between all of these managers because nobody really wanted to manage me because I really didn't do what they said. I did what I thought was best. But anyway, so the startup sort of launched this new type of, so then even in the startups, I worked at a bunch of different jobs. So instead of again, specialising, I was in IT, and then I ran the professional services group and then I went into product management and then I took over marketing, you know, sort of helping out salespeople. So I, again, I sort of traverse the whole, all of the different functions inside the company. And I guess I think that that was also a big learning moment for me, and so I lived through that, you know, tried a couple of my own companies that failed and others that succeeded crazily and others that, you know, ramped up their sales, but then they tailed off and I was on the management team trying to figure things out. And it's funny, because I used to, you always learn more from failures, and I think that the last one, the way I talk about it is that the sort of the company strategy was dictated every week by whoever was the best arguer. Like, so it was just like a management team free for all. And whoever won, that would set the strategy. And so I sort of won for, you know, a year and a year and a half, and we grew like crazy and I had, you know, allies on the team and then they kind of changed their mind and got rid of me and got rid of my allies. And then they went back and did whatever they wanted to do, the founders. So it was all again, it's sort of this learning moment where maybe that's not the best way to make decisions, but so the dot com bust happened and I was actually writing and blogging about, well, what makes successful startups better, what makes them successful compared to all of the ones that fail and what is it about, you know, sort of this idea of learning and empowering people to learn rather than just execute. And so I was blogging about that stuff and got turned on to Steve Blank and to Eric Ries and I ended up writing the first book that talked about lean startup and product market fit. And then that kind of launched this whole other career where at first we're focused on startups, but eventually, I wrote The Lean Entrepreneur and formed Moves the Needle to start taking some of these principles to large enterprises over the world. So around the last 10 years we’ve been helping some of the biggest brands in the world try to adopt some of these principles of exploration, so learning mode and, yeah, that sort of takes us to where we are today. I am still doing that work in addition to some other things, but primarily it's focused on empowering employees to exercise their creativity and their inspiration and to drive impact. And then, you know, helping the leadership understand that they get more out of their people if they enable that, and take a step back, and then they get to be more proactive and more strategic in their own world, and it's sort of empowering to them as well. And I think really, post pandemic, we've sort of seen this shift where that's happening more once people are remote workers, you know, workers being burned out and frustrated with work is when they don't get to do that sort of work. So yeah, it's sort of an interesting time and really the rise of, you know, sort of Agile reaching the next level and Design Thinking reaching the next level and Product Management and all of these things happening because the world is turning digital, makes this a pretty exciting time to apply a lot of these principles. Ula Ojiaku You have a fascinating background, Brant, and there are some things that you said about your background that had me nodding, because I identify with it and maybe in terms of, I love variety. And yes, I studied Engineering, but I also kind of liked to know a bit more about economics, psychology, you know, the other subjects outside my normal domain and someone I was having a conversation with someone I can't remember his name again, I think it was Dr. Steve Morlidge at a conference and he was saying life is all integral really, it's just us as human beings trying to make sense of the different aspects. We've created the disciplines, but in the truest sense, there aren't any distinctive lines, and it's all integral, and it helps, I've noticed, you know, at least for me personally, just knowing a bit about other subjects outside my core area just helps me to be more well-rounded and more strategic, if I, for lack of a better word, in how I approach issues. Brant Cooper I agree with that. It provides a larger context, right? I mean, so if you can understand what the colleagues are doing in the other function, you can also see the bigger picture, which makes a lot of sense. Ula Ojiaku Yeah, yeah. And you mentioned something about not liking to be told what to do. Is that the definition of an entrepreneur or could there be something else? Brant Cooper Well, I mean, I think it is, yes, I think it probably is similar to most early stage entrepreneurs, but, you know, you won't succeed as an entrepreneur if that's the only way you are. And so, you know, we all kind of grew up a little bit and we, you know, we have to mature in a way that we can still hold on to our creativity and all of these, our instinct or whatever it is, but we also have to be able to listen to others and to recognise when ideas are better than ours and change our minds based upon new indications. And so there's a flexibility that has to be built into there as well. It can't just be that you're going to stick to your guns. And as a matter of fact, I get a lot of entrepreneurs saying like, oh, well, it's all about the conviction of your idea. And I go, sure, if you want to fail, that's great. But you know, if you really want to change the world, as opposed to focus on a particular idea, then you have to be flexible. And I think that it's a, you know, people always point to Steve Jobs and his genius and I'm all like, yep, it took him a long time to get out, you know, the product that really was putting a computer in everybody's pocket, which is kind of what his dream was in the beginning. It took him a long time to get to the iPhone, and that what was revolutionary about the iPhone actually was opening up the app store to third party developers because that turned the phone into a platform and yet he opposed it even with all of his advisors telling him he had to do that, he didn't allow it the first year and so it wasn't until the second year when he changed his mind that things really took off and so I think it ends up being Steve Jobs is a great example, but not for the reason you think. Ula Ojiaku We could go into that but I think we would be going off tangent a bit. So what makes a lean entrepreneur? Because one of your books is titled, The Lean Entrepreneur, how visionaries create products, innovate new ventures and disrupt markets. Brant Cooper So I think fundamentally, it's somebody that can admit when they're wrong or when they don't know. I mean, so the lean part of lean entrepreneur is about reducing waste. It's not about being small or not spending money. It's about not wasting money and not wasting time and resources and even your own passion and your own inspiration. And so how can we work to understand our customers more deeply? How can we work to understand the market better? How can we run experiments that bust through our assumptions? How do we even identify assumptions? And then how do we cut through our own biases and all of these things that are very human but could be holding back the success of what we want to build or what we want to bring to the world. And so to me, that's the lean entrepreneur, is you have to be able to admit when you're wrong, admit when you don't know, and go out there and learn and hustle and explore and figure things out before you spend the time and money and resources executing on a particular idea. Ula Ojiaku So what I've heard you says is being willing to change your mind when you are faced with, you know, some evidence that your original assumptions are wrong, and also being mindful about how you use your resources. You're not wasteful, you're using it to learn and discover and learn what your customers want so that you're better able to provide that to them. Brant Cooper That's correct. Yep. And so if you're, you know, if you sit down and you build a product for six months, and then the product's wrong, or even, you know, just a lot wrong, you know, then there's a lot of waste that went into that. And when you're understanding customers, that doesn't mean ask your customers what they want and do what they say. It means understanding why are they saying what they're saying and what is their environment and what are their aspirations and what are their real needs. It's up to you as the, you know, sort of as the product person or the solution provider, to come up with what is the best way for me to address those needs, but the only way you can really truly understand those needs is to dive as deeply as possible in understanding the customer and their environment. Ula Ojiaku Are there any, like, specific examples of how as a lean entrepreneur, I can dive more into knowing what the customer does or needs? Brant Cooper Sure, I mean, I think that, you know, Steve Blank's customer development stuff was always really about understanding customers more. I think it was like, in my opinion, a little bit shallow compared to some of the techniques that are used in human centred design or design thinking, where you're getting down to emotional levels and you're getting down to, you know, empathy and really understanding, and you’re kind of zooming in and zooming out. You can zoom in and interview, that's fine, but you can also zoom out in trying to figure out, well, what does it, what would this mean to them if they were successfully doing what they wanted to do? Would they be able to take their family to Italy in the summertime? Is that what they aspire to? Do they want to be a better mother? Do they, like, what is actually driving individuals to make the decisions that they're making? You know, observation is a great way to learn about that. That's, you know, often used in human centred design when you're even in, you know, business to business, business type of solutions, is you go watch people do the work that they're doing in their environment and you can start picking up on all sorts of issues that they're constantly having to overcome or, you know, conflicts or, you know, things don't work in a particular environment or IT does not allow this, you know, I mean, there's all sorts of things that can educate you about what you're trying to, the needs that you're trying to address. Ula Ojiaku Yeah, I completely agree. And for you, would you say that, you know, being a lean entrepreneur, is it just for individuals who set up their own startups or early growth companies? Can it also apply within a large established organisation with, say, thousands of employees already? Brant Cooper Yeah, no, I think that it's a good question. I think that the example that I give is if you look back to Henry Ford's Model T, right? You build a factory and then you build a whole company around this highly optimised, efficient assembly line that can produce the same vehicle, you know, he sort of famously say, you can have a Model T in any colour you want, as long as it's black, right? That's the only thing that he's going to produce. And so he optimises the flow of resources through the manufacturing, and then he builds the rest of the company based upon functions, this whole linear fashion, everybody do what we've already proven needs to be done. Then you can produce a car that the middle class could buy, which was a new thing and opened up this crazy new market. So that's very well understood. Everything is really, there's not a lot of uncertainty, but if you look, fast forward to the digital age, there's tons of uncertainty, right? All of the products and services that are produced have multiple models and multiple options on each model and hundreds of colours. And there's a lot of choices for consumers to choose one over the other. So consumers don't have the same brand loyalty that they used to. They can change their minds overnight. And again, this is true in the business world, not just consumers. But so there's so much uncertainty there, that you actually have to then understand the niche desires of all of these different market segments out there. Well, the only way to do that, so if you imagine that organisation that is only allowed to do what you're told to do based upon how it used to work, then you're the one that's going to miss out on all those opportunities based upon creating exactly the model or the options that the customer wants. How do you know what it is that those customers want. Well, you have to be out and interact with them. So even the biggest companies in the world have to figure out how they're going to start learning from the environment that they're in. So that's number one. Big companies have to do it and they are doing it more and more. Design and product management and all of these things are, these practices are emerging in these companies to do that exactly. And I think that the other point is, is that the world is so interconnected now, and this, again, has been brought upon by the digital revolution, and so what that causes is that all of these disruptions that we've just, you know, experienced here in the last four or five years, things like the pandemic, inflation, supply chain shocks, reverberations from the war, you know, just on and on. All of these things sort of ripple across our economies. They used to be, they could be isolated in different pockets of the world without affecting the rest of the world. Now everything affects everything. It's like the, you know, the butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon or something like this. You know, it creates this chaos. And so what that means is, is that things, disruptions, not as bad as the pandemic, but disruptions like ransomware attacks that cause disruptions, or again, supply chain issues, all of these things ripple across the economy and they actually change the market. So if you worked on your marketing plan and your selling plan the day after the pandemic hit, you're not in execution, you're just flailing. You have to actually be able to readdress, what is our situation currently based upon the current environment? How do we change our work in order to adapt to this new environment? And that is just a skill that everybody needs and everybody has to develop. And those are, startups do it naturally, big companies need to try to figure out how they're going to build that in and this is sort of the, the rise of Agile, right? I mean, so I think that the way I describe Agile, or the way I picture it for people without getting into all of the jargon is like a meerkat. So, a tribe of meerkats, every once in a while, come out of their hole and they pick their heads up and they look around and they take in new information and they're going to decide what to do based upon that new information. So, if you're a big corporation, you need to pause your work, which would be like a Agile sprint. You look up from the work. What has changed? Are we making the right progress? Right? Check within our customers. We check with our stakeholders. How do we improve our work as a team so that our output is better? So you take that moment to pause regularly, you can make your Sprint lengths anything that you want, I really don't care, it depends on the type of business that you're in, but you're pausing the work, you're re-evaluating, you're taking in new information, and maybe the answer is you don't have to change your work at all, you can just go back, but there's likely, sometimes, changes that have to be made so that you're getting to the desired outcome more efficiently, so we can't be like the assembly line, you know, Ford’s assembly line, where output was a proxy for outcome, i.e we're going to be successful if we can produce the car at this cost. Now, it's like, we have to focus on efficiency of outcome and not efficiency of output and that means that it's actually more efficient to pause and make changes during the course rather than only after failing at the very end. Ula Ojiaku There's a question, you know, lots of things you've said that I resonate with, and one of my favourite questions to previous guests and you would be the next one I'm asking this, is what would you define as outputs versus outcome? So, what's an output to you versus what's an outcome? Brant Cooper Yeah, so like the Henry Ford example is the easiest. Output is the car is being done, is being produced. So the car has been manufactured. That's output, and for decades, even still today, businesses and economists using old antiquated models like Larry Summers does, are focused on the efficiency of output and what those are serving to do is being proxies for outcome. So if you, outcome would be, we've successfully sold those cars to happy customers, so they're going to buy again from us, and maybe they're going to get service from us, and maybe they're going to get financing from us, right? So, we want to keep them satisfied, and also we get to generate income and we pay our workers and we actually pay our shareholders. So, everybody gets sort of these outcomes or these desired results from successfully selling the car, which is dependent upon the sufficient production of output. But now, again, today, if you buy all of what else I've said, you can't, output is not a proxy of outcome. So output is, still could be the number of cars that are produced, but if they're not sold and the customers aren't happy, then you're not going to be able to pay your shareholders and you're not going to keep loyal customers, and you're not going to pay your workers, and so we have to now look at the efficiency of outcomes because the world is so complex. So that applies to, I think, any product. Obviously, when you go into the nuances of a corporate hierarchy, not everybody is focused on the final outcome, and so they actually have to have their own outcomes. But even in that regard, you know, outcome is increased user satisfaction. Output is, you've built X by a certain date. Outcome is, you know, a thousand people have opened your newsletter, you know, 75 percent of people opened your newsletter, output is we sent the out the newsletter to 10,000 people. So, the output is very focused on ourselves and the tasks that we're doing, usually over time period. outcome is, what are we getting out of those tasks? And it's best to measure that actually from who the beneficiary’s experience. So if I'm producing a, you know, just a super simple example, if I'm producing this newsletter and people are opening it and spending time reading it, then that is a desired outcome. If nobody opens it, then that's sort of a, you know, there's a variety of issues that might be involved there, but you haven't achieved the outcome despite your output. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for that explanation. And somebody else said something that stuck with me as well, which is that, you know, outcome would signify some sort of change in behaviour, or in noticeable behaviour from the perspective of whoever the customer is, or who's consuming the results of your work. Brant Cooper Totally agree with that, and way more succinct than what I said. And the focus really is, it's on, that's what I sort of refer to as the beneficiary, because sort of inside of an organisation, your beneficiary of the work that you're doing are maybe internal people, not directly to the customer. So customer, sort of in scare quotes. But I love the fact that they, that person mentioned behaviour, because that's what actually allows us to measure it. And so even in The Lean Entrepreneur book, there's a section called the value stream discovery, which is focused on, what is the behaviour that I'm trying to get from my customer for everything that I'm doing as a business, and how do I measure that that behaviour is happening? And one of the benefits, of course, of the digital world is that you can measure a lot of that stuff. And so if you're trying to measure whether people are satisfied with your product, one proxy for that might be not just running surveys, but how often are they using the product? What are they actually doing with the product? It's not that they downloaded the app, it's that they downloaded the app, they installed it, they create an account, and they come in and they look at, you know, these different screens and interact with them four times every week. Okay, that's what a satisfied customer looks like. How many do we have? What's the growth of satisfied customers year over year or month over month? So it gives us all of this way of starting to measure what the behaviour side is, that becomes very powerful whenever we're doing our work. Ula Ojiaku And it's all about evidence based, it helps with evidence-based decisions, so that helps you because back to your explanation or, well, I say your talk about Agile and how it should help with, you know, organisations and leaders with just periodically you do a bit of work in a Sprint, but you look up and look around and know, okay, what we're doing, is it really moving us? Is it moving the needle? No pun intended. Is it moving the needle or is it pushing us closer to where we want? Are we likely to achieve those outcomes instead of focusing on how many widgets or gadgets we've produced within a Sprint? So based on that, what are the things, can you give examples of, you know, challenges you've observed, maybe in organisations or startups with being able to apply this sort of iterative development mindset, and still managing it with the needs to plan in, you know, longer time, across longer time horizons, because some organisations, especially if you're, for example, publicly traded, you still have to have a long term, you know, mid-term and short term view. So how can you, what are the challenges you've experienced with them, balancing all these? Brant Cooper I think that, yeah, I think it's, you're planning outcomes and so I think that the difficulty is that when people look at the outcomes, like, well, we need to grow 5%, you know, quarter over quarter, or something like that, the difficulty ends up being when they have to translate those outcomes into what is the work that people need to do. And so we, at some point in that progression from the top leadership down to the to the ground floor, those outcomes get translated into output. And so we lose this connection between, is what we're working on actually going to achieve the desired outcomes? And this is what causes all the reorganisations that happen every couple of years, because they don't, they don't match up, and then the Board or the C-Suite needs to do a reorganisation because it's sort of their admission, their tacit admission that they failed in organising the output to match the outcome. And so they get to have a reset. And so they fire a bunch of people and they reorganise and then they go do it again. So, I think the biggest challenge is that it's really a ground up type of change that has to happen. And so a lot of the, I'm sure you're very familiar with a lot of the, you know, the corporate implementations of Agile tend to be very process-heavy and very, you must do it this way, and you've lost all of the Agile principles and the ethos that got you to want to do it in the first place. And instead it has to be very ground up and it's really around, in my opinion, putting people on teams, so I don't think there's any individual inside of a company that should not be on a team. The team sort of will hold people socially accountable to their work. And if not, then there's still HR that can deal with it, but rather than have managers kind of leaning over and trying to get everybody to figure it out, you know, sort of the, the classic Agile self-organised team, where those teams have to be held accountable to the outcomes, but are empowered to figure out the work in order to achieve those outcomes. And then you practice that behaviour. That behaviour has to be practiced. It's not about, like, giving an order that now you have to work self organised, you actually have to practice that behaviour and you build in some of these other empathy techniques as well as running experimentation and you create an environment where, like, as a leader, you admit when you don't know, and when you've made a mistake, so you're kind of demonstrating vulnerability and that we're actually living in this complex, uncertain world so that you are empowering individuals to also behave the same way. And so you're starting to create this learning exploration balanced with execution type of organisation, and I think inevitably you start seeing impact of that type of work, and that's really, I think, how you can start driving the longer term change that has to happen. It's really by taking pockets of the organisation, teaching the behaviour and practicing it. And then it's teaching and practicing leaders how to manage people that are working that way, which is different as well. I sort of view it as perhaps a little bit idealistically or even utopian is, it's sort of cascading missions. And so the very top mission statements are around those things that you're promising Wall Street. Here's what our growth is going to be, here's what we're going to achieve next quarter and two quarters from that. And then in order to achieve that, here's the different things that our business unit must achieve, the outcomes. And that drips all the way down in terms of outcomes, to the point that you're assigning teams, here is your outcome and you know how to do the work or we'll help you figure out to do the work or you could figure it out yourself. I mean, depends on kind of the quality and the nature of those teams, but it's a way of organising work where I think, in the end, the company doesn't necessarily look that differently than it does now, but it's just not built sort of arbitrarily on function like it is now. And so, by building sort of this mission-oriented way, whenever there's uncertainty, you can put people on that mission that can help overcome the uncertainty. And so you get sort of the cross functional and interdisciplinary nature, when it's required. If it's not required, that's fine. You know, all manufacturers, they're working on that team. That's great. They know what their outcome is and they're going to produce that outcome. But if it's uncertainty, how are we going to go into this new market? Okay, well, there's a lot of things that we know, but we should test those things that we don't know. It's a different, it's a different makeup of that team. Whereas now, if you're trying to do exploration work, when the teams are organised by function, you have to sort of force that cross functionality, and it's very difficult and it doesn't last long. If you don't keep the pressure on, everything kind of falls back into whatever their functional role is, as opposed to continuing to adopt and apply missions to these teams, then they get the resources that they need in order to accomplish a particular mission and then that should rise up to the level of whatever the company objectives are. Ula Ojiaku It's really interesting, and it seems like you're a mind reader because you did say initially, you know, it has to start from the ground up. And I was going to ask you if there was any place at all for, you know, the bigger North Star vision mission to trickle down and influence what they, the people on the shop floor are doing in the coalface, as some people would use the term. And you've kind of answered it. So it's more of trickling down the mission such that it gets, once it gets down to the teams actually doing the work, they understand what they're doing and how it's helping in their own way, how they're helping to achieve the bigger objective of the organisation. Brant Cooper Yeah, exactly. And I think that that's what, again, going back to sort of the big quit and workers being burned out, I think that a lot of them, like whatever survey I've seen, even those produced by the big consultant firms, pretty much say that workers don't feel aligned. They don't feel aligned with what the priorities are, like they don't even know what they are, and they don't feel like they're driving an impact, and then that makes human beings feel like they're not making an impact in their own life, and it starts this downward spiral, whereas we can create a fortuitous spiral if we actually allow these people to see the impact that they are making. Ula Ojiaku And the benefit of working in an Agile manner. Now, I do have my reservations about some people who have peddled Agile as you know, like an elixir, you have a headache, Agile will cure it, or you have a tummy ache, Agile will cure it. Actually, it has its purpose, it has its remit and it has, just like you'd have multiple tools in a toolbox, Agile is really about, you know, you sense, you respond, you know, you build, you put it out there, you get feedback, quick feedback, and then you make adjustments as required, and then move, you know, take the next step. So, from that perspective, taking an Agile approach to, will I say developing or building on, or implementing strategy. How can, do you have any thoughts on how organisations can be more effective at it? I know you've talked about the ideal of cascading missions and then building up. But what else do you think organisations or leaders and organisations can take into account? Brant Cooper Yeah, I think that the, I agree with you, it's not, it's just, you know, one view into it. And so I think that there's, I'm sure there's other ways of tackling it. I think that, I guess I think that it's this idea of teams, like, I think that there's everybody could start forming a team now, and it doesn't have to be permanent. Like, if there's a bunch of things that need to be done, find one part of uncertainty and form a team and give them the responsibility of solving that uncertainty. And so I think that it's, it ends up then being well, they don't need to necessarily learn Agile or Design Thinking. I really think that if we measured the right things, human beings sort of know how to optimise what they're being measured for. And so I think that if you were to sit down with a group of your people, and you were to say, listen, this is some, here's a business challenge that we have, I would really like you four or five people to go figure it out, I'm here to give you whatever help you need along the way, I'm here to mentor you, give you my own advice, do whatever. But I need you all to try to figure this out. And here's what the outcome is that we want to get from that, what do you think? And, you know, maybe there's a little bit back and forth, but I think that that's actually more important than any of the frameworks that, you know, even I talk about a lot, and so I think Agile was originally developed sort of around that concept, just very specifically for software development teams. And so I think that it's thinking about the principles that can apply pretty much anywhere as opposed to the actual practices. I just also happen to think that there's a bunch of practices that can be beneficial. Things like the idea of what is the length of time you're going to put your head down versus, you know, when you look up or how you're going to share your work or all of those type of things. But I think that it's essentially if we just gave a group of people a business, a challenge, and said, I'd really like you to help me figure this out, that you would see them rally around that idea. And I think that that's kind of the nugget of what we're trying to create here, and then hopefully spread because it makes those people happier, and when they solve something, that's impact that can be shared with other people. And I think that you see in companies that really have been successfully innovative are those that actually have inspired that to the point that the core business is then, you know, want some of that energy, like, we want that here, because we know that we have to be faster and move quicker and adapt and all of those type of things. We know we have to be truly customer centric and not just, you know, sitting around a conference room table, imagining we’re the customer, so it's really kind of really more about finding that and it also may vary, you know, based upon company culture, even positive company cultures. And it's like, what is that little nugget that actually empowers people to, as a team, let's work together and figure something out. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for that very, very insightful response, and there's something you said about uncertainty. You know, it's really about trying to make sense of the unknown, and this brings me to your book, your latest book, Disruption Proof, full title Disruption Proof: Empower People, Create Value, Drive Change. What led you to writing that book and what is it all about? Brant Cooper Yeah, so I think it really is, it's really all about what we've just been talking about the last few minutes, where it really is sort of looking at how the organisation can structure people and work, such that the natural output of it is  more, it's actually the way I put it is more efficient execution based upon exploration work, and so how do you build that into the organisation, so it doesn't feel like it's a cannibalisation, you know, sort of the whole old school Clayton Christensen stuff. I know everybody's going to be like, what do you mean old school, but it's like, it's not about disrupting yourself, it's not about this other organisation is going to come in and disrupt you. It's not that you actually have to eat your own tail as a snake. It's about finding this emerging behaviour that then will sort of flower from within and takes over the organisation because that's what the circumstances require. And so I think that the, I don’t know, I guess I think that the book was trying to show examples of businesses that have done that, either large scale, or pockets within these organisations that have brought people together, cross-functional where necessary, interdisciplinary. Hey, this is a new opportunity, how do we actually engage the business units as opposed to, to me what that old school way of doing it is like, here's your little innovations, you know, silo over here, you guys go figure out what's going to happen in 10 years. I think that's like, largely failed. And I think that what we need to do, is figure out how there's, from the beginning there's buy-in from these other parts of the organisation. So that's really what the last book is about, really all of these things that we've been talking about. Ula Ojiaku And I believe it's available on Amazon and other major book sellers. Brant Cooper Anywhere you can buy a book. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. Well, I haven't read it yet, but I have made a note, it’s on my reading list, definitely. Brant Cooper Well, thank you for that. Ula Ojiaku Definitely. No, my pleasure, I look forward to digging into it to learn a bit more about the concepts you've just shared and the insights as well as the examples with organisations that might have failed or succeeded in some aspects of the concepts. Brant Cooper Yeah, that kind of describes everybody to a certain level. Ula Ojiaku Do you have anyone you could share at this point? You know, maybe an example from your book? You don't have to name names. Is there anyone that comes to mind? Brant Cooper Well, I think in terms of, I guess what I would call lean innovation transformation, I think ING is a really good example, the bank in Europe, they did a full on Agile transformation as well, like organising the whole company based upon really more like based upon missions than functions, and I think that that always has its challenges, but I think that what, in the end, they kind of brought these two different endeavours together. One being this Agile transformation and this other being what we call lean innovation. And so they really started practicing the empathy and the exploration work and the experiments. And those things ended up sort of combining. And I think it's always interesting when, you can theorise about this stuff, but when do you actually get to see the results? And so a lot of this, most of this work was all done pre-pandemic. And then some of the stories that came out of different pockets of the organisation during the pandemic were really quite extraordinary in ways that they were able to adapt to, you know, finding yourself suddenly in this world, that they could point back to these lean innovation practices, being the, you know, being the impetus for being able to change like that. So I love those stories where you’re actually able to see that, okay, we applied all of this. Here's like this major, you know, environmental change brought on by the pandemic, how did the company respond. And so that's a, I wrote a couple of stories about that stuff in the book Disruption Proof. And so there's a couple of other examples in there, but that's the one that really comes to mind because they just committed to it at a larger level than I've seen other organisations do. Ula Ojiaku Sounds awesome. So in addition to your books, The Lean Entrepreneur, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Customer Development, Disruption Proof, what other books have you found yourself recommending to people who want to know more about, you know, Lean Innovation, Agile, or maybe it doesn't have to be on the subject of Lean Innovation or Agile, but just generally because you felt they were impactful to your life. What other books have you recommended to people and why? Brant Cooper Yeah. So I think that, you know, people have recognised change in the world quite a bit over the last, you know, 10 years or so, or five or six years, pandemic is making me lose all track of time. But, so the ones that I keep coming back to are not specifically Agile or lean innovation. So I would say Brené Brown's Dare to Lead, and I think that this is a just an example of what we mean by empathy, you know, you don't really have to go hug your customers, you don't have to hug your employees. It's not, you know, but it's understanding how you apply those principles in a business environment and the ability, like I mentioned earlier, for leaders to demonstrate vulnerability by admitting when they don’t know and when they're wrong, that this is really important in changing. The other thing I'll throw out there that I love that Brené Brown talks about is this idea of rumbling. Again, we're not talking about some, you know, kind of kumbaya moment here. It's really around bringing evidence to the table and having forceful discussions about what is actually happening and what you need to do next, but it's based upon this evidence and I kind of call it respectful rumbling, because rather than like my startup example I gave in the beginning of just arguing, it’s really around, you know, as a team of leaders even, it's great to respect each other, but we also have to be direct and honest and have real conversations and not just sort of let everything go hunky dory and then go back to your office and whine about stuff. So it's, I think that there's this, I don't know, I sort of enjoy this ability to sit around with people and, you know, kind of debate ideas and really try to get to the crux of things. And I think that we need that, and Brené Brown writes about that in Dare to Lead. I think that the other one, it's General McChrystal Team of Teams. And I think that, I'm not sure he ever realised it, but I think he was writing about Agile. But what he describes, of course, is the US military in Iraq, and the difference between facing a traditional force versus a, you know, sort of this ad hoc network, new, modern military force and Al Qaeda, and the changes that he then needed to do to the military to be able to respond to that. And I think that it's really quite extraordinary in the sense that, you know, unfortunately, in my opinion, the military is often the first thing for an organisation to learn about all of these things happening in the world. But it is a result of the digital revolution that now what you have are this interconnectedness that never existed before that allow little ad hoc network entities to pop up everywhere. And this is the same thing that's happening in business, and it's the same thing that happens in the market and Agile actually is a response to that, and so then we have to go back to how do we implement Agile so that that's actually part of the organisation. It's this interconnectedness and this ad hoc nature of forming teams and missions to accomplish goals, whether they're long term or short term. And so it's really super, an interesting analogy to, I think, what business requires. Ula Ojiaku So you've mentioned two books, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown and Team of Teams by General McChrystal. Okay, well, thank you. Brant Cooper They almost seem like polar opposites, but it's sort of interesting. Ula Ojiaku Well, they are interesting. I haven't read Brené Brown's Dare to Lead, but I have listened to the audio version of Team of Teams, and I do agree there are some interesting insights, which one can, basically, something that you said about principles, again, that principles, you know, you can draw from General McChrystal's narration of their experience in Iraq and how they had to adapt and all that, which you can apply to the commercial world or, yeah, so I completely agree was a very interesting book for me. So can the audience engage with you, and if so, how? Brant Cooper Yeah, so I'm Brant Cooper on all social media, really, but, you know, maybe primarily LinkedIn and I encourage people to reach out. I'm is my email and I respond to, you know, I respond to everybody. My company's website is and we're launching some online courses that hopefully make learning some of these new behaviours a little bit more scalable. So I invite people to check that out, but yeah, you know, happy to engage with any of your listeners. Ula Ojiaku Sounds great. Well, thank you for sharing those, and this would also be in the show notes. And would you have any final words for the audience, any ask? Brant Cooper I don't really have, I don't think any ask. I think that, I don't know, I guess one other little story that that summarises part of my life was this idea that I forget every once in a while that change happens because you as an individual decides to make a change. And I think that, like, some people, I think that just comes naturally to it and they live their whole life that way. I'm not that way, I'll sit back for a while and kind of look around and go like, well, who's going to fix this? And then I realise, oh, well, you have to do it. And so I encourage other people to maybe actually look at themselves in that way, and sort of that own self awareness goes like, oh, well, guess it's me. And, you know, I think that it's easy to be scared of the risks supposedly, but I also think that generally the risk is in doing nothing. And so you might as well go for it. Ula Ojiaku  Go for it, take risks. Thank you for those words. Brant Cooper Based upon evidence. Ula Ojiaku Okay, go for it, take evidence-based, calculated risks. How does that sound? Kind of made it very clinical. I think I've rephrased it in a way that takes off the oomph, but thank you so much, Brant. It's been a pleasure meeting you and recording this episode with you. So thank you again for your time. Brant Cooper Thanks for having me. Fun, fun discussion. Thank you. Ula Ojiaku That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
54:01 4/1/24
(S4) E037 Fabiola Eyholzer on Leveraging Agile and Agility in HR
Bio  Fabiola is a pioneer and thought leader in Agile HR and Co-Founder of Just Leading Solutions, a global transformation consultancy for HR and Business Agility. As a seasoned Management Consultant and Executive Advisor, she works with key players around the globe and across the private, corporate, and social sectors. She helps them become more adaptive and innovative by maximizing the potential of their people function. Fabiola is a Switzerland native living in New York. She is an avid New York Rangers fan.   Interview Highlights 03:20 Business Agility 04:35 The Impact of Technology 07:45 How HR Fits into Business Agility 10:35 Making the Change 13:50 Sustainable Initiatives 16:25 Agile HR vs Agility in HR 18:35 Workforce Planning Sessions 30:15 The Agile HR Course   Links ·         JLS Website: ·         Training Overview: Agile HR Training ·         Agile HR Explorer: Agile HR Explorer Training ·         LinkedIn Fabiola Eyholzer   Books & Resources ·         The Connected Company, Dave Gray ·         Thinking in Systems, Donella Meadows ·         The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth, Amy Edmondson   ·         The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle   Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku So I have with me here Fabiola Eyholzer, she is the Co-Founder and CEO of Just Leading Solutions, a New York based consultancy for Lean Agile People Operations. Fabiola, it's a massive honour and pleasure to have you on this show. Thank you for being my guest on the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. Fabiola Eyholzer Thank you, Ula, the pleasure is all mine. Ula Ojiaku So how did you get into this, you know, Lean Agile space? Fabiola Eyholzer So it's actually quite an interesting story. It's now 13 years ago when I was running the Swiss market for a European HR consultancy, and we were looking for a new leadership model for our career starters. And I met some Agile coaches and they're like, oh, you have to do Scrum, and I'm like, well, did you hear me say that we are an HR consultancy, we're not a software developer. She's like, trust me, it's the right thing to do, so we did a test run. So we introduced Scrum, which is the predominant Agile practice with our career starters, and it was such an eye opener to see what actually happens when we work in this new way that I knew this is the future, and I decided there and then to quit my job and dedicate the next phase of my career to Agile HR. Ula Ojiaku Wow. And since then, what sorts of organisations or projects or initiatives have you worked on? Fabiola Eyholzer So we've worked on so many different initiatives and with so many different companies and I actually had to look it up, I was in over 21 countries with the topic of HR Agility, and in that time I worked with companies across all industries, across all sectors, from profit, to non-profit, to education. And something that is really interesting is that at the end of the day, it doesn't matter that much what your corporate culture is, what your social culture is, when it comes to the people function, we want to make sure how do we maximise the people function, how do we leverage what we are doing in HR in a way that is highly beneficial for our employees, and with that, highly beneficial for our organisations. And of course, right now we are in that situation that the world of work around us is changing massively, you know, it's just being turned upside down. And this is, on the one hand, really scary, on the other hand, it's a massive chance to really reinvent HR, and really do things differently. Ula Ojiaku Something that stands out to me is you're saying it's an opportunity to reinvent HR and we will get back to that, but before we do, what does business agility mean to you? Fabiola Eyholzer So for me, business agility is really ensuring that our companies are engaging and adaptive and innovative so that they can thrive in that fast paced and constantly changing, highly dynamic environment. And at the core, what it means is that organisations and institutions are shifting away from being well oiled machines to being thriving ecosystems, because adaptability means exploring change, enabling change and being able to be change ready and to manage change to flex their muscles, to explore opportunities very quickly, to act on opportunities and not be scared, not be afraid to pivot and to course correct. And that's what we are seeing right now, that companies have to shift away from a model that served us really well for 150 years to a new system that is always at the edge of chaos, but that's the only way to continue to thrive and be adaptive in that fast paced, highly dynamic environment. Ula Ojiaku And would you say, I've, this is the first time I'm hearing that phrase, edge of chaos, but I do agree, and would you say that in this day and age, because the nature of the work we do, compared to 150 years ago, or even some years ago, it's for the most part getting to be knowledge-based, especially in technology. Is that one of the considerations for the change we need in the way we organise and run our companies or groups or teams? Fabiola Eyholzer Yes, technology is definitely a massive game changer for us, but it's not just about changing the way we work or changing the way our processes work. And quite often when we talk about technology in the HR space, people think about, you know, putting our HR process onto new, fancier digital process, but that's not just what it's about. It's more about understanding how much is technology and everything else that goes hand in hand with that, how is it changing the way that we work, and it leaves us with that very fundamental question, what type of work is left for us humans? If everything around us is being automated, and you know when we think about automation, a lot of people think about assembly line work going away, you know, routine work going away. And that was true 20 years ago. But today, work is being automated in every single field imaginable. And it's not just routine work that is being automated, and that leaves us with that question, what type of work is left for us? The answer is, it's the type of work that requires our passion and our potential for collaboration, ideation, our social and emotional intelligence. And of course, we are solving problems we never had to solve before, so there is no script, and that means we need to organise our companies in a different way. We need to organise work in a different way so that we can manage that ongoing fast paced change and that we can continue to solve problems we haven't solved before. And that's why we need to shift away from being a well oiled machine that has everything already figured out and written into job descriptions and competency models and objectives and KPIs to a company that can create and respond to change very quickly. Ula Ojiaku So given your definition of what business agility means to you and the case you've made for change, in the sense that we're at the edge of chaos and the sorts of work we need to do right now because technology, almost everything can be and will be automated in one way or the other, so where does HR fit in into this, in the light of business agility? Fabiola Eyholzer I can give you a very straightforward, simple answer. The role of HR in business agility is that HR is the secret to business agility, because if we don't align our people approach, and if we don't align our HR practices to the new realities and new demands, we're not going to be successful. So if we don't engage in talent scouting and talent enablement and performance acceleration in a way that is aligned with the new way of working, we cannot achieve business agility. Ula Ojiaku And how ready would you say the HR function is for this sort of transformation? Fabiola Eyholzer So the companies that we work with, or that I have the pleasure of working with, they are ready, or at least they're not scared to try. So they're courageous enough to try. As an industry in human resources, I think we have a long way to go. On the one hand, we see that things are changing and we're trying super hard to change with the times, but quite often we don't have that fundamental understanding that the entire mindset, the entire DNA of the organisation is going to change, and unless we understand that new mindset, that new DNA, we will not be able to change or maximise the people function in a way that is most beneficial for Agile enterprise. So we have a long way to go. Ula Ojiaku How would you know if an organisation's HR function is ready? Are there some indicators that they're ready to go on this journey if they haven't started already? Fabiola Eyholzer One of the indicators is if they have more questions than answers, they're probably there. So, because the companies are just saying, oh, we've done this, we've done that, tick, tick, tick. They're probably not the ones with that growth mindset that Agile organisations need. Okay, so that's one indicator. The other indicator is that they're not satisfied with the status quo and at the same time they are willing to do something about it. So I sometimes say, we have a gut feeling that tells us there must be a better way out there to engage with people, to create a learning organisation, to inspire people. And if we listen to that gut feeling, then we need to be gutsy about it, to change it, to do something about it. And these are some of the things that we see in organisations that we work with, they are not afraid to challenge the status quo. They realise we need to change and we need to change now. Ula Ojiaku And okay, when they have identified, yes, we need to change, we need to change now, what's your typical direction or steer or guidance to these organisations and their leaders in terms of where to start? Would you say, let's take a big bang approach and overhaul everything? Or would it be small iterative steps towards the change? What's your typical approach? How would you advise them? Fabiola Eyholzer So I'm going to give you the consultant answer, it depends. So it depends on the change readiness and change willingness of the company. We have a lot of companies where we have amazing success, when we took one part of the organisation, typically around 500 to 2500 people, where we changed the entire HR approach. We had some companies where we have had amazing success with a big bang where we really transformed the entire HR organisation, but it really depends on how ready are you to explore and also how willing are you, how much do you want to put in, how much energy and passion and resources are you willing to put into that transformation? But one thing that we always do is, we start with training and inspiring people, because we talk about a new world of work. And while this is easy to say, you know, people initially envisioned this is about virtual work, or working from home. Well that's a tiny part of what we're talking about when it comes to this new world of work, and because this new world of work is rooted in such a fundamentally different mindset, we first need to understand that mindset, and we need to speak the same language, because quite often we're using words that have a very different meaning in the Agile space versus the traditional corporate environment. And I can give you an example, for instance, if we talk about hiring for potential, you know, what are we looking for? In the traditional way of looking at potential, it’s, does someone have the potential to thrive in that particular role, and does someone have the potential to take the next step in a predefined career trajectory? But that's not what we're talking about when we talk about hiring for potential in the agile space. We are talking about hiring for potential to thrive in an uncertain, complex, ambiguous, volatile world. Does someone feel comfortable with uncertainty, not knowing what their job is going to look like 12 months from now? Does someone feel comfortable with flexing their muscles, with learning and unlearning new things? So it's a very different understanding of a simple work word ‘hiring for potential’. So that's what we're doing, is speaking that new language, understanding why and how this new world is so fundamentally different. Ula Ojiaku Well, that's very, very thought provoking and some of the things in my little experience that I would expect leaders of such organisations to say like, yes, well and good, you know, you inspire us, there's a case for change, but how can we make sure this isn't one of those multiple failed large change initiatives with engagement? How would we know we will make this sustainable? Fabiola Eyholzer So you will never have a guarantee, but what is a massive game changer, and what's crucial to the success of any transformation is your commitment, okay? So you have to stick with it, even, or especially, when the going gets tough. And since we are working in such a different way, it's super easy to fall back into old patterns of behaviour when there are problems that come up, when we need to reprioritise, when something unforeseen happens, it's super easy to fall back, and that's when you have to keep going. And I think that dedication is one of the key aspects. And also what's interesting about agility is when you learn about Agile and how it works, and what the values are, it resonates with us. Of course it does, because it was created for the human economy, so it taps into what we bring to the table. So it sounds super easy and straightforward, let's talk about empowering people, who doesn't want to feel empowered, but then it's, we have to figure out what does that mean for us in an organisation, what does empowerment mean? How do we share that empowerment? How do we allow the teams to explore, to learn, to stumble, to fail, to course correct? It's not always that easy to then actually follow through. And I always say the devil is in the detail when it comes to Agile. You know, it sounds super easy on the surface, but when you dig in deeper, it gets more challenging. Ula Ojiaku It's almost like learning to play a game of chess. Yes, you might know how the different pieces move on the board, but actually the getting into it, it's a lifelong pursuit to become a grandmaster, almost anyway. I really enjoyed going through your course, the Agile HR Explorer course that's on the Scaled Agile platform open to SBCs, but there was something that you mentioned in that course, Agile HR versus Agility in HR. Can you explain for the benefit of the audience, you know, what these two terms mean and how they differ? Fabiola Eyholzer Yes, so the word HR has two meanings. So when people talk about HR, they can either mean the HR department, your compensation specialist, your learning expert, your grading instructor. So all these HR professions, so the entire HR department and that. Or they can mean HR as a discipline, as a function, where we talk about talent acquisition and performance management and learning and development, workforce planning and so on. And because there is that duality to it, we also have a different approach to agility. And that's when you hear those words, Agile for HR, so meaning what can Agile do for the HR department or HR for Agile, meaning what does HR do for the Agile teams, for the Agile organisation, and the approach is slightly different. So when we bring Agile to the HR department, it's all about how do we work in a different way? How do we organise around value? How do we deliver value faster, in a better way? So it's implementing all these Agile practices, the natural practices and ceremonies and artifacts within the HR department. Whereas the other side is really, how do we align all our HR practices to this new way of working, and that's really where the magic happens. So if we shift from recruiting to talent scouting, if we shift from learning and development to talent enablement, if we shift from performance management to performance acceleration, that's when we help the organisation become and stay Agile, that's when we bring business, or enable business agility across the organisation. Ula Ojiaku And there's something you said about workforce planning, you know, so in terms of the function, if I may just go slightly off tangent, it's a question that's been on my mind in the sense that, is there a way that one could approach workforce planning that would undermine the agility of the organisation? So I'm going to give a hypothetical example. So there are some organisations who might be saying, do you know what, in this economy, we need to balance out our talent mix, and we want new, fresh talent who, maybe fresh graduates who are, they will cost cheaper, they probably are up to date with new technologies versus, you know, existing talent who might be more expensive. So is there a way that one might approach workforce planning that could be detrimental, because there are pros and cons to every approach potentially, but in your experience, in the multiple organisations you've supported and continue to support, could there be things we could watch out for that might undermine our agility in that space? Fabiola Eyholzer Yes, so the way that we look at it is when we look at talent and what talent brings to the table, we don't look at it from, is this talent expensive or cheap? It's about how much value does this talent add to the organisation? Okay, so it's a value based way of looking at it, rather than a cost based, right. So that's the first part. The other part is that we, what we want to do with adaptive workforce planning is that we can explore opportunities very quickly, so it has to be a way where it's easy for us to say, hey, we have new initiatives come up that require new skills that we are very proactive about it, that, let's say we need more AI experience or Blockchain experience or whatever it is in the future, if we know that today that there is a high chance that we need it, let's look at the organisation. Do we already have people who have experience or skills in that particular field? Can they train others? Do we have to start building, putting up a training program ourselves? Do we have to get external talent in that can give us a leg up? Can we work with exploratory assignments to get people that experience? So there's so many things that we can do, and the focus with anything that we do in agility is always about now and the future, whereas in the traditional workforce planning, it's more about the past and today. And if you think about it, workforce planners, they don't have a full overview of what are the initiatives the teams are going to be working on six months from now, but we think it's going to be 12 months from now. And that's what we do with the active workforce planning in the Agile space. We have that forward looking approach. We look at our talent pool and say, what's the strength of our talent pool, not just compared to the initiatives that we're doing today, but to the initiatives that we think are coming up. And the beauty about this is, and here you see that we're really applying systems thinking, is that this is then opening up growth opportunities for our employees, because if we want to be an Agile organisation, we need to be a learning organisation first. Ula Ojiaku I do like what you're saying about the adaptive workforce planning and it does align with that, you know, responding to change over just sticking to a plan. How often would you recommend or how often in your view would it be practical to be having these sorts of workforce planning sessions? Fabiola Eyholzer We do it once a quarter with our clients, because that allows you to then also collaborate, because this is about talent management, you know, where do we see things that people need to learn, what they want to focus on, do we need to open up exploratory assignments, do we need to assign people to different teams, all of these things we need to know before we go into our quarterly planning. So if we talk in SAFe terminologies, you want that to happen before your PI planning so that you can make sure that those people topics are part of the backlog. So we work with capacity allocation, all of that, to make sure that we have people topics on that, so that's why we do it once a quarter. Ula Ojiaku Okay. And I would assume, you know, once a quarter, those people topics, because there's also the respect for the individual or the people involved, there would be some factoring in that there will be conversations with the individuals to say, hey, this is what we think is going to happen, what's your opinion? Do you want to go instead of just shifting them into positions and maybe them learning on the day of the PI Planning your team has changed. Fabiola Eyholzer Yes, and, you know, in the Agile space, we talk a good game about empowerment and we know how it works when it comes to work, but of course, empowerment also means empowering people when it comes to their learning and growth journey. So, hey, the people manager, people developer and HR are there to open up opportunities for them, but at the end of the day, they have to be on that journey by themselves, they have to make those steps, they have to go through that door, they have to go out and learn and explore and bring themselves into play. So it's, what's empowerment when it comes to their own growth and learning. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for that Fabiola. Would you say that when you do this adaptive workforce planning, does it make sense for one area or team or division or department to be compared with another? And I'll tie it back, I'll just give you some context, because I've heard of organisations, you know, doing it based on, oh, we want to make sure our cost base is, you know, our overheads, we're cutting it, I know everyone is doing a good job but we want to cut it, can we start measuring this department with that department in terms of workforce planning. I do resonate with that value base, instead of looking at how much they cost, what’s the value these people, these talents are bringing? What's your view on, in the process of doing this, comparing one unit or department with another in their workforce planning approach? Fabiola Eyholzer So there are two aspects to it. One is, what data do we measure? And the second part is what do we do with the data? So for instance, when it comes to adaptive workforce planning, for instance, one of the important KPIs that we have is looking at the talent pool strength. So how strong is the talent pool compared to what we're working on right now? What we're going to work on in the next one or two quarters and three to four quarters out. But we're measuring that just so that we have a data point to get us talking. So this is not about comparing my team to your team and my team is better than your team, that's not what this is about. It's more about having a data point that allows us to have a conversation, that allows us to see, are we moving into the right direction? So, and I think that's important to all the KPIs. Why are we measuring them? And what are we doing with the data? And also the question, are we measuring the right things? And something that we often see is that people don't differentiate between leading and lagging indicators. So, for instance, a simple example in HR, we often look at retention rates, which is a great measure to have. But here's the thing, a retention rate is a lagging indicator, a lot of stuff has already happened, you know, and people did that quiet quitting probably long before they actually handed in their notice. So while we want to have that data point, there are other data points that are probably going to be better for us to be proactive, to do things about it. So always think about why are we measuring something? Are we measuring the right things? Are we measuring the things that are easy to measure? And for instance, cost is a data point that is easy to measure, but it doesn't say anything about the value. If someone used a hundred percent of their budget, well, did they do well? We don't know. Maybe they could have done the same thing with 70% of the budget, or maybe they should have gone to 120 and created something amazing for the future. So, really think about why are we measuring things and what are we doing with the data? Ula Ojiaku It just reminds me of a conversation I had and I said, what if we don't look at the cost and what if we also asked, are they meeting the targets that you set for them, the objectives that you set for them, and could they be setting up your organisation to make, you know, quantum leaps of progress by the work they're doing right now. So, and some of these things we can't see into the future, it's only retrospective, and that's where the leading indicators you talked about, although you talked about it differently from, you know, measuring attrition and people leaving and retention and all that, but there are ways of knowing in advance whether our guess is most likely to be correct, and sometimes measuring money or the cost isn't always the best metric, so I really like what you said about that. Thank you. Fabiola Eyholzer And also when you think about it, so many organisations, they want to be innovative and adaptive. At the same time, they focus so much on efficiency and, you know, following a script, following a plan, you know, hitting certain numbers that are set in stone, that they actually lose agility and adaptability and innovation, but they don't see the connection between the two, they don't see the connection between their leadership approach and their HR and finance and legal processes and how that is impacting one way or another how innovative they are, how creative they are. Ula Ojiaku I do recognise we're kind of teetering whenever we talk about the cost, we're teetering between, you know, finance, but they are all intertwined, like you just pointed out, it's all intertwined and it's a delicate ecosystem where you're always going to have to be doing something to stay in balance. What you did yesterday might not necessarily work today, so it's all about sensing and responding and I do appreciate what you've said so far. So what led to your developing the Agile HR course, which is now on the Scaled Agile platform? Fabiola Eyholzer Yes, I co-created or co-founded JLS, I think, nine years ago, and we very early on realised that we need to have a training to sort of do that level setting, get people that foundation, foundational knowledge to succeed in their transformation efforts. And that's when we created a series of different courses, and one of them is the Explore course that you mentioned. It's a one day course, it's great for anyone who's new or fairly new to Agile, Agile HR, you know, someone who wants to know more about it, and this is really an important first step to a longer learning and growth journey. But if you're new to Agile and you're in HR, this is definitely a great training. It's a one day training that gives you, starts out with the new world of work, you know, why is it so different? Why do we have so much pressure on performance management and career models and so on and so forth? Then what is Agile? And we explain Agile, not using technology based examples, but HR examples, you know, what does good design mean in the HR space? So we really explain the Agile manifesto and Agile values and principles from a HR perspective, and then we bring these worlds together and we talk about what is Agile HR and how do we apply that to different HR practices? So it's going to give you a well-rounded introduction to the field of HR Agility. Ula Ojiaku And is this available on the JLS website? Fabiola Eyholzer Yes, so all our trainings are available on our website and also our partner companies offer Agile HR training, you can go to an open enrolment class or you can bring it to your own organisation to train either an entire department or a team. And it's especially valuable when you start out on a new initiative, you know, it doesn't matter whether your company is already Agile or planning to become more Agile, if you're tasked with reinventing performance management or, you know, doing a new initiative, a new project, this is always a good way to get into it and say, okay, how can we make Agile work for us before we then help the organisation be more Agile? Ula Ojiaku We'll definitely have the link to your website in the show notes with your episode. So what I'm hearing is it's available, there are some partners as well that offer this training, which you and your team have curated. But if someone says, no, I want you, Fabiola, to come to do this for us, is that possible as well? Fabiola Eyholzer Absolutely. You can go to our website and contact me or you can hunt me down on LinkedIn, I'm the only one with my name, so you should be able to find me and just send me a message and we can definitely collaborate. Ula Ojiaku Okay. Well, what excites you about what you do currently? Fabiola Eyholzer Oh, I tell people I have the best job in the world because I get to work with amazing people, amazing companies, you know, people and companies who are not afraid to push the status quo, you know, who are courageous to do things differently and who are not afraid to push boundaries, because we're getting into uncharted territory. When you think about human resources, the term HR was first used in 1893 by J. R. Commons. So HR is this year, 120 years old, and of course we've evolved, you know, we changed from personnel management to modern HR and everything, but we're at the cusp of a new era that is going to be fundamentally different from anything else that we've done in the past. And if you think about it, it's never been this exciting to be in HR. We get to reinvent and shape the future of HR, or the people function, whether you call it talent and culture, or employee success or people and culture, whatever term you're using, we are reinventing it, and I'm in the middle of it, so I get to help organisations do this. Ula Ojiaku That's exciting. I can sense the passion and the enthusiasm there. Would you be writing a book on this topic anytime soon? Fabiola Eyholzer Maybe one day. Ula Ojiaku Maybe, okay. Whilst we will be eagerly waiting for your book, what books would you recommend to people who might be wondering, okay, what else could I read to, to get abreast on this, or generally any books that you would recommend that have made an impact or impression on you? Fabiola Eyholzer So one book that had a really big impact on me was The Connected Company. So it talks about the company being more like a city, rather than an engine, and even though it doesn't talk about agility, it doesn't talk about human resources, there is so much food for thought in there, you just have to put that thought in to make that translation into HR, but I thought that was a fantastic book. Then obviously Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows. I'm a systems thinker myself, so that definitely resonated a lot. And of course there are other books like The Culture Code, Fearless Organization, books like that, that can, you know, really give you a lot of food for thought. Ula Ojiaku Thank you very much. These would be in the show notes. And would there be any ask before we round up that you would have for the audience? Fabiola Eyholzer So don't be afraid to push boundaries and to challenge the status quo. As I said earlier, every time you have that gut feeling there is a better way out there, well, chance is that there actually is. So don't be afraid to push boundaries. Don't be afraid to try. And I know everyone sometimes feels that they're in that hamster wheel, that they have so many things to do already that they can't take on something else, but I tell you from personal experience and from my experience working in that field for, for 10 years, it is a game changer. And if you're willing to put in the work, the results are going to be amazing. Yes, actually it's hard work, but it really delivers what it promises. Don't be scared, be courageous, do it. Ula Ojiaku Thank you very much Fabiola for those words of wisdom. It's been a pleasure. I've thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and I hope, you know, we would have some follow up sometime in future. Many thanks Fabiola. Fabiola Eyholzer Anytime. Thank you so much. Pleasure was all mine. Ula Ojiaku That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
38:14 3/17/24
(S4) E036 Victor Nwadu on Sustainable Transformation
Bio   Victor is a Lean/AGILE Strategy and Transformation Consultant, helping organisations in emergent environments navigate the path to a successful future via "Agile Ways Of Working". This usually involves developing and implementing Lean/Agile Strategies for these organisations, coaching & mentoring Senior Leaders, Managers and Teams in attaining the Agile Mindset that allows them to achieve high performance. Experiencing this evolutionary journey with clients from traditional ways of working to successfully achieving full Agility is his career passion. With a career path spanning over 30 years, starting as an accountant and Business Analyst, Scrum Master to being an Agile Coach today. His best skill amongst many is as a motivator and his work ethic is all around making work fun. Other passion outside work include helping Africa as a whole achieve Agility – Victor is the creator of the A.P.I.A.M-R.A.T.S Agile Culture Model and also an amateur chef, gastronome and suffering Chelsea FC fan. Victor lives in England with his family, 3 dogs and 12 fish. Interview Highlights 01:40 & 08:00 Childhood bereavement 04:00 The importance of adapting 09:45 A.P.I.A.M-R.A.T.S model 14:50 Using local language 20:00 WakandAGILITY 22:25 Sustainable transformation 29:00 Transformation buzzword 32:15 The importance of timing   Social Media   ·         LinkedIn: Victor NWADU | LinkedIn ·         Email: ·         Medium: Victor Nwadu – Medium ·         Twitter: @wakandagility   Books & Resources ·         The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt: The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement: Goldratt, Eliyahu M ·         Turn the Ship Around! by L. David Marquet: Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders L. David Marquet ·         The Wisdom of the Crowds by James Surowiecki: The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations: James Surowiecki, Erik Singer · Enabling Agility for Africa: Agile Training, Support and Networking | Wakandagility ·         The A.P.I.A.M. – R.A.T.S. MODEL | LinkedIn Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku So I have with me here Victor Nwadu, who is an agility strategist, Agile coach, everything-in-between, maestro. Victor, it's an honour to have you on the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. Thank you so much. Victor Nwadu Thank you, Ula, thank you for having me. Thank you. Ula Ojiaku So let, just tell us, Victor, about your background. What are the things that you've experienced, that have shaped you into who you are today and how you've ended up to where you are professionally? Victor Nwadu I mean, just cutting to the flow, I'm from Nigeria. I'm also, like all Nigerians, educated in Nigeria and then for some, you know, reason found myself here in the UK. If I wanted to pick on anything that has, you know, brought me to where I am and what has driven me to who I am today, I think it's just, it’s my childhood, right. I was born to working class parents that, you know, Catholic people that worked hard for everything they've got. And as a Nigerian, you are told, it's instilled in you from a very young age, what the benefit of hard work is. Unfortunately, I was traumatised at the age of 13 by the death of my mum. So, and yeah, left with five siblings and my dad was broken by the course of events, but, you know, at that young age getting to where I am, having to, you know, do what I had to do to get to school and all that and still have these five siblings with me as well. Ula Ojiaku Because you're the first. Victor Nwadu Yes, I'm the first. You know how it is, especially when you're Igbo, right, you're expected to be strong and do it. Ula Ojiaku Di-Okpara (First Born) Victor Nwadu Di-Okpara, you say, that kind of thing, you know, so, yeah. But thank God for today and I find myself here today talking to powerful people like yourself. And I mean, I think that that has made me stronger, and I miss my mum terribly, but if I look back, to be honest with you, the course of events in one's life really defines, helps one define one's destiny. And that's how, you know, so I believe that what I went through in life has made me stronger, you know? So, yeah. I came to the UK, became an accountant, funnily enough, I did what we need to do. Then I find myself being a BA then a, after systems accounting, because I loved computers and all that, you know, then find myself doing, I don't know if you know what SAP is, so I did that for a while. Met a chap, a BA guy that I was doing his invoice, I saw how much was earning and I said, what, Jesus, I mean, tell me what to do, man. I then became a BA from that, then became, at that time, luckily, Scrum was just coming into the industry and, you know, we, I found myself doing something called an Agile BA, that's how I got into Agile. Then became a Scrum Master, became an Agile coach, and the rest is history. So that’s basically it in a nutshell. Ula Ojiaku That's interesting, that you started off as an accountant and now you're an agile coach. I mean, I'm not throwing stones. I started off as an Electronic Engineer and I'm an agile coach, but yeah, it's all about, what I'm trying to also tell young people, including my children, that what you start off with doesn't necessarily mean that that's the career you're going to have for your whole life, you know, there is a whole lot of options, but it's just about starting somewhere. Victor Nwadu Especially now, I say the same thing to my kids, especially my son. You need to be in a state of mind where you need to adapt. A lot of paradigm shifts are happening underneath us and, you know, you need to be ready, and you need to be ready to go and adapt to the present circumstances. Otherwise, you know, and this is why we do what we do. Ula Ojiaku Yeah, and I think it starts with a mindset as well, you know, just having that Agile mindset, not to flog it, but agility starts first with the mind. What’s your take on it? Because things are changing to be able to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world. Victor Nwadu Exactly. I mean, so we are living in exciting times, like you know already, agility was born out of the times that we're living in. It all started with the internet and outsourcing and all that, the world becoming a small village and all that. Then, we then have this digital thing going on and the information age and that brought yourselves all sorts of fantastic things. Things are, because we are utilising and leveraging the power of technology, we find out that we don't need to do certain things. Unfortunately, some jobs have to go, but then new ones are coming in. So all these things started happening, and again, it's affecting generations right now. If you were Generation X like me, you would've seen at least three more generations in your time when these changes are happening. It's crazy. So we now have, how do we survive? You know, you survive by adapting. If you don't adapt, you become obsolete, extinct, and that has tailored it to the industry, and the way we work. And even now talking to you, I'm working from home, I have a home office, you know, and that makes it even more fantastic because I can work anywhere in the world. Right. So what it does now is that it creates a bigger competition, right, where anybody can apply for any job anywhere in the world. It also helps the earth, and I don't want to go into that working from home debate, but that's all these things that are happening are as the consequences of the various paradigm shifts that are happening. So we need to adapt, like you said, in the mind, our mind needs to be open to change. And we need to put ourself in a place where we leverage all the advantages of those changes for our own benefits and so yeah. Ula Ojiaku Well said Victor. I mean, I completely associate with what you've said so far and the changes that are happening, especially with technology. For example, the recent one that's making waves is like AI, you know, so we're now in, someone said we’re in the knowledge, information age, but now it's something like augmented age. So it's not just about the information, but it's also about being able to leverage, you know, technology like AI to still do productive work. But it still ties back with being adaptable, being able to learn and unlearn, to remain creative because machines are not taking over anytime soon. Victor Nwadu They can't take over the creative aspect and we need to automate and become, the competitive edge now is about who does things quicker, who gets to the market quicker and who get to the customer quicker? Who satisfies the customer in terms of the value threshold. So yeah, that's what we are, you know, we’re creative, but we'll still be the same, but if you don't have creative guys in your design and engineering design, or software design, you're still going to fall back into that obsolete group of people that don't change or are not changing as quickly as it should. So yeah, I agree totally with that. Yeah. Ula Ojiaku Thank you. I know we went off into a rabbit hole, but I did want to just take you a little bit back to what you said earlier when you were talking about the things that happened to you that shaped you into who you are. And you mentioned your mum's death at 13, you know, I'm really sorry about that, and I can't imagine how tough it would be because my son just turned 13 and I can't imagine the difficulty it must be, well, you did say it must have been for you. You said events in one's life defines one's destiny. Can I, so my twist would be, because the same thing could happen to two different people and you have two different outcomes. So could there be something about how they react to it as well? Victor Nwadu Yeah, obviously. I mean, the way people react is the key, right. Yeah. So one person could react, have reacted, okay, fine. You hit the ground, I mean, you fall and you cry, and you get traumatised. Then you kind of rebuild yourself and stand up and keep going. And some people, it's just like a tough man's thing, right? It's a storming it and all that. So people stay in that trough, they never, some teams just stay there, they never rise above, you know, so some people, not because it's their fault, maybe their environment, maybe because resources that are not there to guide them, to help them stand up, you know? Yeah. We're not the same. So, yeah, I just happened to be who I'm hopefully strong enough to have been able to lead myself from that trough. Ula Ojiaku Well, you inspire me and I know that you are an inspiration to many other people as well, so thank you for sharing your story. So you did put together this model, agile culture model A.P.I.A.M-R.A.T.S. Can you tell us a bit about that? Victor Nwadu Actually, I have a little of pause on that. So it's something that, you know, that’s been on my mind, the pet project, purely because, you know, some people are saying, are you trying to create another agile, and no, it's not. It's just like a clarion call to people that are coming to Africa and the Middle East to engage in a transformation process. We're looking at the way Agile is, when the forefathers of agile went to Utah to dream up this fantastic thing. I'm sorry, they were not thinking about Africa, they were thinking from their own Western perspective, right. And then we Africans, Agilists and change leaders from Africa, we know that things we've learned from what the manifesto and the principles have taught us, are not that straightforward in from where we come from. So it manifests itself with many of my colleagues in the West that have gone to Africa and met these challenges and have complained. And I say, yes, it's because we are totally different, mindset is different, the Western mindset is totally different. So I've kind of modelled it more to Africa and the Middle East, and mainly to Nigeria and South Africa because that's where I got most of my data from. And it's A.P.I.A.M-R.A.T.S it's actually Agile Practice in Africa and the Middle East. Okay. And the R.A.T.S, I get lots of stick from my friends, the R.A.T.S is just when I kind of listed out the main things, main factors, some of them not that bad, some of them, the bad ones, it just, the best way I could figure it out to make, to create a soundbite was, it came out as R.A.T.S. So you have your religious intrusion, the R is religious intrusion, the A is an age respect paradox, and the T, obviously time. The other one is secrecy cults, and the fifth one, which I've added on later on was language, the leverage language and that kind of stuff, right? So the religious one is the effect of religion in the way we work. If you go to any African or if you go to Nigeria today now, you will see, say for example, people doing their standup. The standup, daily standup is, that's supposed to take an average of 15 minutes. They will give an average of five minutes for prayers and, you know, the way we pray, evangelistic sometimes things more than that. And imagine a Muslim guy in that scene. You know, imagine a Western guy, a Western agile coach and like woah, really? You know, so you have that aspect of it. You also have the age respect paradox. So it's a paradox because yes, while people in the West understand age and respect, in Africa and in the Middle East we take it up a notch or two. You know, where sometimes actually the negative aspect is that somebody that is older than you now thinks because he's older, you cannot allocate well as part of a member of the team, you feel, oh, it's an insult for you to tell them what to do, which is wrong and very crude, but it happens, it happens. So we have that and we also have the African Time, so it's not fair to call it African because the French do it. It’s not labelled an such connotative when the French do it… Ula Ojiaku I've been to different countries. They do it. I'm not going to name it, name them. Victor Nwadu Yeah. So, exactly. So the way it's been made to feel as if some kind of, like we, Nigerians and Africans started it. I don't really like it, but, you know, that has become something that of note and something that has kind of embedded itself in our culture and our behaviours. Yes, the French do it, but is in social circles, however, we've kind of brought it into professional, our professional lives, where we lack that discipline for some reason of keeping exactly to time. And that itself, obviously as you and I know, has an effect on cost of delay and all that kind of stuff. Ula Ojiaku And morale as well. Victor Nwadu The fourth one is secrecy cult. For some reason, we don't share knowledge. And I'm happy, agile is, has brought the fact that we need, when we bring transformation into an organisation, part of it is making the organisation at the end of the day, a learning organisation, where we collaborate and collaboration means we have to share knowledge, we have to share, you know, for us to win. Okay? So, yes, so for some reason in Africa, that doesn't take place as much as we would love to see that. The last I’ve put there is language, so this one is very important for me because, and Sophie Oluwole that's one of the, she's late now, but she's one of the people that have kind of been evangelising the need for us Africans to get rid of the Western language, like English or French. We should start teaching our kids chemistry, maths and everything, the academic learning journeys should start with our local language. It's easier on the brain, it's less stressful, and they learn. Then we can learn English later on, or however, we shouldn't waste time to learn a foreign language, then start learning the basics of academia, right. So if you look at it, it's timeframe itself is a waste in terms of agile thinking, right? So for me, I brought it into an agile space because you find out that, I have worked across global teams, right? And when, as an agile coach, you give teams freedom to please, create and design within yourself with your local language. Only come to me when you, you know, when you need to, when you need me. And then you'll normally find a language champion that will do the translation or whatever. And so you find out that it's easy, the engagement is easier, and they're loving you for giving them that freedom. So I've been bringing it to Africa to be the way we work in Africa so that we as teams are, we don't become too stressed or thinking of how we sound when we speak English. When we are designing, we are talking about, and when we are in an agile space, we are talking about and discussing with our local language, we are free, and you find out the mind is less stressed. So these ideas just keep flowing, the brainstorming session is fantastic, lively, because you don't have to, oh, let me think of how I'm going to put, structure this, my idea in English before I have to speak, it just comes out, like it's easier. So I think we have more benefits if we trace ourselves back into our local language, especially if the team is regional and everybody there is speaking the same language. Ula Ojiaku I was going to get there, so it seemed like you read my mind. I was going to say, but what if the team, because in Nigeria there are over 200 languages or 200 ethnic groups, since we've started off with Nigeria, you know, what happens? Because you might still have to go to a shared common language. Victor Nwadu That's a very good question. So, but the thing is, like most African, especially in India, places like India and even in the Middle East, we have a kind of broken English, we have a local slang anyway, that's a kind of, it's mixed with English, like in Africa, Pidgin, we call it Pidgin, it's a mixture of Creole and Hausa, Wazobia, that kind of thing going on there with English, everybody already speaks that language. Why don't we use that? So that's a tie breaker anyway, that, why don't we use that, you know? So yeah. So, but basically, when you go to places like Enugu or Kaduna, you tend to be of that particular region. But if we have a thought person there that’s from other place, let's use our local vernacular to break that ice in terms of the way we speak and communicate. So that's my answer to that. Ula Ojiaku Okay. And where you have someone, if there's only maybe one person who's not of the culture, not from that country, doesn't know it, where does inclusion come in here? Victor Nwadu It's highly unlikely, but however if it happens, because in the small village that we have now, the global village that we have, I normally would have a language champion, somebody that's, you know, you should be able to find some kind of, somebody within the, just like your Agile champion, the team. You find somebody that can translate, right? Otherwise, I've developed all sorts of apps right now, where you can use something as Google translates. So when you, when you want to give important meetings and you want to write, you just do the one in English, then translate it to their local language and just send it out. Everybody will understand and they'll come back to you. So, yeah. But it's very rare, very, very rare, to find a place where the English language and French has not touched on this planet, or Spanish. So when that happens, you just, we just use tools that, simple tools are available to us, Google translate, use an Agile champion to kind of leverage and that, kind of make that disability or handicap a non-existence or minimise the impact of it in the way we communicate. Ula Ojiaku On a slightly off tangent point in terms of languages, Mandarin is also like going up there,  you can't ignore that.  So what have you been working on lately as you've talked about the A.P.I.A.M-R.A.T.S model, why you came up with it and how, in a little way, how it could be used, but what else have you been working on lately that you'd like to share with the world? Victor Nwadu Apart from work and all that, I give a lot to my people. I have tried to empower a lot of people, so I've created this WakandAGILITY group where we, it's a global support thing where we kind of give masterclasses to people that are coming into the industries from masters and Agile coaches already there, but want to, you know, so I kind of hold these master classes for free actually, because, I am looking at the scope of how we can kind of create, make sure that as Africa develops and becomes more hungry, resource hungry, we have the resources on the ground to accommodate those requests, right? Ula Ojiaku So skilled manpower, you mean? Victor Nwadu Exactly. We don't have it. So, and now to train up, agile training is expensive. So that's my own way of giving back. But apart from that, I've been working with people, great people, great change analysts, internationally based people like, I don't know if you know her, Mary Laniyan, she's based in the UK and we have a lovely woman that did African something sometime ago that invited me to Lagos Abiodun Osoba. We also, in fact, I think we have somebody, her name is Anu Gopal, she’s even a powerhouse in agile affairs, I think one of those, yeah. I also have Etopa Suley from Canada. You know, all these guys who come together in the last Agile 20 something, we came off with the whole government manifesto for Nigeria. That was our presentation, it's fantastic, right? It is there on the internet right now, so yeah, so it's people like this I'm working with, we came up with the manifesto for good governance for Nigeria and many other projects like that. So yeah, that's what I spend my time doing behind the scenes, apart from work and spending time with my family. Ula Ojiaku That's really awesome, and I'm sure some of the listeners would want to know more about it. So we'll make sure the links are in the chat. Do you still do run these sessions? Victor Nwadu Yes, I do. It's keeping with the requests. I have a lot of requests, and you know. Ula Ojiaku So there is a question I have for you with respect to transformation, because as an Agile coach, I would expect that you've been involved in a number of transformation efforts with organisations in involving leaders and teams. Can there be a sustainable transformation without vision or strategy? Victor Nwadu So, it's possible for you to have a transformation, well a transformation, it's possible for that to just happen once, right? So it's like a rider, you know, you are told to ride through one end of the Serengeti to the other with dangerous animals and valleys and all that. With a horse, no compass. And you don't have a compass, you have a map or maybe don't have a map, you just know just face there, you get to the end, right? And you don't have a compass. You don't know the health of the horse and you just got on that horse. And yet, it is probable that you may be able to get to the end. But how sustainable is that? That is why the word sustainable that you use is very important. How sustainable is that for us to now create some kind of tourist pamphlet for other people to come behind us to use? It's exactly the same way. So it's probably, it's very, very probable for you to run this kind of transformation rather than just win with one team or whatever, then where's the playbook for those coming behind you, if you want to kind of multiply that, accelerate it within the organisation. So that's why sustainability is important. You know, how sustainable is that? How can we we create a model, or a playbook for us to use as an organisation for our own peculiar transformation, right? That's why it's important for us to have vision. I mean, you know, we need to have a strategy, you know, so the vision itself, first of all is the what and the why we are doing it, and all that kind of stuff. Then the strategy, the Agile strategy is very important. The Agile strategy itself is the vision plus how we're going to do it. Under it, in a timeframe, and how we’re going to fulfil the objective required to actualise that vision, right? And with regard to the scope, timeline, course and the organisational culture. So that's the strategy. We need to have all that. When you have that and you place it, and you can start to kind of base it under the kind of, your playbook of entry, the change itself and the exit, then you have something to go with, you know? So, yeah, that's basically how it works. You cannot have a sustainable transformation without a clear vision, without a realistic strategy that kind of makes sure that all these aspects of the scope itself, the objective, the goals, and then taking into consideration the culture I dealt with, you know, you cannot have a, what is known as transformation, a sustainable one without having a transformation strategy. So that's it. Ula Ojiaku You may have touched on this, but I'll say, just going back to your Serengeti Crossing analogy. I mean if you are crossing, or the person has been assigned a horse cross, that it's important to say why are we crossing the Serengeti? Because it might be that if you evaluate the why it might be better for you to stay where you are and don't put yourself and other people in danger and waste resources crossing, just for crossing's sake. Victor Nwadu Yeah. I mean, all these things will come in when we are laying out the strategy and, you know, we will have the vision, somebody comes, you know. I have to say transformation is sexy nowadays. So the metaphor is dealing with the, the Serengeti itself is the transformation, what we assume to be all the wahala inside the transformation. Ula Ojiaku What is wahala? Beause not everyone understands what wahala is? Victor Nwadu Wahala means all the troubles in life, all the challenges you meet in everything. So we need to first of all understand that nowadays transformation is sexy. Where many organisations, I heard a rumour that many leaders engaged in these big companies engaged transformation purely for the benefit of their PE ratio in the stock exchange. It's a rumour, I haven't confirmed it, but I don't know how to confirm it, but I do know that it's very sexy to say your organisation is carrying out its transformation. Everybody wants to be a saviour, that's what we're doing. So that is part of the big problem and the challenges that we face as change leaders in the transformation, because the success of the transformation depends on the leaders and the person at the top. How committed they are to it. So the commitment of that leader is tasked from the top. If they don't have the buy in, if they're not convinced about it, they're just doing it for show, when push comes to shove, and it will happen, the challenges will come and hit you. Cultural challenges, personality challenges, the ego of leaders or middle managers, and you'll hit them as you already know. How committed is the leader at the top to come down and say guys, and create that space for us to be able to make this transformation happen? Because as the ultimate impediment remover, that person should be able to have the time, to have the commitment to come down to the team level, to the whatever program level, whatever, and be able to remove that impediment for that to happen. So if this leader or sets of leaders or whoever is given the mandate to commission a transformation doesn't have total commitment or is not bought in, is not doing it for some show or for some reason, it's not going to work. Ula Ojiaku Very true. Do you have any anonymised stories of your experience in guiding organisations in enterprise agility or transformation journey. Because one thing you've said, you know, transformation is sexy, it's really a buzzword. And if you ask two people, and they could be in the same leadership team, you know, C-suite team, what is transformation? And they'll give you different answers. It's just a buzzword, which means different things to different people. But do you have any story underpinning, you know, what you have said about leadership being key? Victor Nwadu If I give you all the stories, you're not going to leave here, right. However, I want to make a few things very, very clear that just standing in most organisations, that starts their transformation journey with a few teams, as you would expect. When they succeed in that they then call it an enterprise wide transformation. Where you take a few teams to delivering some funky, sexy, innovative products, that is not enterprise wide transformation, that's not business transformation or business agility, right. It is you showing that, and delivering a particular product as quickly to the customer, whatever works using agile ways of working. So there's that misconception there, that's the number one misconception that people think, oh, when we succeed with a few teams, yeah, we have, no, we haven't, because you still need to scale it, you know, to the entire enterprise, to non-IT enterprise to both upstream and downstream and all that. It is when your organisation as a whole, no matter how tall it is, can have a transparent view of where everything is, when an organisation can adapt to news in the market very quickly, when an organisation can innovate, it has the people they have been enabled to, to have a different idea, different mindset towards failure and seeing failure as a learning bridge, all those kind of mindset things, but happening in very large scale so that the organisation becomes a learning organisation, everybody's learning, we have a lot of COPs (Community of Practices), you know, that's when you say a transformation has been successful, that’s when you can actually say the organisation has transisted from a traditional stoic, siloed set up to where we have open collaboration, and the cultures, mindsets and the culture have been changed in that the mindset of people that lead and those that make things happen is one, and they have this adaptive way of behaving. When something happens in the market, nothing shocks them. Even when it does, you have some, I understand some people even have an anti-disruptive, you know, when you come up with an idea in your organisation and you go back and you go out to the market and sell it, you become disruptive, you disrupt the market. However, some organisations as well are having anti-disruption strategies. If somebody else comes, how quickly can we respond? So those are the kind of things that shows that organisation has actually transisted from those traditional ways of working to an agile way of working. However, the other aspect I want to draw to our attention is about timing, when we are thinking of transformation. So for me, my advice is first of all, number one, to get the top person involved in it. Timing is very, very important. You need to have time for this transformation, to start this transformation. The time when you start transformation is very important. You don't want to start it when you have disruption in the market, things will not happen normal way, and it's better for you to do transformation in peace time, what I call peace time, before some major disruption, so that you can leverage what you've learned from that transformation in that, when that disruption happens. Timing is very important when you're carrying out a major transformation in your organisation, okay? You need to have committed leaders, leaders that are really committed to the cause, they're not just doing it for show and leaders should be able to come down and do Gemba walks, and see that what is actually happening in the kitchen is what their executive information system is relayed to them, right? There needs to be complete transparency from the top to bottom. So that we are sure that what the developers and the guys creating all our products are doing is exactly tied to the revision and objective of the executive. So that's part of it. And for me it's common sensical things that we already know. However, when we have transparency, this transparency increases trust. And it needs to start with the leader, he needs to show transparency by example, right? So it increases trust, and trust enables organisation-wide collaboration, right? So when teams start collaborating, teams that were locked in silos start collaborating, we start seeing silo breaking, and when you start breaking the silo, you start seeing aggregates, paradigm shifts happening. And that is when you now then see that almighty cultural change emerge. So it comes from, and transparency, it comes from transparency leading to trust, and trust leading to collaboration that breaks down silos. And when that thing happens, you start having all this shift because we now trust each other. There are no more silos, then the cultural shift that people say is hard to do, it is, however, if you follow this, if you allow this thing to flow the way I just listed, it'll flow in its normal cadence, right, without having to have unnecessary, you know It's not easy to have a cultural, don't get me wrong, when we are as change analysts and change agents, it's not easy for cultural change. No matter where we are in the world, people don't like change as a result. However, it starts with common sensical things like the leader taking the first step, the leader coming into, sometimes when you have a Gemba walk, you come into a meeting and you, like, for example, in some recent, not recent, about two years ago, where the leader came into a meeting or for an impediment that had been there, so kind of a Scrum of Scrum meeting, that had been a feature type impediment, and had been there for quite a while. And he came in and after they've had the conversation, he just raised his hand and everybody was surprised to see him and just said, what is it? And he kind of listed back to him, you know, this impediment that I've been there for roughly about almost a month was dealt with within two days. That is one of the major advantages where you have the leader there, and you need to ask yourself a question, what was causing the impediment delay? The verification of the impediments and the delay of the action of impediments before the leader came in. Middle management, also cultural things, bureaucracy, my space, your space, so the person at the top comes in and slashes through. If you have leaders that are prepared to do that, that have the time to do that, transformation will take its normal course without unfortunate circumstances happening. Ula Ojiaku You've said a lot of things in this time and space and they make sense to me, but is it possible, because you said transformation is ideal when done in peace time. How can you, it’s almost like saying you time the markets. Because there are other people, many organisations that have admitted, for example, the Covid, the pandemic accelerated their transformation per se. Victor Nwadu Accelerated, but many of them died. You know, yes we have unforeseen circumstances that you cannot help that, right? Aliens landing on the planet and disrupting the world, you cannot help that, right? But I was saying that if you are given a time to select, so it's better for you to do it now before any, covid is part of it, but you also have market disruptions as well, right? So the best time would be when you think just kind of stability, because it starts from a small team, then expand. So you want to make sure that team is not distracted by bigger factors that may be beyond the help, the beyond the reach of the remediating powers of the leaders in the organisations, right. So that's given, if you are given, you know, if you can help it. If you can't help it, start it as quickly as possible, but you know, it's better to have it started in peace time. Ula Ojiaku Awesome, thanks Victor. I can see that you are quite passionate about what you are saying. So what books have you recommended to people about this topic or anything else and why? Victor Nwadu I have many books. The main book, that for me has kind of created powerful insights in the way I do my work, the way I even see life. One of them, the top one is The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. Then the other one is Turn the…. Turn the Ship Around! by David Marquet. We'll put it in the links. You know, I use that a lot. And it's just leadership should be, you know, it should be about enabling, self-managing, self-organising team. I mean, in the way we work nowadays, you can't know everything. And that was what the point he was trying to say that as a captain, yeah, he's supposed to know how they work, but the details, there are experts that is within his reach, there are the guys that are the experts, so enable them to do the thing and you just deal with it. And the third one will be this one. I just read this book, it's called The Wisdom of the Crowds by James Surowiecki. He was saying that data shows that if you take, if you ask people to solve a problem and a group of people from just non-experts, and you get the experts to predict that same problem, the crowd will be, the answer will be closer to the reality than the experts themselves. Why, I don't know, maybe it aggregates knowledge of the crowd coming together rather than experts, and the other point he was making also, is how the HiPPO opinion (HiPPO: Highest Paid Personality), like when you have a team of engineers and the manager comes in that meeting and you ask a question of how do you think we can do this and he gives his opinion first, his opinion is going to skew the answers of everybody else. So this is why it's important, where you have a meeting and some HiPPOs are there, let them be still, let us hear the opinions of the team, the ordinary members of the team before if they need to give their opinion, right? Otherwise we just have a skewed opinion and that opinion will not be the best for that particular question. So that is another very good book. Ula Ojiaku Thank you. So there are three books. The Goal, Turn That Ship Around, The Wisdom of the Crowds. So how can the audience find you or contact you? Victor Nwadu You can get me at, you can get me at You can get me at LinkedIn, Victor Nwadu, you just type it there, you’ll see m there. Ula Ojiaku Any ask for the audience, or any final words, Victor? Victor Nwadu Final last words, yes, Agile is real. Agile is here. And so be inspired, be prepared, be Agile. First of all, you be inspired to change, to have that mindset to adapt to your present circumstances. You know, be prepared for future disruptions, for anything, and be Agile, right? That's it. Then you will definitely succeed. You will definitely live longer. You will definitely transcend all the challenges, all the Covid 19 time, even aliens coming to this world or whatnot. Ula Ojiaku So can we hold you to, to account for it? Can we take it to the bank and say Victor said if we're inspired, prepared, and agile… Victor Nwadu It will help. I mean, from my experience in life, it'll help if you're inspired, you have to be inspired. People that are not driven cannot achieve much. You need to be passionate about what you do. And then you need to be prepared. You need to be prepared by having the skillset, challenge yourself to learn, constantly learning. Then be agile, all those things that we do, your mindset, the way you think, you know, having agile ways of doing things, you know, having a different mindset towards failure. When you fail, it doesn't mean you have, you know, you’ve done anything bad or the end of the world, failure is a sign that that option is not going to work and you've learned something new, you pivot and try a new one. So if we have that kind of mindset, we'll be innovating every year, every six months, every three months. If we have a different attitude towards failure, so be inspired, be prepared, be Agile. Ula Ojiaku Thank you so much, Victor. It's been a pleasure having this conversation Victor Nwadu It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you so much, Ula. Ula Ojiaku The pleasure is mine. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
43:52 3/3/24
(S4) E035 Bryan Tew on Meeting Teams Where They're At (Part 2)
Bio   Bryan is a seasoned Enterprise Transformation Strategist, Coach and Trainer specialising in the practical implementation of Business Agility practices within all types of organisations. He brings a balance of business, technical and leadership expertise to his clients with a focus on how to achieve immediate gains in productivity, efficiency, visibility and flow. Bryan is a key contributor in the development of the AgilityHealth platform, and the Enterprise Business Agility strategy model and continues to train, speak and write about leading Business Agility topics.   Interview Highlights 02:40 Driving strategy forwards 03:05 Aligning OKRs 06:00 Value-based prioritisation 07:25 An outcome-driven approach 09:30 Enterprise transformation 13:20 The ten elephants in the business agility room 14:10 Misaligned incentives 15:40 Top heavy management 18:50 Being open to change 19:40 Process for improving process 25:15 Being a learning organisation 26:45 Leaders drive cultural change 29:50 Capacity and employee burnout   Social Media   ·         LinkedIn: ·         Twitter: @B2Agile ·         Email: ·         Website:    Books & Resources   ·         The Compound Effect The Compound Effect: Perseus: 9781593157241: Books by Darren Hardy ·         The Trillion Dollar Coach Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell: Schmidt, Eric, Rosenberg, Jonathan, Eagle, Alan: 9781473675964: Books by Eric Schmidt and co ·         Project to Product Project to Product: How Value Stream Networks Will Transform IT and Business: How to Survive and Thrive in the Age of Digital Disruption with the Flow Framework: Mik Kersten: 9781942788393: Books by Mik Kirsten ·         EBA strategy model:   Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku Hello again everyone, welcome back to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. My guest today is Bryan Tew, and this episode is going to be covering the second half of the conversation I had with Bryan on all things enterprise and business agility. So in part one, if you've listened to it already, or if you haven't, please go to that first, I'd really, really recommend, because Bryan talked about how to overcome failed deliveries, meeting teams where they're at, establishing and driving strategy forward. Now for this part two, we went into the topic of OKRs, Objectives and Key Results, and how to align these with strategy. He also talked about the ten elephants in the business agility room, and the importance of being open to change and being a learning organisation and how leaders are critical to driving culture change. Without further ado, part two of my conversation with Bryan Tew. There are some things you've said about what leaders need to do and some of them include, you know, looking at the lean portfolio management, taking an outcome-based approach to defining the strategy at all levels and making sure that, you know, it kind of flows, not in a cascaded manner, but in a way that each layer would know how it's feeding into delivering the ultimate strategy of the organisation. Now, how, from a practical perspective, I mean, yes, you use OKRs, or objectives and key results, you know, that's one way of doing that. But how, are you suggesting then that the leaders would have to write the OKRs for every layer? Or is it just about being clear on the intent and direction of travel and letting each area define it within their context, but with some input from them? Bryan Tew No, it's a great question and I'll try to visualise as much as I can, but when you think about it this way, when you start at the top, and let's say that we're coming up with some enterprise level three year OKRs. So where are we going for the next three years? And you know what, things can change, so that's why we check in on those, you know, at least every six months, if not every quarter, because we're learning a lot and we want to adjust. But the thing is, if we have that level of strategy clarified, and not only that, but we're aligned across our leadership group, that means that the priorities that we're focusing on should align as well, and that's the important thing here. So now as we start to move from the enterprise down to maybe a division or portfolio level, all of the OKRs at that level should in some way align up to our enterprise, right? Whether it's around certain objectives that we're trying to accomplish from a financial perspective, or customer goals, or people goals, whatever it is, but now there's something that we can connect to as a foundation. So those senior leaders, although they can provide support and help, typically now it's your portfolio leaders that are taking the lead on building their OKRs that are aligned, and then down to maybe your program or train or whatever level you'd call it, what those OKRs will look like, all the way down to where every single team, which in reality, every single person in the organisation, sees how they fit in driving strategy. Now, I might be in facilities, I might be in HR, I might be in marketing, but I know that what I do is making a difference in making our strategy move forward, even though it's my small part. And I love that, that's where everyone feels connected. Now, what I see more often, and this is really unfortunate, and some people try OKRs and have a bad experience because leaders will just say, okay, everyone go out and do your own OKRs, but they're not aligned to anything. They're aligned to the local priorities, which may or may not be the right things to be working on at all. And so that's where I would say senior leaders need to take the initiative, and they can have help, that's why coaches are there, that's why their directs are there, they can even pull in people that might have expertise in certain areas to craft the OKRs, but even internally, you're going to have great expertise, but the idea is that, let's craft an OKR, even if it's not the senior leaders writing it, but it's actually showing the right message. Here's what we believe we need to do, and these are the outcomes we need to achieve in order for us to actually accomplish a goal. Like, what does that look like for us? And then I love to just press on leaders and ask, how would you know that we're successful? What would you be looking for? And that's a great start to your key results. So we have a really great framework, a very simple framework to build out OKRs, without just putting it into a template to start out, because I just want those main thoughts, like, why are we doing this? What is it going to accomplish for us? Who's going to be involved and what customer is this going to impact? And what's the best way to measure progress, and measure success? Like, those are the things I would start with, which makes OKRs a lot easier. But then from there, I have to have leaders come together to actually look at the work, and which of those items that, maybe, there may be many, which of those are actually going to be the most valuable to move forward with your strategy? You do not want your lower-level people who don't understand the strategy like you do, making those decisions. What are the best things for us to do? And then from there, that's where we can actually bring in the prioritisation, the value-based prioritisation, which we recommend, and starting to build more of your outcome alignment across your organisation. So yeah, there's so many great things that can be done. It's not a ton of work if you start to build a cadence and just a nice process for, how would you do that every quarter? Ula Ojiaku And that's a great starting point, because that reduces the risk of, like you said earlier, you know, the teams working on the wrong thing, you know, executing perfectly, but it's the wrong thing. Now, in terms of the process, because you've talked about how the role leaders need to play, you've given examples of how, what they could do to encourage agility in the enterprise or in the business. Now, would it be the same for a functionary division in an organisation that's going through their, let's call it, for lack of a better term, you know, an agile transformation, quote unquote, would you expect the process and the practices to be the same for each division, say finance versus IT versus procurement? Bryan Tew Well, so that's a great question and I would say yes and no. So, the process is probably going to be similar. For instance, I would always suggest starting with an outcome driven approach where we have some transformation outcomes that we're trying to achieve. You know, without that, how do you know that you've actually made it or that you're actually getting there? So I would suggest that for any type of organisation, regardless of type of work, but the practices will probably look a little bit different. You know, what you start with might look a little bit different. In fact, maybe I'll share a specific example here for a transformation. In fact, this was more around what leaders need to own around business agility, but this was a large financial services organisation with nine different divisions, and they all recognised that there were gaps in how they were delivering and they needed help, you know, and many of them had tried Agile, but when it came to actually applying OKRs and customer seed and organisational design and all these different ideas, especially things around our culture and leadership, there's always going to be some level of resistance, you know, so we need to really clarify what are the benefits that this will provide for us, why is this going to help us, what specific problems will this solve? And I would suggest that's where you start every time, like what are the biggest challenges you as leaders are trying to solve for? Like, what's keeping you up at night? What are you thinking about? That's why the practices are going to be different. Maybe my biggest problem is I have capacity issues, or maybe my people are feeling burned out, or maybe we're just not getting enough done for our customers, or we have changing needs all the time, or we're getting disrupted, whatever it might be, that's where we want to start. And so, in some cases that might mean, well, we need some portfolio management practices and others it might be, well, we need more customer centricity practices. And others it might be, we need to really focus on our teams. So that's why it changed a little bit. So in this organisation, there was one group who had been pretty successful with Agile and they said, you know what, sign us up, we want to do this, you know, we're ready for this leadership level of agility, so sign us up. And it was a good idea, because it's not going to fail. When you have leaders that are super excited about it, they're willing to put in the effort, and that can at least prove that it can work. And so we believe in what we call quarterly Sprints, we're familiar with a Sprint cycle, two, three weeks, whatever it might be, when you're looking at enterprise transformation, we believe in quarterly Sprints, where you have specific goals you're trying to accomplish for the quarter, and a laid out process, a roadmap to get there. So, we built a quarterly process, kind of the first quarter for this group. We had specific milestones we were trying to meet and the reality is they did an excellent job. You know, there were some learnings along the way and there's always some growing pains, but they did an excellent job to the point where, after the quarter, we came back to the leadership group and they were able to describe, you know, some of the real successes and wins they'd had. Now at that point, we have eight other groups who are kind of on the fence or trying to, you know, is this really going to work for us? And this was a brilliant decision by the senior leader. They said, why don't we go next with our most problematic group, the biggest risk group, in fact, this was the biggest PnL. We basically said, if it can work with this group, first of all, it'll drive some excellent change for us, but it'll prove that it can work for anybody. If it can work for you, it can work for anybody. And that's what we did. And luckily we had some leaders that, you know, weren't necessarily super excited about it, but were at least willing to give it a try and willing to put it in the effort to make it a successful trial, or at least a real trial. And it was great, we had great conversations, we started to implement OKRs, we started to look at their strategy, we started to bring teams in to start to build out some of their agility practices. But the leadership would meet together regularly to talk about what's the next step in our process. We had learning sessions, but all of those were hands-on doing. So, for instance, let's build out our three-year OKRs, let's build out our one-year OKRs, let's bring the work in and let's prioritise on a big board to see where things fit and are aligned, let's start to think about our capacity constraints and all of those things. And yeah, we had a lot of lessons learned, a lot of things that we had to adjust, but overall it was pretty successful. And after that quarter of work, we went back to that same group of leaders and every single leader said, sign me up, I'm ready because if it can work for this group and we're seeing benefits there, then I want to try it here as well. And I love that, because ultimately we want to prove out some success that certain practices can work, or let's learn that they're not working and not be married to something that's just not going to help us. But then let's have leaders engaged from start to finish where they know what they're responsible for, and ultimately what I love to see is when a leader says, you know, at the beginning of this quarter or the beginning of the six months from now, we had these three main problems, and those aren't our biggest problems anymore. We've solved those to a point where we can manage, now we have other problems we need to solve for, and that's what you want, right? And the nice thing is if you've solved the biggest problem, or at least you have a good handle on it, now the next biggest problem maybe isn't as big as that first one was, and we can start to make more progress, and maybe new practices become more evident. So, and that's what we try to do with any transformation. If you're just going through the motions to transform your group because it's what everyone else is doing or it’s  what we were recommended to do or whatever other reason, it's not going to be nearly as impactful as if it's actually solving the things that you know need to be solved for. And that's where you get leaders' attention. Instead of it just being a side project while I focus on my real work, we're saying, this is solving your real work, and that's where they get really excited about, you know, being involved and seeing the day-to-day progress. Ula Ojiaku No, that's awesome. So in terms of, you've already mentioned some of it in terms of what leaders should watch out for, one of it is definitely not being passive, you know, go ye be agile whilst we do the real work. Anything else they should be watching out for? Bryan Tew Well, you know, that may be a good transition to something I like to share sometimes at conferences. This is what I call the 10 elephants in the business agility room, I mentioned one earlier, but these are things really geared towards leaders. So, I hope that our audience here, if you're struggling with any of these that I describe, gosh, there are real solutions, absolutely, but here's the biggest message. Don't ignore these, because they will eventually bite you and potentially even cause a derailment of your transformation efforts. So I'll just walk through these. Certainly, I'm available for more of a deep dive if anyone wants to reach out, but these are what I call the 10 elephants in the business agility room because no one wants to talk about them, right, they're hard topics, they're difficult topics, but you cannot be truly successful from a business agility perspective all around if you ignore these. So the first one, and this is probably one of the biggest ones that we see, is when we see misaligned incentives, so that's number one. And friends, the idea behind this is sometimes you have these transformation goals and you want these to work, but in reality you have incentives that are very much misaligned to those transformation goals, even some of your product level goals, I'll sometimes see, for instance, product managers who part of their compensation package has maybe an incentive goal around how many projects you start or how many products that we deliver. It's like, all about outputs. Nothing to say about how effective they are or what the actual outcomes from those products might be, it's just as long as we get a project started, well, that's very anti-Agile in reality, you know, especially when we're thinking about true value. So you need to really look at your incentives. Now, leadership incentives we could talk all day about, right, sometimes it's around specific financial goals, sometimes about people goals. What I would always suggest is rethink your incentives to become more outcome-oriented, not necessarily tied directly to an OKR or key result, but related, okay, aligned to those, because what your incentives should actually be around would be your business vision, and the business outcomes you're trying to accomplish, why would it make sense to have anything else? So that's one thing that we see oftentimes has to be discussed at some point, right? Ula Ojiaku Definitely, because incentives would determine the behaviour, which leads to the results we get. Bryan Tew So, the second one is kind of related and, and this is around sometimes we see a lot of, especially in large organisations, top heavy management, we see a lot of leaders, and not enough doers, and the reality is I get this, because in large organisations we want to reward people for a great job, and so we continue to promote, but we just add more leaders that are sometimes not necessary. And remember, those are highly paid people who now maybe don't have a lot of responsibility. I've seen, some directors, for instance, with like three direct reports and they don't really do a lot, and it's just unfortunate that we're trying to reward people in a way that actually hurts our business. So, I know it's a hard thing to talk about, but at a certain point I would always suggest that let's take a look at what leaders are necessary and what balance do we need between the leaders and the doers, the people in the trenches doing the work. And we've seen lots of, of managers and supervisors and directors and general managers and operations managers and VPs and senior VPs, and some of them are absolutely needed and they do incredible work, but sometimes there are others that just aren't needed, we just don't know how to handle that. So that's something that would be part of a true transformation, is to think about what's the right balance for us, okay, and make small steps to get there. Now, kind of related though is sometimes we see that they're just bad managers, and that's number three, okay, bad managers, where we are promoting people, let's say they were an excellent developer, as an example, okay, or QA leader, or it could be any type of role, and we promote them to be a manager. They don't have good management skills yet, they have never done this before, what they're still good at is what they were doing before. So they like to solve problems, they like to fight fires, they like to do all of the tactical things. And they, some of them, are just really bad with relationships, and so they become almost despised by their people because they're just very abrasive, sometimes they just don't treat their people well, and you have to watch for that. Now, I'll say this as well. Sometimes you have these great performers who don't even want to be managers, but it's the only opportunity they have in the organisation to progress or get a pay raise or promotion. And so, we find that in, especially large organisations, there are so many other needs that these people can move into, you know, for instance, we need, internally we need coaches, like technical coaches or DevOps coaches or architecture coaches, or even people coaches that these people could start to do some work in, we might have some technical roles, or project management roles or whatever it might be, that these people might move into, RTE roles, or continuous improvement champion roles, and sometimes that's a much better fit, or potentially even managing a process or service or operational area instead of managing people, that can sometimes be a great fit. So that's one thing to watch out for, because not everyone is well equipped to become a manager, and you might lose some of your most talented doers because they're sick of their manager, they're tired of being treated the way they have been, so watch for that. Which leads me to number four, and this is where it goes back to leaders. Sometimes we'll see leaders that say they want change, but they don't want change in my area. Change everywhere else, but don't change me, right, because I'm comfortable with what we're doing and I own it and it's my fiefdom. And friends, if you want true enterprise transformation, and really enterprise delivery that is aligned to your strategy, we all have to be open to what changes make sense. Now, we're not trying to force fit any change, I would never suggest that, and if you have vendors or coaches that are trying to just force fit change for the sake of change, then you need to ask questions about that. But how do we actually improve our process so we can deliver more effectively? And this is where I'll just, I hope that this will be a nugget of wisdom for people. But I would say this, the important thing is not your process. Okay, you can have an agile process, you could have a waterfall process, you could have any process. The important thing is your process for improving your process. How are you continually optimising? How are you looking at what's working or what's not working, more importantly, and really take action to fix those things that are not working to improve and optimise. That is a continual thing, and it never ends, especially with the way that technology advancements are taking place. We are always going to get disrupted in different ways, customer changing needs and so forth, that's always going to change the way we work. So let's continually optimise by improving the way that we improve our process. So, kind of with that, leaders need to really own that yes, we are open to change, but let's make sure it makes sense, let's look at what our needs are and how we can actually improve the way that we deliver. Now, the next one, number five, this is maybe the hardest one, and this is where sometimes we have rigid funding models that are just not allowing for agility and adaptability, and I think every organisation struggles with this. And I'll just tell you, I'll just give you one example of an organisation where we actually went through the work to build OKRs, you know, these really great OKRs that all the leadership team was aligned on, and when we actually went to, okay, what are we going to do about it? They said, well, all of our projects are funded for the year, so we can't do anything about it. And when that realisation came that the work that they were actually having their teams do day-to-day was not the work that would actually drive their most important outcomes, it was like this slap in the face, like, we've got to change this, we've got to do something different. And so, having the conversation, starting out with your finance folks, with your product folks, I find personally in my experience, that it is not hard to have a conversation with finance, bring in your CFO, bring in their staff, it's not hard to have the conversation because in reality, any good CFO would be looking at how can we, as a finance organisation, better support our delivery in product organisation. Like, that's what we should always be thinking about. So I find that they're usually open to ideas, they just don't know what they don't know. And so I'll sometimes talk to IT folks, IT leaders, and they'll say, well, you know, our finance group will never go for this. Have you brought it to them to really consider on, because I would be surprised if they would be that resistant, if this is the way the business is going, right? So I don't find that that's such a hard conversation. Now, making the actual changes needs to be a little incremental. Ula Ojiaku Can I ask a question about that though? And I do agree that, you know, most people, they come to work, wanting to do their best for the organisation and to move things forward, and that includes finance, legal, whatever, you know, division. Now what if it's a publicly traded organisation, you know, they have regulatory, you know, reporting needs, and so how do you navigate through that? Bryan Tew So, in reality, most of the regulatory aspects of your financials are not going to need to change all that much, it's how is the money being used? So for instance, instead of funding projects, which it's easy to see a start and an end date for a project, we're going to adjust this, and that's one of the reasons why using increments like program increments, PIs, is helpful, or even quarterly increments, and saying, we're going to fund teams within a structure, like a value stream potentially, and then we can leave it to the local leaders, the product folks, the product managers, to determine based on our outcomes, what should the teams focus on now. I mean, the reality is we're paying for those people whether they're part of a project or not, right? So if you move the money to fund a backlog of work, rather, that can change and be prioritised based on what we're learning, instead of just a project from start to finish, you'll see tremendous gains in how we can adapt and truly work on the right things in the moment. Now, I will say that maybe that doesn't work for everyone to start out for sure, and that usually is an incremental process to get there, but when you think about it that way, can we still have the same controls in place for how we check in on how the money is being spent? Absolutely. In fact, I would suggest that you're probably going to see a lot more physical evidence that you're providing value as you have Sprint demos and system demos and PI demos to actually see how the work is actually being delivered. And then getting feedback from customers much more effectively. Now it's just a matter of how do we actually look at where our people are, where is the time going? And sometimes that's not even that important when you realise that it's really about how the solutions, the products and solutions, are actually being accomplished. So that, to me, is not the big constraint here, and it's certainly not the problem that I would start with, but it is something that we need to be thinking about. Does that change, and do we have specific nuances based on our regulatory environment, our country, whatever it is, that we have to really consider. And I would say the same thing goes through for Agile capitalisation. So many groups are not capitalising to the maximum benefit that they should be because they're scared that maybe we're going to go off the rails. Friends, there is absolute integrity in doing capitalisation for agile projects or agile buckets of work that you are probably able to really benefit from, and you're probably not, there's a lot of work there that you can actually bring in then for some of your spending around transformation work because of the gains. The sixth one is more at a people level, but can be helped by your leaders. This is an unwillingness to share knowledge and do cross training. Now, sometimes people just don't want to learn new things, maybe we have a fixed mindset. More often, people don't want to share what they know because I feel like I'm the indispensable tiger and that makes me more valuable, or sometimes it's a bigger problem than that, that leadership can manage. It's, I don't have time to do this. I want to share, because I need help, or I want to learn, because this will help my team, but we have so many priorities day to day and deadlines that we're trying to meet, we're working the midnight oil anyway, I don't have time for cross training, I don't have time to teach someone a skill that will actually benefit us for years going forward. So leaders need to actually build time and space and capacity for knowledge sharing, cross training, learning. If you're not a learning organisation, friends, then you are falling behind. And this is the time where we believe that learning may be the only competitive advantage that you'll have, you know, the way that you can learn fast and implement your learning into your delivery system. Ula Ojiaku I came across this material, and well, basically it just said we're no longer in the information era, we’re now in the augmented era. So before it's like, you know, you're learning right now, it has to be embedded into how you are working, you are learning as you go, and that's the expected norm moving forward. Bryan Tew So seven is avoiding the cultural impacts of transformation, right, and I think we're kind of overcoming that hump, but the reality is that leaders drive culture change. It’s not just a grassroots culture that we're looking at, you know, teams can have their own culture, even a train can have their own culture, but when you're looking at an organisational culture, leaders drive the culture through example, through their behaviours, through the values that we articulate and share and reinforce, but it's also about how do we work and what are we trying to accomplish? And so that's why in our EBA model, we actually have a leadership and culture pillar specifically that leaders need to own, because in reality, culture is one of those top most important things that will actually establish lasting change. Ula Ojiaku And by EBA you mean Enterprise Business Agility. Awesome. Bryan Tew Yeah, which leads us to number eight. And this is where, kind of back to another one, leaders will say something but not really mean it. For instance, leaders will say that they need to prioritise better. Yes, we need better prioritisation. Yes, a value-based scoring system sounds amazing. But then in reality, they'll go and pull the trump cards and they'll escalate and they'll pull things out of the hat because we need this done now instead of actually looking at the value, the business value of the priorities that we should have in place. So it takes some discipline, and yes, we need some level of money to account for those rapid changes or rapid things that come in that we don't want to miss out on. That's why the ability to have adaptive funding is so important. You know, how often can you ask yourselves, have we had an opportunity where if we don't hit this right now, we're going to miss the window of opportunity? And it's shameful when an organisation says, well, we have to approve that in our budgeting process, so that's going to take months. Well, okay, I guess you don't want that opportunity, right? So all of that makes a difference. So how do we prioritise and how do we adjust and look at priorities constantly? We're always reprioritising based on value, and based on what we're seeing in our marketplace, in our industry, with our people. All that matters. But when I see leaders that, you know, they'll kind of say from a word perspective only, yes, I agree, these are the priorities, and then they'll do their very different own thing for their people, that's a problem, right, that's a problem. Ula Ojiaku And where I've seen this happen as well, it kind of ties in with your number one, which is misaligned incentives, but sometimes it's really, okay, yes, this is the right thing to do, but my target says X, so we're not going to do Y because I need to hit my targets and get my bonus. But anyway, so that's number eight. Sorry, go on. Bryan Tew And so Ula, maybe this sounds familiar, but sometimes I'll hear a leader that will be part of our kind of portfolio or enterprise strategy, and then they'll go back to the people and say, you know, don't worry, those are the priorities for the business, but I'll tell you your real priorities. Really? You mean you're not aligned with your business? Because that's a problem. So anyway, that leads us to number nine, which is putting a blind eye to capacity and employee burnout. Sometimes we just don't want to talk about it, right? We don't want to think about it, we know that our people are, you know, probably burning out. We're asking them to work weekends and late nights, but, you know, they'll figure it out. Or sometimes we'll have leaders that will push more work to the teams that are already over capacity, because in their minds they'll think, well, if they feel the pressure, they'll just start to do more, they'll somehow produce more and we'll force them to kind of get these deadlines made. Friends, you're going to lose people that way. You're going to lose quality. Lots of problems from that perspective. And I will tell you this, that there was one organisation where they wanted to bring in business agility and they said their number one problem was that their best people had been burned out and were all leaving. And when your best people leave, that puts you in a really terrible situation, doesn't it? So they realised they had to stop that, and this was year after year of, you know, it's going to get better, just get this project done, it's going to get better, and it never does. So, which leads us to our 10th elephant in the room. And this one I am, I give you kind of as a bonus because it's not really an elephant anymore. It's more of just something that should be part of our initial conversation. It's not having an outcome-oriented measurement strategy for your teams and transformation. So we kind of briefly touched on that earlier, but starting out any kind of change work or transformation work with specific outcomes that will actually help you to know that you're getting the business value or the needs met that you have in mind, that's so important, whether they're OKRs or other type of format, you know, that's not as important for me, but do you have a plan for how you're driving the right results? That's important. And one of the things that, that we do at AgilityHealth is we build a measurement strategy in place for your teams. You know, how healthy are they, how are they maturing, how are they performing? But also, I would say not just your teams, but your individuals. How do you know your individuals are doing well? But also, how about performance level, whether it's a train, a program, and as well as your portfolio and enterprise. If you don't know how you're doing in each of those areas, you know, that's actually what we try to help organisations with. So that's been really exciting for us to be able to work in. And those are the 10 elephants. Ula Ojiaku They're all very thought provoking elephants, if I may say so myself. And this is really great in terms of, and I have attended one of your courses, you took us through the Enterprise Business Agility Strategist course. That was excellent, life changing, I'm saying it not just because you're here, but it's true, it did make me think, it opened my eyes and it gave me a more joined up perspective of, you know, what a true transformation should look like and what are the key principles and pillars that one needs to consider to ensure that their transformation effort is sustainable. And you also have, you know, the tool that you have, you know, the AgilityHealth Radars and the tools, they are quite useful as well. Yeah, so great. Bryan Tew Yeah, absolutely. And I'm glad to hear you say that because ultimately the Enterprise Business Agility Model is really for leaders. It's a strategy model for leaders, you know, leaders, coaches, transformation folks who are really leading transformations, that's the intention, so you can have everything in place so your teams can actually be successful and deliver most effectively. Agile only gets you part of the way, right, and Agile is part of the model for sure, but it's not what leaders focus most on, right? It's what teams will do. Leaders need to do the other things will actually allow your teams to be successful. If anyone's interested in looking at the model, you can actually go to and that's where you can see our radars, that's where you can also go to the EBA model, and all of that is there. Ula Ojiaku So what books have you recommended most to people, and why? Bryan Tew Yeah, great question. So, you know, one that I've recommended for years that I really have enjoyed, I mean this was lifechanging for me, is called The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, and the reason for that is this will really help you as an individual, a leader, a coach, whatever role, to really build in excellent habits, and there are many self-help books around how to build good habits. This was by far the best one that I've read, and it really kind of goes through a step by step - here's how you start from your morning routine to how you start to build in the right practices day to day, you know, how you influence others, like it's been tremendous. I'll give two others as well. I really loved the Trillion Dollar Coach, and this was written by some of the Google guys talking about a coach that really helped Silicon Valley organisations think more strategically and become real excellent leaders. So it's called the Trillion Dollar Coach, Eric Schmidt is one of the co-authors there, and he happened to be my CEO at Novell back in the day, so that was kind of exciting, and I recommend that for any type of leadership role or coach role. And then another one that is more recent, but I've just really loved is called Project to Product by Mik Kersten, many of you have heard of this one. I see a lot of organisations right now trying to move from projects to more product-oriented organisations, and he has a great way of thinking about that through his flow model to talk about how do you practically do that, so I highly recommend that one as well. Ula Ojiaku So where can the audience find you? Bryan Tew Well, I am on LinkedIn. I am one of the only Bryan Tews, T-E-W, Bryan with a Y, but I'd be happy to take any emails at I do use Twitter, I don't use it a lot, but you can find me there as well, at B2Agile. Okay. And you know what, I just love having these conversations. So if any of you are interested in whether it's our strategy model or our EBA Radar or our AgilityHealth Radars, we have actually an OKR or outcome dashboard that if you're getting into OKRs, that might be a great thing to try out and utilise, that’s been really helpful, we use it internally. And those are all things that we're real excited about. And sometimes I'll be at different conferences, speaking here and there, and I always love to do that, but to certainly reach out, I'd love to share any thoughts and ideas with you, and certainly help in what problems you're trying to solve. Ula Ojiaku Thank you so much, Bryan, these would be in the show notes as well. Any final words for the audience? Bryan Tew You know, I'm just excited that this has been such a big part of our community now, thinking about business agility, enterprise agility, it's a different feel than when we were just talking about Scrum and Kanban and some of these more specific frameworks. Business agility truly is opening up organisations doors to a new level of possibility. So I would say if you're just starting out on your business agility, learning and journey, keep that up, look at the resources that will help you learn what's going to solve your biggest challenge, it's an exciting place to be and I love that there are so many getting into this space because it's kind of the next level of really organisational optimisation, regardless of what kind of organisation you are. And what I love about business agility is it applies to any type of team, any type of group, because there are always things that we can do to improve the way that we either support our business, work in the business, or provide services for our customers. So I'll kind of leave it at that. Ula Ojiaku Well, thank you so much, Bryan. It's been an absolute pleasure and I've also gained insights speaking with you, so thank you for making the time. Bryan Tew Absolutely my pleasure, Ula. Ula Ojiaku That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!     
39:04 2/18/24
(S4) E034 Bryan Tew on Meeting Teams Where They're At (Part 1)
Bio   Bryan is a seasoned Enterprise Transformation Strategist, Coach and Trainer specialising in the practical implementation of Business Agility practices within all types of organisations. He brings a balance of business, technical and leadership expertise to his clients with a focus on how to achieve immediate gains in productivity, efficiency, visibility and flow. Bryan is a key contributor in the development of the AgilityHealth platform, and the Enterprise Business Agility strategy model and continues to train, speak and write about leading Business Agility topics.   Interview Highlights    04:15 Interrogating KGB agents 06:00 Now that I see it – overcoming failed deliveries 07:15 Agile ways of working 09:00 Meeting teams where they are at 11:50 AgilityHealth 14:10 Business Agility vs Enterprise Agility 17:30 Establishing a Strategy  21:25 Driving Strategy forward   Social Media   LinkedIn: Twitter: @B2Agile Email: Website:  Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku  Hi everyone, my guest for this episode, actually, we're going to have a two part episode, is Bryan Tew. Bryan is a seasoned Enterprise Transformation Strategist, a coach and a trainer that specialises in the practical implementation of business agility practices within all types of organisations. I first came across Bryan when I did the Agility Health Enterprise Business Agility Strategist Course. I was mind boggled, my mind opened to possibilities, and I thought this is someone I would really like to speak with. In this episode, Bryan and I, for part one anyway, we talk about overcoming failed deliveries, or overcoming failed transformations, the importance of meeting teams where they're at. We also looked at the term Business Agility versus Enterprise Agility and Bryan explained his view on what that is all about. We also talked about strategy and how to establish that and drive that forward. I hope you enjoy listening to Bryan Tew's episode, as much as I enjoyed having this conversation and recording it with him. So part one, Bryan Tew. So I have with me Bryan Tew, who is a seasoned Business Agility Strategist, coach, trainer extraordinaire. He is just an all-round awesome expert in the Business Enterprise Agility space, and he works with AgilityHealth. Bryan, thank you so much for making time out of your busy schedule to have this conversation with me as my guest on the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast.   Bryan Tew   It's my pleasure. Thanks for having me on, Ula.   Ula Ojiaku   Awesome. Thank you again. So, growing up, can you tell us a bit about your experience, your background, and how you wound up to where you are today?   Bryan Tew Sure, absolutely! So I grew up in the state of Utah, in the United States. It's a wonderful area, there’s lots of mountains, and many outdoor things to do, so I love the outdoors. I grew up skiing and snowboarding and playing outside, hiking, I do a lot of canyoneering and rock climbing and all kinds of outdoors, sometimes extreme sports, I just love those kinds of things, it helps me connect with nature. I had a great growing up, great schooling, but I'll tell you the thing that really changed my life, what's most influential for me is when I was 19 years old, I decided to serve a two year mission for my church, and I was called to St. Petersburg, Russia. You don't get to choose where to go, and that was actually a very interesting area for me. As you can imagine, this was in the early nineties, so a lot of different things changing in that area. And I had the most amazing experience, you know, two years where I wasn't focused on myself at all. It was all about serving others, and we would do things from helping kids in just these terrible orphanages, helping people on the streets, working with youth to try to help change their lives, teaching about God, helping families, it was just such an amazing experience and that really changed me and made me into a person that really was not so much about me, and kind of the selfish environment that we typically are in, but more about what can I do to maybe better myself so I can help others, and that was phenomenal. Now, as part of that, you know, obviously I was able to speak Russian every day, every day, all day, and so I became pretty fluent in the Russian language. And so following my mission, I came back, and as part of my schooling, I decided to use that, and I, just as a part-time National Guardsman, I joined the US Military Intelligence as an interrogator. So I actually was able to use my language to interrogate former KGB agents, Russian scientists, you know, different things to get information, and that was tremendous. And that just helped me through school. I didn't do a lot with that other than, you know, those six years where I was in the Guard. But that was a really influential time as well, and you know, as it came time for a real career, I actually started out in Washington DC, that's where my wife and I, after we were married, we moved there. She was working in congress, as a staffer, and so I started working for a lobbying firm, and that was really cool, you know, in fact, my interrogation skills helped a lot. Ula Ojiaku I can imagine. Bryan Tew Right? But you know, the reality is that it's a sleazy industry, and we saw some things, even just day to day, some things that I just didn't approve of. So I knew that that wasn't going to be a career for me. So, I actually decided to pursue an MBA, a Master's in Business (Administration), and we moved back to the state of Utah where I went to BYU for a Master's degree. And we thought, you know, while we're having our first child, it'd be nice to be close to grandparents. We just loved it back being home, so we've actually been there ever since. And from there, after my Master's degree, I actually started my technology career, that's where I became a Project Manager at Novell, which does infrastructure and networking software… Had a great experience there working waterfall projects. But the problem was we had many failed deliveries. And I remember hearing sometimes these five little words that I've come to dread, which is now that I see it, and maybe you've heard those words, maybe audience you've heard or maybe even said those words, right, usually something bad follows like, now that I see it, I don't think you understood my requirements. Or now that I see it, we have to go back and really fix a lot of things, or now that I see it, we completely missed the boat. And we had some of those experiences. And so it was multiple projects later where we were working on an enterprise service bus and my team had a real need for some expert consulting help. So we had this great gentleman from Australia, can't even remember his name, but he had some expertise in that area, but he also had some ideas on our broken process. So he would talk to our team and he said, you know, because this is such a large and complex project, I recommend that every day, let's just come together as a team, we can invite any of our key stakeholders who want to be part of it, but let's just stand up and talk about who's working on what and what our daily needs are, and how we can resolve some of these dependencies and just try to get on the same page as far as a daily plan. So we started doing that. He didn't call it a daily Standup or anything, it's just, this is something that can work. And so that was helping us for sure. He also said, you know, because we need to be on the same page as a team, I suggest that every couple of weeks or so, let's get together and let's talk about what's working and what's not working and what we can do to improve maybe the next couple of weeks. And again, that was just a really, just great idea to get us starting to think more collaboratively as a team. And he said, you know, because this is such a complex project with lots of moving parts and lots of different stakeholders, let's actually bring them all together. Let's try to help them understand and collectively build out a vision for where this is going. Let's think about how, what some of those customer needs are, and let's start to build a backlog of prioritised work that they can engage with us on. And let's start to deliver that maybe every couple of weeks to show our progress. I mean, as you can tell, just bringing in some of these Agile concepts without calling it a certain methodology. I mean, this was back in 2002, I didn't know anything about the Agile Manifesto at the time. He just said these are some practices that can work. Now having gone through that project, implementing some of those ideas, we just thought, wow, this is such a better way to work. And that's when I started to really start researching, what is this called? What is this all about? And so I got a little bit of agile experience there, and it just so happened that at the time in this area in Utah, we call this area the Silicon Slopes, because it's kind of like Silicon Valley in terms of technical experts here, lots of great developers and that understanding. So there were a lot of technical firms and there was one organisation that was actually looking for some Agile help, so this was about 2005 now, and I was one of the only ones that had Agile experience. And so I was hired on to help lead some of the effort there, and it was tremendous. In fact, I loved going from team to team, helping to introduce Agile concepts and kind of looking at a strategy. We had some software teams, and this was at, but we had software teams and operations teams and all kinds of different types of teams. And that's when I realised that, you know, there are so many different methods and what works for one team may not work for another. And so we have to be very particular about what kind of work do you do? What kind of customers do you have? What type of team are you? And then the methods will fit what you're trying to accomplish from an outcomes perspective. And that was super exciting to me, to implement Scrum for some teams and then others, you know, we had some Kanban methods and maybe a blend with Scrumban. That was exciting. Ula Ojiaku On that point in terms of, you know, what works for one team might not necessarily work exactly, and the fact that you're taking the time to understand their context, their work, what are outcomes they're trying to achieve, and then help them navigate, you know, find the best practice that would help them and processes that would help them get to where they're going to. Did you find out, I mean, that maybe some teams, they might start with a practice and then later on that practice doesn't necessarily work for them and they'll change? Bryan Tew Over the years I found that there are certain agility practices that can work for any kind of team. And at the time I didn't know that, and so we would start them on certain things, you know, let's try at least to prioritise your work or let's try to just put your work in some kind of visual place where you can see how it's moving. Like, just simple things like that. Let's try to think about what your vision is from your customer’s perspective and which later became more of an outcome-driven approach. But at the time we knew nothing about this, this was very new. And so we would try certain things, but one thing that I heard over and over was, for instance, like an infrastructure team. An operations team, a support team, like we're not software, so don't try to force fit what they're doing with us. And we still hear that today, don't we? And so just understanding, okay, let's learn about what you do day to day. How does your work flow? What do you focus on each day? And how much of your work is rapid response work? How much of your work is more around projects that you can plan out? And then based on that, that's where we can recommend certain practices. So that was super-exciting and we get a lot of success from that. And to this day I continue to recommend to leaders, if you have different types of teams that are unique or do different work than maybe your traditional Scrum teams, listen to them, don't force fit things that will potentially not work or potentially make them very cynical about the process. Listen first, and meet them where they are. And it just so happened that, you know, after a while, that kind of work was, is super exciting, but now that we were all agile and kind of moving that in that direction, like, well, now I need more, right? And that's when I started consulting. And so I was lucky to have joined Steve Davis with Davisbase. I was, in fact, it was just he and I for a while, and we did some training, we did a little bit of coaching and we started to build that business, and that's where I started traveling all around doing training classes, and it was just really fun, just such a fun time early on. This was about 2008, 2009, and very exciting. After a while I realised that, you know, our goals weren't exactly aligned and I was starting to look at, you know, maybe I just form my own company and start working through things. And it was right around Christmas time. In fact, it was like right after Christmas, and I just got this LinkedIn message out of the blue. And it was from Sally Elatta, who was just starting up a company herself called Agile Transformation, and she said, you know, you come recommended, I'm looking for a partner to start to build this business. And it just was such a perfect time for me as I was looking for, you know, how do we actually build transformations? How do we help organisations from start to finish instead of just doing quick hit training classes? And so she and I hit it off right away and I started working with her back in about 2011 and, you know, it's been just a match made in heaven, I've been working with her ever since. It was about, a few years later when we realised it's more than just transformation work, it's more than just training and coaching. We had a lot of organisations, especially leaders, asking us questions like, how do I know that this transformation is working? How do I know the ROI of the work that we're doing? How do I know how my teams are doing? How do I even know if they're better than when they were doing waterfall? We were trying to do some different flow charts to look at how teams were producing, but it was just not sustainable, it wasn't scalable, and it wasn't answering the right questions. And so that's where Sally's ingenuity to build the AgilityHealth platform came into play and really, we did it for our own clients, but what we found out is this is much bigger than us, so that's when we actually changed our name to AgilityHealth, and since then we've been more of an enablement company, really helping not only our clients, but partners and anyone who's interested in the enablement services that we provide, which include kind of the health and measurement platform and the outcomes dashboard and so forth. But also our Business Agility services. Ula Ojiaku Oh, wow! That's an inspiring story and it's just amazing how things seem to have aligned, hindsight is 20-20, isn't it? And you've nicely segued into, you know, one of the topics we were to discuss, which is Enterprise Agility versus Business Agility. Are they one and the same, or are there differences to the terms? Bryan Tew Well, although there are similarities, they're actually very different things and I'll try my best to describe this, but first of all, Business Agility is really the ability to adapt to change, to be able to learn and pivot as you see disruption. And that's really important to understand, because that can apply at any level in an organisation. I can have one division, or even a single release train, or even team that are adopting some of those practices, and so that would include things like customer centricity and your lean portfolio management and a focus on outcomes and how we prioritise, and our organisational design, and all those different practices, right, which are super important. But that can be done in a small scale, that can be done in a single group or division. When I think about enterprise agility, that's where we're actually applying those practices and those concepts and mindsets to the entire enterprise. That's where you get to see true flow from an outcomes perspective at a company level and where all different leaders are talking the same language. They're collaborating well together, they have the same outcomes, we know what we're trying to accomplish from a vision and purpose perspective. And you can't do that when you're just looking at many moving parts that are all doing their own thing. Now I will also say that when I talk to leaders, I like them to think of business agility as agile for leaders. I mean, we know a lot about Agile for teams, and certainly the support that is needed from leaders, but business agility is what leaders have to own, and their job is to provide the right environment so that teams can actually be successful and provide the most valuable work to customers. Ula Ojiaku And what are those sorts of things that leaders can do? Because what I'm getting from you is there are some things that they would need to influence or change in the environment, what sort of things? Bryan Tew Well I'll kind of frame it this way because you're familiar with our Enterprise Business Agility Strategy model, and I'll just kind of talk about a couple of points from there, because this is what we share with leaders, this is what you need to own. So for instance, how do we take a more customer-focused strategy? And that's where we build in a process for how we can validate that we're actually solving the right customer problems. So leaders, you need to engage your product people, your marketing people, your support people, those who are hearing customer problems and understanding how do we validate that we're solving the right ones? Not just guessing, not just hearing from those who think they know, but actually validating that. And that's where many of the practices around journey mapping and so forth can come in. But then the second part is, how do we validate then that we're actually solving those problems the right way? I mean, if you're solving the right problem, but you have a terrible solution or a solution that doesn't really fit the need, then you're still not winning. So that's where discovery work, and there's so many great approaches now on how to do discovery, which is part of that whole customer solution, okay. So, leaders can help drive that. But then of course there's the lean portfolio management side. How do we establish a strategy? And if there's one thing that I would have leaders start with, it's you need to define and get aligned with your fellow leaders on what your strategy is, and that's an enterprise strategy, but also a division, or portfolio strategy. We need to make sure that that is not only clear, but then the second part of that is how do you communicate that strategy to your people? Not just through a chain of command, but through specifically clarifying what the strategy means and how that applies to each of your groups that are working to move forward on your strategy. So that's really important. And I would say part of that is to build an outcome-based strategy. So we like to use OKRs to do that, and, you know, the way that we suggest building OKRs is a little bit different, where you actually have a hypothesis statement that ties together what you expect to do and the outcomes you expect achieve, and then the key results can help you really measure that. So that's the thing that we ask leaders to do, and not just, give that to your people to try to accomplish, or to try to do for you, but actually think about what are our enterprise and maybe longer term, like three year OKRs, and then from there, how do you align the work there? How do you align the outputs, the projects, the initiatives to your outcomes, and break that down into the prioritised items that you need your groups to own. Like that is something that the teams can't do for themselves, they can guess, but they'll probably get it wrong when it comes to actually looking at strategy. So those are all things that happen. And then one of the things we'll certainly get into is funding models. You've got to be thinking about how do you fund your work? And I know that that's what we call an elephant in the business agility room, because it's hard to talk about. And it's something that's not just a thing that you implement on your first day of moving to business agility, but it needs to be discussed early on, to start getting the balls rolling. So we'll talk through that. And then your org structure and your design of your teams, like that's something that leaders have to own, what is the optimal org structure? Do we look at value streams? What kind of value streams? Is it product focused? Is it journey focused? Is it more around your capabilities? Like, that matters because that's how you start to bring the right people to work together. And then of course, your leadership and culture, you know, you need to be thinking about the culture transformation along with any kind of agile or business agility transformation. So, all of those things are what leaders should be thinking about, including their technology agility, like, how are we potentially providing the right technical environment, and tools and systems, and everything else we need that might need to be modernised, or maybe looking at digital transformation work to support our teams actually providing the best products to our customers. Ula Ojiaku That's amazing. So there are some things you've said about what leaders need to do and some of them include, you know, looking at the lean portfolio management, taking an outcome-based approach to defining the strategy at all levels and making sure that, you know, it kind of flows, not in a cascaded manner, but in a way that each layer would know how it's feeding into delivering the ultimate strategy of the organisation. Now, how, from a practical perspective, I mean, yes, you use OKRs, or objectives and key results, you know, that's one way of doing that. But how, are you suggesting then that the leaders would have to write the OKRs for every layer? Or is it just about being clear on the intent and direction of travel and letting each area define it within their context, but with some input from them? Bryan Tew No, it's a great question and I'll try to visualise as much as I can, but when you think about it this way, when you start at the top, and let's say that we're coming up with some enterprise level three year OKRs. So where are we going for the next three years? And you know what, things can change, so that's why we check in on those, you know, at least every six months, if not every quarter, because we're learning a lot and we want to adjust. But the thing is, if we have that level of strategy clarified, and not only that, but we're aligned across our leadership group, that means that the priorities that we're focusing on should align as well, and that's the important thing here. So now as we start to move from the enterprise down to maybe a division or portfolio level, all of the OKRs at that level should in some way align up to our enterprise, right? Whether it's around certain objectives that we're trying to accomplish from a financial perspective, or customer goals, or people goals, whatever it is, but now there's something that we can connect to as a foundation. So those senior leaders, although they can provide support and help, typically now it's your portfolio leaders that are taking the lead on building their OKRs that are aligned, and then down to maybe your program or train or whatever level you'd call it, what those OKRs will look like, all the way down to where every single team, which in reality, every single person in the organisation, sees how they fit in driving strategy. Ula Ojiaku That was a very, very insightful conversation with Bryan, and this is only part one. In part two of my conversation, Bryan gets to talk about aligning OKRs, that's Objectives and Key Results, the ten elephants in the business agility room, what are those? And the importance for leaders to take the driver's seat in cultural changes and many other things as well. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless.
24:01 2/4/24
(S4) E033 Marsha Acker on Human-Centred Facilitation (Part 2)
Bio Marsha is the founder and CEO of TeamCatapult, a respected and sought-after leadership   development firm that equips leaders, at all levels, to facilitate and lead sustainable behavioural change.  She partners with leaders and leadership teams to clarify their desired change, develop communicative competence and think together - accessing their collective intelligence to bring about change. TeamCatapult is a partner to mid-size start-ups and global fortune 500 companies across sectors like entertainment, game development, banking, insurance, healthcare, communications, government, information technology, consumer goods, and retail. Clients have included Microsoft, Riot Games, Epic Games, Capital One, Blizzard Entertainment, Starbucks, Liberty Mutual, Fidelity, and Chef. Marsha Acker is an executive & leadership team coach, author, speaker, facilitator, and the host of Defining Moments of Leadership Podcast. Marsha’s unparalleled at helping leaders identify and break through stuck patterns of communication  that  get  in  their  way  of  high  performance.  She is known internationally as a facilitator of meaningful conversations, a host of dialogue and a passionate agilist. She is the author of Build Your Model for Leading Change: A guided workbook to catalyse clarity and confidence in leading yourself and others.  Interview Highlights 04:15 Having effective conversations 04:45 Move-follow-bystand-oppose 09:30 Functional self-awareness 15:50 Build Your Model for Leading Change 18:00 Articulating your own model for change 26:00 Collective alignment 27:20 Getting messy 30:00 Making space for open conversations 35:40 TeamCatapult    Social Media  ·         LinkedIn: Marsha on LinkedIn ·         Website: ·         Twitter: Marsha on Twitter    Books & Resources ·         The World of Visual Facilitation ·         The Art & Science of Facilitation, Marsha Acker ·         Build Your Model for Leading Change, Marsha Acker ·         Reading the Room: Group Dynamics for Coaches and Leaders, David Kantor ·         Where Did You Learn To Behave Like That? (Second Edition), Sarah Hill ·         Coaching Agility From Within: Masterful Agile Team Coaching ·         Making Behavioral Change Happen - Team Catapult ·         Changing Behavior in High Stakes - Team Catapult   Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku Hello everyone. Welcome back to the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. In this episode, I have Marsha Acker, the CEO and founder of TeamCatapult. Marsha is a respected and sought after leadership development expert and her team, or her company organisation, TeamCatapult, focuses on equipping leaders at all levels to facilitate and lead sustainable behavioural change. So this is the second part of my conversation, the second and the last part of my conversation with Marsha. And in this conversation, in this part of the episode, we talk about, or Marsha talks about having effective conversations, functional self awareness, what does that mean? She also talked about how one can articulate one's own model for change, and the need for getting collective alignments and the fact that it's not easy, sometimes it gets messy, but it's important to make space for open conversations. I found both the part one and this conversation, which is the final part of my conversation with Marsha, very insightful, and I hope you get something useful out of it as well. So without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Marsha Acker. Marsha Acker I’m very focused on behavioural-led change at the moment. And so in that behavioural-led change, what I place at the centre of any change is how are people communicating with one another? Are they able to actually have the real conversation? Is there enough awareness in the system that they can kind of catch sight of when the real conversation starts to go underground? And can they actually have the muscle, the range in their leadership to catch sight of it and then bring it back in the room? Change doesn’t happen until people feel heard and understood. I think one of the biggest questions that I think we help leadership teams look at is how do we work with difference, and actually welcome it rather than try to minimise it, because I think that’s the rub where, if we don’t have skills to work with it, we tend to minimise it or send it out of the room or suppress it. Like we say, you know, we don’t have enough time for that, or, gosh, we’ve got this deadline, so we’ve become super deadline driven, and I think sometimes at the expense of having a real conversation with one another. And I don't know that I could find you an example of any organisation that I've worked in, including my own TeamCatapult, where something that we're trying to do or accomplish or move forward doesn't meet a roadblock when some aspect of our conversation isn't fully online or we're not fully having the conversation that we need to have. So you asked how would I do so how, one of the ways that I would do that today is, first, whenever I'm engaging with a leadership team or any other team that's really trying to bring about change and just noticing like they're trying to level up or there's something that they're wanting that they feel like they're kind of capped at is I just start to help them look at the way they engage in conversation, because I think in the conversation there are lots of indicators about how that conversation plays out and are people really able to say what they're thinking or do we get stuck in some common dysfunctional patterns that can show up? So one example of that would be, we use a sort of a technology for looking at conversation and there are four actions that happen in all effective conversations, a move, a follow, an oppose, and a bystand. So a move sets direction, a follow supports it, an oppose offers really clear correction. It says, no, hang on, wait a minute. A bystand offers a morally neutral perspective, so one way is to help a team onboard that, but there are common patterns and one of the common patterns that will come out, particularly in tech teams where there's pace and we need to move things forward, is that they can get into this pattern of someone makes a move, and everyone else just sort of remains silent or, so something to the effect might voice ‘sure, you know, that sounds good.’ So they start to fall into this pattern of move and lots of follow. And what's missing often is the voice of bystand, which says, hey, I'm wondering what's going on, or I'm wondering what we're not saying. And then really clear opposition. So the ability to bring pushback, constraint into the conversation. So if you go back to that original leadership team that I was telling you about, you know, way back when, I think one of the things that was going on in that team is they weren't, no one was able to say, this is an incredibly difficult decision, and I don't think I can make it unless I have these things answered. So they kept making it about the process and it wasn't really about the process at all. It was really, it had a very personal component to it that wasn't being discussed, and so the inability to discuss that really created the drag. So the way that I think about helping any team work through any change is, helping them onboard the skills of being able to have, we call it bringing, it's a principle that we hold about bringing the real conversation in the room. Can you bring the conversation online versus offline? So the other flag that you might have for when your conversations are going offline is, if you feel, I often think about if I leave a conversation with you and I, for example, if I left this conversation and I went off and I felt the need, or I was compelled to one of vent or complain about it to someone else, that's my kind hazard flag. But, there was something that I was holding back from in this conversation that I didn't say, and that's my signal to actually circle back around. And so maybe, maybe I need to check in with myself, maybe there's something that I left unsaid. Ula Ojiaku That's so insightful. I've been making notes, but the question I have, one of the key ones I have right now is based on what you've said, you know, if one is to go out from a conversation and realise, oh, there's something I'm needing to vent, which I didn't say, you know, in front of the people or the person involved, as a facilitator or coach for that team, how can you help them to, because there could be several factors. It could be that they don't feel safe, they feel that they might be punished for actually saying what they have in mind. So what would be the process for addressing it, such that people can actually say what they actually feel without feeling that they would be punished or side-tracked or ostracised for it? Marsha Acker Yeah. I think there's two things that will be happening, and so when we are working with leadership teams, we're often helping them onboard these skills collectively. And that does take a process, right? So I think there's a piece around helping them build a container. So when I say container, I mean we're talking about the four actions, we're talking about the value of the four actions, we're talking about kind of normalising that oppose can feel really scary or difficult, but that'll very much be based on the individual. So we're working at both that whole team or system level, but also at the individual level, because for me, you know, in my own behavioural profile, oppose can be low, and there are really good reasons for that. Like I grew up in a household where it was rude to oppose an adult, so I've got that, you know, childhood story about why I would not want to oppose. I've got other stories that have happened along the way that sort of started to build this kind of old internal narrative for me about, ooh, it can be dangerous to oppose. So I think there's some individual work that all of us, you know, when we're ready to engage in, can do around noticing when I might hesitate to do that, what's the story? What's sort of the old narrative that I'm telling myself about that action, and what has me hold back in the current space today. So there's that individual component of growing what David Kantor calls functional self-awareness, so the ability to sort of catch sight of my own behaviour to also be able to grow my own behavioural range. But then Ula, you've, like, you very much are naming, there's also a system level component to that. So if I'm on that team and if I'm sort of in a positional leadership role where I might hold some kind of authority over people get paid and I'm responsible for those performance reviews that we seem to do only once a year, like I need to be really aware of where I might be, even unintentionally, really closing off those conversations. So how willing am I to put out an idea and have someone offer an oppose? Or am I not comfortable with that? Like, I don't like it when someone opposes, and so how might I be consciously or unconsciously kind of squelching that? So there will be that role and then there will also be the role of the team. Teams that have this, I call it sort of the foot tapping, like we need to get things moving or rolling or we only have a 30 minute time box for this meeting. It's not that you'd never have 30 minute meetings, but if 30 minute meetings are all you ever use to meet, you are really missing an opportunity, like there are places where I think we have to slow conversations down in order to create the space for people to really be able to think together and to take risk. But if there's never any space for me to take risk, I'm just not, you know, it can be scary enough to do it, so I think there are multiple things that you have to attend to at multiple levels. I think there's an individual level, I think there's a whole team level, a system, I think there's the positional leader or whoever's in authority or sort of whose voice carries a lot of weight in that team. All those things will be playing a part in whether that conversation can fully come online, and I do think it takes work. So I'm just a big advocate of work on how we communicate, because if we can equip everyone in a team to be paying attention to how we're communicating and we sort of have that range in our behavioural ability and our communicative competence to kind of bring all those things online, then I would hold that there aren't many things that we can't work through. But when we just attend to the process first, without having some of the skills about how to engage in the conversation, I think that's where we get really stuck and then we just start searching for other process, right. It becomes hard to have a conversation and I know I need to have a conversation, so I go looking for the new facilitation tool or I go get my, you know, bag of stickies and markers and I'm like, we're going to, and I just, I think sometimes we can become sort of over-reliant on facilitation processes and look, I'm the first proponent of facilitation processes, but sometimes I think they actually, we lean so heavily on them that they actually might be hindering the real conversation coming in the room. Ula Ojiaku What you've said so far, Marsha reminds me of, you know, the values in the Agile Manifesto sets people and individuals over the processes and tools. It doesn't mean the process and the tools aren't important, but we're dealing with human beings first and foremost. And my philosophy as well is about winning hearts and minds, because that way you can go further with people once they, like to use your words earlier on, they feel heard and listened to, rather than imposing something on them and what you've said so far as well, reminds me of in your book, The Art and Science of Facilitation, this is gold dust. Yes, I refer to it almost every quarter since I got it. I refer to it in, you know, to just sharpen my myself. And you said something on page four, in other words, facilitation is not just about what tool or technique you're applying, it just as much, if not more, it's about what you believe. So you did mention something about the self-awareness and functional self-awareness and proposed by David Kantor. So it's not just about what you, you know, it's about what you believe, who you are being in the moment, and what you see and sense in the group. We could go into this, but I am also mindful of time and I'd really like to dive into this book, your latest book, Build Your Model for Leading Change. I thought, like you may have mentioned before we started recording, it's not something you'd read over a weekend. I opened the first page and I was like, no, I have to slow down and think about it. So what got you on the journey to writing this book? What was the intention? Marsha Acker You know, so I was mentioning earlier, I did several coach trainings, individual coach training, systems coach training, and then I got introduced to David Kantor's work. So he wrote a book called Reading the Room, and it was through my introduction to his work and meeting Sarah Hill and Tony Melville, who run an organisation in the UK called Dialogix. But it was through meeting them and David and really starting to understand structural dynamics that I got introduced to the concept of model building. And that does come from David's research around face-to-face communication and what it looks like for leaders to be able to bring clarity to their work. And I remember along the way, one of my first conversations with Sarah Hill, you know, I had, so I had a whole background in facilitation, what it looked like to facilitate groups, and at that moment I was really kind of struggling with what's the difference between team coaching and facilitating, and I was having this kind of personal, what I realise now, I was deep in building my own model for what team coaching would look like for me. But at the time it felt like a bit of an existential crisis or a midlife crisis, or something that I, because I saw difference between the two, but I was really confused as I onboarded all of the different tools and models for how to coach about the difference between the two. And I remember one day Sarah looked at me and I had shared with her a perspective that someone else had shared with me about what happens in team coaching, and I was really confused because it really conflicted with what she was saying to me, and so I went up to her after we'd done a session and I just said, so I really want to talk about this. You said this, and then someone else said this and it just makes no sense to me, and she just looked at me and she said, well, they have a different model. And I thought, okay, well, which one is right? And she was like, neither. You know, neither right nor wrong, just different. And boy, I walked away and I just couldn't, I don't know how many years, it's probably been at least 10 years since we had that conversation, but it really stuck with me and I think in my own journey I've gotten so clear about the value of being able to articulate your model for leading change, your model for looking at behaviour, your model for leadership. And boy, you know, one of the things that I value the most about that is David's stance that we all have our own, and that is some of our work to do, is to define our model and that there will likely be a phase where I am taking in other people's models and I'm learning how they talk about it and I'm learning the language and so there is a version of that where I'm kind of imitating others like, you do it and I'm going to do it just like you did it and I'm going to follow the language. It's one of the reasons that I published the first book around facilitation, like, that is how I think about facilitation and the facilitation stance, but I also hold that at some point, it's intended as a guide, and, you know, there are a couple of ways of thinking about just getting started and then developing and then mastering, but it's when we get to mastery that essentially the job becomes to build your own model. So there will be parts about even that facilitation book where you might find along the way, Ula, you're going yes, that's my, like, that's totally in my model too. And then, hey Marsha, you know, this thing where you talk about this, like, I don’t know, it's just, it's not for me. So, I'm going to discard that, it's not here. And then there's this new place, like I do this really differently, so I'm going to start to invent, you know, this is a place where I'm going to do some model building of my own, where this is going to look like a new part that very specifically becomes mine. And David would've said that models are our picture of the world, and our map of how we intend to go about working in the world, and so much of what I see when it comes to change is that I just think we're not really uber intentional and thoughtful about how we want to go about change. And if you go on LinkedIn at any given day and just search on Agile and you can find all kinds of social media debates about, this is the way it needs to be done, and someone else will chime in, and I think that's baloney, this is the way I think it should be done. And what I would love to say to all those people is it just means there's difference, right? And I think the work to do is to be really, really clear about what is it that you are trying to change. So you've heard me say like I'm about changing behaviour first, like really focused in on using conversation as a way for that behaviour change to happen. And then I hold and trust and I've seen years of evidence of once that gets ironed out, once we're able to have more of that communicative competence in a team, that the other things become less of an issue and we're able to navigate that, but that's me, and that's my model. That doesn't mean, that doesn't make me right or wrong. It doesn't make me the only way to go about change. I think there's so many other different ways. So others listening to this podcast might have a place where they put process in the centre, and that is their focus, and that gets to be okay. So I'm just a real advocate of being clear about what is it that you're trying to change and how do you go about making that change happen in the world. Ula Ojiaku What struck me is you're saying the need to be clear about what you're trying to change, what you're trying to, if I may use the word, achieve as a result of the transformation. Would there be a place for the why? Because you might, and if so, how does that weave into the whole picture? Marsha Acker Well, I think in the process of building a model, you get clear first about how do I believe change happens? And then it becomes, okay, so what would I do to bring about change? So even if you think about leadership, what do I think about how leadership should, in my world, you know, should behave or act? How would I grow leadership? How would I grow leadership in others? And then what are some of the things that I would do? Where might I take action? And then why would I take action in those places? The same thing with change. I’m really clear about conversation and behaviour and helping people look at that. And so there are certain things that I would do in the room with a leadership team, and there's certain things that I would not do. And I'm really clear about why, like, because I hold, like what you'll hear is that phrase, because change doesn't happen until people feel seen and heard. And that's a real key, becomes a guiding North Star and I think it helps me navigate difference. So when I run across someone else who has a really different model than me, there's a version of myself years ago who, you know, it's kind of like the example that I gave of saying to Sarah, well, let's, you know, let's debate this out about which one of us is, you know, right or wrong. I don't actually think that's our work to do, but I do think our work to do is to just be really clear. So can you name what's in your model? Can you name what it is that you're trying to change? And then you and I could engage in a, what we would call, kind of a cross model conversation where it's not about beating the other down or making either of us wrong, but we can be really clear about, oh, well I would do this because this is why, this is what I believe about how change happens and this is how I'm helping the team change. And you could say, actually, I see, you know, my focus is a little bit different and here's why, and here's what I would do. And now, gosh, that's a learning conversation to have, that's not a debate. In leadership teams as leaders are trying to lead change in an organisation, I think this is the conversation that doesn't get had almost ever is how do we believe change will happen, and what are we going to do to bring about change? And even if there are ten people in that team and we each might have a slightly different personal view about how change happens, we have got to come to some alignment around how we are collectively going to look to bring about change, because if we don't, it's going to feel really dispersed and really challenging as we try to move forward in a large scale change, if we've all got ten different versions, we've got ten different models on how change happens. Ula Ojiaku What I think I'm hearing you say, Marsha, is, as a leadership team, it's really about taking the time to be aligned on what you're trying to do and also, presenting a united front, because the whole organisation will be looking up to you, so you need to be saying the same thing. But this is now me extending, extrapolating, not that you said this, but within, you should also be able, within yourself as a team to have those difficult conversations. You know, you could make your move, or follow, or oppose yourselves, but come to a conclusion which you present as a united front to the organisation in charging it forward. And there's something else you said in your, well, it's a quote in your book, Build Your Model for Leading Change, which said that leadership is being in the mess and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Do you want to expand on that please? Marsha Acker I think it's so true. There's, it's in the space between us that I think gets messy and having, we were just wrapping up a cohort program for a group of internal leaders, just recently and I watched sort of the thinking and the shift in mindset happen over time. Like I said, I have a lot of compassion for leaders that there's a ton of pressure and expectations, you know, from bottom side, up, across and I think in those moments, some days it can be just really challenging to navigate which end is up. How do I manage through that? And I'm responsible for all of this out in front of me, and yet the propensity, like the compelling, I think, reaction is to just keep moving things forward, like the go faster. Just go faster, get through the meeting faster, get the things done, delegate it more, and that, it's not that that's wrong, and it's really helpful, but there just sometimes needs to be space where they slow it down and they actually create space, and I think that's the messy part. Like if I were to, you know, if I were to even channel what I would describe if things get tense or if I feel like somebody's possibly going to be disagreeing or not cooperate in the way that I want them to, I sometimes think the propensity to just keep moving forward and step over it or go past it is what often plagues us and the path of like, let me just slow down, I think it feels messy, I think it feels uncertain. It lacks a little bit of clarity about how, okay, so if I open this up, if I give voice, or I allow someone to give voice to a different point of view or a different perspective, am I going to be able to clean it up and move us forward? And for me, that's part of what I mean by the messy part. Like, it's unpredictable and yet I watch, I've been in a room to watch it, I've experienced it myself, there's such a gift when you do just slow down a little bit. Like, there's misunderstandings get cleared up, assumptions that are not correct, get corrected. They, people who are just really charged up and have a, they're making up all kinds of stories about why things are happening, like the pressure valve gets released off of that and then, and the anxiety comes down, like I've just watched it happen over and over again. So I just, I think there is the things that we tend to want to stay away from because they're not comfortable, I think, are the things to find a way to make space for. So it's messy, it's uncomfortable, it's feels like it's going to take more time. It all the kind of negative talk that I hear leaders say or navel gazing, that's my favourite one, it's going to feel like navel gazing, but yeah, I think we have to create space for some of it. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for that, Marsha. And there might be some listeners who, like me, are saying, okay, so in practice, how do we create the space? How do we go slow? Because in my area, in my field, I'm just quoting, you know, things seem to be going at break neck speed and there's never, things are never going to slow down for me. So how do I intentionally slow down or create the space to be able to do this? What are the practices, should we go on a retreat? Marsha Acker Yeah, well, I'll give you an example of at TeamCatapult. So, while we recommend this to all leadership teams that we work with, back during the pandemic, we, early on in the pandemic, I started to notice that we had grown, things had changed even for us internally. And so I made the decision to actually, even though we're all coaches, we brought coaches in to help us for about a year. And one of the things that we started to do for ourselves that we often recommend to others is carving out time once a month to create space where we would work on how we worked together. So, I don't, I'm not a huge, I think offsites and retreats are great, we do them, we have one coming up, we're all ridiculously excited to go to it, but we can't accomplish everything that we need to accomplish once or twice a year. And so we started to, given our size and our pace and kind of how we work together, the once a month really made sense for us. So we carve it out, it's the first Thursday of every month, it's for three and a half hours. We worked with a coach in that time night, right now we're not working with a coach and it's agenda-less. It's really an open space. It's not open space, the technology of open space, it's just an open conversation without an agenda. It's an invitation into dialogue and it is the place that we, I know that it's on my calendar, it's reserved, I don't have to, we can go at a pace in other meetings, but I know that we have that space and it's the place where we just show up, we all show up differently, we give time to actually surface the, sometimes maybe the things that did get stepped over intentionally or unintentionally across, you know, the last couple of weeks. And we have some of the most difficult, challenging, real, honest conversations in that space that I've ever experienced in my professional career, so it definitely also I've learned to try to block my calendar off after those calls to, you know, just to create a bit of processing time. So that's how we do it. I just recently, a couple months ago, interviewed someone on my podcast and he talked about, I loved this idea, of two week sprints and a one week retro. And so that was his way of really, intentionally carving out reflection time and really placing the value on catching sight of things, slowing down. So I think we need places where we're creating variability in the kind of meeting we're having, and I think when we're working at a really fast pace, just having, for me, I love knowing that it's on my calendar. I preserve the time, there's very little that will take precedence over it other than, you know, being on vacation or something, but, yeah, I really value it. So I think it will look different for every team, depending on the frequency and how often you meet and how much work is being done. Ula Ojiaku And would you say, because you know the one about blocking out the time in people's calendars as a team. What about as individuals, people as individuals also taking the time to do that for themselves? Marsha Acker Yeah. We are, you know, so in TeamCatapult, I think most people also work with individual coaches, so I think we all have a practice of doing that. When we're working with leadership teams, we often recommend both so that there's a carved out space on a monthly basis to come together collectively, and that they're each getting individual coaching as a way to help work through those things. Like I was saying, I notice when I show up in that space, my oppose goes silent, or I don't always bring my voice in, working one-on-one sometimes to help become more aware of why we're doing those things really helps us show up differently in the collective space. So yes, whether you're working with a coach or whether you're just carving out the time to do it yourself. And you asked me, you know, why I wrote the book, the Build Your Model book. It's partly that just wanting, it's a guided reflection workbook, and I really wanted to find a way to help people do this work on their own, with some handholds or some guidance around what it might look like. Ula Ojiaku Thank you. And is there, on TeamCatapult, is there any program that could be, for example, I want someone to guide me through the process, is that available? Marsha Acker Yeah. We have two public programs, where we lay down kind of the technology that I've been describing and help you think about your own model for how, so there's two versions of that, there's one path that will lead you to thinking about your model as an agile coach. And there's a second path that will lead you to thinking about your model as a leader, as an interventionist. So, kind of two different programs. So the Path for Agile Coaching falls under a program we call Coaching Agility From Within, and that's a cohort program. It's about building your own model for agile coaching. And then, if that's not of interest, we have two other programs. One's called Making Behavioural Change Happen, which is part one where you sort of onboard the technology of structural dynamics. And then the second part is called Changing Behaviour in High Stakes, and that's where we go a bit deeper into helping you think about how you would intervene in behaviour and in conversation, both at an individual level, but also at a system level, so how you might map the system. So two different paths, and very complimentary in our Coaching Agility From Within program. There's also a thread of structural dynamics, it's underneath of that and how to coach a team using structure. So yes, a couple of different ways. Ula Ojiaku Thank you. And what, I mean in addition to your fantastic books, and I'm not saying it just because you're here, what other books do you find yourself recommending to leaders? Marsha Acker Yeah. Well, I referenced one a little while ago Reading The Room by David Kantor. So all of our work really is informed greatly by that book. And my book Build Your Model for Leading Change, is based off of a lot of some of the concepts that David introduced and his book captures kind of in a narrative format, the story around it. And I would say mine is much more the workbook of how to onboard the technology of looking at behaviour and then the guided reflection of creating your model. The other thing that I am super excited, so my colleague Sarah, just re-released version two of her book. She has a book called, Where Did You Learn to Behave Like that? And I am deep into reading the new version. So it's top of mind for me. It further takes you down the path, like if you're hearing me talk about my childhood story and why I hesitate to oppose, Sarah's sort of the expert in that space around childhood story work and doing it with leaders. So her book is all about some stories around leaders who have done the work on childhood story, how it's really impacted their leadership, how they make space for difference and where they notice some of the kind of high stakes behaviours they may have as leaders. So yeah, if that's of interest, that's a really great resource to check out. Ula Ojiaku Thank you for that. It'll be in the show notes and so that the audience can get it. And any ask of the audience before we wrap up. Marsha Acker Yeah. You know, we've covered a lot of topics today and I think what I would just say in summary is an invitation to anybody to kind of be on a really intentional journey about what do you think about leadership? How do you go about leading in the world? How do you believe change happens? You've heard me share some examples today, but I think there's a calling for all of us to do some of the work because I think in the doing the work, and getting clear for ourselves, I do think that's the place of clarity and competence. I think that's where we learn to kind of find our feet when the pull, the gravitational pull of the real world kind of gets in our way. And we're all dealing with that in many ways. So that's what I want people to think about and whatever shape or form that looks like for folks, that's the big thing. Ula Ojiaku Thank you for that, Marsha. And if one wants to get in touch with you, how can they reach out to you? Marsha Acker A couple of ways. The best way to just connect with me will be on LinkedIn, so you can find me at Marsha Acker, and just, you know, when you send me them, I get tons and I don't say yes to everybody, so it's just really helpful if when people connect, they just tell me a little bit about how they're connecting. How they managed to get there, so that helps me do the sort and sift that I know we're all doing these days. The other place would be so you can find kind of a free download there about model building, so if you're curious about that. And then our programs, you can find at So the Making Behavioural Change Happen starts this fall and there's a Changing Behaviour in High Stakes program that starts in February, and the Coaching Agility From Within program starts in January next year. Ula Ojiaku Thank you. So the programs you mentioned that can be found on TeamCatapult, the one starting this Autumn is Autumn 2023 and the February and March dates are in 2024, just for the audience clarity. Thank you so much, Marsha. I wish we had more time, but I do respect your time and for me it's been really enriching and enlightening. And I do want to say thank you again for making the time to share and impart your knowledge, your wisdom, your experience with us. Marsha Acker Yeah, thanks a lot. I really appreciate being here. Ula Ojiaku Likewise. Thank you again. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless! 
43:52 1/21/24
(S4) E032 Marsha Acker on Human-Centred Facilitation (Part 1)
Bio Marsha is the founder and CEO of TeamCatapult, a respected and sought-after leadership   development firm that equips leaders, at all levels, to facilitate and lead sustainable behavioural change.  She partners with leaders and leadership teams to clarify their desired change, develop communicative competence and think together - accessing their collective intelligence to bring about change. TeamCatapult is a partner to mid-size start-ups and global fortune 500 companies across sectors like entertainment, game development, banking, insurance, healthcare, communications, government, information technology, consumer goods, and retail. Clients have included Microsoft, Riot Games, Epic Games, Capital One, Blizzard Entertainment, Starbucks, Liberty Mutual, Fidelity, and Chef. Marsha Acker is an executive & leadership team coach, author, speaker, facilitator, and the host of Defining Moments of Leadership Podcast. Marsha’s unparalleled at helping leaders identify and break through stuck patterns of communication  that  get  in  their  way  of  high  performance.  She is known internationally as a facilitator of meaningful conversations, a host of dialogue and a passionate agilist. She is the author of Build Your Model for Leading Change: A guided workbook to catalyse clarity and confidence in leading yourself and others. Interview Highlights 02:30 Background and beginnings 03:35 Reaching a cap 08:50 Working with difference 10:45 Process-centred focus vs people-centred focus 15:50 Behavioural-led change 17:25 Having effective conversations Social Media LinkedIn: Marsha on LinkedIn Website: Twitter: Marsha on Twitter  Books & Resources Making Behavioral Change Happen - Team Catapult Changing Behavior in High Stakes - Team Catapult Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku Hi everyone. My guest for this episode is Marsha Acker. Marsha is the Founder and CEO of TeamCatapult, and she is a respected and sought after leadership development expert, and her firm works to equip leaders at all levels to facilitate and lead sustainable behavioural change. This episode is the first of a two part series, because there were just a lot of nuggets to get from Marsha and in part one, we talked about Marsha's background and beginning, how she got to a cap and she knew that she needed to break through a certain ceiling to get to more, to achieve her potential. She also talked about process-centred versus people-centred transformation and the differences and where each one might be considered. Of course, there is a bias for, and I am biased as well towards the people-centred focus, but there is a place for process and how you might go about implementing a behavioural led change. Without further ado, Part One of my conversation with Marsha Acker. I hope you find this as insightful as I did. I have with me the very one and only Marsha Acker, who is the founder of TeamCatapult and a coach, facilitator, much, much known in the Agile coaching discipline and beyond. Marsha, it is a big pleasure and an honour to have you on the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. Thank you. Marsha Acker Thanks a lot. I'm super excited to be here with you today, so thanks for inviting me. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. So, Marsha, could you tell us a bit about yourself? Marsha Acker Yeah, well, I often say my first career was, you know, two degrees in software engineering and I spent some time working with developers, sort of bridging the gap between end users and developers. And so that was my first start, it's actually where I learned about facilitation, was trying to bring whole groups of users together to align on what they wanted in terms of requirements. So it was back before we talked about Agile, it was back before any of those methods and processes had made their way. But that's really where I got my start in facilitation. And then, yes, towards what I call my own retooling around my career, was when I, I actually went to look for professional coaching as a way to up my leadership. I didn't have a desire originally to become a coach. I wanted to do and learn coaching because I wanted to up my leadership, I just, I had reached a point where I was really challenged in my own leadership and so the very short version of that much longer circuitous path was, I found that I did go through coactive coaching. So I started in that space. CTI (Coach Training Institute) had a huge impact on me personally, it's responsible for many life decisions that I made coming out of that program. But that was where I got my certification in professional coaching with individuals, and then I went on to do ORSC from CRR Global, and then I went on to do structural dynamics and that's where I met the work of David Kantor, where I met David Kantor. And we can talk more about that, but that's certainly changed my whole view of how we enter interpersonal relationships, how we have conversations with one another, it gave me a lens for sort of looking at even some of the previous coach training that I did. So yes, I have, I often say I sort of have two backgrounds that I think the tech side helps me just stay connected to a, you know, I have a soft spot in my heart for techies and people who have a lot of technical and scientific knowledge. And then I often say I learned a lot about process improvement and automation and making things effective and efficient, but I think one of the things that I really lacked in the first part of my career was the human skills, like how to work with other human beings. And I would say the second half of my professional career has been, yeah, how to work with others. It's a big thing. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for sharing that, Marsha. Something you said about the second part of your career has been focused on working with humans. Well, I have a technical background in Electronic Engineering, Bachelor's degree, a Master's in Computer Science. And at the beginning of my career, it was more of, okay, what could you do? You know, what's your technical understanding? But as you move on, it's really more about how, you know, work well with people and get people to do the best work together. Would you say that's a general trend that you've also observed apart from your own personal experience? Marsha Acker Yeah. I don't know if it's, sometimes I wonder, you know, it's maybe just the lens that I look through or it's the organisations and the kinds of leaders that I somehow attract into my sphere. But I do find myself working a lot with technical leaders and I think one of the things that happens, technical and scientific tracks, you know, we move forward in our careers, we get rewarded for knowledge, for having the answer, for being able to connect and do things quickly. And I think in that career progression, we get really good at knowing the answer, having the answer, you know, we're working with things that we feel like are discreet, you know, we can own them in some way, but as we move up, and I think many, you know, I've talked to many a developer, engineer who, you know, sometimes reached that cap, and then the next step is to lead people, to lead others, and to, you know, to be the senior architect, to be the senior engineer, the Vice President or the Director. And you know, it's that famous saying, what got us here won't get us to the next level, and so I think there are those moments, I certainly experienced that, that was one of the reasons I went off to coach training was I just, the metaphor I use often is that I was out over my skis. I knew something was, like I was trying to make something happen or I was trying to get things to happen, and my only model for that was because I said, so, like, please do this, because, I think this is the way. And I just, I really, I started to realise, I felt like I was running on a hamster wheel some days, and I'm like, this isn't working and I feel like I'm missing something. So I often do find myself working with leaders or leadership teams who are, it's not that they're underperforming, it's just that they've reached a cap. The place where all that they know and all that they have, have served them really well, up until this point, and then like what's required to go to that next level or to be effective and efficient in a different kind of way. It's sort of when our focus starts to come off of the very discreet task and it becomes more about how do we create an environment, a space, a container for others to be their best, so it's no longer going to be, you know, me making all the decisions or me moving something forward, it's that we need to work together. And boy that we space is tricky. Yeah, we are going to see things differently and there's going to be conflict and there's going to be difference of opinion. And then, you know, ooh, how do I work with that in a way that's, I just, you know, I think one of the biggest questions that I think we help leadership teams look at is how do we work with difference, and actually welcome it rather than try to minimise it, because I think that's the rub where if we don't have skills to work with it, we tend to minimise it or send it out of the room or suppress it. Like we say, you know, we don't have enough time for that, or, gosh, we've got this deadline. So we've become super deadline driven, and I think sometimes at the expense of having a real conversation with one another. Ula Ojiaku Gosh, I have so many questions. I don’t know which one to ask, but I'll just go with the last, based on what you've said, the last few sentences in terms of not having time, you suppress the conflict or the differences or the disagreements, because we're always like on a deadline or we don't have the time for this. So how would you get these leadership teams to step back and say, you know what, we have to deal with this elephant in the room, otherwise it's going to get bigger, fester, if we were to use an analogy of the wound on it, you know, if you just cover it up with a band-aid, it's not going to get better, sometimes you have to treat the wound, get the scab off so that it can heal wholesomely and you move forward. So what's your approach for this, please? Marsha Acker So I can tell you how I would've approached it early in my career, in a version of myself that really led with process. So at that time, I had a model for change that was very focused on ‘know the process’, like document the process, define the new process, get people to follow the process. And I definitely, I kind of laugh about it now, but I, you know, it's not wrong, I mean, it worked, but this is very early in my career, early 2000, because I just began to work with agility. I had left one space where I was a part of a small startup and I was heading up all of our programs and we had really started to use extreme programming. So I'm sort of fresh on this, on this thinking of, okay, so there's different ways we can begin to work. And I'd gone into a smaller organisation, it was a consulting firm. We were leading process led change, and we were working with a leadership team who was really charged with a huge internal transformation effort. And at that time, working directly with that leadership team, I would've said we took a very process-centred focus to that, we documented the current process, we helped them. It was  over a year of working with this one leadership team, and then we started to help them craft, okay, so what's your desired change and what would the process under that look like? And as we got towards the end of that transformation, one of the things that I started to notice is that the process-led decisions that the leadership team was being asked to really make some decisions about, had a huge impact on people, both them and the staff and the people that they were managing, they cared greatly about their culture and the people, and they reached a place where they just, to describe it, they just dug in their heels and progress wasn't moving forward. And I remember thinking, we'd been on retreats with them multiple times, and it was in that moment, that was the moment where I learned and had the insight, that there was way more to change than just the process. And what I can tell you now that I couldn't quite articulate back then was that we were missing the people part of this equation. And what was starting to happen is that as the pressure increased and the leadership team was being asked to make decisions that were truly going to impact not only them personally, like where they lived, where their children went to school, you know, family impacts, but that was also going to have an impact across all the folks that they managed. And so they were reaching a place where they just couldn't make that decision kind of collectively. I think one of the biggest mistakes in that particular process was that we were so process led. And what was missing from it was a coaching perspective and a way to help them have the real conversation because the real conversation actually started to go out of the room. And I was certainly playing a part in, potentially a little unaware at the moment that in favour of wanting to push things forward and get things done in my process-led change model, they were really needing to have a different kind of conversation that wasn't about the process at all, but that had since become the undiscussable topic and it didn't get brought into the room. So we sort of, we left it out. So that's an example of an earlier model for change that I had, and I didn't have a way of bringing that conversation on mind or really even paying attention to it. Now you asked for how would I do it today? Ula Ojiaku Yes, because you've said the process-led model for change, I'm excited to know what the next one is. Marsha Acker Well I want to be really clear, I don't think that that's a wrong model. But I think for me, I learned that it was missing something, and I can reflect back now and tell you that, but I don't want your listeners to draw any wrong conclusions. That wasn't an overnight insight, that definitely took a little bit of time. But what I would say now is I have, you know, in my model for leading change, I think process is important, but it's really not at the core of how I think about change at all. I think in my model, it's definitely a sub-task, but I would say I'm very focused on behavioural-led change at the moment. And so in that behavioural-led change, what I place at the centre of any change is, how are people communicating with one another? Are they able to actually have the real conversation? Is there enough awareness in the system that they can kind of catch sight of when the real conversation starts to go underground? And can they actually have the muscle, the range in their leadership to catch sight of it and then bring it back in the room? And so, I place conversations and behaviour kind of at the core of change, and I hold a perspective that change, that no one will change, change doesn't happen until people feel heard and understood.  And I don't know that I could find you an example of any organisation that I've worked in, including my own TeamCatapult, where something that we're trying to do or accomplish or move forward doesn't meet a roadblock when some aspect of our conversation isn't fully online or we're not fully having the conversation that we need to have. So one of the ways that I would do that today is, first, whenever I'm engaging with a leadership team or any other team that's really trying to bring about change and just noticing like they're trying to level up or there's something that they're wanting that they feel like they're kind of capped at is I just start to help them look at the way they engage in conversation, because I think in the conversation there are lots of indicators about how that conversation plays out and are people really able to say what they're thinking or do we get stuck in some common dysfunctional patterns that can show up? So one example of that would be, we use a sort of a technology for looking at conversation and there are four actions that happen in all effective conversations, a move, a follow, an oppose, and a bystand. So a move sets direction, a follow supports it, an oppose offers really clear correction. It says, no, hang on, wait a minute. A bystand offers a morally neutral perspective, so one way is to help a team onboard that, but there are common patterns and one of the common patterns that will come out, particularly in tech teams where there's pace and we need to move things forward, is that they can get into this pattern of someone makes a move, and everyone else just sort of remains silent or, says something to the effect might voice ‘sure, you know, that sounds good.’ So they start to fall into this pattern of move and lots of follow. And what's missing often is the voice of bystand, which says, hey, I'm wondering what's going on, or I'm wondering what we're not saying. And then really clear opposition. So the ability to bring pushback, constraint into the conversation. So if you go back to that original leadership team that I was telling you about, you know, way back when, I think one of the things that was going on in that team is they weren't, no one was able to say, this is an incredibly difficult decision, and I don't think I can make it unless I have these things answered. So they kept making it about the process and it wasn't really about the process at all. It was really, it had a very personal component to it that wasn't being discussed, and so the inability to discuss that really created the drag. So the way that I think about helping any team work through any change is, helping them onboard the skills of being able to have, we call it bringing, it's a principle that we hold about bringing the real conversation in the room. Can you bring the conversation online versus offline? So the other flag that you might have for when your conversations are going offline is, if you feel, I often think about if I leave a conversation with you and I, for example, if I left this conversation and I went off and I felt the need, or I was compelled to one of vent or complain about it to someone else, that's my kind hazard flag. But, there was something that I was holding back from in this conversation that I didn't say, and that's my signal to actually circle back around. And so maybe, maybe I need to check in with myself, maybe there's something that I left unsaid.   Ula Ojiaku So there we are, this is the end of part one of the conversation with Marsha. In part two of this conversation, which is the final one where we are going to talk about having effective conversations, what functional self awareness means, why it is important to slow down conversations in order to get results, as counter-intuitive as this might be, and many other things, so stay tuned and watch out for part two of my conversation with Marsha. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!     
22:21 1/7/24
Season 4 launches this January 2024!
We are thrilled to announce that Season 4 of the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast with Ula Ojiaku is almost here!  With a line up of expert guests including Marsha Acker, Bryan Tew, Victor Nwadu, Fabiola Eyholzer, David Bland, Brant Cooper, Luke Hohmann, Myles Ogilvie and many others, each episode is packed with insightful discussions and actionable takeaways on topics touching on leadership, business agility, innovation and much more. Trailer Transcript Marsha Acker: “Whenever I’m engaging with a leadership team or any other team that’s really trying to bring about change, like they’re trying to level up, I just start to help them look at the way they engage in conversation.” Ula Ojiaku: Get ready for Season 4 of the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. Bryan Tew: “If you’re solving the right problem but you have a terrible solution or a solution that doesn’t really fit the need, then you’re still not winning.” Ula Ojiaku: Join us every episode as we embark on a journey with thought leaders, industry experts, entrepreneurs, and seasoned professionals. Victor Nwadu: “The success of the transformation depends on the leader, the leaders and the person at the top, how committed they are to it.” Ula Ojiaku: Who will be sharing with me strategies, insights and stories that would empower you to lead with agility, drive innovation, and thrive in the digital augmented age. Subscribe now to be the first to know when the first Season 4 episode drops.    
01:07 12/21/23
(S3) Thank You! Next Season Loading...
Ula’s Social Media/Websites: LinkedIn: Twitter: Website:   Episode Transcript Ula Ojiaku: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Hello wonderful listeners, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, if there are any of them, which will be very impressive. But I'm recording this special episode of the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast to one, announce that we've come to the end of Season 3, and two, there is a special milestone that we hit yesterday, which I'd love to share with you and a huge kudos and thank you to all of you out there who helped us reach the incredible milestone of having a hundred, no, 1-0-0 subscribers on our YouTube channel, me doing the Happy Dance. It is a milestone for me. It's hard to believe that it's been about two and a half years since the first episode of the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast was released. From the very first episode we've been on a mission to explore the world of agile innovation, you know, lean, and the practices, the principles, and these disciplines. And in the process, I've had wonderful guests who have brought us inspiring stories and invaluable insights and practical advice around these topics. So right now, today, as I'm sitting here, I am filled with gratitude as we celebrate this incredible achievement. And actually, I'd like to give the tributes and a shout out to my children, Ife and Kiki, they were the ones who suggested that I start a YouTube video, I mean a YouTube channel, so that there could be a video version of the podcast, and this was when they were ages 8 and 10 respectively. So it's never, one big lesson here is that you can always learn from anyone, people younger than you included. And as I mentioned earlier, today marks also the end of an amazing season, Season 3 of the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I hope each episode has left you inspired, informed, and empowered, just like they have left me, each and every one of them. It's been a transformative journey and it continues to be so. So before we move on, I just again, want to say a huge thank you to you, my audience, my wonderful guests, past, present, future, and last, but not the least, my wonderful team. Thank you. We wouldn't have made it to this point without you. I'm also thrilled to announce that we have lots of exciting announcements that will be coming up in future, sometime in future. We are also, my team and I, are also planning, working right behind the scenes, working hard on an interesting and inspiring line-up for Season 4. So stay tuned, because big things are coming your way. Make sure to subscribe so you don't miss out on any of our future episodes and announcements, and also share with friends. Let's continue pushing boundaries, embracing change, leading the way, and demonstrating the change that we wish to see. And of course, fostering that culture of innovation and creativity. So, my amazing agile innovation leaders, thank you again for being a part of this great occasion. We've come so far, we’re not where we started, even though we're not where we are meant to be yet, our adventure is just beginning. Until we meet again in Season 4, stay agile, stay innovative, and keep leading the way. I believe in you. Thank you. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
05:45 6/28/23
(S3) E031 Mahesh Jade on Coaching Strategies for Effective Change Leadership
Bio Mahesh Jade is an esteemed agile evangelist and thought leader dedicated to the noble cause of fostering winning teams and products. His expertise lies in coaching teams, companies, and departments to implement Scrum and Agile methodologies, instigating profound improvements and transformative changes in their work processes and value delivery. Beyond coaching, Mahesh frequently conducts enlightening workshops and sessions on various topics including Scrum, agile leadership, facilitation, team dynamics, and experimentation, providing firsthand experiences in the realm of agility. Notably, Mahesh serves as the esteemed organizer of the India Community of 'The Liberators', further showcasing his dedication to fostering a vibrant and thriving agile community. With a multifaceted background encompassing roles as a developer, project manager, Scrum Master, and Agile Coach, Mahesh possesses a comprehensive understanding of both technical and organizational challenges. Leveraging strong visual acuity and an unwaveringly innovative outlook, he continuously discovers ways to infuse agility tailored to the unique shape and structures of teams, products, and practices. Mahesh's outstanding achievements have garnered recognition and widespread acclaim. His work has been featured in renowned platforms such as the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, research papers in the International Journal of Trend in Research and Development, and their YouTube channel, which hosts captivating recordings from a series of their talks at conferences, agile festivals, and workshops. Interview Highlights 04:25 The Agile Manifesto and Choosing 07:35 Research Paper Findings 08:25 Facilitation over “Facipulation” 09:40 Done over Doing 13:35 Now over Then 17:30 Visual Scrum 28:16 A, B, c, d way of managing Self 30:00 A.R.B Formula to Stay Present 33:15 Business Glossary of Agility for Presenting a Change Social Media          LinkedIn          Medium          YouTube         Medium Article on Visual Scrum Experiment  Books           Mahesh’s paper Title: The Weakest Link: Towards Making An Organisation More Agile Link:           Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy Eat That Frog!: Get More Of The Important Things Done Today: Tracy, Brian: 9781444765427: Books           Fixing Your Scrum by Ryan Ripley and Todd Miller          Evolvagility by Michael Hamman Evolvagility Explorer Series — MichaelHamman           The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli           Movie - 3 Idiots  Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku Hi Mahesh. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. Mahesh Jade Thank you Ula, thank you so much. I'm completely excited. Ula Ojiaku I'm excited as well and I'm looking forward to our conversation. So you currently work for PwC, and we understand that everything you say is your own opinion, you're not representing your employer. So we acknowledge that. So on that note, can you share with us your journey so far and how you've gotten to where you are right now? Mahesh Jade Mm-hmm, yeah I follow metaphors pretty much in my life, so today I have really this metaphor in my mind of a story, of a book of short stories where we have got plenty of short stories, and at the end of each story there is some wisdom, some cool things, some good thing to remember. I mean, if I try to summarise my growing up and becoming what I am today, it was a journey of trying to be meaningful, because of the simple reason that when I started off as a software developer, I was doing development, pretty well, but then internally within me, I don't think I enjoyed that completely. Then I thought, okay, I find a lot of passion towards creativity, so let's do UI and UX. I did that, did it pretty well, and again, noticed that, okay, again, this is not something that I completely like that I, where I completely find my character, and then I got introduced to Scrum and Agility, and it was around 2016 end, and I know that there have been no moments after that where I have looked back. It's like I have found my passion, found my energy, found my character. And then there are a couple of small instances into my journey which really map to what we do in Scrum and Agility. So I can share them. So, it's like, I was third day of my career when I was in office, a small office where we used to sit just together, my CEO will be just next to me, and it was just third day in my office and I went into his cabin telling him that, you know, we have a potential to build this feature. It is very much there, but we do not see that on our website, and people just thought, okay, you are just doing crazy, it's your third day in office and you are directly getting into conversation with your leader and suggesting something, which is a change into the product. So I think my career, and my journey have been, on a very similar note, it has been fearless. It has been about making some change happen. It has been about trying out something different, that excites me. So, while I was working into softwares, I'll just connect these dots together. So, at one point of time, because I was not enjoying things completely, I thought, okay, I'll try filmmaking and I will get into the field of creative copywriting. So I tried that at a certain moment, but I could not go further into that. And then there was this moment when I decided that, okay, whatever I do in my career now, whichever field I get into, I'll make sure that I put my creative into my field. And Scrum was that point, I found Scrum to be the perfect ground to apply creativity, to work with people, to really circle around changes and improvements. I really enjoy that and I find it to be the perfect ground to apply creativity at work. Ula Ojiaku That's interesting you saying something like a journey, you want it to be meaningful and you tried different things until you hit on what seemed to be, you know, the thing for you that taps into your creativity, your enthusiasm, your passion. And so you said something before I hit the record button to me, you know, in terms of what, a parallel you've made between the Agile Manifesto and for the listeners, if you're not aware of the Agile Manifesto, it's more of a, you know, a set of values and principles that govern the ways of working that have come to be termed as Agile, which originated in software development. But back to you, Mahesh, you know, something in the power in the Agile Manifesto and the power of choosing. Can you tell us about this? Mahesh Jade Absolutely, Ula. I think I'm really fascinated by this word ‘over’, which is used into Agile Manifesto. As an example, when we say individuals and interactions over processes and tools, I find power into it because, it gives us a choice to make. It is not a directive, a sentence that you do this and you do not do that, because I feel we, as humans, are wired to given choices and act into the zone of freedom. And there we come into our character more, more often  than not. So if we tell a small kid that don't look at the red pen or just don't do something, they are, they're prone to do the same thing again and again. And as we grow up, I think that that innate behaviour stays within us, where if we are told to not do something, we might actually do that, and we may not enjoy that. So this notion of something over the other, like more valuable over less valuable, I feel that to be very powerful. When I wrote my research paper, probably my second research paper on IJTRD, which is the International Journal of Trend in Research and Development, I was reading through materials and then I found everything that was getting discovered, landing into a theme that was around something over the other. So I would like to talk about that as well, the research paper ended into six different themes, about something over the other. And this paper is for leaders to really have the right goals into their minds. And when they are getting into a new ways of working where things are not straightforward, things are complex, and we have to be adaptive. So how do we set up the right goals? Like a highly valuable goal over a less valuable goal. Ula Ojiaku That’s interesting, the power of choosing, you know, what’s more valuable, and it also aligns with, you know, Agile, the heartbeat of Agile, you can't do everything at once, so you prioritise. And as human beings, the way we work is we thrive in environments where we feel like we have a say instead of being compelled to do something. So you are pulling or drawing out that motivation that's already inside people when they feel like they have a choice and they can, you know, have that say in terms of the direction of things. So tell me more about the findings of your paper. Mahesh Jade Yeah. So the first chapter in this paper was about unleashing the voices, and it was because, it is based on the premise that the organisational structures, they have got(ten) upended. When we say upended, I mean to say, the people who used to be vertically downwards in hierarchy somewhere, now they are actually customer facing. So if we take example of a Scrum team, the members of the team, they get a chance to meet the stakeholders or the customers, or the representative of customers, every two weeks. And that's really different than what it used to be earlier in a traditional way of operating. So at that point of time, I believe that leaders stepping into the new agile leadership journey, they should really choose facilitation over ‘facipulation’. So ‘facipulation’ is a mix of manipulated facilitation where the outcome is already conceived into someone's mind and they're trying to just get to that point. Now that does not work into the new ways of working where people are facing customers, they should be empowered, they should be given a chance to be just facilitated, to make the right decisions themself. Like again, getting into a metaphorical way of looking at things, that I'm holding a torch as a leader, as a facilitator, and I throw the light on the right people, or I throw the light on the people who are not speaking up in the moment, or I throw the light on the right problem and I just ask them, okay, what is your opinion about that? So that kind of leadership is really expected in the new ways of working, at the end of the day it's about empowering the people. So that's about it. In a new upended organisational structure, a leader should choose facilitation over facipulation. Ula Ojiaku And what's the next one? Mahesh Jade The next one is probably, it was about performance. But the second finding of my paper was about done over doing, so choose done over doing. It means to say, rather than putting a lot of focus on what are we doing back to back and just getting into a loop of doing, focus on what is getting done by certain period and really have that mindset of creating value on a periodic basis. Now that value could mean a product, a finished product, or an outcome, or it could even mean a good feedback. It is again, good to have an outcome, good to have a win. And I propose that, looking at done is more important than looking at doing all the work again and again and again. Ula Ojiaku Yeah. It reminds me of the saying ‘stop starting, start finishing’. Just looking at what can we push to the finishing, start finishing instead of having so many things open and in progress you've talked about, you know, giving people a voice, and I’m paraphrasing that first one, facilitation over ‘facipulation’, I love that new word. Anything else from your research in terms of the themes? Mahesh Jade Absolutely. So it was discovery of six themes and I would take maybe couple of more into them. So the next one it was about taking a leap of faith and it came about when I was doing a class about professional agile leadership. And we were talking about the different maturity levels in the teams, both in terms of the leadership in the team and the people in the team. And there was an interesting insight I got during the class where we get into the system not only to interact at the current maturity level, but we actually want to go to the next maturity level, both as any person in the team, be it the Scrum Master or be it the product owner, or be it your team members, everyone. It's a journey to go to the next level of maturity. And then I propose this theme to be, I call it as elevate over delegate. So, choose elevation, elevate over delegation, I’ll give an example. So I'm big fan of Ron Eringa’s works where he puts a label of maturity and he names it such as Scrum Master gets started as a clerk probably, and then he becomes an organiser. Slowly, he becomes a coach to the team, and then he becomes advisor. When it comes to the team, they are more likely to follow the, probably directed ideas and slowly people will influence them to do something. The next level could be they're just advised and then they're doing something and the highest possible level can be they're just self organising around, around the world. So the idea in this chapter or in this finding, is really to, if we are thinking that this is a moment to direct a team member, go for influencing probably, like, take the next step, take the next step of delegation if possible. So, operate at your current level of maturity, but also do try to go to the next level. So again, if you think there is a need to influence somebody, just try to advise them and see if they can still do it. If, if you feel that right now, this team needs advice, let's just allow them to self-organise. Probably they'll be able to do it because I feel, we do not only want to address the current maturity of the team members and the leadership, but we also want to go to the next level. So I propose this as a theme that whenever you have a chance, elevate over delegation. So elevate over delegate is the next theme. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. Elevate over delegate. Yes well here’s for the next theme on your research from your research. Mahesh Jade Yeah, we'll cover one more and I guess it is about dependencies and creating focus and I have got a small story to share about that as well. So I'll first maybe share the story and then we come to the outcomes of this chapter and what is it? If I have to go to a doctor and just get a medicine and let's say it takes me eight days, I called up the hospital and they gave me the appointment after three days and I went ahead and then, so it took some time. So we never say that it took me eight days to get a medicine. We always say that, okay, I went to the doctor, I took the medicine. When it comes to work, people just put it all together and they get an impression that even if it is moving, or even if it is waiting, they think that we are doing something, which is not true. We should just separate where, when we are doing and when the item is in to wait. So it is very important to create that notion where people focus on now, that what is now and what is really afterwards. So a lot of times people get an impression that because we are waiting, we are doing something, and as a leader, we should develop that focus where people stay in the moment, people stay in now, people don't think too much of the next part in the future, but really focus on what is possible to do right now? And if something is not possible, how do we really park that and get started with another valuable thing if we have into our queue? Can we really work on that? So I think a lot of teams face this challenge where it has got developed as a belief that, probably, and I will talk more about it in the into the next part where people just feel that everything starts on the day one of the Sprint and everything finishes on the last day of the Sprint, which is not true. There are a lot of waits in between, and if we really manage them well, if we stay into the moment, chances are that we will do pretty much well. So this actually, this finding ends up into, again, another couple, of words, into the same notion now over then creating focus and looking at dependency in a different way. Staying into the moment and doing what is possible. So now over then is the next theme that I found it to be, while discovering and working around dependencies and creating focus. Ula Ojiaku So what I'm hearing you say is this, it's about the teams, because there are always going to be things outside our control, whether it's as individuals, as teams, when we're, you know, working towards something. So it's about saying, okay, we plan to do one thing, but something beyond our control is keeping us, let's reassess and know, okay, what is within our control that, at this point in time, that we can still do to help us work towards the original goal? Mahesh Jade Absolutely, absolutely Ula. Ula Ojiaku Okay. Please go on then with your next point, Mahesh. Mahesh Jade Yeah. So I'm done with the finding, sharing findings from the paper. I'll probably touch upon the experiment part. So, I call it a big derail in any of the Scrum teams, or for that matter, agile team, when people have the feeling or the notion that everything starts on the first day of the iteration and it ends on the last day of the iteration, which is completely not true. So, because of this, people just end up splitting the work at the last day of the iteration, or probably they will not call out a need for, probably just stopping some work and choosing something else. Those decisions do not happen in real time. So we started off with a small experiment and we named it as Visual Scrum. So I think I learned about it somewhere in one of the forum where people were sharing experiments and I do not exactly recall that, but then we built on that and we created a Mural visual board, which I have got a few stickers with me where  it's a small printout of how that went. So those who are just listening to the podcast, I can make it easy for them it’s just a simple way to represent when work starts and when it is supposed to finish in a iteration. So it's like a long strip of sticky note, which represents that, okay, this work starts on Monday and it finishes on Thursday, something like that. So the experiment was simple. We wanted to make sure that people get the understanding that not everything starts on the first day and not everything finishes on the last day, and as soon as we started this, we started concluding our Sprint planning where people visually said that, okay, we have our eight stories. Three of them start on day one. Five of them are actually dependent, we'll just look at them after three to four days, and then people started changing the size of that rectangle about when it starts and when it finishes. And that itself was very powerful for people where they felt that, okay, we are not engaged full-time, we have a good buffer right now. Only two stories are important and the whole team can support that work. It is not that only the primary owner of the story will work on that. Slowly, what we started discovering was that, at a particular point in the second week, people are noticing that, OK, half of the stories are somehow done because we have developed a habit that let's keep the batch size or the sides of the story to be lesser than a week or so. So there are larger chances of completing that, and slowly we started discovering in this experiment, which was very visual to understand that we got started with eight stories or nine stories, but right now half of them are partially completed. Now we have a focus of only this left over part and then if the pin on that story, on that visual board is not moving for a particular story for a couple of days, that was getting highlighted very quickly, where people thought, okay, this story is blocked from last three days, something is wrong. Either we have to stop it completely and take it into the next Sprint, or we can just split it and probably look at a new acceptance criteria. So I know I'm covering it in pretty fast detail, but I can share a blog post that I'm intending to write on this experiment so people can get deeper into it and just look at it in a step by step way. But the point I'm trying to make here is that this derail can be avoided if people make the system visual. People should look at a notion where, as I said, not everything starts on the day one, not everything finishes on the last day, making sure that people understand that what is currently in progress and what is now, what is then, and then really focusing on the current stories, finishing them probably, and then making sure that if something is not moving into the system, call it out at the right time, rather than waiting until the end of the iteration. I think people found it very good and they improved their, I mean, velocity is not really a good measure to measure agility, but this team was completely, this set of teams were completely at a different level of operating when they felt that, okay, we used to take, earlier, we used to take some eight to nine stories into the Sprint. Now we can take even more than that, or even if we do not take too many of them currently, we have a very good control over completing these stories and achieving the Sprint goals. So visual, making the system visual, has a lot of potential to make sure that we achieve goals iteration after iteration, and I think that was valuable when we understood this. Ula Ojiaku So in Lean you would have the concept of the flow of the work and the throughputs you are getting things, you know, from started to done within that time box. And when would you typically, as you mentioned, you know, if the team is not moving, then the team can note, okay, or have a conversation around do we continue with this story? Do we split it? Do we put it back in the backlog? What sort of instances would they have to, or opportunities would they have to actually make this assessment? Mahesh Jade Yeah, so we have just made this complete experience , a creative experience for people where if the pin is not moving for two days, whenever the pin is stuck, we will make sure we will add a black sticky note at the end of that rectangle, calling out the dependency, that what needs to happen in order to move this pin from this day to the next day. And if that pin is not moving for a couple of days, that black sticker keeps on getting highlighted in every check-in event that we have in every daily Scrum. And probably after two days or so, we'll decide, okay, this is not moving. Let's take some decision, let's not wait until the end of the Sprint, let's take a decision right now that either we park it and we pick up something from our buffer, from the top of the backlog or we just split it and look at a different acceptance criteria, and it was pretty good. Ula Ojiaku Okay. So thanks for clarifying. So just to, you know, delve a bit more, especially on, with respect to the audience so that it's clearer, more explicit, assuming this is a Scrum team, would the Daily Standup be a good opportunity for them to actually make these evaluations, or would there be something or maybe the meet after? Mahesh Jade I would say, I mean, we intend to make the right decisions about splitting a story or probably making them, breaking them into parts, or sometimes we just want to make sure that we look at the top of the backlog if we do not have enough work in our hands. And by making the system visual, if I got your question correctly, I think making the system as visual as possible and putting some creative majors around it, if team can take the right decision at the right point, rather than waiting until the end of the Sprint, we are more likely to achieve the Sprint goals, is what we achieved through this experience, and we named it as Visual Scrum, and it was just simple. Whatever we are doing, just let's just represent it on a whiteboard in a very clear cut way, okay? Where we are currently, what is in progress, and what is already done, and what is remaining. So creating that complete bifurcation, that was powerful for people because otherwise everyone always felt that we are in an iteration. We have got, let's say eight to ten stories and all of them are in progress, that was an unconscious understanding that we were able to break by making the system visual. Ula Ojiaku And how is it different from a Kanban board because you know, a Kanban board you, again, that's borrowing from, has its origins in the Toyota production system, but as we use it nowadays, we know about, you know, you have columns to do, in progress, done, in the simplest form. So your visual representation, how is it different from, or how does it build on the normal timeline? Mahesh Jade Absolutely. So we did not do away with the current boards that we had into JIRA at that instance, but I'll put this on screen. But if you look at this closely, this gives a lot of information in a very quick way. Right now, what I see is that I'm into the middle of the Sprint, half of the stories are already finished. The story that is remaining, that is also, there is just a partial part, which is remaining. And I also have a story parked into my backlog at the top of the backlog. So the team comes to know that okay, a lot of work has already finished one work that is in progress, it is not much, it is trivial. So now I have power to pick up what is at the top of the backlog. So we did not do away with the Kanban board, they were still helping us, but we wanted to create a visual representation of what is done and what is in progress. So yeah, I think that was about the experiment. Ula Ojiaku Okay. And one more question because, again, it's really about wrapping my head around how one would apply it. So would it be the Scrum Master that would be checking this and then congregating the team to have a conversation, or anybody in on the team can do this? Mahesh Jade Yeah. So, the Scrum Masters of these teams, when we introduce them to this experiment, they started managing this board completely in the beginning. And slowly when the team matured, they were like, so there was somebody who would nominate to move the pins on the board. It could be the Scrum Master and sometime later some team members started facilitating that. But yeah, in the beginning it was the Scrum Master who tried to become a custodian of this visual presentation. Later, they just hand it over to the people. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for clarifying. Is there anything else about your experiments, any key learnings then? Mahesh Jade I think there was a moment of resistance when people were like, okay, why are we doing this? Should we do it? And I recall we were just adding it as a visual, creative visualisation of our system. And we said, you know, folks, there are two parts to this experiment, and let's just give it a try for the first part. If that works, we'll get into the second, but let's just try, make a nimble start. And I know in my mind that there was never a second part to the experiment. It was only this small experiment that we wanted to do. So I think that is a learning from that experiment that sometimes people want to be nimble into the experiment, people want to make a small start. So we can sometimes just look at the change as if it's really small and we can actually keep the size of the change very small so that it is easy for people to consume. And even if there are no second part to the change, it is okay. Simple changes are always good changes, no big deal. Ula Ojiaku So keeping it simple and just, because we as human beings would cope better when, you know, things are changed in an incremental manner, in small increments rather than big, massive changes. Now, in your experience and in your practice, what tips would you have for the audience? Mahesh Jade This is interesting. I think I have got a very small set of tips. They look very simple at times, but because they have worked for me again and again, I am really inspired to share them with the people so that probably it'll also work for them. So the first tip is like organising around your day in following the notion of A, B, c, d, where the A and B are capital, c and d are really small. And what I really mean by that is that, throughout the day, whatever work that we have, the coaching interventions or the items from our coaching backlog, if you really pick up two high priority item that are going to take some time and two trivial items, small items, which are really like smaller in nature, but they will create some way for next day, they could be like small activities focusing on two big things and two small things in a particular day, in a way limiting the work in progress for us, is really powerful. And we all know that limiting work in progress is powerful, I just put it in my cover of A, B and c d. So, A and B are really two important big things, and c and d are really trivial and it looks pretty simple, but it works again and again. Whenever we, I try to organise my day around, okay, what is this least possible thing I can do to go to the next part that I want to achieve or to help this team to go to the next level of maturity. Ula Ojiaku A and B and c and d, it reminds me of Brian Tracy's book, Eat That Frog and he said, if you know you had to do something that you're dreading, you know, and what could be more horrible than eating a frog, it's better to do that thing first, especially if it's the most valuable thing. So your A and B, you know, big A and B, and c and d reminds me of that. And was there any other tip? Mahesh Jade I think, since I started as a Scrum Master and then I started working with more teams and started getting into a mode where we are trying to bring a change at a larger scale, something which was very internal, not really related to agility, probably as a human, but it still worked, it still gave me some essence to hold onto, and I call it as ARB, A for attitude, R for Routine, and B for Blessing. And what I mean by that, where I have seen sometimes, things can really overwhelm us, sometimes some things are into our hands, sometimes it is just not into our hands, and sometimes the challenges are really very tricky to address. So in those times, I try to make sure that sometimes I try to focus on really the attitude part of the self, where even if things are going in the direction where we don't want them to be, we really keep track on the attitude, okay, are we in the right attitude? But it is not always easy to keep, to stay in the top possible way and, stay at the top of the attitude sometimes. So I discovered that when that does not happen, getting into the right routine, getting into the movement or doing something really helps. So I think there is a point when we are moving and suddenly something happens and then we get into a point when, okay, we can really, we are into back into the shape and we can again get into that situation where we are, we are seeing some light ahead. And the third part is really blessing, which I feel that sometimes we should keep some buffer for blessings to happen, for surprises to take place, because not everything that we do will have the desired result. And if we really keep a very tight boundary around the definition of our success, or a very tight boundary around what I am doing and what I will achieve, that really does not work, keeping a safe buffer for blessings to come and surprises to happen, it really works. And that is why I try to keep shuffling between A, R and B, sometimes focusing on attitude, sometimes focusing on the routine that I have in general, and sometimes, if nothing else, waiting for surprise to happen, and they do happen, and that is how I think I look at a flow of creating value over and over again by probably following a simple formula that is, that works for me from my experience, attitude, routine and blessing. Ula Ojiaku Wow. Attitude, Routine and Blessing, it sounds like a formula that would help with, you know, being less stressed and more, at peace and mindful, for me, having gone through, you know, near death experiences, I know that life is fragile and nothing is, you know, you can't take anything for granted. You can plan, but the only thing you can control, you know, when things are happening around you is your attitude, so how you tune it. And it's also good to, like you said, make space for surprises or things that can change and that's why we need to have some margin instead of always being on the go, go, go, go. So thanks for those tips, Mahesh. So, Mahesh, you started off as a Scrum Master as you mentioned earlier, and now you are working with multiple teams, you know, coaching. Can you share a bit of your experience coaching multiple teams? Mahesh Jade Yeah, you know, it's very interesting Ula that I found out that while working in a Scrum team as a Scrum Master, it sometimes helps to use the glossary of Scrum and working around that and building around the practices and making sure that ceremonies are taking place in a good way. So, a lot of Scrum glossary words. When I got into an environment when it was about multiple teams and working with leadership, I noticed that using the language of Scrum directly, that does not help, but we have to really tie the things that we can do with the problems that will get solved. So that, I think that was an important learning and I noticed that every time I used a second set of words to explain them something about, okay, we are doing this, but it is going to solve this problem, we had an immediate buy-in and I tell it, I always tell it to my colleagues as well, that getting a buy-in on what you can try and what you can introduce, tying up that with the problem that we'll solve is very important. So the way I approach this process with the leadership is sometimes I will tell them that, no matter if you are doing adapting to Scrum or you are taking practices from Kanban, I'm going to give you some goals where you will be able to exhibit agility and they would solve your problems where you consider that you start to visualise the work more powerfully, or probably you just become better at mitigating the dependencies, or, as example, you will become better at prioritising the work, or you'll become better at prioritising the kind of improvements that you want to have. And there could be more. It's like, I'll help you reduce your context switching, I'll help you do the planning in a more adaptive way, and I have seen that it really works, it really works for people because people really don't want to do, and adapt to a framework or a methodology for the sake of it, people do want to solve the problems, people do want to achieve value and really approaching the process, looking at the outcome that they want to have and then joining the dots is really a helpful practice. And it really helps. So it's kind of like developing a secondary dictionary for your Scrum and Kanban words and be able to talk about the changes that you can bring to the team in a way that, how it is going to solve the end problem. I think that secondary dictionary really helps. Ula Ojiaku That's a fantastic point, Mahesh, and I completely agree based on, you know, some recent work that I'm doing as well. The key thing is these teams aren't necessarily software development teams and for leaders, they're not developing software and there's no need to expect them to adhere to the framework, to the letter. It's really about speaking to their problems, what is it going to do for them, and putting it in the language that they understand instead of expecting them to learn a new language before solving the problem. So that's a fantastic point. Mahesh Jade Absolutely. Yes. One more thing, as I could relate, in this conversation is where I noticed that these assessments that we use for assessing the teams on their agile maturity could not be perfect at times. And people just think that, okay, I have done this assessment and I'm scored at somewhere. In my experience, I have always seen teams to be doing much, much lesser than what the assessment would tell. So I have started looking at it in a different way where I do not propose doing an assessment at the beginning of the quarter and the end of the quarter or something. But I give them small goals to attain, and I probably call it as a plus five activity that, forget about the assessment that you would do, so we do it, and we get some inputs from them, but then we just do not wait until the end of, let's say, quarter or half year to do that again. But we try to purposefully put small objectives in the middle, and we tell people that this is the objective and this is the quick start that you can get started with. You just do it. And then on top of it, we'll just provide you, we'll fill up the training gaps, and then you discover your own ideas of how you want to go ahead about it. So it's like creating iterative improvements by adding a small plus five into the process rather than starting with an assessment and doing the assessment at the end of the year or middle of the year. I think that does not help, but putting small quick starters activities that will actually make some change happen and celebrating that change on the go, I think that that really works with the people. Ula Ojiaku Oh yeah. So the small incremental changes they add up over time instead of waiting for that big bang end of, you know, a certain time box. Oh, absolutely, absolutely. Great points, Mahesh, thanks again for sharing those. Can you share with us any books that have greatly shaped your thinking or impacted you that you find yourself recommending to others? Mahesh Jade I see Fixing your Scrum to be one of the book that I got a signed copy from Ryan Ripley, that's my all time favourite. I have another favourite would be a book called Evolvagility, where I'm a proud student of Michael Hamman, and he has written this book where we really get deeper into our meaning making abilities, in a way that, so we have grown into certain ways from our beliefs system and probably our way of living, and then how do we look at them again and challenge our own thinking and remove, or probably hold that belief outside of us and objectively look at things and pick up the path. So I think that's another favourite book of mine, but like apart from the books about Agility or the Agile leadership, or how do we fix the processes into Scrum and Kanban, I think there is this one book called The Art of Thinking Clearly and it is really a very powerful book that has changed my way of thinking. It just lists down small chapters with a lot of fallacies and biases that we have developed into our mind. It has got historical examples that how things have unfolded, and then it just tells us that how are we really bound by a lot of biases and fallacies and it just helps us to come out of them and look at things in a very clean and clear way. So that's probably a book that is not really about Agility, but it cleans up the mind in a very clear way, and I think it again leads to become more agile into our thinking. So that's my favourite book, I think the author's name is Rolf Dobelli. Ula Ojiaku So any final words for the audience? Mahesh Jade Yeah, I mean, I wanted to share this during my introduction as well, but my journey, it has got empowered by this app called Meetup, and what I mean by that is, ever since I got started into Agility and Scrum and works around that I found that, when compared to other,  mediums of works and stream of work, this place of Scrum and Agility has got a very powerful community where the meetups are happening weeks after weeks, and a lot of prominent members of this community just come and join these communities and they're sharing the knowledge really at free. So, there is this famous Indian movie called Three Idiots, and there is, if somebody have not watched it, they should really watch it, it's a beautiful movie. And, one of the thing into that movie is where the character in the movie, he would say the knowledge, when the knowledge is getting distributed freely, just go and attend and seek it, don't wait for permission to get into the room to get the knowledge. And these Meetups into the space of Agile and Scrum and related frameworks are really powerfully, equipped to share that knowledge at free. And it's just happening, all over the place. So my advice would be to the people that the community into Agile and Scrum is so strong that we should really leverage it. I have been into some of the Meetup groups where prominent speakers and authors were talking, and the group was just about 15 or 16. So that's something where I feel that people, maybe they do not know that it is happening, or probably they do not think that it'll be so much valuable. But I assert that if we start building real conversations and start getting to meet a lot of people week after week, and every possible opportunity we can just imagine the kind of difference that we can create by learning from those real conversations. As a matter of fact, when I started, I would generally attend a Meetup on every week, and I did it for around more than one year, and that was super, super cool. So right now as well, I try to attend every possible Meetup that I can attend, but then I have seen a lot of people really do not show up. So if you look at a number, 50 to 60 people, if they sign up for a particular Meetup, probably five to six or close to 10 people will show up. And I feel that people should really leverage this free knowledge that is getting distributed all over the places and people are really eager in this particular community to share the knowledge and people should really leverage that. There's no dirth of opportunity to learn from the real conversations. And they're just mostly free all over the places. Ula Ojiaku So are you on social media, Mahesh? Mahesh Jade I make use of LinkedIn quite prominently, I keep sharing over LinkedIn. So that is one area where I’m active. Twitter is another medium that I make good use of. I’m intending to start writing more regularly. So last two years I was writing more from a research paper point of view. Now I’m trying to get into a part where I’m writing short articles and publish them. So probably I’ll start writing more on Medium as well very soon. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. So LinkedIn and Medium, which was to be resumed soon. So thank you so much. This has been an insightful conversation. Thank you for again, being my guest, Mahesh. Mahesh Jade Thank you so much. It has been a great experience that I will remember throughout my journey to Agility. Ula Ojiaku My pleasure. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
45:57 6/25/23
(S3) E030 Michael Hamman & Lyssa Adkins on Vertical Facilitation
Guest Bio : Michael Hamman Michael Hamman is dedicated to the possibility that the workplace be a site for personal, professional and social transformation. Trained in the 1980s in coaching and large group facilitation, Michael went on to train in systems thinking and methods, group dynamics and facilitation, professional and executive coaching, and in human and organization development. He is a decades-long student of the nature of human transformation, in himself, in others, and in organizations.  Over the course of the last 20 years, Michael has brought together these various strands into a unique approach to coaching, consulting, and teaching Agility within large organizational settings. Along the way, he has coached dozens of Fortune 500 companies and teams, and hundreds of leaders and coaches toward greater holistic team and enterprise-level agility.  He is recognized as a highly effective workshop leader, and for his skill in creating deep learning environments which leave participants feeling inspired by the insights and inner shifts they experience. His book, Evolvagility: Growing an Agile Leadership Culture from the Inside Out provides a blueprint for what it means to be an agile leader in today’s complex world, and offers a practical roadmap for getting there. Guest Bio: Lyssa Adkins  Lyssa Adkins is an internationally-recognized thought leader in the Agile community. She is deeply trained and experienced  in human systems coaching and facilitation and she is a frequent keynote speaker. Her content expertise is agile coaching, adult human development, and working with change and complexity. She is the author of Coaching Agile Teams which is still a Top 10 book a dozen years after publication. Her current focus is improving the performance of top leadership teams through insightful facilitation and organization systems coaching to help leaders take up the individual and collective transformation that is theirs to do. Episode Highlights 05:15 Vertical Learning 09:40 Upgrading our Operating System 12:20 Inner versus Outer Agility 16:30 Three Types of Learning 19:20 Disorienting Dilemmas 21:15 Vertical Facilitation 30:00 Heat Experiences 38:45 Building Trust 42:00 Stretch Practices Websites · Social media ·         LinkedIn: Michael Hamman ·         Twitter: Michael Hamman  @docHamman ·         LinkedIn: Lyssa Adkins ·         Twitter: Lyssa Adkins @lyssaadkins   Guest Intro (Ula Ojiaku) Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. This episode is a special one to me. I am humbled and honoured to be in the virtual presence of giants and pioneers who have shaped the Agile Coaching discipline into what we know it as today. I have with me Lyssa Adkins and Michael Hamman. Not just one, but two, so this is like, I won the lottery today, and I'm so excited to have you both on the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast for this episode. Welcome. Now Lyssa, I had the honour of interviewing just you for an earlier episode and for the benefit of the audience, who, you know, some, I mean, for most people, Michael wouldn't be a stranger. They would be well acquainted with him, but for some of my audience who may not be familiar with, you know, your background. Michael, would you mind telling us about yourself? Michael Hamman Hmm, where do I even start? Ula Ojiaku I understand you used to be a music composer, software engineer, or developer, you know, how did that trajectory lead you to here? Michael Hamman Well actually it, you know, for those years when I was a composer and a scholar, I had a dual life. One life was this sort of creative life of the artist and the writer. But the other life was that I actually was working with people, and I got exposed to transformational learning in 1985 when I took a course. In fact, even before then, I got exposed to it because other people had taken this course. It was called the Est training, and so I got trained to lead seminars back in the eighties and the early nineties, and I brought all of that into my work with software teams. And at first I was a technical, you know, advisor. And then I got into like, well, you know, how do we make these teams work better? And that just, you know, one thing led to the next, and you know, I studied human systems and systems thinking and coaching, I was trained in professional coaching. I brought all that into the agile world when I started consulting in 2004, specifically in Corporate Enterprise, Agile Coaching, probably one of the earlier people to be doing that, and, but I was really known for bringing this sort of transformative angle to it, you know, so there was always a, some people thought it was a bit odd, like I was kind of like the weird uncle in the room, but people really liked it because they found something shifting in themselves while they were learning to do this thing called Agile and Scrum and XP and all that kind of stuff. And so it sort of has just grown, you know, my work has really grown from there. And maybe just to add one last piece that I regard my own personal transformation as part of the work that I do with other people and with the organisations, for me, they're inseparable and, to the degree that I myself am evolving and developing, then I can become an authentic conduit for others to do the same. Ula Ojiaku Wow, that's very inspirational. Thank you, Michael, for that great overview. Lyssa, I'd love to hear your crack at it. Lyssa Adkins Yeah. What I want to say about Michael is that you brought in a word Ula, that I want to just reprise here, which is pioneer. So Michael's talked about his trajectory with transformational learning, and he is indeed a pioneer in that and sort of making the implicit explicit, you know, and that's exactly what he was doing with computer music as a composer, and it was at the very early dawn of computers making sounds. That's where Michael Hamman composed his works, right, and so it's the confluence of a couple of different worlds coming together that he was able to bring forth into a new composition. And that's exactly what's happening here now with bringing these different worlds and experiences and lived experiences together in this new composition called Vertical Facilitation. Ula Ojiaku Wow, well, thank you Lyssa. That brings us nicely, segues nicely into, in terms of what you've been working on lately. So you mentioned Vertical Facilitation, but before we get to Vertical Facilitation, so Michael, I was looking at your website earlier on, and you said something about vertical learning being a process by which we evolve the psychological and emotional structuring process that determine how we think, understand and emotionally grasp our work. Do you want to expand on that, please? Vertical learning before we get to Vertical Facilitation… Michael Hamman Yeah, I think what I would say about that is that, at any given moment, there are the things that we're doing. So at any given moment, we are in action and we have a sense of where we're going in our action. So we have a sense of maybe a sense of direction, maybe even a goal, we might even have a vision, right? And so there's this, the world of our action. And at the same time, there's that world, there's that which informs our action at any given moment, there's a sort of sense making that's going on that informs our action, that informs what action we'll take. What's the appropriate action? How might we act? And it also determines the competency with which we act. So there's this sense making that's going on. And you could say that it's an individual sense making, a kind of a psychological layer, but it's also something that happens with us collectively. And so it's this realm that's happening, of which we are for the most part, unaware. And so what vertical learning is about, is to bring awareness to that realm, that dimension, which informs our capacity for effective action, and to the degree we become aware of that realm, we become better able at crafting action that is truly effective, that is action, that is truly congruent with what it is that we are committed to, what it is that we intend. Ula Ojiaku What comes out to me is, you know, that vertical learning is about bringing awareness to the realm that informs how we, you know, act when we've made sense of our environment. That's powerful. Lyssa, do you want to add anything to that? Lyssa Adkins Well, I think I'll add the dimension of why this is even important right now. I mean, there's, you know, for a long time sort of just getting more and more skills, more and more competencies sort of, as a collection, as a basket of things we were now capable of doing. For a long time, that was really sufficient for the context that most of us were in. And, you know, you probably know Ula, and maybe everyone listening that we're in this age of acceleration where everything is speeding up, almost every graph looks like a hockey stick. And, you know, and things are not straightforward anymore. In fact, the complexity of the situations that get served up to us, and especially those ones we don't want to have on our plates, you know, that complexity is beyond most of our meaning making right now. So that's what this is about. It's about closing that gap between the complexity of the situations we're in and the complexity of our own meaning making so that we can be more of a match for the confounding, you know, ever-changing, constantly anxiety-producing situations that we find ourselves in, in our whole life, and especially in business these days. So there's a really important thing pulling us forward to help to, and wanting us to be more capable for the environment we're actually in. And so I think that's why it's up for us and up for other people. Ula Ojiaku Michael, do you have any more, anything else to add to that? Michael Hamman Well, no, what you're saying, Lyssa, just it makes me think of this metaphor that I often use that it's that meaning making, that Lyssa was just referring to, that, which we need to bring to a higher level of complexity to meet the complexity of the world. It's a bit like, you could think of it analogically as a kind of operating system, like an operating system metaphor that, you know, I noticed on my phone, you know, that there are a lot of apps that won't install on my phone because I have to upgrade the operating system. And similarly, in the world of the complex world, the world, I love what you just said, the hockey stick, all the graphs are hockey sticks. Now in the world in which all the graphs are hockey sticks, right, we need, we need new apps. Apps are our behaviours, the actions that we take, and in order to take the kinds of actions that we need to take in this world of hockey stick graphs, we need to upgrade the operating system that informs those actions, and that's what vertical learning is all about. Ula Ojiaku Hmm. And to just explore that metaphor of the operating system, would it have any relationship with, you know, our mindset, our attitudes, or worldview? Michael Hamman I would say absolutely. In fact, oftentimes we use the word mindset as a kind of shortcut term to point to this realm. But unfortunately, for the most part we don't, you know, we're pretty good at, in the agile world at eliciting ways of understanding things that have to do with engineering and basic management and you know, product management and so we've gotten very good, like business agility has taught us a lot about how to bring a kind of agile competency, agile capacity for action, I guess you could say. The thing we haven't gotten very good at, and that's what the work we're up to here is to, what's the nature of mindset? What's the science and the research behind mindset, which has a comparable depth, a comparable legacy to the various engineering and complexity science lineage that informs other aspects of Agile, and so this is really about bringing those sort of human technology, the lineage of human technology to bear, to help us grow that inner operating system. So this is, in many ways, it's a research-based and science-based sort of set of practices as much as an art. Ula Ojiaku That's great. So based on what you've said, that would bring me to the concept of inner versus outer agility. You know, because you said business, we've learned a lot, agile, you know, business agility. But to an extent, and this is me summarising what I think I've heard from you, Michael, you know, it's kind of, we've kind of focused on the engineering of products and services, but there is the inner work we need to do to be able to operate more effectively in a world of hockey stick graphs or some other people will call it VUCA in a volatile, uncertain, complex… I forgot what the A means… Lyssa Adkins Ambiguous. Ula Ojiaku Ambiguous, thank you so much, Lyssa. So can you, how would this tie in with the concept of outer versus inner agility? Michael Hamman It brings to mind, you know, young children learn programming, you know, like young nine year olds and ten year olds. But it's unlikely that they'll ever be able to build huge, the kinds of huge software systems that professional software engineers are able to build. And it's, and it's partly due to skill, but at some point that young child, you could teach them more and more advanced programming skills, but they're, at some point they're not going to be able to absorb it. And that points to their inner meaning making. And it's similar in organisations that we could teach them, you know, agile frameworks, but they may get better and better at it at first, you know, but then at some point they hit a ceiling, and that ceiling is defined by their capacity for inner agility. And so when we hit the ceiling, we could see that as a signal, wow, we need to start to do some work on both our individual and our collectively held sense making frames if we're going to actually get past that ceiling. We will not get past that ceiling, I think we all know that by now, unless something shifts in the area of inner agility, or you could say mindset. But I use the word mindset somewhat reluctantly because it's become a buzzword and we really, for the most part, we really don't know what it means. Ula Ojiaku I didn't mean to impose that word on you, that was me trying to make sense (of the concepts)... Michael Hamman The word is so out there and so I kind of want to, whenever I have an opportunity to do a little bit of violence to that word, I would rather talk to it. Ula Ojiaku No worries at all. And something you said about, you know, individuals and teams hitting the ceiling, getting to a limit with applying the Agile frameworks, due to their operating systems needing an upgrade. It reminds me of, I believe it's the writing of John Maxwell. He's a known leadership expert and he has something called, you know, the Leadership Law of the Lid. You can only lead effectively to a certain extent, and it kind of ties in with what you're saying about you'd have to do the work, because once you’ve hit that limit, you have a choice either to remain at that level or you upgrade yourself, you expand your capacity by learning, by being coached by, you know, being willing to learn, or, I mean, unlearn and relearn or, you know, learn new things, but change the way you do things to get to the next level. Now, how can one upgrade their operating system? Michael Hamman Well, that's what vertical learning really ultimately points to, and it's a different kind of learning. So you could say that there are three different kinds of learning. The first is informational learning, where we, you know, basically teach concepts and we give information. And the idea is, is that then people take that information or those concepts and apply it, you know, into their life and, you know, into their work, and so that's one form of learning perfectly valid and legitimate for certain kinds of learning needs, I guess you could say. The second kind of learning or the second sort of method of learning is behavioural, where we teach skills and competencies to people, with the idea that they will then take those skills and competencies out into their world and exercise those skills and competencies. The problem is, is that what we often find is that both with, in terms of informational learning and behavioural learning, is that there's a missing ingredient. Oftentimes, for instance, people don't know when it's appropriate to bring a certain information to bear in a given moment, or, for people who have learned particular skills, they find themselves unable to exercise those skills when it really matters, when the heat gets high. And this is where the third quality of learning comes in, which is called transformational learning. And transformational learning doesn't happen in the same realm as informational and behavioural learning. It can't, it's not taught by telling people. It's not even taught, you know, through behavioural practice, although that can be part of it. It has to be taught in a very different way, and this is where Vertical Facilitation builds because you can only bring about transformational learning through the design of a learning environment. And it can only be done by creating situations in which people experience a kind of inner dilemma between what, how the categories with which they already make sense and the category that is likely to be necessary to make sense of the current situation being presented to them. Ula Ojiaku Lyssa, do you have anything to add to that? Lyssa Adkins Well, just that it is so much fun to present a group of people with a disorienting dilemma, and to watch them reach the edge of their known meaning making, and to find out that it's actually not the edge of the world, they're not going to fall off the world. They can say, oh, wow, now I see that that frame of reference I was holding, it's just a frame of reference, it's actually not how the world is. You know, now I can look at it, I can take it off of me and look at it as an object and say, okay, well how has this frame of reference served me in the past? And do I still need it now? What pieces am I bringing forward as I expand into other frames of reference that can inform me more completely about the situation I'm in? And so it's just, you know, for about a decade, I suppose. Michael Hamman and I were involved, this guy right here, with others, were involved in conducting these transformational learning environments in our agile coaching work. And it is such a joy, it is such a joy to see people break through this concrete, calcified way that they were viewing the world and to realise, ah, there's like a field out here with flowers and butterflies and there's all kinds of other options now available to me, and you know, we have a lot of lived experience in those kinds of transformational education environments. And that builds on training that we've all had, but also on Michael's really long history with transformational education environments and I think the modern need for us to help others increase their vertical capabilities. Ula Ojiaku I know that some of my audience, or people who are listening or watching, would be wondering, what Vertical Facilitation is, and they also would be wondering if you have any stories. And of course, I'm here as your student, maybe there would be a demonstration, but before we all, you know, go to the stories and all that, what's Vertical Facilitation? Because you've already defined for us what vertical learning is. Lyssa Adkins I want to set the stage for Michael to say what it is because this is where Michael's thought leadership is really coming to bear in the world. He's creating a new composition for us to live in because he's taking what was once implicit about Vertical Facilitation, learning environments, and making it explicit. And so many people have components of this in their leadership development programs, in their agile coach training in their, whatever they're doing, but to make it more explicit and usable for them would really amp up the results they're getting from whatever program they're in. And so that's, those are the people who we're trying to reach and I just want to say this is a new composition. Ula Ojiaku Thank you, Lyssa. Michael, please. Michael Hamman I feel incredibly humbled by what you've been saying, Lyssa. Thank you. Yeah, I would say that Vertical Facilitation is a way of working with groups leaderfully. So it's a leaderful way of working with groups. So it's not, you know, the typical sort of neutrality of facilitation that we ordinarily think of it. So there's a leaderful intention, but the leaderful intention has to do with being able to be attentive to what's the quality of the sense making that's going on in this moment with this individual, in the interactions between these two  individuals or the interactions among the individuals within a group, and the group energy. So it's a, so Vertical Facilitation is about paying attention to all of these things with an ear for what's going on here developmentally and developmentally is just another word for vertically. What is the sense making that's going on? And Vertical Facilitation is about creating moments, creating situational moments in which people experience what Lyssa just termed a moment ago, a disorienting dilemma, and it could be a, and a disorienting dilemma, again, is the recognition that something about the way that I'm making sense of this situation is insufficient to be able to successfully manage myself in that situation. So it's a kind of an ‘aha’ and sometimes it's a moment of fear or anxiety, right? And so Vertical Facilitation includes having this sort of loving manner that allows for people to come face to face with whatever emotional emotions they're experiencing as they encounter a particular disorienting dilemma. And just to say one more thing about that, the disorienting dilemma can be experienced within an individual or within a group, and Vertical Facilitation is simply about surfacing moments in which that disorienting dilemma becomes present for people, whether individuals or the whole group, such that they can make a choice. So the important thing here is awareness and choice, and I called it an existential choice because it's a choice in how to exist in relation to this situation. And when people can make that choice toward a more complex way of making sense, not only does it alter the way they relate to this particular situation, but in that very alteration, it alters the sort of neural connections by which they make sense of other similar situations. And so that's what we mean by transformation. A transformation occurs when there's the, an alteration through the exercise of this existential choice of those that the kind of neural network by which we've come to make sense of a given situation or set of situations. So that's about the shortest way I could say it was. Lyssa Adkins Well, and let me just highlight how incredibly powerful this fulcrum is, because once we can get up underneath the unexamined lenses that people are looking at the world through, and once we can help them encounter this thing that used to be like perfectly fine and it's somehow limiting now, then it's not only the situation that they're presented with right now that has different outcomes and maybe more success, but it's everything like this and everything in the future that is related that gets a lift. I mean, so like the leverage capability is really, really high with this kind of development and this kind of transformational experience. Michael Hamman Yeah, and at the expense of elongating this, this part, but I just want to build on something that Lyssa said here that part of what happens when vertical learning happens, or when transformational learning happens, is that people have a state, have state experiences, and so a state experience, we've all had them, it's a moment, it's a kind of an ‘aha’ moment, so it's a sort of cognitive insight, which is combined with an emotion. It's a certain emotion. And you could say that at those moments, something in us gets connected to something much deeper. It's like we have a moment where we're drilling down into some deeper part of ourselves and being able to pull up a kind of wisdom. Now we've all had these, you know, these moments of, we call them state experiences and oftentimes we pooh-pooh state experiences because, well, you know, that was so, you know, last week because quote unquote state experiences fade. Now part of what happens with deliberate Vertical Facilitation is that we stage sequences of moments in which people experience state experiences. And what the research shows is that when people can repeat state experiences, it tightens up the new neural connections that get created during any given state experience. And so there are many pieces to the art of Vertical Facilitation, and one of them is this kind of engineering of situations that bring about these state experiences where people have an ‘aha’ by virtue of having gotten to the other side of some sort of disorienting dilemma. Ula Ojiaku Right. Wow. Are there any stories that you could share highlighting, you know, like where you facilitated or you implemented Vertical Facilitation, created a situation or scenario where people were put into, you know, where they experienced dilemmas and then you were able to facilitate them to get to that state experience, are there any stories that you could share just to give some of, myself included, you know, a kind of example that we could identify with? Michael Hamman Yeah, I think I would like for us to offer a couple of examples, maybe one that's, maybe from when we were doing the Coaching Agile Teams classes. And then I'd like to offer an example from something that's a little bit more personal in tone. So, I don't know, do you want to speak to the first one, Lyssa? Lyssa Adkins Well, what I'd love us to do is for you to offer the example and then let me help you make it clear how that example created heat experiences, connected to the bigger game, like the different aspects of Vertical Facilitation that you are now exposing for the world. Does that sound good? Michael Hamman Yeah, that sounds good. So, the first example used to happen a lot when we were teaching this class Coaching Agile Teams. And a lot of our listeners probably took it years ago. And there's a moment in that class, this is just one example of many such moments, but there's a moment in this class where we teach a skill that we called Level Two Listening, and the distinction between Level One and Level Two Listening and Level One, just to say something about that distinction to get the example across, Level One Listening is listening to my own thoughts and paying attention to my own thoughts, I'm with this other person, but I'm really not with them, whereas Level Two Listening is as I'm really with them, and I'm not only hearing what they're saying, but I'm actually,  I'm not only listening to what they're saying, but I'm listening for who this person is. So there's a quality of genuine relationship in this moment. And I'm not trying to take this person anywhere, I'm not trying to get them, you know, I'm not trying to figure anything out with them. And so then we invite people to practice this and what happens invariably is that people have this, first of all, it's very uncomfortable initially, that they have this disorienting dilemma because they're so used to like having to figure out, okay, well how can I help this person, or what can I say, or, you know, I'm not really understanding what this person's saying, or, you know, all the stuff that goes on when we're in that Level One Listening. So there's a disorienting dilemma. But then there's the ‘aha’ that happens when something shifts in the way that the other person is expressing themselves. You know, like they suddenly become more, maybe coherent or they become more self-expressive, or maybe authentic. And so they have the experience of that connection and it becomes possible for them to make that existential choice. Wow. That was really amazing. You know, typically we have those kinds of experiences when we're falling in love, but not when I'm talking with somebody that I just met earlier today. So that would be one example. Ula Ojiaku Would you say Level Two Listening again, and this is me trying to make sense of the terminology, would that equate to what, well, I know as active listening, because that is really about just listening, not just for the words that are being said, but what's the, you know, are there any emotions being conveyed with it? What’s the body language, can you read in between the lines, but just focusing on what they're saying without thinking about what your response is going to be or what your counter-argument is going to be. Michael Hamman Yeah I would say that Level Two Listening, how I would really clearly differentiate is that it's me being silent, you know? So I'm not trying to establish camaraderie with this other person, quote unquote, camaraderie. I'm simply being present and hearing what they're saying and listening to what they're saying and being attentive to who they're being. And what I understand about active listening is that sometimes you want to say things to indicate to the person that you're following them, that you're with them. And, you know, we find that to be actually, counterintuitively perhaps, a bit distracting, whereas Level Two Listening is just, it's actually more uncomfortable, because we're not really saying and to clarify Level Two Listening there. Lyssa Adkins Yeah. And for people who are more interested in that language level of listening comes from the Coactive Coaching School, it's often also called focused listening or listening for, those are and active listening is an adjacent and related topic, but has been, has the history that Michael just talked about that sometimes is counterproductive. Okay, so Michael, for that situation that you just talked about, which used to happen every single time and every single Coaching Agile Team's class, we could rely on this being a disorienting dilemma for people, right. So, just to be clear about the four perspectives, heat experiences, stretch practices, social container, and bigger game. So how does that situation, how is it an example of heat experience? Michael Hamman So a disorienting dilemma is a heat experience. And by a heat experience we mean it's an experience in which something in us gets challenged, some known category gets challenged, and we often feel it at first as anxiety. Sometimes we feel it as a sense of excitement, oftentimes it's a mix of feelings. But it's always this sense that something is getting challenged, some category. I don't mean us as a person's getting challenged, but the way in which we are making sense of something is getting challenged in the moment in which that sense making is occurring. So it can't happen, you know, retroactively, it can't happen with respect to something that I did or said yesterday. It has to be elicited in this moment and that's the key to creating a heat experience. And there are lots of different ways to create heat experiences. But that's one of them, that's the most classic way. Lyssa Adkins Yeah. And I would say that people did experience that heat experience as very confronting. We would often ask, so what was that like? And they'd be like, I hated it, oh my God, I felt so weird. You know, it was like this whole mix, and then there would also be the person who would say like, oh, I found it so relieving, right. Like, so there's a whole mix of how people are dealing with it. And I think that moves to the second of the four that we could talk about now, which is social container. So like how in that situation was there a social container, Michael, that helped make this a Vertical Facilitation moment? Michael Hamman Yeah, great. So this was toward the end of the first day of Coaching Agile Teams. And by that point we had, there's a way in which, Lyssa, Michael Spayd and myself, the three of us who led these courses, there was a way in which we held the space, we use that term holding the space, which is paying attention to not only what's happening with individuals, so we might be interacting with an individual, but also scanning, we're constantly scanning the space to see what's happening. How is this landing? You know, does the space feel stuck, and from time to time, giving feedback to the group or to the class, you know, wow, the space, the energy feels stuck, what's happening. And so inviting people to get involved, to elicit their own awareness of the space or the group, or the emotional energy, which oftentimes, you know, we don't pay attention, as human beings we are aware of these things, but we have so long ago lost our ability to have our awareness of that awareness. And so part of what happens is we elicit this awareness of group energy and what that does in combined with, you know, the fact that we're bringing people to these disorienting dilemmas is a certain kind of bondedness happens. There's a unique quality of bondedness and this is something that people always remarked about these courses and in other courses that both Lyssa and I do, the quality of social bondedness creates an environment of safety, right? So we talk about, you know, emotional safety, right? But it makes it possible for us then to challenge each other, it makes it possible for the environment to be challenging. So it's both safe and challenging. So in that moment, it was, that environment was really starting to come alive. Ula Ojiaku On that point about the social container and, you know, saying you create a state where, well not state, but you create a situation where there's a social bond with the group. Would you say that what something that would help with that bonding is trust, an element of trust that I can be vulnerable is there? Lyssa Adkins So trust is a tricky one, because everyone's got a different definition of it. And so one of the things that we would do, and that I would suggest everyone do in a transformational learning environment is to just consciously and explicitly design the alliance of how this is going to go between all of us together. And the purpose for doing that is to put the participants in the driver's seat in terms of being responsible for their own experience, but also to empower the course leaders to lead people through these experiences. And so when someone would say, well, we would say something like, so what do we need in this environment for you to really get the most out of it? Oh, I need it to be, I need to trust it. Okay, great. What do you mean by trust? So once we get below sort of the easy word, then we get to what people really need in the container. And the most important thing then, as the chorus or as the program or as the leadership development longitudinal thing goes on, whatever thing you're doing, as it goes on, what the most important thing is, is for the leaders to constantly be affirming of, bringing in Vertical Facilitation to whatever program you're doing, and the other two are stretch practices and bigger game. Michael Hamman So stretch practice is a practice that requires that somebody stretch some known category. So it's very much related to, by the way, all four of these qualities, we call them design elements, overlap, and they, you know, they synchronistically, you know, interact with one another, so they're not really to be seen in isolation. So stretch practice is one that, the practice of which requires that something in my way of understanding things has to shift. So for instance, in this case, you know, inviting people to practice Level Two Listening, which by the time they did it for the third time, they were starting to get it. You know, there was that shift from awareness of the disorienting dilemma to an existential choice, wow, this is really a profound way to work with other people. And so the stretch practice here was a very simple one, which is this thing of Level Two Listening. So, you know, oftentimes, in fact, almost always transformational learning happens through the introduction of some sort of stretch practice, that the stretch practice is a kind of vehicle, a kind of catalyst for creating a situational moment in which transformational learning becomes possible, because I want us to keep in mind that this is not about reflecting on things that happened yesterday or last week. This is about bringing situations present in the moment,  and there's a whole psychological research called memory reconsolidation that's in the background of all of this. We're not going to get into that right now, but it's an important technology and this is why it's important to make these situations that are happening in the now. And so that would be an example of a stretch practice, the practice of which something has to shift in the way that somebody makes sense of something. Lyssa Adkins And to just be really clear about what the stretch practice was, like the first stretch practice was so simple on its face. It was basically this. Now that you have heard about Level One Listening, which is all about you, your ideas, how you want to be valuable, how you want to be smart, how you want to show this person you're listening. Shift to Level Two, which is you being focused on what they're saying, what's behind the words, and as you said earlier, Ula, what's the emotional content that's going on there? So here's the instruction. You're going to listen to this person talk about something real and something that is on their mind for three minutes, and you're not going to say anything. And the reason you're not going to say anything is because you want some space in your mind to notice, ah, when am I with them at Level Two? And when do I fall back to Level One? No big deal, just come back to Level Two. So it created a new, on the face of it, very simple practice, but it confronted people's as yet unexamined beliefs about how they bring value. Ula Ojiaku That's powerful, powerful. Michael Hamman And again, keep in mind that this is a synergy. So we need all four of these, right? So we've just related our thinking to three of these design elements: heat experiences, social container best practices, and so now there's a fourth one. You can kind of think of this as, you know, the legs of a table. You know, the table will stand up with, may stand up with three legs, but it's going to be very wobbly, you need all four of these to create a solidly transformative learning environment, and the fourth of these is what we call a bigger game and a bigger game is that we relate to what we're doing with a commitment to our own growth. So for instance, in this example, many people came into this course with a commitment to growing themselves as an natural coach, and because of the way we open and start the class, people start to confront what does it really mean to be an agile coach? And people realise that the commitment is ultimately to their own inner growth,  they don't necessarily know exactly what that means, and it's a shared commitment, there's a quality, so this is, the bigger game has to be a shared commitment, it can't just be, you know, I've got this commitment, and maybe you do, but we're clear we're kind of in the same boat together, and what holds us together is this shared commitment. It's what gets us through those moments, say, of conflict, you know, when it's hard, or when, you know, I'm having kind of a really tough moment, right here, and what gets me through it is this commitment to, maybe even to other people, but certainly for myself. Ula Ojiaku It's a bigger game, shared commitment to a common goal. Lyssa, what do you want to add anything? Lyssa Adkins I would say so common goal makes it sound like we all want exactly the same thing, and that's not necessarily, so I like what Michael says, like, we're all in the same boat together. This boat is going in one direction, right? There's a lot of variability between people's bigger games and how they think about those and how that pulls them forward to get them through these heat experiences and all of that. And so that's, I think, another function of the bigger game that is really important is oftentimes people will come to a transformational learning experience thinking, I'm going to get some more tools and techniques, and fair enough, certainly they will along the way, but those tools and techniques, that sort of content, that knowledge that's getting transferred to people is happening in the context of those people confronting the lenses, the glasses they had on, they didn't know they had on, confronting the fact that they're just sort of maybe bobbing through life and they're not connected to a bigger game. You know, so all of that is happening at the same time. And so I would say that the, in a Vertical Facilitation, from a Vertical Facilitation perspective, the content that you are trying to convey as a leader of, let's say it's a leadership development program, or a five day transformational learning experience, whatever it is, that content is a peer to the transformational learning experience itself. They go together, and that's what makes it transformational. Otherwise, we could just, you know, record a video and say, download this information to your brain, operate here, and that would work fine as long as the world weren't getting more complex, but it is. Michael Hamman You know, so for people to get a real genuine taste for this, we are starting what we call a learning journey, a Vertical Facilitation Learning Journey. And the journey actually has two parts: the first part is a free series of webinars, emails, us providing resources so that people can get a strong foundational orientation around what Vertical Facilitation is, both conceptually, but also they will get an experience of it because it's very, very hard to demo it unless you're actually doing something with a group, so people who would like to see this at work, we invite you to go to and sign up and join the learning journey. The first part is free, the first three months is free, and then if it's something that is truly compelling, the second part, which is the paid part, takes you on a very deep dive into developing yourself in terms of skills and leadership stances as a vertical facilitator. So I think that's what I would invite people to do. Ula Ojiaku Okay. You said that if there's a learning journey, three part experience, there's the webinar, and the part one is on, you know, the intro to Vertical Facilitation per se, and the second one is paid. I don’t know if I got the third part, what would be part three? Michael Hamman The third part is for people who do the deep dive, the paid deep dive portion, and it's a set of follow up emails and other resources that help people to integrate what they learn, because what happens during the deep dive, among other things is that people actually design and hopefully facilitate a small either workshop or intervention of some sort where they actually practice the skills and distinctions that they have learned, both in that free orientation part, but also in the deep dive. So that's the third part. The name of the course is the Vertical Facilitator. Ula Ojiaku And there is something on, you know, the latest post you made on LinkedIn, about something starting in August. Is this related to that course or is it different? Lyssa Adkins It is, that's the deep dive portion. So between now and August are going to be the webinars, the free resources, but basically getting us into this new composition together. Ula Ojiaku And would it be in person, or virtual, the August dive? Michael Hamman It will be virtual. Lyssa Adkins Because that's the hardest, so virtual's the hardest, we figure we might as well go ahead and go there since that's going to be people's context, not all the time, but more of the time. Michael Hamman Yeah. So at a future time, probably the second time we do it, we will do the deep dive portion or part of the deep dive portion as a live event. Ula Ojiaku Okay, and then one last thing, any final words for the audience in terms of what we've covered so far? Michael Hamman The only thing that comes to mind is that join us on this learning journey so you can get a taste of this. So, you know, we've, the best we've been able to do is sort of maybe elicit a little bit of the quality that's present when Vertical Facilitation is happening and, people may have noticed perhaps the way of being a way of Lyssa and I working together, and Lyssa and I are both very skilled vertical facilitators and so we would invite you to come and join us. Ula Ojiaku Thank you, Lyssa, anything? Lyssa Adkins No, I think we have said so much and I've so appreciated the richness of this and also that Ula, I'm so appreciative that this podcast gets to be part of the kick-off of what's truly a new thing. Michael Hamman Yeah, I also want to express my appreciation for you, because this is, you know, you have a certain grace in your manner, and I felt like this has just been a really wonderful podcast experience for me, thank you. Ula Ojiaku Thanks, both of you are very kind and very gracious, and the honour is mine and (it’s been) a great experience for me. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!     
53:08 6/4/23
(S3) E029 Jeff Gothelf on What Makes a Great Product Manager: Humility, Curiosity and Agility
Bio Jeff helps organizations build better products and executives build the cultures that build better products. He is the co-author of the award-winning book Lean UX (now in it’s 3rd edition) and the Harvard Business Review Press book Sense & Respond. Starting off as a software designer, Jeff now works as a coach, consultant and keynote speaker helping companies bridge the gaps between business agility, digital transformation, product management and human-centred design. His most recent book, Forever Employable, was published in June 2020. Social Media ·         LinkedIn ·         Jeff Gothelf - coaching, consulting, training & keynotes · ·         Twitter ·         Instagram ·         Jeff Gothelf - YouTube    Interview Highlights 04:50 Early career 16:00 Thought leadership 19:10 Outsource the work you hate, it shows 23:00 Defining a product 24:35 Product Managers as navigators of uncertainty 28:15 Succeeding as a Product Manager 37:25 Strategy, vision and mission 42:00 OKRs 48:00 Leading and lagging indicators 54:10 Do less, more often    Books and resources ·         Forever Employable - how to stop looking for work - Jeff Gothelf      ·         Best product management books - Lean UX, Sense & Respond... ( ·         Lean vs. Agile vs. Design Thinking: What You Really Need to Know to Build High-Performing Digital Product Teams: Gothelf, Jeff ·         Sense and Respond: How Successful Organizations Listen to Customers and Create New Products Continuously: Gothelf, Jeff, Seiden, Josh ·         The role of a Product Manager: Product Managers are Navigators of Uncertainty ·         Information Architecture, Louis Rosenfeld, Peter Morville, Jorge Arango ·         The Lean Startup | The Movement That Is Transforming How New Products Are Built And Launched ·         Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making, Tony Fadell ·         The Creative Act: A Way of Being: Rubin, Rick Episode Transcript Ula Ojiaku Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. So I have with me the legend, Jeff Gothelf, who is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, highly sought after keynote speaker I must add, coach and much more. So Jeff, really honoured to have you on the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast, thank you. Jeff Gothelf It's my pleasure, Ula, thanks so much for having me. I'm thrilled to be here. Ula Ojiaku Oh, good. Well, I usually start with a question for my guests to find out more about themselves as individuals. And during our pre-recording session, you mentioned something that was intriguing to me, that you actually played piano and you were part of a touring musical band, could you tell us about that? Jeff Gothelf Absolutely. I've played piano my whole life, my dad plays piano, there was always a piano in the house, and I had pretty big rockstar dreams as I was a kid growing up. It's really all I wanted to do. I can remember in high school everybody's like, what are you going to go to college for? I was like, I'm going to be a rockstar, figure that out. And, you know, I played in bands in high school, I played in bands in college, and towards the end of college I started playing in a couple of relatively serious bands, serious in the sense that they were decent bands, in my opinion. They were touring bands and they, you know, they made enough money to sustain themselves. They weren't jobs, they didn't sustain us as individuals, but they sustained the band system. And it's fascinating because, you know, at the time I was 19 and 20, I did this really until just about the time I met my wife, which, I was 25. And so I did it until about, I was about 25, and, you know, in hindsight you don't see it when you're in it, especially if you've never really done anything else. I'd always had jobs, but the jobs were always, you know, I delivered newspapers and I made sandwiches and I was a, you know, worked for a moving company, whatever, right? But in hindsight now it's clear to me that I was being entrepreneurial. In those days, the bands, each of them, especially the touring bands, were startups, you know, it's a bunch of folks getting together with a crazy idea, thinking that everyone in the world will love it, it's going to change the world, and doing everything they can and putting everything into helping folks realise that, and building that vision and, and executing on it. And, you know, scraping by and hacking things together and hustling and doing what you can to build a successful, in this case it was a musical group, but it was essentially a startup. And these days, not only do I look back fondly on those days and all those, all those guys that I played music with are my best friends to this day, we still talk almost every day, but I learned so many skills about being entrepreneurial, about experimenting, about learning, about failure, about iteration, about, you know, what's good, what's good enough, when do you call it quits, that's a really tough thing to do, you know, letting something go that you love is really difficult. And I know now, you know, 20 years later, that so much of that experience figures into my day-to-day work today. You know, even to this day, like if I get a new speech to give, if I get, a new client or a new, you know, assignment, I call them gigs. You know, I got a new speaking gig, I got a new consulting gig, I got a new coaching gig, that type of thing. It's impossible to remove that. And it's, it's amazing to me really, because at the time, you know, I could not have told you what I just said to you and, but in hindsight it's super clear to me what I was doing and what I was learning because I've put it to use over and over and over again in my life. Ula Ojiaku That's fascinating. It reminds me of what one of my mentors said to me, and he said, whenever you are given an opportunity to learn versus, you know, get more money doing what you already know, always choose to learn because there's no wasted knowledge. So it's more of tying it back to your days that, you know, as a musician, as a part of a touring band, you were learning and you're now using those transferrable skills, right? Jeff Gothelf Yes. Ula Ojiaku And would you, well, I don't play any instruments, but I used to be part of, you know, different choirs and my daughter also now does that, you know, kind of sings. But there are times when, you know, things would go wrong and you're finding yourself having to improvise so that the audience wouldn't know, okay, this isn't part of the script. Would you say that has also played a part in your experience as a band member did such? Jeff Gothelf I mean, the thing that comes immediately to mind is just comfort on a stage, right? Comfort in front of people and being able, you know, being comfortable in front of a room and performing to some extent or another. I think that that's, that came from that, the ability to, you know, hide or improvise, mistakes that happened. You know, I remember I was, we did this as a band all the time, and nobody ever knew really, unless they knew a particular song of ours very, very well. And you know, some things like that happen all the time when you're, giving a speech or teaching a class or whatever it is. I mean, I remember giving a speech in Budapest one time at Craft Conference in front of 2000 people, and the screen kept going out, my slides are up there in front of, and they kept flickering and, and going out. And it was just a question of, you know, what do you do? Do you just sort of collapse and be like, well, the slides are gone, I can't do anything, or do you keep going? And I think a lot of that drive and that ability to land on my feet in those situations came from being in that band and putting on so many shows. Ula Ojiaku And I'll say it helps that you knew your content as well, because if you had just read it 10 minutes before and you got on the stage, then it would be a different thing. Jeff Gothelf It would not have gone well. Ula Ojiaku Yes. Okay, now I understand you have a BA in Mass Communication and you also went on to do a Masters in Human Factors in Information Design, and in your previous life you used to be a software designer. Jeff Gothelf Correct. Ula Ojiaku How did the winding road go from band member, you know, through the academics, to Jeff we know today, I mean from software designer to now. Jeff Gothelf Yeah, it's interesting, it's a great question. The, look, the rockstar thing didn't work out, you know, there's a thousand reasons, but I think the bottom line is we just weren't good enough, that's, that's probably where it netted out, but… Ula Ojiaku  And you were getting married, you said you met your wife. Jeff Gothelf I was getting married, yeah. You know, and having no money doesn't, those two things don't really play well together, you know, and so the band thing was ending and, you know, the web was starting, so we're looking at the late nineties at this point, just to kind of date myself a little bit, we're looking at the late nineties and in the late nineties as the band was, the last band that I was in, was winding down, the internet was coming up and I'd always been prone, you know, to computers and a little bit of computer programming, just very basic stuff, you know, and I started building websites, basic, you know, brochure websites for my band and for other bands, and I taught myself HTML to be able to do that. And then as the band was winding down, web 1.0 was happening and, you know, back in 1999, if you could spell HTML, you could get a job, you know, and I could do a little bit more than that, I did a little bit of graphic design, a little bit of, of HTML, and so I got a job, I got a job because it was easy to get a job back then, they took a lot of risks on people, and we learned on the job and that's what kicked things off, that got me doing web design and shortly thereafter I moved into Information Architecture, which was a brand new term and a brand new field as defined in a book by Lou Rosenfeld and Peter Morville called Information Architecture for the Worldwide Web. And that book really changed my life because it gave me a sense that I, instead of just doing kind of the last step in the process, which was the markup and the design portion, I could move further up the waterfall, if you will, in the website creation process and do a lot of the Information Architecture, and that was great, and that was really, that really spoke to me and having sort of landed in that position, as the web evolved and became more interactive and Information Architecture expanded into, well, more fields showed up in interaction design, UI design, UX design, I expanded my skillset into that world. And then that really began the trajectory of starting to build design teams and then going into product management, eventually launching our own studio, our own firm, and then finally after selling that studio, going out on my own and teaching all this stuff. But that's, that's sort of like how I went from band, to the web and everything, and there's, you know, there's a lot, I skipped a lot of steps there, but that's the story in general. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for that, Jeff, and I think you also told part of your story in your book Forever Employable, How to Stop Looking for Work and Let your Next Job Find You. Since we're already on this topic, could we just delve into that? So you said something in that book about, you know, in your job as a software designer, you know, Information Architect, I can't remember the exact role you had, but you had an aha moment where you felt you, quoting this in my own words, I'm not quoting your book exactly, but you felt like you could always be replaced in that role and you wanted to carve out a niche where you are always in demand. Do you want to tell that story in your words so that I stop butchering it. Jeff Gothelf Yeah, I mean, look, it was interesting, you know, I progressed in my career in the same way that, you know, most people progress in their career, the way that my parents told me the world works, you know, you go to college, you get a job. It took me, and there was a little, you know, band break in there for me, but, you know, I got my first job, and then you work hard for a few years and you get a promotion, and then you, maybe you move to another company and you get a raise and, you know, you just kind of move your way, you climb your way up the corporate ladder. And that's what I did, I did that for a decade and I, you know, I clawed my way up into middle management like everybody does, or like most folks do. And when I turned 35, on the morning, in fact, of my 35th birthday is how the story goes in the book, I kind of woke up in a panic. I was concerned, like you said, that this wasn't going to last. I was going to become more expensive, the number of opportunities available to me as you climb, available to anyone, as you climb the corporate ladder gets smaller and smaller and smaller. Right? Exactly. Right. That's by design, right? You want fewer managers and more people doing the work. And I was genuinely concerned that I was going to run out of, I was going to get fired, I was, there's, I was hiring people at the time and the people that we were hiring were younger than me, they were smarter than me, faster than me, they were better than me, and they cost a lot less than me. And so I was really worried, and I saw this with my friends too, I had friends who were maybe five years older than me who were struggling with this very thing. They were struggling to find a job or stay employed, and stay relevant. And I was terrified. I was terrified I wasn't going to be able to feed my kids, you know, that was the big thing for me. And so I made an explicit decision when I turned 35 that I was going to stop chasing jobs. Like, as the subtitle of the book says, How to Stop Looking for Work and Let Your Next Job Find You, I was going to stop looking for work, and I was going to create a situation where jobs were constantly finding me, where opportunities were finding me, because that way if something happens to my current job, well there's a stream of inbound opportunities available to me. And to kind of cut to the chase here, the way that I decided to do that, and the way that I write about it in the book, is through thought leadership. That's it. Like, that's the, you know, recognised expertise, personal branding, right, becoming somebody who people know and somebody who can help solve specific problems, and that's what I did. And look, it took me years, a lot of years, to really build up my reputation and my profile, and I've done it to an extent, and it's impressive to me today to see how many people are doing it so much faster than me. Now, you can credit it to the tools that's available to them, the nature of conversation online these days that's fundamentally different than it was 10 or 15 years ago, and these folks have just kind of nailed, nailed the system here. But it's thought leadership is what's worked for me to do that. Ula Ojiaku And I'll say, I mean, yes, there are people who might have done it faster than you did, but there is this saying that people are able, if I'm able to see as far as I did, it’s because I'm standing on the shoulders of giants. I'm just saying it's credit to you for sharing your experience because it's helping us to know what to do moving forward. Jeff Gothelf Look, and that's, I think that that's the benefit here, right? I think I talk about this in the book, right? About sharing generously, giving back to the community, helping people avoid the mistakes that you made, helping them skip a step. And to me that's, you know, a lot of folks would see that as, well, aren't you enabling the competition? No, I'm helping the community get collectively better. And eventually I hope that if I get to a position of need, the community will help me, that's what I hope. I don't expect it, but that's what I hope happens. Ula Ojiaku So how, how did you go about setting up the systems then? Because you, you got this realisation, oh my gosh, I am going to be, I may be obsolete in my current role faster than I'd rather admit, so you said you now went, you said, okay, you're going to be a thought leader. How did you decide on what area to start from and how did you then go about setting up the systems and the structure you have right now that are helping you? Jeff Gothelf The first thing was really to decide what I wanted to be known for. You know, in the book we call it planting your flag, but it's a question of what is, if I'm going to be a thought leader, if I'm going to build a personal brand of some kind, if I'm going to be known for something, what is that thing? And, and you know, our natural tendency is to go for professional things. What do I know best at work? What do I do best? I'm a Project Manager, a Product Manager, I'm an agile coach, I'm a software developer, I'm a designer, but doesn't have to be professional. Could be personal, right? I told you I play piano and I happen to really love old vintage electric pianos. And I used to have a fairly large collection of vintage electric pianos. I could have built my thought leadership around vintage electric pianos, right, and it's viable to an extent, but the target audience here, so this is where kind of the product management hat comes on, right? The target audience is tiny. It's tiny. Like, even if you took all the keyboard players in the world, right? And, and then all those keyboard players who play vintage electric pianos, which is a subset, and all the people who care about this kind of stuff. I mean, it's still an infinitely smaller audience than say, web design, or product management, or even agile software development or things like that where I ultimately ended up. And so I chose that I wanted to be known for User Experience Design, and more importantly, UX design with Agile, because that's the problem that I was solving at the time, or solving for at the time, and nobody had a really good answer for it when we started solving for it, and that to me felt like an opportunity. And then that was what I, so then I started doubling down on that. And what that meant was starting to write, starting to share generously, speaking at conferences, getting on podcasts, things like that. And really starting to, at the very least, tell the story of the work that we were doing at the time, as I was the Director of UX at TheLadders in New York City at the time, and we were working on a daily basis, on a Sprintly basis, to tackle the challenge of good user experience design and agile together. So that's what I was writing about. And that eventually led to Lean UX, the book. But that's how it all started and that's where the focus was. Ula Ojiaku Okay. And how have you then set up the structure? Do you have a team currently or do you work in a lean manner? Jeff Gothelf So these days there is a system and there is a team. It's interesting, years ago I did a gig in the UK, see I said gig, comes out naturally like I told you. I did a gig in the UK for in Manchester. And at the time, their Head of Product or Chief Product Officer, was this fascinating woman named Supriya Uchil. And she was a fantastic client. I really enjoyed working with her. And when the gig was over, she emailed me, she said, hey, would you like to hear some feedback about what it's like to work with you? No client has ever done that, by the way, not before, and not since. And I said, absolutely. I would love to get some feedback about what it was like to work with me. And she gave me a bunch of feedback, a lot of the work. And I took a lot of notes and I took a lot of post-it notes. One of those post-it notes has stuck with me for years now. It still sits here on my whiteboard, I still have it here, and it says outsource the work you hate, it shows. Right. And that's what she said to me. And she said, look, it's obvious to me that you hate doing sales. She goes, every time we had to have a sales conversation, you were clearly uncomfortable and not really into it. Right. She was right. I hate doing sales, I really do, and so over the years, as I've built this business, as it's grown, as it's become a, you know, a viable, successful business, you know, business of one per se. I have built a team of outsourced professionals to support a lot of the work that I do today. So, for example, I have a content marketing team. Now that team takes content that I create and they repurpose it across multiple channels, and they help me build, you know, my email newsletter and they help me build my LinkedIn presence and other things like that. It's my content, but they do all of that work. In addition to that, I've outsourced all my accounting. I have a fantastic accountant who works with businesses, only with businesses like mine, and so they understand my business and my way of working, everything's online, everything's digital, and that's super helpful. There is a woman that works for me part-time who basically handles the entire logistics of my business, scheduling, calendaring, travel. And then on top of that, she also handles BusDev and sales for me. And so that, to me, all that does is it removes all the things out of my way that I hate doing, and it leaves me with a tremendous amount of free time to do the things that I love doing, which is content creation and delivery. And that has made the ability to generate that content and distribute that content far more efficient and successful. And I'm super grateful to be able to, you know, to be in a position to be able to do that. And it supports the lifestyle that I'm trying to create and it allows me to, again, to focus on the things that I truly enjoy doing. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for sharing that, that's really insightful. Now, going back to something you said earlier about putting on your Product Management hat, there are some people in the audience who might be wondering, okay, what would you define a product as? Is it always something tangible or could we expand that word to mean anything that someone consumes, which might also be intangible, for example, going to a show, would a show be called a product? Jeff Gothelf That's a great question. The simplest definition that I've used and that I like for product is the way an organisation delivers and captures value. To me, that's a product. Now, that product could be a service, right? And I don't want to open up that can of worms. So if you're a band and you deliver a show, you cap you. that's how you deliver value. And if you capture value, like you sell tickets to that show, and merchandise, and maybe streaming revenue, then your product is the music and the show. So, yeah, absolutely, right, that's the way that you capture value. And so to me that's the simplest definition, the way an organisation delivers and captures value. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for that definition, and this leads me to my next question, which is, so how does it relate to the discipline of product management? What does a Product Manager do then? Jeff Gothelf I believe that Product Managers are navigators of uncertainty. So a Product Manager's job is to take an idea, right, or, you know, the way an organisation delivers value, and to take it from concept, to market, to successful business. Now, the challenge with that is that we live in a continuously changing world. The pace of that change is increasingly faster, and this idea that you can confidently predict exactly what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and be right all the time is false. There's just too much change in the world. I mean, think back three years ago, right? The world was radically different three years ago than it is today. Radically different from 10 years ago, we could, we could not have predicted the things. I mean, I started my job at TheLadders in New York City, I talk about this, in October of 2008. Everything was going great in October, in the early part of October 2008. Right, we had a roadmap, we had plans, you know, in three weeks after I started my brand new job as Director of User Experience, Lehman Brothers melts down, and the financial crisis ensues, right, and we, you know, we're a job market site and all of a sudden the whole ecosystem's upside down. And so, and so I believe that the Product Manager is a navigator of uncertainty. They take a specific set of skills, a specific set of qualities, like curiosity and humility, and they build a process for de-risking the product idea and maximizing its chances for success. That's what I believe Product Managers do at a very high level. How that manifests will vary from Google, to Bank of America, to Boeing, to whatever, to, you know, I'm thinking, I'm trying to think of something like Cisco, the food service people or whatever, right? Like every organisation is going to do Product Management differently for a variety of reasons. You know, domain, industry context, corporate politics, blah, blah, blah, you know, technology stack, whatever. But at the end of the day, I think if you're looking at sort of fundamentally what a Product Manager does is they help a team navigate the uncertainty of product development. That's their job. Ula Ojiaku I dare say that even within a sector, even an industry, the way it's carried out could also vary from company to company, would you? Jeff Gothelf A hundred percent, yeah, I mean, a hundred percent. I mean, it's absolutely true. And so I think to say like, oh, I did Product Management at Google, so I'm a great Product Manager. Well, you might have been a great Product Manager at Google, congratulations, right? Does that mean that you're going to be a great Product Manager at, you know, Barclays, I don't know. You're going to bring that skillset to bear in a completely different environment, in a completely different industry. So I think if you've got the fundamentals in place, you'll do great. But trying to sort of copy and paste what you did at Google very tactically into a different environment, I don't think it's going to work. I mean, happy to be proven wrong, but I don't think it's going to work. Ula Ojiaku So what are the fundamentals then that a Product Manager would have that would give them a higher chance of success? You know, transferrable success from one area to one another. Jeff Gothelf I'm going talk about two qualities that are, I believe are fundamental to the success of a Product Manager, and then kind of four things to keep in mind. And I think those are, I think that to me, those are the fundamentals. I think that the two qualities that a Product Manager needs to have is humility and curiosity. I think all successful Product Managers are humble and curious. And those are really two sides of the same coin, let's be honest, okay. There's really, there are two different ways to describe a very similar quality in a person. Now, humility simply means, people misunderstand humility. People think humility is a lack of vision or a lack of conviction or a lack of ideas. Or being a doormat. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. And it's not, humility simply says that, look, I have, uh, I'm going to use my expertise and my experience to come up with a strong opinion about what we should do. However, in the face of evidence that contradicts my strong opinion, I'm willing to change course. That's humility. That's saying, you know what? I was wrong about this. The evidence proves that I was wrong, so we're going to change course. The curiosity side of the story is the excitement in finding out if you were right or wrong, and to me, those two fundamental qualities of a person make for excellent Product Managers. Somebody who's willing to admit that they were wrong about their strong opinion, and somebody who's excited to find out if they're right or wrong about their strong opinion, and curious to see if maybe there's a better way, right? I think this is a good idea, but there's got to be a better way, no, let's go find it. To me, that makes for excellent Product Managers. So those are the fundamental sort of personality qualities. I think those are really hard to teach. I think you can train people to some extent but, you know, ego's tough and humility challenges the ego a lot. And so do the facts for that matter, facts challenge the ego a lot, the evidence you collect from the market. So then there's that. And I think the four sort of things to keep in mind for excellent sort of transferrable product management are customer centricity, agility, evidence-based decision making, and continuous learning and improvement. So a lot of agile concepts in there, you'll hear sort of a lot of agile concepts. You can argue all of them are agile concepts, although not exactly how all agile is implemented these days, but nevertheless, so customer centricity first and foremost, right? As a curious and humble Product Manager, your primary focus is making the customer successful, not shipping features, making the customer successful. That means understanding the customer, understanding the problem that you're solving for them, understanding what's getting in their way, understanding what they're doing today, understanding how the competition is solving this problem for people, understanding technology and how you might apply it to better solve this problem, understanding where the market is going so that you get ahead of it, you don't get caught behind, right? But it's all about understanding the customer. What are customers looking for? What are they trying to achieve? What's getting in their way? And really knowing them, not just quantitatively, but qualitatively, meeting them, talking to them, having regular conversations. To me, that's the first sort of key quality of a successful Product Manager. The second is agility, and that stems directly from those qualities of humility and curiosity. Agility is the ability to change course, it's the willingness to change course. It's the flexibility to say, you know, we started going down this path and I know we've spent a couple of Sprints heading down this path, but it doesn't make sense anymore, and so we're going to change course. And yeah, we burned two Sprints on this and that sucks, and I'm sorry, but we didn't burn two months on it, we didn't burn six months on it, right. And so we're going to shift to something more successful because of what we've learned in the past. And that brings me to the third point, which is evidence-based decision making. So those course corrections are being made based on data that you're gathering from the market, qualitative data, quantitative data that lets you know that, yeah, this is a good path to go down. Or, you know what, we really need to pivot here or to completely change course into something else, but you're making decisions based on data and not just opinion. And then finally, this continuous learning and improvement. This, again, this is that curiosity that says, we did a good job, we solved the problem, the product's successful, great. How do we make it better? How do we keep learning whether or not this still makes sense? Right? To me, that's what makes for successful Product Managers, right? Those multiple focus areas and two core qualities of humility and curiosity. I think that's what makes for good Product Managers. Ula Ojiaku That's awesome, thank you for that. And would you have, I mean you do, in your books, you've shared lots of war stories where you know, you had experience with product management or product leadership and to the audience, I'll say read the books, but is there any example maybe that comes to mind of someone who was a Product Manager that, you don't have to name names, you don't have to share like details, but that kind of brought to life all these personal qualities and focus areas and how that affected the work? Jeff Gothelf I mean, look, I've worked with a ton of remarkable folks over the years. I think I started really meeting folks who were working this way when I met folks like Janice Fraser who, in fact came up with the phrase ‘strong opinions, loosely held’, which is exactly what I was just describing a few minutes ago. Janice has built multiple businesses and has really helped pioneer these ideas into sort of the mainstream. And I've seen her repeatedly do this. Eric Ries, you know, with The Lean Startup, really brought a lot of these ideas to light in a very easy to digest way, hence the success of his work in the past, and he lived this stuff in the businesses that he's built over the years. I had a colleague and co-worker and co-founder in a business named Giff Constable. Most recently, Giff was the Chief Product Officer at Meetup, but he's been a serial entrepreneur his whole life. Giff really embodied these ideas, like he's a smart guy, tons of experience, really great ideas, but he would test them all, and if he didn't get evidence that convinced him that they were right, he was willing to change course. And I learned a ton from working with him and building businesses with him. And it was inspirational because in many ways, you know, I appreciated his ruthlessness. You know, we all, it's hard, you know, this is personal stuff, this is my idea, all my ideas are great, I love my ideas, right. And he loved his ideas, but he was very, very good at separating emotion and evidence. And I really learned a ton from him as well. So those are three folks that kind of come to mind immediately. Ula Ojiaku Thanks for that, it reminds me in terms of what you said about Giff being ruthless, I think is a term in journalism to “kill your darlings” because you could write an article or, you know, write your first draft and you're so in love with it, but by the time the editor brings out their red pen or something and starts striking it out, you have to separate emotion from the love. Jeff Gothelf That's exactly right, kill your darlings is the reality of this, of good product management. It's, you know, if the data doesn't prove it, and the data we're looking for is changes, meaningful, positive changes in the behaviour of the customers that we're serving. And if the data doesn't show it, then no matter how brilliant this idea was, how much you love it or how much you thought it was just revolutionary, it doesn't make sense to continue to invest in it, we’ve got to find, figure out a different way. Ula Ojiaku That's awesome. I'd love to get to your take on the terms, you know, vision and strategy. How would you define these terms would be my first question, and my second question, and I'm happy to, you know, share this again, is how would you then tie this to, you know, for example, product development? How would they, how should they influence product development? Jeff Gothelf Yeah, so look, a couple things. There are, I'm not going to lie to you, you know, I struggle a little bit with, you know, vision and mission. Strategy is clear to me, but differentiating between vision and mission, some will say a vision is like what will the world look like in five years or something like that? Or if you're successful, what changes will you see in the world? That type of thing. Whereas a vision is sort of like the big motivational, like what was it for Google? Cataloguing all the world's data, that was their vision. Right? Ula Ojiaku Can I give you my own take? So my understanding mission is more like, okay, what do we stand for? We're going to save the world? And vision is like, okay, in this amount of time, you know, this is how we're saving the world. So it's kind of a picture from the future, say if we travel five years into the future and we see our customers, what are, how are they behaving? You know, what exactly does the world look like for us? While mission tends to remain constant. That's my understanding anyway. Jeff Gothelf Okay. Yeah. And so to me, look, it's directional, right? In the sense of like, we are, you know, we're going to make sure everyone is clean drinking water, like clean drinking water for everybody, right? That's our, is that our mission or our vision? I don't know. But like, or maybe that, maybe that's the mission and the vision is, you know, a world where no one's thirsty. To me, those are like you, I think you need that in the sense that like, you need to know sort of at a high level what problem is the company solving for in the world? I think that's important, right? Because I think that inevitably there are going to be initiatives that seem to stray from that. At the very least, you can point and say, look, is it our mission to bring clean drinking water to everybody in the world? And why are we like investing in a sports website? Right, doesn't make any sense. So at the very least, it gives us that perspective. Strategy, however, and I think strategy is really, really, really important. Strategy is super important for aligning the organisation so that everybody is pulling in the same direction, so that everybody is clear on what the short term goals are for the organisation and it gives people, if done correctly, it gives people the freedom to experiment and learn to figure out the best ways to achieve the strategy, because I do believe that strategy is a hypothesis. Our hypothesis is that we want to expand into the North American market in 2024. Okay, great, let's figure out all kinds of ways where we might start to build some market share in North America in 2024. Right. And to me, I think that that is the true benefit of strategy. I think that it can also be misused, at least, for alignment, that's very specific. Our strategy is, you know, North American market share and we're going to do it this way. And you can get very prescriptive with that. Now everybody's aligned, everybody knows what we're doing, but it doesn't allow for the flexibility and that push and pull that ultimately reveals a better way to do something or is more creative or more innovative. And so I think strategy is key. It's key to articulate it clearly and simply, it's key to disseminate it clearly and simply across the organisation. And I think no team in the organisation should have their project approved if they can't clearly state how they believe this might help achieve the strategy. That's what I believe. Ula Ojiaku And on that note, so you said no project or team should have their initiative approved unless they can show how it helps move the needle towards the desired strategy, the direction of travel, the organisation, I suppose that's what you mean, the organisation’s direction of travel or what they want to achieve. Now how, because one of the shiny new objects, or, well, not an object per se, but more like a buzzword is OKRs, objectives and key results. So how can we use that? Or, let's say, can it be used to help with tying strategy with the work that, you know, the lower levels of the organisation might be doing? Jeff Gothelf I think it's critical to be able to tie the pieces together. Now, I don't expect an individual contributor necessarily to be able to do that, but certainly their manager can say, hey team, we're working on this very tactical thing because it's a component of these five other tactical things that when you put them together, they roll up and they achieve this much more meaningful thing together. Right, and so I, again, I think that there needs to be a clear, and it's rare, look, let's be honest, right? Everyone in the organisation needs to understand what the strategic focus is for the next six months, six to 12 months. Okay. And again, if you can't speak directly to why you're working on the thing that you're working on, then your boss should be able to answer that question for you. Ula Ojiaku So it's really about, what I'm hearing you say is that there needs to be a strategic focus for an organisation at least that looks ahead six to 12 months into the future to say, okay, this is what we're going to be doing. And for teams, they have to find a way of articulating how they are contributing to that strategic focus, to the fulfilment of that strategic focus. Now, how can OKRs be used? I know you said, okay, individual contributors may not necessarily use that, but in the situations where you feel they apply, how could they be, and by they, I mean OKRs, objectives and key results, how could this format help? Jeff Gothelf OKRs to me, are the key to bringing this alignment. So if there's a clear strategy. Without a clear strategy, the OKRs don't help, okay. But if there's a clear strategy and we've set success criteria for that strategy, for that strategic hypothesis, then, or we can start to say, okay, great. We are, our strategic focus for 2024 is North American expansion, we'll know we've achieved it when, you know, we've got 10% market share, this much revenue and a, you know, new customer referral rate of 20%, something like that. Right. All of a sudden, the organisation knows what it's targeting, not only what the strategic focus is, but the actual behaviour change that we're looking for. So fundamentally, every team in the organisation can then start to say, okay, we work on X, and X is a leading indicator of Y and Y is a leading indicator of market share. Okay. So the objective, while it should be local to the team, as well as the key results, they function as leading indicators for the strategic goal, right? So let's try to make an example on the fly, right? So we're talking about North American expansion in 2024. Let's assume that we are in the, you know, online furniture business, something along those lines, right? And so if, maybe you work on a merchandising team, right? And so there, in order to do proper merchandising, you need access to specific suppliers, right? And so there is a team that does supplier and vendor relations. Right. That team understands that for the merchandising team to be successful, they've got to build these relationships with these vendors. So their OKR is going to be about building those relationships, right? Those relationships in turn allow the proper merchandising to take place, which then allows for the proper, you know, for market share to grow in the North American market, for example. So, but that connection can be, you can literally draw it on a board because people understand the strategy. And so objectives and key results become the, sort of the tactical strategic beacons for each of the teams. Each team knows exactly what they're targeting and why, and they understand, in theory, how it might help achieve the overall strategy, which again is a hypothesis, it might be wrong, but at the very least, they've got a shared direction. Ula Ojiaku Thank you for that example. There's something you said about the leading indicators. So I assume that would fall under the key results part, because we'd have the objective which is like the, you know, ambitious statements and then the key results are like, this is what success looks like in terms of achieving that broad statement, the objective. Now, would you, I've read articles from respected thought leaders who say, okay, yes, leading indicators are good, but there also needs to be, you know, the lagging indicators, kind of a balance of, will I say measures, you know, leading, lagging and quality indicators. I don’t know if you have any, I mean, I'd love to hear what your view would be on this, because if we're only looking at leading indicators, there might be a temptation to just be short term in our thinking and not also try to measure the lagging indicators, like okay, the actual revenue of the profit that you get versus our likelihood of getting that revenue. Jeff Gothelf Yeah. So look, so short answer is both are important, I think, obviously, and I think both are required. Slightly longer answer is the lagging indicators in an organisation often tend to be the, what we call the impact metrics for the organisation, the high level measures of the health of the business, like you said, revenue, sales, you know, customer satisfaction, etcetera. Right. So yeah, those things need to exist. Typically, they exist at the leadership level, and so then whatever's happening within the teams, tends to function as a leading indicator ultimately to those sort of high level lagging indicators. Right? So we're going to, you know, I've got a team working on email marketing, and they're working on email market opening click rates, right? Those are leading indicators of eventual sales, and those sales are leading indicators of revenue, which is a lagging indicator of the health of the business. And so those, that's,to me, both are needed. Typically the lagging indicators tend to be at the strategic and the leadership level. Ula Ojiaku I read on your blog post that you have another book coming up, whilst we're on the subject of OKRs, and you're going to be, or you are in the process of co-authoring yet another book with your co-author Josh Seiden. Could you tell us about that? Jeff Gothelf Absolutely. So, yeah, so Josh and I have been working and writing together for a long time. We have been talking about outcomes and OKRs together for a long time, and we feel there's an opportunity in the marketplace to build, to write a tactical how-to implementation guide for all, organisations of all size. And that's what we're doing. It doesn't have a title yet, we do have a website at where you can sign up and learn a bit more about it and then kind of be on the mailing list when we do have more info about it. We're writing it right now. To be honest, I've been writing it in public for the last two years on my blog every week at 500 to 700 words at a time. All those just kind of getting those ideas out there and experimenting to see what works and what doesn't and what gets feedback and what doesn't, and that's been super helpful and I expect this to be a popular book, and I expect this to be a very helpful and tactical book for organisations who are going through the process of implementing OKRs and are trying to make them work both as a goal setting framework, but also truly understanding the kinds of changes to ways of working that come after you've implemented OKRs. Agility, or agile ways of working, product discovery, Lean UX, right? Those types of activities as well, to help teams build that evidence-based decision making that we talked about earlier. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. Is there any timeframe or do we just go to your, to the website you mentioned and sign up to get more updates on the book as they unfold? Jeff Gothelf - that's the website? Ula Ojiaku Yes. And when do we expect it to be released? Jeff Gothelf October. Ula Ojiaku This October, awesome. So that would also be in the show notes. Are there any books or materials that you have found yourself gifting or recommending to people that have impacted or shaped the way you think right now? I mean, that is in addition to your, you know, Sense and Respond book, Lean UX. Unfortunately, I don't have the physical copy of the Forever Employable ones and, but yeah, are there other books that you could recommend to us? Jeff Gothelf Yeah, I think so recently I've read Tony Fadell, his book Build, the Tony Fadell of Apple and Nest and various other fame, Build is a really good book and really interesting insight as to how he works and builds products, and most recently I just finished the new book by Rick Rubin, legendary music producer Rick Rubin, it's called The Creative Act, and I found that book to be fascinating and really inspiring. I mean, it's, you know, he is very like, listen to this, you know, get into the zone and just the flow and, you know, there's a lot of that fluffy guru kind of stuff in there too. But I agreed with 90% of what I read in there about creativity, about, you know, working with an idea, about developing an idea, about getting feedback on an idea, about letting an idea go, about changing context and constraints to create more creativity and innovation. And I really enjoyed it. So it's called The Creative Act, it's by Rick Rubin, and it's an easy read and I would recommend that if you're looking for that kind of motivation, I think it was really smart. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. Is there anything else you'd like to ask of the audience? Jeff Gothelf I just hope that if you've got anything you'd like to ask me, don't hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or LinkedIn or my website. If you're interested in OKRs, do sign up for my newsletter, and go to and sign up there. And beyond that, I hope to see you online or in person sometime in the future, because it's nice to meet people in person again these days. Ula Ojiaku Great. Thank you very much, Jeff, for these. Any final words of wisdom for the audience before we go? Jeff Gothelf The pithy phrase I'll close with is this, do less, more often. That's the phrase that I would recommend for you. Ula Ojiaku Wow. Do less, more often. I am going to be pondering on that statement. Thank you so much, Jeff. It's been an honour speaking with you, learning from you, and I hope we would get the opportunity to do this again, hopefully. Jeff Gothelf Thank you, Ula. This was amazing. Thanks for having me on the show. Ula Ojiaku That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
55:25 5/21/23
(S3) EO28 Richard Stephens on the Challenges of Creating Agile Contracts
Bio  A technology lawyer of some 40 years’ experience, Richard has seen the IT industry from all sides - as an in-house lawyer with two substantial UK based systems houses, a lawyer in City of London practice and now as the head of his own practice offering legal services to IT companies large and small as well as acting as mediator and arbitrator in IT disputes.  Over the course of his career, Richard has been involved in some of the largest IT litigation and transactions and now gets involved in particular with Cloud contracting. When Richard set up his own private practice, the Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession described him as a “leader in his field” and as “good news on the most complex of matters”. Richard is a well known IT lawyer, having served two years as Chair of the Society for Computers & Law and is currently serving as Chair of the Legal Affairs Group at techUK. He has been a regular speaker at conferences both in the UK and internationally and has been providing training for over ten years: his annual lecture on Contract Law Developments attracts hundreds of attendees every year. More recently, he has ventured into writing with the publication of “Stephens on Contractual Indemnities” published by Law Brief Publishing.     Social media/ website(s): ·         LinkedIn: Richard Stephens on LinkedIn  ·         Richard’s Website:   Books/References ·         ‘Stephens on Contractual Indemnities’ by Richard Stephens – Law Brief Publishing   Interview Highlights 07:20 Don’t leave any slippery bananas 09:15 Kicking the can down the street 15:20 Peppercorn rent 16:55 Blue v Ashley case 21:31 DSDM 22:40 Agile contracts 32:20 Atos Origin v De Beers 37:15 Hogjaard v EON    Episode Transcript  Ula Ojiaku Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. So, Richard, thank you so much for joining us on the Agile Innovation Leaders’ podcast.    Richard Stephens Pleasure to be here.     Ula Ojiaku Fantastic. Now, as I start with all my guests, we want to know who Richard Stephens is. So, can you tell us about yourself?    Richard Stephens Well, it depends what you want to know Ula. I'm a solicitor, and it's not terribly exciting as professions go. So, I spend a lot of time reading long documents, commenting on them, marking them up, doing contracts. It’s probably everyone's worst nightmare when it comes to a profession really, I suppose, I don't know.    Ula Ojiaku Well, I like the way you've just summarised your profession as reading long documents and making comments. I'm wondering if you ever had long debates over phrases and words in a document?    Richard Stephens Yes, that's what the job consists of. And when you get into negotiating big contracts, and over my career, I've done, I’ve been involved in huge global outsourcing of huge cloud contracts, huge this, huge that, huge development implementation contracts. The job consists of arguing about words and trying to get it right for your client to be honest, you don't want to leave any slippery bananas in there which are going to trip them up later on.    Ula Ojiaku So that phrase slippery bananas, we'll get back to it. But in the meantime, how did you end up in a career in law, because you said, the way you've described it, you said it's not the most exciting thing. So, there must have been something that still drew you to this, “non-exciting path”?    Richard Stephens Well, I don't know, really, you just, I don't know, why do you do anything when you're young, and you decide to become, you know, typically, young little boys will say, well, I want to be a train driver or whatever. And you just, as you grow up, you just become gravitated to do something, and there are a lot of us in our school who said they wanted to be lawyers, others said they wanted to be consultants or some wanted to be accountants, but you have to understand that I worked in a time when IT didn't really exist. So, I don't think there was anybody who wanted to go into technology, for example, because I was, you know, at school in the 70s. So that was very much an arcane shut away job where people would wear white coats and go into air conditioned, filtered air rooms to feed mainframe monsters. But of course, that sort of thing, we knew nothing about. I don't know, I don't know why I went into being a lawyer. I mean, I could have run away to the circus, I suppose, but I lacked the courage to do it, I suppose - too boring and unadventurous is typical lawyer you see.    Ula Ojiaku Okay, okay. Well, that's an interesting, will I say, narrative of your career to date. So, do you have any thing you would have done differently, knowing what you now know?    Richard Stephens I think I would have run away to the circus, Ula.    Ula Ojiaku Okay, well, that's an interesting response, Richard. Well, thanks for sharing your career story to date. And so, for someone who is, for example, listening, and that's considering a career in law that you know, no matter what stage in life they're at, what would be your advice?    Richard Stephens Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Robinson, I think is probably what I would say. You know, they're all different types of lawyers. And you can go through lawyers who do criminal work, for example, and I think some lawyers get a good deal of pleasure out of doing that sort of thing. I don't think the criminal lawyers make a huge amount of money out of it. Or a lot of people do very harrowing areas of law like family domestic law and they’re dealing with battered people of, frankly, these days, both sexes and horrible emotional scars and, you know, battles over, but I, you know, I went to, did some of my CPD and I went to a talk given by a probate mediator. Now you think that probate was a nice sedate area of the law, but that's the most, he said, is the most vicious, dispute ridden thing, because he said all families will have secrets and they will harbour them. And he said, what will happen is that, you know, Aunt Maud dies, and she has some valuable art collection or something like that, and then all these little, all these little disputes and resentments that you had against your elder brother for 30 years suddenly all bubble to the surface. And he said, it all comes out as a horrible, vicious fight. People are going into Aunt Maud’s house and stealing her property while she's dead. And they're arguing over who gets the fine china and who gets this and who gets that. He said, one of the horrible things is that you, know, when he does the settlement between the brothers or whoever it may be, and one of the clauses he's very often asked to put in is that such and such brother, should not ever again seek to contact him by phone, email, writing, or anything. So, you get that sort of thing as well. So, but you know why it is I would become a commercial lawyer, I say it's not that boring and actually, when you get in a deal, you get the excitement of trying to work the deal together, put it all together, bring it all together for the day of signature, I say there is a pressure, a dynamic, and every team has its own dynamic, and you're working towards getting something done. A bit like looking at your agile principles as well, I suppose. You know, you're trying to get it done. Although it's not done in incremental delivery, it's all done in one big drop at the end on the day of signature, of course.    Ula Ojiaku Now, that's an interesting story about, you know, different kinds of law, probate and going kindly back to commercial law, which you practice, if I'm correct in the understanding.    Richard Stephens That's right. I mean, I work for myself, when I say I do the big contracts, and I certainly do that, I work for SMEs as well, one of the things I also do is, I work as a mediator and an arbitrator in the IT sector. So, I'm there either helping people resolve disputes, or as an arbitrator, I'm actually resolving disputes, issuing binding awards. But I also provide some coaching in commercial law subjects as well. So, I do a variety of different things that helps keep my sanity.    Ula Ojiaku Now, the phrase slippery bananas because you said, you know, when you were, you know, you when you're drafting contracts, you make sure you're avoiding those slippery bananas. So, what's the perspective? Could you give us a glimpse into what goes on, you know, behind the scenes or in your mind, at the back of your mind when you're, you know, drafting, you're involved in drafting, and reviewing contracts on behalf of a client. What's the perspective you're doing this from?   Richard Stephens The first line is, and the first principle I start from is that projects, as has been said before, projects don't go wrong for terms of conditions. And I have a friend in the industry, who says that, and he, like me, works for himself. And he says that when he's doing a big contract or for a major client, he's up against a really big city of London law firm. He's there, he'll be negotiating the front end, as we call it, the terms and conditions, the legal bit, that goes at the front, the core of the contract, he'll spend days talking about liabilities and warranties and indemnities. He says, I'm talking with a partner of the law firm on that, he said, but when it comes to talking about the scope, the SLA, the charging schedule, all these things, he said, I end up negotiating with the trainee. He said, well, why does a contract go wrong? It won't be for anything to do with the indemnities or the liabilities or the warranties. They're there for after it has gone wrong. Why does it go wrong? It goes wrong for the things that are in the schedule, the operational things, that's the thing that you get wrong. And the second principle I move on to is this, that in my lifetime, I think drafting has simply got worse and worse and worse, and contracts have got longer and longer and longer. And so, having talked about slippery banana skins, then we now get on to another metaphor. And we talk about kicking the can down the street, as lawyers find it harder and harder to come to agreement on important issues, you know, when will such and such a sum be paid? You know, what you have to do to get acceptance of milestone three such that payment can be released. And so, they then insert modern drafting, like the parties will reasonably agree the amount to be released, and it's called kicking the can down the street, it's not actually legally binding. And it's not actually, it's nothing, it's a thing, it gets rid of the immediate problem. And all you're saying is that, you know, the judge or the arbitrator later on can make the decision for you, or you hope they can, they may just throw it out and say, well, it's not really an agreement at all. So that, I think, those are the things that I have noticed in my career, and those I think are the banana skins, the slippery bananas I try to avoid for my client wherever possible.    Ula Ojiaku Well, that's interesting, and how successful is it? Would you say that a good contract then, this is me stating my view and as a non-expert in this area, I would stand to be corrected by yourself. So, would a good contract be drafted in a way that enforces both parties to act in the best interests of the other, does it always result in a win-win situation?    Richard Stephens No, because I'm an English lawyer, I deal with the English common law. And the common law has typically, traditionally taken the line, and still, to a very large extent does, that each party looks after its own interests. I'm not here, when I represent a party, I'm not looking after the other party's interests at all. And my instructions, so to speak, or my implicit instructions, are to do the best deal for my clients, to do the worst deal for my opponent. Now, of course, that means I'm not actually trying to hamper them or hinder them or throw banana skins under their feet, because of course, if I hamper them or hinder them in the contract it could come back on me or come back on my client, I should say later on, if it's a long project, or outsourcing where the parties have to cooperate, so you do have to get a sort of balance. But the common laws approach, the English common law’s approach is typically that each party is expected to enter into a contract, looking after its own interests, it's actually highly topical. I don't want to, you probably don’t want to get into the riveting and fascinating details of English contract law, and it's sort of moving in practice and theoretically to adopting a, what you might call a more continental civil law approach by trying to import concepts of good faith (Note: Whilst correct at time of recording, the English Court of Appeal has since limited the use of the term 'good faith'), reasonableness, which are concepts I have to say, which are still by and large alien to my system of law, to the system of law, the country in which we live.    Ula Ojiaku Okay, wow. So, how then because, we've kind of dug into, you know, speaking about contracts for the, in the interest of the listener, who probably is just jumping in and wondering, okay, what are they talking about? What would you define a contract as?    Richard Stephens It’s just a binding agreement for someone to do something for someone else and for the other to do something to the other party, which is normally payment, that's all it is. But contracts are all around us. And so, I mean, obviously, you know, it looks like you're sitting at home at the moment and you're not in an office. But if you, on the days or hopefully in the days to come when you go back into an office or you go to a physical meeting, and you might stop in a little shop somewhere and buy yourself a cup of coffee. Well, that's a contract. It's actually quite a complex contract as well, because it's a sale of goods and to some extent services, if they're making the coffee for you, in front of you. It imports therefore goods to the law to do with the sale of goods and services. It imports a whole lot of law to do with consumer law because you're a consumer buying a coffee, it’s got a lot of law in there to do with health and safety because you know, you want your coffee shop to be a safe place from which to buy your beverage. So, if you actually look at that, and you took all the law and regulations relating to that very simple, I'll have a cappuccino, please, that you could probably fill a shelf with just the law and the cases dealing sales of goods and services, health and safety, consumer law, and all the rest of it. But you don't need to worry about that Ula, because all you want is your cappuccino at the end of the day. So, that is a contract and the contracts are all around us.    Ula Ojiaku And the seller I would dare say wants to be paid for the cup of cappuccino they made for me.    Richard Stephens That's the consideration, of course, that's traditionally the consideration, which has been a key feature, of course of English contract law, and not necessarily other systems of contract law, the Scots, for example, don’t require consideration in their system of contract law. So, they don't require one party to do something for the other in exchange for something else, it can be a one-sided thing. But don’t ask me how they get by, but they do. But the idea of consideration if you drew up, just to show, just to sort of mark out as it were, a casual deal, which you didn't really think was a contract from a proper contract. But a consideration can be anything, it can be a promise to do anything. It can be a promise to go for a walk around the park afterwards. So, I mean, it can be a thing of commercial, it can be commercially valueous. And that's why we have the concept of the peppercorn rent, if you've heard of a peppercorn rent?    Ula Ojiaku I'm not sure what that means. Could you explain please?    Richard Stephens Its where you rent a property, in exchange for the promise to pay a peppercorn, where the peppercorn has no commercial value at all. But it's a promise to hand over a peppercorn and the promise, and it's that promise that makes the contract a binding thing. You don’t even have to hand it over. But if you promise to pay the peppercorn, that's the consideration. I'd like to see anyone suing someone else for a peppercorn but maybe the law reporters have got examples of that. I think not. But we need some levels of detail there.    Ula Ojiaku Oh, well, you might find me weird but I do find the concept of contracts interesting. And the fact that someone is promising a peppercorn, is it to show that there has been some sort of fair exchange between the two parties?    Richard Stephens It simply marks out a contract from what would otherwise be a gift. And it simply marks out what a contract is, so the law simply said, we want just these early signs, it only has to be basic, that the parties were actually serious about entering into a contract. And so, they required consideration, as a consideration can be commercially valueless. But it's just that the parties have thought to do something for each other. We won't even get into an intention to create legal relations, which is another requirement. And you still get some fantastic cases on that. And the case of Blue and Ashley recently,  which is where Mr. Blue worked for Mike Ashley of Sports Direct and they were all drinking heavily in the pub. And the evidence was at the end of the evening, that they consumed about 14,15 pints of beer by the end of the evening, although Mr. Blue wasn't present at that stage, but the evidence was that Mike Ashley said that if you can get my share price over eight pounds, then I will give you, you know, a huge bonus of several million pounds, I forget exactly how much it was. Well, is that a contract? And it went to the High Court and the High Court had to, well, what do you think, is that a contract or not? It was said the share price did go a bit over eight pounds and Mr. Blue carried on working there trying to make sure that the share price was maximized. He did actually get an ex gratia bonus of 1 million pounds from Sports Direct. So, did that make a contract?    Ula Ojiaku That's a question. Yes, because I audited a course in contract law being taught by a Harvard professor, so of course the focus is on the US laws and all that, so not necessarily here, but there's like intent of the person you know if it's a phrase that, or a statement that has been made jokingly, you know, how outrageous it is or whether the other party is being seen to get something in fair exchange, or whether it's a promise for a gift you know, so in those, in those situations, the three situations I've mentioned, it probably wouldn't hold water in a court of law if someone promised you a gift, because it's not contractually binding. But that’s…    Richard Stephens You’re learning legal skills already, because you know what you’ve done, don't you, you’ve actually used the word probably, you haven't committed yourself.    Ula Ojiaku No.    Richard Stephens And you've actually used the word probably because you're not willing to bet the farm on one decision, or the other, one resulting in the other, you know the old joke don’t you about the client who goes into the solicitor's office and speaks to the receptionist and says, I want a meeting with the one-armed lawyer, please. The receptionist says we haven’t got a one-armed lawyer here, why do you want to meet a one-armed lawyer and he said, well I’m fed up of meeting lawyers who say, well on the one hand this, and on the one hand that, but you’ve done it immediately, you've used that little word probably and it just came tumbling out in your speech, and you probably didn't even notice it. But I can recognise that you have legal skills already.    Ula Ojiaku Very kind of you Richard, that means a lot coming from you. But I do fancy myself going, you know, to go and do some sort of studies in law at some point in time. Wish me luck. But this brings us to the concept of agile. Have you had any experience with agile, and what does that mean to you, that term?    Richard Stephens Agile, I first got used to agile, when I was doing a lot of big scale litigation, when I was working in the city as a partner in a law firm there, and I did a lot of very large IT disputes, and it introduced me to some very odd concepts. And we had to get used to reading up about methods. And so, on some government projects, they mandated in those days, I don't know if they still do, but in those days, they were mandating the use of SSADM, and Prince overlaid on that as a management methodology. And we looked at this, and it was very odd, and I found it very strange, because what the SSADM and Prince would be doing would be mandating behaviours and actions that were flatly contradictory of the contract that had been written for the parties. And so, moving on from there, as agile became the big thing. We had, first of all, things like extreme programming, and that was getting everything going. And then other more formalised methods of Agile working, or Agile development came out, and I got involved with looking through DSDM as it then was, and thinking and the thing, the word that struck me was that everything will be fit for business purpose. And, of course, fit for purpose is very much a legal expression that's used in sales of goods contracts. And I thought, well, what does it mean to have an agile contract where you're promising the client that something is meant to be fit for business purpose, what is the business purpose? Did you know what it was before you started? What if it changes? I'm a lawyer, and I ask all of these questions. What if, what if, what if? And so I got very interested in writing DSDM, and I put together an industry committee of in-house lawyers working for tech companies and others, and we were just looking through Agile and we had a very senior person from the DSDM Consortium come and speak to us and train us on DSDM, and give us examples of how DSDM could deliver in a way that was better than the old waterfall method of delivery, especially when they were allied with the cumbersome approach of Prince 2 and so we got very interested in this, we tried thinking, well, what would an Agile contract, a contract for Agile development, actually look like? You know, how would it be different from what lawyers have been drafting up until that point and we had a go at it and we sort of let it sort of slip and slide and, you know, we all moved on to different things. And so, we never got there, but it's never gone away as a problem. And I think it is a problem. And I've given various ways I was a proponent of contracting for Agile development, Agile implementation at the time I was doing this, I find myself now cast in the role of villain. And Stewart, a chap called Stewart James has been taking the role of proponent of Agile contracts and I sort of, I the Devil's advocate, and I proposed a different way of working, and I just try and rubbish the view and so we had a go at each other there, we've had a go at each other at techUK if you know techUK, which is the industry body representing IT suppliers in the UK and we recently had another little go at each other in the BCS as a follow up to that talk we both attended over zoom. But interestingly, they had a poll at the end, and it garnered a huge amount of attention. We had a poll at the end of that having speakers do you have any confidence in the ability to contract for Agile and over 70% said they either had little confidence or no confidence in being able to contract for Agile. So…    Ula Ojiaku And why do you think there is that low confidence? What could be some of the root causes for this?    Richard Stephens  Oh, because I took them through the points I've made before, and I just pointed out that the Agile working doesn't fit in with English law, and we've already covered that up in a sense, because and I said to you that each party expects the English law, sorry, I should say English law expects each party to look after its own interests, and this idea of collaborative working, where you're working together to do the best you can with the resources available, and tried to come up with incremental deliveries, lots of short, sharp deliveries that give meaningful functionality to the customer, agreeing things on the fly, these things just don't sit very happily with the legal system that expects each party to look after its own interests. A legal system, which requires solid agreements, and which doesn't really regard reasonable endeavors, all these things and good faith doesn't regard these things as binding principles in law.    Ula Ojiaku Right, okay. Now, but in a case where, on one hand, you know, the two parties are more involved in the contract setting, as in, all right, we’ll act in good faith, but at the same time, we would have our lawyers, our legal people, you know, put together an iron clad contract. Do you think that hypothetical situation is possible, in your experience?    Richard Stephens No, it's not, it’s not possible at all, and that's the real problem. And I can take you through some of the cases that show this, if you like, referring to one of them, just got out the slide deck now, might be very interesting to you. It goes back to your first question, what's the point of a contract? Why have it? Because at the last outing I had, we had Andrew Craddock from the Agile Foundation, and he was proposing, you know, the benefits and the efficacy of agile, agile development, agile implementation. But of course, he was saying it's wonderful it, you know, beats waterfall hands down, it delivers all these great things and I said well, if it's that good, you probably don't need a contract anyway then, do you because it's never going to go into a dispute, then you don't need a contract. On the other hand, if you're a responsible business, you should be asking yourself as the directors of a responsible business, well what if the project doesn't go very well, what if it doesn't? What if it fails? What if I don't get what I expect at the end of the day, and on that point, I propose two reasons. And there are two reasons and both two sides of the same coin, for why an agile contract simply doesn't work. And the first reason is a legal reason. The other reason is a commercial reason. The second reason is what I call the FD principle, or the Financial Director principle. And the legal reason, to put it shortly is that the law, as I say, doesn't recognise a contract for good faith. And in any case, even if it did, you'd just be kicking the can down the street, because if you had a contract to do what you did in good faith, if it all went horribly wrong, which it inevitably will, how would you know whether someone had performed in good faith anyway? You just end up in another dispute, working out what the dispute was all about. So, and the second reason as I say is the FD principle, because while I was doing this DSDM thing, and I was chatting to a Financial Director of a good sized, medium sized company that was moving very much into IT and technology, it was mostly in the manufacturing sector, but very much absorbing IT, or what tech could do for it. And he said, look, I have the final sign off for any major expenditures, and I get a contract for 5 million pounds. He said, I want to know that at the end of the day, I've got something, when it's over that I that I can touch, I can feel with my fingers, hold with my hands. And I want to know that that's worth 5 million pounds, at least 5 million pounds to my business. And he said if I just get a contract that's agile, but people are simply saying well we'll work in good faith with each other, and we don't know what we'll deliver, but it'll be small, little bits incrementally and your you may or may not, to use the language of DSDM in the old days, you know, they have this concept of the minimum usable subset. And he said, well, is that worth 5 million pounds, because if that's only 60, 70%, of the full 5 million pounds, then I've been robbed, haven’t I, and I've lost 30% of what I contracted for. And that's what I call therefore, the FD principle. And I remember when we were trying to draw up an agile contract, we were pulling teeth, trying to satisfy that FD, or his ilk that the contract would have some sort of effects, something that could be used to beat the supplier over the head. But I don't think we succeeded. And the problem is that every agile contract since, just drifts into this language, as you've said already, of good faith and reasonable endeavours and reasonable agreements on this. And these are all things that English law simply doesn't recognise.    Ula Ojiaku: Now, that's an interesting story. And you've just brought to light another perspective, that's not usually, explicitly considered in drafting contracts, which is that of the finances, the people who hold the purse strings, the people who sign off, you know, the projects or the programs of work. Sometimes, you know, people have the notion that, you know, agile is the be all and end all, it's not, there is still a place for waterfall. But waterfall is good for where you have straightforward issues, you have a problem, you know the solution, and there's a straight line from A to B, there's no need to go agile. But if it's a complex, adaptive problem where it's complex, and as things change, you know, the environmental change the nature of the problem, you know, keeps changing, you have to, well I say, adopt that agile approach to that now that's why the concept of a minimum viable product comes into play. And part of it is that, you know, you identify the minimum viable product, you state your assumptions, and then you, you know, create those, experiments based on the hypothesis of the assumptions you've made. And if you're validating, if your assumptions are validated, then you can go forward with, you know, the initiative. But if, at the very, you know, early instance, you're having negative results, you know, that negates your assumptions, then there's no need to go forward. Although from the Financial Director’s perspective, you know, you say, okay, I've wasted it, I've been getting millions worth of money, but the learning has shown that it's a dead end we're moving towards, and it's better that we stop at a million than spending 10 million or even some other humongous amount on something that's probably not going to give any return.    Richard Stephens:  I think it's time to test your legal skills, again then.    Ula Ojiaku: I'm not a lawyer. I'm not a legal professional.    Richard Stephens:  I think you are a very modest lady indeed. I think you’re probably going to go on and say you studied at the New York bar as well. But let me test your legal skills again, okay? And De Beers is the big diamond sorting diamond company in the world, as you may have heard of them, and Atos Origin are another company, you will doubtless have heard of, and they came to blows back in 2010, because they put out of ITT, for their diamond sorting and aggregating process, which, of course, is dealing with very high value things, namely diamonds. And so, it's all got to be it's a very difficult system to replicate and had all sorts of security and things built into it. So at first, they started doing the requirements analysis. And they did a mini survey, and they got their own view of what it was, and what was involved in doing this complex system. But they started work and found it was a hell of a lot more complex than they thought, and because De Beers and their operatives started asking for more and more and more, it got much more expensive. So, the original price was 2.9 million and Atos said well actually, it’s going to cost nearly 5 million more than that to deliver everything you actually want. But it's interesting looking at what they said because, their Atos internal report said that this project was originally intended to be developed agile style, the team was organised into BAs who could refine the requirements and a pool of devs would be organised into teams to build elements of the solution incrementally, with a project beyond the requirements definition, set up Scrum star, this must be music to your ears, I would have thought Ula, all supported by an architect and a few key designer devs all very DSDM and can work fine in the right context. And of course, with the right customer. But what happened was, Atos said we need this extra 5 million odd to complete the project. De Beers said, I would have thought if anyone had, you know, 5 million pounds sitting around, it was like De Beers with all their diamonds, just sell a couple of those, I would have thought it was fine but they say get off site. And it all fell apart and they ended up in court. But which way did it go? So, you've got Atos, who's done the requirements analysis, they've done their best, they've tried to work out what was involved, they underbid. You've got De Beers that asked for more and more and more during the requirements analysis. Who wins at the end of the day? This is the time to put that Harvard training to use and no use of the word probably who won, someone won and someone lost.    Ula Ojiaku:  Before I answer your question, I’m just saying that I'm taking it in good faith you're not being sarcastic about my auditing the Harvard course online, but my answer to your question is going to be it depends, because all I know right now are the details you've given me and I know that there’s usually more to a situation than meets the eye. So, it depends, again, I can see Atos’s point of view, in the sense that if they did some sort of initial discovery work, and had given a quote, based on De Beers’ requirements, now, and over time, you know, De Beers is asking for more, definitely that's called, you know, scope creep, and there might be some things, it inevitably would result in more costs. Now, on De Beers’ hand, if they had been promised a pipe dream that agile is equal to cheaper, or fixed costs. So, they had also been working on a misinformed basis in the fact that if they thought, okay, yeah, agile solves everything, and it's going to be cheaper and faster. That's not true.    Richard Stephens:  So, we've got so far on the one hand this, and on the other hand that, so I'm looking for the one-armed lawyer now. I can see both your hands, Ula. You’ve got to decide, who wins?    Ula Ojiaku:  I think I wouldn’t qualify for a one-armed lawyer. And the key thing is to know that I think it's the beginning of wisdom is to know that there is a limit to what I know. And in this case, it is definitely a good example. I don't know all the details behind it to make a firm judgment in favour or against one or the other.    Richard Stephens:  I think you know enough actually, come to have a go. Shall I tell you what the judge said?    Ula Ojiaku:  I'd like to know what the judge said please.    Richard Stephens:  In my judgment, he said, Atos went into this contract with its eyes at least half open, in the sense that it knew or should have known that it had not acquired a good grasp of the detail of De Beers diamond sorting and aggregating process. So, Atos lost is the important thing on that one. And because the general work, well, let me test your legal skills again, in case of Hojgaard and EON, okay.  This is all about constructing offshore wind turbines. Okay. You get a lot of those around, we don’t see them because they're offshore, but you've seen wind turbines on land, and the employer, so the customer, in construction contracts they’re known as the employer, mandated the use of an international standard called J101 for the construction of these wind turbines, okay. So Hojgaard had to use J101, or the methodologies for constructing wind turbines, as set out in that contract, in that international standard, I should say. Okay, so it started using J101. And what nobody knew was that J101, was fundamentally flawed. It had a design defect in it, and it underestimated the strength of the foundations needed to be built. So, as soon as they built these wind turbines, they started collapsing, and it cost 26 million pounds to put them right, 26 million euros, I think in those days. Okay. So, the question was, who was responsible? Well, Hojgaard said, well, you told me to use J101, so we only did what you said. And EON said, well, it doesn’t matter, you're the provider, your supply, you should jolly well know, and you take the responsibility, so straightforwardly question. So no on the one hand..    Ula Ojiaku:  …on the other hand, straightforwardly answer. Again, based on the details you've set out I would say that EON is liable.    Richard Stephens:  EON is the employer. So, they've made the use of this standard.    Ula Ojiaku:  Yeah. So, my view is that EON is liable because they mandated the use of the standard. Now, that would be my view. Yeah, if that's the contract, and you know, you told someone build this for me and use this standard, because that's what we want. Now, as a responsible supplier, though, I would want to go to offer advice on what I think are the pros and cons of their decision. But finally, the client’s decisions is theirs, so EON.    Richard Stephens:  So EON as the employer takes a rap, they have to cough up 26 million euros, went all the way to the Supreme Court, and they said it was the builders’ responsibility. So even where the user has mandated that particular method, then it's the developer. The courts, they said are generally inclined to give full effect to the requirement that the item, as produced, complies with the prescribed criteria. Even if, even if the customer or employer has specified or approved the design, it's the contractor who can be expected to take the risk if he agreed to work to a design which would render the item incapable of meeting the criteria to which he has agreed. And it's not an inflexible rule of law, it's an approach of the courts. And this is one of the things that's highly relevant to agile because the parties are working cooperatively. And it may well be the customer that's mandating the use of, to get this result, or to use this method to get it and both parties are working in good faith. But when it all goes horribly wrong, which it inevitably will, the court’s approach is generally, it's not mandated, you could put something different in your contract, the approach of the court is going to be well, it's the developer, it's the provider, it's the supplier, who's going to take the rap at the end of the day. And this is when you come back to the FD problem, because as soon as you then put something in your contract saying, nothing to do with us gov, it's all your responsibility, and we're not, you know, we'll just, we're just, you know, humble operatives doing as we're told, the FD’s not going to sign off. He's gonna say, well, I'm paying my 5 million pounds, I want you to take some responsibility, I want you to take the responsibility at the end of the day. And as I say, these are the, these the interesting reasons why, in fact, trying to contract for agile is not so easy as you might think.    Ula Ojiaku:  So, what would be your recommendation then to, for example, leaders of organisations who want to continue with, you know, agile delivery, and agile ways of delivery and ways of working and wish to engage with their vendors. Because, on one hand, there are benefits to working in this manner, in the sense that you're working together, you're learning and then you are adapting your plan based on the new learnings. But on the other hand, it seems like there is a way to go in bringing up you know, bringing along legal colleagues and colleagues in finance, alongside this journey to have the same perspective, what would be your advice?    Richard Stephens:  One of the things is I fully accept all the good things that agile has done and all the good things it promises to do, but what I'm saying is contracting for that is very difficult, and if you end up with a contract that simply proceeds in talking about, you know, good faith, and many lawyers, many modern lawyers these days just lapse into this language of you know, we'll talk in good faith and reasonably agree this and reasonably agree that, and it doesn't really work, you end up with a contract that's just kicked the can down the street numerous times. And so, you need to come up with something that does actually have some teeth, and with agile, that's going to be difficult. I mean, there are ways of drafting around it, but it's, in some ways they're quite cumbersome. So, for example, you can have agreements to agree which are meaningless in English law, English law simply doesn’t recognise an agreement to agree and you can add as many good faiths and reasonables around it as you like, but what you can do is you can then say, well, one of the drafting techniques you can use is to say, well, if we don't agree after a period of one week, three months, six months, whatever it is, that a third party, adjudicator will make the decision or the arbitrator or whatever it may be, will make the decision effectively for us, and we'll provide some criteria for that person to make a decision for us. Now in the construction industry, they introduced what's known as an adjudication scheme, which is a fix first and fight later, effectively. So, it’s simply that if the parties get a dispute rather than just simply falling out with each other and having a huge arbitration, leaving the building unfinished, you get an adjudicator and it's now compulsory by law for domestic construction contracts, and the adjudicator comes in and just makes a quick decision, and it doesn’t really matter that it’s not ultimately binding, for the present purposes it is, I think it's been called temporary finality. And one of the things that the Society for Computers and Law has done is introduce a similar adjudication scheme for IT projects. Now, that's maybe one way to go, but of course there are two risks immediately with that, which you'd have to advise anybody on and that is, obviously it introduces a certain amount of delay and cost because the party is going to get into lots of little micro-spats trying to get up to come if they have lots of little adjudications in a major project. And the other problem, of course, is this problem of temporary finality. Once the adjudicator has issued his decision, then you've got to comply with it, even if you think it's wrong, or even if you think it's monstrously unfair, or very expensive for you. It's temporarily final, and then you'd have to wait till the very end of the project before you could then relitigate the matter. So, I mean, there are ways of getting around it. But as I say they're not necessarily risk free or problem free. Let's say one of the problems I find, and for the purposes of my talks on agile, taking devil's advocate, one of the things you can do is do a word search of any English contract, English law contract, and just count up the number of reasonables or reasonablys in good faith. Actually one agile contract I looked at, which is available from an online supplier, provider of legal services, over 36 pages, it had a staggering total of 29 reasonables,s 26 reasonablys and 4 good faiths. I mean, that is a very high batting average for using these rather horrible terms that in many cases don't really mean anything. So, you have been warned.    Ula Ojiaku:  Well, thank you, Richard, for that. I would take it then that these are your guidelines for anyone who is considering drafting agile contracts, be careful about how you go about it. It's not risk free, and there are pitfalls to be aware of, and I guess it also depends on the jurisdiction, you know, the legal jurisdiction where the contract would be.    Richard Stephens:  You're never going to get away from that, because as soon as you start using words like a reasonable endeavours, good faith, even if the legal system you're working under actually recognises them, you then have a dispute trying to work out what on earth it means in practice, and you want a really good example of that, what’s a contract under Belgian law that we all know about at the moment, and everyone's been talking about it, have a guess? It's the AstraZeneca contract with the EU Commission, and what’s a horrible phrase it uses, best reasonable efforts, a monstrosity. So not just reasonable efforts, but best reasonable efforts. Belgian law recognises that as a concept and English law does as well. But what on earth does it mean? What does it mean in practice? What behaviour does it mandate? What result does it mandate? And so, the parties then just lumber into the dispute, a dispute a dispute about the dispute because nobody really knows what they're supposed to be doing anyway. So, you can do it, but you have been warned.    Ula Ojiaku:  Now, to wrap up, based on our conversation, are there any books that you could, that you would recommend to the listeners, if they want to learn more about contracting, agile?    Richard Stephens:  That’s the book, Ula, Stephens on Contractual Indemnities. I mean, what a right riveting read. Thrilling from beginning to end, and it will tell you everything you've ever wanted to know.    Ula Ojiaku:  Fantastic, thanks for sharing. We will put the link to your book in the show notes alongside with everything else about this episode.    Richard Stephens:  It’s for lawyers only. Otherwise, don't open its covers, you will be horrified. Well, actually, I mean, as a lawyer, as you proved yourself to be, maybe you would find it interesting.    Ula Ojiaku:  Now, do you have any, anything you'd like to ask of the audience, or let them know about your practice?    Richard Stephens:  Yeah, I mean, as I say, I do three things which may be of interest to your audience out there. One is, I'm a commercial solicitor, who is very well experienced in these areas in terms of putting together contracts for developments implementations, agile, or otherwise. And I provide training not only to lawyers, I do this one-day course introducing people to the principles of contract law, insofar as it would affect professionals working in the IT industry. And I've had people come on that, who were Project Managers all the way up through to Board Directors of SMEs or even quite large companies. I had one major American international company send its commercial management team on that course, for example. And as I say, the other thing I do is I work as a mediator if you're in a dispute, and you want someone to try and facilitate a resolution to that dispute, then again, I can help you with that. I could even, if he's got an arbitration clause, you want to have an arbitrator appointed someone who understands a little bit about these things and can come to a legal decision on your dispute, I can do that too.    Ula Ojiaku:  Fantastic. Thanks for sharing those. And with respect to for example, your trainings and you know, the other services you offer, how can the audience reach you?    Richard Stephens: As usual these days, they can Google for me, and if you look up for Richard Stephens there are various academics and I think, artists who are masquerading as Richard Stephens, just put Richard Stephens Solicitor, you will find me and you will find my website, and you can find me or you can search for me on LinkedIn, all sorts of possibilities. So that's very easily done.    Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. Well, I have to say, from my experience, but maybe I'm not good at googling, but the last time I tried finding you on LinkedIn, even though I'd put solicitor against your name, I still had a lot of what's it called, results for Richard Stephens solicitor. So, what I'm going to do to make it easier for the audience is I'm going to put a direct link to your LinkedIn profile in the show notes, if that's okay with.    Richard Stephens:  Yes, you can do that, link into, connect to my LinkedIn profile, or link to my website. It's very easy, no objection to that.    Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. Fantastic. So, any final words for the audience before we close this out? It's been a great conversation so far.    Richard Stephens:  It's been it's been nice, I mean it's funny how this is a problem, which I first got involved in 25, 30 years ago. And it rumbles along as an issue for IT lawyers. It's never lost its interest. But in 25 or 30 years, equally, I haven't seen a particularly good resolution to the problem, either. And so, you've got the industry doing one thing, and the lawyers trying to play, not so much catch up, but trying to work out still after 25, 30 years of lawyers thinking about it, what an agile contract or a contract for an agile project would look like such that it was both legally effective and would satisfy that avaricious Financial Director. But it hasn't been resolved yet.    Ula Ojiaku:  And the question is, will it? You don't have to answer, well…    Richard Stephens:  There is a sort of, there are all sorts of resolutions out there. As I mentioned, the adjudication one, but that, then is the sort of thing you don't want in an agile project because it's, whilst it’s legally effective, the idea of Agile as you're working cooperatively together, and then having little micro adjudications where you're at war with each other, trying to get the best out of the adjudicator in terms of decision. It then actually tends to drive the parties further away, which is, goes against what you did an agile project for in the first place. So, I mean, you can do but, you know, I just don't know how it would work in practice.    Ula Ojiaku:  It's been great speaking with you, Richard, thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience with the audience and myself.    Richard Stephens:  Pleasure.    Ula Ojiaku:  That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!  
54:04 5/7/23
From The Archives: Dr. Rita McGrath on Seeing Around Corners and Spotting Inflection Points Before They Happen
Guest Bio: Rita McGrath is a best-selling author,  sought-after advisor and speaker, and  longtime professor at Columbia Business School. Rita is one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation and is consistently ranked among the top 10 management thinkers in the world, including the #1 award for strategy by Thinkers50.  McGrath’s recent book on strategic inflection points is Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019). Rita is the author of four other books, including the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). Since the onset of the pandemic, Rita has created workshops, strategy sessions and keynotes, applying her tools and frameworks to strategy under high levels of uncertainty to specific issues organizations are facing.  As Rui Barbas, the Chief Strategy Officer for Nestle USA said, “You were incredibly insightful and, despite the virtual setting, there was lots of engagement and comments from leaders sharing eye-opening observations and building on your examples throughout. You delivered the inspiration and illustration desired and it was exactly the right focus and challenge for this team. Appreciate your time throughout the process to align on content and delivery. The future-focus theme was the perfect close to our leadership summit.” Rita’s work is focused on creating unique insights.  She has also founded Valize a companion company, dedicated to turning those insights into actionable capability.  You can find out more about Valize at McGrath received her Ph.D. from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) and has degrees with honors from Barnard College and the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. She is active on all the main social media platforms, such as Twitter @rgmcgrath.  For more information, visit   Social Media/ Websites: LinkedIn: Twitter: @rgmcgrath Instagram: @ritamcgrathofficial Youtube: Websites: and Rita's Newsletter/ Articles Substack: Medium: LinkedIn: Books Seeing Around Corners by Rita McGrath The Entrepreneurial Mindset by Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMillian The End of Competitive Advantage by Rita Gunther McGrath Disrupt Yourself by Whitney Johnson Humanocracy by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini Reimagining Capitalism by Rebecca Henderson When More is Not Better by Roger L. Martin Being An Adult by Lucy Tobin Only The Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove  Ula Ojiaku: My guest today is Dr. Rita McGrath. She’s a best-selling author, a sought-after speaker and advisor and consistently ranked among the top 10 management thinkers in the world, including the #1 award for strategy by Thinkers50. In this episode, Rita talked about the concept of inflection points from her book ‘Seeing Around Corners’ and how as leaders, we can train ourselves to spot these inflection points and act on the information we receive. She also talked about making complex things simple for the people we work with. I learnt a lot speaking with Rita and I’m sure you will find this conversation insightful as well. Thank you again for watching! It's an honor to have you on the show, Rita McGrath. Many, many thanks for joining us. Rita McGrath: Well, thank you Ula. It's a pleasure to be here. Ula Ojiaku: Great. Now, can you tell us about yourself? How did the Rita, Dr. Rita McGrath we know today evolve? Rita McGrath:  Well, it would have to start with my parents, of course. I mean, all great stories start with your parents. And so, my parents were both scientists. My mother was a Microbiologist, and my father was an Organic Chemist. And so, I grew up in a house where, you know, (if) a question couldn't be answered, you went and got the reference book and figured it out. And both, (had) incredible respect for science and for diligence. And, you know, the house was always full of books and lots of emphasis on learning. I wouldn't say we were, financially all that well-off – we weren’t poor by any means. But it was, you know, there wasn't like a lot of money to spare, but there was always money for books, and there was always money for, you know, educational experiences and that kind of thing. So, that's the household I grew up in. So, my parents, when I was born, were both on the staff at the Yale Medical School. So, they were both researchers there. And then my dad in the late 60s, got an offer to go join this upstart, fledgling company that was at the cutting edge of all kinds of things in his field and that was Xerox Corporation. And he was very conflicted about leaving academia, but went off eventually to Xerox. So, we moved the family to Rochester, New York. So that's where I did most of my growing up. And my mother at that time, decided to stay home, more or less. And then she started a scientific translation business. So, she moved into an entrepreneurial career more than her scientific career. And then when it came time to go to college, I went to Barnard College in the City of New York. I’d always thought New York was an amazing place and was accepted there. So, went off to New York, did my Bachelor's and my Master's in Political Science and Public Policy. I was very interested in public policy and matters of social contract and those kinds of things. And then my first job was actually with the City of New York, I ran purchasing systems for government agencies. It doesn't sound very glamorous. But today, we would call it digital transformation. It was the very first wave of companies taking their operations in a digital form. And it was very exciting and I learned a lot. Then I got to the end of… the thing about public service is when you start, there’s (this) unlimited sort of growth that can happen for a few years, and then it really just levels off. And you're never going to go beyond that. So, I kind of reached that headroom and decided to do something different. Ula Ojiaku:  Was it at that point that you decided to go for your PhD? Rita McGrath:  And that was one of the options I was considering. And my husband basically said, ‘look, if you get into a top five school, it's worth doing and if you don't, it's probably not.’ But you have to think in that time, MBA programs were just exploding, and there'd been a lot of pressure on the administrators of MBA programs, to put PhD accredited faculty in front of their students. The big knock against the MBA at the time was, oh, they're just trade schools. You know, we've got some guy who ran an entire company comes in and talks and that's not really academically suitable. And so, there was a huge pressure for schools to find PhD accredited people-  that still exists (but) the market pressures has changed a lot. But when I was doing my PhD, it was pretty sure I would get a job if I managed to complete the degree. So that that gave me that extra input to do that. Ula Ojiaku:  Did you already have like children when you started the PhD? Rita McGrath: Yes Ula Ojiaku:  And how did you cope? Rita McGrath:  Our son was, how old was he? He would have been nine months old when I started my PhD program. Yeah. Ula Ojiaku: Wow, 9 months old. Rita McGrath: Oh, yeah, it was a real challenge. And I guess everybody manages those kinds of challenges in their own way. But yeah, it was a struggle because, you know, typical day would be you know, get up, get the baby to daycare or wherever and then do school or whatever I had to do that day. And then it was sort of pick them up. By the time I had a second child it was pick them up, get them dinner, get them bedtime, get them story, and then I'll be back at my desk at nine o'clock at night, trying to do what I needed to do. So, it was a new turn. It was tough. It was difficult years. I mean, joyful years though but it was just hard to fit everything in. Ula Ojiaku:  I can imagine. I mean, although I'm thinking of starting my PhD (studies), my children aren't that small but I do remember the time (they were), you know, I was still working full time. So, the challenge is you'd go to work and then come back to work. I mean, to another type of work. And then when they go to bed, the work continues. Yeah, it's interesting. Rita McGrath: Quite exhausting. Ula Ojiaku: You can say that. I'm so glad they're not in diapers anymore. So, it's baby steps, we are getting there. So, can we go on to your book, “Seeing Around Corners, How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen”. I'd like to start from an unusual place in the book. I started from the dedication page, and you know, reading everything, and I noticed that, you referred to a conversation, one of the last conversations you had with your mother. Could you tell us about that? Rita McGrath:  Oh sure. She was well, at the time, she was quite ill, she had sarcoma in her lung, and she was quite ill. It's a horrible disease, and we haven't got any real treatments for it. So, the recommendation is you do chemo and that really knocks you out. So, she was quite ill and sort of migrating between the chair and the couch and the chair and the couch. And in one of those conversations, she just said ‘I want you to know I'm proud of you. And I've had a good life and I'm prepared for whatever comes next.’ And I thought that was lovely of her to say and I thought in that moment to pass it on to all these other women. And you know you bring up motherhood and being a working woman and all those complicated emotions that come with that because there seems to be guilt around every corner you know, if you’re not at home full time, oh you’re a terrible mom. And if you’re not at work full time, you're a terrible worker. I just I think so many of those things are just designed to twist us up into little balls. And when I look at my own mother's experience - she was a working woman… I grew up but I think I'm third or fourth generation working woman so it never even occurred to me that wouldn't be possible. But I think what often is missing is this validation, you know that for women who are trying to you know make their way professionally and be great, responsible parents and do all these other things that often there's a sense of a lack of self-worth you know, ‘oh, I'm not doing enough.’ The more I hear that… Ula Ojiaku:  I feel like that some… most days I feel like that… Rita McGrath: Believe me, you are doing enough Ula Ojiaku:  Sometimes I ask my children, am I a good mom? Rita McGrath:  I think part of it too is we, and when I say we, I mean baby boomer mothers and maybe a little younger. We got ourselves all tangled up in this if it's not like organic, hand-processed  lima beans with you know, organic succotash, mixed in you know, it's not good baby food. Honestly, Gerber's exists to provide perfectly nutritious food for really young babies and they've been doing it for decades and you can trust that and if it makes your life easier, go with it. Ula Ojiaku:  Thank you! Rita McGrath: You know, I think we I think we get ourselves all tossed up in like, what does good mean? I mean, honestly, the kids don't mind you know? I mean, they’d celebrate if it was chicken finger night. Ula Ojiaku:  Let's go to the book. You know, because in your book you said you it's about how to spot inflections before they happen in business. Can you give us examples of, you know, businesses that had these inflection points occur, and they failed to recognize it and what was the impact? Rita McGrath:  Sure, let's take one that is quite sad to me, which is Intel. And Intel built its, well, Intel went through a major inflection point, in fact, the originator of the concept was Andy Grove, who was their former CEO. And he talked about his inflection points in his book, Only the Paranoid Survive, which is really a brilliant, brilliant book. And one of the reasons I wrote my book was that very little had been done since his book on that topic. And Grove built this incredible company, Intel. And they were making microprocessor chips. And they were very, very powerful, very fast chips. And so, the assumptions inside Intel's business model was, what customers were going to pay for was faster, faster, faster, more computation power, more and more powerful. But what they didn't really think about was energy consumption. And as the world went more mobile… so the Intel product is the PC, and the PC, the desktop PC remains firmly plugged into the wall. And then later, we make PC chips that maybe have slightly lower power consumption to power PCs, but it's still that notion of power, you know, and I think the inflection point that caught Intel by surprise, to some extent was, this movement towards mobile, where the vast majority of chips being made were these completely different architecture chips by  companies like ARM and you know, and companies like that, which, from their inception, recognized that low power was the way to go. Then they weren't very powerful in the sense of speed, which is what Intel was driving its business towards. But they were powerful in the sense of ubiquitous low power, long battery life, that kind of thing. And I think that's an example of the kind of assumption that can cause a company to get into trouble, when the underlying shift in the business environment says, ‘wait a minute, this thing you've been building all this time may not be what is needed by the marketplace.’ Ula Ojiaku:  That's interesting. So, it brings me to the point of, the points you made about, you know, the indicators, the early warnings, and you mentioned the concept of you know lagging, current and leading indicators. And there was an emphasis in your book on, you know, leading indicators. Could you tell us a bit about that? Rita McGrath:  Sure. Well, so leading indicators are today's information about tomorrow's possibilities. And what we unfortunately rely on a lot in business is lagging indicators - so profits, performance, you know, ROI, all those things are lagging some kind of decision that you made a long time ago. So, the concept of leading indicators is to try to get business leaders to think about what would have to be true, you know, before I was able to make a certain decision, what are the leading indicators? So, an example would be back in the 90s, computer scientists all over the world realized that come the year 2000, from the turn of the millennium, that the way computer programs had been programmed, was only two digits for the year. And so, when the year went to zero-zero, computers, were going to think it was 1900 and this was going to be terrible. Because they all get out of sync, you know, and planes would drop out of the sky. You're gonna become unstable, and you’ll all need to move to Montana and stuff … I don't know if you can remember this. Ula Ojiaku: Yeah, the Y2K bug… Rita McGrath: Oh my goodness…! Ula Ojiaku: It was a big sensation. Yeah… Rita McGrath: Apocalyptic – remember?! And yet, when the big moment came the year 2000. What happened? Well, nothing happened. Why did nothing happen? We looked at that early warning, and we said, whoa, if that happens, it's bad. And then so companies, prodded by their accounting firms, prodded by other security considerations invested billions in correcting that flaw. And so, that's an example of an early warning. And there are a couple of things to understand about early warning. So, the first important thing is, the measure of a good early warning is not, did it predict what happened. The measure of a good leading indicator is, did it help you prepare for what might happen? And so, I think that's a really important distinction, because we oftentimes, oh, you that didn't predict this or that. But that's not the point. The point is, did it help you think more broadly about what might happen so that you could be prepared? So, I think that's the first thing. The second thing to remember about leading indicators is they're often not quantitative in the way that we like to think about quantitative things. They're often qualitative. They often take the form of stories. And they often come from what are called unrepresentative parts of your mental ecosystem. So, you know, it's that person on the loading dock (saying to themselves), ‘this is, well, that's weird, a customer never asked for that before’, or the person answering the phone, you know, in headquarters going, ‘Well, I don't understand why they need that information…’ You know, it's those little anomalies or things that depart from business as usual, that are often the weak signals that you need to be paying attention to. Ula Ojiaku:  So, can you give us an example where you mean, I mean, of how we can go about choosing good leading indicators? Rita McGrath:  Well, in the book, I describe a technique that I use, which is you take a couple of uncertainties and juxtapose them on each other. And that gives you four or more you can do this for as many as you like, stories from the future, possibly a future that we could live in. And then depending on which one you want to think about, you say, ‘okay, I'm gonna write a headline as if it came from a newspaper story about that scenario. And I'm gonna work backwards and say, what has to be true for that headline to emerge.’ So, take an example that's playing out right now, chronic and accelerating decline in birth rates in the United States. People are just deciding not to enlarge their families or not to start their families at all. And for very good reasons, you know, the level of social support for families is very low. Mostly women are bearing the burden. And very often women are the ones that make a large part of the decision about whether the family is going to grow or not. And so, we're facing a real baby bust. Well, if that's true, and we follow that along, well, what are some things that would be early warnings or indicators of what that world will be like? Well, you'll see a decline of working people relative to retired people, or people needing assistance, you'll see, you know, fewer kids with more resources to support them. So, the kind of baby Prince phenomena we saw in China. There are lots of things you can kind of work through. But once you say, ‘okay, I see a world with a million fewer children three years from now, than we would have expected well, okay, what now working backward? What does that tell us we need to be paying attention to today? Ula Ojiaku:  Yes, yes. That's a great example. And I wonder, though, so given all, you know, the research that has led to, and your experience as well, consulting with, you know, most of these large organizations, the case studies, you've come to witness and all that, what would you, what would be your advice to leaders of such organizations, you know, in terms of how they can better prepare themselves or equip themselves to recognize these inflection points, and lead effectively? Rita McGrath:  Well, I think the first principle is you have to be discovery driven. In other words, you have to be curious about what's going on. And if you're the kind of leader who (when) someone brings you a piece of information, and instead of treating it like a gift, you're like, oh no, you don't understand that's wrong. That's not the way the world works. If you're dismissive of information people are bringing you that's very dangerous. Because the information you need is not going to come from your lieutenants at headquarters, it's going to come from that guy on the loading dock. So, I think you want to think about establishing some kind of information flows, that go directly from where the phenomena are happening to your desk. So, as an example, a company I really admire is the German metal services company Klockner. And their CEO, Gisbert Ruehl was taking them through a digital transformation. And his big concern was not that they meant it, right? But that his lieutenants, his middle manager, cohort, would be so expert, and so experienced at the way business was, that they would just shut down these digital efforts. And he was very, very concerned about that. He said, well, I need some way of making my message heard directly to the people that are on the frontlines and I also need a way of hearing from them what's going on. So, he implemented Yammer, called non-hierarchical communication. And the deal was anybody in the company that had something he needed to know should feel comfortable sending him a note. And I'm told, I don't know this for a fact that I'm told that at headquarters, he had his instance of Yammer set up so that the lower the hierarchical level of the person, the higher it came in his newsfeed. Ula Ojiaku: Oh, wow. Rita McGrath: So, you know, I can talk to my lieutenants, anytime. Information I need is in the, you know, 24-year-old person who's just joined us with an engineering degree, who's looking at our manufacturing process for screwdrivers and saying, ‘Why do you do it that way? There must be a better way of doing this…’ That's the information I really need and he set up a whole system to try to get that information to him, to himself. Ula Ojiaku:  Would you say there's a typical kind of leader with, you know, some certain characteristics that's best equipped to spot the inflection point, and you know, kind of lead the charge and get the organizations in line? Rita McGrath:  You know, I think it's more of the behavior, it's not the characteristics. So, I've seen charismatic, attractive, you know, movie star type CEOs be good at this. I've seen people you look at and you go ‘Really? He looks kind of like he slept in his clothes all night.’ I've seen those people be good at it. So, you know, I think the differentiation is this, this hunger for new information, this curiosity, this relentless… ‘tell me again…’ and ‘why was that and why was that?’ It is this urgent need to really learn what's going on. And then and then putting yourself in the, in the context. So, one of the people I'm working with right now is a brilliant retail CEO, and everything. And one of the things he would do before hiring anybody into his senior team, is he would spend a day or two walking the stores, you know, and in his explanation to me was, ‘I want to see how they react to the stores. I want to see how they treat the people working in stores. I want to see what they notice, you know, I want to see if they notice that there's a thing out of array and I want to see how they are with me, like if they spend their whole two days in store visits, sucking up to me - that's not somebody I need, you know. And so, I think the best leaders along those lines are people who are relentlessly curious, bring people around them who are diverse, you know, you don't just want echo chambers of themselves. Ula Ojiaku:  True, true. You don't want ‘yes’ men if you really want to make an impact really. Yeah, and how can I, as a person, train myself to also recognize these inflection points. Rita McGrath:  Well, it depends what the inflection point is. So, if it's a question of, you've been making nice steady progress in your career, and now you've hit some kind of ceiling and you just feel you're not growing or developing any more, then that choice is really okay, I need to… the way Whitney Johnson would put this, she's written a great book on this, “Disrupt Yourself”, right? You go up this S curve, then you need to make the decision if you're going to take on the J curve, right, which is the part below the S curve before you get into the next round of learning. So, that's a personal decision, really only you can make a decision like that. Then there are the cases where inflection points are thrust upon you. So you lose a job, your spouse has some setback, a family member has an urgent need that makes whatever you were doing before impossible. I mean, there's all kinds of outside things that can happen to you. Ula Ojiaku: Yeah… Rita McGrath: And I think the best way to try to look at those is. ‘is this a slingshot to a better future, potentially?’ And you know, how many people have you talked to who got fired, and some years later say, ‘that was the best thing that ever happened to me, it shook me out of my complacency. It made me think differently.’ And so, I think a lot of times, you know, we, it's very comfortable (staying) stuck in our ruts. And sometimes it takes a bit of a jolt to get us out of that. Ula Ojiaku:  That's a great one. Can I just ask you about so it's not really about your book, Seeing Around Corners, but this one is about the Entrepreneurial Mindset? Just one quick question. Because there's a quote, in your book, that book that says, you know, “the huge part of becoming an entrepreneurial leader is learning to simplify complexity, so that your co-workers can act with self-confidence.” That quote, it made me kind of be more conscious about, am I really making things simpler for my co-workers instead of, you know, rather than to enable us, you know, achieve the best that we could as a group? So why did you, make that quote and associate it with an Entrepreneurial Mindset? Rita McGrath:  Well, because if you make things complicated for people, there's maybe three responses, right? One is they'll start on whatever they start on, which is kind of random. And maybe they finish it, and maybe they don't, but it's really now you're leaving it to chance. Because if you give people more to digest than they can manage, you're going to get back some fraction of it. So that's one thing. Second thing that happens is, if it's too complex, a lot of times people will pick what they want to do, not have anything to do with the agenda that you want to set for the organization. And the third thing is there's just a laziness that comes from having things be complex. I know for myself, when I've had to do strategy statements for myself, or my business, it takes a long, long time to get it done into a few simple things. And each word has to mean something. So, as an example, some years back, I started a sister company. It's called Valize. And the strategy really is to its mission, its purpose for me, is to help organizations create innovation and transformation capability as the basis for shared prosperity. And that sounds really simple. That sounds really kind of ‘duh, that’s not so grand, but I mean, the hours it took to get to that simplicity of statement. And then once you've got something like that, you can go back and you could say, okay, well, here's the thing that I'm being asked to do or think I'm thinking of, does it build capability? Yes. No. Does it build shared prosperity? Yes, no. Does it help organizations to help themselves? Yes, no. And it sorts out a lot of stuff means a lot of stuff we could do. But there are only a few things that really fit into that sweet spot of shared capability. So, having that simplification allows you to clear out a lot of the …, there are always wonderful options that you got to do things, right? And it's a question of abundance, you've usually got more great options than you could possibly exercise. So, picking the best ones is the challenge. Ula Ojiaku:  Wow, wow. I'm going to listen to this part again. You've mentioned some books already, like Andy Grove’s, Only the Paranoid, I mean, Only the Paranoid survive. And you've mentioned the book, Disrupt Yourself… In addition to these books, and your wonderful suite of books, what other books would you recommend to the audience that you believe have influenced you that you'd recommend to the listeners that would help them you know, learn more about this topic? Rita McGrath: Oh, that's hard, because there's so many. Well, I love Safi Bahcall’s Loonshots. I think that's a brilliant, brilliant book. And it really gets to the heart of how innovation actually happens rather than how we think it happens. I rather like Gary Hamel’s and Michele Zanini’s book, Humanocracy which has the basic question, you know, if you look at Instagram, or Twitter or any of these social platforms, you see these people who are just brilliant. I mean, they're creating incredibly creative stuff. And then we put them inside companies. And we insist that they do things by the rule, and we block all the creativity out of them. So, why do we do that? You know, I think that's a really great one. I'm very taken with Rebecca Henderson's, Re-imagining Capitalism in a World on Fire. Very, very brilliant. Roger Martin, When More is not Better. Just recently had a Julie Lythcott-Haims on my fireside chat program, which is and she's got a book called Your Turn, How to be an Adult”, which is, on a personal level, absolutely fascinating - really good book. I like Peter Sim’s, Little Bets. You know, they're just so many I mean, I wouldn't even know where to where to start. Those are the ones that are sort of top of mind at the moment. Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. scribbling away as you're talking, and yeah, these all these would be in the show notes with the links to them. So that's great. Now, how can the audience reach you? If they want to, you know follow your work. Rita McGrath: The best place to start is my website, which is really, that's easy. I have columns that I write for. They’re currently going up on substack and medium. If you just search my name and or medium, you'll find me there. I do weekly, LinkedIn post, which goes to subscribers on LinkedIn. Also, that's all sort of good places to start. Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. Are you on social media? Rita McGrath:  Oh, yes. So yes. I'm on Twitter @RGMcGrath. And I'm on LinkedIn. Okay. I'm not on Facebook so much. But I have put things I post there, but I'm not really on it very much. Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. All right. That's, I mean, thanks for those. Now, let's wrap up any ask of the audience first? Rita McGrath:  I think we're in a remarkable moment, right now, you know, we've had so many of our previous habits and assumptions disrupted, that I think it would be a shame to lose, to lose all that and just go back to the way things were. So, I think it's an opportunity to reflect and to really think about, what kind of future do we want to build now that so many of our assumptions and institutions have been challenged, and we learned whole new tricks, we learned whole new ways to do things. Let's not just snap back to the way it was, let's think about inventing better. Rita McGrath:  Really, I think there's going to be great opportunity coming out of this current crisis and those who are thinking ahead will benefit from it. Ula Ojiaku:  Okay, great. Well, Rita, thank you so much for your time, and it's been a pleasure again, having you on the show. Rita McGrath: Thank you very much.  
29:57 4/30/23
(S3) E027 David Hawks on Path to Agility and the Need for Outcome-Driven Transformations
Bio As CEO of Agile Velocity, David Hawks guides leaders through their agile transformation with a focus on achieving business results. David is a Certified Enterprise Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer who is passionate about helping organisations achieve true agility, not just implementing Agile practices. He helps create transformation strategies and manages organisational change through leadership coaching and was the creator of Path to Agility®.  Interview Highlights  03:58 Stumbling into agile 05:25 Agile Velocity 09:00 Path to Agility 14:30 Applying a different lens to each context 20:25 Philosophy around assessment 27:20 How to lead transformation  Websites: · · ·         Agile Transformation Management Tool | Path to Agility Navigator  Books: ·         Leadership is Language by L. David Marquet ·         Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet  Social media: ·         LinkedIn: ·         Twitter: @austinagile Episode Transcript Intro (Ula Ojiaku): Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku Thank you, David, for making the time for this conversation. David Hawks Thank you for having me. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. So let's learn a bit more about you, David. Can you tell us about yourself? David Hawks Let's see. So, I founded a company called Agile Velocity about 12 years ago. I live in Austin, Texas, and have two kids that are in college, trying to figure out how to get through ‘COVID college’, which is quite the crazy time to, you know, one of them started college in COVID times, and so that's definitely a whole different experience. And, let's see, so I'm an avid Longhorn fan. So, Longhorns or the university here, we don't have any professional sports teams in Austin. So, that was my alma mater, and so I am known for long football tailgates and being at all the sporting events. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. Did you play any football yourself? David Hawks I did not play football, but I was, the surprising thing for me is that I was a, not in college, but an all year round swimmer for about eight years of my life. So, strong swimming background, started doing triathlons about five years ago. So I hadn't swam, I mean, I swam in like, the ocean, but like, I hadn't swam in any competitive way for like 20 years. And then I picked that back up and started doing triathlons a number of years ago. So, I put that on the shelf, but I'm starting, the itch is coming back. So I'm starting down that path again. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. So, could you tell us a bit about your background, you know, growing up, did you have any experiences that you would kind of see the inflection points that maybe guided you on the path that you're on today? David Hawks Yeah. I mean the one that comes to mind. So, my dad started his own consulting company when I was in middle school, and so I always had this vision of being an entrepreneur, starting a company. Now, when I was, you know, middle or like college and after college, I always thought it was going to be like, start some custom software. I can, I got a technical degree. So I thought I was going to be like a custom software development company or something. And then the dot com bust happened. And it was like, oh, that, and then I started having kids and it didn't seem like the risk to take at the time of going and doing that, so it took a little longer to get going, but what is interesting as I ended up starting my business when my son was in middle school, so it’s like, he's kind of got a little bit of the same type of like, hey, I've, you know, experienced, this entrepreneur kind of building a business. And, but that was always my bucket list. That was always the, like, that's, what I want to do is go build a business.  I stumbled into agile in around 2003 at a company where it was, you know, we were doing agile things and, you know, there weren't a ton of books at the time, right? Like, it wasn't until I think Mike Cohn's Agile Estimating and Planning book came out that I was like, oh, now I see how we can run our, you know, our projects, our work and plan and forecast and do all those things, and so I had the luxury of, I worked for a company around 2003 to 2005, where we started some things, but then the company I went to next, I was able to hire much of the team from the previous company. We continued our agile journey together, and then some of those same folks were the first employees of Agile Velocity in around 2011, 2012 timeframe. So, we all kind of had this agile journey over 10 years and then kind of ended up building this business to help organisations that are trying to adopt agile practices and agile ways of working. And so, yeah, those were kind of two pivotal things that like shaped ultimately building this organisation that's now, you know, helping companies across the world with their agile transformations. Ula Ojiaku That's very impressive, David. So what made you know, this is the right time to start my David Hawks To start Agile Velocity? I would say I kind of stumbled into it, right? Like it was, so I ended at the one company, I picked up what was supposed to be just this short term contract, a company that had just been bought by, that was like, it was called Wayport, that was bought by AT&T, but they were doing like all the wifi for Starbucks, for Hilton at that time. And they were trying to scale, and they were like, we're agile, but we just need help scaling. And so I just kind of went in as a consultant to help them with that, it's supposed to be like a three to six months engagement. Well, I got in there and I was like, y'all are not as agile as y'all think y'all are, right. And so I ended up, I remember putting together this, like, one page spreadsheet that was like, here's what I observe, here's what you could be doing better, here's what the impact of that would be. And they said, okay, go help us do that. So I didn't even know, like agile coaching was a career, and all of a sudden I kinda stumbled into like coaching them, right, and helping them and guiding them. You know, I had been a, like director, executive over software development groups up until that point, but always was kind of focused on the process and the way we work and how we collaborate and how the teams are structured and all, that was always what was my focus less, about like, the technical architecture and other things like, other people were better at that than me, but like, thinking about the flow and all that before I understood lean, before I understood any of that, right, like that was just kind of innate and what I would always look at. So then all of a sudden where I'm coaching them. And I always thought like, after that three to six month engagement, I’d just go back and get another kind of leadership role in one of the Austin companies and, but about six months in, I was like, this is kind of fun and I'm not half bad at it. You know, maybe I could build a business around this, right. And, and so that's when Agile Velocity was formed in 2010, about six months into that, where I go, okay, and then created the company and started doing, getting more active in the local kind of user group, which Agile Austin is pretty active, they've got over 10 meetings a month just happening within that umbrella. So I started getting involved in that, started kind of building a brand around helping folks in agile space. And then by the end of, well, I guess it was kind of into that next year that I started picking up other clients and then added a first employee and then like, oh, okay, like, now we're off, right, and it wasn't just that, you know, we got past that first engagement and then, okay, now there's a business here and more people are interested in, and really the beginning of 2012 is when we started getting, oh, we got this client and this client, and this client and this client now I'm stretched everywhere and now I need to start adding people. So, yeah. Ula Ojiaku That's really awesome. So let's move on to, because I noticed on your website and actually it was via your Agile Velocity website that I learned about Path to Agility, also known as P to A. So can you tell us what P to A is? David Hawks Yeah, so Path to Agility is something that emerged over, kind of our years of guiding transformation changes within big enterprise organisations. And it started out in kind of two forms. One was, we started in, for those that are on video, if you're not on video, you can go to It's like, we started to build out this kind of model, and the model was in response to a couple of things.  One is every time the sales hotline would ring, it would be a leader saying, I need to do agile, can you come train my teams? Right. And we would be like, all right, we can do that, but it's not just a team level problem. Right? Like it has more levels to it. So we are trying to, how do we articulate that? And two, it's more than just a training thing, right? You're going to need more than training. You're going to need coaching and support and rollout. And you need to think about this as an organisational change. So we started to build out this model called Path to Agility. At the same time, we had a coach who took the Scrum guide and reverse engineered it into a set of stories that were like, you know, we're cards on a wall that we're like, all right, I'm here to coach you on getting a product owner in place. In order for us to know that we have a product owner in place, here's the acceptance criteria, right? In order for us to know that we're doing good sprint planning, here's the acceptance criteria. And we built out these cards and that really helped us as coaches to start being explicit about why are we here? What are we here to do? Because a lot of times people are like, the leaders are like, I have no idea what you're going to coach. Right. And so we started being explicit with that. Well, that all evolved into what we have and know in Path to Agility today, which is a capability model of 85 capabilities that have over 400 acceptance criteria for us to be able to evaluate where we are in our transformation, where we are in our adoption, in an outcome driven, kind of assessment versus a just, practice of what we see is too many companies that are just going through the motions of agile. It's like I have a daily Scrum check. I have a Scrum master check, which, that early version was kind of more like, are we doing the things? But we all know that you could do the things and still not be delivering faster or delivering with happier customers or anything like that. So we've evolved Path to Agility, to become a way of assessing from an outcomes perspective, from a capability perspective, are we actually achieving a, you know, let's say little a agility, as opposed to just doing the framework that's kind of in front of us. And so we're using that with all of our clients and we've got over a hundred facilitators across the world that are using Path to Agility to guide transformations in this much more outcome driven way. Ula Ojiaku I know that some listeners or people, well, if they're watching the video, they will be wondering, is this yet another agile framework? David Hawks Yeah. So we may, it's funny you ask, because we made the mistake of calling it a, like we think it is a framework, but it's not that type of framework. Right. So what we distinguish is, you know, Scrum, SAFe, those are implementation frameworks, right, they're telling us the, how, like, here's the practices that we should do, here's the rules of how we work. We think about Path to Agility as more of a transformation framework, right? A framework on how do I guide my transformation? So think of it as an umbrella on top of Scrum, SAFe, Kanban, LeSS, DaD, whatever, Nexus, whatever practices, you know, user stories, story points, whatever you're doing. Path to Agility is a lens on top of that to say, how do I guide the change? How do I, so we took agile adoption patterns and organisational change management techniques and combined them into a way of saying how do I get from point A to point B? Because, you know, I mentioned that that first engagement that I had, Wayport, and bought by AT&T well, one of the mistakes I made as like the first time as a coach is I had seen a hundred mile an hour agile, and they were maybe at like, you know, 10 or 20 mile an hour agile. And I tried to yank them to a hundred mile an hour agile overnight, and that didn't work. Right? Like, you can't do that. You’ve got to go from like 20 to 40, and 40 to 60, and 60 to 80. And sometimes when you go from 80 to 100, you throw out some of the things you learned that, you know, some of the, like the training wheels types of things that you learned. Well, Path to Agility is a way, a lens for you to see where are we? Are we at 20? Are we at 40? Are we at 60? Are we at 80? And given where we are, it informs our next steps, right? Because we can't jump and leapfrog all the way to a hundred. While you maybe could do that, if you were a 10 person company, an enterprise, you know, most of our organisations we deal with are in the thousands, in the organisation that's transforming. And, you know, you can't change like that. Like, you're trying to turn an aircraft carrier around and it takes time, right, and it's almost like we're trying to turn it into the wind, right? Like it keeps blowing back, you know? So, yeah, it's a challenging thing, but getting a better sense of where we are, and better intel on what to do next is what Path to Agility is trying to help organisations and leaders with. Ula Ojiaku You mentioned something earlier about, you know, helping organisations with evaluating where they are on the transformation. So that gives me the impression that it could be used for, you know, no matter what, you know, implementation framework they've adopted, it's still there, it still fits in seamlessly with helping them look at it from an outcome-based focus. So that's one. So that's a type of organisation that has already started, but there probably would also be organisations, let's say they're in the early stages, or they've not yet started. If they implement this with whatever they choose, you know, it probably would give them, save them a lot of heartache because they're starting from an outcome. That is the focus. So for the first scenario where an organisation is, has already started, how would you typically go about introducing P to A and how would they, you know, how can at a high level, you know, how would you go about David Hawks Yeah, I mean, yeah. So first one, like you’re, well, I guess the first thing is very few organisations at this point are on their first agile transformation, right? Like, and what I kind of, just like thought about it is that, you know, 10 years ago, or prior to 10 years ago, everything was grassroots agile, right? Like the one I told the story, it was like the developers were the ones introducing agile at that first company in the ARTs. Right. But in then about 10 years ago, everything was Scrum based. It was really team only agile transformation applying Scrum. Then, you know what, six, seven years ago, SAFe and other scaling frameworks started to emerge because it's really the team level unlocked the ability for us to think about how it could be applied across like the system as a system of teams, team of teams, in a, in a 100 to 200 person organisation, and so the scaling techniques. So then we started seeing all these scaling transformations and now we're on the cusp of introducing the next era, which are, which is business agility, and how, now that we've seen how it can apply at, like these kind of sub orgs. Now we could see how it could be applied across the whole org, right. And that starting to turn to that. So I would say all that's just an evolution, and so most companies are in a transformation somewhere along that horizon. And so what Path to Agility helps you do is figure out where you are. Right. And figure out when to, you know, again, you know, and some transformations have stalled, right? So it could be a way of reenergising, right, to get a sense of, okay, we, you know, a lot of times people think we're done because we implemented all the things, right. We did all the stuff in the picture. We have an RTE, we have an ART, we do PI planning. We're doing all the things. So we're done . Well, not necessarily, right? Like maybe, you know, we have five stages and paths to agility. Maybe you've learned those things, but the next stage is have you gotten predictable delivery out of those things? And then the next stage is, are you optimising for speed and reducing cycle time by doing those things? And then the fifth stage is, are you adapting based on what the market is telling you because you can now deliver quickly. Are you actually sensing and responding based on what the market is saying, and are you running quick experiments, are you testing and learning? Right? Like those are different levels of kind of maturity. And very few companies are actually at that fifth stage, most are actually kind of exiting learn, trying to get predictable and have an achieved speed. So, what I would say is for most organisations, Path to Agility can help them assess where they are if they already are doing some transformation efforts and it will better inform their next actions. And then for the second kind of scenario, you said, where they're kind of more just starting. Well they're probably just starting somewhere along that evolution, right? Like, there's already some agile teams happening somewhere, right. So they're not necessarily starting, like I've never done agile before, but what it can help them do is determine what practices we need. So, we would say, figure out your business outcome. Like we want to deliver faster, whatever that is, then figure out the minimum number, like what capabilities do you need to enable that? And Path to Agility helps with that, and then do the minimal amount of practice change in order to support that. Don't just go implement all the things, right? Because you may not need all those things, and if you get lost in just doing all those things, you might not actually achieve the outcome that you’re after. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. So how would you conduct the assessments? Because some listeners might be curious to say, yeah, well, it sounds really interesting, but what's, how would the assessment go and how would you then go on to choose what capabilities you need and, you know, how are you going to measure? David Hawks Yeah, there’s two fidelities, I would say, of ability to kind of assess with Path to Agility, and then I think it's important to mention kind of our philosophy around assessment. So, we don't believe in assessing just to get a score, right. We believe in the process of self-evaluation or self-assessment enables the intelligence to determine action, right. The only reason, so we don't want to just turn assessment in to report card it, you know, we've seen that and then it's just weaponised and it's not really that useful. So that means anytime we do assessment, we want the people that can take action in the room doing it, right, and we don't want it to also, we don't believe in, just offline, fill out a set survey, because that doesn't invoke conversation and doesn't invoke action. So all of our assessment kind of processes are built around the notion of a facilitated session with the people, like, say we're going to do an assessment with just a single team, we could just do that and wait, but we would do it with the team, right, because then we would say, okay, given what you learned and where you are, and what Path to Agility is saying, hey, here are some of the next steps, then you can determine what actions do you want to take. If you're doing that across a system or, say, an organisation of like 150 people, well then you would want to bring the leadership team of that organisation in, because they're the ones that are going to need to prioritise action and take action based on that, right. So then you would do a facilitated session with them and work through that. Ula Ojiaku Okay. Now there's something you've been mentioning, which you've mentioned like team, system, organisation, for some people who might not be familiar with the term. So the team is like, you know, a normal team, the team that actually would do the work in a day to day, and you might have multiple of those teams. The system, is that the same thing as a program, you know? David Hawks It could be, yeah, and if you are, so, system, we're not talking about like a technical system, we're talking about the system of teams or the team of teams, the flow of work through the system, and if you're doing a safe implementation and system and ART are usually pretty synonymous, that kind of scale, assuming that you've formed your ARTs correctly, aligned to value and you know, some things like that, so it would be more akin to, all right,  I need these 10 teams to deliver a product together. So however we're aligning around value and being more product centric, that's typically the system. And then the org is, typically, aligned more with kind of, a lot of times more of a hierarchical kind of context and an organisation could be like the VPs organisation, where is the transformation change happening? In some of our large clients where we have 5,000, so one of our case studies is out there as with Southwest Airlines, so I can mention that one. So, you know, they had 5,000 people in their technology organisation, but the cruise systems, that organisation was led by a gentlemen named Marty Garza, and he had, you know, 250 people in that organisation, and that was the focus of some of the transformational efforts. So we got his leadership team together, right, to look at kind of their transformational roadmap and backlog and plan and applied that organisational lens. And then we work with the marketing organisation, we apply a different lens, right, like, so, depending on that organisational kind of context, most of the time, these big transformations are, I say, are really like transformations inside of transformations inside of transformations, because it's really, you've got the larger scope, but then, all right, we're going to have a wave approach that we're going to do crew, and then we're going to do, you know, round offs and then tech ops, and like, we're going to roll out these different parts. We're not going to do all of them at once typically, right. It's going to be kind of a waved approach. And so that order lens is whatever that kind of context that we're looking at. Ula Ojiaku Okay. That makes sense. So what's next for Path to Agility? David Hawks Yeah. So, we’ve actually been, had the luxury this last year that we've taken what was, you know, in this card form that I mentioned originally, and then with COVID, we had to convert that to virtual Miro and Mural boards and do all of our workshops in that form. But over the last year, we've actually invested in building a software tool and product around Path to Agility called Path to Agility Navigator, and that's just enabling the assessment, the visualisation, the impediments, the tracking, the management of your transformation to just be done so much easier, and it's not like stuff hiding in a Miro or hiding in a Mural, right, and, or, in all these different PowerPoints or whatever. So we're actually launching that product this quarter, and so yeah, Path to Agility Navigator, we'll put a link in the materials. But that's something interesting, as far as the visualisation and management of your transformation, we're excited to have done a lot of work on that, and launching that this month. Ula Ojiaku And it does look cool. I was at the, you know, Path to Agility Facilitators mini conference and the demo was awesome, it shows a lot of promise. I can't wait to play around with it myself. So what do you then, because you have helped lots of organisations since you started back in 2010, 11, 12 with their transformation and evaluating where they are at now, so what would be your advice for leaders already on their transformation? David Hawks Yeah, so one, you know, we kind of have hit on it, but just to put a pin in it, it is to say, when you're thinking about your transformation, start with, you know, what, I guess the end in mind, but like, you know, like what's the outcome? What, not a goal. Your goal is not to be agile, right, or not to implement agile, or not to implement SAFe. Those are not goals, that's not going to motivate anybody. So what you've got to have, this kind of vision statement, mission statement that you're making really clear, that's a motivating change in your organisation that people can get excited about, the reason why we're doing this change is because we're trying to, we need to be more responsive in the market, if we're not more responsive, we're getting left behind, right. We're losing market share, whatever, what's creating the urgency for change? And if you can't find it, then don't do it, right. Because it's hard and it's difficult and you won't persevere through the change if you can't come up with this clear mission of why you're doing it. That's going to motivate not just the leaders, not just the Board, but like motivate more importantly, all the people, right, that are going to be part of the change. So that's got to be, and it's got to be a business outcome focused, not practices centric. Second is, the leadership team has to lead the change, and it's not enough to say, Mr. VP, I support the agile, you know, you've got to be engaged in the transformation efforts, you've got to be identifying how you need to potentially shift your questions, your behaviour, your actions, right? I don't know how many times I've seen a leader say, hey, yeah, y'all go do agile, but what's the date and what's going to be in it? Right? Like you're still asking the same question, so I encourage leaders to change instead of asking these very delivery focused kind of questions to ask, what are you learning and how can I help, right. What can I do to support you? What impediments can I remove for you that are organisational? The leaders have to go attack the organisational and systemic impediments that emerge, right, and they've got to lead those change efforts while the teams are trying to change themselves, right, and how they're working. So it's not enough just to say, go train my teams or go train the people to do work differently. You've got to think about what are you doing differently that's encouraging? And the reason why I say, what are you learning is we want to start encouraging a continuous improvement culture, and so you've got to apply accountability to, are you taking, are you having meaningful retrospectives and taking action? What are you learning? What are you doing to improve? And if you don't ever ask that question, you're only asking like, are you going to make the date, then they're not going to focus on improving, right. They're going to focus on just delivering, but if they can focus on improving, then they'll actually start delivering more successfully, right? You'll get what you want out of it, you want them to deliver faster, you want them to do those things, but ask them and start putting the onus on what are they learning, right, challenging them in that way. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. So what books have you, you know, recommended most to people, and why? David Hawks I think, yeah, I’ve got it right here, you know, I'm a big David Marquet fan and so, you know, Turn the Ship Around, and I've seen him speak multiple times, is always great, but the one he came out with just like, I don't know, this was like a year or two ago was the Leadership is Language and, you know, he says there, the hidden power of what you say and what you don't, right, like, again, that if you're a leader and you're trying to think about, okay, how do I, you know, you say, oh, I need to operate differently, but I, you know, but I don't, but I'm kicked out of the room. I don't get invited to the sprint plannings and I'm not allowed in the retrospectives, so what is it that I need to do differently, you know, looks like that or things that, you know, start helping you see, okay, how can I lead in a more outcome-based way, right? Give people purpose, but get out of the way of the how, right, and I think that's, you know, that's kind of where I would point folks. Ula Ojiaku Okay, well, thank you. I’ve noted that and there will be links to both books, Turn the Ship Around, which you mentioned, and Leadership is Language in the show notes. And how can the audience find you if they want to get in touch with you or engage with you? David Hawks Yeah. So, you know, our two kind of brands that we've talked about here, so as well are kind of the two different things that we've talked about here, and you can reach out on both of those websites and we're small, but mighty. So, you know, that's an easy way to find me. There are three Davids on our team now, so you do need to be specific with my last name or else you might get to one of the other Davids. We actually hired two in December, so it was like, we went from one to three overnight. Now we actually have to use last names. Ula Ojiaku And are you on social media by any chance? David Hawks Yeah, so I’m actually Austin Agile is, but I'm not, I haven't been very active in Twitter in a long time, but that's, LinkedIn is probably a better, and I think my profile is David Hawks1 or something like that. Ula Ojiaku We'll find the link, no worries. So LinkedIn. David Hawks LinkedIn's probably the best. And then, yeah, that's where I'm more active. Ula Ojiaku All right. So would there be anything you'd like the audience to do, you know, based on what we've discussed so far, is there anything you want to share? David Hawks Yeah, if you’re involved in agile transformation, transition, adoption, trying to improve your ways of working, then I would just encourage you to think about, is there a clear business driver that everybody is aware of, right? Is it, you know, you might be aware of it as the leader, is everybody aware of why you're doing it? Or if you went and polled why we're doing it, would they say well, because you know, Joe VP told me to, or would they say because we're implementing SAFe, right, like what, why are we implementing SAFe, right? And the reason for that is if people aren't motivated to change, then you're not going to persevere through the, it's going to get, it's tough, right? There's some tough things that have to happen. So, and then I think changing, thinking about changing your language in terms of kind of applying more of an accountability for learning and continuous improvement versus an accountability, we have plenty of accountability towards like getting things done, right. So I would encourage folks to kind of shift that a little bit. Ula Ojiaku Thank you so much, David, it's been very insightful speaking with you and I can't wait to see what comes with, you know, comes up in the Path to Agility platform, so thank you again for your time. David Hawks Thanks for having me. Ula Ojiaku That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless! 
36:33 4/16/23
(S3) E026 Bjarte Bogsnes on Beyond Budgeting and the Case for Management Innovation
Bio Bjarte Bogsnes has a long international career, both in Finance and HR. He is a pioneer in the Beyond Budgeting movement and has been heading up the implementation of Beyond Budgeting at Equinor (formerly Statoil), Scandinavia’s largest company. He led a similar initiative in Borealis in the mid-nineties, one of the companies that inspired the Beyond Budgeting model. He has helped numerous other companies globally getting started on a Beyond Budgeting journey.  Bjarte is Chairman of Beyond Budgeting Roundtable (BBRT).  He is a popular international business speaker and Beyond Budgeting coach, and a winner of a Harvard Business Review/McKinsey Management Innovation award. Bjarte is the author of "Implementing Beyond Budgeting - Unlocking the Performance Potential", where he writes about his almost thirty years long Beyond Budgeting journey.  His new book “This is Beyond Budgeting – A Guide to more Adaptive and Human Organizations” with a foreword by Gary Hamel is just out. Bjarte is available for speaking engagements and select consulting work through Bogsnes Advisory.  Episode Highlights  04:33 New book ‘This is Beyond Budgeting’ 07:40 Beyond Budgeting 16:25The issue with the current performance appraisal process 19:45 The case for change 31:00 Becoming braver 33:50 ‘Losing’ control 49:10 Reflect on the risk picture  Books ·         This is Beyond Budgeting: A Guide to More Adaptive and Human Organizations by Bjarte Bogsnes This Is Beyond Budgeting: A Guide to More Adaptive and Human Organizations: Bogsnes, Bjarte: 9781394171248: Books ·         Implementing Beyond Budgeting: Unlocking the Performance Potential by Bjarte Bogsnes Implementing Beyond Budgeting: Unlocking the Performance Potential: Bogsnes, Bjarte: 9781119152477: Books ·         Maverick by Ricardo Semler ·         Humanocracy by Gary Hamel et al ·         The Future of Management by Gary Hamel and Bill Breen  Websites ·         Beyond Budgeting Institute ·         Bogsnes Advisory (Bjarte’s consulting firm)  Social media ·         LinkedIn: ·         Twitter:  @bbogsnes  Guest Intro (Ula Ojiaku) Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku Hello, Bjarte. Thank you for being my guest on the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast, it's a great honour. I remember meeting you for the first time last year in Copenhagen at the Beyond Budgeting Roundtable, and you kindly accepted. So thank you for being here today. Bjarte Bogsnes Thank you for the invitation. Ula Ojiaku Great. So could you tell us any experience that you might have had growing up, that would have led to where you are today? Bjarte Bogsnes Well, the author Douglas Adams, he once wrote that: “I might not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I ended up where I needed to be”, and that's basically the story of my life because it was in no way given that we should sit here today and talk about Beyond Budgeting, because my career started in a very different place. I'm a finance guy by education and after I finished my business studies, I joined a company called Statoil, it's today called Equinor, it's Scandinavia's largest company, it's an energy company, and my first management job in this company, the year after I joined, was actually Head of the Corporate Budget Department. So I have been heading up more budget processes in my career than I want to be reminded about in that job and in many other Finance Manager jobs in different, you know, jobs. I've been working abroad quite a lot for the same company. So I used to be a big fan of this way of managing, there is actually an interview with me from the company magazine at the time where I'm praising the brilliance of budgeting, and I hope that there are no more copies around. And another reason I like that quote from Adams is that I come from a teacher family. My parents were teachers, my sister was a teacher, so I was in the way, the black sheep in the family because I went for Business Studies. But these days I really feel that I'm back in the fold, because I feel that that is what I'm doing now, teaching, and trying to make a positive difference, just like my parents and my sister did. Ula Ojiaku So teaching, it seems like it's a full circle, but you wouldn't have gotten here without, you know, still going through that process of working in business. Bjarte Bogsnes No, I think I'm very glad I have that background because it means that I know what I'm talking about. I know most of the fix in the budget book and some of them are quite nasty, and so when I would discuss with managers, finance people and others then, I mean, I know the arguments, and I know how to respond. Another important part of this journey was that I am one of the few finance persons, I believe, who has also worked in Human Resources. I was heading up the HR function in a large European company for some years, and that experience was also a big eyeopener for me when it comes to the leadership, the people side of Beyond Budgeting, which is just as big as the kind of finance process side. Ula Ojiaku Nice. Now, I mean, we will be getting to talk about your book, which is This Is Beyond Budgeting, that was released this February, 2023. Congratulations! Bjarte Bogsnes Thank you. Ula Ojiaku What I noticed was that the difference between This is Budgeting, I mean your, your second book and, Implementing Beyond Budgeting, which preceded this, this is actually a quicker read, you know, smaller, it seems like it was condensed and it was done on purpose. Could you tell us about this book, the main message? Bjarte Bogsnes Yes. Now, first of all, I mean, that is a correct observation. This is a shorter book, on purpose, and the simple reason is that we need to reach people, busy people, with limited time to read, and they don't have time to read bricks. So, yes, it is a shorter book, it is recapping some key messages from my earlier books, but there's also a lot of new stuff in it. I have learned a lot since the other book you've shown was published back in 2016. I've written a lot, I've worked with a lot of great organisations. So, again, a lot of new learning also. And I really do hope to reach, I did reach a number of executives, managers with my previous book, and I know, because of nice feedback from many of them. But there are so many more of them that still needs to hear this message. So that is why it's the shorter one. And I'm also very grateful and happy that Gary Hamel agreed to write the foreword. I mean, he is such an inspiration when it comes to management innovation and has been for such a long time. I mean, hearing Gary speak is simply mind-blowing. I mean, he is dynamite as a speaker and I think he's written a great foreword, and there are also some, quite some nice endorsements from important people in the agile community and kind of borderline agile community, Rita McGrath, Dave Snowden and Julian Birkinshaw, Jos de Blok, the founder of Buurtzorg. So I'm also very happy that these people took the time to read it and write these nice endorsements. Ula Ojiaku Indeed, we will go into some key points in the book for the listeners or viewers, they would have to buy it to go through it, to know what it's all about. But can you tell us, because there might be some people listening to this that don't know, what Beyond Budgeting is all about. Bjarte Bogsnes No, that's obviously an important question and let me start with saying that Beyond Budgeting is a somewhat misleading name, we know. It was, Beyond Budgeting was invented, developed 25 years ago, and back then there was nothing called agility, agile, or business agility, so if that label had been around at the same time, maybe that would've been the name of this. But it is basically about business agility. And, as the subtitle in my book states, it's about creating organisations that are more adaptive and more human, and Beyond Budgeting is very much about changing traditional management. But at the core of traditional management, you find not just the budgeting process, but also the budgeting mindset, built on the assumptions that the world is predictable and plannable and that you can't trust people. These are assumptions that we really challenge in Beyond Budgeting, because it isn't true. So if you want to change traditional management, you need to do something with the elephant in the room, the budgeting process. And that is something that, if you look at Agile, I think Agile has kind of avoided that elephant throughout all these years. It's been regarded as something unavoidable, a lower business, which isn't true, because more and more companies are skipping this way, or managing. And talking about Agile, I'm a big fan of Agile, but what I'm going to say now is not criticising Agile, but I think it would also help to explain what Beyond Budgeting is. I think part of the success of what I call early Agile has to do with its birthplace in software development, and how teams are working. And I think in those early years, I think what executives in big companies, what they observed and heard about Agile was better projects, faster projects, more value, more engaged people, and who can be against that, wonderful, I love it, come on guys, Agile is great. Then for obvious reasons, companies started to scale Agile, right? And at one level it kind of reaches the executives and has consequences, implications for these guys' beliefs and behaviours. And then it isn't that it wasn't that fun anymore. I think that's one reason why scaling Agile has been difficult. Another reason is that you can't scale Agile using the same language and tools and frameworks that did wonders back in those days. I mean, for executives who don't play rugby and don't know Agile, they might think that Scrum is some kind of skin disease, or Slack is about laziness or that Sprint is about running faster, or continuous delivery is about 24/7. Right? So, I mean we need a language here that these guys can understand and relate to, and Beyond Budgeting is providing that language. They might still disagree, but they understand what we are talking about. And the last issue here is that, again, Agile was not designed as a way to run an enterprise. So when you try to scale it, these holes in Agile become visible, like how do you manage resources?  How do you do forecasting? How do you evaluate performance? How do you reward? Right? And these are the holes that Beyond Budgeting is filling, because, again, Beyond Budgeting was designed from day one as an Agile way of running an organisation. And that is why we never talk about scaling agile, because it comes scaled, it is scaled, right? But this is also why Beyond Budgeting in Agile is such a beautiful fit, and why so many companies on Agile transformation journeys are reaching out to us because they reach these insights and learnings and understand that there can be no true agile transformation without Beyond Budgeting. Ula Ojiaku That's an excellent overview of Beyond Budgeting. And I understand, you know, in Beyond Budgeting, there are 10 principles, and there is the leadership principles, if I may say, and then the management processes. Do you want to talk a bit more about this, please? Bjarte Bogsnes Yeah. So there're actually a 12 principles, and you're right, six of them are on leadership and six of them are on management processes, and if you look at what Beyond Budgeting is saying about leadership, it is not necessarily that unique. There are many other great communities and models out there saying similar things about leadership, right? Talking about purpose and autonomy, transparency, values, and so on. But very often these models and communities haven't reflected very much, it seems like, about what kind of management processes are needed to activate these leadership intentions, because what is often the case in organisations is that they might have the best intentions on the leadership side. They say the right things, they write the right things, but that doesn't help if the management processes are expressing the exact opposite use. Classic example, it doesn't help to talk loud and warm about how fantastic employees we have on board, and we would be nothing without you, and we trust you so much, but not that much. Of course, we need detailed travel budgets, right? This is hypocrisy, and people notice and the words become hollow, because the management processes has a different message. So that is why there is a strong focus in Beyond Budgeting on coherence between the two, between what is said and what is done, right. So I think that is one and very important aspect with Beyond Budgeting. The other is that, as I mentioned earlier, I don't think any other community out there has cracked the budget problem. The budgeting process is something that everybody complains about. It's maybe the most loathed corporate process out there, followed by performance appraisals, but again, it's kind of been left untouched until Beyond Budgeting came and offered great alternatives to this quite outdated way of managing because, it is fascinating, there are not too many other technologies applied in companies today that are a hundred years old, but that is the age of budgeting invented in 1922 by James O McKinsey, the founder of McKinsey Consulting, right. And I never met Mr. McKinsey, but I don't think he was an evil man. I actually think he had the best of intentions. I mean, he wanted to help organisations perform better. This was management innovation a hundred years ago, and it probably worked a hundred years ago, because the world was completely different, the quality and the capability, competence of people were very different, but today things have changed and that is something that our leadership and management models must reflect. Ula Ojiaku Okay, there's something you said, you know, the two things or two activities, that are probably most loathed in organisations would be the budgeting process and the performance appraisal. And you've talked a bit about the budgeting. So, for the performance appraisal, what exactly about it doesn't sit well with people? Bjarte Bogsnes Oh, that list is long. First of all, I mean, it's just like budgets, as I will come back to, has different purposes, so has the performance appraisal, I mean, one purpose is meant to be learning and development, that's a positive one, but another purpose is to determine rewards, right. So, if you are my manager and I'm coming in to a performance appraisal with you and if my mind is mainly on the reward side, the last thing I want to share with you is where I have learning and development needs, right? I want to brag about all my successes and how great I am and so on, and vice versa. So, kind of combining this in one process, with one outcome is meaningless, and also this focus on rewards and, which very often is about individual bonus, which is one of the problems in traditional management that Beyond Budgeting is strongly against, we believe in common bonus schemes, driven by joint performance instead of individual performance. So it is typically an annual event, right, an annual stunt, it's meaningless to talk about feedback and development once a year, that needs to happen much more continuously, right? So, I think budgeting is a bigger problem, it makes more damage, by all means. But performance appraisals come and the whole low performance management notion, it does almost as much damage. And by the way, that is a label I really dislike, performance management, right? Think about it. What are we really saying? Aren't we saying that if we don't manage your performance, there will be no performance, right? That is not a very positive message, and I also think there's quite a lot of illusion playing out here. I think our ability to manage performance, among knowledge workers in today's people and business realities is actually quite limited compared to what managers and HR people and some finance people often tend to think. So it's an awful label, and, you know, we need to stop thinking about managing people, we need to start thinking about how we can create conditions for people to perform, how we can enable performance, not managing performance. Ula Ojiaku That's a great point Bjarte. So what's the solution? What is the solution that Beyond Budgeting is going to offer? And the next one following it would be, how do we apply this? Bjarte Bogsnes Oh, most people actually who are blank on Beyond Budgeting, when they hear about this, they like it, they see that this makes sense. It's only common sense in a way, this is about taking reality seriously, and it is addressing so many of the pain points they experience working, especially in big companies. But then of course the next question is, well, how do we get started? And we have two general recommendations here. The first one is about the case for change, which simply means that the whole organisation, or as many as possible, has to understand that all those complaints about traditional management, including budgeting, the time it takes, the gaming, the narrow performance language, the outdated assumptions. I mean, these are more than irritating itches, right? These are symptoms of a big and serious problem, namely that this way of thinking, this way of managing originally meant to help organisations perform better is today doing the opposite. It has become more of a barrier than a support for getting out the best possible performance, and the more there is a common understanding of what kind of problems the organisation is trying to solve, the easier everything afterwards is. Because if you are unclear about that, I mean, how can you make your choices about alternatives, right? But the clearer the case for change, the better the problems are defined, the easier it is when you have a choice of design, should we go this way or this way? Well, which solution would best solve the problems they are trying to solve? So the case for change has to be created, a solid one, then getting started. We know that many, having seen the Beyond Budgeting principles for the first time, might feel this is a bit overwhelming, right? With all these bold ambitions around leadership, these major changes towards the traditional management processes. I mean, it is a mouthful, it is quite a comprehensive leadership and management model. And if some are kind of a bit scared, I can understand that. If that is the case, we have a very simple, tested, practical, logical way of getting started, which is more budget-oriented than Beyond Budgeting itself, but it is a great way to get started, and it is simply about asking a very simple question, namely, why do you budget? Right? What's the purpose of a budget? And most people that I've asked that question, when they have thought a little bit about that question, they actually realise that there are more than one purpose with a budget in a typical, and when I say budget, I mean more than project budgets, more than cost budgets, I'm talking profit loss, cash flow, balance sheet budgets, the whole finance definition. And the purpose of these budgets are the following. First, companies make budgets to set targets. It could be financial targets, sales targets, production targets, right? So that's one purpose. Second, companies and organisations use these budgets to try to understand what next year could look like in terms of profit and loss cashflow. So it is a kind of forecast of what next year could look like. So, that's the second purpose. The third purpose is resource allocation. The budget is used as a mechanism for handing out bags of money to the organisation on operational costs and on invests, and it might seem very efficient, practical to solve all three purposes in one process and one set of numbers. But that is also the problem, because what happens if we move into the budgeting process in a company, and upstairs finance want to understand next year's profit and loss and they start on the revenue side asking responsible people, what's your best number for next year? But everybody knows that what I'm sending upstairs will most likely come back to me as a target for next year and often with a bonus attached to it. And that insight might do something to the level or numbers submitted, and I think you know, which way those numbers will go, namely down. Moving to the cost side, operational cost investments. The same people, other people are asked, what's your best numbers for next year? But everybody knows that this is my only shot at getting access to resources for next year, and some might also remember that 20% cut from last year and that insight and that memory might also do something to the level of numbers submitted. And I can see you're smiling a bit, and a lot of people do. Ula Ojiaku I'm smiling because I'm just kind of thinking of incidents in past, you know, in past organisations that it has happened. You know, you just sandbag it and give a very high number, knowing that there might be a challenge. Bjarte Bogsnes And you're in good company when you're smiling, but at the same time, I mean, this is actually quite a serious problem, not just because it destroys the quality of numbers, but even more because it actually stimulates behaviour, which I would call at least borderline unethical. The road-balling, the gaming, the sandbagging, the resource hoarding, I mean, all the kind of behaviours that we wouldn't like to see between colleagues. At the same time, I'm not blaming anyone for behaving like this, right? Because then people are just responding to the system we have designed for them to operate in. So if we want to change behaviours, it's not about fixing people, it's about fixing systems, which again, will change behaviours. So that's the problem, three different purposes in one process, in one set of numbers. Fortunately, there is a very simple solution. We can still, and in many cases, should still do these three things, but we should do them in three different processes because these are different things. A target, that's an aspiration, it's what we want to happen. While a forecast is an expectation, it's what we think will happen whether we like what we see or not, right? Brutally honest, the expected outcome. And last but not least, resource allocation is about optimisation of what is often scarce resources. When we then have separated, then a target can be more ambitious than a forecast, which it typically should be. But the most important thing is that that separation opens up for big and important improvement discussions. We can now improve each of these in ways impossible when it was all bundled in one process and one set of numbers. So we can have great discussions around targets. How do we set better targets that really inspire and motivate people, without people feeling stretched? How can we set targets that are more robust against the volatility, the uncertainty, the complexity, and the ambiguity out there? Forecasting, how can we get the gaming and the politics out to the forecasting? And we don't need a million details here, we are looking at the future. There's uncertainty, which is a big difference on looking at the past through accounting, where details and decimals make sense and is often required. But looking at the future, there is uncertainty and that must have implications. So this isn't a good example of, in this stuff, we have to leave behind that accounting mindset that is applied for describing the past recounting, right? When we look at the future, then we need to accept the ambiguity, the complexity, and not just accept it, but embrace it. And last but not least, resource allocation. How can we find better and more intelligent, more effective ways of managing cost than what a certain Mr. McKinsey could offer us a hundred years ago, under very different circumstances? And this is the important discussion, that separation of purposes that just enables these improvement discussions. And in these discussions, having these discussions that is a kind of not scary organic backdoor into those 12 principles, especially in your leadership, right? Target setting, what really motivates people? Resource allocation, again, do we need detailed travel budgets, if we say we trust people? So, again, it is pure logic. I have yet to meet a CEO, a CFO, that didn't come up with that list of three purposes, didn't understand, when helped a little bit, that that's problematic, and didn't see that there are much better ways when you can improve each one separately. And last but not least, we can also then do something with the cadence, with the rhythm of each one. So now we can organise each of the three: target setting, forecasting, resource allocation, on a rhythm that not just reflects the kind of business we're in, but also the kind of purpose, right. So you would set targets or chase targets much less, I mean, not that often as you would change your forecast, and resource allocation is something that you would do all the time, right. So, and also another beauty of this approach is that when people tell me it's impossible to operate without the budget, then my response is, having explained this, that here we still do what that budget try to do for us, but because we have separated, we can do each one in so much better ways, right? And when people say, well, the bank want a budget, the reason why banks ask for budgets is that they have never really realised that there was something else to ask for. So if you can tell the bank, I won't give you a budget, but I will give you my targets and my reliable forecasts, the bank will be more than happy. So I'm spending a little bit of time on this because it is the more finance-oriented part of Beyond Budgeting, but it is a great way to get started. And I helped so many companies over the years and with the big majority, this is where we started out and what we observe over and over again, is in having those improvement discussions the first year, people are a little bit cautious about how radical shall we be, but then it turns out that things work. And what was scary today is not scary tomorrow because it did work, which means that the appetite for being braver increases, so we typically see that organisations get braver along the way, and when it comes to targets, some, after some years of setting better targets, actually decide to skip targets, right? They realised that they are absolutely able to create direction, create motivation, evaluate performance without traditional targets, some even skip forecasting. I haven't heard anyone skipping resource allocation yet that you need to have, but my point is that people and companies tend to get braver. And a final important message, very few companies that have embarked on a Beyond Budgeting journey go back, very few. I don't need one hand to count the number, and the few who did go back, the reasons fall in two categories. Either a flawed implementation, typically, an unclear, weak case for change, or starting only with rolling forecasting. The other typical reason has to do with a significant change in top management at the very early part of the journey. That's actually something I've experienced myself. Ula Ojiaku Great explanation, Bjarte. So you mentioned, you know, about separating the budget into three distinct parts, the target, the forecast, the resource allocation. Now at the organisations where you've implemented this, did you get any resistance from, you know, the top level leaders, managers, because you know, traditionally whoever has the budget, who controls the money, tends to wield power in any organisation. Was there any resistance? Bjarte Bogsnes Well, I think there has been maybe more fear and confusion than outright resistance, even if the resistance sometimes is hidden behind those two. And of course, one word that keeps coming up over and over again when I discuss Beyond Budgeting with people is the word control, right? The fear, and the context is of course the fear of losing control, but the interesting thing with that word is that, when I ask people to be a bit more specific to define what they mean with control, after people have said cost control, actually many go quiet. They struggle with defining what they are so afraid of losing, and that is quite interesting. And if you look at Oxford Dictionary's definition of control, it is the power to influence people's behaviour or the course of events which, again, then for an organisation typically means controlling people and controlling the future. And again, those are the two assumptions that we challenge in Beyond Budgeting, because it is about not trusting people and thinking that the future is predictable and untenable and on control, what I often tell these people is that, yes, you will lose control, but the control that you lose are the bad controls. What you will get more of is good controls, and I wouldn't call that losing control. And one example of a good control in Beyond Budgeting is transparency, right? And let me give you one classical example of how it can be applied, ad this is a real example from a Swiss's pharmaceutical company called Roche, quite big, and they are today on a Beyond Budgeting journey, but some years ago they did a very interesting experiment around travel cost. In the pilot, they kicked out the travel budget, and most travel groups and regulations, and replaced it with full transparency. So with a few exceptions, everybody could see everything. If you travelled, to where did you fly, sleep, eat, cheaper, expensive, open for your colleagues to see and vice versa. And guess what happened with travel costs in that pilot? We'll Go Down Costs came down through a very simple self-regulating control mechanism. This was about tearing up pages in that rules book instead of doing the opposite. At the same time, we need to remember that transparency is a very powerful mechanism. It has to be applied with wisdom. So if it becomes naming and shaming, it doesn't work. And that is why I would always recommend companies to position transparency more from a learning perspective than from a control perspective. I mean, how can we learn from each other if everything is secret? And that control, that shock control effect, you would get in any case as a nice side effect. But again, it must be applied with wisdom. It is fascinating that the biggest fear managers have is to lose control, but what they haven't understood is that a lot of these controls are nothing but illusions of control. Ula Ojiaku That's very interesting. And another thing that I know that some, or if not most of the listeners will be wondering is, okay, you've talked about how, and in your… in both your books… actually the Implementing Beyond Budgeting and your latest one, This is Beyond Budgeting, you did mention something about “you can't get rid of Command and Control via Command and Control”. And in that part of the book, you were saying something that in terms of implementing it - it's something that you recommend the organisations do themselves. Can you elaborate on this? Cause someone, you know, might wonder, is it that you are against getting consulting help? Bjarte Bogsnes So, consultants and Beyond Budgeting. I think what you refer to is, I have a chapter about implementation advice, and one of these is that nobody can do this for you. And what I mean with that, and I explained this in the book, is that, I mean, I'm not saying that companies shouldn't ask for external help, and I'm offering external help, but what they typically should ask for is some inspiration, some guidance on implementation, connections to other companies that have implemented this, but it is not something that an organisation can delegate to consultants. This is not something consultants can do for you. You have to be in the driver's seat, and the more transformation- oriented your ambitions are, the more the executives need to take this role themselves. And I'm saying this because implementing Beyond Budgeting can be anything from a more cautious improvement of finance processes to a radical organisational transformation, and anything in between. And the higher your ambition levels, the higher the ownership in the organisation has to be. When it comes to the consultants, and I also write about this in my book, this is something that has happened just over the last few years, that is that the big consulting companies have gotten seriously interested in Beyond Budgeting. That was not the case before. And the reason for it is that their clients are getting interested, asking for it. And so most of these would like to work with us in some form or shape. Ula Ojiaku Sorry to interrupt, Bjarte. So by ‘us’, you mean the Beyond Budgeting Institute)? Bjarte Bogsnes Yeah. Yes. They want to work with the Beyond Budgeting advisory, the Beyond Budgeting Institute. And again, we are not naive. I mean, we come from different places, we might have different agendas here, but at the same time, these companies, they have channels and muscles that we don't have to the same extent, at least not yet. So we have actually decided to say yes to work with them, because we would rather help them and their clients succeed than to stand on the outside and watch them fail, right? So, we have been working, are working with a number of big companies, together with some of these big consulting companies. Ula Ojiaku That's great. And if I may just point to, because you spearheaded this in Statoil, now known as Equinor, and actually this was, I read this in your Implementing Beyond Budgeting book that your approach was based on two principles, no fixed implementation schedule, and no consultants. So how did that work, not having an implementation schedule. Bjarte Bogsnes Well, if we take the first implementation in Borealis back in the mid-nineties where we had a chance to do this, before there was anything called Beyond Budgeting, this company that was partly owned by Statoil, then, I mean, this wasn't an issue because there was no consultants. Even if we had wanted consultants, there was no one to reach out to. So then it was quite easy.  In Statoil, later Equinor, it was more about the fact that I had that implementation experience from Borealis, which kind of, I became some kind of an in-house consultant. And again, as I said, I'm not saying that companies shouldn't use consultants, but you have to use the right ones and use them in the right way. Ula Ojiaku Okay. Thanks for clarifying. Okay, it seems like, you know, Beyond Budgeting would be something that we should seriously consider implementing in our organisation. What else should we be aware of?” Bjarte Bogsnes Well, I think it is important for everybody, also executives to understand that Beyond Budgeting changes work and how you work in a positive way, and for executives, I mean, the role becomes more strategic, more longer term. It's more about coaching, it's less about micromanagement, and maybe most important, there's a new credibility between what is said and what is done, right, which the organisation will notice. When it comes to other functions like finance, it also has a very positive effect. The job becomes much more business-oriented, less annual stunts, more forward-looking, less backwards-looking, more cooperation with other functions like for instance, human resources. And I can't think of a single finance person in Equinor that wants to go back to the old days and the time before 2005. And I think that provides an indication as well. And another key message is that what we have been talking about today, it will happen. It will happen. I don't care if it will be called Beyond Budgeting, or business agility or whatever, that is not important. But in 15, 20 years time, maybe earlier, when we look back at what was mainstream management in 2023, I think we will smile, maybe even have a laugh, just like we today smile about the days before the internet or before the smartphone. And how long ago is that? It's not that long ago. So organisations have a choice here, they can choose to be early movers or vanguards, understanding that you can get just as much competitive advantage out of management innovation as you can get from technology innovation. Or they can choose to be laggards, dragged into this as one of the last ones or anything in between. And every year you wait, competitors will be ahead of you. And I don't think that choice should be very difficult, and again, it should b. easier to make today, when so many organisations are embarking on a Beyond Budgeting journey. It was a bit tougher and a bit more scary 25 years ago when, when this started out, right. But again, it will happen. Ula Ojiaku I'm going to ask you a question I ask all my guests. What books have influenced you and would you recommend to the audience? Bjarte Bogsnes Well, many, many years ago, when I was an ardent budget supporter and believer, I read Maverick by Ricardo Semler, the former CEO of Semco, and I was mind-blown, simply mind-blown. It, kind of yeah, it really, really moved me, even if I kind of didn't have the chance to adopt any of that thinking before, many, many years later. Lately, again, I've mentioned Gary Hamel, and his co-author, Michele Zanini, they have written great books. The last book Humanocracy is a great one, and, a previous one by Gary Hamel, The Future of Management is also a book that I really like and I recall giving that book to the CEO of Statoil quite early on the journey, and he liked it so much that he gave it as a Christmas present to the rest of the executive committee. Ula Ojiaku Thank you, and of course I would add to the list This is Beyond Budgeting. If someone wants to get in touch with you, what's the best way of getting to you? Bjarte Bogsnes Yeah, then I will think about this as getting in touch with us, and when I say us, I mean that there is a core team of five, six people who are kind of driving this. And we have a website called, That will give you more information about the Beyond Budgeting Roundtable, which is a global network of companies interested in this and individuals interested in this. And that is where you can sign up as company member, individual member. And I also recommend to subscribe to our newsletter, and if you're curious about this guy and all of this then I made that difficult decision a few years ago to leave Equinor, to start Bogsnes Advisory to be able to work full-time with this. And so I have my own small simple website called And on you will also find a list of more books that I can highly recommend on this topic. Ula Ojiaku That's great. Are you on social media, Bjarte? Bjarte Bogsnes I am, I'm on LinkedIn, Twitter, and the only thing I write about is this stuff. There are no cats and dogs and grandchildren or anything, so that's why it's highly appreciated if somebody wants to follow me. Ula Ojiaku So any final words for the audience in terms of an ask? Is there something you want them to do? Bjarte Bogsnes Reflect a little bit about the risk picture here, because there is a very compelling risk picture, right? If you are afraid that it won't work in your organisation, well, what's really the downside risk? Because if you're right, if it doesn't, you can go back to the old way tomorrow. Not the single soul in the company would've forgotten how to budget as one example, and compare that minimal downside risk with that huge upside potential performance-wise. And I'm saying when this is working, not if it's working, as we have seen in so many organisations. So a very compelling risk picture. I think that is worth reflecting on as well. Ula Ojiaku Well, it's been great speaking with you, Bjarte. Thank you so much for those wise words and the advice, and I would again say to you, the audience, please go grab your copy of Bjarte's book, This Is Beyond Budgeting, which is now out. And I hope we'll definitely have another opportunity to have a conversation and speak about Beyond Budgeting, since you don't want to talk about any other thing. Anyway, so thank you again, Bjarte. It's a pleasure having you on. Bjarte Bogsnes Thank you, Ula. Thank you very much for the invitation. Ula Ojiaku That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
51:15 3/26/23
(S3) E025 Primo Masella on Developing Leaders
Bio When Primo was young he wanted to be a Film Director.  Today he directs his own business – helping individuals and teams be more effective through the power of coaching and Insights Discovery.  With 30 years’ experience in corporates such as IBM, GE, T-Mobile & BP, Primo has made the transition from IT Project & Programme Management to Learning and Development.  He has always used his core values of Empathy, Trust & Honesty to build deep relationships with others and support them in achieving their career potential.  He has a wealth of experience developing others, both as a Line Manager to global teams and in designing and delivering a global Leadership Development Programme. Now he can use this experience to support individuals and teams in their journeys using Coaching and the Insights Discovery tool. LinkedIn - Primo Masella | LinkedIn  Interview Highlights Project work – 04:15 How leadership sets the tone – 08:00 Insights Discovery – 13:26 Recruitments styles – 27:08 What makes a good leader? – 32:15  Books  ·         The Development of Personality by Carl G. Jung ·         The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by Carl G. Jung ·         The Psychology of C G Jung The Psychology of C G Jung Rev: 1973 Edition: Jacobi, Irving G.: 9780300016741: Books ·         The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey ·         No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer ·         The Inside Out Revolution by Michael Neill  Episode Transcript Guest Intro (Ula Ojiaku)  Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku So I have with me Primo Masella as my guest of the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. Primo, thank you so much for making the time for this conversation. Primo Masella My absolute pleasure, Ula. Lovely to see you again. Ula Ojiaku Great. I've been looking forward to having this conversation. Can you tell us about yourself, Primo? Primo Masella Gosh, there's a question to start with. So I'm the youngest of five siblings. My parents were both Italian, but I was born here in the UK, and grew up in the Midlands, in the UK, in Coventry. And then, for most of my career, I worked in IT actually, so I was an IT Project and Program Manager for a long time. And then I moved over into HR and got really interested in developing talent, and especially developing leadership skills and future leaders. And I guess that's how I've ended up where I am. Ula Ojiaku Okay, so growing up, what would you consider were the significant happenings, the choices that put you on the path you are on right now, career wise? Primo Masella Yeah. So I liked things at school, but I also really liked both arts and sciences. So I kind of always felt like I was that person who could bridge that gap between two things. So, you know, I loved English at school and at the same time I loved physics, which I think is kind of unusual. People tend to go one way or the other, don't they? And so then when I did a degree, it was an Applied Sciences degree where I could choose lots of different modules of things, and so it was at that point that I kind of got into IT really, because I chose quite a lot of IT elements and I guess early on in my career, again, I was using that skillset of bridging the gap between technology and business. And so I've never done coding for a living, but I've been the guy that could speak to the coders and then translate that for non-coders to understand. Somehow I kind of fell into that quite early on. My first real job, actually, when I moved down to London, I was in quality assurance. So my first ever job was testing software and also proofreading user guides for software, so that was always quite interesting. Ula Ojiaku So what do you do for leisure? What are your interests? Primo Masella So I'm a huge movie fan, so I've been passionate about movies my whole life. If I hadn't ended up where I am today, I would've loved to have been Steven Spielberg. I just, being a director would've been amazing. So I still love movies, anything to do with cinema and film, and in the last few years I've become quite a keen road cyclist as well. So I got myself a bike, which worked out brilliantly during the pandemic because at the time when we were still allowed to go out and exercise once a day during the lockdowns, that was just perfect. That gave me my escape for the day, and it also acts as my kind of way of just getting out and being mindful. So rather than purposely practice mindfulness, I tend to just go out on the bike. So yeah, that's kind of the key thing you'll find me doing when I'm not doing this. Ula Ojiaku Okay. So what do you do now? Primo Masella So I wonder if before I come onto that, I just give you a couple of key things which led me to do what I'm doing now I think. So back in the day when I was in IT and an IT Project and Program Manager, the thing that I really loved about project work was the variety and the fact that we got to work with different stakeholders all the time. And I think in my experience, there are broadly two types of Project Manager – there’s the kind who's really good at managing a schedule and keeping on top of a plan and a risk log and an issue log and really executing a plan - that wasn't me. I'm the other type that's really good at working with stakeholders, defining the scope, making sure that the business case is sound and what the customer wants. And so the piece that I really enjoyed about projects was starting them to be honest, and once the project was underway, I lost interest pretty quickly. And so the first kind of real inflection point for me was when I stopped delivering IT projects and instead, I looked after the pool of Project Managers, I became the resourcing and Line Manager for a group of project professionals, and that was probably the first time where I specifically had people's development at the heart of my job. And whereas previously I'd had people's development kind of tangentially really, when we worked together, when we first met each other, I was doing little training sessions as a kind of an aside really. It was something I really enjoyed doing, but it wasn't part of my job description. So being responsible for a pool, and I was lucky enough that we worked in a model where we had a bit like a consultancy, we had a pool of Project Managers who were then allocated to different project sets, and they all reported to me from a people perspective. And so I could really focus on, how are they developing those skills? Are we giving them the best projects to help them on whatever career path they all wanted? So, I guess that was kind of the first kind of real thing. There might be three things I haven't counted. So the second thing was, I'd kind of mentally checked out of delivery for quite a while then, so I was looking after resourcing, I was focusing on capability development and how do we develop IT professionals? And then I had the opportunity to step back into delivery, to deliver a really large transformation program, and that was a serious inflection point, because I consciously made a decision where I thought I could add value because I think I can bring some people skills, which were lacking at that time in that particular program. And so I stepped in, and that true, that turned out to be a massively significant part of my career. So without going into lots of details and we don't need to name anybody at all, it was a very challenging piece of work and there were lots of things going on, and I was tested to my absolute limits as a Program Leader, as a person, to be honest, it was probably the most stressful part of my entire career. And I went on this kind of emotional rollercoaster and I left that program on my own terms, having taken away one of the key things that I still hold to this day, and that is that leadership sets the tone. So depending on how the leaders shows up, that cascades to everybody else in that program, in that organisation, it reflects in the culture of the group of people that are working together. And I felt like I learned that the hard way. It was a huge lesson for me, you know, to the point where I was considering leaving the industry. I was, in my mind, at the point where I was going to make some really fundamental decisions about what I wanted to do next. So I say that because that, I don't, as I look back, I'm massively grateful for that experience because I think many of us would agree that it's when we're challenged, that we truly learn about ourselves. We learn about what we want and we learn about what we're going to do next. And so that led me then, that helped facilitate a move out of the IT sector and into HR. That was one of the key catalysts of me moving functions. And I'd always been an IT guy, so this was, you know, although, you know, as I said before, not hands on, not a developer, but IT felt like my home, those were the people that I understood and I knew really well. So to move to the dark side of HR, seemed like a really strange thing to do. And I remember being asked at an interview, this seems a bit odd, you know, you are a project guy, why do you want to come and work in HR? And it was absolutely the right thing for me, because I'm all about people, and every job that I've ever done, irrespective of what the job title was, was about how can I help people get the best out of themselves? That's really the bottom line. So that led me then into this path, which I established for a while, which was around developing talent and developing future leaders. I was fortunate enough to be in a position, right place, right time, where I designed and led one of the global development programs in our previous organisation, and that was great, having an 18 month program to deliver and look at future leaders and what they needed to get to the next stage of their careers. And then that brings me, I guess, to the final  significant point, which was during that process, I also became an Insights Discovery practitioner, and we can talk about Insights in a moment if you like, but that gave me a tool, that gave me a mechanism that I could get into a conversation with teams about how do you show up within your team? How do you like to work and interact with others? What is it that makes it difficult sometimes to work with people because, you know, people think differently from each other and that's completely normal, but a lot of us go into teams thinking we all think about stuff the same way, so having that exposure to Insights and having the ability to become certified as a practitioner has then led me to, I'm finally getting to answer your question that you asked me a million years ago, a position where I now work for myself. And I use Insights Discovery as one of my core tools, along with other tools and models to help leaders develop themselves and develop their teams. So anything that's in that space of how do we build the best team that we can with this group of people? And a big part of that is coaching and I'm in my process of becoming a certified coach, I would say I've been an informal coach for probably 30 years, so I thought it's probably about time I had the letters to put after my name as well. Ula Ojiaku That's awesome, so what's the name of your business? What sort of service do you offer? Primo Masella So I have my own consultancy. It's called Primo Leadership Development Limited. It's just me, I'm not intending to hire lots of people, and the service offer is really to provide physical, virtual workshops, coaching and other training interventions to help people either establish or develop their teams. So whether it’s creating a new team, setting a vision, being clear on, kind of, what are the ways of working of that team, maybe thinking about, you know, how do we look at trust or conflict or emotional intelligence? That's a really hot topic, obviously right now. And then aside that it's the offer of coaching individuals, one to one through their leadership and their career journeys, and we may use Insights Discovery as a tool in some of those offers. So if you wanted just a standalone intervention using Insights Discovery, then I also provide that as a service. Ula Ojiaku Okay, so going onto Insights then, what exactly is Insights Discovery, and what's the, if I may use that word, science behind it? Primo Masella Sure. So Insights Discovery is a personality profiling tool, it's been around for quite a number of years, probably about 30 odd years now I think, based out of the Insights company in Scotland, in the UK. You'll see in my background I've got a set here of these lovely coloured bricks, we use these four core colours to talk about different traits in people's personality. Ula Ojiaku And you're holding up a brick, looks like a set of yellow bricks, I mean, not yellow bricks, a set of Lego bricks, yellow, red, blue and green in the interest of those who are listening only to the audio version. Primo Masella Yeah, they're like bricks, we've said Lego a few times, hopefully we don't have to pay royalties for saying that they're like big Lego bricks kind of made of a strong foam, and they're just a physical reminder of what the model is about. So, when we talk about it, we say, we all have these four core traits and the way that we use them, the way that we are made of them is slightly different for each of us. And so we talk about yellow energy being very collaborative or influencing or visionary, red energy being very directive, more focused on results, blue energy being all about attention to detail and being structured and formal, and green energy all about building trust, strong relationships and having empathy. So, you know, each one of us has got all four of those traits, but it's the way that we combine them and the way that they show up when we work with others. So the way the model works is that you take an online questionnaire, you get a really detailed report about your style of working, and then we can use that report in a workshop environment with you and your team to look at what are the common areas and the differences in people's styles, in the team. So you might have, for example, somebody who's very task focused, who's very good at, you know, working in a kind of project context, working with data, really delivering an objective very effectively, but they may be working with somebody who's very relationship focused and wants to take more time to build relationships, look at kind of a bigger picture of what's going on and seeing how it's impacting people. So there, that's one of axis of the model where, you know, you have individuals in a team who will be on different places on that scale. And so Insights is just a way of providing this common language and using colour is a really easy way to access the language, so people very quickly remember, oh yes, yellow means this, and blue means this. And once we have those four core colours, we then get into various layers. So we go from 4 to 8 to 16. Ultimately you can be in one of 72 positions in the Insights model, so it's a very rich model compared to some others in the marketplace that take you up to 16. So in my experience, people overwhelmingly say they find it useful and they say that they could see themselves in the report that they received back. It's very, very rare that somebody reads their report, just doesn't agree with it. When that does happen, it tends to be there's something else going on for that person, because at the end of the day, it's about understanding ourselves and kind of self-awareness and self-reflection. And the greater the level of self-awareness, we tend to see the, the greater the level of buy into the tool. Ula Ojiaku I have, you know, taken the Insights assessment a couple of times and whilst I've found it very useful, there were some, you know, aspects of the analysis that I said, hmm, I didn't know I was like that, am I really like that? You know, I had those, you know, moments and you know, where I questioned what I was reading. And that brings me to, you know, some people who are of the school of thought that going through these sorts of assessments, you know, brings with it a risk of shoehorning or putting people into boxes and saying, oh, he's a red, you know, therefore we expect you to always be fiery on the, on the point, get abrupt with people. What do you think about that, what’s your view on this? Primo Masella Yeah, I think it's a very common misconception of this kind of tool and especially of Insights Discovery. In my experience, all I could tell you is that I see the colours in the real world. When I work with people, I see these colour energies as they are working, and at the end of the day, this kind of thing is not intended to stereotype. So we purposely say things like, we're not going to use the phrase, she's a red, or he's being a complete blue today, for example, that wouldn't be a healthy way to use the language. But what I can say is that when you work with somebody, and you can just test this in the next few hours, just think about whoever you're going to interact with today. If you know them a little bit, if you've interacted with them a few times already, think about, do they tend to focus on the task more or do they tend to focus on people more? People who focus on task may use the phrase ‘I think’ a lot more often, they may be more detailed, they may be more urgent in what they're talking about and they have a passion for the thing. People who are more people focused, tend to use the phrase ‘I feel’ a lot more often, so we'll hear it in the language that people use, and it's quite subconscious for most of us, and they'll just have a different warmth to them if they have more of that people energy. And so I completely get the idea that it's stereotyping, and especially if people focus on the fact that we start with four colours and people see the four colours and think, well, there's more than four types of people in the world. The intent is that those four sets of traits give us the clue into what makes this person work the way they work, and the model is actually far more sophisticated and much more multi-layered than just four colours. So all I would say is that in my experience, it works. I've interacted with lots and lots of people over the years, I can tell you that I can see the traits described in this model in pretty much everybody I work with. There hasn't been a single person, and I'm pretty happy saying this, there hasn't been a single person that I couldn't say, I wouldn't know where to put them on the model. Ula Ojiaku I would agree it’s being more aware of, you know, the colours and the four broad personality traits they represent has helped me with understanding, whilst not stereotyping people or putting them in a box, but understanding, okay, what dimension they're from and how best to adapt myself to, you know, relate better with them. So can you share some, you know, one or two examples of where using this assessment has helped maybe a person or a team to become more aware, because in agile or in even any team at all, the aim is to get teams to become, you know, high performing and when teams understand themselves as individuals and how, you know, they fit in or their skill sets, you know, complement, you know, one another in terms of achieving that common goal, they can move mountains. So have you had any instance where facilitating this sort of assessment and conversation around it has helped? Primo Masella Yeah, yeah, very much so. So if I think about, I've worked before with leaders who, say, lead with the red energy, which is all being focused on delivering results. And they may have somebody on their leadership team who meets with the opposite trait, which is the green energy, which is all about being there for the team and building trust and strong relationships. So I've seen in the past where a leader, for example, was about to send an email to a large group of people, and the person that worked for them who was the opposite trait kind of literally stopped them and got them to redraft parts of the email to just make it a little bit more human. And so that's an example of where those two opposite styles can really complement each other and give you a better outcome, because had the initial senior person just sent the email, it would have landed badly with a number of people, because if you have a different style, you perceive things in slightly different ways. So where somebody might think they're being efficient, it may be perceived by their opposites styles as being arrogant or overbearing. And so that collaboration of opposite styles works really, really effectively. I can think of one particular example, but I've seen that happen lots of, lots of times. There's another kind of, couple of quick ones when we do a physical workshop where we're able to get people in a room and we have a floor mat of the model. So it comes as a kind of circular mat that people can stand on and move around, and that's amazingly powerful because you get the team to physically stand where they would appear on the model. And then you are physically opposite some people in the team and physically next to other people, or slightly adjacent to some other people you work with, and you just see people's eyes come alive as they see each other and, you know, I've had people say out loud, I finally get why that individual behaves that way, and I've always found it really hard to work with them, and now I, understand we just do things differently and that's okay. And part of the premise is we all like to think we're super smart, because we're all pretty smart. Yeah, people are pretty smart, but the challenge is sometimes appreciating that we don't always have to do it our way and just because we thought of it, it doesn't mean it's the best way of doing something, and so somebody else's way that may be different may be just as good. And so a lot of the conversations we have around Insights is to say, you know, nobody's better or worse, it's just different and appreciating the difference can lead you a huge step forward. I'll give you one other quick example, which is I did a one to one conversation with somebody. So one of the powers that we have of something like this tool is that once you have a personal profile, you can use that to continue to work on yourself, develop yourself. And so I did coach somebody at one point, who was having a particular issue with somebody else in her team, and we looked at them both on the team wheel, we looked at where they were different in styles, I gave her some pointers about how she might think about communicating with that individual based on their preferences, and she went away and then we subsequently met again, and literally after years of working together, she found a way of connecting with that person that she'd never found before, and that was just astounding to me, not astounding as in surprising, but I was massively, massively pleased that she'd had that outcome and it improved the level of relationship with that individual. Ula Ojiaku There's something you said about being able to see things from other people's perspective that helps us to empathise and hopefully be able to make any adjustments we need, you know, on our own part. So I'm suspecting that's probably what happened for the lady that you coached, being able to understand where that co-worker was coming from. So if someone wants to build a team, assuming you don't have an existing team, because on one hand you've given us examples, how the Insights framework and assessments could help with getting team members to better understand themselves. Is it possible to use this as a role of deliberately putting together a new team? Primo Masella Yeah, it's a good question, and we get asked this question quite a lot, especially in terms of recruiting people into a team and an organisation. So depending on, so if you work inside a company that has a policy about how they recruit people, typically, certainly in Western corporate organisations, people tend to do something called competency based recruitment. So we recruit people by asking them questions, like, tell me about a time when you… and so we're looking for some experience in their past, which gives us an indicator of how they might perform in the future. So that's typically, for a number of years, that's how a lot of corporate organisations have recruited. So if you are recruiting that style, Insights isn't the best tool to use for recruitment because Insights doesn't tell us about your competency or your level of skill. So if you have a high level of cool blue energy in the model, which indicates attention to detail and structure, and objectivity, that's not the same as saying I'm good at writing a project plan or working with Microsoft Excel because those latter two things are skills that you can learn to do by practicing them more often. So that's kind of the first thing to say, there's a bit of a health warning. And I think the same would apply to many of these kinds of tools. However, assuming you have somebody within your organisation already, that's passed all the necessary kind of entry checks, Insights is a great way of saying how do I assemble a team in order to deliver on a particular set of objectives? So I may have a team that I need to be, you know, really focused and interrogate data and make sure accuracy is really, really key. If that's the case, then I'll look for that cool blue energy in a number of key individuals in the team. You know, conversely, I may have a team where I really need some creative thinking, I need to come up with some wacky ideas, you know, I may work at an industry where that's, you know, really important, my competitive edge, in which case I'll look purposely for people with more sunshine, yellow energy, which is the opposite of that blue. So it can be really helpful, once a team leader is looking at, what is it I need to achieve, it can be a great way of saying who's the best person to allocate to this task or which two or three individuals do I put together so that I get a really nice balance or a really nice mixture of styles to give us an interesting result that maybe we wouldn't have got otherwise. We can think of it like a, it's another lens on diversity and inclusion, so what's the diversity of thought in the team with respect to how they interact task versus people, how kind of more introverted or extroverted people might be. Ula Ojiaku Is it possible to take the tests  and then a time passes and you take it again and you come up with different results, and if so, what could be the reasons for that? Primo Masella Yeah, it is possible. We refer to it sometimes as a test - that scares people doesn't it, they feel like there's a pass or a fail. It's an evaluation of your preferences, but it can change over time, so for some people, if you, you know, are adapting as you move along your career, if you're changing the roles you are doing or changing the industry or the country, that may have an effect on how you show up. So yeah, I see people as they go through their careers, they may move around and use different styles. I worked with a leadership team in the past where a lot of the leadership team were high in the red energy, were really focused on delivering outcome. And as individuals in the team became more experienced and more mature in their careers, they actually focused a bit more on others and bringing up others below them in the organisation. And so that red energy came down and the yellow energy came up a bit, which was about engaging and collaborating with others. So there are definitely some people who kind of move around, there are others then like me, who I've stayed pretty much in the same place forever, and anybody hearing this who's ever seen the model before would be no surprise to any of you. I'm very high in earth green energy. I don't think that will ever change. So, spoiler for anybody I'm about to work with I'm, so on, on a scale of a hundred percent for each colour, I'm 99% earth green. So I don't see myself moving very far from that position. Ula Ojiaku That's very interesting. So how, in your experience, because you've worked with leaders extensively. So what makes a good leader? Primo Masella I could take the project management answer and I can say it depends, because that's in any project context, that's always the answer the project manager should give isn't it, but I'm not a project manager anymore, so I'm not allowed to do that. I would say it's somebody who can set the right tone for the organisation to deliver on its objectives. And in setting the right tone, that sounds like a really simple thing to say, doesn't it, but I think those few words are really difficult for some leaders to do. Now some leaders are really naturally just there, they're just on it. Other leaders need to be coached and trained and guided on how to do that in the most effective way, and by setting the tone, it's getting that balance right between how do we deliver safely, in an inclusive way. How do I make sure that each person in my team is engaged, stretched to the right level, but not overstretched? So there's actually quite a lot, I think. To be an exceptional leader is huge actually, and I think there is a mixture of nurture and nature here. I think some people have that innate thing where they understand how other people work. Now, whether you call that emotional intelligence in this context, or whether you say they've got high people skills or they're very self-aware, all of that kind of language is pointing to the same thing. It's having an understanding of what you do. Sorry, how what you do is impacting other people. So I think some individuals have got naturally higher levels of that than others. I think that can be taught up until a point, but I think there's, you know, if you have a natural empathy, I think that will take you a long way as a leader, personally, I'm aware of my own bias though, as well. So my bias is the people lens, that's always been my bias and my focus, which is why I'm very conscious to be clear around, you know, do we understand what we need to deliver, how it aligns with the organisation's objectives? What's the culture I'm working in? There's, you know, there's a framework that has to sit around this. I think being a leader in today's society is a huge ask for anybody. Ula Ojiaku Would you then say that there's a particular, you know, colour or energy type that this ideal leader would be more inclined towards than another? Primo Masella Yeah, again, that's a really great question. The truthful answer is no. And, so the model that I work with comes as a circle, the four colours, core colours, being quadrants of the circle. If there was such a thing as an ideal, you'd be right in the centre, yeah. You'd have easy and natural access to all colours all the time and use them massively appropriately. Since none of us are perfect, that's a bit of a tall ask. It's unfortunate that some people look at these kind of models and say, for example, they look at the red energy and since the red energy is associated with delivering results and efficiency and meeting objectives, there's a perception with some organisations that we need leaders who've got lots of that red energy. And if you've got a command control organisation or you work in a safety critical environment, or are heavily audited, you know, in any of those environments, that red and that blue energy really play their part. And yes, you may find a lot more of the leadership roles are filled by people with those traits. My perspective is that in reality you can lead from anywhere. There's a saying isn't there, you can lead from any chair, you don't have to be sitting at the front of the room to be the leader, or at the head of the table to be the leader. I think the trick is adjusting according to the circumstance, so according to the group of people you are with, or the activity that needs to be done. And actually one of the things I often say when we talk about Insights is that if we think of somebody who's a really strong communicator, they'll use all four colour energies. When they work, when they make a speech, I often think of, I cite President Obama as an example, I'm sure Obama had wonderful speech writers, that helps as well, but if you don't hit all four colours, you're going to lose potentially a quarter of your audience. So when Obama spoke, he would talk about a vision, he would paint a picture of what was going to happen, he would give people enough details that they understood there was some credibility there. He would have a sense of urgency and pace about what he was doing, but he would also be empathetic and engaging with the people at a human level. Now, if you can do that, if you can hit all four of those traits, when you speak to somebody, that for me is the sign of a great communicator. It's also a pretty good indicator of a pretty strong leader, I think. I'm not going to name any names, but I'm sure we could all think of senior political figures, past or present, who certainly don't hit all four of those colour energies when they speak. And some of them are literally rooted in one dimension, and the real danger is, like I say, you're going to lose at least a quarter, half, maybe three quarters of your audience, because you're not speaking to them, that's the danger. Ula Ojiaku So what I'm hearing is there needs to be a balance and as a leader, an effective leader, or the ideal leader would know how to slide, for lack of a better word, you know, from one energy to another. Primo Masella Yeah. So that's not to say that you can't have leaders in different positions who kind of call that out. So it's absolutely fine to have a leader who is more people focused and they're more collaborative and engaging and people know them, that that's their leadership style. Likewise, it's fine to have a leader who's very results focused, and wants the data before they make decisions and move things forward. I think the trick is to kind of be very clear with the team that you are leading - this is how I work, these are my preferences, and be conscious of the fact that you may be missing some things because you have a stronger preference for something else. And then think about how do I use the rest of my team to help fill in those gaps, so that as a team, we bring a unified view to how we're going to deliver this particular activity. Ula Ojiaku So, what I'm hearing is, you know, be aware of where you tend to operate from as a leader, and also understand, you know, that you need the team to complement, you know, the gaps. Primo Masella I think, because otherwise we do get into this thing of setting an expectation that a leader should be able to do everything. That's a tough call, isn't it. Ula Ojiaku What books would you recommend for anyone who wants to learn more about this topic, you know, personalities, leadership teams? Primo Masella Yeah, I've got a couple of recommendations, which aren't necessarily related to what we've spoken about. So the Insights model is based on the work of Carl Jung. So if you read anything of Jung's work, that can be helpful. So this whole concept of how our personalities work, the fact that we each have at least two aspects to our personalities, and we might show up in a slightly different way, depending on who we're working with or where we are. So, I would heartily recommend anything in that space. People ask me about leadership books and I have to be brutally honest and say I'm not a huge reader of leadership books, but I would say the one thing that stuck with me over years and years is Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. And I keep coming back to it because it just works for me. So, you know, you can get these things now as synopses, kind of easy read, quick read things, but yeah, read the whole book. It's one of the few kind of management books that I read and have reread, so maybe that's an indicator. On a slightly different tangent I've just finished reading a book. It's been out for a few years now, but I'm a bit late to the party, about the culture at Netflix and, culture, I find, is really interesting. So I've worked in big corporate organisations where they've had certain cultures. The book is called The No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings, who was one of the co-founders of Netflix. And it's really interesting, especially if, like me, you've, you've worked in huge corporate environments for a long time, because Netflix took an entirely different approach to how they created their organisational culture, and it makes no qualms about the fact that if you are in highly regulated or safety critical, or, you know, if you're building aeroplanes and you don't want people to fall out of the sky, you need certain policies and procedures in place. With a company like Netflix, who are in a creative environment, it's really interesting to read about how they built their company culture, which is the polar opposite from some of the companies I've worked for, really interesting. So just as a read, it's a great read. Then the final thing I'm going to recommend is, and this is slightly off topic. So I'm holding up a book called The Inside Out Revolution by Michael Neill, and this is a based on a principle around consciously thinking about how we think, and a principle that I'm becoming more and more interested in actually, as I get older, which is that everything starts from the way that we think about it. So our mindset governs everything else. So where you may feel like an event happens and I'm sad because that event happens, actually there’s growing evidence, and there has been evidence for some years, actually, that how I think about the event dictates really how I feel about it, not the event itself. So Michael Neill's book is a great way into that, but there's loads of other things out there as well. If you, you know, Google ‘mindset’ or ‘consciously thinking’, you'll see a whole bunch of stuff. So that's something that I find really interesting because that's much more about us taking personal responsibility for how we think about stuff, and being quite intentional rather than be reactive and blame things outside of us for what happens. Ula Ojiaku I like the concept of, you know, being intentional and actually exploring our mindset and why we're thinking or feeling the way we do. So where can the audience find you? How can they get in touch with you if they want to. Primo Masella So, the best place is LinkedIn. So I'm on LinkedIn as Primo Masella, LinkedIn is probably the best place, so you can find me on there, and I’d be very happy to chat to anybody about Insights or connect with anybody who's interested in the same things that we've been talking about today. It's been really interesting, just to share one reflection. So I've been self-employed for just over a year now, so not about long, really, and, and I started this self-employment journey with perhaps a misconception that it would be very competitive and people would be very guarded about sharing anything. I have to say, it's the exact opposite. People have been so gracious with their time. I've made connections that I never thought I would make, and literally everybody that I've been introduced to, or that I've met along the way has just wanted to help. So if you are thinking of going self-employed then, you know, I can heartily recommend it. Ula Ojiaku It kind of goes back to a statement you made earlier. And I said when we're challenged, we learn more about ourselves. So sometimes in the challenges, the going out of the comfort zone, that's where you get the room to grow. Primo Masella Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, in my circumstance, I left the big corporate world. I wasn't expecting to do that, particularly, it wasn't a decision I'd made some years before, I didn't have a plan for this, and so yeah, I kind of felt like I was thrown into it and I thought, well, I'll just see what happens, and it's great. I can't say enough how generous people have been with their time, and that's just reinforced the fact that I think there is still a sense of supporting other people and collaboration and wanting to do good work, you know, across lots of people. Ula Ojiaku So any final words for the audience as we wrap up, this has been a great conversation. Primo Masella I would say just start with yourself. So if you know, if you're having a tough time or it feels like everything's going wrong, or your team's falling apart, just, just kind of start by looking at yourself. I don't mean that in a kind of negative way, but you know, we are the masters of our own destiny and there's always something you can change, and sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is to change how you think about something and that can help you in whatever circumstance you're in. Ula Ojiaku Yes. Those are profound words of wisdom, Primo. And again, it's been a great pleasure having you as my guest on this episode of the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast, so thank you very much. Primo Masella My pleasure, and thank you so much for inviting me. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
48:05 3/12/23
(S3) E024 Dave West on Kindness and Addressing the "Water-Scrum-Fall" Problem
Bio Dave West is the Product Owner and CEO at In this capacity, he engages with partners, and the community to drive’s strategy and the overall market position of Scrum. Prior to joining Ken Schwaber and the team at he was Chief Product Officer at Tasktop where he was responsible for product management, engineering and architecture. As a member of the company’s executive management team was also instrumental in growing Tasktop from a services business into a VC backed product business with a team of almost 100. As one of the foremost industry experts on software development and deployment, West has helped advance many modern software development processes, including the Unified process and Agile methods. He is a frequent keynote at major industry conferences and is a widely published author of articles and research reports. He also is the co-author of two books, The Nexus Framework For Scaling Scrum and Head First Object-Oriented Analysis and Design. He led the development of the Rational Unified Process (RUP) for IBM/Rational. After IBM/Rational, West returned to consulting and managed Ivar Jacobson Consulting for North America. Then he served as vice president, research director at Forrester Research, where he worked with leading IT organisations and solutions providers to define, drive and advance Agile-based methodology and tool breakthroughs in the enterprise. Email – Twitter - @davidjwest LinkedIn -   Interview Highlights Growing up with dyslexia 03:10 & 10:20 Water-Scrum-Fall 07:40 Psychological safety 15:40 Lilian the rockstar - 'who have you helped today?' 18:55 Is 'project' a taboo word? 21:53 'Humble and Kind' - not just for country music 44:30 Books ·         Head First Object-Oriented Analysis and Design by Dave West, Brett McLaughlin and Gary Pollice ·         The Nexus Framework for Scaling Scrum by Dave West, Kurt Bittner and Patricia Kong ·         ARTICLE: Why Kindness Matters by Dave West ·         Thank You for Being Late by Thomas L Friedman ·         Scrum: A Pocket Guide by Gunther Verheyen ·         The Professional Scrum Series by various authors ·         Zombie Scrum by Christiaan Verijs, Johannes Schartau and Barry Overeem ·         The Professional Agile Leader: The Leader’s Journey Toward Growing Mature Agile Teams and Organizations (The Professional Scrum Series) by Ron Eringa, Kurt Bittner, Laurens Bonnema, foreword by Dave West Episode Transcript Ula Ojiaku (Guest Intro): Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. It's my honour to introduce my guest for this episode. He is Dave West. Dave is the CEO of and prior to joining as CEO, he led the development of the Rational Unified Process, also known as RUP with IBM. He was also Chief Product Officer for Tasktop Technologies and Managing Director of the Americas at Ivar Jacobson Consulting. He is a widely published author of several articles and research reports, as well as the books The Nexus Framework for Scaling Scrum and Head First Object-Oriented Analysis and Design. In this conversation, Dave talked about growing up in the council estates, being raised by his grandparents who were of great positive influence in his life, especially his grandmother. He also talked about navigating the challenges of being dyslexic, especially as a student in secondary school with the silver lining being that he got introduced to computers. Dave also gave his perspective on one of the ongoing “agile wars” quote unquote, on the concept of projects and whether they still have a place in agile or not. Without further ado ladies and gentlemen, my conversation with Dave, I am sure you would find it very, very interesting, relevant and insightful. Thanks again for listening. Ula Ojiaku So we have on this episode of the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast, Dave West, who is the CEO of Dave, it's a pleasure to have you on this show, thank you for making the time. Dave West Oh, well, thank you for inviting me. I'm glad we've finally managed to make the time to do this. It's great to talk to you. Ula Ojiaku Yes, well, the honour is mine. Let’s start by talking about, you know, getting to know about the man, Dave. Can you, you know, tell us a bit about that? Dave West Yeah, I'll try not to bore your audience. So I was brought up on a council estate in a little town called Market Harborough, just outside Leicester. I lived with my grandparents, and which has definitely, my grandmother's definitely shaped who I am, I think, which is fantastic. So I got into computers, sort of a little bit by accident. I'm dyslexic and I found school, particularly secondary school, very challenging. I don't know if any of your audiences had a similar experience, but, you know, I went from a very protected environment and secondary school is a, oh my gosh, it's like an experience that could scare any human being. And so my dyslexia really was a challenge there and there was a teacher at secondary school called Phil Smith. He drove a sports car, he was sort of like that young, you know those teachers that you remember from school that are the good looking young ones. And he ran a computer lab and it had, you know, RS236, it had these really old computers, well, now we would look at them, they were brand new at the time, computers and some BBC model As and some other things. And I helped him and he gave me a lot of time in the lab and it was my sort of like escape. So I got very into computing and helped him and helped other teachers who were rubbish, I’m not going to lie, with computing. So that allowed me then, you know, I went through, managed to survive school, went to a further education college called Charles Keene where I studied, well I did a computing course, so not traditional A’levels and all of that. And then got into Huddersfield that was a poly at the time, became a University whilst I was there. And I think that that gave me a great opportunity, it was a fantastic university, it was a very practical course. My dyslexia became less of an issue because of, you know, word processing and I'd be honest and, you know, the ability for it to read back, even though it was an awful read back, it was like listening to say, you know, to like an old fashioned Stephen Hawking, you know, sort of, and then got me a job at Commercial Union, which then led to me doing a Masters, which then led me to move to London, all this sort of stuff. The adventure was great. The thing about, I guess, my journey is that it, I was driven at a certain point, I became very driven by the need to improve the way in which we delivered software development at that time, and that led me through my Masters and, you know, Object-Oriented and then to a company called Rational Software where I became the Product Manager for RUP, the Rational Unified Process. Now for the agilists listening, they're probably like, oh, boo hiss, and that's totally legit. It was in fact, that's when I first met Ken Schwaber and he told me I was an idiot, which turns out he was right. Ken Schwaber the creator (of Scrum), who I work for now. Anyways. Ula Ojiaku I mean, who wouldn't know Ken Schwaber if you're a self-respecting agilist.  Sorry, go on please. Dave West Yeah, he's an interesting character for sure. Anyway, so I was the RUP Product Manager and I realised I went to this large insurance company in the Midwest and it's a huge organisation and I met this lady and she said, I'm a use case. I said, what do you do? She said, I'm a use case specifier, and meet my friend, she's a use case realiser and I'm like, oh, no, that's not the intent. And so I realised that there was this process that I loved, and I still definitely love elements of it, but was fundamentally flawed in terms of helping actually people to work together to work on complex problems and solve them. So that, you know, and I'd written a book and I'd done some other things on the way to this point, but this point really did make me realise that I was going wrong, which was a little scary because RUP was incredibly popular at that time, and so then that led me to work with Ivar Jacobson, tried to bring in Scrum to the unified process, spent more time with Ken Schwaber who'd finally realised I may still be an idiot, but I was an idiot that was willing to listen to him. Then I ended up at Forrester Research, running the application development practice, I became a research director there, which was super interesting, because I spent a lot of time looking at organisations, and I realised a really fundamental problem that I think probably will resonate with many that are listening to this podcast, that people were doing Scrum yeah, Scrum was incredibly popular and people were doing Scrum, but they were doing it in an industrial context. It was more like Water-Scrum-Fall. And I coined that term in a research document, which got picked up by the, InfoQ and all these magazines, it became this sort of ‘thing’ – Water-Scrum-Fall. You know, they were doing Scrum, but they only liked to plan once a year, and there's a huge planning sort of routine that they did. They were doing Scrum, but they rarely released because the customers really don't want it - it's incredibly hard and dangerous and things can go horribly wrong. And so they were doing Scrum, but they weren't really doing Scrum, you know. And so that was super interesting. And I got an opportunity to do a number of workshops and presentations on the, sort of like the solution to this Water-Scrum-Fall problem with Ken, I invited him and we did this very entertaining roadshow, which I'm surprised we weren't arrested during it, but we were, it was a really interesting experience. I then decided like any good practitioner, I had to do a Startup. So I went to Tasktop working with Mik Kersten and the gang at Tasktop, and the great thing about Tasktop was it was a massive fire hose of doing Scrum, trying to make payroll, learning about everything around delivering a product in a market that wasn't really there and that we had to build. And it was just fantastic working with a lot of OEMs, a lot of partners and looking at, and then we got funding. We grew to five teams. I was running product and engineering. And Ken was continually talking to me through this time, and mentoring me, coaching me, but I realised he was also interviewing me. So he then said to me, one day, Dave, I don't want to be the CEO of anymore. I'd like you to be, when can you start? Ken doesn't take no for an answer, and I think that's part of the success of Scrum. I think that his persistence, his tenacity, his, you know, sort of energy around this, was the reason why Scrum, part of the reason him and Jeff, you know, had different skills, but definitely both had that in common, was successful. So I then came and joined about seven years ago, to run and it's an amazing organisation Ula Ojiaku And if I may just go back a bit to what you said about your time in secondary school, you said you were dyslexic and apart from the fact that you discovered computers, you had a horrible experience. What made it horrible for you? Dave West I think it was, you know, there's no support network, there's nobody checking in on you, particularly at secondary school. At primary school, you have a teacher that you're in the same room, you've sort of got that, you're with the same kids, but you go, you know, you, you go from one lesson to another lesson, to another lesson and if you're a little bit, well for me, you know, reading and writing was incredibly difficult. I could read and write at that point. I was about nine and a half, 10 when I finally broke through, thanks to an amazing teacher that worked with my primary school. And, but I was way, way behind. I was slower. I, you know, and teachers didn't really, it was almost as though, and I'm sure education's very different now, and both my children are dyslexic and they go to a special school that's designed around this, so I know that it's different for them, but the teaching was very much delivery without inspection and adaption of the outcome, you know, just to make it a bit agile for a second. So you go through all this stuff and I wasn't able to write all the stuff down fast enough. I certainly wasn't able to process it, so because of that, it was pretty awful. I always felt that I was stupid, I was, you know, and obviously I relied on humour and I was a big lad, so I didn't have any bullying issues, but it was very, very challenging. And I found that I could be good at something with computers. And I sort of got it, I understood how to write, you know, BASIC very quickly and maybe even a little Assembly. I knew how to configure machines, it just seemed natural, it certainly helped my confidence, which, you know, maybe I'm a little too confident now, but definitely had an impact on my future life. Ula Ojiaku That's awesome, and I'm sure there are people who would be encouraged by what you've just said, so I wanted to begin there. Thanks for sharing. Now, what about, what do you do when you're not working? Dave West What do I do when I'm not working? Well, I'm a, that's a hard question. Gosh. So I have a nine year old and a six year old, and two boys, so, you know, sometimes I'm refereeing wrestling matches, you know, I'm definitely dealing with having children, I was late to life having children. I'm 52 and I have a nine year old and a six year old. I thought that, you know, a single lifestyle, a bachelor lifestyle in Boston and, you know, loving my work, writing books, you know, doing this traveling the world was going to be survive, and then I met the most amazing girl and, who persuaded me that I needed to have children, and I thought, well, I really like you, so I’d better. And it's been an incredible adventure with these children. They've taught me so much, the most important thing I think they've taught me is patience. And it's making me a better human being, and many of those traits, just to bring it back to Agile for a second, are things that we need to build better into the way that we turn up at work because you know, the project, I think it was called Aristotle, the Google big project where they looked at the successful teams, they found a number of traits, but one of those traits that was so important was psychological safety, right? And that requires you to attend every interaction with a mindfulness, not of doing things that you want to do to yourself, which is that sort of golden rule, but that platinum rule, do unto others as they want be done unto. And, and I think that is so, so important and crucial, and it's something that I aspire to, I don't always succeed every day as a human being, you know, whether it's at the checkout at the supermarket or whether it's waiting in line, particularly at the moment in an airport, and it’s just, you know, something that I think in an agile team is so important because that safety is so, so required to create that environment where transparency happens, to create that environment where you can have those honest conversations about what's happening next, or what's happened previously where you're running those retrospectives, where you’re trying to really plan when there is not enough knowledge to plan. You know, those sort of things require that kind of environment to be successful. So, you know, though, yes, I spend my life either working or really spending it with my children at the moment because of the age they're at, I think it's helping me, the time I'm spending with my children is helping me be a better human being and be a better Agilist.  Ula Ojiaku There's something you said, you know, about psychological safety and being kind, it just reminded me that, you know, of that, the need for also to be respectful of people, because when you are kind and you're showing people respect, they would, that brings down the barriers and makes them, you know, more inclined to be open and to participate. What do you think about that? Would you say there's a link between respect and kindness, I know we're being philosophical right now… Dave West Well actually, yes, but no, it's incredibly practical as well. I think that kindness, so I've written quite a lot about kindness, because it's a trait that we, as a community, our professional Scrum trainer community, manifests and lives. It's something that we actually interview for when you join our community, and the reason why we do that, isn't because we're a bunch of hippies that just like kumbaya, want everybody to hold hands and be nice to each other, I mean, that would be great as well and who doesn't like a good rendition of kumbaya, it’s a great song, but it's because we believe that kindness, ultimately, is beneficial to both parties, particularly the person that's being kind, because it creates, not only does it create levels of karma, but it creates that transparency, it creates that opportunity to learn that you may not get, if you go in in a very confrontational way and people don't intentionally be confrontational, but it's so easy for it to happen. You know, it's so easy for you to question, because, you know, somebody says something you're like, well, I don't agree with that, and that instantly creates an environment or a connection that is, you know, confrontational, you're in this position, it spirals, blah, blah, blah. So, but you can, instead of saying, I don't agree with that say, hey, well, that's interesting, let me have a look into that, and you’re inquisitive. And if you try to approach everything with that sort of like kindness model, and I don't mean always being nice. Nice is different to kind, nice is like faking, I think, sometimes, you know, it's funny, you don't have to be kind to be nice, but you have to be nice to be kind if you understand what I mean. So you can fake niceness, niceness is part of being kind. So, you know, if you approach it in the right way, where you care about people and you care about what they're bringing to the table and you care about the environment that they're in, whether it's just simple things like checking in more frequently, you know, whether it's actually making time in this very scheduled life that we live now with zoom call after zoom call, to check in with the team, or the person that you're talking to, to see how are they turning up today? How has their day been? And I think that's, you know, super, super important. The other important element of kindness that comes out is this helping others element, you know, my gran, God rest her soul, Lilian, she was a rockstar on so many levels. And she used to say to me, when I came home from school, particularly from elementary school or primary school, I think we call it in England, right? She'd say things like, not what have you done today, I mean, sometimes she said that, but she'd say, who have you helped? Who have you helped? I’d be like uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, uh, and she said it enough that I realised it's important, you know, it's important that you spend time with others, help them in their tasks, you know, because I think you can learn so much and build those relationships, build that safety that is so, so important to really develop. We work in complex environments, right, that's the whole point of agility. Complex environments require people to collaborate, they require people to look at things in different ways. They really benefit from diversity, diversity of mind, diversity of experience, diversity of skill. And you bring that together, but you can only bring all these different parts together when you have an environment that allows for it, and traditional project management techniques, fabulous as they were for building bridges and tunnels and everything like that, didn't allow that, they don't encourage that. They encourage people to be focused, to be efficient, to be managing to that model. And I think we have to step away from that and work in a slightly different way where kindness, psychological safety, trust, respect, use the word respect. And I think it's, you know, obviously it's a Scrum value, but it's crucial to effectively allowing independent people with diverse perspectives to work together in an effective way. And to be honest society doesn't have enough of that in general. I think we've definitely moved away from respect and trust. We don't trust in our governments, we don't trust in our institutions, we don't trust in our fellow human beings and we've become very much focused on ourselves and our individual needs. And the reality is there's no such thing as a self-made person, you're only there because of the success of previous generations. As you drive to work on a car, on a road that has been built by others, that's been funded by others, you know, so this idea that you are in it alone, you know, is completely wrong, and I think sometimes we bring that to the work and it creates an environment that is not as successful. Ula Ojiaku True, true. No, thanks for that, Dave. I completely agree. Now there are people back to this project program that feel like, you know, the word project in agile is a taboo, almost a swear word. What's your perspective on this? Dave West I don't think it's a swear word, I don't think it's taboo. I think, you know, Mik’s book is a fabulous book and he's a fabulous person, but he was using it to emphasise the fact that, you know, that we have become too focused on this, you know, investment paradigm, this organisation paradigm, this structural paradigm of the project and that, ultimately, the idea of a product, this idea of a cohesive set of capabilities that's packaged in some way that has a clear boundary, that has a clear set of customers, that has some clear value, is a much better way of aligning your people and your investments. And so he was emphasising that, and obviously he emphasised the idea of value streams being the mechanism that we deliver value in this construct to these people in this packaging of products, and it’s a great book and I recommend everybody should read it. Ula Ojiaku I have mine here. Dave West No, that's good. Yeah. I was fortunate enough to be involved in the development of the book a little, working with Mik, providing a lot of feedback and I think it's a great book. However, the idea of a project doesn't go away and all of that work that we did, that organisations that I respect deeply like the PMI and, you know, that even, dare I say, things like Prince2, all of that work, isn't wrong. It's just, we need to look at it from a different lens. The idea that complex work is there changes certain things, the fact that requirements and understandings and appreciation of what we’re doing emerges over time, that is just a truth, and that was true of projects as well. We just need to build in the mechanisms to be better able to deal with that. The fact that we would invest hundreds, if not thousands of hours planning things that ultimately fell apart when some underlying assumption changed and then we'd create a change order to deal with the chaos that that created need to be, we need to step away from those ideas. Do we still have projects? I think yes, sometimes you will have something that has a, you know, put a man on, or hopefully it's not a man, hopefully it's a woman, but a woman on Mars. I don't trust men on, I think it'd be much more successful if it was a woman, but, anyway, or person. Men get old, they don't grow up, right? Isn't that the saying, but anyway, so putting that person on Mars is a project, right? It has a definitive, you know, plan, it has an end goal that's very clearly underside. It's very likely that we're going to build a series of products to support that, you know, there is, I don't think we need to get tied up so much on the words, project and product. However, we really need to step back a little bit and look at, okay, you know, like treating people as resources, breaking up teams and reforming teams continuously, treating people as fungible or whatever that is, they're just unrealistic. It's not nothing to do with project or product, they're just silly, you just can't deal with this. The fact that teams take time to form, you know, the fact that, you know, the most successful agile teams I've ever seen are teams that have a clear line of sight to the customer, clear understanding of what they're trying to do for that customer, have guardrails, have an enabling management structure that provides support to deliver that value to that customer. As long as you think about those things and you don't get so tied up with the dance or the routine of project management that you forget that, then I'm not concerned. You know, there's this big thing about, oh, should project managers be Scrum masters? I don't know, it depends on the project manager. Sometimes project managers make very good product owners because they take real clear ownership of the outcomes and the value that's trying to be delivered. Sometimes, you know, they make great Scrum masters because they care very much about the flow of work, the team dynamics, the service to the organisation, the service to the business, and they want to act in that way. And sometimes you just want to get stuff done and work in a team, as a developer on that increment. You know, I don't know, you know, people are like, oh, because, and I think this is the fundamental problem, and you've got me onto my soapbox here and I apologise, but the thing that I see over and over again is the use of agile in an industrial, mass production oil and mass production way of thinking about the world. So what they do is that it isn't agile or project management that's at fault. It's the paradigm that's driving the use of agile or the use of project management. You can do agile in a very waterfall way, don't get me wrong or a very industrial way, I almost don't want to use the word waterfall, but this idea of, you know, maximizing efficiency. I mean, gosh, the word velocity has been as synonymous of agile forever when ultimately it's got nothing to do with agility, you know, it's a useful mechanism for a team to help them run a retrospective sometimes. But it isn't a mechanism that you use to plan, you know, the capacity of your organisation and all this sort of idea,  what they're trying to do always is use an industrial, you know, sort of mindset in an agile context, in a context that doesn't support an industrial mindset or a traditional mindset. And that drives me mad because I see agility being used to deliver work rather than value, I see agility basically being missed, sort of like, almost jimmied in with a crowbar into these massive projects and programs where you've got fixed scope, fixed budgets at the start. They don't actually know what they're trying to achieve, but you've got all these contracts in place that describe all this stuff, very detailed up front. And then they say, we're going to use agile to do it, and you're like, okay, what are we, you know, what happens if the first sprint uncovers the fact that the product goal was fundamentally flawed? Oh well, we can't change that because the contract says, well, hang on a minute, what are we in this business for? Are we actually trying to deliver value to customers and help them solve a particular problem to deliver? Or are we trying to do something else? And they're like, no, we're trying to deliver on the contract. Oh, but isn't the contract a mechanism that describes that? Maybe, but that's not why we're here. And that's when it starts getting, going wrong, I think,  that industrial mindset that I just want, tell me what to do, give me a job, let me sit down, just give me that change order and I will start work. It's just wrong. And for certain types of project, and certain types of product and certain types of problem, you know, it probably works really well if we're building the 17th bridge or we're, you know, doing those sort of things. But the reality is in the digital age, that most knowledge workers, who are the people that really benefit from agile the most, that aren't working in that way, they're working with very changeable environments, very changeable customer understanding very, you know, it's a little bit more complex. Ula Ojiaku True, true. And what you're saying reminds me of my conversation with Dave Snowden, he's known for his work on complexity theory, Cynefin, and if it's in a complex adaptive environment, you know, you need to be agile, but if it's a complicated problem or a simple problem, so complicated is really about, you know, breaking it down into a series of simple problems but it’s still sequential and predictable, you could use, you know, the traditional waterfall method, because nothing is going to change, it's really putting all those pieces together to get to a known end state, and so I am of the same mindset as you, in terms of it's all about the context and understanding what exactly are you trying to achieve, what's of value to the customer and how much of it do we know and how much learning do we have to do as we get there. Dave West Exactly. I'm obviously not anywhere near as smart as somebody like a Dave Snowden who just, I think he has forgotten more things than I've ever understood, but yeah, I mean he’s an amazing thought leader in this space, but the challenge and he talks a little bit about this sometimes, or I think he does, is that we don't always know what's complicated or complex or the amount of unknown. And this is, you know, this is the classic sort of entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs aren't necessarily working in complexity, they're working in unknown. But the nature of complex unknown is really tricky because you may discover that something that you thought was known is not known, and then you then have to change how you approach it. So the reason in Scrum, what we do is we deliver frequently and that, ultimately, and we deliver the most valuable things or the things that will give us the most value, thus that uncovers those misunderstandings early in the process. Ula Ojiaku Yeah, completely true. And just to build on what you said in terms of understanding or realising that your product goal was wrong, you're working on the wrong thing. Sometimes you might have to also kind of say goodbye to the project or pull the plug. It depends. Dave West Yeah. And that's incredibly hard, sorry, just to lean into that. It's very hard because you've got people that are there and you've invested time, you know, there's the sort of classic fallacy of sunk costs, all that stuff, but the reality is it's not a fallacy of psychological sort of like sunk energy. You've invested all this time and money and effort and motion to get where you're at and then you're realising it's wrong. It's incredibly hard to step away from that. And so what you do, and you see this with startups all the time is, you know, you pivot, you pivot, you pivot, you pivot, you pivot, but you don't really pivot, what you're doing actually is trying to find a way to get all that investment that you've spent to be useful to deliver some value, you know, and whether it's repackaging or whatever, so that you can say, oh, that's okay when actually, and you can spend as much time doing that as you did the original thing, and now you are even worse, in a worse situation and it's hard. Ula Ojiaku Yes. Completely agree. So there's something you said about, you know, you gave an example of people doing, if I will use your term, Water-Scrum-Fall, in their delivery. And sometimes, you know, they go into detailed requirements, you know, specification, and this is, and they write an iron-clad contract that would, you know, kind of specify all these requirements have to be met, and whilst from the delivery perspective, in terms of the teams who actually do the work, it's they are, they get it, they want to be agile, but it's always these constraints. And whenever we, as an agile coach, you know, you go into the root of the matter. It's the typical root causes of why there is this inflexibility it’s either, you know, the leadership and/or, you know, the business or their clients not wanting, you know, having that traditional expectations, any advice on how to effectively deal with this sort of blocker? Dave West I think it's very difficult, particularly when it's like outsourced or you've got, you know, that sort of it's contract-based as opposed to internal in terms of commitments. So it's not budgeted it’s actually contracted. And when, when that happens it's very difficult, because you know, you've got the deal because you know how to do stuff and you've done it before, and you've got all that experience with the customer of course, so it’s well, because you've done it before and you've invested all this experience, you must tell us exactly what it is that we are going to do. And the reality is the customer themselves doesn't know what they want, really. And until you actually get into the process, it's very difficult. I think one of the big things that's going to happen over the next few years, and we're starting to see some of this with things like Beyond Budgeting, the new procurement contract models that the US is, is perpetuating with 18F and the work of the central government. It would sort of stop during the previous administration, but it's now back, you know, how do you do agile contract management, what does it mean? Speaking from personal use, you know, of external companies to do work for, we pay for sprints. We define a clear product goal that we evaluate continuously, that's measurable. We, you know, we have a product owner from embedded in the Scrum team, even if the Scrum team or in the Scrum team, so of course, if the product owner, they are part of the Scrum team, but even if the Scrum team is predominantly a third party. So we do things like that to, and because you can't just fund one sprint at a time. It's very, you know, these people have got to pay mortgages and you know, they've got payroll to hit, so you have to negotiate a number of sprints that you would do it that allows them the flexibility to manage those constraints whilst being realistic, that at the end of a sprint review, you may discover so much stuff, or even during a sprint, that questions everything, and requires a fundamentally, you know, shifting of the backlog, maybe a change to the backlog, assuming that the objective and the product goal is still valid. You know, so putting those things in place, having those honest conversations and partnership conversations with the client is crucial. And the, you know, service companies that serve are a little bit luckier because we actually come at that from a, we know that we don't know what we want, whereas most clients, it's a lot harder to get them to say that. We know what we'd like to achieve, so the other thing that's important and I think that OKRs are maybe part of this, we have a thing called EBM, Evidence Based Management, which is a sort of like an agile version of OKRs. The OKRs and if defining the outcomes that you're trying to achieve and how you're going to measure them up front, validating them continuously, because it's possible you're wrong, but it's a much less of a scary prospect than not describing anything at all, or just having some very highfaluting goal. So getting very clear and precise in what you're trying to achieve and actually investing the time up front to work out what that means, and getting everybody on the same page around that can really help solve those problems long term, because you build to that, and that ultimately becomes the true north that everybody's working to. So when you have those moments of oh, that's not what we thought then, you know, that's okay, because you are validating against at least something, you have some level of structure in all of this. Ula Ojiaku So let's get to some other questions. What books have you, you know, read that you would say have kind of impacted the way your outlook on, or view on the subject of agile agility or anything else, what would you recommend to the audience? Dave West So the books that really changed my life around thinking about this in a different way, there was a few. The one that actually has nothing to do with agile that made me step back from the way I was looking at the world was Thank You for Being Late by Thomas Friedman. That book really sort of like reinforced the fact that the world is incredibly complex and is, you know, he's famous for The World is Flat, you know, the sort of like global supply chain thing, which we are all very aware of and it's fundamentally having a huge impact now on prices and inflation and the like because of, you know, it's been such a mess over the last two and a half years. So that changed my outlook with respect to the world that I'm living in, which I thought was quite interesting. In terms of straight agility, you know, I'll be honest, there's Scrum – A Pocket Guide that taught me professional Scrum, that's Gunther Verheyen’s book that I'd never really thought about Scrum in that way. And then I have to plug the series, The Professional Scrum Series from Addison, well, it’s Pearson now, sorry. There are some great books in there, Zombie Scrum is absolutely fabulous. And actually, coming out on the 17th of June is a new book about leadership, The Professional Agile Leader: The Leader’s Journey Toward Growing Mature Agile Teams and Organizations. I just read that, so I did not remember it, but it's by three people I adore, Ron Eringa, Kurt Bittner and Laurens Bonnema. They're awesome, you know, had lots of leadership positions, written a great book. I wrote an inspired forward just in case anybody's checking that, you know, that confidence thing certainly came back after middle school, right. But that's a really interesting book that talks about the issue that you highlighted earlier, that leadership needs, we've spent a lot, we've spent 25 years teaching Scrum to teams. We need to spend the next, probably 60 years, teaching Scrum to leaders and trying to help, and it's not just Scrum, it's agile, hence the reason why this isn't just about Scrum, you know, whether it's Kanban, whether it's Flow, whether it's Spotify Model, whether it's whatever, but the essence of that, you know, empiricism, self-management, you know, the continuous improvement, the importance of discipline, the importance of being customer centric, the value of outcomes and measures against outcomes, the value of community and support networks, you know, all of this stuff is crucial and we need to start putting that thing, you know, whether it's business agility, whether you call it business agility, you know, all organisations, I think the pandemic proved this, need to be more agile in responding to their market, to their customers, to their employers and to the society that they contribute to. We get that. Leadership needs to change, and that's not a, you’re wrong and awful, now sort of old leadership bad. No, it's just the reality is the world has changed and the more mindful leaders step back and say, oh, what do I have to do differently? Now, my entire team is remote, my, you know, my work is hard to plan, the fact that we, you know, our funding cycles have changed, our investment models have changed, you know, stepping back a little bit. So this professional, agile leader book I do recommend. Obviously I had the benefit of reading it before it became a book and it's very, very good and fun to read. Ula Ojiaku Awesome, we will put the list of books and links to them in the show notes, so thank you for that. Now, is there anything you'd like to ask you know, of the audience? Dave West Oh gosh, I don't know. I mean, my only sort of like, if it's sort of closing, if we've unfortunately come to the end of our time together and I, you know, I did waffle on, so I apologise for using far too much of it. But I guess the question I, and we talked a little bit about this, but you know, this sort of, there is a propensity in our industry, like every industry, and every moment, and every movement to become very inward looking, to become very like my way is better than every other way, you know. And obviously I'm very into Scrum and I apologise, I accept that I am. But I'm not arrogant enough to believe that it is the only way of solving complex problems. I'm also not arrogant to believe that it is sufficient. You know, I love the work of the Lean UX, Agile UX, we loved it so much we worked with Jeff and Josh to build a class together. I love the work of Daniel Vacanti and in professional Kanban and the Kanban community in general, I love, you know, I love the work of the professional coaching organisations and what they're really doing to help me be a better human being dare I say. You know, the point is, as you sit at this moment in time, you as an agile practitioner, have the opportunity to draw on many different disciplines and many different experts to really help to create that environment. That can allow agility to thrive and value to be delivered. And I think the only thing that's getting in the way of you doing that, or the only thing that was getting in the way of me doing that, and it still does sometimes is uberous arrogance and just a lack of, I don't know, not willing, not being willing to step out of my comfort zone and accept that my predefined ideas and my experience, my diversity that I bring isn't necessarily always right and to be more humble and to be more kind. I know it's a country song, you know, humble and kind, right, which I'm, you know, obviously I live in America, so I have to like country music, it's mandatory, but if you can be a little bit kinder and to do what my gran asks, right? Not what did you do today, but who did you help? What did you learn? How are you going to be better tomorrow? If we can do all of those things, then not only are our projects and teams and products better, but our lives better, and maybe society could be a little bit better. Ula Ojiaku Those are great words, Dave, thank you so much for those. One last thing, are you on social media? How can people get in touch with you? Dave West Well you could always if you want to ping me on this thing called email. If you are under 30, it's this thing that old people like, it's called email. If you’re younger and cooler, I do not have a TikTok account, I don't totally know what it is. My son says we need it. I'm not a totally sure that we do, but it's not about clocks as well, who knew that, what was all that about? Ula Ojiaku Well, just like Apple isn't the fruit… Dave West Isn’t about fruit, how annoying is that as well? Anyway, and so many misconceptions in the world, right. Anyway, but, and M&Ms aren't Smarties, I know I get it. But anyway, sorry, David J. West is my Twitter handle, you know, but, you know, whatever, LinkedIn, you can always find me on LinkedIn, just do Dave West and you will find me on LinkedIn. Love connecting, love talking about this stuff, maybe a little too much. You know another saying that my gran used to say, “you've got two ears and one mouth, shame you never used it like that, David”. I was like, yes, gran, I know, yeah. She also didn't by the way, just for the record anyway. Ula Ojiaku Oh gosh, your grandma Lilian sounds like she was one awesome woman. Dave West Rockstar, rockstar. Ula Ojiaku Well, thank you so much, Dave. It's been a pleasure and I thoroughly enjoyed having this conversation with you, actually more learning from you and I hope sometime you'll be back again for another conversation. Dave West I would love that. Thank you for your audience. Thank you for taking the time today. I appreciate it. Let's stay in touch and I hope that we'll see maybe in person again soon. Ula Ojiaku Yeah, that will be wonderful.
47:52 2/26/23
S3 E023 Evan Leybourn on Business Agility and Management Competencies
Bio  Evan is the Founder and CEO of the Business Agility Institute; an international membership body to both champion and support the next-generation of organisations. Companies that are agile, innovative and dynamic – perfectly designed to thrive in today’s unpredictable markets. His experience while holding senior leadership and board positions in both private industry and government has driven his work in business agility and he regularly speaks on these topics at local and international industry conferences.    Interview Highlights  01:10 Nomadic childhood  08:15 Management isn’t innate  14:54 Confidence, competency and empathy  21:30 The Business Agility Institute  31:20 #noprojects  Social Media/ Websites:           LinkedIn:          Facebook:          Twitter: @eleybourn          Websites: o   Business Agility Institute  o   The Agile Director (Evan’s personal site):          Books/ Articles                   #noprojects: A Culture of Continuous Value by Evan Leybourn and Shane Hastie          Directing the Agile Organisation: A Lean Approach to Business Management by Evan Leybourn          Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming          The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt          Sooner, Safer, Happier by Jonathan Smart, Jane Steel et al          Dare to Lead by Brene Brown          Article: Evan’s Theory of Agile Constraints Episode Transcript  Ula Ojiaku (Guest Intro): Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener.  Ula Ojiaku  I am honoured to have with me Evan Leybourn, he is the founder and CEO of the Business Agility Institute, an international membership body that champions and supports the next generation of organisations. I am really, really pleased to have you here. Thank you for making the time Evan.  Evan Leybourn  Thank you Ula, I'm looking forward to this.  Ula Ojiaku  Awesome, now, so I always start with my guests and I'm very curious to know who is Evan and how did you evolve to the Evan we know right now today?  Evan Leybourn  I suppose that's a long one, isn't it? So I'm Australian, I was born in a small country town in the middle of nowhere, called Armadale, it's about midway between Sydney and Brisbane, about 800 kilometers from both, about 200 kilometers inland, and moved to Sydney when I was fairly young. Now I've spent my entire childhood moving house to house, city to city. So  the idea of stability, I suppose, is not something that I ever really had as a child. I'm not saying this is a bad thing. I don't, I had as good as childhood as any, but it's, I love moving, I love new experiences and that's definitely one of the, I think drivers for me in, when I talk about agility, this idea that the world changes around you. I think that a lot of that early childhood just, disruption, has actually put me in a pretty good place to understand and deal with the disruption of the world and then so, well, we've got COVID and everything else right now. So obviously there is a big, there are issues right now, and disruption is the name of the game. I started my career as a techie. I was a systems administrator in Solara Systems, then a programmer, and then a business intelligence data warehousing person. So I've done a lot of that sort of tech space. And, but you mentioned like the Business Agility Institute and this is the organisation I work now, but probably have to go back to 2008 when, I've been using agile, capital A agile, Scrum and XP, primarily a little bit of FDD in a data warehousing business intelligence space. And in 2008, I got promoted to be an executive in the Australian Public Service. And this was, I think, my first exposure to like, before that I'd run teams, I'd run projects, I knew how to do stuff. And like being a first level leader or project manager, it's, everything is personal. I don't need process, I don't need all those things that make organisations work or not work as the case may be, because when you've got seven people reporting to you, like that's a personal form of management.  So when I became a director, this was, I think, my first exposure into just how different the world was when, well the world of business was. And, I'll be blunt, I wasn't a good director. I got the job because I knew what to do. I knew how to, like, I could communicate in the interview how to like, build this whole of governments program, and that isn't enough. I had this assumption that because I was good at X, I would be good at being a leader of X and that's not the case. And so I actually, there's a concept called the Peter principle, being promoted to your level of incompetence. And that was me. I, it's, that's literally, I didn't know what I was doing, and of course, no one likes to admit to themselves that they're a fraud. It took my boss at the time to tell me that I was arrogant, because, and, and that actually hurt because, it's like, I don't see myself as arrogant, it's not part of my mental model of myself. And so, that push, that sort of sharp jab at my ego, at my sense of self was enough to go, hang on, well, actually, maybe I need to look at what it means to be a leader, what it means to create that kind of skillset, and I had this idea at the time that this thing that I'd been doing back as a techie called agile, maybe that might help me with, help me solve the problems I was facing as an executive – coordination, collaboration, not amongst seven people, but amongst like five, six different government agencies where we're trying to build this whole of government program and long story short, it worked. And this was sort of my first ‘aha moment’ around what we sort of now would call, or what I would now call business agility, though definitely what I was doing back in 2008 was very, a far cry from what I would think of as good business agility. It was more like agile business, but that's what sort of set me up for the last, almost 15 years of my career and helping and advocating for creating organisations that are customer centric with employee engagement, engaged people, that idea of, we can be better if we have, take these values and these principles that we hold so dear in a technology space and we make that possible, we make that tangible in a business context. So it's a bit rambly, but that's kind of the journey that got me to where I am.  Ula Ojiaku  Not to me at all. I find it fascinating, you know, hearing people's stories and journeys. Now, there's something you said about, you know, you, weren't a good director, you knew how to do the work, but you just didn't know, or you weren't so good at the leadership aspects and then you had a wake up moment when your boss told you, you were coming off as arrogant. Looking back now and knowing what you now know, in hindsight, what do you think where the behaviours you were displaying that whilst it wasn't showing up to you then, but you now know could be misconstrued as arrogance?   Evan Leybourn  So let me take one step. I will answer your question, but I want to take it one step before that, because I've come to learn that this is a systemic problem. So the first thing, I shouldn't have been given that job, right. Now, do I do a good job? Eventually, yes, and I grew into it, and I'm not saying you need to be an expert in the job before you get it. Learning on the job is a big part of it, but we as a society, see that management is innate. It's something that you have, or you don't, and that's completely wrong. You don't look at a nurse or a doctor or an engineer and think, I can do their job. No, you think if I go to university and train, I can do that job. I don't think we look at a janitor and go, I can do their job without training. And a janitor is going to receive on the job, like it might be a couple of days, but they're going to receive on the job training. There was a study by, I think it was CareerBuilder, 58% of managers receive no training. We just have this assumption that I'm looking at my boss, I can do their job better than them. And maybe you can, but better isn't the same as good. Like, if they've reached their levels in competence, yes, you could probably be better, but not good. And so I think the skills of management are, it's an entirely different skillset to what, the thing that you are managing. And so I was good at, I was Director of Business Intelligence, so I was good at business intelligence, data warehousing systems. I didn't have the skills of management, no, running a thirty-five million dollar P&L, coordinating multiple business units, building out those systems and actually designing the systems that enabled effective outcomes. And so I think, I'm going to touch on two things. The first is, people and I, definitely, should have invested in learning how the skills of management before I became a manager. Not so that you're perfect, not so that you're an expert manager before you start, because you will learn more on the job than you ever will, from anything before you, before you do that job. But I didn't, it's the, I didn't know what I didn't know. I didn't know I was a bad manager. I was completely blind to that fact. I knew that outcomes weren’t happening and that I was struggling, but half the time, it's a, why won't people listen to me? Why wouldn't they do what I say? Right, which, okay, yes, definitely not servant leadership material, but I didn't even know servant leadership was a thing. Right, so that's the point. At a minimum, I should have known what it took to be a manager, the skills that were going to be required of me. I should have made some investments in building that before I took that job, which is now the second point as to, they shouldn't have given me the job. And, again, this goes to that systemic problem.  I forget who like, there was like a Facebook, like, or a Reddit, like screenshot tweet, meme thing. And I saw it like six or seven years ago, and it stuck with me ever since. It was ‘God save us from confident middle-aged white men’. And I wasn't middle-aged, I was the youngest director in the public service at the time, but I definitely was confident. And for those of you not watching the video, I am white. So, the privilege and the assumption, I carried confidence into the interview, of course I can do the job, I run this team, I know how to do, like I know business intelligence and I know how to design business development systems, and it's like, sure it's a different scale, but it's the same thing. And because I came across as confident, because I thought I could do the job. I thought it was just what I was doing before, plus one, right. But it wasn't, because sure, I could do the plus one part, but that was 30% of the role. I was completely missing everything else. And so that's that other systemic problem, which I have learnt, sadly, over the last decade and a half, in terms of just, we overvalue confidence, then empathy, we overvalue confidence over skill. And I had one, I was empathetic. I didn't have, and, but I was weak at the skills, the management skills, I should have had all three, competence, confidence and empathy, but we value in interviews, as hiring managers, we interview confidence a lot more than the other two. And that is, I think the, one of the real systemic problems we have in the world, especially in tech, but just generally in the world.  Ula Ojiaku  Awesome. I mean, I was going to ask you, you know, what were those skills, but you've kind of summarised in terms of competence, confidence and empathy. So, well, I'm glad to hear the story had a happier ending, because you definitely changed course. So now knowing, again, what you now know, and you're speaking to Evan of 2008, what are the things, before going for that job, would you have told him to skill up in to be prepared for management?   Evan Leybourn  So, let me get very specific. So confidence, competence, empathy for me, those are the, so  this is something that I came up with, or I don't know where this idea emerged from, it's something that I've carried with me for the better part of a decade. For me, those three attributes are my measures of success. If I can have all three, that's what can make me successful. Now in terms of, going deeper than some of the specific skills that we need, that I needed, so the first one, emotional intelligence. Now, I know that's broad and fuzzy, but there were many times, and many times since I'm not saying I'm perfect and I'm not perfect now. This last week, there have been challenges where it's like I've misobserved, and I wish I had seen that, but being able to understand when you’re not hearing somebody, when they're talking to you and you're listening, but not hearing, and so the emotional intelligence to sort of read and understand that there's a gap, there's something missing between what is being said and what is being processed up there in the little grey cells. The other one that, a couple, I'll call it emergent strategy. So, this idea of the three-year plan is completely ridiculous, it's been wrong for 30 years, but we don't develop enough of the counter skill, which is being able to take an uncertain environment, where there's insufficient information and ambiguity, make a decision, but design that decision with feedback loops so that, you know the decision is probably, right, that strategic decision is probably wrong, so rather than sort of run with it for three months and then make another decision, it's designed with these feedback loops, so it's, the next decision is better because you, it's the whole strategic system is designed to create those loops. And that was a key skill that I was missing, in that, this is the government, like I was a Prince 2 Project Manager, an MSP programme manager. I knew how to build the Gantt charts, and I was also an agilest, like I've been doing Scrum for the past five years, but like Scrum at a team level and agility at a business level was not something that many people had even thought about. And so, all of the programme level strategy was not agile. Again, this is 2008, and so we had this,  if I had known how to build an emergent, adaptive strategy, a lot of the challenges, the systems level challenges would have been resolved. And I could go a long time, but I'll give you one more.   So, I'm going to say communication, but not in the way that I think many people think about it. It's not about like conveying ideas or conveying messages, but it is that empathetic communication. It goes with that emotional intelligence and so forth, but it's the ability to communicate a vision, the ability to communicate an idea, and intent, not just the ability to communicate a fact or a requirement, like those are important too, but I could do those, but I had a large teams of teams across, not all of them reported to me, this was a whole government program. So there were people who reported to the program, but their bosses were in a completely different company, government department to me. And so I needed to learn how to align all of these people towards a common vision, a common goal beyond just a here's your requirements, here's the Gantt chart for the program. Please execute on this 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, right, which, sure, they did, but it's, they would, what's the saying? I think it was Deming, give someone a measurable target and they will destroy the company in order to make it. And you give them these, it's like, they will do like what that Gantt chart says, even if the world changes around them and it's the wrong thing to do, and we know, we've learned a lot better as a world, the idea of program level agility is pretty standard now, but 2008, it definitely, wasn't definitely not in government, definitely not in Australia. So, if I had been able to communicate intent and vision and get them aligned to that vision, and not just aligned to a Gantt chart, we would have been a lot more successful, we'd have a lot more buy-in, a lot more engagement. So, there's more, a lot more, but those would be, I think, some of the three that I would say really, really learn before you get the job.   Ula Ojiaku  Well, thanks for that. I'd like to just dive in a bit more, because you said something about the designing, you would have benefited if you knew how to design, build and adapt, that adaptive emerging strategy. How do you do that now? What's the process for doing this?   Evan Leybourn  So let me jump to the present. So, I run the Business Agility Institute. We're a fiercely independent advocacy and research organisation. We've been around for about four years, we don't do consulting, we're funded by our members primarily. Now, one of the very first publications that we put together was something called The Domains of Business Agility. It’s not a framework, it doesn't tell you how to do it, it’s not like Scrum or SAFe or Beyond Budgeting. Actually, Beyond Budgeting is not quite, if Bjarte heard me call Beyond Budgeting a framework, I'd be in trouble. It's, I think of it, I call it the ‘don't forget’ model, because if you're going to change an organisation, these are the domains that you can't forget. The customers at the centre. Around that I would call the relationships, the workforce, your external partners, your vendors and contractors and suppliers, and your Board of Directors, because they represent ownership of the business. Around that are the nine, what I think of as ‘what's domains’, right? These are the things that you need to focus on, right, there's leadership domains, individual domains, and so forth. One of them is strategic agility, otherwise known as adaptive strategy or emergent strategy. Now, one of the reasons that is one of the core domains of business agility and has been since 2018, I think, when we first published this, is because this is one of the fundamental capabilities for an organisation to not survive, but to thrive in uncertainty. Now, there are different approaches and, like, there's a whole bunch of different frameworks and approaches to BS, like four quadrant matrixes and tools and canvases. I'm not going to go to any of that, because A, all the tools are fine, right. So, find the one that works for you, Google will be your friend there, but what I want to do is, however, just look at what the characteristics of all those tools, what do they have in common? And I mean, I do that by really telling a little bit of a story. We, one of the things that we run is the Business Agility Conference in New York. It did run every March in New York city until 2020, well actually it ran in 2020. I know the exact date COVID was declared a pandemic because I was literally onstage, because I had to tell our delegates that this was now officially a pandemic, and if you needed to leave early to get flights and so forth, because we had delegates from Denmark and Switzerland, then please feel free to leave and all that kind of thing. Now, this isn't about the conference, but it's about what was happening before the conference. So you had this emergent problem, COVID-19, starting in China, hitting Italy, and I think it was like February 28 or March 1st, thereabouts, the first case hit in America, and it was California, I think it was Orange County, it was the first case. And what happened was we started to see companies change. Now, I describe it, well, sorry, these aren’t my words, I'm stealing this from a comic I saw on Facebook at the time, we saw companies responding and companies reacting. Now, this is the difference between strategic agility and non strategic agility. So what was happening, so the first company pulled out from the conference, travel ban, our people can't attend. Within a week we'd lost about 50% of our delegates, right. Now, remember all we know at this point, this isn't the COVID of today, right? All we knew was there was a disease, it was more contagious than the flu, it was deadlier than the flu and it had hit America, right. We didn't know much more than that. We certainly didn't imagine it would be two years later and we're still dealing with it. I remember thinking at the time it's like, all right, we’ll have a plan for like September, we'll do something in September, we’ll be fine by then, and a famous last words. But companies had to make a decision. Every company didn't have a choice, you were forced to make a decision. Now, the decisions were, like, do I go to a conference or not? Right. Do I ban travel for my employees? Do we work from home? But that decision came later, but there was a first decision to make and, you know what, there's no, there was no difference between companies, those companies that responded and reacted made the first decision the same, right. It's what came next, right. Those companies that were reacting, because every day there was something new that came up, a new piece of information, more infections, a new city, new guidance from the World Health Organisation or the CDC, and companies had to make decisions every single day. And those that were reacting, took the information of the day and made the decision. Those that were responding, took the decision they made yesterday, the new information, looked at the pathway that was emerging, that's that emergent strategy out of it and made the next decision. And so those strategic decisions that they were making as an organisation were built on the ones that came before, rather than discreet decision after decision after decision after decision. And so what ended up happening is you had those companies who were able to build a coherent strategy on insufficient information that grew and adapted and emerged as new information emerged, were better able to respond to the pandemic than those that were chaotically making decisions. And you could see that in something as simple as how quickly they could start working from home, or how quickly they made the decision to work from home, because those that responded, they had this thread of strategy, and so they were able to make the decision to work from home much faster, and then they were able to execute on that much faster. Whereas those that were not, did not. And I think of this as going to the agile gym, or business agility gym, no company was prepared for the pandemic. No company had a strategy paper of, if there's a worldwide pandemic, these are the things that we’re going to do. But those companies that have practiced emergent strategy, right, in their product, in how they engage with the marketplace, they'd sort of, they’d taken concepts like lean startup and adopted some of those practices into their organisation. Those who had been to the agile gym, they knew how to respond. They weren't prepared for the scale of pandemic, no one had done emergent strategy at that scale, but they knew, they had the muscle memory, they knew how to do it, and so they just scaled up and operated in that new context. And it's like literally going to the gym, it's, if I build up my muscles, I mean, I definitely don't go to the gym enough, but if I did, right, I could lift more weights. So if a friend goes, hey mate, can you help me move a fridge, right, I'm able to do that because I have the capabilities in my body to do that. If I don't go to the gym, which I don't, not enough, right, and my mate goes, hey, can you help me move a fridge? It’s like, I can help, but I'm not going to be that much help. It's, I'll stop it from tilting, right. I'm not going to be the lifter, right. So, the capabilities of that business agility enabled that emergent strategy or the responsiveness during a pandemic, even though no one was prepared for it. And that's kind of really what I see as organisations as they adjust to this new world.  Ula Ojiaku  Now you have this book, actually you’ve authored a couple of books at the very least, you know, there’s #noprojects – A Culture of Continuous Value and Directing the Agile Organisation: A Lean Approach to Business Management Which one would you want us to discuss?   Evan Leybourn  So #noprojects is the most recent book, Directing the Agile Organisation is definitely based on my experience, it's drawing upon that experience back in 2008, I started writing it in 2009. It is out of date, the ideas that are in that book are out of date, I wouldn't suggest anyone reads it unless you're more interested in history. There are ideas, so sometimes I'll talk about the difference between business agility and agile business, where business agility is definitely, it's creating this space where things can happen properly through values and culture and practices and processes. But also it's very human, it's very focused on the outcomes, whereas agile business is more, how do we apply Scrum to marketing teams? And so my first book is unfortunately much more agile business than business agility.   Ula Ojiaku  Okay, so let's go to #noprojects then. There is a quote in a review of the book that says, OK, the metrics by which we have historically defined success are no longer applicable.  We need to re-examine how value is delivered in the new economy. What does that mean, what do you mean by that?   Evan Leybourn  So, the reason I wrote the #noprojects book, and this predates the Institute. So, this is back when I was a consultant. I've run a transformation programme for a large multinational organisation and their project management process was overwhelming. Everything was a project, the way they structured their organisation was that the doers were all contractors or vendors, every employee was a Project Manager. And so what ended up happening was they've got this project management process and it would take, I'm not exaggerating nine months, 300 and something signatures to start a project, even if that project was only like six weeks long. There were cases where the project management cost was seven to eight times the cost of the actual execution. Now that's an extreme case, certainly, and not all were that ratio, but that was kind of the culture of the organisation, and they were doing it to try and manage risk and ensure outcomes, and there's a whole bunch of logical fallacies and business fallacies in that, but that's another matter altogether, but what was happening is they were like, I'm going to focus in on one issue. I said there were many, but one issue was they valued output over outcome. They valued getting a specific piece of work, a work package completed to their desired expectations and they valued that more than the value that that work would produce. And I've seen this in my career for decades, where you'd run a project, again, I used to be a Project Manager, I'm going back like Prince2, you've got this benefits realisation phase at the end of the project. The Project Manager’s gone, the project team is gone, the project sponsor is still around, but they're onto whatever's next. Half the time benefits realisation fell to the responsibility of finance to go, okay, did we actually get the value out of that project? And half the time they never did it, in fact more than half the time they never actually did it. It was just a yes, tick. And for those of you who have written business cases, the benefits that you define in the business cases are ridiculous half the time, they pluck it from the air, it's this bloody assumption that, hey, if we do this, it'll be better. I've seen business cases where it's like, we will save $10 million for this organisation by making like page reloads, half a second faster. So every employee will get three minutes back in their day, three minutes times how many employees, times how average salary equals $10 million. It's like how are you going to use that three minutes in some productive way? Is that actually a benefit or are you just trying to upgrade your system, and you're trying to convince finance that they need to let go of the purse strings so that you can do something that you want to do. So if we actually care about the value of things, then we should be structuring the work, not around the outcome, sorry, not around the output, but around the value, we should be incrementally measuring value, we should be measuring the outcome on a regular basis. Agile, we should be delivering frequently, measuring the value, and if we're not achieving the value that we're expecting, well, that's a business decision, right. What do we do with that piece of information? And sometimes it may be continue, because we need to do this, other times it may be, is there a better way to do this? And once you're locked into that traditional project plan, then sure, you might be agile inside the project plan, you might have sprints and Scrum and dev ops and all that kind of stuff, but if you can't change the business rationale as quickly as you can change the technology like the sprint backlog, then what's the point?  Ula Ojiaku  So you mentioned something and I know that some of the listeners or viewers might be wondering what's business outcome versus output? Can you define that?   Evan Leybourn  So, there is a definition in the book, which I wrote like six years ago. So I'm going to paraphrase because I don't remember exactly the words that I wrote, but an output is the thing, the product, the tangible elements of what is created, right. In writing a book, the output is the book. In this podcast, the output is the recording, the podcast that we're doing right now, the outcome and the impact is what we want to achieve from it. So, the output of the podcast is we have a recording, but if no one listens to it, then why? The outcome is that, well, the ultimate outcome is changing hearts and minds. Well, at least that’s why I’m here. We want to create some kind of change or movements in, well in your case with your listeners, in the case of the book, the readers, we want to create a new capability, a new way of looking at the world, a new way of doing things. And so the outcome is, hopefully measurable, but not always. But it is that goal, that intent.   Ula Ojiaku  Exactly. So, I mean, for me, outcomes are like, what they find valuable, it’s either you're solving and helping them solve a problem or putting them in a position, you know, to get to achieve some gains. Now let's just, are there any other books you might want to recommend to the audience, that have impacted you or influenced you?  Evan Leybourn  Yep. So I'm going to recommend three books. Two are very old books. So the first book is Deming, or actually anything by Deming, but Out of the Crisis is probably the best one, the first one, otherwise The New Economics. Deming is coming out of lean and manufacturing and the Japanese miracle, but he might've been writing in the eighties, seventies, but it's as agile as it gets, right. His 14 points for managers reads like something that would emerge from the Agile Manifesto, right. So I definitely love, I will go to Deming quite regularly in terms of just great concepts and the articulation of it.  The other book that I recommend for the idea, I have to admit it's a bit of a hard read, is The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt. The Theory of Constraints, and if you Google Evan's Theory of Agile Constraints, and I think we're almost out of time, so I don't really have time to talk about it, but it's the Theory of Constraints, both in a practical sense as to how you actually optimise a process, but it also applies when you're looking at it from a holistic metaphorical standpoint, because I like to say, there is a constraint to agility in your organisation. You’re only as agile as your least agile function, and it's not it IT software anymore, it's some other part of your business. You might have a sprint that can create a potentially shippable product increment every two weeks, but if it takes you three months to get a hiring ticket, or nine months get a budget change approved or six weeks to, until the next project control board, you're not, your agility is not measured in weeks. Your agility is still measured in months. Yeah. So Theory of Constraints, the book’s a bit hard to read, it's definitely dated, but the concept is so powerful.   Evan Leybourn  So the last one that I'm going to recommend is, Sooner Safer Happier by Jon Smart. It's a relatively recent book. I, it's the book I've read most recently, which is partly why it's on the top of my mind. It is a very powerful, it really touches to the human sense of agility. It's in the title - Sooner Safer Happier, sooner is a technical value, right. Safer, happier, right? These are more than that, these are human values, these are human benefits. I know I said  three, but I'm just going to add a fourth, one more for the road. It comes to what I was talking about early in terms of my own experiences as a leader. And the book didn't exist at the time, but Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. Growth mindset is a bit of a buzzword these days, and there are definitely more mindsets than just growth and fixed. There are different kinds of mindsets that we hold, but just as a way of getting people to understand that you don't have to have all the answers, that you don't have to be right. So the reason I was arrogant, I was called arrogant by my boss at the time was because I didn't have a growth mindset. I didn't know I was wrong, or I didn't know what I didn't know. And it took some poking to make myself realise that I need to open up and I needed to be willing to learn because I didn't have all the answers. And the assumption that as a manager, as a leader, you're meant to have all the answers is a very toxic, cultural, systemic problem. So I think Brené Brown and the growth mindset work Dare to Lead is such a powerful concept that the more we can get people sort of internalising it, the better.  Ula Ojiaku  So thank you for that. How can the audience engage with you? Where can they find you?   Evan Leybourn  Yep. So, LinkedIn is probably the easiest way. I'm just Evan Leybourn, I think I’m the only Evan Leybourn on the planet, so I should be fairly easy to find. Otherwise, look at We have a very comprehensive library of case studies and references, research that we've published, the models, like the domains that we have a new behavioural model that's coming out fairly soon, and you can always reach me through the Business Agility Institute as well.   Ula Ojiaku  Okay. And for like leaders and organisations that want to engage with the Business Agility Institute, would there be any, are there any options for them, with respect to that?  Evan Leybourn  So individuals can become individual members, it's 50 bucks a year, that's our COVID pricing. We cut it by 50%, at the beginning of COVID, because a lot of people are losing their jobs and we wanted to make it possible, easier for them to maintain as members. That gives you access to like, full access to everything. We publish books as well, so you can actually download full eBooks of the ones that we've published, and also obviously supports us and helps us grow and helps us keep doing more. We are however primarily funded by our corporate members, so it's what we call journey companies, those companies who are on the journey to business agility. So TD bank and DBS bank, for example, are two of our members, Telstra in Australia. So there is value in corporate membership and I'm not going to do a sales pitch if you are, if you want to know more, reach out to me and I'll definitely give you the sales pitch.  Ula Ojiaku  Awesome. Well, thank you so much. These will be in the show notes, and I want to say thank you so much, Evan, for making the time for this conversation. I definitely learned a lot and it was a pleasure having you here.   Evan Leybourn  Thank you. I really appreciate being here.   That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!   
47:40 2/12/23
(S3) E022 Lyssa Adkins on Coaching Leaders
Bio Lyssa Adkins is a coach, facilitator, teacher and inspirer. Her current focus is improving the performance of top leadership teams through insightful facilitation and organization systems coaching. Making difficult decisions faster and with clear alignment, unknotting challenging multi-department impediments, creating the conditions for smooth organizational delivery, helping leaders take up the “Agile transformation” that is theirs to make…this is where she thrives and helps thrive. Her Agile community focus is amplifying women’s voices, which is why she is a founder of the TENWOMENSTRONG #WomeninAgile programs. She has been pleased to serve the emergence of Agile Coaching as a profession. In 2010, she co-founded the Agile Coaching Institute which has developed over 10,000 people in the knowledge, skills and being-ness needed to yield genuinely competent agile coaching. Since 2011, she has been a member of the ICAgile working committee that defines the learning objectives for Agile Facilitation and Coaching and she assesses candidates for the ICAgile-Expert in Agile Coaching competence-based certification. She has also served the Scrum Alliance as an application reviewer for the Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) designation. She is the author of Coaching Agile Teams which, as a top ranking Agile book, was released as an audiobook in its 10th year. She likes to explore facilitating intense conflict, societal change, organizational change, the benefits and costs of being human in the workplace, agile coaching, agile transformation, adult human development, human systems dynamics, the role of nature, and books of all sorts. She tends toward a balance of the provocative and practical. Lyssa holds an alphabet soup of certifications: ICAgile Expert in Agile Coaching (ICE-AC), Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach Emeritus (CEC-E), International Coach Federation Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Organization and Relationship Systems Certified Coach (ORSCC) and Certified Integral Facilitator (IF).  She is also a trained Co-Active Coach and Leader. Social media/ website(s): LinkedIn: Twitter: @LyssaAdkins Lyssa's Website: Interview Highlights Timestamp 05:35 How can we stop going faster while our ability to see further ahead is decreasing? 08:00 Coaching leaders – Lyssa’s 5Cs 21:05 Agile Mastery 24:55 Using agile to author a book 30:52 TENWOMENSTRONG 37:50 Expanding leaderfulness Books/Resources Mentioned InspireMe! card deck Lyssa's 5&5 Podcast: Essential Shifts for Leading in Turbulent Times Listen on Spotify Apple or your favourite podcast platform  One-on-One Leadership Coaching & Mentoring TENWOMENSTRONG: Influence & Impact in the Agile World plus other great programs Episode Transcript Ula Ojiaku (Intro): Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Ula Ojiaku (Guest Intro): Hello everyone. It’s my absolute honour to introduce my guest for this episode, she is no other than the legendary Lyssa Adkins herself. We met at the Agile Coach Conference in Amsterdam and she graciously agreed to be my guest. Lyssa is renowned for her groundbreaking work in defining the Agile coaching discipline and she is known for her book as well, that is titled Coaching Agile Teams. She is also one of the original founders of the Agile Coaching Institute. In this conversation, Lyssa talked about some things that are currently on her mind, and a little bit more about her work that she is currently doing which is focused on coaching the leadership teams in organisations. Without further ado, my conversation with Lyssa. Ula Ojiaku So, Lyssa, thank you so much for being a guest here on the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. Lyssa Adkins You're welcome. I took a little peek at your previous guests and I'm like, oh wow, there have been some really amazing people on this podcast. So I'm hoping that this goes well for you and me and all the people who listen to it. Ula Ojiaku I have no doubts, Lyssa. It's a known fact that I’m a big Lyssa Adkins fan. So for me, this is like a dream come true. I am speaking, well, virtually, face to face, with someone that I absolutely admire and it was a pleasure meeting you as well at the March Agile Coach Conference back in Amsterdam. So do you want to tell us a bit about yourself so we can know how your journey has brought you this way? Lyssa Adkins Yeah, I sure will. I think that the thing to know about me is that the places where I find out that I am not a match for what's going on in my environment is the thing that propels me forward. So I'm thinking about the things I've been learning about recently, and they are things like trauma informed coaching, how to deal with grief and loss and suffering. And this is all because, you know, we're sort of in a time where these things are up and I don't have the skills for it. And so, you know, as you mentioned, those things like, you know, I like to sing and all this work and I've just, I was realising that these are the places where I find in myself that I'm just not capable to meet the complexity of the world around me. And so I try to do something different. One of those things in meeting the complexity of the world around me is that we've just bought a collaboration space property in Portugal. So that's a little bit about what's happening in my life and my home and my work. And my adult daughter is going to go move there with her partner and they're going to be the full-time caretakers of it. So that's a whole new thing that's just opened up for us and will allow us to do some really deep and wonderful work with people. Ula Ojiaku So are you planning to do some sort of retreats there as well? Because you said it's a collaborative working space? Lyssa Adkins Yeah. So people who have programs, and want to bring people to the property, it's a beautiful property, on more than an acre of land and beautiful, mature fruit trees and all of this and lovely property. And so people who want to do deep work with their groups or people who want to come and co-work together, you know, just to be in the same spot, you know, they don't even have to be from the same company necessarily. So that's something that's happening now, more in the world. And we just want to create this as a space for people to really get in touch with the fullness of what's going on in their work, in their life, and ask themselves some really different questions and perhaps even start to generate a completely new way of forward. Ula Ojiaku Interesting, given the world we’re in now with the whole change caused by COVID 19, it means that we can remotely work from almost anywhere in the world. So that is something I think is very relevant to the times we’re in and the opportunity to as well, do the deep work you're talking about. So we will put the links to more details on this in the show notes of this episode, but can we then go, because we are also interested in knowing about you Lyssa, you know, the person who is Lyssa Adkins? Lyssa Adkins Oh, I'm someone who is, on a daily basis, confounded by the world and by the difficulties we're in. I find myself experiencing a significant amount of grief about the things that are falling away in our society, and my outlook on where we're headed is that things are going to continue to fall away. And so a really big question I'm sitting in, I guess, two questions I'm sitting in for myself right now are, one is, you know, who do I want to be as a leader while things are collapsing? And the second question I'm sitting in is, it's so funny, because I just drew this Inspire Me card right before we got here. And I was thinking about this question. This is a card deck that I created with my husband and another agile coach, Deb Preuss, years and years ago. And so for the people who are listening to the audio version, it's a picture of someone driving like into fog and they can't see much, and the question is from Peter Senge and it's this, How can we stop going faster while our ability to see further ahead is decreasing? And I think that's a really big question for me, as a leader in the world, like how can we get off the crazy merry-go-round we have created because we can't expect the same level of performance we did before. We can't expect that things are going to remain certain and stable, actually, I'm pretty sure they're not. So I, you know, who is Lyssa Adkins is someone who sits in these big questions, and for like months and months and months, like a really long time, I sit in these big questions and, according to the strengths binder, my top two strengths are connectedness and futuristic. So that's where my mind tends to move a lot of the time. And what I'm realising as I'm working with leaders is that they hang on to all those things that aren't going well. And that compounds the problem that, that makes it so, now our nervous systems are on high alert, in addition to the thing that's going the way we didn't want it to go. Ula Ojiaku What could be those things that actually lead us down that path of holding on to things when we should be letting go? Lyssa Adkins Well, so there are three broad areas I'm talking to leaders about right now, and I've created them sort of like little bumper stickers so we can remind ourselves of them. And the first is upgrade your complexity of mind. The second is downshift your nervous system. And the third one is expand your team's core capabilities, core competencies. Five Cs for short, because there are five of them. We remember them. So, I mean, so your question is squarely in the bumper sticker of upgrade your complexity of mind, right. So when we upgrade our complexity of mind, this isn't requiring a new skill or a new model or a new whatever best, it's definitely not a new best practice, what it is, is being able to take in so much more information, especially contradictory and competing information, which is happening to us anyway. But to be able to bring on a deeper level of meaning-making about all of that. And in part of what is required, there is not necessarily to stop going fast, but what's required there is to start listening and bringing in different essence energies that allow you to make different kinds of decisions. Because I see leaders right now making the same kinds of decisions over and over, and we're just trying harder. We're just trying harder at the things that don't match the world, where supply chains are failing, where we're having multiple climate disasters at the same time where, you know, we can just keep going on and on about the things that are walking our world. Ula Ojiaku Are you able to also talk about the other two, you know, you said, downshifting our nervous system, I couldn't get the C, and then upskilling your team's competency as well. Those other two. Lyssa Adkins Sure. Let's just touch on those briefly. So downshifting your nervous system is actually one of the key capabilities for having a more complex mind, because what happens to us is that when we encounter something that is a threat of some sort and a threat can be to our sense of identity, to our ego, to our intellect, those are all very related. You know, a threat can be that there's just, you know, now a global supply chain meltdown, and all of a sudden, as an executive, I'm going, oh my God, what do I do? You know, I mean, it's like deer in headlights moment. Like now I'm at the edge of my meaning-making and I don't know what to do and what happens is that our bodies respond and our bodies respond, according to something called neuroception. It's a type of perception, but it's based on your biology, it's based on your actual, your animal body, this thing that you, that you are in, this animal body, responds to these threats in the world before you have cognitively realised them. And so what it does is a very smart thing. It floods your body with all kinds of anxiety hormones, you know, adrenaline, all of these. Yeah. Right. And it gets you ready to take some immediate action because your body does not know that the idea that feels like a threat to you is not the same thing as a sabre tooth tiger chasing you. Your body actually doesn't know that, right. Now, good news is that we have this amazing prefrontal cortex. Human beings get the luxury of a prefrontal cortex where all our executive functions, reside and work. And we can recognise when the animal of our body has taken over and flooded our body with these stress hormones, and we can go, okay, I have the ability to interrupt these. There are really easy ways to interrupt it, actually, and to bring back online those executive functions, because that's the important thing. Things like decision making, critical thinking, empathy, logic, they all leave the building when your body is getting ready to have you run or freeze or fight. Right. And so what I'm noticing is that this happens in really subtle ways on leadership teams and people don't know that their body has been hijacked. They don't know it's happening, but I can, because I'm working with teams, leadership teams on sort of like the pattern level of their interaction. I can sit there and go, huh? It looks like she's hijacked, and I can watch this interaction, and a couple minutes later. Oh, he is too. Well, there's a third. And so, pretty soon you have an entire executive team operating without their executive functions online and no one is recognising it. So part of what I think is important for us to do in this particular time we're in, when things are incredibly stressful and our ways of coping don't necessarily work in the complexity that we're in. One of the things that's important is learning about our nervous systems, because it's actually super easy to interrupt this whole process of your lizard brain getting hijacked. It's super easy, but people don't know to do it. And people feel a little bit embarrassed about it. They're like, oh, well this is like my thing I have to deal with. No, actually it's a group thing. So that's maybe a little more than an introduction to the idea of downshifting your nervous system, but that's the idea there that I've just really gotten clear about how much people are operating, not at their best. Ula Ojiaku And then what about upskilling your team's competency? The third one. Could you tell us a bit about that? Lyssa Adkins Yeah. I think executive teams, as I watch them work and as I interact with them to help them work better together, I notice that they have the same, this might be a little bit unfortunate to hear, but they have the same sort of mediocre conversations that delivery teams have. And by mediocre, I mean, they don't have a high level of competence in conflict, in collaboration and creativity and communication, and definitely not in change. Because all they keep doing is driving, driving, driving, driving. They keep moving through these very surface level conversations and making decisions from there. And we're basically getting the same results we've been getting, you know, we're not going anywhere new and we're not able to take in the fullness of the context we are now in, which is something human beings have never encountered before. So as I work with executive teams, I'm like, okay, great, you've got your key result, great, fantastic. Those key results happen through a series of conversations, decisions, work sessions. In those work sessions, the way that is happening is through these five core competencies, communication, collaboration, creativity, conflict, and change. And then to the core of that is actually the intelligence that resides and how the relationship system is working. So if we can focus on that, then those five core competencies increase. Then we have much more effective working sessions and decisions. Then we meet our goals. So it's like working from the core out. Ula Ojiaku It's really an interesting framework. I don't think this is yet out in the world or in any of the materials you've released to us yet. So I hope to learn more about it at some point in time. Is there anywhere that I could actually…? Lyssa Adkins Yeah, I've just now realised there is somewhere. So I created a keynote around this last year, and it's one of the keynotes I give publicly and to make myself get clear about the contents of the keynote, I made myself record my own podcast, which is called the 5 & 5, five minutes a day, five days a week. And it's all around this topic of the five essential shifts for leading in turbulent times. And so we can absolutely provide that link in the show notes. So that definitely gives people, a flavour, in five minute bites, of these things we're talking about. Upgrade your complexity of mind, downshift your nervous system, and expand your team's five core competencies. Ula Ojiaku That's awesome Lyssa, we'll definitely have that in the show notes. Now I'm curious, in working with, you know, the leaders that you do, how do you go about setting the intention for the engagements and how do you measure the progress towards meeting that set intention? Lyssa Adkins That's a really good question, and I have to say, I have not found a secret sauce that I'm happy with here yet, because most executives and executive teams don't know that they're in over their heads in a way that they certainly are in over their heads. They keep thinking that if we just apply the same things we've been doing, we're going to get out of this mess. They keep thinking normal is going to come back. They keep thinking, well, maybe normal won't come back, but we'll just keep going. And I don't know that we're going to be able to just keep going, I don't know how much longer we'll be able to keep going, because we are absolutely encountering, now, the limits to growth that were predicted back in the 1970s, you know, so everything that we've predicated our business world on, the idea that growth is good, growth is what we go for, you know, and we always have to have this sort of sterling impression of our service and we can never let anyone down. Well, we're going to start letting people down. We are absolutely approaching limits to growth. We're not going to be able to keep growing as we were before. And so I think that what is going on is that I move into executive teams starting with this idea that I'm going to help them develop their leadership. And it usually is around a goal that the organisation has. So for example, the organisation will have a goal that, hey, we're going to expand threefold in the next year, which means we have got to make ourselves, leaders, capable of creating leaders. And we've got to do that at the next two layers down as well. So now, so that's a phrase that people understand. We now, as leaders, our job is to create leaders and we now realise that we're not very good at that. So that's one way that people think, oh yeah, maybe I need some leadership development help. And it could be around any kind of crisis. That's also a certain time that people will, executive teams will say, yeah, I guess we should look at the way we're working, but pretty infrequently, you know. So, I’m now sitting at the crossroads, wondering where is the greatest impact for me as a practitioner? Is it working with an entire executive team or is it working with those two people on the executive team that are really ready to level up? And so I'm actually in the process of expanding my one-on-one leadership coaching for the latter half of this year, because I want to just really find out and, you know, have a sense at least of how is the return on investment for them and me? You know, where is the greatest impact, basically? Ula Ojiaku That's really interesting. And I would be keen to know what the evaluation is at the end of the year, when you've… because it seems like it's an experiment to understand where are you going to make the most impact? One of the things that you are renowned for is the fact that you made some breakthrough contributions, you know, in the field of agile coaching, you, co-founded the Agile Coaching Institute in 2010, and you wrote the book, which is still helping, you know, lots of people, agile coaches and other people who, you know, play servant leadership roles in organisations that are in their journey towards embracing agile ways of working and mindset, coaching agile teams. What led you to that? If you don't mind, if we could take a walk down memory lane, what led you to writing the book and coaching, and co-founding the Agile Coaching Institute? Lyssa Adkins So I love this trip down memory lane, and actually it's not totally in the past, because as you say that book is still doing its work in the world, even though it is now 12 years old, it's still selling as much as it ever did, and so right now I'm actually recording what we call a guided study and practice group that we're going to open for ongoing admission. And it's sitting inside of this really beautiful community called Agile Mastery, so like it's the lessons from me, which are something like a book club on steroids. So we're taking just a section of the book at a time, a metabolisable section, there's field work that people are doing in between each session and they're interacting with each other on it, and they're helping each other learn. There are accountability conversations that are going on. And so that sort of action learning cycle takes place to help people really use what's in that book. Because what I kept hearing is like, gosh, I’ve read this book four times and I can't believe I'm still discovering something new, or like I've had this book for 10 years, I just opened it again, like, oh my gosh, how did I not see this before? So there's a lot in it, it's really sort of dense actually. So there's a way in which, although my personal practice is now with leadership teams, I am still very much involved with people who are working with delivery teams and the portfolio level and that sort of thing through helping people use what's in that book well, and where that book came from was my identity crisis. I mean, so we started this podcast by saying, well tell me a little bit about you and I’m like, well, I'm someone who, you know, grows by realising I'm totally in over my head and I don't know how to deal with this. And so instead of doing the same stuff I did before, like, what skill do I need to get? And what I love about people in the agile community is that's a very common mindset. You know, what I think is not so common is allowing the identity crises in and allowing them to inform us and allowing those crises to break us down, which is what I did. I allowed the identity crisis to break me down. And I started writing about that on this little blog called The road from project manager to agile coach. And so this is in 2008 or something like that. And so that's what eventually led to the book. I, you know, gave a talk at a Scrum gathering, my very first Scrum gathering. My very first public speaking thing called The road from project manager to agile coach. And talking about that, now the things I do as an agile coach now that I would have never done as a plan driven project manager, like I would've thought were stupid or ridiculous, or like magical thinking or just wouldn't work, you know, and of course they worked beautifully. So you know, from that point, I got asked to write the book, you know, and I had no intentions of writing a book and actually resisted it for a while, and kept getting all these sort of messages in the phone with people saying, gosh, that's good, you should write that down. And eventually, got in the place where the Coaching Agile Teams book just galloped its way into the world through me, it just, it was, it took one calendar year to write it and really, I didn't start writing it until May and it got turned in in November. I mean, so it just moved through very quickly. Ula Ojiaku Wow. Is there anything, because, you know, knowing what you now know, that you would do differently about the process of authoring a book and the messaging in it? Lyssa Adkins I think I would use the same process of authoring the book, and I think it's probably worth saying a little bit about what that is, because I actually went and found some mentors, people who've written books and said, so, you know, I don't know how to do this, you know, what's your advice? And so some of, the main process I used was agile. And so I had an outline of the book that had come to me over like a six month period of time before I turned in, before I finally decided to, well, I guess I’ll go ahead and turn in this book proposal. It seems like I already have it written. And I, at the time we were in a Facebook group, I sent that out to the group and I said, put these in business value order. You know, and they put it in a business value order about 90% of the way I would have. And so I started writing the book in business value order. And when I met the publisher in August and the book was due in November, he said, I guess you probably want an extension. You know, cause you surely the book's not going to be ready in November. I'm like, hmm, yeah, it is. He's like, well, how can you be so sure. I'm like, well, I'm writing it in business value order. I mean, so I'm writing the chapters that are most useful to people. So if we get to November 1st and something's not written, it's just not going to be in the book because it's the lowest value content anyway. He was like, wow, really? And he still didn't believe me that I would make the deadline, but I did, November 1st. So, you know, so I think that's an important thing. What was, what was important then, and I think it's probably even more important now is timing. You know, I had the sense that the content of the book was important, and that the sooner it got out there, the better, and that was more important than it being great or amazing, definitely not perfect, definitely more important than being perfect, that's something that I struggle with all the time. So it turned out though that my husband quit his job, retired a little bit early and he became the proofreader of the book and he and I were in this amazing cycle for the last few months of the book. And it all got written, every chapter. Ula Ojiaku Wow. That's amazing and inspiring. So what about the mentors? What was their inputs in addition to, you know, telling you how, their own process for writing? Did you also get their input to, you know, proofreading and suggesting? Lyssa Adkins We got a lot of people's input to the book. The book went out for review to about 12 people, and there were some really useful things that came back from that, and that affected how it, how it rolled out eventually. But one of my mentors was a guy named Lee Devin, and he's written a few books, but the one he's most known for in the agile world is called Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work is what that book is, and when we got together, he gave me two pieces of advice. He said, don't let your writer and your editor be in the room at the same time. And so what he meant by that is, your job when you are getting content out is just to write and don't even worry about spelling or punctuation or anything. And don't judge it, just get it out, come back in another time with the editor, who's got the red pen. It's like, oh, I don't like that language, this is not even a well-formed idea, punctuation, whatever. Now, to the extent that I can do that, the book flowed very beautifully. I can't tell you that I could do it all the time because I am so critical. Most of us are so critical of ourselves that we are writing and editing at the same time and what that, what that means is that our ideas die before they get to be born. And so the other thing that he recommended as a practice, which I did religiously, was before you start writing content for the day or whatever session you were, open a Word document and just start typing whatever is in your mind. And what you're doing there is you're trying to get your fingers and your body to move as fast as your mind. And so you're literally sort of warming up, you know, like a pianist would warm up or like someone playing soccer would warm up, so you're literally warming up this whole mind body instrument because the mind moves so fast. And it turns out, of course, that through that stream of consciousness writing, there were some real gems in there that got pulled into the book, but usually it was just a bunch of junk, you know, and I only, I set a timer for only five minutes. It didn't take a long time to do it, but the times that I didn't do it, the writing was not as good. Ula Ojiaku It's almost like, you know, priming a pump, because when you're speaking, I'm thinking of an ancient well, where you'd have the manual pump, you know, you'd have some prime it before the water starts flowing and you get into the zone and interestingly, that's also what, so Marie Forleo, she's more of a, she has a podcast as well and a course, I mean, what's it called, but the key thing is she said, interestingly, she said the same thing about, you know, just typing or writing and not minding whether it's quality or quantity and at a point in time, you know, you'd get flowing. Lyssa Adkins Yeah, exactly. There are all of these beautiful books of writing prompts too, you know, I mean, there's just, you're making me realise I need to start writing more. I think I've let the well go dry a little bit. Yeah. Thank you for the reminder. Ula Ojiaku Could we talk about your organisation, because there is your TENWOMENSTRONG Program. Is that still on? And if so, can you tell us about it? What's the vision behind, your putting that organisation together and how is it going right now? Lyssa Adkins Yeah. So I am a co-leader and a contributor to TENWOMENSTRONG. It's actually an organisation owned by Carolyn Dragon and Carolyn, and I've known each other for more than a dozen years. We were in a really intense year-long leadership program together in 2010. And so she had this program and this company, TENWOMENSTRONG, and about the time that I sold Agile Coaching Institute in 2017, you know, she would, she said, I'm going to put myself on your calendar every six weeks just for us to have coffee, and I want to hear that you're doing nothing but singing and gardening and whatever you want to do, and that you're actually taking a break because it had been, you know, about a decade of really intense work, following my mission to help professionalise the discipline of agile coaching, you know, and working with so many people on having, you know, such a focus on that for so long and, you know, and it totally worked because now dozens of people are carrying that forward, you know? So my role in sort of, again, priming the pump, we're back to this metaphor, right? So my role along with Michael Spayd, like our role together, priming the pump for agile coaching you know, was done, it was done. And the next question is, well, what do I do next? And so Carolyn, true to her word, we got together every six weeks. What a great friend in that, in that following year, while I was busy transitioning Agile Coaching Institute to its new owner, but not really having a new mission for myself. And she was telling me about the impact of this program she has called TENWOMENSTRONG, and it's basically a program to help women reconnect with their purpose, and go through this process of discovering who I am authentically, you know, what are all of my creativities, especially the ones that I've forgotten about or that I think aren't wanted in my work world or in other parts of my world. And then what's the creative expression I'm here to bring. And so, at the time I had been looking around the agile world and going like, where are the women? I mean, I kept looking and going, like, there are plenty of us at these conferences, there are plenty of us at these meetups there, you know, like there's plenty of women in the agile world, but when you ask, you know, who are the people who I should read, you would get a list of men's names predominantly. Maybe my name would be in there and maybe Esther Derby and maybe a few others, but just, just a few. And so, as Carolyn was telling me the impact of this program, where she'd been running it inside of corporations and publicly, all of a sudden out of my mouth, I was like, oh my gosh, we need that for women in agile. And so we started, I think it was probably in 2019 with virtual and in-person programs, maybe it was 2018. So and then we did those for a few years and then the pandemic hit, and it was a real reassessment of what we wanted to do. And it was also Carolyn's decision, which I thought was a very brilliant business decision, to pull back, because people had enough on their plates, you know, another constant self-improvement like this whole sort of constant self improvement thing we do is another trap, you know? And so she did things that supported women in her circles, women who've been through her program that she attracted through various free offerings. She did things to support them, but not to add anything that would, you know, just contribute to the stress of the moment, they were under enough stress. And so now, as it is, she's now starting to bring back more programs, but she's doing them shorter duration. And so the one that I'm contributing to TENWOMENSTRONG right now is called Influence and Impact in the Agile World and it's a workshop where women come and they share with each other, the places where they're not having the influence and impact they wanted, and they don't know why, they've tried all different kinds of things, and so it's a workshop to take, you know, to create community about that, to actually be vulnerable and say that to other people, and to know that you're going to be received. And then we go through some different steps that allow the women to have some insight about their specific situation and they leave with an idea of what they want to try next. So those are the types of things that she's doing there, couple of other programs, but that's the one that I'm leading with her. Ula Ojiaku Now, based on what we've talked about so far, what are the books you would say have influenced your thinking and, you know, your approach as a coach, as a professional? Lyssa Adkins Well the books that have influenced my development as a coach and a professional are the ones that are written by the people who are in the coaching schools I went to. So, Co-Active Coaching is one, and then there's just a new book out now that encapsulates what I learned in organisation and relationship systems coaching, and that book is called Systems Inspired Leadership. It encapsulates the coaching approach, but talks about it from a leadership perspective, so it marries those two worlds for me. And then there's the whole genre of learning about Zen Buddhism, which I think has been a really important contribution to my ability to be a good coach. And so Pema Chödrön is someone I read there. There are many, many others, but she's the one that comes to mind right now because she has books that are called, well, hang on, what are they called? Get a load of these titles. The Places That Scare You, Comfortable With Uncertainty, Welcoming the Unwelcome, The Wisdom of No Escape - those are just some of her books. So what she helps me do, is actually what we talked about at the beginning, upgrade my own complexity of mind to work with what actually is happening and not ignore it, or try to bypass it. Downshift my nervous system, and then expand my ability to see the web of the relationship system to expand those five core competencies in myself and in my interactions with other people. So I think that for me, that's an essential piece of learning and, I would say, not so much learning, but leaderfullness, expanding my own leaderfullness, and ability to be in the world and with the world as it is. Ula Ojiaku That’s a new word for me, leaderfullness. It's almost like… Lyssa Adkins Yeah, it's a funny word, right. I think I picked it up from the Coaches Training Institute. They used to, have said that for years and years, but I think it conveys something really important, which is that leadership is not even primarily anymore about knowing better or doing more or any of these things that we promoted and we lauded leaders for, you know, leadership is about working with the world as it is and bringing to every moment, your authentic leaderfullness, you are full up with leadership. You are a full up, it's like a fully embodied way of expressing leadership and expressing our ability to take in what's really happening, to slow our minds down, to not be hijacked by the situation, to ask some deeper questions, and to look squarely in the face of the things that we don't want. Ula Ojiaku Awesome. Are there things that you'd like the audience to know in terms of what you're doing currently? Lyssa Adkins Yeah, I would direct people to for what I'm doing currently, and of course you have to know how to spell it. L Y S S A A D K I N I know it'll be in the show notes too. The thing I think I want people to know is that something really exciting is just now starting, and I'm part of starting it. And I would say it's going to be, the kickoff or the beginning of a worldwide movement in the agile community, all centered around the question, if it's no accident that agile has emerged at exactly this time, what is its role in the planetary challenges and the paradigm shifts we are currently experiencing? That question, both enlivens me and haunts me. I've been holding that question for a long time and the first thing I know that is related to that question that's going to be moving out into the world will happen at Agile 2022 in Nashville in late July. And I am the moderator of a panel, essentially about what is Agile's bigger role and the panellists are all using agile in ways that help make our current situation better, help try to fend us off from the worst of the impacts of our previous behaviour. So there are people who, for example, are working in climate change, they're working and bringing agile into helping democracies arise. They're bringing agile into pulling girls out of poverty and the only option for themselves is sex trafficking, for example. All right. So these are some of the leaders who are going to be speaking about how, what they've been doing to investigate this question of like, if we agilists have something that's useful and we know how to do and be a different sort of person, have a different sort of skills, like what can we add to the people who are already doing this really important work on the planet right now. So I'm really excited to find out how that conversation goes. We're hoping to see that the sparks from that panel fly all over the world and ignite these conversations and agile communities all over the world, because I think we do have a role, and I think we have something that's so different and so useful, and I don't think we need to force it on anyone, but I think we’re good at experiments, you know, so like why don't we run some experiments, go find out, like would what you know, as an agilest be useful for an organisation who's responding to climate disasters, for example. Ula Ojiaku That's inspiring. What one thing would you like to leave the audience with? Lyssa Adkins You know, there's a quote, I don't even know where it came from that I say to myself all the time and I think that's what I want to leave the audience with. For those of you listening, first of all, thank you for your attention. I know that is the most precious thing we have. So what I'll leave you with is this. It will be okay in the end. If it's not okay, it's not the end. Ula Ojiaku That's a great one. Thank you so much Lyssa for your time, it's been an insightful conversation. Lyssa Adkins My pleasure. Thank you for inviting me. I've really enjoyed this exploration and I've found some new ideas too Ula Ojiaku That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless! 
43:07 1/29/23
S3 E021 Chris Boeckerman on Lean Innovation & Productive Failure
Bio  Chris Boeckerman is currently Vice President of Research & Development for Fabric & Home Care. Prior to this she was R&D Vice President for P&G Ventures, the company’s internal startup studio that partners with entrepreneurs and startups to create new brands and businesses in spaces where the company doesn’t play today.   Known as a “change agent” during her 30-year career with Procter & Gamble, Chris co-founded P&G’s Lean Innovation movement, known as GrowthWorks, and has specialised in developing dynamic teams worldwide to strengthen the company’s innovation capabilities.  Her impressive P&G career also includes more than 20 years in the company’s Global Fabric Care business, working to create breakthrough innovations with iconic brands such as Tide, Ariel, Downy, Gain and Bounce.     Chris holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati.  She has been honoured as a YWCA Rising Star, is an active leader in the Girls in STEM program for P&G and across Cincinnati and serves on the Advisory Board for the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative.     Chris resides in Cincinnati, Ohio with her family.    LinkedIn:       Interview Highlights  Timestamp  02:12 - Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio  07:07 - Studying engineering in a cooperative education setting  12:25 - R&D Vice President at P&G Ventures  19:38 - Productive failure  37:00 - Co-founding GrowthWorks  44:30 - No one size fits all  53:22 - Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful , committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has    Books/ Resources Mentioned The Lean Startup by Eric Ries  The Startup Way  by Eric Ries  The Leader’s Guide by Eric Ries  New to Big: How Companies Can Create Like Entrepreneurs, Invest Like VCs, and Install a Permanent Operating System for Growth by David Kidder and Christina Wallace  Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland  Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman    Episode Transcript  Ula Ojiaku (Intro): Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener.  Ula Ojiaku (Guest Intro): My guest today is Chris Boeckerman. She is the Vice-President of Research and Development with the startup studio for Procter & Gamble that partners with entrepreneurs and startups to create new brands and businesses in spaces where the company doesn’t play today. Known as a change agent during her 29 year career with Procter & Gamble, Chris co-founded P & G’s lean innovation movement known as GrowthWorks and has specialised in developing dynamic teams worldwide to strengthen the company’s innovation capabilities. In this episode, Chris talks about herself and gives us a glimpse into the influences that shaped her into who she is today and how she got into Procter & Gamble and developed her career, as well as her experience setting up GrowthWorks within Procter & Gamble. It was a very insightful conversation. I definitely will be listening to this episode again, because there were lots of gems and I know you will find it useful as well. So thank you again for tuning in and for watching. Without further ado, my conversation with Chris. Enjoy.  Ula Ojiaku  So Chris, thank you so much for making the time to join us on the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. It is a great honour to have you here.   Chris Boeckerman  Oh, thank you. Thank you for asking me. It's a wonderful honour to be here.   Ula Ojiaku  Awesome. Now let's get to know you, Chris. Can you tell us about yourself, your background?  Chris Boeckerman  Sure. My name is Chris Boeckerman. I work at Procter & Gamble. I've been here almost 30 years, which is exciting, but going back to the beginning, so I'm actually born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I've never left. And it's kind of funny, when you're born in Cincinnati, many times you don't leave. I've been prepping my parents from the day I got my job at P & G that I would leave and I just, I never. I never left. So it's very fun, but yeah, so I'm born and raised. My family is still here, and yeah, I love it.   Ula Ojiaku  Wow. So you, based on what you said, it seemed like you had expectations growing up that you would leave. So what was it about, you know, the whole set up that made you end up not leaving Cincinnati?  Chris Boeckerman  I don't know that I ever thought I would leave because, like Cincinnati is a great place and a lot of people I know don't leave, but when I got my job at Proctor & Gamble, which is a multinational company, I expected that I might have to, but really no, I, went to grade school in Cincinnati and then high school. And then I ended up going into chemical engineering at the University of Cincinnati. And I co-oped and ended up, you know, getting this great job at P & G. So that's just kind of how it all happened, which is why I ended up staying in Cincinnati. It's a great place. It's a wonderful place to raise a family. I'm married. My husband works full time, at a company called Turner Construction. And, I have two children, my oldest child is 21 and he's at the University of Dayton doing mechanical engineering. And then my daughter is 17 and she's at a local high school here in Cincinnati. So, and my family and my husband's family, we met at the University of Cincinnati. So I think a lot of those things kind of keep you in a place.   Ula Ojiaku  I can imagine. Well, whilst I didn't grow up in the town I studied, I also graduated with an engineering degree, but it's an electronic engineering degree and I met my husband in the university as well. But that’s about, you know, the parallel, I’ve moved a lot, I’ve kind of lived everywhere else in the world.  Chris Boeckerman  Well, what I'm happy about is, I’m so happy that I work at P & G, because P & G has introduced the world to me. And so I've been able to travel all over the place and then it sparked that interest in my husband and my family being able to travel. So we definitely, because of P & G we now know it, but I've just never lived anywhere else, that’s all.  Ula Ojiaku  And there's nothing wrong with that. I mean, you travelled when you wanted to. And I can only imagine, because that's not been my experience having family and friends, you know, it makes things easier as a full time working mother, a family person.  Chris Boeckerman  Yes, yes. I don't know how you do it otherwise. So I bow to you, to all my friends. It's difficult, but we all figure it out.   Ula Ojiaku  Exactly. Yeah, exactly. That's great. So, what do you do, Chris? When you're not working, what would you say you do to recharge yourself?  Chris Boeckerman  Well, I am, as you've already found out, I'm very family oriented. And so, we are a family of SciFi lovers. And so we like movies and shows and things like that. We just celebrated my husband's 50th birthday at Disney at Galaxy's Edge.   Ula Ojiaku  Wow. Happy birthday to him.   Chris Boeckerman  I know, it was great. We both turned 50 this year, so it's a big year. But that was fun. We were able to get my son back from college and my daughter, and we were able to spend a fun long weekend there. We love rollercoasters and so we've organised family vacations around rollercoasters and getting to rollercoasters all over the world. And we all love to golf. And so that's something I picked up later. My husband's a wonderful golfer. And so now we really enjoy that as the kids have gotten older, I can spend more time golfing along with my full-time career, but yeah, so it's a lot of fun. I just really like to be outdoors. I think that's the common theme. I love to read, I love to do, but I love to do it outdoors. So that's my favourite.   Ula Ojiaku  Yeah, that sounds very interesting. The first and the only time I tried golf, I was so horrible at it. I think I gave myself an advisory, you know, just to do it not in public.  Chris Boeckerman  It's not for everybody, it’s not for everybody.   Ula Ojiaku  Yeah. Okay. I also got the, when you're talking about yourself, that you studied chemical engineering at the University of Cincinnati. What made you choose that discipline, that line of study?   Chris Boeckerman  Yeah, and that's kind of a funny, it's kind of a funny story. So, my parents didn't get to go to college, but I've known since I can remember that I was going to college. So, they worked their whole life, I’m blue collar raised. The one thing I can tell you is I work hard. That's what, you know, my parents really instilled that in me. And so I really liked chemistry in school, and I was pretty good at maths. And so my counselor was like, oh, chemical engineering. My grandpa was actually a chemical engineer. So it was a familiar term, even though I think it's hard to just understand what engineering is by talking to people. But I did some shadowing and I thought, okay, engineering sounds good. And University of Cincinnati was close by, but they invented cooperative education. So, this kind of go to school, go to work. It helps pay for your school, and what I didn't even realise at the time is I'm a very practical person. And so University of Cincinnati was the best for me because I didn't always love the theory. I could learn it, I got the theory, but I'm an applied learner is what I've learned since then. And so by having a co-op job, I could take the theory, apply it, and then I loved it. And so I got the chance to co-op six quarters at P & G in all different parts of the company. So I got to see how, I got to see the company, the company got to see me. It's really how we hire now is through interns and co-ops. But back then, it was just perfect for me. So I'm so glad I made the choice. Like I said, when your parents don't go to college, I don't think you even realise there's that many opportunities, what all the colleges are. But I just got really lucky and then obviously had to work hard because engineering is extremely difficult, and like I said, I think if I wouldn't have had co-op, I may not have stayed in chemical engineering, but because I had the experience of what I could do with it, I made it through.  Ula Ojiaku  Well done you and it's people like you, that paved the way for people like us women to get more into engineering as well. So the co-op, was it the University of Cincinnati, did the university help you with getting the job with P & G as part of the studies?  Chris Boeckerman  Yeah, it's integrated into a five-year program at the University of Cincinnati. And so you have to co-op to graduate and therefore they have a very structured way of introducing you to many companies, and so they have great relationships with local companies, with national companies. And so, because you know you have to, it's just part of the curriculum, and so they work hard to make sure you get a job. You work hard to make sure you get a job, and then you graduate with experience. So, yeah, I encourage anybody who's going into engineering, even if it's not integrated, like it was at UC, to do internships over the summer. It’s a very popular thing to do here in the US so like my son did internships, most of the colleges have support here to be able to do an internship or they have co-op abroad, learning abroad. Any of that I think is amazing.   Ula Ojiaku  Yes, it helps with the balance, you know, to know what reality is and what the theory is of this discipline. Okay. And how did you, you said you made it through, so how was it for you as a student?   Chris Boeckerman  I am the person that you should send anybody to who struggled, because I struggled. You know, in high school I was a straight A student, and I memorised everything. I, like I said before, I know how to work hard. I worked hard, grades were very important to me, but it was more of a memorisation thing in high school. I understood the problem solving up to that point, but then I got into university, and yeah, it was just a whole other ball game. One of the things that I think I just learned about engineering is, in the real world, you never have enough time. You never have enough money to do what you want to do. Well, engineering preps you for that because you walk into a test and there's not enough time to finish the test. You're never going to get the right answer. Right. And it's hard to go through that, but I think it creates this grit and tenacity of like, I just have to keep going now.  And that is, I mean, that's kind of what I learned when I got into the workforce, is that engineers are problem solvers and that experience, that difficult experience through school just preps you for real life. And you know, when you feel like you can't keep going, you're like, I am, let's just, you know, this is the way it is. There's not enough time. There's not enough money. We’ve got to keep moving.  Ula Ojiaku  Exactly, let’s make the most of the situation. So, you were co-opting with P & G, they loved you and they said they wouldn't let you go. And here you are. So how did you get to your current position as the Vice President? You’re now for R & D right?  Chris Boeckerman  Right, it's R & D Vice President in a part of the company called P & G Ventures, which I can explain. So I'll try to take 30 years and give you the shortened version of it. So I started with Procter & Gamble and I worked 20 years actually in the part of the business called fabric care, so Tide, Gain, Ariel, Lenor… like I could talk to you about laundry all day long. So I worked there for 20 years. I worked upstream, downstream, consumer facing, technical facing, internal, external. Like, if you're going to stay somewhere for 20 years, you better do it all, and it was a wonderful, great experience. I've always lived in Cincinnati, but I've had teams all over the world, and so, you know, getting to know the cultures and how people work and the diversity, it's just, it's been amazing. You know, even the different brands and the different countries was great. And so I did that for 20 years, loved it, but I had this wonderful boss who said, hey, it's time to go try something else. And so I went into corporate R & D, and I wasn't sure about it because I come from the business and I have a P & L and I know what I'm delivering to the company, but I really trusted her. And she said, this is where you should go. And the minute I met with the leader of that organisation, he convinced me because he said, hey, my goal is that we are tailwinds for the business units. So, we're not off on the side, but we have the time to look internally and externally at all the best practices. And then we become tailwinds for our businesses who don't have time to do that because they're running the business. And I just loved that vision. And you know, P & G, our mission, our purpose at P and G is to improve the lives of consumers every day. I always say I love my job. I don't love it every day, but I do really love my job. I think if anybody tells you, they love it every day, they're just lying, but I really do love my job. And I think it's because my personal mission in life is to nurture and inspire the people in my work, my community, my family, and P & G’s mission and purpose to improve the lives of consumers comes together in a great place. And that role in particular, in corporate R & D, it all really came together because, you know, I did feel like it was a mission. So when I got into that organisation, it was when, I like to say Dollar Shave Club had happened to us. So it was something where we stand for irresistibly superior products, and that is what our business model was made of. And this was a new, digital business model and it was new to the world and we were trying to figure it out. And so right as I got into this role, the Chief Technical Officer, Kathy Fish, and the Chief Brand Officer kind of came to me and my boss and said, you know, the world is changing really fast and we need to make sure that we are sustainable in this changing environment. So can you go find out what's happening and figure out, you know, how to make sure that we survive, right. How to make sure that we can live in this changing world.  And so I was like, wow, that is like a very clear work plan. And I have no idea how to do that, right. It was very big, the company is big, it's a hundred thousand people, and you know, but I did what I do and I just went and started talking to everybody. And as I was talking to everybody, there were two very clear themes that came out. One was fear of failure, and the second one was that commercial and technical were working in silos. We weren't really a connected team, and so we just kind of looked around and said, what other industry or what other space is tackling these two issues in this dynamic world? And it was the startup Ecosystem. And so we just went to school. I mean, I, the number of podcasts I looked into, like everything I had to learn. We are lucky enough to be a big company. We were able to get to the likes of like David Kidder from Bionic and Ian Berkowitz and Eric Ries. And I could give you the five names of the people that I would go to, but we were lucky enough to get those experts to come in and counsel us, which, that's one of the things I'm so proud of us to do is we didn't pretend we knew how to do it. Yeah. And that's one of the advice I would give everybody is don't pretend, go seek external help, always, because they're always going to give you a different perspective. But anyway, we just kind of, that's how we got into lean innovation, that's how we got into, hey, there is a different way in which we can, you know, learn quickly, learn fast, fail fast. We kind of learned nobody wants to fail, but if you can fail fast and early, then it's, it feels much more like learning. How fascinating, why did that happen? If you fail later and expensive, that's bad. And so, you know, we were, we had to get to school on it. We had to learn how to do it. And then the organisation I was able to create really was a small organisation that was meant to enable the business unit. So we created a framework that was agile and could kind of meet the business units where they were and helped them to understand this is the framework that you can apply to wherever you're at in this journey, because we were all at a different place in the journey, but we enabled startups inside the company is the easiest way for me to talk about that.  And then I did that and now I got the great opportunity, about two years ago, to come into a part of the company called P & G Ventures, which had actually, they were the first part of the company to kind of work like a startup, and they worked internally and externally to start up, what are the next businesses going to be? So we have 10 existing business units. Their job was, how do you develop the next business unit, which, talk about a high hurdle. Right. But, so I basically got to take the five years of kind of learning and enabling the business units, and I got to apply it to one of the toughest problems, which is how do you create a new business unit in an already very big and successful company?   Ula Ojiaku  That sounds exciting. And the journey so far, it sounds really impressive and exciting. So, given that P & G, you know, already is renowned for, you know, research, the extensive research and development, would you say that you already had that culture where it's okay to fail because not everything in the research would, you know, go on to be commercialised and end up on the shelf, or did you have to also change people's mindsets towards failure to know that if you fail fast it's okay. You know, was there any, from a leadership perspective, did you need to change anything in terms of people's perception?   Chris Boeckerman  Yeah, I mean, we really did, and it's still, you know, it's never perfect inside of an organisation because, you know, it is a large organisation. It was more around though, the speed of learning is what I would say is the biggest difference, was get something out there faster, to let people react. So it was almost and we do, we have a great, behavioural learning mindset now as well, but it was earlier back then. Right. And so I think what happens is, you know, you have your standard, large base qualification tests. That was, you know, the standard process that we had, and it worked well, but the world was shifting. And so it was like, if you were going to need to be more dynamic in how you evolved it, you needed, we needed to follow more of what the lean innovation process would be, which is, you create a quick and early prototype. It doesn't have to be perfect because you're only going to test it with 10 people, get it out to those 10 people and you're going to learn much more, very fast. I always joked, I had this old project or I'm in a project I did a long time ago and I had a bad package, but I knew the product was amazing. And I had this team and the packaging group did not want to place this package. Of course, we all knew it was bad and nobody wanted to look bad, right. And I was like, listen, I promise, I'm going to get the highest level person to say, he knows the package is going to fail. Well, if that's okay, will you let us place this test? Because I’ve got to find out if the juice is good, right. I’ve got to find out if the product is good, and I promise when I come back, I'm going to have even better information about what the package needs to do to be amazing. And so, you know, this was what this was way before, but it like, it just took people, you know, a little bit of time. And they needed to be reassured that it wasn't going to come back on them, right. And it's the difference, it's not the qualification test or I'm spending a million dollars, it's a small test, but you just need to make sure you're intentional about that, right. And we did, we learned a ton. We learned that the juice was magical. The product was great, and the package was bad, and this is exactly what we needed from the package. And we wrote up probably the most beautiful package brief ever. So I really think that's the difference, is you had to make sure that there weren't repercussions. You had to take the risk lower. And if you can take the risk lower, then the failure, like I said, it's more of, oh, you learned that, awesome, you learned it fast, you learned it cheap and now we know what to go do. I always used to say in the early days of GrowthWorks, because everybody's polarised by the term failure, which I totally understand, but it was like productive failure is failure that enables you to know fast, cheap, and easy what to go do next. And as long as you do that, that is productive failure. I had these great managers one time who, I was very uptight about a very large test market that was going to get delayed. It was under my charge and I felt very responsible. And as you can tell, I'm very passionate and you can read my emotions on my face. So I walked into my two leaders and they're new too, they don't know me, so I don't have a relationship with them, but they can just tell, I haven't slept for a week and, like, things are bad and, you know, and they kind of looked at me and they said, hey, Chris, is this the worst thing that's ever happened to you at work? And I was like, uh, yeah, like million dollar test market, right. And they're like, oh, okay, we're going to talk to you about that tomorrow. Today, we're going to talk to you about things that have gone wrong in our career, and what we learned from them. And I just, this was a transformative conversation that my leaders, I'm so thankful, took the time because when I found out what went wrong in their history, I was like, that's not even close to what is happening. Put things in perspective, right. They really, they were able to put things in perspective for me, and they were able to help me see you learn more from your mistakes than your successes. Don't make the same mistake twice and make your mistakes, or do your failures as early and as cheap as possible. And you know, this was 10 years before I did GrowthWorks, but that stuck with me and it turned me, it turned me from a micro-managing crazy person, which is what I was doing at that time into a learning leader is what I would say. I learned to then, when things came to me that were surprising, I always try to say, no matter what the data is, I try to say, oh, how fascinating, why do we think that happened? And it's, you know, like the results are awesome, clean, fascinating. Why do we think they're great? Like, why do we think that happened? The results are bad, fascinating, why? Why do we think that happened? And what we learned is if leaders can approach everything that way, then the team moves into a learning mindset and you learn a lot faster. It's hard to do. And I don't do it every day. If my team were here with me, they would be like, we're going to remind Chris on Monday about that. So, you know, nobody can do it all the time, but that learning mindset, which is something P & G has, you know, focused on a lot, it makes all the difference in the world of creating a culture in which people can learn fast, because everything's fascinating and you need to understand why you got good data, just as much as you need to understand why you got bad data. That's just good science.   Ula Ojiaku  I love that term productive failure. I think this is the first time I'm hearing. So do you get to share your failures, you know, after experiments do you get to share that with the rest of the organisation or how does that work?  Chris Boeckerman  Yeah, I mean we try hard. We actually try hard in P & G Ventures, because anybody who's listening, who's done any type of venture, new business building type stuff, you have to shut down more things than you keep going and it's really hard to shut a program down, and so we really try to celebrate when we stopped something as much as we celebrate when we're moving forward, because Kathy Fish had this, she would say to us, she was our past, Chief R & D officer when we were doing GrowthWorks, and she was like, it's so important to shut things down because you need to shut the good things down so that you have people to work on the great things, right. And it's, but I'd say that that's the hardest thing to do. And we just did it this week and I compliment the team and it's so exciting to see it's not all roses all the time, I'm telling you, it's not, this is very hard work.  Everybody's job is hard, but when you have a team that really does the sprint together to get to the bottom of how big is it, how big is the problem? Does P & G have a unique, proprietary gift to solve it? And, you know, they come back and the answer is, hey, we did all the due diligence and we don't think that we should pursue it. It's like, I am so excited that they had the confidence and they gave us the confidence because you just want to be confident in your decision, whether it's to go forward or to not, this world of disruptive innovation is uncertain, right? It is just uncertain. It's hard to live in uncertainty every day. But if you have clarity of, we did the due diligence in the team, like I always used to say in GrowthWorks, I want the teams to shut the programs down, or the teams to be the ones that are driving it forward. But it's hard, it is hard to create a culture where people can be agile enough to move to different programs, and we are in the learning, we don't have it all figured out, but you know, we've been at it for a while, and so it's just really, it's exciting to be part of this organisation at this time, to see how far we've come.   Ula Ojiaku  Wow. So, for them, because you said something about clarity in times of uncertainty and, you know, the teams actually come to you and say, they've done the due diligence, it doesn't meet the criteria. That suggests to me that you’ve, you know, and you, as a leadership team have taken the time to sit down with them to identify what those clear criteria are. Are you able to share what these are, or at least the process, you know, that made you arrive to those criteria that is open and transparent to everyone that it makes the team, you know, that helps the team to determine if it meets the, it aligns with what P & G is looking for?  Chris Boeckerman  Right. Well, I can share it in general terms, right. And so a lot of people listening into the podcast would understand a funnel, right? You know, you have big, broad ideas in the beginning of the funnel and you're trying to figure out, and that's what this particular project was at, is you're trying to figure out really at that point in time, how big is the problem? It's got to be a problem big enough that P & G will care about it. Right. But the problem itself, that's more of a, how many people have it? How many solutions are out there already? What are the dissatisfiers with the solutions? So you kind of go through the essence of how big is the problem? And could we do something about it? So how big is the problem? Does P & G have a proprietary, unique reason why we should go after this versus somebody else? Do we have the capability and the technology, or do we have the partnerships? We do external scouting, right? So do we have external solutions that look viable? And then you put that together to figure out financially, what do the signals look like? Does it look big enough that it's going to be a business that P & G would care about? Because there are plenty of businesses. I've done this myself, I've fallen in love with the business, I want to do this business, and at the end of the day, it's not going to look attractive to P & G, you, at the end of the day, you are choosing to put resources on different programs at different times, and they have to not compete, that's not a great way of saying it, but they have to be big enough that it's worthy of putting a team on it. So we take a small team, they do that early work, and there's a sprint that you go to it, but it's not the same for everybody. Like it's not hard and fast numbers at this point in time. But it is all around, is the problem big enough? Do we have a reason to think that we can deliver a breakthrough solution? And then, when you put that together financially, does it look good? And so we have, I would say, what we have, the leadership team has determined is, there are some ranges that the teams work within, but what really helped this team in particular, which is something that I think people could value is we really enabled the team to focus, right? So they did this broad, like what are the parts of this problem that we think are interesting? And they did a sprint, they identified those spaces. We were like, great. We love it. Now, with that criteria go run some sprints to figure out quickly, how big is it? Is it growing? What are the gifts we have in the company? What is the quick scouting? And is this something that makes sense for, you know, P & G to create a new brand VR work or not. And they really, they came back and they said, thank you for the focus, we met with them every month after the sprint, we made decisions, but they made the recommendations and then they were like, this one isn't big enough, it's not growing, we're going to stop work on that one, do you agree? They were like, yeah, because you made such a compelling case, how can we not agree? And then the other, you know, the other, we were like, we are still really interested in the other two. Do you have enough time? And do you have the right people to do that? They went after it, they came back and you know, and then it becomes much more of a discussion because it's like, is it really something we should do? Is it something the other businesses have a better, do they already have a brand? It is expensive to create a new brand. So, we have amazing brands in this company. And so, many times it's like, wait, do we need to influence, or do we want to try to influence another brand to really take this on, because it's big and growing. So that's how it, early in the funnel, as we go later in the funnel, it becomes much more of, the first question is, could we do it, the second question is, should we do it? Right. And so the, should we do it is all based on can you create the business? Right, so then you really start pulling in all of the business aspects, the full qualification that we tend to do, transactional learning tests, incubations either in stores or in small markets or in direct to consumer. So you really start to get that behavioural and transactional data giving you the signals that this is a business. Janice Fraser, who was also one of these external experts, she would always say, you know you're ready to scale when you've put the variables together and you know where to pour the money to make it grow, you know where the money should be poured to make it grow. If you don't know where to pour the money, you're not ready to scale. And, you know, those are always, so it's complicated. Business is complicated. The channels are complicated, the platforms are complicated. So, you know, that's when you really have to figure out, do I have, you know, should I invest the big money in this? And I think one of the things that you have when you're doing intrapreneurship, you're creating startups inside the company, is you should be able to get through that funnel faster, if you can get all those parts to come together and that's, you know, that's our goal, that's what we're getting to. In P & G Ventures,  I mean, we have a new opportunity area around safe and effective insect control. And it's a brand called Zevo and it's amazing, right. And so it's nice to have a program that has been through those parts and is really kind of in that space now that we can all look to and, you know, say, all right, how are we looking compared to where they were looking at the time? Because it's like, that uncertainty and clarity, like you said, it is just uncertain space. You don't know, you can't predict a billion dollar brand, you just can't, but what are the things that you can start running after and you can learn fast and you can validate that gives you the signals at all different fidelities and levels to then go, all right, we're going. So anyway, that's the goal.   Ula Ojiaku  So, the listeners might be wondering, especially for those of us who are not so familiar with the intricate, you know, organisation, the way P & G is organised. So, what's GrowthWorks and then, what role did you play in that?   Chris Boeckerman  Perfect. Well, I ended up being able to be the co-founder of GrowthWorks. And GrowthWorks, in a simple term, is, a framework that you can apply to nurture startups inside the company. So, we are a big company and we know how to do big, big programs. Right. As we got into this disruptive world and we were being disrupted and, you know, we were looking for how to become agile, it, you know, it was sort of like we needed to shift how we did our innovation. And so we needed to be able to apply these principles from lean innovation, but in a way that made sense for P & G. So one of the things we learned, you know, very early on and everybody would know is, you know, at the end of the day, our goal is to build a business that we cultivate. We're not trying to sell to somebody. That's a very different aspect of being a startup, in a startup you want to get bought, right. But here we need to create a value creating business. And it is interesting during this time is when, Marc Pritchard, who's our Chief Brand Officer, really started to talk quite a bit about constructive disruption, and it was really important, and I think it's important for any big company to understand as they're doing this, is our job is always to build categories, to build the industry. We don't ever want to take the industry down. We want to build the industry. So we want to be disruptive, but in a building way, and so as we were thinking about that, it was just like, okay, there's probably three components that we were pulling together that you can apply, whether you're doing sustaining innovation, or disruptive innovation.   There's a, how do you learn, right. So it's the build, measure, learn, but how do you handle this, helping an organisation feel okay about sending five prototypes to consumers and not being concerned that it's going to fail. Right. So that is sort of the build, measure, learn loop. We base everything in the consumer love and the consumer need. And so we wrapped that together to kind of give it, this is how P & G applies the lean innovation model. There's also, how do you think about the type of innovation you're doing? And so, like I said, whether it's sustaining, disruptive or anything like that, but visualising that is really important, helping everybody understand, what are the new spaces that we're looking at? Placing lots of bets in these new spaces and knowing the high percentage is going to fail, right. And so, how do you measure progress in this uncertain space? That was a part of the framework as well. And then the last part of the framework was how do you organise to do this work? And I'd say the biggest thing we learned then is yeah, when you're early in the funnel, a small team can make tremendous progress, make it less hierarchical, let the team lead, leaders learn, because this is new. So I used to always joke. I was 20 years in fabric care, right. And so I would be working with an internal startup team in fabric care. And my 20 years of knowledge of fabric care wasn't what was helping the team. I was holding them back because I have all these biases of the past and they needed to go into the future and I needed to learn, so you just have to let the teams lead at that point in time and you have to learn, and be supportive. Then you do get to the point though, where my 20 years of knowledge of fabric care does become important. And that's where every startup runs into as well, is you get it to a certain point, but if you need to industrialise something, that is the core capability the company has, and you can't do that with three people, and you need hierarchy and you need to, so it's like, how do you take the best of both worlds and bring them together? And so that was how we had to figure out how to organise for where you're at and what you need at the time.  And then how do you shift to that when you need to shift it quickly? And so those were the three aspects, how you learn, what is the type of innovation you're going after, and then how do you organise, and that we made it a broad enough framework so that we have 10 business units and P & G Ventures who were at the tip of the sphere of doing this for the company anyway. And we were trying to help the rest of the company, but you wanted to give them that framework and then no matter what they were working on, could they fit themselves into that framework or could the framework enable them? And so we started as two people and our leader, and I was able to grow that organisation to about 25 people across every function of the company, but just a small group, like we just had, you know, 25 people out of a hundred thousand, right. But each of us were a function in the company, but we were one team across all functions. And so that's how we were able to kind of like be like the Navy Seals, we could come in and we could help support the business unit for what they were doing. And then the business unit would take it on. That was the only way we could become sustainable because we weren't, I never wanted to create a 500 person organisation.  Everything I learned about from all my predecessors who've tried this at other companies as well, that just gets to be too heavy. And it doesn't integrate into the entire company because you're reliant on the coaches or the experts versus our job was eventually like when we were about three years in and we kind of knew what we were doing, when we would come in and help train some part of the organisation, we would only do it if they offered up a person that would then take it from us and do the next training. And so, you know, then you start to really get into the fibre of the company to really drive the change. And it's not perfect, right. But it really was able to shift how we did our innovation and the BUs own it, right, the business units own it.   Ula Ojiaku  That's the only way it's going to be sustainable, if there’s ownership from them.   Chris Boeckerman  Exactly. And they applied it in different ways, our beauty care business is very different than our fabric care business. So one size fits all was never going to work.   Ula Ojiaku  Oh my gosh, sorry, that was a theme at the conference I spoke at, you know, it was like, no, there's no one size fits all approach.   Chris Boeckerman  I'm very thankful that I had the support around me, and that the company invested to bring external people in, right. One of the people I haven't mentioned yet is Maxine Friedman and she started with Bionic and, you know, now has her own work that she does, but she was my partner day in and day out as we were trying to figure out how to make this change. And without having people like that near me, Karen Hershenson's an internal person that was with me. They're the ones that really helped me see it was more than us. And in order to make it more than us, we had to enable others. We had to give it away. So first we had to figure out what it was. So don't get me wrong. That was not easy. It took us an entire year of really crazy experiments that the business units did. And we were just learning and running and helping and doing everything that we could, but we were pulling together the learnings. We were strategically figuring out what was working and what wasn't working so that we could land within the first year with this framework. Then once we had the framework, then we had something more intentional that we could work with the business units on. And we showed up for free. That was the other thing is, when they called, we showed up, right? Like nobody paid for us, we were helping them, but then they started to pay with their people, and they became the experts who then moved it forward and they moved it forward in different ways, because the external experts were the ones telling us we've seen other companies try this, don't try to mandate, don't force it, help figure out an agile framework that people can fit for what they need. And to this day it still exists. I mean, I'm not on it anymore, there's a small team that's still is working through it and, you know, but the businesses own it. They're the ones who really drive it in the way that they need.   Ula Ojiaku  Wow. I respect your time. I could delve in more. I think, Chris, this is an official invite to have you back sometime, you know, for a sequel to this conversation.   Chris Boeckerman  I would love it. I would love it. This has been so much fun. I really, I have a ton of passion for this type of work and our motto in GrowthWorks was unleash people to unleash growth. I do think P & G has the best people. I think everybody thinks that about their company, but I just really, I believe it, you know, when I was 20 years in fabric care, when I was, you know, 5 years in GrowthWorks, and now in P & G Ventures, that we just have the best people. And as we unleash them, we're growing, and so it's just a ton of fun, so happy to come back.   Ula Ojiaku  Your passion shines through and for you to say P & G has the best people, speaking with you, I am left with no doubt about it because you are a great ambassador for that. So thank you for that. So, in terms of a few more questions, so what books, if you had, because you said you had to go to school to learn more about innovation and you got in coaches. Are there any books that have helped you, you know, in this learning journey?  Chris Boeckerman  Yeah, there's a group of books just on lean innovation that definitely helped. So the Eric Ries, like kind of trilogy of books, I would say is The Lean Startup, The Startup Way, but he also had a small printing of something called, The Leader's Guide, which I think you can only get on audio now. And Janice Fraser, Eric introduced us to Janice and she had a lot of that, that really helps you to figure out how to help an organisation, how to help leaders to bring this to life. So those were really critical. And then David Kidder from Bionic wrote a book called New to Big, and I would say that's a great synopsis of what they taught us. And so, that's a good one to go to. And then there's a Scrum book that, I'm going to have to look up afterwards to give you the actual title, but twice the work and half the time.  Ula Ojiaku  That'll be Jeff Sutherland, Scrum, How to do Twice the Work in Half the Time. Dr Sutherland was my guest a few episodes ago.   Chris Boeckerman  Yes, it was life-changing for me, not necessarily because I became, I did not become a Scrum master. We have people inside the company that have done amazing things, but that was the book where he really articulated the questions that we started to ask, that helped us with teams lead, leaders learn. So he articulated that leaders, you know, should ask, what did you learn? How do you know? What do you need to learn next? And how can I help you as a leader? And, you know, that simple articulation was really great for us. So those are the ones that I kind of went back to again and again, to really figure out how to do lean innovation. I have another book for you just in general to share, and that's called Four Thousand Weeks, and it's a productivity book that somebody had just shared with me and it's by Oliver Burkeman and this, I just really liked because it's made a big impact in my life right now. If you live to be 80, you live 4,000 weeks. So it puts a finite amount of time, which can be scary, but we all know is real. But what I loved about this, it's the first productivity book that I received the message because I'm sure other productivity books have told me this, but it's the first time I was able to openly receive the message that you cannot do it all, so stop trying. You need to be choiceful. You need to be intentional on what it is you want to do and what it is you're going to intentionally not do. And that was just really impactful for me. And I think it can be impactful for a lot of people that really, the quality of your life is based on the choices that you make, and it's part of the reason I'm here because I'm a very busy person, but I just decided, no, I really, this is a passion that I have. I have a unique experience, I would really like to share that with other like-minded people who are on this, you know, what I call rollercoaster journey. It is like high highs and low lows when you are a change agent in big companies, but it's so fulfilling. So that book just had a big impact on me, that I really am in control of my destiny, but I need to make some choices.  Ula Ojiaku  Well, I've made a note of those books and they would be in the show notes of your episode. So thank you for that. Would that be, if the audience wants to get in touch with you, how can they find you?  Chris Boeckerman  The best way is through LinkedIn, I'm on LinkedIn, and while I would love to talk to everybody in the world, right. The way that I kind of make my choices, like I just said, which is exactly when you reached out to me is, anything that enables P & G and you know, what, what we all have passion for, I make time for, so yeah, so LinkedIn is the best way.   Ula Ojiaku  Definitely. I mean, you're a busy person, so LinkedIn would be the best place. And any final words for the audience so we wrap this up.   Chris Boeckerman  Yeah. I think, you know, I think it just really is, if you can, you follow your passion and people are everything. I just, everybody in the startup world, everybody in a corporate environment will tell you that the team and the people, they make all the difference in the world. And I just have found through my career as well, the more I invest in the people, the better, and so, yeah, I mean, if there's a way that you can ever really drive together your passions and then the ability to kind of bring an amazing team around you, you can do anything. My favourite quote is, never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has. It’s by Margaret Mead. And I just really, I really believe it. I think, and, in what we've been able to do at P & G, we had the people, the groundswell, and we had the leadership support in, and you need both, but it just really starts with a small group of people that have a lot of passion and are amazing. And so that's what I would focus on.   Ula Ojiaku  Wow. Thank you so much, Chris. This has been an inspiring conversation, more like me learning from you. So I do think, and I know that the audience, the viewers and listeners would also find this episode very useful. So thank you again for your time.   Chris Boeckerman  Oh, thank you very much. And I've listened to all your podcasts now. And so I'm learning a ton from this forum as well. And just thank you for taking the time and doing it. I love your story and I was really happy to be part of it. So thank you.  Ula Ojiaku   That's all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show.   I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at  Take care and God bless. 
53:16 1/15/23
Season 3 starts this January 2023!
The show producer has not yet provided a description for this episode.
00:38 1/7/23
(S2)E020: Ula Ojiaku on Clarifying Roles & Responsibilities with the SLoMoSH Canvas
Full episode video available here:  Ula's Bio: Uloaku (Ula) Ojiaku is a Business Agility Strategist, coach, mentor and trainer with a focus on helping leaders and their teams in large organisations embrace a Lean-Agile mindset and adopt its associated ways of working to improve how they operate, effectively respond to changes in the marketplace and ultimately deliver value to their customers. With nearly 20 years of professional experience, she has worked in multiple countries, in a variety of technical, business and leadership roles across industries including Oil & Gas, Telecommunications, Financial Services, Government, Higher Education and Consulting. A certified Technology Business Management (TBM) Council Executive, SAFe 5.0 Program Consultant (SPC 5.0) and ICAgile Coach, Ula has a Masters degree in Computer Science from the University College London (UCL) and a Bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN). She is the Founder/ Principal Consultant of Mezahab Group Ltd (a UK-based Lean Agile Innovation training and consulting company). She also currently serves a multi-national retail organisation as a Senior Agile Coach and is a guest lecturer at Coventry University.  Social Media/ Websites: LinkedIn: Twitter: Website:  Episode Transcript Ula Ojiaku Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more, with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Hi everyone. Thank you so much for tuning into this episode of the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. I had the privilege on the 30th of March 2022 to speak at the Agile Coach Conference organised by Gladwell Academy. My talk was focused on the SLoMoSH Canvas, which is the tool that I had developed to help with facilitating conversations amongst teams, to clarify roles and responsibilities. The SLoMoSH Canvas has other use cases, however my talk was just focused on the clarification of roles and responsibilities and how it could be used in that situation. Without further ado, my talk at the 2022 Agile Coach Conference in Amsterdam. Thank you, it’s a great privilege to be here, live and in person. The last time I attended and participated in a face to face conference was back in 2019, December 2019, San Francisco, so you can’t imagine how refreshing it is to be out here. So I’m here, all the way from the United Kingdom, I’m here to speak to you about the topic ‘Set up for Success: Clarifying Roles and Responsibilities using the SLoMoSH Canvas.’ I know, ‘what’s that word SLoMoSH’? I made it up, as you’re going to come to realise. But without further ado, let me tell you about myself. I have about 20 years of professional experience. I started off in engineering, hands-on engineering roles in telecommunications, oil and gas industry, and then kind of moved on to that more business-facing, interfacing type of role with teams where you’re kind of translating the conversations, and my first foray into agile ways of working was about 16 years ago as a field engineer, with Schlumberger as a field engineer. We had standups, we had kanbans and all that, but we didn’t use the term agile, it wasn’t a buzzword then. So as coaches, and I’m sure as we’re predominantly agile coaches in the audience here, I’ve noticed. And we do have those… part of our satisfaction that comes from our jobs is when the teams, the leaders, the people we’re coaching, have those ‘aha’ moments, and I love what Lyssa (Adkins) said in the morning, it’s really about taking a holistic view, building those relationships, meeting people where they are, so that’s what I love about being an agile coach. I host a podcast, Agile Innovation Leaders, and I’ve been privileged to have people like Jeff Sutherland, Steve Blank, Alex Osterwalder, but that’s not why we’re here. So, we’re going to do an ice breaker. I have two children, I have a son who’s 11 and a daughter, Kiki, who’s 9. So one day Kiki comes back from school and says, and I’m busy working and in the zone, and she says ‘mum, I have something for you, I have a game I have to play’. And I’m like, in my mind, I don’t need this right now, but I have to be a loving parent with my children isn’t it, so I say ‘all right Kiki, what do you have for me?’ All right, so I’m going to teach you that. I don’t need to tell you the story, but the key thing is now, I’m going to mention three words in succession, and after each word, you know, you use A, shout out A and raise your left hand if it’s an A, if that word matches with an A, so if it’s an animal, you raise your left hand, if it’s a food, the word that I call, raise your right hand, you can also shout it out if you feel like that, and if it’s a place, C, then raise both hands and say C. Does that sound clear enough? OK, let’s do a trial run. So, A, well, you did it. So I was going to say ‘poodle’, A, awesome. Burger! B. You guys are rocking it. And a castle. C. OK, awesome, you guys have gotten it. Now let’s do the real thing. OK, so, I’m going to mention it in a random way. I know you’re watching and wondering what I’m doing. Yoghurt. B. OK, B, good, good. Lion. A. Are you sure? Yes, it’s an animal, lion is an animal. All right, third and the last, Turkey. (Laughter) That was exactly what my daughter did to me, you know she said, Turkey and I was like OK, where does it go, because mine was more like, A is stand here, B is stand here and C is stand here. But I will take the blame, as a responsible agile coach I will say, if I had wanted you to understand, I would have explained it better. That is the words of the famous Johan Cruyff. And I should have explained it better because, you know, I kind of, hands up if you know, you didn’t quite go into the outliers, because you didn’t, because the impression based on the instruction was the, you know, the words would fit into one box. Either it’s going to be A, or B, or C. Hands up if that was your impression? OK, the rest of you could see that two, three steps ahead, awesome, please call me, because maybe we have a business to start because you can see into the future. But that’s the case with transformation initiatives. There are lots of moving wheels, it's about change on a massive scale, and the fact is, with all the changes happening, and people are complex beings, and as Lyssa mentioned again, in her talk earlier on today. I was taking copious notes for all the speakers, when you all were speaking. It’s really about moving from that mindset of an organisation and people as machines to an organisation as a complex eco system. And I don’t know about you, but for most transformation, and no matter where you are on your transformation journey, whether you are very mature or whether you are just at the beginning of the journey or somewhere in between, the fact is there are always going to be moving parts, and we change, and we need to change and adapt as we go on. So, again, Lyssa, by now you all know I’m a massive Lyssa fan, but the key thing is how work has really impacted a lot of the things we do as agile coaches and the agile coaching competencies that she and Michael Spayd developed, you know has kind of helped with clarifying, what are those multiple hats, those balls that we need to juggle as agile coaches as we support and lead and help the teams as they move under transformation, the journey towards ways of agile working, and developing an agile mindset. Now, usually it would start with some sort of training, you know, to train people into the roles, to understand, because people need to be trained. And I think it was, you know, and I think it was during the session with Marcel, there was something about needing to combine education with coaching. So, in terms of like the initial starting point of training people, let’s say classroom-based training, there would be, if you, as an agile coach, are the one running that training, you need to have your teacher’s hat on. Lyssa, am I correct, or am I bungling it up? Lyssa Adkins You’ve been beautiful, I’m overwhelmed. Ula Ojiaku Ok, well please correct me, because you are the expert, and that’s your work there. Anyway, so you have to have that teaching hat on, but the main message today that I want to bring to you here, the key point it this, more often than not, just classroom-based training or training of any sort isn’t quite enough for the teams to start adapting or applying their learnings to their context. Even within the same organisation, you’ll find out that no two teams are alike, and you might have a product owner in team A and a product owner in team B. They are on paper, they have the same role, the title, however, the nuances of what they do with it, it might mean that there are other things that they would need to take on as a result of the nature of their work and the team that they belong to. And so, in what I’m going to be sharing with you in terms of the case study, I’ve also had to become a neutral process holder, you know, to facilitate conversations with the teams. And this is with the purpose of helping them to connect the dots. OK, just to help them to connect the dots, because they need to get to a shared understanding of whatever topic it is that they are having. So I picked this graphic from the internet. Unfortunately, I don’t know who the author, the original originator is, but credit to them, it kind of beautifully illustrates the concept. You might have the same people in the room, listening to this talk right now like we are, you know, if you look at this picture here, there are three people looking at a picture of a truck, but what you can see is something, different elements of the picture is coming out, jumping out at them. But you need to make sure that they also have a joined up view, you know, to have the bigger picture in mind. So how does that apply to us as agile coaches? It’s not about having lots of different frameworks, and we don’t want to go into that rut of being like the proverbial person with their hangman seeing everything as a nail, it’s about taking the time to understand the context. And as Sharon and Yasmina said in their talk, you know, you need to have tools in the toolbox, but you also need to know that it’s not about the tools in the toolbox, it’s, according to my colleague Scott Henault, who says the power of the tool is in the conversation it creates. It goes back to the people, it’s about helping them to have a conversation so that they have a shared understanding to work together more effectively. And so, a bit of the case study in my case. So I am currently a senior agile coach with a multi national retail organisation, if you read into my LinkedIn profile, you’ll know which organisation that is. So there is this, there were these teams and when the organisation started its agile transformation about four years ago or something like thereabouts, for that team they were pivoted into agile, single agile team like team level team teams, OK. And then over time some further analysis was done and the leadership decided, that’s a story for another day, but go with me here. So they decided they wanted it to be a SAFe ART and so the team was now being pivoted into the combined SAFe ART. Now I had joined the organisation after the initial, the first, you know, pivot to agile teams, and what I noticed interacting with those teams was that they, the teams, already struggled, because they were moving from a traditional projects management waterfall based approach to delivery into agile, and as agile teams, you know, scrum teams, Kanban teams, they were already struggling. I mean, they were delivering, it’s almost like, have you ever had a toothache where you’re able to eat, but how you ate and enjoyed your food when you had a toothache versus when your, when everything is OK, is much different. So they were delivering all right, but it’s almost like you’re chewing with a toothache, or hobbling with a bad foot, you’re moving, but you’re not moving in the most effective way you could. So I realised they had this problem, and just waving, if I could be a fairy godmother and wave the SAFe wand over them with all due respect, it wasn’t going to make the problem go away. There was something we needed to get to the root cause. So, sometimes, yes, it’s all about trying to make a light touch and as simple as possible reduce the cognitive load as Mariëlle said in the workshop earlier, but there are times that, you know, the hard things have to be done. There are times you have to strip down, get into the weeds, get into the detail, and based on the conversation with the RTE, I designed a session for the key roles, because those were the key points, if you know the theory of constraints, it’s about looking at where the bottom leg is and then addressing the bottom leg to improve the flow, and of course you know as the system, because, you know, there would definitely be something else to improve, but right now the key bottom leg was with the Epic Owner roles, the product management roles, the product and scrum master roles, so those were the areas we decided to focus on, because you can’t boil the ocean. So, the SLoMoSH Canvas. Now I wouldn’t say that it all was original, but it’s more of a synthesis of ideas , concepts, mental models that I’ve been exposed to over the past 20 years, but the main influence for this SLoMoSH Canvas was the work of Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, the business model canvas, and of course when I last spoke with Alex Osterwalder, you know, I had him as a guest on my podcast , he said it’s really about making things visual, it’s important, it makes it easier for conversations, it helps people to get on the same page. And another influence in developing this was from the work of an executive coach known as Tony Jeary, Jeary with a J, and he wrote this book ‘Strategic Acceleration’ and he had the MOLO matrix, which is like 'more of, less of'. So based on that I kind of developed this, which I was using as well for personal reasons, you know, in terms of thinking where do I want to be in the future, how do I get there, what do I need to do more of, less of, what do I need to stop entirely, hand over. And I kind of, as I was thinking about this in the middle of the night, I thought, this might work for the teams we’re talking about. So let me explain the SLoMoSH Canvas. Has anyone figured out why it’s named SLoMoSH? OK, here you go. Audience member It’s the first letters OK, yes, so the first letters, Start, Less of, More of, then Stop and Handover. So that’s where the SLoMoSH came from, and I’m still thinking of, is there anything better to call this, so if you have any ideas, please let me know. But that’s what it’s called. Now, the key thing, how does it work? It’s more in the centre you have the core responsibilities, that would be, let’s say, common to all the roles, it’s better when you do it role by role, so if it’s about a particular role, it’s something you’re facing, you have those responsibilities and tasks in the centre, and there’s no change, no action needs to be done, and usually that would be a starting point, OK, for the conversation. Now, the actions that will come out in the conversation will be when you’re now looking at those key things, you kind of have a conversation about it, as we’ll look at it later, and then you  find out, are there things that you need to, that you should be doing that you’re not doing that you should start, you put it there, and the other thing is that you should be doing as part of your role that you’re not doing as often as you should, maybe put them in the ‘More of’. You know, ‘Less of’ would be the reverse of ‘More of’ and then other things ‘Stop’. This part is really important, because as human beings we are adverse to, you know, kind of losing things and taking things out, kind of losing things, we’d rather pile up things without taking off some other things consequently and that is a mindset that we, you know, because there should be the art of maximising the work, the amount of work not done. So it’s also important to challenge your teams, are there things that you should stop doing, and stop means stop. Don’t hand it over to anyone because it’s not adding value now, it wasn’t adding value then, it’s not going to add value in the future. And then, just as important, is the Handover part. Are there things that you’re doing in your current role or in the current context, which in the new role, in the new structure, which don’t necessarily apply to you, what your role as you understand it now, but someone needs to do it or else things will fall through the cracks and it’s going to impact on delivery, and that would be in the Handover space. OK. So, this if for you now, two minutes, can we all take the time to pause and reflect, and I acknowledge it might not be applicable to you, we all have different situations and contexts, problems that we’re solving right now. So if it doesn’t apply to you, that’s fine. Can you pause and reflect individually on what you’ve heard so far. Think about scenarios in your current context, your current work, where you could use the Canvas, or where you have, you’re needing to have the conversations that this Canvas could help you with. What are those scenarios? So it’s an individual pause and think. Can anyone share the result of your conversations? Audience member We were just discussing challenges that we have in multiple teams and the conclusion of the challenge was the team motivation and the relationship with the team members started deteriorating due to the moving to remote working, right. So, there were misunderstandings about what the team lead needs to do, what the product owner needs to do, what the scrum master needs to do, or even every single member of the team. So, what we did, we did different kinds of workshops, but now, when I see this, it perfectly fits into the, what I think we could use, or what we could benefit a lot from this. It was not structured like you did, but this is more clear and straightforward, yeah. Ula Ojiaku Wow, thank you for that, and yes, I’ll be sharing my context, so thank you for sharing that. We have just enough time for you. Audience member I think we can use this in our organisation. I’m working for the government, for the POVmark we call that, the Product Owner Vakgroep Manager and agile coach, it’s like, we talk about the teams, but not about the individuals, but not about the teams, but what are we talking about? Because we say the product owner is there for the product, and the manager is there for the people, and the agile coach is there for the team. But sometimes it feels like no one has the responsibility so we can use this very wise to, hey, what can we stop talking about? Ula Ojiaku Awesome! Well thank you for sharing. Right, thank you. So, what did I do? Let’s move on. So, a case study with the very team that I was talking about, a team of teams in this case. Now, something else I didn’t share about the challenges they were facing was this, you know. Having gone to the training, because, let’s say for example some of them were previously project managers and as part of the transformation pivot, you know, they were now set, OK, the way it was done is another conversation. And it was more of a combination of OK, where do you think we fit in now that, you know, this is what this role does, and that’s what that role does. So it was a combination of that and, you know, my management kind of making joint decisions to give people new roles. And so as a traditional project manager, you’d expect that you’re making sure things are on time, you budget and schedule, you liaise with third parties, maybe vendors as required to make sure everyone is cooperating. That’s the traditional project management role. You’re also, you’d also be monitoring the spend, how much are we spending on this project? You know, the financial reporting, the compliance, to make sure you’re being compliant, and being a publicly traded organisation, you also have to make sure that, you know, on the straight and narrow, it’s not directly giving value to the end customer, but it needs to be done if you want to operate as an organisation, if you want to be legally trading. So, these things still need to be done. But in the new roles, you know, the new product owner role generally, it doesn’t have anything about managing compliance issues, it doesn’t have anything about financial reporting, and so when we’re operating as that agile team, these things were falling through the cracks. You could have said, yes, I used to be a project manager but now I’m a scrum master, there’s nothing that says, you know, as a scrum master, that I need to do that same thing with the product. So, who does it, because it needs to be done. OK. So in this simplified example, let’s assume we’re doing this session with product owners. Now, I populated the core area, or the continuum area with the generic responsibilities that a product owner would do. Of course, this is not exhaustive, this is only for illustration. And then at the start of the session I’ll be like, OK, now these are the things, you know, generic things that the product owner would need to do. But are there other things that you currently do that’s not in the box? Feel free to create a sticky(note) and put it there, because we need to have a conversation, we need to make it visible. Because most people have what they do in their heads, and other people, remember the picture with the, you the bus and all that, and three people are looking at, one is seeing the driver, the other one is seeing the cargo, the other one is seeing the vehicle. So, let’s all visualise it and talk through it. I told you sometimes you need to get into the weed of things so that everyone has a shared understanding. So, imagine that the ones or the items in the bold italics are the ones that I can’t add in, oh, I also manage compliance issues, oh I also participate in release value, oh and I also produce reports for the senior management. Let’s put it there. Now, after having the conversation, sticky by sticky, let’s assume in this hypothetical session, this is what we came up with. So, remember in the core part it’s more of whatever it is that you’re doing and you’re happy with it, you think you’re doing OK, there’s nothing that needs to change, that’s fine, you leave it there. So, for, let’s assume, that the product owner group you know, you already create to start the stories. We prioritise our backlog and we also participate in release planning  and we think it’s relevant to where we’re going so we have to keep stay there. But there might be other things that they have, you know, had a conversation about, and they say OK, you know what, we haven’t really been conducting backlog refinement sessions and we need to do that a bit more, thoughtfully and, you know, we need to just start doing it basically. That goes in the start place. And maybe they say something about contributing to the product vision and roadmap, and say it’s been someone else that’s been doing that, the product manager has been doing that, but we feel like, you know, the, it trickles down to us and it comes as a surprise, we need to contribute earlier so that we can also give the team perspective into things, so we can put that in the ‘More of’ etc etc. But the key thing is, it’s about facilitating those conversations. And it doesn’t stop here. Once we’ve done this part, it’s now about focusing on the elements in the outer rectangle to identify what’s the action that’s required for this. So, if you said you don’t facilitate or you don’t do backlog refinement sessions, what action needs to be done and who’s going to own it after this session? And they, as a group, you know, there’s this saying, if they write it, they won’t fight it. As a coach, as an agile coach, it’s not about being the sage on the stage, it’s about being their guide by their side. So you ask them, OK, so you have, and of your own free will, I didn’t tell you to start doing it, but you said you do need to start doing it, so what are you going to do about it? Because, you know, if you tell them, then the ownership for following up with that action is going to be on me if I told them, but if they said, this is what we think we need to do, and this is who, I mean, I think I’ll own it, then they’re more likely to follow through with the actual action, so they will, you know, identify who owns it, what they’re going to do, and the writing of the same happens with the rest of the items on the board. So for this case study, some of the outcomes were, there was an improved visibility and shared understanding of what people were doing. And of course, during the session, the fact that it was visual, it wasn’t like a spreadsheet or a long Word document, not that there’s anything wrong with it, but most people process, you know we all process information differently and having it visually on stickys helped with, you know, bringing or bridging that gap in communication and giving us a point of reference that we all could zone into. So, it helped with relevant conversations, both as a group and after the session they were also able to show this to their line management, and have necessary conversations with them. And for some of them, the product management group, they were able to demonstrate, because they would say, I had a lot on my plate, and the line management would be like, she’s complaining again, but by the time we did this, and they showed an electronic copy of it to the line management, they said, oh, you actually do a whole lot, right, and that meant a case for an additional set of business analysts to be added to the team to help them with those sorts of things, to invent the responsibility on their plate. It enabled them to identify actions to move from their current state to the desired future state and, you know, they have also role descriptions that takes into account the context of the work they do, that they can share with their stakeholders, because there was a confusion about who does what. So, some facilitation tips as I round off this. It’s more effective if you do it role by role. You know, don’t try to boil the ocean, there are instances you can do it as a whole team, but my focus right now, on this case study, is more about, you know, on a role, so if it’s for scum masters, within a team of teams, then bring them together so they have a joint understanding. If it’s a product management, or product owner etc etc, but do it role by role, because that helps with focusing the session. And don’t start with a blank slate. Prepopulate the centre of the board with generic responsibilities and then have them add things or remove things as they see fit. Now it’s really about being a neutral facilitator in this process, because it’s now them having conversations. Now, encourage conversation and debate whilst keeping focused on desirable outcomes and then remind them that, you know, this is not a once and done activity. Things will change, and as they do, you don’t have to do it often, but as things change, and you feel they’re significantly changed that you need to have another of these conversations, you do so, and inspect and adapt as required. So, before we summarise, what would be your key takeaway from this talk? Anyone? OK, I’ll walk to you, I’m not throwing. Audience member  Thank you. Maybe we all recognise, because I also saw it in your model, that stopping and handover are mainly the most difficult topics to discuss. How did you handle those things? Because if you look at the model now, it doesn’t seem a lot went off their plate.  More or less it shifted or put on their plate. Ula Ojiaku OK, I was asking for key takeaways, but you know, you’ve given me a question so I will answer that. No problem. So you said stopping and handover are the most important aspects, and how did I get them, keep them focused on that conversation? It’s all about asking questions but I can’t tell them you have to stop it, you need to have them come to a realisation and sometimes it’s a conversation that you might have with them a few times before they come to the realisation themselves, but it’s not about telling them what to do, so I, when I facilitate these sessions, I don’t tell them what they need to do, I just ask questions to clarify, OK, what you are doing, do you think you still need to keep it? Yes, OK. Is it adding value to your stakeholders, your customers, does it make it more efficient, no? So why do you think we should keep it, because it’s the way we’ve always done it. OK, so I leave it there and it might not be the right time to pursue it, but I try to encourage them to, you know, consider things that they can stop and handover. So it’s a interfaced question and it’s also like there’s no one-size-fits-all-approach. But thank you very much sir for that question. So, I’ll just round up. Classroom based training is almost never enough. We need to support them to kind of, make sense of whatever they’ve learnt, and teams, because they as teams and individuals sometimes, I personally sometimes struggle to apply what I’ve learnt in the classroom, on a course, into my real life context. So sometimes that additional support is needed, sometimes we have to roll up our sleeves and help them to have those conversations. And my humble submission is, would you consider using maybe the SLoMoSH Canvas for these sort of conversations, would that help you? For me, for the team that I’ve used it with, it’s made things clearer for them. I wouldn’t say it’s a Fairy Godmother. You know, I wave the wand and they lived happily ever after, but that hobble has definitely gone. I’m now going to find a dentist to go help me on with the toothache, because there are always going to be problems to be solved. So, with that, that’s all I have. Thank you so much for listening and for not falling asleep on me. That’s all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show. I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless!
36:04 5/22/22
(S2)E019: Bruno Pešec on The Big Don'ts of Corporate Innovation
Interview video available here:  Bio Bruno Pešec helps business leaders innovate profitably. He is the rare innovator who can claim that he's worked on a regulation-defying freight train and an award-winning board game. In addition to his corporate experience with brands like DNV, DNB, and Kongsberg Group, Bruno runs a community of entrepreneurs of several thousand members. Longer version of bio available at Websites/ Social Media Bruno’s website: Playing Lean site: LinkedIn profile: Books The 9 Big Don’ts of Corporate Innovation by Bruno Pešec The Corporate Startup by Tendayi Viki The Game Changing Strategy by Constantinos Markides    To Better Thinking by Linda Elder The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink   Episode Transcript Intro: Hello and welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. I’m Ula Ojiaku. On this podcast I speak with world-class leaders and doers about themselves and a variety of topics spanning Agile, Lean Innovation, Business, Leadership and much more – with actionable takeaways for you the listener. Guest Intro: Hello everyone, thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of the Agile Innovation Leaders Podcast. My guest today is Bruno Pešec. He is one of those rare innovators and coaches whose focus is on helping business leaders innovate profitably. I had lots of learning moments and ‘aha’ moments speaking with Bruno and I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. I learnt a lot as well. I have no doubt that you will also get some useful nuggets from this episode, so enjoy. Ula Ojiaku:  I have with me here, Bruno Pešec. And, Bruno, welcome to the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast, it’s a great pleasure and honour to have you here on the show. Bruno Pešec:  Thank you very much, Ula. And I also want to give my special gratitude and thanks for perfectly pronouncing my surname. Ula Ojiaku:  Oh, well, I am very happy about that. I actually wrote it out, you know, phonetically on a piece of paper. But thanks, you taught me well, great. Now let's go straight into the questions we have for you today. So, who is Bruno Pešec? Bruno Pešec:  So, Bruno Pešec is, I will describe an Innovator, Martial Artist and Engineer, that probably sums up like parts of my life that I'm proudest, and that I engage with the most. So, I started my studies as a young engineer, and what I was really fascinated with are problems, wicked problems. Usually wicked problems are described as a collection of problems that don't really have a clear cause, clear root cause, and there is no clear-cut solution, the only thing you can try to do is tame them a little bit, and I was fascinated with that as engineer. That's why I studied industrial engineering, which is a combination of systems and humans. I started my career in defense, and I had the good fortune of working on some very, very difficult products. And one of the projects that I was working on was an innovation completely based on product and technology. We made such a product that was by far the best in the whole world, it was so good, no one believed us. And it was ridiculous, but for me, it was a great learning experience, because, you know, we were a young group of engineers that said, like, hey, let's just do everything we can to make the best product we can, and we succeeded, and nobody on the market believed us. So, what happened, our sales department had to send our product on a tour across the globe. And with a lot of engineering products and solutions, they can be copied by sufficiently proficient engineers, and that is what happened after a few years. It wasn't such a leading product anymore. But for me, it was a very important learning lesson, because I realised that innovation isn't just about this technical side, but also about the human side, you must understand how to talk about innovation, you must understand how narratives form, how stories form and how people interact. And that is kind of how I started to slowly expand my own knowledge beyond just being an engineer, to also invest in a lot of time and effort to understand psychology, human nature, emotions, not just to reading, but also to try to be different myself, whatever that might mean. And it wasn't always pleasant. Ula Ojiaku:  I totally empathise - wow! Could you tell us a bit more about the product? What was the product all about? Bruno Pešec:  So, since I was working in industry, that's, you know, very limited with NDAs. So unfortunately, I can't really go into great specifics, but let's say that innovations were based on the physical properties. And I can say, you know, people expect that the products made out of steel have a specific weight, what we were able to do is, through a lot of engineering trades, using numerical simulations, very advanced computation, a lot of testing in actual manufacturing whole, we were able to make a product that has varying thickness of steel panels, and that reduce the weight of the product and increase the functionality of the product. And that's why I say, when a smart engineer sees the solution, they can easily copy it, but the challenge is seeing the solution, coming to see that. So, we did the heavy working of finding the new improvement, and then it was easy to take over. And if we connect it to what a lot of companies and startups mess up, when they spend their time and effort to educate the market and then somebody else comes and actually picks up the market. So that is, you know, when you have the whole discussion, is it good to be first to the market? Yes, if you can afford to capture it. Ula Ojiaku: Yes. Yes. Very true, because you have the fast followers who just sit back, let you do the heavy lifting and then they, because they have maybe a wide range of resources and deep pockets, are able to mass manufacture what you spent years to put together. Wow! Bruno Pešec: Exactly. Ula Ojiaku: So, what were the key lessons, because you said you now realise that it's not just about having a fantastic product, you also had to focus on the human psychology. So, what's different between then and now? Bruno Pešec: So, one of the things, reflecting here in the moment, one of the very important lessons, for me personally, was that alignment is much more important and valuable than being the most correct person in the room, or following the perfect or the ideal process. So for myself, you know, I have a decade of experience innovating and inventing, not just in defense, but also in transportation in oil and gas, in entertainment, you know, in different industries. And without trying to sound arrogant, I have a good grasp of what it takes to, you know, develop, invent something and take it to the market, which is not necessarily always true. So, when I work, you know, with clients or different teams, I'm usually the person who knows the innovation process, but that doesn't matter a lot if I cannot help those people in the room to actually get from A to B. And that sometimes includes, I don't want to say compromises, but negotiations, both internal implicit, but also external, you know, when do you stop focusing on just the theory and when do you move to, okay, in practice being pragmatic, and moving on. And I would say that Agile and Innovation and Lean and Lean Startup and a lot of these fields, they're guilty of being extremely dogmatic and paradigmatic, and then you have this whole conversation around, okay, when is it about dogma and when is it about flow, customer, value, outcomes? So, that, to me was part of my learning journey, like, sometimes harsh lessons. Ula Ojiaku: I totally am nodding because I experienced this every day, as you know, as an Agile Coach, it's really about, you might know things, you know, but it's also about working with people, because finally, at the end of the day, it’s all about people and you need to work with people, you need to establish the relationship, the trust. And for me, a policy is I want to work with people in a way that they would want to work with me over and over again. And sometimes this may be about losing a battle so that you know, everyone can together win the greater war, you know, from time to time. One statement you made now that really stood out to me is that; “Alignment is more valuable than being the most correct person in a room”. That's a great quote. Okay, so can you tell us about your game Playing Lean? I understand you developed the game, how did it come about and what do you currently use it for? Bruno Pešec: So yes, it's called Playing Lean, and I'd be happy to tell you a bit more. So, it's funny, it came through part of this learning experience as well. So, I'm not the only one, it was also Simen Fure Jørgensen, he is the guy that actually started it as well. So, the starting point was very simple. You have a group of people, and you want to introduce a new concept. In this case, it was Lean Startup. And you know how it will go, if you tell two groups of people where here's a book, read it, let's talk in a week. So, maybe there's one person that reads it, the rest might skim it, and the, you know, the other third won't even open it. And what we were inspired with was using games. We were actually inspired with Get Kanban if you know the game for teaching Kanban in software development. And back in that time, Simen just tried to find a similar game for teaching Lean Startup Innovation, entrepreneurship, and there was none, and that was the trigger. So, it was scratching our own need, and what I love and what I'm the proudest was that we used the Lean Startup principles to develop the game itself. That was very important to us, and to the listeners that maybe have heard about Lean Startup but aren't as familiar. So, Lean Startup is a methodology for developing businesses through experimentation, iterative development, and it basically relies on Agile body of knowledge, customer development and business modeling. So, in our case, we decided after we have iterated a lot on the functionality and the desirability of the game, we decided to go down a crowdfunding route. And what happened, it was a big failure. So, we didn't manage to reach our goal, but when we were reviewing, so it wasn't zero, but it was not enough money to actually take us, so, we used Kickstarter as a platform, which is all or nothing, you must reach the goal, otherwise, you receive no funds, but you can see the data. And what we noticed is that the people that were supporting the campaign actually weren't who we thought the players are, but who would use the game to teach Lean Startup. And that is when we realised, hey, our customer segment isn't really the people that will play the game to learn lean startup, but our customer segment is actually people like you and me, Ula, that consult and coach and help others. Now when we realised that, we started focusing, okay, what do these people need? What are their jobs to be done, what is important to them? And then tweak the product, what we learned is to them, what's really important is that the product is extremely polished, they need to be proud of it, it shouldn't look like you know, Microsoft clipboard, or clipart, whatever, it needs to look very professional. So, we partnered with Holger who is one of the best illustrators in the world, he illustrated Business Model Generation and other things like that. So, we partnered with him, the game looks spectacular. Okay, then we said it needs to be reputable. So, we partnered with Ash Maurya who wrote Running Lean, we partnered with Alexander Osterwalder who wrote Business Model Generation and few other books in the series, that was important. And then what was also the thing is the facilitators and coaches and consultants, they're not buying the game, they're buying a new product for their coaching or consulting portfolio. So, our value proposition is the game, plus the facilitating materials, plus the marketing materials, plus everything. So, a lot of learning happened, you know, in that one failed campaign. And then we kept iterating on that, and they usually say the rest is history, I hope it's still not history. But you know, we won awards, first game was completely sold out, we made a new one, that one is also almost sold out, we have a global community of 200 Facilitators. So, it's been going pretty well. And all of this, you know, learning, learning, learning, adjusting, learning, adjusting, learning, adjusting, learning, adjusting. Ula Ojiaku:  You're basically applying the, you know, the Lean Startup cycle as well, because you're adjusting, you learn, you take the learning you're adjusting, and you make an improvement on what's existing. Congratulations. Now, that's an amazing story. And the fact that you said, you know, the Kickstarter failed, it wasn't a failure, it was more of a redirection, because you now got to focus on the right customer, the person who needs the product. Yeah and so, I also understand from your website that you sort of run, Train the Trainer sessions on Playing Lean, is that correct? Bruno Pešec: That's correct. That's correct. Ula Ojiaku: Okay, and when is your next one? Do you have any scheduled in the near future, or, you know, should listeners just go to the website and register? Bruno Pešec: So, listeners can go to And what we decided to do because of COVID, obviously, and the global situation, so we have a completely self-paced part. So, you can take it any time, and then when you complete it, we schedule, so we have batches of people. So, let's say that you immediately go, you hear this show, and you go, you can take it, you can listen to all the theory or the facilitation, Playing Lean facilitator training. And then when there's four or six, we schedule a private session where we play the game together, and you know, let's say, finish the training, and we came to that because it's pretty flexible for people. And as I said, our customer segments are consultants and coaches, and the thing that they really don't want is to lose their precious billable time. Ula Ojiaku: Yes, yes. And will the follow up sessions, will they have to be in person or have you devised a way of doing it virtually? Bruno Pešec: So, everything is completely virtual for the time being. So, we're using Mural, but any of these can work. And what we basically did is we took and we recreated the whole game in that setup, and I was a bit skeptical at first. I wasn't 100% sure that, you know, it would work in such a setting because it is a board game, Playing Lean is a physical board game, and we purposefully designed it to be physical. Before all this happened, we rejected to make it digital, because there's a special connection when you're doing that together. And so I wasn't sure if we go with, we move it online, but people were asking so much, like, they want to play, they want to attend it. So, we said okay, let's give it a try. What we actually found out was that it works in some cases better, and in some worse. So, one thing that you lose is people cannot talk at the same time.  I'm sure that everybody noticed that now with all zoom and Teams and all the meetings is, it's very difficult, you cannot talk at the same time, which does happen in physical meetings, you might have small groups of people either whispering or saying something. Here, that doesn't work, so, you must facilitate and arrange everything differently. You can have breakouts, but again, you cannot see it as a facilitator. When you coach team, you know, if you tell two of them have a discussion, you can slightly overhear. Yeah, now, you lose that. So, there are some challenges in this. But I'm pleasantly surprised, you know, thinking back 10 years ago, how many digital tools we have today and they're good. They work. Ula Ojiaku: True, true, I mean, that's why we're speaking although we’re in different geographical locations. So yeah, definitely. Right, so, I know that you also recently published the book, an E-book, “Nine Big Don'ts of Corporate Innovation: How to Spot and Avoid Costly Innovation Mistakes”, can you tell us a bit more about this? Bruno Pešec: I'd love to. So, the starting point for this, were something that's usually called survivor bias. And I'll just share two stories to kind of illustrate the survivor bias. And funnily, both include aviation. So, in one case is Aeroplane Inspectors, so whatever is their formal title, were investigating plane crashes, and survivals. And what they noticed was that it wasn't the most important, how physically prepared people in the plane were, it didn't matter if they are obese, or if they're healthy, unhealthy, or whatnot, the only thing that mattered, was if people stopped to take their belongings before evacuating the plane. So, everybody who stopped to try to get their, you know, things from the overhead department perished. And that is why you always hear that boring message, back in the time when we were flying much more often, you know, take oxygen first in case of evacuation, ignore your belongings, go out. So, and they discovered it by focusing on all those that perished, not those that actually did manage to run out and escape before the plane caught fire. A similar story, but from wartime, was when they were looking into reinforcing fighter crafts. So, they were looking, they were charting, when the crafts returned, they were charting all the holes on the body of the plane. And then their initial idea was to focus on all the parts where the holes were. But one guy observed and said, “No, that's wrong. Because those planes return, let's take look where there are no holes, because where there are no holes, those planes did not return”. And then they reinforced that and that increased the survivability of the plane. So, this is, it's almost like inversion of thinking. And that survivor bias at the core is, hey, sometimes there is value in looking at all those that failed, and understanding why did that fail, and avoiding the things that they were doing? And that was the logic, that was something that started me here. So, I worked with hundreds of innovators with, I don't, I can't say hundreds of companies, but when you work with a large company, you know, it's easily several hundred people. And I continue to see the same mistakes again, and again and again. And I said, you know, it's not about trying to copy Amazon, or Google or whoever you think is the most innovative company in the world. Stop, pause and take a look at all the failed innovations. And that was kind of the trigger that is, so from experience and observation, I decided to share mine. I will not go into great details of all mine, because everybody who listens to this can get the e-book for free in your show notes, they will be able to find it. If not, they can reach out to you, to me, whoever, we're going to help them. But one that I want to share with your listeners is one of maybe a little bit shocking ones that I say is don't invest in orphans, orphan ideas, and what do I mean by that is ideas by themselves are worthless. We keep hearing that, but we don't take action on that. So, an idea doesn't come out of nowhere, someone must have recommended it, and on the management level, a common mistake is when, let's say there's a group or strategy retreat, and they hire some consultant, they come up with brilliant ideas, but they don't execute on it, they give it to someone else to do it. So, there is a discrepancy, there is this idea, it came from Ula, but suddenly it was thrown to Bruno, go do it. I never met Ula in my life, I'm supposed to be passionate about this? Ula Ojiaku: Exactly. You don't know the context behind the whole idea? How did it come about? But, no, these things happen and I'm thinking of a recent example. Bruno Pešec: But it is, it you know, it is something that resonates, and people are aware of it, but they don't think about it this way, and then they don't realise how damaging this is. And especially, so I don't want to sugarcoat it. Innovation, in a large company, is a very painful process, it is very punishing on people, it's very rarely rewarding, and people that do deal with innovation in companies, they don't do it to get tapped on the back, they do it because they derive pleasure from it, they derive joy from it. But that does not mean that they shouldn't be rewarded, but those people that are like that, they're rare. So usually, you know, I see that happen again, and again, a company decides ‘we want to be innovative’. Everybody, you know, there's a training for everybody in the company, and we will have like, big company meeting from today on, you must be innovative, and, you know, it's forced down the throat. And suddenly, people, you must work on this project, it's very difficult. It's difficult to force people to go through such pain for nothing. Ula Ojiaku: Like you said, innovation is not something you force down people's throats, it has to align with their intrinsic motivation, I believe it was Daniel Pink that wrote the book Drive about what motivates people. And, at the very least, they have to know what's in it for them, which goes back to, you know, your earlier statement about, you're dealing with human beings, you need to understand the psychology, how do you get people's buy in? How do you make sure that they want to do it, even if you're not there watching them? Yeah. Right. So, you've shared one of the don'ts, which is don't invest in orphans, do you want to share maybe one or two more of those ‘don'ts’ in corporate innovation? Bruno Pešec: So, the last one, don't make how much time, effort and money you have spent so far, guide your decision. That is also a very common one, it happens to all of us in private life, in business life, I'm sure you experienced this, well, you know, when you're sitting there, the project isn't going as it should be going. And then somebody says, well, we've been going at this for two years, we spent, you know, so much money, we hired people for this, you know, let's keep on doing it, and if that is your only reason to keep on doing it, I'm sorry, this probably doesn't have a very bright future. And the same goes for innovation projects and companies, you know, after some time, you should just cut the losses. It's kind of if you've spent two years and there is no traction in the market, it's just not attracting attention. It's better, you know, to stop leaking more funds, and even worse than that is people’s time, like, as far as we know, time goes in only one direction, we can make money again. But to me, especially in large companies, what every leader has is additional responsibility for the time of their employees. The most disrespectful thing you can do is waste somebody's time. It happens, unfortunately, often because people don't understand that it's happening. But when you walk into a room, and you tell someone that they've spent two years on something that's at a dead end, what you did, you threw away two years of their life, they could have been doing something else. Ula Ojiaku: True, true. And there's nothing more demoralising than you know, you're going on a road that’s a dead end, and everybody knows it, but nobody wants to say, you know, “are we actually headed in the right direction?” And there's a phrase, I mean, this is in in the scaled agile framework, which is one of the, you know, popular scaling agile frameworks. One of the principles there is to ignore sunk costs. And you know, that's basically, you don't base decisions for the future based on how much time, money, effort, resources, that you've put into it. You have to evaluate it based on the results you're getting - are you getting the outcomes? I mean, if you had if you had made a hypothesis, has the hypothesis been validated or not, if it's not been validated, and you're getting, your indications are contrary to what you expected, it’s either you pivot or you kill it. You don't just go on for sentimental reasons. So, no, great one. Yeah. Do you want to add anything else about your e-book? Is there anything else you'd like to share with the audience? Bruno Pešec: Well, we could probably go for several hours discussing everything in it. But what I can just say is that, besides just discussing these different don'ts, I also offer specific countermeasures. So, that is something for example, for the sunk cost I completely agree with what you shared. Unfortunately, the side effect is, if you run into someone that doesn't want to see exactly how you describe it, so like, no, no, no, no, that experiment wasn't done correctly, or I wasn't involved in that hypothesis, then one easy countermeasure is to immediately agree on the spot, okay, I see, I understand that you're very involved in that you, you know, your ego is in this. So, let's make an agreement right here, right now. What is it? What terms are we giving to this? What terms are we giving to this to continue? So, we, for example, this is a real one, but I'm removing the details, because of confidentiality. With one executive, he had exactly that problem. He was working on something for three years and he was afraid that if he would stop this, that his career would suffer as well. So, we sat down with his management team, and we said, okay, we are not now ready to immediately kill it, even though we have spent so much, but we're going to give it exactly three more months, and A, B and C, if that happens, it continues. As clear as that, signed by everybody, not for legal reasons, but for psychological reasons. You know, I put my name on this, I commit to these terms. Three months later, they kill it, we didn't even discuss it for five minutes. It was, you know, this is what we said, it didn't happen. Bam! I was shocked, I was shocked how easy that went. So that is, you know, an easy one, because people need to own that, I cannot tell people go and kill it, they must see like, oh, we really should stop this. Ula Ojiaku: Exactly. And there's something about a public commitment as well, it kind of, you know, makes it easier for all parties involved. You know, there is a rational reason for killing it and a rational reason for stopping an initiative, if that makes sense. Now, I'm going to ask you a question as a, you know, you teach innovation and entrepreneurship. Have you ever been in a situation where you've been asked to coach, you know, maybe a team or a particular area, so you have like the leadership buy in, and you've been asked to coach the team, but the team are kind of a bit closed to getting input from you? If so, what have you, you know, could you share with the audience what you've done to win them over or, and get them to actually get to a point where they are seeking and actively drawing your input into what they're doing? Bruno Pešec: So, I had that happen both at the management level and at the team level. So, in one case, I walked in with a team, and the guy immediately told me as I walked through the door, Bruno, this is bull****, I'm here, just because I was commanded to be here. You know, you have three minutes. And I just completely ignored him, I just looked at him, I was like, okay, so, and started the discussion. Why are we here? What do we want to get? In my case, I usually try to avoid confrontation in that sense, because people are, they have the right to be frustrated. Like, if they have really been commanded and just said, "You be here”. You know, it's kind of, I might recognise that and say, okay, I understand that, I'm not here to do innovation theatre, so I don't, how could I say, I don't really do training. When I'm brought in, I do very specific things. So, in this case, I'm really relying a lot on my background as engineer because they can see that I'm one of them in most of the cases, so I'm not like a manager or a sales guy or something like that, I'm very curious. I'm curious about their work, and this is where we start. We start talking about their specific product or service. Understanding that, and I just let them talk, and that's the easiest one, it's kind of, I'm not there to be smarter than them, I'm there because I'm good at the part of the process, and together, we're going to figure out what needs to be achieved, and sometimes they have very strong feelings. I know exactly what needs to be done, but no one in management is listening to me, and then I go, okay, I'm here, I'm listening to you, now share. And we just start from there. And people usually do have, and it is a great starting point, they will say, you know, this product sucks, because of A, B, and C, what needs to happen is X, Y, and Z. And then I start probing, it’s like, okay, the things that you said that it sucks, why is that so? Okay, and you say that this will be a solution, why do you think so? And I ask them, we start to have a whiteboard, we start mapping it, if we don't know, we have this conversation, we start going to very specific things. Because what I strongly believe in is go harsh on problems, go harsh on issues, but be gentle with people. So, if you and I, you know, I will always have my utmost respect for Ula, but when we have a problem in front of us, when I go harsh, I'm not going to harsh on Ula, I’m going harsh on the problem. Ula Ojiaku: Don’t take it personally. Bruno Pešec: Exactly. I want to rip the problem apart. That's our job as innovators, you have an idea, it's not about kissing that idea on the cheek, it's about breaking it seeing you know, what, if we do this, is it going to hold? What if we do this is it going to hold? What if we do that, is it still going to hold? If not, well maybe this is worth doing, it has nothing to do with you as a person. You and I, we are in a partnership about solving that problem, that issue, and for me, it works because it's genuine and people can feel that. So, I'm, you know, I'm being authentic, I'm being myself. And that is why I also say when people ask me, okay, Bruno, how can I coach like you? How can I, you know, repeat the same thing? I tell them, don't try to copy, you know, I am me, you are you, play to your strength. If you're a quiet person, if you're a gentle person, play to that, you know, be like water, be like river, wear them out, you know, wear them out with kindness, always go back to what you're discussing, be yourself. It's so tiring trying to be somebody else, it's so tiring trying to copy somebody else. It won't always work, but you will know that you were yourself, you did the best you could what’s then there left to regret, even if it goes bad. Ula Ojiaku: True, true. I'm beginning to get suspicious that you've been eavesdropping on me, because I recently this week, gave a talk on being yourself and being that perfectly, so it's almost like, hmm, did Bruno eavesdrop on my speech? But hey, well said, well said. Now, let's just round up with a few more questions. This has been a fantastic conversation, I definitely have enjoyed speaking with you. Are there any books that you'd say you've drawn inspiration over the course of your career? You know, if so, what books are these? If you can share? Bruno Pešec:  Since the topics we have discussed today, were about innovation and a little bit of thinking better, I'll share three specific books. So, one for innovation. That is The Corporate Startup by Dan Toma, Esther Gons and Tendayi Viki, it is a great book, it's currently I would say one of the best books on both Innovation Practice and Innovation Management. So, I would definitely recommend it to everybody. It's a bit thick, but you know, you get actually two books in one. And another one, because to me, both Lean Agile Innovation, you know, they're all means to an end. If they become an end in itself, then that's when they become dogmatic. And what ties them all together is, you know, strategy. And the book I would heartily recommend, it's a, I would say, it's a bit underappreciated, is Game Changing Strategies from Constantinos Markides. It's a great book, so, he's a professor from London Business School, I think, or London School of Economics, I don't know, I keep mixing them. And he writes very well for an academic, you know, it's easy to consume a lot of examples. He makes business model innovation come to life. It's not just some theory, but it's specific examples, and for me, it's great because it shows you how to adapt. It doesn't have a lot of modules or anything, so it's more like looking at it and seeing okay, this worked, this didn't work, what's my case? And the third one, to better thinking. So, one great thing I read was that employees can make a bad CEO look great, so, employees can make anything work, bad decisions, bad management policies, you know, if they want to, they will make it work. At the same time, employees can also make the best strategies and policies go to nothing if they want to sabotage them. So, the last book is more on, I would say, for managers and leaders, and it's The Halo Effect from Phil Rosenzweig. What he talks about is exactly like what I mentioned with the survivor bias, but he talks about different views. Let's say that the gist of his book is by focusing on, you know, those perfect leaders with their halo, you become blinded, and leaders themselves become blinded, because they get confused, because they think that it is their ingenuity that created the result and not the employees and their skill. And you know, was Steve Jobs, the one who created everything? Ula Ojiaku: No Bruno Pešec: No, he definitely had some things that were good, he had some things that are horrible, but he had great people around him, they didn't come out of nowhere. Obviously, you could say the same for Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, or all the people that we consider, look at that that person, the halo around them. The risk for every leader and manager is to get deluded by their own success. And it's a lovely short book that will show you all these biases and delusions that can happen. I'll stop here. I think three books are enough. Ula Ojiaku:  I’ve had The Corporate Startup on my reading list, but the other ones, Game Changing Strategy, The Halo Effect definitely have gone onto my reading list now, which is already like this long. So, thanks for sharing those. Now, how can the audience reach you? How can the audience reach you, Bruno, are you online on social media? Bruno Pešec: So, I write a lot about innovation, strategy, experimentation, entrepreneurship, as well. You can find all of that on my website, It will be in your show note, as well, so you can find it there. I publish a lot of free resources, templates, sessions like this, webinars, writings, an E-book, etc. So, you can find everything there. I invite everybody who would like to connect on LinkedIn as well, but if you do then then please just drop in “Ula sends me.” Ula Ojiaku:  Well, more like “I listened to your episode on the podcast, and I'm reaching out.” Bruno Pešec: Right? They can make it as detailed as they wish. So, keeping it simple, that is where I share everything, and it's open and free. And I'm happy to share. You know, if you heard something in this conversation, please reach out to Ula or reach out to me if you would like any questions or any specific materials or whatever. Ula Ojiaku: Sounds great Bruno, thanks for that. Now, any final words for the audience before we wrap this up? Bruno Pešec:  Well, before the audience, for you, thank you very much. This has been a great conversation, very engaging. So thank you for creating this atmosphere and making this a very easy conversation. I believe, I mean, I enjoyed it so much, I would be surprised if the listeners don't take a little bit of our energy and conversationA and to the listeners, I just have one thing. So, you heard today a lot of stuff. There's a lot of great stuff to hear from Ula’s other episodes, but the most important thing is start immediately, today, don't wait for the perfect moment. Take just one thing from today, and immediately discuss it tomorrow with the team or yourself, just one thing, it doesn't matter what, just immediately try it out. One step at a time. And, you know, a year from now we will look back and see what an amazing year you had. Don't wait for the perfect moment. Just start. Ula Ojiaku:  Fantastic. Well, that's very inspirational, I'm motivated to just go and conquer the world right now. Bruno it's been a pleasure speaking with you and I hope you would want to come back another time for us to have another conversation on this show. So, thank you so much Bruno. Bruno Pešec: Thank you, Ula, would be lovely. Ula Ojiaku: Great! Outro: That's all we have for now. Thanks for listening. If you liked this show, do subscribe at or your favourite podcast provider. Also share with friends and do leave a review on iTunes. This would help others find this show.  I’d also love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at Take care and God bless.  
39:43 4/23/22
(S2)E018: Aino Corry on Retrospectives Antipatterns
Full video interview available here:  Guest Bio: Aino Vonge Corry (born 1971 in Aarhus, Denmark) is an independent consultant, who sometimes works as an agile coach. After gaining her Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2001 she spent the next 10 years failing to choose between being a researcher/teacher in academia, and being a teacher/facilitator in industry. She eventually squared the circle by starting her own company, Metadeveloper, which develops developers by teaching CS, teaching how to teach CS, inviting speakers to IT conferences, and facilitating software development in various ways. She has facilitated retrospectives and other meetings for the past 15 years during which time she has made all the mistakes possible in that field. Aino has lived in Stockholm, Lund, and Cambridge, but she is now back in Aarhus, Denmark, where she lives with her family, and a growing collection of plush cephalopods.   Social Media/ Website LinkedIn Twitter: @apaipi Website:   Books/ Resources Retrospectives Antipatterns by Aino Corry Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins Agile Retrospectives by Diana Larsen, Esther Derby Retrospectives for Organisational Change by Echstein Fearless Change Patterns by Linda Rysen Prime Directive by Norm Kirk   Full Interview Transcript Ula Ojiaku: Many thanks Aino for making the time for this conversation and for being my guest on the Agile Innovation Leaders podcast. Aino Corry:  And thank you for inviting me, Ula. It was great to have you in the course, you had a lot of good questions. And that's how we met. And I've been looking very much forward to this day. Ula Ojiaku: So could you tell us a bit about yourself, you know, who is Aino Corry? Aino Corry: Yeah, so Aino Corry is 50 years old, she lives in Denmark, she's got three children. And she, she's always wanted to teach. Actually when I was in primary and secondary school, I wasn't so happy with mathematics teaching, so I decided after school, I wanted to be a mathematics teacher in secondary school. Actually, I thought about it and I thought I didn’t really like school. So maybe I should be a teacher in high school instead. And so I decided to try to go to university to study mathematics to become a high school teacher. But then I had to do some programming in the mathematics course. And I really, really fell in love with that. So I changed subject to computer science. And then I did my Master's degree with a focus on design patterns, which was very new at the time. And when I finished, I wanted to continue working with design patterns. And that's why I applied for a Ph.D. I applied for a Ph.D., actually, just to prolong my university studies to make more of the fun thing that I've done. And then when I finished, I thought, I wanted to be a researcher and a teacher and I had a job at the university as an assistant professor. Aino Corry: And then I decided that I wanted to go out in industry instead, because I, I had a child already, and I wanted to have another child. And I really, I was dead poor, so I wanted to earn a lot of money, so I went down industry to get some money. And that worked, I got some money. And after a few years there, I went back to university to do some research and some teaching, because they had a research project, which was interesting. It was when Bluetooth was quite young and was about programming pervasive computing devices, what you would call IoT today, yes. And then I was there for a few years, and then went back to the industry, and was there for a few years. And then I went back to university. And then I did my research in how to teach computer science and how people learn. So that was also interesting. But then I wanted to stop again because then I was full-time at university and I also did some consulting in the IT industry. So I thought I would go back to the industry. Aino Corry: And then I thought, Naah, I want to do something else. I want to be my own boss, I don't want to work that much anymore. I had three children at the time. So I decided to be an independent IT consultant, thinking that then I would work less, that was a huge mistake. I, I like having my own company, but I wouldn't say that I work less because if you have a job and you have a boss, you can tell your boss ‘Oh, it's too much. I don't want to do that much. And please take some of the tasks away from me.’ But when you're your own boss, and you're a time optimist, like I can be, you think ‘I can do that. And I can do that.’ And especially now with COVID, it's even worse because at least prior to this, I had to calculate time in to get from one meeting to another, you know, from one client to another from one country to another. But now I can actually I can work with clients in four different countries in a day. And I've actually, one week I spoke at six different conferences in one week. So normally I would only be at one conference. So it's actually made me a little bit confused and looking very much forward to actually spending time on trains and planes and cars again, Ula Ojiaku: To have the downtime… Aino Corry:  Yes, I thought I’d never miss that, but I do, so I guess I guess that's my career. Ula Ojiaku:  Great. Now, just a little bit more about your research you did on teaching, on how to teach computer science. Now I would expect there would be an intersection of you know, disciplines; it wouldn't just be computer science itself. Was there an element of maybe psychology (of), you know, how people learn and all that? Aino Corry: Yeah, it was a lot of that it was about, well, the psychological aspects of how people react to different, being in different situations, and being spoken to in different ways. And there was something that I don't think maybe you call it neurology but thinking about how to model the brain in order to make it remember what you're saying. And just something like what does it actually mean to learn something? And in Danish, the word for teaching and learning is the same word, but in English teaching and learning are two different words. And that's actually a subtle difference, which is a big difference, which makes it maybe even harder for me as a Dane to start thinking about this because you think about it as the same process. Aino Corry: But it's two very different processes. And one of the biggest things that I learned when I started doing research and teaching, and that was after having taught for 16 years or something like that, the thing that I learned was that I was so immensely focused on how to condense this book into presentations and assignments so that the students could listen to me and do the assignments. I didn't think enough about the relation between the student and the material. So I was thinking more about the relation between me and the material, and me and the student. So the really important thing is that, when you have any sort of conversation with people, it's a student, or it's a presentation that you're doing, what you want to do is that you want to change their brains really, right. But you can't see the change in the brains. So you need to figure out how can I, how can I assess that they've changed the brain? So, the first thing you have to do is think about what is it actually that you want them to be able to do differently? Do you want them to say something else? Do you want them to be able to program, to design, to facilitate, what is it that you want them to do? Because then you can set up? What is the assessment? How do you assess what they can do? Do they actually have to look at the design at an oral exam? Do they have to process some words in a written exam? What is it that you want them to do? And then when you know what you want them to do to assess it, then you can figure out what is it that you want them to do while training do you want them to do the same when you're training them, that they have to do in the assessment. Aino Corry: So that the exam is actually what they have been doing for the past hour, month, year, instead of examining something completely different than what they have been doing. And then when you know all that, then you start thinking about okay, so what material do I need for them to read? And that's, that's actually the last thing. And prior to this, I would take a book and I would think, this is the thing that I want to put in their brains. And then at the exam, I would ask them, do you understand that? Can you explain that, but maybe they never explained it during the course, maybe they just did exercises or something like that. So that was one of the most surprising things is I guess, maybe it's neurology, maybe it’s psychology, it's definitely different. It's lending, from different fields. And, and you can say that the computer science part of it is actually the least part. But the interesting part about computer science and teaching computer science or natural sciences is that it's mostly not so much about discussing things. It's more about being able to understand things and relate things and apply things. Now, I guess well, you can say that all issues, all subjects are like that. But with the natural sciences, it's much more about understanding the world, changing the world. So yeah, I think it's very interesting, but also trying to explain difficult subjects to people. How do you actually do that? Ula Ojiaku: So you've already mentioned that you, you know, started your business because you wanted to be an independent, and then you realized, oh, well, there are other things because as a business owner, you probably would do all the other admin tasks that someone else would have in person. Yeah. Now, am I right? In the understanding, you still run, you know, your business, which is the meta developer, right? Do you have employees right now? Aino Corry: No, I don’t, and I don't want to. And I've had a lot of people asking me over the years if I want to employ somebody and I, I did try once for just a small gig that I needed a helping hand and I employed that person and that person was not a problem, but all the extra paperwork, with taxes and insurances, and what do I know. So if I'm working with people, now they have their own company, and then they can send me an invoice and then I can pay them like that because I really want to be independent and five, no six years ago, my family and I, we moved to Cambridge in the UK for a year. And it was so easy for me, I could just do it because even though I had to really work a lot less because I didn't have my network in England and I had three kids who had to move to a different country so I had to focus on them. I could just do it, I could just work less and not make any money or almost no money. Because I didn't, I wasn't responsible to anybody, I was only responsible to myself. That gives me the freedom that I want to have. And during COVID I lost everything in my book. My calendar just was empty. Wow. And I didn't know how to continue with the company. But I only had to worry about myself. I didn't have to worry about anybody that I employed. So that was nice. Ula Ojiaku: Yes, I completely agree. I mean, it would be a lot of responsibility, having other people's livelihood as well as yours to think about that. Yeah,  Aino Corry: Especially. I mean, this is such a fluid thing. It's difficult to promise anything. Ula Ojiaku: Now, but hopefully, with the, you know, lockdown restrictions on I mean, unfortunately, we're still not out, you know of the red and unfortunately, many lives have been lost, and many people have been affected but it seems like there is light at the end of the tunnel with the (covid) vaccination (roll-out) and all that. So would you say your calendar is filling up again? Aino Corry: Yes, it actually became overfilled, yeah during COVID. Because my book came out. So I had hoped that when my book came out, I would travel everywhere in the world and sign my books. Unfortunately, that couldn't happen because of COVID. But that's the least of the things that could happen to people during COVID. I've been very lucky. But my book came up... Ula Ojiaku: Retrospectives Antipatterns… Aino Corry: Yes. and, and that meant that there were a lot of people who wanted to talk to me about retrospectives, which was why I wrote the book. So that was great. So I don't know if it had filled up as easily without the book, but it definitely helped, I think. But I'm looking so much forward to getting out and speaking at conferences again. I taught at the university yesterday, and I will again tomorrow. And that was in real life. It was so nice, people were laughing and we were clapping. And we were like doing icebreaker exercises where we were standing up and moving towards each other. And it was really nice. Ula Ojiaku: Yeah, I mean, nothing can ever replace that, you know, face-to-face in-person interaction. Whilst we're grateful for technology, you know, for bridging the gap, you know, but once in a while, it's definitely important. Yeah. Great. Now, so since you've shown us your book, Retrospectives Antipatterns. And you've talked about it briefly, why don't we delve into that a bit. And for the audience who are listening either (via) audio or video only, there will be the links to the, you know, to the book, and other resources that we touch on in the show notes. So what you said people were, you know, asking you lots of questions about retrospectives, and asking for advice, which was one of the motivations for writing the book. Could you tell us the story behind that? Aino Corry: I love to tell the story behind the book. Thank you for asking, Ula. So I started facilitating Retrospectives because Linda Rising gave me a book by Norman Kerth called Project Retrospectives. And then I started facilitating them. And then Diana Larsen and Esther Derby wrote a book about Agile Retrospectives - Making Good Teams Great, which condensed all the retrospective activities into smaller bite-sized ones that you can use after each sprint. And I facilitated retrospectives at in the time I worked for a company called Trifle, inside Trifle with the customers. When I went back to university, I facilitated retrospectives there. And I just really, really liked it. I even facilitated retrospectives with my family and myself, and everybody basically who couldn't get away. And I, I got a lot of experience. And then once I was at a conference that I’d been part of organizing the conference and inviting speakers and what I do at these conferences is that if a speaker gets sick, or can't be there, then I fill in with a presentation. So they came to me and asked me is ‘Could you fill in with a presentation? Just 20 minutes?’ ‘Okay, I said, When do you want it?’ And they said ‘In 20 minutes, and we would want it to be a new talk, could you do that?’ I was like, how can I? How can I prepare a new talk in 20 minutes for a 20-minute talk? And then I thought the only thing that I really, really know about that I can talk about for lengths, are all the mistakes that I'm continuously making when facilitating retrospectives So I thought this is definitely something I can talk about. So I just, I just, I think I drew some pictures, or I found some pictures online. And then I just spoke out from those I, I spoke about three different things that I called Antipatterns for Retrospectives, things that often go wrong for me and how to solve it. So not just explaining the problems, but also how to get out of the problem situation. And they really liked it. And then I started giving that talk. And I extended it to 45 minutes to an hour, I extended it to a day. And people kept asking me, ‘Where can we read more about this?’ And I said you can't really because it's, it's in my head. And then somebody said ‘Maybe we you should write a book.’ And so I thought I'm not going to write a book, I already did my Ph.D. dissertation, and I'm not doing that again. Not the best part of it for me. But then I started just writing, you know, first, it was just a few Word documents that I shared with people in my retrospective network. And they gave me feedback on that. And then I started a Leanpub book. And it turned out people wanted to buy the Leanpub book. So I thought, well, maybe I should add some more chapters. And then I thought it would be interesting to see if there's any publishers who would like to publish it. Aino Corry: And luckily, I have a very good network in IT, so I asked a lot of people who are already authors and, and Martin Fowler introduced me to somebody from Pearson, Greg Dench, and he, he read my book, the PDF that I sent from Leanpub, and he said that they thought they'd like to publish it. And there was a lot of back and forth and back and forth. And could you change the title? Because Antipatterns sounds so depressing and negative? And I said, but it is an Antipatterns, so I cannot. And then those things about I want this octopus, this big octopus? Ula Ojiaku: Yes, yes. Aino Corry: Well, it looks a little bit like a children's book, are you sure you want it to look like a children's book and I said actually, I'm, I'm really like a child myself. So I want it to be me. And then I said, and it has to be printed in color. Because I want all these Antipatterns to have not just a name, but also a picture. Because with Antipatterns, what you do is that you create an awareness, so I described, this is the context you're in, this is what normally happens, but that's the Antipattern solution. That's actually another good solution that gives you these drawbacks. But then you have the refactored solution, which gives you these benefits. And I want the patterns as well as Antipatterns, it sort of enables you to have a discussion and a higher level of extraction. So you can say, for instance, with patterns, you can say, then I use the observed or I implemented composite, and then you don't have to explain all the nitty gritty details. And it's the same with these Antipatterns. So instead of saying, ‘Well, we tried to vote, but then some people held up their vote, and I allowed them to do so. But maybe I could have done it differently’, you can just say, well, then I ended in political votes. And there's also the name and then the picture because for some people, the name is easy to remember, but for other people, the picture. Ula Ojiaku: The pictures, yes. Aino Corry: I definitely am very visual. So I, I really remember pictures like that. And graphs, it really helps me understand I love UML, and when I work with architecture, it's very important for me to be able to draw these things. So that's how the book came about. And there were other publishers who didn't want it because they thought it was not technical enough or they didn't like the Antipatterns in the title or they thought it was too negative, but Pearson wanted it, so that's great. I'm very grateful for that. Ula Ojiaku: That's fantastic. Again, we'll have the link to the book in the show notes. And I mean, so I do identify with, you know, the things you said or where you kind of held your ground and in terms of how the book was meant to look for pictures. And if it's playful, it's easier to absorb. There is the saying in English, you know, a picture is worth more than a thousand words. Definitely. And in that way, you're kind of trying to cater for different people with different learning styles, because there are some of us who can read you know, but pictures kind of makes it, breaks it up and kind of, you know, conveys the message even more effectively in some instances. On that note though, are you, do you already have an audio version of it? Or do you think it would bode well as an audio version? Aino Corry: Yeah, that's a bit embarrassing, Ula, because I have narrated, I think five of the chapters. But then I stopped, but I will narrate it. I am doing it and it will happen, hopefully, yeah, but it turns out it's much more difficult to make an audiobook than you think I want to narrate it myself. I agree. Have you tried it? Ula Ojiaku: Well, no, just with, you know, starting the podcast and you know, kind of speaking, there is a whole lot to it. So I can imagine trying to bring a book to life, you know, kind of enunciating, and there'll be some places you need to emphasize. That's why I've never done it yet. But I can imagine. Aino Corry: Yeah, well, I could have hired an actor to do it, but I wanted it to be me, because it's my experience. It's, it's my voice that should be in this book. And then so I'm Danish and English is my second language. I normally think, Okay, I'm pretty good at English, I can speak fluent English, people understand what I'm saying I can express myself and the book is written in English. But then when you start recording it, and you’ll listen to it afterwards, you make so many mistakes, or at least I do. So I have to repeat that again. So it just takes a lot longer than I thought, but it will be there, it's my plan. Ula Ojiaku: We'll be looking out for it, definitely, yeah. Okay, so, in your view, what are Retrospectives, and why are they important? Aino Corry: Well Retrospectives is a way for a team to set time aside to reflect on where they are, inspect, you'd say, and learn from, that, appreciate what happened, and see how can we improve going forward, the way that we communicate, the way that we work, the way that we program or design, or whatever we do. It's simply taking time aside to appreciate and inspect and then adapt to the situation. In a sense, it's the core of Agile, right, inspecting and adapting. And for a team to have regular Retrospectives, I think it's so important. Sometimes they'll think we don't have anything to talk about, we don't have any problems. But there's always something that can be improved, even if it's a small thing. And having those regular Retrospectives helps you remember, to continue to improve in all different aspects, but also, I think Retrospectives is a way to gain trust between team members, it's not the only thing you need to gain trust, but that sharing thing that showing, “Okay, that didn't go very well”, or “I need to learn this”, or “I got stuck with this”. But also, “I was really happy about this”, ”this made me so energetic, and really optimistic about these things”. It helps people understand each other as human beings and as sort of parts of the machinery or parts of the system, that's the team or even the organization. So I think it's important in all aspects. And for everybody. Ula Ojiaku: It’s interesting, your definition of what a retrospective is, and I'd never really thought about it as a way for team members to, you know, build trust with themselves, so thanks for mentioning it, that really stood out for me, do you have any examples in your experience where, you know, this happened where there was maybe little or no trust and, you know, subsequently through the Retrospectives the team, started having more trust towards themselves? Aino Corry: I would like to say yes, but I have to say that when I realized in the retrospective that there's not enough trust, it is something that you have to work with also between the Retrospectives in a sense if there is not enough trust to share anything, then, then the retrospective will not be trust-building in itself, but it can help you reveal that there is not enough trust, and then you can start working with it, and to me trust is sort of the equation between relationships and that you can rely on people that you rely on people and you have a relationship. So if you have a relationship, if you know a little bit about each other as human beings, it makes it easy for you to trust people. And also if you can rely on other people, for instance, if they say, ‘Oh, I'll do this’, then they'll do it. Or they'll say they can't do it, that's part of the trust as well. And if you understand, if you learn at the retrospective that there isn't enough trust, the retrospective can become a waste of time. Aino Corry: Because if they don't want to share the things that are really difficult, then you will just talk about the meal in the canteen, or whether we should have a meeting that's two hours long, or one hour long, or something like that, which is not really changing anything. It's usually things about how to give feedback or whether the code reviews can be done in this way or the other and whether we need to learn something more. So, but you can definitely be aware that there's trust issues that you can work on outside the retrospective, but then I think another important thing is that if they have already sufficient trust to be able to share things, then I've heard from a lot of people that it can, it can feel almost like team therapy to have a retrospective because they don't have to think about it, they can sort of relax and let the facilitator carry the conversation forward sometimes. And then if it can help them say, now, we talk about this, Now perhaps we've talked enough about this, now we should talk about this or could you see this from the other side, which is something that I sometimes do as well. So it can be a little bit conflict handling as well to be a facilitator to say what did you hear him say right now? Or can you imagine what his day was like yesterday or something like that? So it can be therapeutic if you want to, but that depends on the facilitator. You can also have a retrospective facilitator, which is perfectly fine, but only wants to talk about how we can improve the way that we actually design things, the architecture we make, the meetings we have, it can still be helpful, doesn't have to be therapy, but it can. Ula Ojiaku: Yeah. In running the retrospectives I would assume, I would imagine, there would be some sort of advanced preparation from a facilitative perspective. Now, would you when you get asked to do this by you know, other organizations and teams? Do you normally have a point person and you'd get the brief in terms of what they're trying to achieve from the point person, and that would set the agenda? So have you always found yourself sticking to the agenda? Or have you ever had to kind of flex depending on what you sense the team needs? Aino Corry: Yeah, I've definitely had to change my agenda. So if I get invited to facilitate a retrospective, I talk to the one who sponsors me to ask them why, why have you reached out? Do you already have Retrospectives? If you have Retrospectives, why do you need an external facilitator? What normally works for you in retrospective? What doesn't work? Is there any conflict? I should know about it? Is there anybody who's really quiet? Anybody who's really a loudmouth? Is there anything that can help me plan this retrospective in the right way? Then sometimes they say, oh, we'd really, really like this retrospective to focus on how they can learn as a team, or we'd really like this to focus on their communication with other teams. And then in some, sometimes I'll say, okay, so, so we'll say that's the theme for the retrospective. And then I'll let people know that that's a theme for the retrospective. But other times, if it's a new group, then I'll probably encourage that sponsor to allow me to make some, just a generic retrospective. So for a new group who has to work together, maybe he or she will allow me to create a futurespective for them, which is the kind of retrospective where you imagine that you’re in the future, looking back at what happened. And then they say, okay, then we, then somebody got fired, or this didn’t work, or the users hated it. Aino Corry: And the way that I have this futurespective, with the new team is that then I get to understand and they get to understand about each other. What do they hope and what do they feel will happen in this project, and then we can have action points, which will allow them to get the things that they hope and avoid the things that they fear. So sometimes I'll let the sponsor know, well, actually, we should do it a little bit different way. And sometimes I'll say, that's fine, we'll focus on that. But it is often so that you need to have an extra agenda when you prepare for a retrospective, at least a little bit. Because sometimes you suddenly end up in a situation where you have somebody who's speaking all the time or somebody who's really quiet. And then all the plenary discussions that you decided on, you can't have those because plenary discussions are not very nice if you have like a big difference in how much people wants to speak. And then you have to divide them into smaller groups, or you have to change it in writing. Or you have to make round robins where everybody takes turns in saying something, so just as an example. But it could also be that you notice that all the things that they're talking about are problematic, turns out to be things that we think are sort of out of their hands, not really something they can do anything about. And then if you spend all the time discussing things that you can't change, then it's just like a session where you're just complaining about everything. And in those cases, I sometimes get out the soup exercise that I learned from Diana Larsen where you make the three circles, things the team can do, things the team can influence, and then you have the soup outside. And then I say well out of all these problems that you're complaining about, how many of these are things you can do something about, how many of these things you can influence, how many of these things are in the soup, and for the things in the soup, you might just have to accept that this is the world we live in, like Corona right now. Yeah, It’s what it is. Ula Ojiaku: Amazing. So, so what would you say would be, from what you've observed, I'm sure you've had a spectrum of or a continuum of teams from what you'd consider high performing to maybe people… I mean, a team that’s still up and coming. What would be your view of the characteristics of a high-performing team? Aino Corry: Yeah, that's a good question. In my experience, it's not so much the individual's skill set that makes a high-performing team, an individual with the highest skill set can do a lot on its own. But if we talk about a high-performing team, it's about a team that can communicate, it's about a team where you feel there’s psychological safety to say when you're stuck, or when you need help. Because if you're only working on what you want, first and foremost, and only helping other people, if you really have to, then it's not really high performing, and things will clot up and it'll be slow. One of the symptoms that I see in teams that are high-performing is that they're laughing together. So I evaluate sometimes teams based on how much they laugh, and not how much they laugh over each other, but how much they laugh together. And how, yeah, I think, I think it's a good litmus test. Because if they laugh together, then it makes them happier for each other, because the laughter starts, you know, all the happiness hormones in your brain and sensing around your body. So if you laugh together with somebody, you like them a bit more. And if you like them a bit more, you might trust them a bit more. And if you trust them a bit more, you might reach out and ask for help. Or you might offer help, when you see that somebody needs it. And if you are in an environment where you will you think that you can work freely, and you can speak freely, and you feel nice, then you're much more efficient together with other people. So that's what I see in high-performing teams. Ula Ojiaku: I mean, everything you've said because I was going to ask you to define for the benefit of the audience who might not be familiar with the term what psychological safety is? So would you say, you know, it's pretty much what you've broken down, you know, how much they laugh together, how safe they feel in asking for help, and, you know, yeah, being able to work together. Aino Corry: Yeah, I think that Gitte Klitgaard has, has taught me one of the most important things about psychological safety. And that is that it's actually not about being comfortable all the time, but it's about feeling comfortable about being uncomfortable. So even if you're saying something, which doesn't feel nice, you should still feel comfortable about it. And I think that's an interesting difference. So it's not just about making everybody feel good all the time and not having problems and only laughing and talking about positive things. That's not psychological safety. It's being okay to say I have a down day, or it's being okay to say that I don't understand what you're saying, or I feel negative, or I'm worried about this, or I don't think that this was done well enough, we could do it differently, that to me is psychological safety. Ula Ojiaku: Would you say that psychological safety, you know, having an environment that encourages the sense of psychological safety, is that only up to the team to foster? (If not) So who else would be involved, in your view? Aino Corry: I think that there's a culture in an organization and there can definitely be a culture of organizational safety and there can be a culture of non-psychological safety. And if, if the management is also showing that they're comfortable with saying uncomfortable things, I think that helps. If they're comfortable with saying, ‘Oh, we didn't do very well about that, or I made a mistake, or, if they're okay with telling people to do things differently, instead of making it really awkward or being very angry about it. That's, that's brilliant. And I remember one of the great managers, I had once that I made a huge mistake, that was really embarrassing. And when I noticed it, I felt so bad. I was beating myself up about it, but I had to tell my manager, and I had to come forward and say I messed up completely. And the way that he reacted was just wonderful. He said, ‘Well, we'll have to look into that. We'll have to figure out how we can change the process so that that doesn't happen again.’ Because of course, I mean, I probably could have avoided that mistake if I thought about things in a different way. But what he said was that we should have a process where you know, that you should do this at this point in time, that should help you, support you. And I thought that was one of the things that created psychological safety for me because now I felt much safer about saying that I had a problem or made something wrong. Ula Ojiaku: In facilitating retrospectives, because you mentioned earlier that if there was anything you could talk about at length, you know, without needing preparation, it would be about the mistakes you've made in facilitating retrospectives. And hence, maybe they could also be some of you know, lead to some of the Antipatterns, could you share some of these Retrospective Antipatterns that you've observed? Aino Corry: So one of the Retrospective Antipatterns that I see most often or that I ran into most often myself is the one that I called Prime Directive Ignorance. So the Prime Directive is what Norman Kerth wrote about retrospectives. There was a longer text that states ‘everybody did the best they could at all times, and remember that before you enter a retrospective’, but the problem is that, at least in some of the organizations that I've worked in with some of the people that have worked, they thought it was a bit ridiculous to expect that everybody did the best they could all the time. And to really believe that they couldn't have done any better, because they knew that somebody was slacking. They knew that somebody was being lazy. They also knew that they themselves didn't do the best they could. Aino Corry: So how could they really, genuinely believe that? So sometimes I've had retrospectives where I didn't, I didn't state that, I didn't say it out loud, I didn't state in an email or the invitation, I didn't say remember, this retrospective is not about finding a scapegoat or naming and blaming, it's about figuring out how we as a system of people can move on better together. And then I've had some awful retrospectives where some people had been made scapegoats, and they got really sad, and some of them left the retrospectives because they didn't feel safe. And then, and I think some of them may never have entered a retrospective again because it really ruined it for them because in their head now, the retrospective is a free for all, just sending arrows towards somebody, some poor person and shaming them and blaming them. So I think that the Prime Directive Ignorance Antipattern is one of the most important ones and the refactored solution, obviously, in the Prime Directive Ignorance is not to ignore the prime directive. So remember to bring it, put it on the poster in the wall, say it out loud, write it in the email, you can do it with your own words, it doesn't have to be in Kerth’s words, if you like your own words better. But just make sure that people try to do that. Because the thing that Norman Kerth wanted to achieve with this was that people had the mindset of everybody did the best they could. But it's difficult to have that mindset. We're probably all brought up with our parents asking who left the milk out on the morning table? Who broke that vase, who started that fight, right? We're always trying to find a scapegoat and punish them. Although it's not very constructive, not even with children, and not even with grownups either to find that, it's, it's better to figure out how can they play? And where can they play so that they don't break the vase? How can we remind people to put milk into the refrigerator? Instead of saying you're stupid, you're forgetful, you're lazy, right. But I also appreciate that it might be a bit naive, that you might think, okay, but they could have just done a little better. But helping them out with processes, I think it's a good idea. Ula Ojiaku: With reference to the Prime Directive, you know, one of my mentors said something to me that also stuck which is that, you know, most people come to work wanting to do their best job, but sometimes it’s the system that restricts them. So if we, like you said, you know, kind of move away from trying to find a scapegoat or someone to point the finger at, you know, to blame for what's going wrong, can we look at how we can shape the system in such a way that those things, you know, it would be hard to fall into those mistakes because the system is already shaped in a way that would help them focus on the right behaviours and practices and not fall into the wrong undesired ones? Yeah. Amazing. Any other Antipatterns you'd like to share? Aino Corry: Yeah, I think that the other one I'd like to share is one that I am becoming more and more aware of how important it is with so many people starting to facilitate retrospectives, because so many people are understanding how powerful it is. A lot of people who maybe aren't, let's say fully dressed, not very experienced in facilitating retrospectives are being thrown into facilitating retrospectives, by people thinking that it's easy. And it's not easy. It's really, really hard. It's hard to do it right. It's easy to understand, but it's difficult to do, it’s like that one minute to learn, a lifetime to master. And a lot of people become disillusioned. So one of my retrospective anti-patterns is called the disillusioned facilitator. Because a lot of people are thrown into this role of oh, you can start facilitating retrospectives next week. And then they, maybe they hear something in a podcast like this, oh, this is an activity, you should definitely try it, or they read it online, and then they do it. But then probably they haven't done it before. They're doing it in real life the first time and they might be a bit, not really sure about it, not really having the heart in it. And people can feel that right away. And then they won’t put their heart into it either, and then it will fall to the ground, you won't get what you expect to get out of it. So, I always encourage people when they start facilitating to try doing it in a sandbox, first, try out the activities with somebody that you trust and know, maybe you have some other people who want to learn how to facilitate retrospectives, and then you can try these activities out with them. Because explaining these activities can be difficult, coming up with examples that make people understand what they should do can be difficult. But also, really understanding what is the expected outcome, as we talked about right in the beginning Ula, the learning goals, what is it actually that you want to achieve? You're not doing the activity to do the activity, you're doing the activity to achieve something, to figure out what it is you want to achieve makes it easier to perform the right way. So with the disillusioned facilitator what I'm trying to say is, don't worry, you're doing your best the prime directive holds for you as well. Try it out with people, start with things that you're absolutely sure of, take boring activities for a start if you understand how to explain them. And if you understand what the expected outcome is. And we remember to debrief after the exercises to make sure that the people in the retrospective understand what they just got out of it. Because sometimes if you go just from one activity to the other, maybe they're wondering, why did we do that? Why did we spend half an hour on that? They don't understand that actually, what we got out of it was sharing this experience, or perhaps seeing the weight, how many people thought this or something like that? Ula Ojiaku Yeah, never assume, I guess is the cardinal rule there, don't assume, explain why you're doing what you're doing. You're carrying them along on a journey. And you have to (do so) like a good tour guide. This is what I, I tell the teams I coach or some of the coaches that I'm coaching: you're a tour guide, so you have to, you know you're saying ‘this is the destination we’re going (to)’ and as we get to some notable, you know, attraction points, call it out to them, because you can't assume that everyone is following. Aino Corry No, no Ula Ojiaku Amazing. Now what books, in addition to yours, can someone who wants to learn more about retrospectives and activities, ideas for activities to run during retrospectives? What books would you recommend to them? Aino Corry Well, the interesting thing about retrospectives is that there's a lot of different books that apply. Like when we talked about teaching computer science, it's not just computer science. It's also psychology, ethnography, neurology, things like that. And when you want to become a good retrospective facilitator, you also have to look at other things. You have to look at books about body language. A book that I keep returning to is the book Coaching Agile Teams (by) Lyssa Adkins. It's not necessarily about retrospectives, there is a little bit about that in there, but Coaching Agile Teams is about all the different ways of thinking about helping people coming from this place to this place. And that's actually what retrospectives is about. But also Jutta Eckstein has written the book Retrospectives for Organizational Change. And I think that's important as well to think about retrospectives in a different setting because then you might see that okay, so these retrospectives that you have been asked to do every sprint for a team, maybe that's actually something you can use for the whole organization to help a change or something like that. So I think sort of not just talking about the retrospective books, but other books in general about coaching or communication are very important. Ula Ojiaku: Fantastic. So are you on social media? And how can the audience who would want to get in touch with you do so? Aino Corry: Yeah, I'm on LinkedIn. LinkedIn, I think Aino Corry, just that link, and I'm on Twitter with my name, @apaipi. I'm also on Instagram, but I never use it. So that's the best place to reach me. And it's really easy to Google me because as with you, we probably have very unique names. Ula Ojiaku: Yes, yes, definitely. Aino Corry: And I have to say, Ula, thank you for that thing from the coaching that you said about pointing out the different parts of the landscape in the journey that people might not have noticed. I think that's a very, very good analogy that I'll use in my retrospective teaching as well. Ula Ojiaku: You're very welcome for that. Thank you for that. Thank you. You're welcome. Any final words before we just wrap this whole thing up? Aino Corry: Yeah, make sure you have something that you enjoy every day in your life. Ula Ojiaku: Amazing. Thanks again Aino.
45:20 3/20/22
(S2)E017: Mark Schwartz on The Delicate Art of Bureaucracy and Defining Business Value
Guest Bio: Mark Schwartz joined AWS as an Enterprise Strategist and Evangelist in July 2017. In this role, Mark works with enterprise technology executives to share experiences and strategies for how the cloud can help them increase speed and agility while devoting more of their resources to their customers. Mark has extensive experience as an IT leader in the government, private sector, and the nonprofit world, and with organizations ranging from startup to large. Prior to joining AWS, he was CIO of US Citizenship and Immigration Services (in the Department of Homeland Security), where he led a large digital transformation effort, moving the agency to the cloud, introducing and refining DevOps and Agile techniques, and adopting user-centric design approaches. From his work at USCIS, he developed a reputation for leading transformation in organizations that are resistant to change, obsessed with security, subject to considerable regulation and oversight, and deeply bureaucratic. Before USCIS, Mark was CIO of Intrax Cultural Exchange, a leader in global youth exchange programs, and CEO of a software company. Mark is the author of The Art of Business Value , A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility, War, Peace and IT and The Delicate Art of Bureaucracy. Mark speaks at conferences internationally on such subjects as DevOps, Leading Change, Driving Innovation in IT, and Managing Agility in Bureaucratic Organizations. He has been recognized as a Computerworld Premier IT Leader and received awards for Leadership in Technology Innovation, the Federal 100 IT Leaders, and a CIO Magazine 100 award. Mark has both a BS and MA degree from Yale University, and an MBA from Wharton.   Social Media/ Website: Mark's LinkedIn Profile: Mark’s AWS Executive Insights page with links to all his blogs posts and books  Books/ Resources: The Delicate Art of Bureaucracy: Digital Transformation with the Monkey, the Razor and the Sumo Wrestler by Mark Schwartz The Art of Business Value by Mark Schwartz A Seat at the Table: IT Leadership in the Age of Agility by Mark Schwartz War, Peace and IT: Business Leadership, Technology, and Success in the Digital Age by Mark Schwartz Reaching Cloud Velocity: A Leader’s Guide to Success in the AWS Cloud by Jonathan Allen et al Ahead in the Cloud: Best Practices for Navigating the Future of Enterprise IT by Stephen Orban Engineers of Victory: The Problem Solvers Who Turned the Tide in the Second World War by Paul Kennedy The Phoenix Project: A Novel About IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win by Gene Kim The Unicorn Project: A Novel about Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data by Gene Kim   Interview Transcript Ula Ojiaku:  Mark, thank you so much for making the time for this conversation. Mark Schwartz: Thank you, my pleasure. Ula Ojiaku: Great. Now let's start with you know, the question I usually ask my guests: who’s Mark? What makes him tick? Mark Schwartz:  And they can answer that question. It’s not a hard one. where to start? Um, you know, I always enjoy my work. That's a thing about me. I like to think that people have fun working with me because I tend to laugh a lot. And even you know, when the work is boring, I find ways to make it interesting. I just enjoy doing things and accomplishing things. I think if we're going to talk about my books, and some of the things I've done later, an important thing to realize is that, I started out, you know, when I went, when I was in high school, when I went to college, I was pretty sure I wanted to study computer science and get involved with these computer things. But when I was actually studying, I realized there were all these other interesting areas, I'm just, you know, endlessly curious. And so, I wound up studying all kinds of other things, in addition. And the result was that when I finished college, I decided to go to graduate school in philosophy. And I spent a few years getting a master's degree in philosophy. And the fact that I'm curious about so many things and read so many different things, I think it enters into a lot of what I do. I like to pull analogies from non-IT related fields and, and, and I'll call upon all the things I've learned in all sorts of different areas, as I'm writing and speaking and working. Ula Ojiaku:  It shines through in your book, definitely. Mark Schwartz:  Yes, I think it does. That's partly an explanation for what you see in my books. I think, um, you know, I sometimes say that I have trouble reading business books generally. Because I kind of find them boring. They tend to make the same point over and over again, and to be very just so one directional, you know, just on the same subject, and it's a little bit odd because in every other subject, the books tend to refer to other books in other fields and there's this extra dimension and that helps you understand what the author is getting at. But in business books, they, you know, aside from having a quote now and then from a famous leader or something, they don't tend to do that, they don't, they don't sort of call upon the whole history of literature and writing. And so, I have a little bit of fun in writing my books in trying to see if I can add an extra dimension just by reference and by bringing in other things that are a little bit orthogonal to the subject matter. Ula Ojiaku:  And that kind of, you know, brings home the point that life isn't black and white. It’s actually a complex or a complex kind of, you know, maze and of different disciplines, different ideologies and different viewpoints that make it what it is really. Mark Schwartz:  Yeah well, of course, that was part of the fun of my recent book on Bureaucracy. You know, because I know we all, we want to throw up when we encounter bureaucracy, you know, it disturbs us in so many ways. And one of the things I wanted to say in the book is, well, actually bureaucracy is all around you all the time in unexpected places and it usually doesn't drive you crazy, actually. Yeah... Ula Ojiaku:  Well, I have a lot of questions for you on your book, The Delicate Art of Bureaucracy, which is a catchy, catchy title on its own, very clever. But before we get to that, what do you do when you're not working? I know, you said you love work and you've also said that you're curious about so many things, which means that you read broadly - that's my interpretation. So, what do you do when you're not ‘working’? Mark Schwartz:  Yes, I read broadly, is one thing. In the past, I played the guitar a lot. And I don't quite as much lately. I don't know why, you know, I'll start doing it again. I'm sure at some point. But while I was living in San Francisco, I was actually playing in bars and coffee shops, I have a singer, who I performed with. Ula Ojiaku: Really? Wow! Mark Schwartz: And that was really fun. And then the other thing I do is travel, I've really traveled a lot. And, yeah, there was one period in my life where for about five years, I was bumming around the world with a backpack with you know, occasional returns to the States to work a little bit and make some money and then go traveling again. So, one of the joys of my current job is that, I get to do a lot of traveling to interesting places. Ula Ojiaku:  So, where would you say is your ideal getaway destination? Mark Schwartz:  Oh, let's see. I'm a big fan of Brazil. That, I have good friends there and it's really nice to see them and the atmosphere is always kind of fun there. Ula Ojiaku: Okay. Mark Schwartz: I don't know what I've discovered so many places around the world that I've really loved being. I lived in Japan for a year and that is a place that I love to go to, especially for the food. Yeah, I like good food. But I don't know I’ve found so many places that made me feel like I'd like to spend more time there. And of course, you can't really spend more time everywhere. Ula Ojiaku:  Interesting. So, let's, let's go to your book, “The Art of Delicate Bureaucracy”. What was the inspiration behind that book? Mark Schwartz:  Well, for all of my books, before I wrote, before I wrote them, I was thinking, ‘why hasn't anybody else written a book on this topic?’ People don't write books on bureaucracy, at least not, you know, popular books, there are academic books on bureaucracy. And the same thing happened to me with my first book, “The Art of Business Value”, where I said to myself, we keep talking about business value in the IT world, like, is it obvious what it means? You know, what, why isn't anybody writing a book about what business value means? So, bureaucracy is one of those things. I have a lot of experience with it first of all, I was a CIO in a government agency. But it turns out, it's not just the government, whenever I tell people about my government experience, when I speak at a conference, people come up to me afterwards and say, ‘Oh, my company's just like that. I work for a financial services company; we have lots of bureaucracy’. And I work with a lot of people who are trying to pull off some sort of digital transformation, which is change on a big scale, that's changing traditional organizations on a big scale. And bureaucracy is always in their way because bureaucracy tends to resist change; it strongly tends to resist change. So, if you're doing a big change, then you're probably going to come up against it. So, I thought maybe with my experience as a bureaucrat, or at least experience in the big bureaucracy, I could give some pointers to people who are trying to cause big change, and yet are facing bureaucratic obstacles. And I can't imagine that there's any organization, at least any large organization that does not have bureaucratic obstacles to digital transformation. So, that got me started on it. And then as I started to think about bureaucracy and research it, I realized this is actually a really interesting topic. Ula Ojiaku:  You had an interesting introduction to the book. You said, “we are bureaucrats all.” Why that claim, you actually were saying, everyone is a bureaucrat, and I know you made a statement that’s similar to that earlier on in this conversation - why? Mark Schwartz:  Well, of course, I have to define in the book, what I mean by bureaucracy and all that. And I follow the generally what's accepted as the academic definition. It mostly comes from the sociologist Max Vabre, who is writing around 1920. And, and he talks a lot about bureaucracy, and it's fairly complicated, but I simplify it in the book. Basically, what it comes down to is a bureaucracy is a way of organizing socially, that has rigid formal roles for people and rigid formal rules. And that's the essence of it. You know, bureaucracy, there are rules and they have to be applied uniformly to everybody. And there's a division of labor and you know, a hierarchy. So, it has rigid roles of people who have to sign off on things and approve things. So, with that is the definition. I think it, it connects with the very human tendency to try to structure things and constantly improve them and optimize them. So, if you find a good way of doing something, you tend to turn it into a rule, you know, this is the way it should be done from now on. Ula Ojiaku: Best practice! Mark Schwartz: It’s the best practice. Yeah, yeah, exactly. And also, we, in, social organization, we'd like people to be accountable or responsible for things. And we know that you can't hold somebody accountable unless they have authority to perform their role. So, when you put those things together, it's very natural for us to set up these organizational systems, where we assign roles to people, and give them authority, and we make rules that encapsulate the best way to do things. And, essentially, that's bureaucracy. So, bureaucracy, I find, is everywhere around us in one form or another. But it doesn't drive us crazy most of the time, so we don't notice it. Ula Ojiaku:  Maybe if it's serving us, then we wouldn't notice it. But… Mark Schwartz:  It does serve. And if you look at the cases where it does drive us crazy, they have certain things in common. And in the book, I say there are three characteristics that bureaucracies often take on which they don't need to, it's not part of the definition of bureaucracy, but they often take on these characteristics. And it's those three characteristics that are what drive us crazy. And so, the goal, ultimately is to eliminate those three characteristics or turn them into something else. Ula Ojiaku: I know that the listeners would be curious to know what the three characteristics of bureaucracy that drive us crazy are? Is that so or should I just tell them go buy the book? Mark Schwartz: Yeah, go buy the book! Well, let me tell you the three characteristics, and also their opposite, which is what we really want. So, the first characteristic that drives us crazy, I think, is that bureaucracies tend to be bloated instead of lean, that would be the opposite in my view. There's no reason why a bureaucracy has to be bloated and wasteful. It could be lean, but it's one of those things that bureaucracy tends to become. So that's the first one. The second one is that bureaucracies tend to petrify, as opposed to learning. So, when I say petrifies, I mean that the rules and the bureaucracy don't change, or don't change as often as they should, or don't change continuously, which is really what rules should do. Now, that's not necessarily a characteristic of bureaucracy, but the definition, the definition says the rules have to be applied rigorously. You know, once you have a rule, everybody has to follow it. But it doesn't say that the rules have to stay the same forever, they can change. The opposite of a petrified bureaucracy is a learning bureaucracy, where the rules are constantly adjusted, based on what the people in the organization learn. And there are plenty of good examples of learning bureaucracies out there. And your goal is to transform the one into the other, the petrified into the learning. The third is, bureaucracies tend to be coercive, rather than enabling. Coercive, meaning that they're there to control employee behavior, to force employees to behave in ways that otherwise they wouldn't want to. They tend to be ‘no’ saying, they say ‘no’, a lot. Your bureaucracy for your expense reporting policy in your company probably says, ‘no that expense is no good because X Y and Z.’ There are plenty of examples of enabling bureaucracies, where the point is not to stop you from doing things or force you to do something you don't want to. But the bureaucracy provides a support structure, provide best practices, as you said, that help you do your job well. And there's no reason why bureaucracies can't do that. So, the three bad characteristics are bloat, coercion, and petrify. Ula Ojiaku: Okay, nice. So, it sounds like the way you've described bureaucracy, when you look at it from a positive slant, would it be the same thing as guardrails, putting guardrails in place, or giving people the right degree of freedom? Mark Schwartz: Yeah, that's exactly the idea. What I find is that guardrails and automation are ways of implementing bureaucracy, that lead to those three good characteristics rather than the bad ones. Let's say in software development, in DevOps, for example, it's a good idea to put guardrails, security guardrails, for example, around what people can do, and automated security tests and things like that. Because then the developers or the DevOps teams, they can go charging ahead full speed, knowing that they can't do anything wrong, you know, because the guardrails are there. And they get immediate feedback, if they do something that's going to put them outside the guardrails and they can just immediately fix it. So, it's very empowering for them, lets them move fast. And it also gets rid of that coercive element of you know, I write some code and then somebody comes in afterwards and says, ‘no, you can't deploy that’. That's annoying. Instead, I can run the security tests myself, as a developer, see if there's anything that's problematic, fix it right away if I want to, so it's all under my control. But the end result is still the same. The bureaucracy is still there. It's just automated and implemented as guardrails. Ula Ojiaku:  It's enabling, like you said before, instead of hindering. Mark Schwartz:  And it's lean, because it's very inefficient and wasteful, if you write some code, and then at the very end of the development process, somebody finds a security flaw. And now you have to remember what you were doing. And, you know, go back and relearn your code and make changes then, so that's wasteful, as opposed to lean. It's coercive, as opposed to enabling. And if you're good at doing these things, then you keep updating your guardrails and your security tests based on new security threats you learn about or new policies or whatever. So, you make a learning bureaucracy as well. Ula Ojiaku:  Interesting. In the book as well, you said you want us to be calm, chaos monkeys, knights of Ockham, lean sumo wrestlers, very interesting oxymoron there. And you know, black belt experts, could you tell us more about those terms? Why did you use those terms? Mark Schwartz:  Because they made me laugh of course. Ula Ojiaku: Well, they made me laugh too. Mark Schwartz: So, I thought about what I learned about coping with bureaucracy, especially in my government job, but also from reading and from talking to other people. And I realized I had about, you know, 30 techniques for coping with bureaucracy, I call them plays. And I just grabbed those 30 techniques, but I thought about it, and I realized they divided into three. And the three, I could sort of associate with a personality, almost. You know, that these 10 plays are associated with this personality, these 10 plays are associated with this one. And I came up with these three personalities that I thought describe those plays. And the three personalities are the monkey, and the razor, and the sumo wrestler. And, you know, I think, I could stop right there, because it's probably obvious why I associate those with these plays, but I will go a little further. Ula Ojiaku: Please… Mark Schwartz: So, I realized that some of the things we did, the ones that I call the plays of the monkey, the way of the monkey, those things had to do with provoking. You know, monkeys are mischievous, provocative, and sometimes annoying. And a bunch of the techniques had to do with trying to be provocative. And the razor and I'll give you some examples in a minute. The razor, to me is all about being lean. It's about trimming away waste. And it also refers to the philosophical principle of Ockham's razor. Ockham was a medieval philosopher, right, William of Ockham. And he's generally credited with an idea that something like if you have a choice between a simple explanation, and a complicated explanation, you should prefer the simple one. That's not really what he said. But that's, that's what most people associated with him. That's the principle of Ockham’s razor. And, and so it's called a principle of ontological parsimony, meaning, you shouldn't presuppose the existence of more things than you need to, in order to explain something. So, you know, don't make up nymphs. And you know, I don't know, water dryads and whatever's to explain something that you can equally just explain through simple physical laws. Ula Ojiaku:  Just saying, 'keep it simple...' Mark Schwartz:  Yeah, keep it simple, in a way, right? So that's called the principle of ontological parsimony. And I said, there's a similar principle of bureaucratic parsimony, which says that if you're trying to implement a control, and you can do it in a simple way, or you could do it in a really complicated way, do it a simple way. And so, it's a principle of leanness because I find that bureaucracies, when they get bloated, they have these really complicated wasteful ways of doing something that they could they could accomplish exactly the same thing, but in a simpler way. So that's the razor. And then a sumo wrestler. Well, Sumo is the sport where, you know, two massive people sort of bang into each other, right? And the goal is you want to push your opponent out of the ring, or you want to make them fall and touch the ground with something other than their feet. And if you can do either of those things, you win. So, if you're a big massive person and you're trying to accomplish those things, you might think that the best thing to do is charge your opponent and push really hard. But if your opponent then just either dodges or just is soft and lets you push, well, you're probably going to go flying out of the ring, right? So, one of the principles in Sumo is you want to use your opponent's strength against them. And if they push hard, now, go ahead, give them a little pull. And, you know, let them push even harder. And I realized that some of these techniques for overcoming bureaucracy have to do with using bureaucracy actually, on your side, you know, the using the strength of bureaucracy against it. So that's why the sumo wrestler. So, I'll give you examples now on each one, now that I've described my three personalities. So, the monkey does what is sometimes referred to as provoking and inspecting or provoking and observing, in parallel with the Agile principle of inspect and adapt. So, provoke and observe, what the monkey does is try something that's probably outside the rules, or at least is, you know, a borderline and watches what happens. So, an example where we use this is that we have these rules in Homeland Security that essentially said, if you were going to do an IT project, you have to produce 87 documents. And each document had a template, and you have to fill in each section of the template. And these documents would run to hundreds of pages. And so, using the persona of the monkey, let's say, we started to turn in these documents. But in each section of the template, we just wrote a one sentence, one sentence answer, you know, we're very short answer instead of writing pages and pages. And we wanted to see what would happen if we did that, because there was no rule that said, it had to be a really long answer. And eventually, we started to provoke even more, we just left out sections that we thought didn't make any sense for what we were doing. And all of this was unprecedented, you know, it caused a lot of fear. It turned out, and this sometimes happens, that the enforcers of this policy, they were happy when they said, “We've never wanted anybody to write these really long answers to these things, we have to read them. And you know, the intention wasn't to slow people down. As long as you're giving us the right information. That's all we need.” So, in this case, provoking just it turned out that we could defeat a bunch of bureaucracy there, we could, we could make things a lot leaner because nobody objected. But sometimes people do object. And if they do, then you learn exactly what the resistance is, who it is, is resisting, and that gives you valuable information, when you're trying to figure out how to overcome it. So that's the monkey. You know, let's try something a little playful and mischievous, and see what happens. The razor, well, that one follows also on my 87 documents, because we then set up an alternative way of doing things that had only 15 documents. And where there had been 13 gate reviews required for each project. We reduced it to two. And so, all we did, you know, we just used our little razor to trim away all the excess stuff that was in the bureaucratic requirements. And then we showed people that those 15 documents and those two gate reviews accomplished exactly the same thing as the 87 documents and the 13 gate reviews. That's the principle of the razor, that's how the razor works. The sumo wrestler, also a favorite of mine. So, we were trying to convince the bureaucracy to let us do DevOps and to be agile, and it was resisting. And people kept pointing to a policy that said, you can't do these things. And so, we wrote our own policy. And it was a very good bureaucratic policy looked exactly like every bureaucratic document out there. But it essentially said you must use DevOps and you must be agile on it, you know, it set up a perfect bureaucracy around that it's set up ways of checking to make sure everybody was using DevOps. And the theory behind it was the auditors when they came to audit us and said we were being naughty because we were doing DevOps. Their argument was we looked at the policy and we looked at what you're doing, and they were different. And that's the way auditing works. That was the, you know, GAO, the Government Accountability Office, and the Inspector General and all that. So, we figured if we had a policy that said you must do DevOps, and they audited us, well, they would actually be enforcing the policy, you know, they'd be criticizing any part of the organization that was not using DevOps and I thought that's great. So, this is how you use the strength of the bureaucracy against the bureaucracy or not really, against even, you know, it's perfectly good, perfect… Ula Ojiaku:  To help the bureaucracy yeah, to help them to improve, improve the organization. But thinking about the monkey though, being provocative and mischievous, do you think that there has to be an element of you know, relationship and trust in place first, before… you can’t just you know… you're new, and you've just gotten through the door and you start being a monkey… you probably will be taken back to wherever you came from! What do you think? Mark Schwartz:  Well, it helps if you're giggling while you do it. But you know, I think the goal here is to figure out the right levers that are going to move things. And sometimes you do have to push a little bit hard, you know, you do need to take people out of their comfort zone. Usually, you want to do these things in a way that takes into account people's feelings, and you know, is likely to move them in the right direction, rather than making them dig in their heels. But I'll give you a couple of examples of Monkey tactics that are less comfortable for people. One is simply, you know, there's a status quo bias. It’s a known, well-known cognitive bias; people tend to prefer the status quo or look the other way about it’s failings and stuff. So often, when you're trying to make a change, people say, we're fine the way we are, you know, everything's okay. So, one of the things the monkey tries to do is, is to make it clear that the status quo is not acceptable, you know, to show people that it actually if they think about it, it's no good. And so, for example, when we decided to move to the cloud, instead of working in our DHS data center, people said - of course at the time it was a big concern, ‘was the cloud secure enough?’ And in the persona of the monkey, the right response is, ‘are we secure enough now?’ You know, ‘don't you realize that we're not happy with our security posture today?’ ‘It's not like, the cloud has proved itself. I mean, we have to compare our security in the cloud versus our security in the data center. And yes, I'm very sure it'll be better in the cloud and here's why…’ But you can't start from the assumption that you are fine right now. In general, when we're talking about the cloud, that's the situation. Companies are using their own data centers. And it's like, you know, we have to teach them that they can do better in the cloud. But the truth is that they're not happy in their own data centers, if they think about it, right? There are security issues, there are performance issues, there are cost issues. And they're aware of those issues, right, they just look the other way. And because they're comfortable with the status quo, so the monkey has to sort of shake people up and say, ‘It's not okay, what you're doing now!’ Another example, and this is really harsh, and I wouldn't use it in most cases. But let's say that this was in Homeland Security. Let's say that Homeland Security is enforcing a very bureaucratic process that results in IT projects, taking five years instead of six months. And let's say, you know, the process is there on paper, the rules say, ‘Do this’, the people are interpreting the rules in a way that makes things take five years. Sometimes, the monkey has to go to somebody who's in their way and say, ‘We are in the Department of Homeland Security, this IT project is going to make people more secure in the homeland. Are you comfortable with the fact that you are preventing people from being more secure for the next four and a half years, when we could…’ You know, it's a matter of personalizing it. And that sometimes is what's necessary to get people to start thinking creatively about how they can change the bureaucracy. You know, ‘I hate to say it, but you're a murderer’, you know, essentially is the message. It's a monkey message. And like I said, you know, it's not the preferred way to go about doing things. But if you have to, I mean, the lives of people are at stake, and you've got to find a way to get there. Ula Ojiaku:  So how can leaders because your book, The Art of Business Value, in your book, you said that “leaders create the language of the organization, and they set up incentives and define value in a way that elicits desired outcomes.” So, in essence, I understand that statement to mean that leaders set the tone, and you know, kind of create the environment for things to happen. So, how can leaders implement or apply bureaucracy in a way that enables an organization where, before it was seen as a hindrance, how can they do this? Mark Schwartz:  My thought process was, if we all agree, we're gonna try to maximize business value? How do we know what we mean by it? And I realized, a lot of Agile people, you know, people in our Agile and DevOps community, were being a little bit lazy. You know, they were thinking, ‘Oh, business value, you know, it's returns on investment, or, you know, it's up to the business (to define) what's business value.’ The tech people just, you know, do the work of providing a solution. And to me, that's too lazy. If you're going to be agile, be it you have to be more proactive about making sure you're delivering business value. So, you have to understand what it means. You have to actually do the work of, you know, figuring out what it means. And what it means is not at all obvious. And, you know, you might think it has something to do with return on investment or shareholder value or something like that. But when you really closely examine it, that is not the right way to define it, when it comes to deciding what its efforts to prioritize and all that that's, you know, the case that the book makes, and I explain why that's true. Instead, I say you have to think of business value within the context of the business's strategy and its objectives as a business. There's no like, abstract, this has more business value than this because we calculated an ROI or something like that, that doesn't work reprioritizing. It's always asked within the context of a particular business strategy. And the business strategy is a direction from leadership. There might be input from everybody else, but ultimately, you have leaders in the organization who are deciding what the strategic objectives are. So, for example, if you are a traditional bank, or traditional financial services company, and you look around you and you see there are all these new FinTech companies that are disrupting the industry, and you're worried, well there are a lot of different ways you can respond to those disruptive FinTechs. And how you're going to choose to respond depends on your preferences, it depends on the situation of your company, in the industry, the history of your company, all of those things. But of the many ways you can respond to that disruption, you're going to choose one as the leader of your enterprise. Well, what adds business value is whatever supports that direction you choose to go. You can't think of business value outside of that direction, you know. That's the case that I make. So, leaders don't just set the tone and the culture there, they're actually setting strategic direction that determines what has business value. And then the people who are executing the agile teams have to take it upon themselves to make sure that whatever they're doing is going to add business value in that sense.   So, the role of leadership then becomes direction setting and visioning for the future and communicating the vision to the people who are working and providing feedback, you know, on whether things are actually adding business value or not . And that's the key responsibility. Now, in order to do that, in order to motivate people to deliver according to that idea of business value, there are certain techniques as a leader that you have to keep in mind, there are ways that you get people, you get a big organization to sort of follow you. And one of the ones that's become most important to me to think about after talking to a lot of leaders about how they're running their organizations, and what's working, is using middle management as a lever for accomplishing those things. So often, I'll talk to leaders of a business, and they'll say, our problem is the frozen middle, middle management is, you know, they're just not changing the way we want, we want to, we want to cause a big transformation, but middle management is getting in the way. And I tell them, ‘that's pretty much a myth.’ You know, ‘that's not actually what's happening, let's look more closely at your organization.’ Almost always, middle management is still trying to do the best they can, given the situation that they're in. And the way that you get them to align themselves behind the change is, you change their incentives or their role definition, or how you tell them what you're expecting from them, you don't say “change”, you know, and start doing X and Y, you change what success looks like for their position. And then they adapt to it by becoming engaged and finding ways to get there. So, there's almost always a leadership problem when you have that frozen middle effect. And, and I've seen it work really well that, you know, all of a sudden, you get this big leverage, because you just do a little bit of tweaking of role definitions, and bring everybody into solving the problem. And actually, there's an example, I love to talk about a history book, like I said before, I like to bring in other things, right? It's called the Engineers of Victory. And it's about World War Two, the Allies realized that they had to solve a set of problems, I think there was six or so problems. One of them was how do you land troops on a beach that's heavily defended? They realize they were just not going to be able to win the war until they could do that. But nobody knew how to do it. Because, you know, obviously, the bad guys are there on the beach, they're dug in, they put barbed wire everywhere, and mines, and you know, all this stuff. And it's just going to be a slaughter if you try to land on the beach. So, this book, Engineers of Victory, makes the case that what really won the war, was figuring out those solutions. And who was responsible for figuring out those solutions? It was middle management, basically. It was the, you know, within the structure of the army, it was the people not at the top who had big authority, you know, the generals, and it was not the troops themselves, because they weren't in a position to figure out these things. It was middle management that could see across different parts of the organization that could try things and see whether they worked or not, that, you know, essentially could run their own mini skunkworks projects. And eventually, they came up with the solutions to these problems. So, I think that's very encouraging for the role of middle management, you know, that a lot of problems have to be solved at that layer in order to pull off a transformation. And it really can be done. And this is a beautiful example of it. Ula Ojiaku:  It reminds me of, you know, my experience in a few transformation initiatives. So, the middle, the people who are termed to be in the frozen middle, are, like you said, they want to do what's best for the company, and they show up wanting to do their best work, but it's really about finding out, ‘Where do I fit in, (with) all this change that's happening?’ You know, ‘if my role is going away, if the teams are going to be more empowered, that means I'm not telling them what to do, but then what do I do now?’ So, the clarity of what the ‘New World’ means for them, and what's in it for them, would help, you know, make them more effective. Mark Schwartz: And the mistake that's often made is to say to them, ‘start doing DevOps’ or, you know, ‘start doing agile or something.’ Because if you don't change the definition of success, or you don't change the incentives that, you know, then it's just, make work and they're going to resist it. You know, if you say your incentive is to get really fast feedback or you know, one of the other goals of DevOps, because of the following reasons, it helps the business this way, so let's try to reduce cycle time as much as possible for producing software. Okay, that's a change in the incentive, or the, you know, the definition of success, rather than just telling somebody you have to do DevOps, you know, read a book and figure it out. Ula Ojiaku:  So, what other books because you mentioned the Engineers of Victory, are there any other books you would recommend for the listener to go check out if they wanted to learn more about what we've talked about today? Mark Schwartz:  Well, I think, you know, obviously, my books referred to War and Peace by Tolstoy, Moby Dick, another great one. You know, you probably need to read my books to figure out why those are the right books to read and Engineers of Victory. As I said, I think that one's a great one. Within the field, there are some DevOps books that that I like a lot, of course, Gene Kim's books, The Phoenix Project, and now The Unicorn Project, the sequel to that. Because those are books that give you a feel for the motivation behind all the things that we do. The Mechanics of Things, there are plenty of books out there that help you learn the mechanics of how to do continuous integration and continuous delivery. And then the cloud is I think it's really transformative. You know, it's the cloud itself is a tremendous enabler. I work at AWS, of course but I'm not saying this because I work at AWS, it's more than I work at AWS because I believe these things. And my teammates have written some good books on the cloud. Reaching Cloud Velocity, for example, by Jonathan Allen and Thomas Blood is a great one for reading up on how the cloud can be transformative. But my other teammates, Gregor Hope, has written a number of books that are really good, Stephen Orban did A Head in the Cloud. So, I think those are all… should be at the top of people's reading lists. And then, of course, I recommend my books, because they make me laugh, and they might make you laugh, too. Ula Ojiaku:  Definitely made me laugh, but they've also given me things to think about from a new perspective. So, I totally agree. And so, where can people find you if they want to reach out to you? Mark Schwartz:  Yeah, LinkedIn is a great place to find me. If you're with a company that is an AWS customer, feel free to talk to your account manager, the sales team from AWS and ask them to put you in touch with me, is another easy way. LinkedIn is kind of where I organize my world from so find me there. Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. Sounds great. And any final words for the audience or for the listeners. Mark Schwartz:  Um, I, I have found that these things that you want to do to take advantage of the digital world, and I think we're all sort of pointing ourselves in that direction, there are these amazing things you can do in the digital world. They're sometimes challenging to get there, but it's very possible to get there. And one thing I've learned a lot at Amazon is the idea of working backwards, you know, you get that picture in your head for where you want to be and then you say to yourself, ‘I can get there. Let me work backwards and figure out what I have to do in order to get there.’ And you might be wrong, you know, you should test hypotheses, you start moving in the right direction, and of course, correct as you need to. But you can do it with confidence that others are doing it and you can too no matter what your organization is, no matter how much you think you're a snowflake and you know different from every other organization. You can still do it. And with just some good intention and good thinking you can figure out how to how to get there. Ula Ojiaku:  Thank you so much, Mark. That was a great close for this conversation and again, I really appreciate your making the time for this interview. Thank you. Mark Schwartz: Thanks for having me. Ula Ojiaku: You’re welcome.
47:09 2/20/22
(S2)E016 Dave Snowden on Cynefin and Building Capability for Managing Complexity
Announcement: New Podcast Publishing Cadence Before I introduce my guest for this episode (if you’ve not already seen the preview post), I must apologise for the apparent silence. Life happened and this has affected the AILP podcast publishing cadence (assuming you noticed! :D). Can I share something with you? Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming trying to maintain balance and remain relevant whilst juggling so many things (work, children, family, and other responsibilities) - some of you reading this post would agree. I’m however learning to pace myself and this involves constantly reviewing and re-balancing priorities. Although this goes against ‘conventional wisdom’, with so much else going on this year, we’ll be publishing new episodes on a 6-week cadence (more or less) until further notice. Thanks for understanding and your unwavering support. To paraphrase a quote attributed to both Confucius and Martin Luther King Jr, #SlowDownIfYouMustButDontStop. Take care of yourself and loved ones and have a wonderful 2022!  Ula ------ Guest Bio:  Dave Snowden divides his time between two roles: founder & Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge and the founder and Director of the Centre for Applied Complexity at the University of Wales.  Known for creating the sense-making framework, Cynefin, Dave’s work is international in nature and covers government and industry looking at complex issues relating to strategy, organisational decision making and decision making.  He has pioneered a science-based approach to organisations drawing on anthropology, neuroscience and complex adaptive systems theory.  He is a popular and passionate keynote speaker on a range of subjects, and is well known for his pragmatic cynicism and iconoclastic style. He holds positions as extra-ordinary Professor at the Universities of Pretoria and Stellenbosch and visiting Professor at Bangor University in Wales respectively.  He has held similar positions at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Canberra University, the University of Warwick and The University of Surrey.  He held the position of senior fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies at Nanyang University and the Civil Service College in Singapore during a sabbatical period in Nanyang. His paper with Boone on Leadership was the cover article for the Harvard Business Review in November 2007 and also won the Academy of Management aware for the best practitioner paper in the same year.  He has previously won a special award from the Academy for originality in his work on knowledge management. He is a editorial board member of several academic and practitioner journals in the field of knowledge management and is an Editor in Chief of E:CO.  In 2006 he was Director of the EPSRC (UK) research programme on emergence and in 2007 was appointed to an NSF (US) review panel on complexity science research. He previously worked for IBM where he was a Director of the Institution for Knowledge Management and founded the Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity; during that period he was selected by IBM as one of six on-demand thinkers for a world-wide advertising campaign. Prior to that he worked in a range of strategic and management roles in the service sector. His company Cognitive Edge exists to integrate academic thinking with practice in organisations throughout the world and operates on a network model working with Academics, Government, Commercial Organisations, NGOs and Independent Consultants.  He is also the main designer of the SenseMaker® software suite, originally developed in the field of counter terrorism and now being actively deployed in both Government and Industry to handle issues of impact measurement, customer/employee insight, narrative based knowledge management, strategic foresight and risk management. The Centre for Applied Complexity was established to look at whole of citizen engagement in government and is running active programmes in Wales and elsewhere in areas such as social inclusion, self-organising communities and nudge economics together with a broad range of programmes in health.  The Centre will establish Wales as a centre of excellence for the integration of academic and practitioner work in creating a science-based approach to understanding society.   Social Media and Website LinkedIn: Twitter: @snowded Website: Cognitive Edge   Books/ Resources: Book: Cynefin - Weaving Sense-Making into the Fabric of Our World by Dave Snowden and Friends Book: Hope Without Optimism by Terry Eagleton Book: Theology of Hope by Jurgen Moltmann Poem: ‘Mending Wall’ by Robert Frost Video: Dave Snowden on ‘Rewilding Agile’ Article reference to ‘Rewilding Agile’ by Dave Snowden Field Guide to Managing Complexity (and Chaos) In Times of Crisis Field Guide to Managing Complexity (and Chaos) In Times of Crisis (2) Cynefin Wiki   Interview Transcript Ula Ojiaku:  Dave, thank you for making the time for this conversation. I read in your, your latest book - the book, Cynefin: Weaving Sense Making into the Fabric of Our World, which was released, I believe, in celebration of the twenty first year of the framework. And you mentioned that in your childhood, you had multidisciplinary upbringing which involved lots of reading. Could you tell us a bit more about that? Dave Snowden:  I think it wasn't uncommon in those days. I mean, if you did… I mean, I did science A levels and mathematical A levels. But the assumption was you would read every novel that the academic English class were reading. In fact, it was just unimaginable (that) you wouldn't know the basics of history. So, if you couldn't survive that in the sixth form common room, and the basics of science were known by most of the arts people as well. So that that was common, right. And we had to debate every week anyway. So, every week, you went up to the front of the class and you were given a card, and you'd have the subject and which side you are on, and you had to speak for seven minutes without preparation. And we did that every week from the age of 11 to 18. And that was a wonderful discipline because it meant you read everything. But also, my mother was… both my parents were the first from working class communities to go to university. And they got there by scholarship or sheer hard work against the opposition of their families. My mother went to university in Germany just after the war, which was extremely brave of her -  you know, as a South Wales working class girl. So, you weren't allowed not to be educated, it was considered the unforgivable sin. Ula Ojiaku:   Wow. Did it mean that she had to learn German, because (she was) studying in Germany…? Dave Snowden:  She well, she got A levels in languages. So, she went to university to study German and she actually ended up as a German teacher, German and French. So, she had that sort of background. Yeah. Ula Ojiaku:  And was that what influenced you? Because you also mentioned in the book that you won a £60 prize? Dave Snowden:  Oh, no, that was just fun. So, my mum was very politically active. We're a South Wales labor. Well, I know if I can read but we were labor. And so, she was a local Councilor. She was always politically active. There's a picture of me on Bertrand Russell's knee and her as a baby on a CND march. So it was that sort of background. And she was campaigning for comprehensive education, and had a ferocious fight with Aiden Williams, I think, who was the Director of Education, it was really nasty. I mean, I got threatened on my 11 Plus, he got really nasty. And then so when (I was) in the sixth form, I won the prize in his memory, which caused endless amusement in the whole county. All right. I think I probably won it for that. But that was for contributions beyond academic. So, I was leading lots of stuff in the community and stuff like that. But I had £60. And the assumption was, you go and buy one massive book. And I didn't, I got Dad to drive me to Liverpool - went into the big bookshop there and just came out with I mean, books for two and six pence. So, you can imagine how many books I could get for £60. And I just took everything I could find on philosophy and history and introductory science and stuff like that and just consumed it. Ula Ojiaku:  Wow, it seemed like you already knew what you wanted even before winning the prize money, you seem to have had a wish list... Dave Snowden:  I mean, actually interesting, and the big things in the EU field guide on (managing) complexity which was just issued. You need to build…, You need to stop saying, ‘this is the problem, we will find the solution’ to saying, ‘how do I build capability, that can solve problems we haven't yet anticipated?’ And I think that's part of the problem in education. Because my children didn't have that benefit. They had a modular education. Yeah, we did a set of exams at 16 and a set of exams that 18 and between those periods, we could explore it (i.e. options) and we had to hold everything in our minds for those two periods, right? For my children, it was do a module, pass a test, get a mark, move on, forget it move on. So, it's very compartmentalized, yeah? And it's also quite instrumentalist. We, I think we were given an education as much in how to learn and have had to find things out. And the debating tradition was that; you didn't know what you're going to get hit with. So, you read everything, and you thought about it, and you learn to think on your feet. And I think that that sort of a broad switch, it started to happen in the 80s, along with a lot of other bad things in management. And this is when systems thinking started to dominate. And we moved to an engineering metaphor. And you can see it in cybernetics and everything else, it's an attempt to define everything as a machine. And of course, machines are designed for a purpose, whereas ecosystems evolve for resilience. And I think that's kind of like where I, my generation were and it's certainly what we're trying to bring back in now in sort of in terms of practice. Ula Ojiaku:  I have an engineering background and a computer science background. These days, I'm developing a newfound love for philosophy, psychology, law and, you know, intersect, how do all these concepts intersect? Because as human beings we’re complex, we're not machines where you put the program in and you expect it to come out the same, you know, it's not going to be the same for every human being. What do you think about that? Dave Snowden:  Yeah. And I think, you know, we know more on this as well. So, we know the role of art in human evolution is being closely linked to innovation. So, art comes before language. So, abstraction allows you to make novel connections. So, if you focus entirely on STEM education, you're damaging the human capacity to innovate. And we're, you know, as creatures, we're curious. You know. And I mean, we got this whole concept of our aporia, which is key to connecting that, which is creating a state of deliberate confusion, or a state of paradox. And the essence of a paradox is you can't resolve it. So, you're forced to think differently. So, the famous case on this is the liar’s paradox, alright? I mean, “I always lie”. That just means I lied. So, if that means I was telling the truth. So, you've got to think differently about the problem. I mean, you've seen those paradoxes do the same thing. So that, that deliberate act of creating confusion so people can see novelty is key. Yeah. Umm and if you don't find… finding ways to do that, so when we looked at it, we looked at linguistic aporia, aesthetic aporia and physical aporia. So, I got some of the… one of the defining moments of insight on Cynefin was looking at Caravaggio`s paintings in Naples. When I realized I've been looking for the idea of the liminality. And that was, and then it all came together, right? So those are the trigger points requiring a more composite way of learning. I think it’s also multiculturalism, to be honest. I mean, I, when I left university, I worked on the World Council of Churches come, you know program to combat racism. Ula Ojiaku:  Yes, I'd like to know more about that. That's one of my questions… Dave Snowden:  My mother was a good atheist, but she made me read the Bible on the basis, I wouldn't understand European literature otherwise, and the penetration guys, I became a Catholic so… Now, I mean, that that was fascinating, because I mean, I worked on Aboriginal land rights in Northern Australia, for example. And that was when I saw an activist who was literally murdered in front of me by a security guard. And we went to the police. And they said, it's only an Abo. And I still remember having fights in Geneva, because South Africa was a tribal conflict with a racial overlay. I mean, Africa, and its Matabele Zulu, arrived in South Africa together and wiped out the native population. And if you don't understand that, you don't understand the Matabele betrayal. You don't understand what happened. It doesn't justify apartheid. And one of the reasons there was a partial reconciliation, is it actually was a tribal conflict. And the ritual actually managed that. Whereas in Australia, in comparison was actually genocide. Yeah, it wasn't prejudice, it was genocide. I mean, until 1970s, there, were still taking half -breed children forcibly away from their parents, inter-marrying them in homes, to breed them back to white. And those are, I think, yeah, a big market. I argued this in the UK, I said, one of the things we should actually have is bring back national service. I couldn't get the Labor Party to adopt it. I said, ‘A: Because it would undermine the Conservatives, because they're the ones who talk about that sort of stuff. But we should allow it to be overseas.’ So, if you put two years into working in communities, which are poorer than yours, round about that 18 to 21-year-old bracket, then we'll pay for your education. If you don't, you'll pay fees. Because you proved you want to give to society. And that would have been… I think, it would have meant we'd have had a generation of graduates who understood the world because that was part of the objective. I mean, I did that I worked on worked in South Africa, on the banks of Zimbabwe on the audits of the refugee camps around that fight. And in Sao Paulo, in the slums, some of the work of priests. You can't come back from that and not be changed. And I think it's that key formative period, we need to give people. Ula Ojiaku:  True and like you said, at that age, you know, when you're young and impressionable, it helps with what broadening your worldview to know that the world is bigger than your father's … compound (backyard)… Dave Snowden:  That’s the worst problem in Agile, because what, you've got a whole class of, mainly white males and misogynism in Agile is really bad. It's one of the worst areas for misogyny still left, right, in terms of where it works. Ula Ojiaku:  I'm happy you are the one saying it not me… Dave Snowden:  Well, no, I mean, it is it’s quite appalling. And so, what you've actually got is, is largely a bunch of white male game players who spent their entire time on computers. Yeah, when you take and run seriously after puberty, and that's kind of like a dominant culture. And that's actually quite dangerous, because it lacks, it lacks cultural diversity, it lacks ethnic diversity, it lacks educational diversity. And I wrote an article for ITIL, recently, which has been published, which said, no engineers should be allowed out, without training in ethics. Because the implications of what software engineers do now are huge. And the problem we’ve got, and this is a really significant, it's a big data problem as well. And you see it with a behavioral economic economist and the nudge theory guys - all of whom grab these large-scale data manipulations is that they're amoral, they're not immoral, they're amoral. And that's actually always more scary. It's this sort of deep level instrumentalism about the numbers; the numbers tell me what I need to say. Ula Ojiaku:  And also, I mean, just building on what you've said, there are instances, for example, in artificial intelligence is really based on a sample set from a select group, and it doesn't necessarily recognize things that are called ‘outliers’. You know, other races… Dave Snowden:  I mean, I've worked in that in all my life now back 20, 25 years ago. John Poindexter and I were on a stage in a conference in Washington. This was sort of early days of our work on counter terrorism. And somebody asked about black box AI and I said, nobody's talking about the training data sets. And I've worked in AI from the early days, all right, and the training data sets matter and nobody bothered. They just assumed… and you get people publishing books which say correlation is causation, which is deeply worrying, right? And I think Google is starting to acknowledge that, but it's actually very late. And the biases which… we were looking at a software tool the other day, it said it can, it can predict 85% of future events around culture. Well, it can only do that by constraining how executive see culture, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. And then the recruitment algorithms will only recruit people who match that cultural expectation and outliers will be eliminated. There's an HBO film coming up shortly on Myers Briggs. Now, Myers Briggs is known to be a pseudo-science. It has no basis whatsoever in any clinical work, and even Jung denied it, even though it's meant to be based on his work. But it's beautiful for HR departments because it allows them to put people into little categories. And critically it abrogates, judgment, and that's what happened with systems thinking in the 80s 90s is everything became spreadsheets and algorithms. So, HR departments would produce… instead of managers making decisions based on judgment, HR departments would force them into profile curves, to allocate resources. Actually, if you had a high performing team who were punished, because the assumption was teams would not have more than… Ula Ojiaku:  Bell curve... Dave Snowden:  …10 percent high performance in it. All right. Ula Ojiaku:  Yeah. Dave Snowden:  And this sort of nonsense has been running in the 80s, 90s and it coincided with… three things came together. One was the popularization of systems thinking. And unfortunately, it got popularized around things like process reengineering and learning organization. So that was a hard end. And Sanghi's pious can the sort of the, the soft end of it, right? But both of them were highly directional. It was kind of like leaders decide everything follows. Yeah. And that coincided with the huge growth of computing - the ability to handle large volumes of information. And all of those sorts of things came together in this sort of perfect storm, and we lost a lot of humanity in the process. Ula Ojiaku:  Do you think there's hope for us to regain the humanity in the process? Because it seems like the tide is turning from, I mean, there is still an emphasis, in my view, on systems thinking, however, there is the growing realization that we have, you know, knowledge workers and people… Dave Snowden:  Coming to the end of its park cycle, I see that all right. I can see it with the amount of cybernetics fanboys, and they are all boys who jump on me every time I say something about complexity, right? So, I think they're feeling threatened. And the field guide is significant, because it's a government, you know, government can like publication around effectively taken an ecosystems approach, not a cybernetic approach. And there's a book published by a good friend of mine called Terry Eagleton, who's… I don't think he's written a bad book. And he's written about 30, or 40. I mean, the guy just produces his stuff. It's called “Hope without Optimism”. And I think, hope is… I mean, Moltman just also published an update of his Theology of Hope, which is worth reading, even if you're not religious. But hope is one of those key concepts, right, you should… to lose hope is a sin. But hope is not the same thing as optimism. In fact, pessimistic people who hope actually are probably the ones who make a difference, because they're not naive, right? And this is my objection to the likes of Sharma Ga Sengi, and the like, is they just gather people together to talk about how things should be. And of course, everything should be what, you know, white MIT, educated males think the world should be like. I mean, it's very culturally imperialist in that sort of sense. And then nobody changes because anybody can come together in the workshop and agree how things should be. It's when you make a difference in the field that it counts, you've got to create a micro difference. This is hyper localization, you got to create lots and lots of micro differences, which will stimulate the systems, the system will change. I think, three things that come together, one is COVID. The other is global warming. And the other is, and I prefer to call it the epistemic justice movement, though, that kind of like fits in with Black Lives Matter. But epistemic justice doesn't just affect people who are female or black. I mean, if you come to the UK and see the language about the Welsh and the Irish, or the jokes made about the Welsh in BBC, right? The way we use language can designate people in different ways and I think that's a big movement, though. And it's certainly something we develop software for. So, I think those three come together, and I think the old models aren't going to be sustainable. I mean, the cost is going to be terrible. I mean, the cost to COVID is already bad. And we're not getting this thing as long COVID, it’s permanent COVID. And people need to start getting used to that. And I think that's, that's going to change things. So, for example, in the village I live in Wiltshire. Somebody’s now opened an artisan bakery in their garage and it's brilliant. And everybody's popping around there twice a week and just buying the bread and having a chat on the way; socially-distanced with masks, of course. And talking of people, that sort of thing is happening a lot. COVID has forced people into local areas and forced people to realise the vulnerability of supply chains. So, you can see changes happening there. The whole Trump phenomenon, right, and the Boris murmuring in the UK is ongoing. It's just as bad as the Trump phenomenon. It's the institutionalization of corruption as a high level. Right? Those sorts of things trigger change, right? Not without cost, change never comes without cost, but it just needs enough… It needs local action, not international action. I think that's the key principle. To get a lot of people to accept things like the Paris Accord on climate change, and you’ve got to be prepared to make sacrifices. And it's too distant a time at the moment, it has to become a local issue for the international initiatives to actually work and we're seeing that now. I mean… Ula Ojiaku:  It sounds like, sorry to interrupt - it sounds like what you're saying is, for the local action, for change to happen, it has to start with us as individuals… Dave Snowden:  The disposition… No, not with individuals. That's actually very North American, the North European way of thinking right. The fundamental kind of basic identity structure of humans is actually clans, not individuals. Ula Ojiaku:  Clans... Dave Snowden:  Yeah. Extended families, clans; it's an ambiguous word. We actually evolved for those. And you need it at that level, because that's a high level of social interaction and social dependency. And it's like, for example, right? I'm dyslexic. Right? Yeah. If I don't see if, if the spelling checker doesn't pick up a spelling mistake, I won’t see it. And I read a whole page at a time. I do not read it sentence by sentence. All right. And I can't understand why people haven't seen the connections I make, because they're obvious, right? Equally, there's a high degree of partial autism in the Agile community, because that goes with mathematical ability and thing, and that this so-called education deficiencies, and the attempt to define an ideal individual is a mistake, because we evolved to have these differences. Ula Ojiaku:  Yes. Dave Snowden:  Yeah. And the differences understood that the right level of interaction can change things. So, I think the unit is clan, right for extended family, or extended, extended interdependence. Ula Ojiaku:  Extended interdependence… Dave Snowden:  We're seeing that in the village. I mean, yeah, this is classic British atomistic knit, and none of our relatives live anywhere near us. But the independence in the village is increasing with COVID. And therefore, people are finding relationships and things they can do together. Now, once that builds to a critical mass, and it does actually happen exponentially, then bigger initiatives are possible. And this is some of the stuff we were hoping to do in the US shortly on post-election reconciliation. And the work we've been doing in Malmo, in refugees and elsewhere in the world, right, is you change the nature of localized interaction with national visibility, so that you can measure the dispositional state of the system. And then you can nudge the system when it's ready to change, because then the energy cost of change is low. But that requires real time feedback loops in distributed human sensor networks, which is a key issue in the field guide. And the key thing that comes back to your original question on AI, is, the internet at the moment is an unbuffered feedback loop. Yeah, where you don't know the source of the data, and you can't control the source of the data. And any network like that, and this is just apriori science factor, right will always become perverted. Ula Ojiaku:  And what do you mean by term apriori? Dave Snowden:  Oh, before the facts, you don't need to, we don't need to wait for evidence. It's like in an agile, you can look at something like SAFe® which case claims to scale agile and just look at it you say it's apriori wrong (to) a scale a complex system. So, it's wrong. All right. End of argument right. Now let's talk about the details, right. So yeah, so that's, you know, that's coming back. The hyper localization thing is absolutely key on that, right? And the same is true to be honest in software development. A lot of our work now is to understand the unarticulated needs of users. And then shift technology in to actually meet those unarticulated needs. And that requires a complex approach to architecture, in which people and technology are objects with defined interactions around scaffolding structures, so that applications can emerge in resilience, right? And that's actually how local communities evolve as well. So, we've now got the theoretical constructs and a lot of the practical methods to actually… And I've got a series of blog posts - which I've got to get back to writing - called Rewilding Agile. And rewilding isn't returning to the original state, it’s restoring balance. So, if you increase the number of human actors as your primary sources, and I mean human actors, not as people sitting on (in front of) computer screens who can be faked or mimicked, yeah? … and entirely working on text, which is about 10%, of what we know, dangerous, it might become 80% of what we know and then you need to panic. Right? So, you know, by changing those interactions, increasing the human agency in the system, that's how you come to, that's how you deal with fake news. It's not by writing better algorithms, because then it becomes a war with the guys faking the news, and you're always gonna lose. Ula Ojiaku:  So, what do you consider yourself, a person of faith? Dave Snowden:  Yeah. Ula Ojiaku:  Why? Dave Snowden:  Oh, faith is like hope and charity. I mean, they're the great virtues… I didn’t tell you I got into a lot in trouble in the 70s. Dave Snowden:  I wrote an essay that said Catholicism, Marxism and Hinduism were ontologically identical and should be combined and we’re different from Protestantism and capitalism, which are also ontologically identical (and) it can be combined. Ula Ojiaku:  Is this available in the public domain? Dave Snowden:  I doubt it. I think it actually got me onto a heresy trial at one point, but that but I would still say that. Ula Ojiaku:  That's amazing. Can we then move to the framework that Cynefin framework, how did it evolve into what we know it as today? Dave Snowden:  I’ll do a high-level summary, but I wrote it up at length in the book and I didn't know I was writing for the book. The book was a surprise that they put together for me. I thought that was just writing an extended blog post. It started when I was working in IBM is it originates from the work of Max Borrasso was my mentor for years who tragically died early. But he was looking at abstraction, codification and diffusion. We did a fair amount of work together, I took two of those aspects and started to look at informal and formal communities in IBM, and its innovation. And some of the early articles on Cynefin, certainly the early ones with the five domains come from that period. And at that time, we had access labels. Yeah. And then then complexity theory came into it. So, it shifted into being a complexity framework. And it stayed … The five domains were fairly constant for a fairly long period of time, they changed their names a bit. The central domain I knew was important, but didn't have as much prominence as it does now. And then I introduced liminality, partly driven by agile people, actually, because they could they couldn't get the concept there were dynamics and domains. So, they used to say things like, ‘look, Scrum is a dynamic. It's a way of shifting complex to complicated’ and people say ‘no, the scrum guide said it's about complex.’ And you think, ‘oh, God, Stacey has a lot to answer for’ but… Ula Ojiaku: Who`s Stacey? Dave Snowden:  Ralph Stacey. So, he was the guy originally picked up by Ken when he wrote the Scrum Guide… Ula Ojiaku:  Right. Okay. Dave Snowden:  Stacey believes everything's complex, which is just wrong, right? So, either way, Cynefin evolved with the liminal aspects. And then the last resolution last year, which is… kind of completes Cynefin to be honest, there's some refinements… was when we realized that the central domain was confused, or operatic. And that was the point where you started. So, you didn't start by putting things into the domain, you started in the operatic. And then you moved aspects of things into the different domains. So that was really important. And it got picked up in Agile, ironically, by the XP community. So, I mean, I was in IT most of my life, I was one of the founders of the DSDM Consortium, and then moved sideways from that, and was working in counterterrorism and other areas, always you're working with technology, but not in the Agile movement. Cynefin is actually about the same age as Agile, it started at the same time. And the XP community in London invited me in, and I still think Agile would have been better if it had been built on XP, not Scrum. But it wouldn't have scaled with XP, I mean, without Scrum it would never have scaled it. And then it got picked up. And I think one of the reasons it got picked up over Stacey is, it said order is possible. It didn't say everything is complex. And virtually every Agile method I know of value actually focuses on making complex, complicated. Ula Ojiaku:  Yes. Dave Snowden:  And that’s its power. What they're… what is insufficient of, and this is where we've been working is what I call pre-Scrum techniques. Techniques, which define what should go into that process. Right, because all of the Agile methods still tend to be a very strong manufacturing metaphor - manufacturing ideas. So, they assume somebody will tell them what they have to produce. And that actually is a bad way of thinking about IT. Technology needs to co-evolve. And users can't articulate what they want, because they don't know what technology can do. Ula Ojiaku:  True. But are you saying… because in Agile fundamentally, it’s really about making sure there's alignment as well that people are working on the right thing per time, but you're not telling them how to do it? Dave Snowden:  Well, yes and no - all right. I mean, it depends what you're doing. I mean, some Agile processes, yes. But if you go through the sort of safe brain remain processes, very little variety within it, right? And self-organization happens within the context of a user executive and retrospectives. Right, so that's its power. And, but if you look at it, it took a really good technique called time-boxing, and it reduced it to a two-week sprint. Now, that's one aspect of time boxing. I mean, I've got a whole series of blog posts next week on this, because time boxing is a hugely valuable technique. It says there's minimal deliverable project, and maximum deliverable product and a minimal level of resource and a maximum level of resource. And the team commits to deliver on the date. Ula Ojiaku:  To accurate quality… to a quality standard. Dave Snowden:  Yeah, so basically, you know that the worst case, you'll get the minimum product at the maximum cost, but you know, you'll get it on that date. So, you can deal with it, alright. And that's another technique we've neglected. We're doing things which force high levels of mutation and requirements over 24 hours, before they get put into a Scrum process. Because if you just take what users want, you know, there's been insufficient co-evolution with the technology capability. And so, by the time you deliver it, the users will probably realize they should have asked for something different anyway. Ula Ojiaku:  So, does this tie in with the pre-Scrum techniques you mentioned earlier? If so, can you articulate that? Dave Snowden:  So, is to say different methods in different places. And that's again, my opposition to things like SAFe, to a lesser extent LeSS, and so on, right, is they try and put everything into one bloody big flow diagram. Yeah. And that's messy. All right? Well, it's a recipe, not a chef. What the chef does is they put different ingredients together in different combinations. So, there's modularity of knowledge, but it's not forced into a linear process. So, our work… and we just got an open space and open source and our methods deliberately, right, in terms of the way it works, is I can take Scrum, and I can reduce it to its lowest coherent components, like a sprint or retrospective. I can combine those components with components for another method. So, I can create Scrum as an assembly of components, I can take those components compared with other components. And that way, you get novelty. So, we're then developing components which sit before traditional stuff. Like for example, triple eight, right? This was an old DSDM method. So, you ran a JAD sessions and Scrum has forgotten about JAD. JAD is a really…  joint application design… is a really good set of techniques - they’re all outstanding. You throw users together with coders for two days, and you force out some prototypes. Yeah, that latching on its own would, would transform agile, bringing that back in spades, right? We did is we do an eight-hour JAD session say, in London, and we pass it on to a team in Mumbai. But we don't tell them what the users ask for. They just get the prototype. And they can do whatever they want with it for eight hours. And then they hand it over to a team in San Francisco, who can do whatever they want with it in eight hours. And it comes back. And every time I've run this, the user said, ‘God, I wouldn't have thought of that, can I please, have it?’ So, what you're doing is a limited life cycle -  you get the thing roughly defined, then you allow it to mutate without control, and then you look at the results and decide what you want to do. And that's an example of pre-scrum technique, that is a lot more economical than systems and analysts and user executives and storyboards. And all those sorts of things. Yeah. Ula Ojiaku:  Well, I see what you mean, because it seems like the, you know, the JAD - the joint application design technique allows for emergent design, and you shift the decision making closer to the people who are at the forefront. And to an extent my understanding of, you know, Scrum … I mean, some agile frameworks - that's also what they promote… Dave Snowden:  Oh, they don’t really don’t. alright. They picked up Design Thinking which is quite interesting at the moment. If you if you look at Agile and Design Thinking. They're both at the end of their life cycles. Ula Ojiaku:  Why do you say that? Dave Snowden:  Because they're being commodified. The way you know, something is coming to the end of its life cycle is when it becomes highly commodified. So, if you look at it, look at what they are doing the moment, the Double Diamond is now a series of courses with certificates. And I mean, Agile started with bloody certificates, which is why it's always been slightly diverse in the way it works. I mean, this idea that you go on a three-day course and get a certificate, you read some slides every year and pay some money and get another certificate is fundamentally corrupt. But most of the Agile business is built on it, right? I mean, I've got three sets of methods after my name. But they all came from yearlong or longer courses certified by university not from tearing apart a course. Yeah, or satisfying a peer group within a very narrow cultural or technical definition of competence. So, I think yeah, and you can see that with Design Thinking. So, it's expert ideation, expert ethnography. And it still falls into that way of doing things. Yeah. And you can see it, people that are obsessed with running workshops that they facilitate. And that's the problem. I mean, the work we're doing on citizen engagement is actually… has no bloody facilitators in it. As all the evidence is that the people who turn up are culturally biased about their representative based opinions. And the same is true if you want to look at unarticulated needs, you can't afford to have the systems analysts finding them because they see them from their perspective. And this is one of one science, right? You did not see what you do not expect to see. We know that, alright? So, you're not going to see outliers. And so, the minute you have an expert doing something, it's really good - where you know, the bounds of the expertise, cover all the possibilities, and it's really dangerous. Well, that's not the case. Ula Ojiaku:  So, could you tell me a bit more about the unfacilitated sessions you mentioned earlier? Dave Snowden:  They’re definitely not sessions, so we didn't like what were triggers at moments. Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. Dave Snowden:  So, defining roles. So, for example, one of the things I would do and have done in IT, is put together, young, naive, recently graduated programmer with older experienced tester or software architect. So, somebody without any… Ula Ojiaku:  Prejudice or pre-conceived idea... Dave Snowden:  … preferably with a sort of grandparent age group between them as well. I call it, the grandparents syndrome - grandparents say things to their grandchildren they won’t tell their children and vice versa. If you maximize the age gap, there's actually freer information flow because there's no threat in the process. And then we put together with users trained to talk to IT people. So, in a month's time, I'll publish that as a training course. So, training users to talk to IT people is more economical than trying to train IT people to understand users. Ula Ojiaku:  To wrap up then, based on what you said, you know, about Cynefin, and you know, the wonderful ideas behind Cynefin. How can leaders in organizations in any organization apply these and in how they make sense of the world and, you know, take decisions? Dave Snowden:  Well, if there's actually a sensible way forward now, so we've just published the field guide on managing complexity.  Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. Dave Snowden:  And that is actually, it's a sort of ‘Chef's guide’. It has four stages: assess, adapt, exert, transcend, and within that it has things you could do. So, it's not a list of qualities, it's a list of practical things you should go and do tomorrow, and those things we're building at the moment with a lot of partners, because we won't try and control this; this needs to be open. Here's an assessment process that people will go through to decide where they are. So that's going to be available next week on our website. Ula Ojiaku:  Oh, fantastic! Dave Snowden:  For the initial registration.  Other than that, and there's a whole body of stuff on how to use Cynefin. And as I said, we just open source on the methods. So, the Wiki is open source. These… from my point of view, we're now at the stage where the market is going to expand very quickly. And to be honest, I, you know, I've always said traditionally use cash waiver as an example of this. The reason that Agile scaled around Scrum is he didn't make it an elite activity, which XP was. I love the XP guys, but they can't communicate with ordinary mortals. Yeah. It takes you about 10 minutes to tune into the main point, and even you know the field, right. And he (Jeff Sutherland) made the Scrum Guide open source. And that way it’s great, right. And I think that that's something which people just don't get strategic with. They, in early stages, you should keep things behind firewalls. When the market is ready to expand, you take the firewalls away fast. Because I mean, getting behind firewalls initially to maintain coherence so they don't get diluted too quickly, or what I call “hawks being made into pigeons”. Yeah. But the minute the market is starting to expand, that probably means you've defined it so you release the firewall so the ideas spread very quickly, and you accept the degree of diversity on it. So that's the reason we put the Wiki. Ula Ojiaku:  Right. So, are there any books that you would recommend, for anyone who wants to learn more about what you've talked about so far. Dave Snowden:  You would normally produce the theory book, then the field book, but we did it the other way around. So, Mary and I are working on three to five books, which will back up the Field Guide. Ula Ojiaku:  Is it Mary Boone? Dave Snowden:  Mary Boone. She knows how to write to the American managers, which I don't, right… without losing integrity. So that's coming, right. If you go onto the website, I've listed all the books I read. I don't think… there are some very, very good books around complexity, but they're deeply specialized, they’re academic. Gerard’s book is just absolutely brilliant but it's difficult to understand if you don’t have a philosophy degree. And there are some awfully tripe books around complexity - nearly all of the popular books I've seen, I wouldn't recommend. Yeah. Small Groups of Complex Adaptive Systems is probably quite a good one that was published about 20 years ago. Yeah, but that we got a book list on the website. So, I would look at that. Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. Thank you so much for that. Do you have any ask of the audience and how can they get to you? Dave Snowden:  We've open-sourced the Wiki, you know, to create a critical mass, I was really pleased we have 200 people volunteered to help populate it. So, we get the all the methods in the field guide them. And they're actively working at that at the moment, right, and on a call with them later. And to be honest, I've done 18-hour days, the last two weeks, but 8 hours of each of those days has been talking to the methods with a group of people Academy 5, that's actually given me a lot of energy, because it's huge. So, get involved, I think it’s the best way… you best understand complexity by getting the principles and then practicing it. And the key thing I'll leave us with is the metaphor. I mentioned it a few times - a recipe book user has a recipe, and they follow it. And if they don't have the right ingredients, and if they don't have the right equipment, they can't operate. Or they say it's not ‘true Agile’. A chef understands the theory of cooking and has got served in apprenticeship. So, their fingers know how to do things. And that's… we need… a downside.. more chefs, which is the combination of theory and practice. And the word empirical is hugely corrupted in the Agile movement. You know, basically saying, ‘this worked for me’ or ‘it worked for me the last three times’ is the most dangerous way of moving forward. Ula Ojiaku:  Because things change and what worked yesterday might not work Dave Snowden:  And you won't be aware of what worked or didn't work and so on. Ula Ojiaku:  And there's some bias in that. Wouldn't you say? Dave Snowden:  We’ve got an attentional blindness if you've got Ula Ojiaku:  Great. And Dave, where can people find you? Are you on social media? Dave Snowden:  Cognitive. Yeah, social media is @snowded. Yeah. LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Two websites – the Cognitive Edge website, which is where I blog, and there's a new Cynefin Center website now, which is a not-for-profit arm. Ula Ojiaku:  Okay. All these would be in the show notes. Thank you so much for your time, Dave. It's been a pleasure speaking with you. Dave Snowden:  Okay. Thanks a lot.
41:45 1/23/22
(S2)E015: Rita McGrath on Seeing Around Corners and Spotting Inflection Points Before They Happen
Guest Bio: Rita McGrath is a best-selling author,  sought-after advisor and speaker, and  longtime professor at Columbia Business School. Rita is one of the world’s top experts on strategy and innovation and is consistently ranked among the top 10 management thinkers in the world, including the #1 award for strategy by Thinkers50.  McGrath’s recent book on strategic inflection points is Seeing Around Corners: How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019). Rita is the author of four other books, including the best-selling The End of Competitive Advantage (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). Since the onset of the pandemic, Rita has created workshops, strategy sessions and keynotes, applying her tools and frameworks to strategy under high levels of uncertainty to specific issues organizations are facing.  As Rui Barbas, the Chief Strategy Officer for Nestle USA said, “You were incredibly insightful and, despite the virtual setting, there was lots of engagement and comments from leaders sharing eye-opening observations and building on your examples throughout. You delivered the inspiration and illustration desired and it was exactly the right focus and challenge for this team. Appreciate your time throughout the process to align on content and delivery. The future-focus theme was the perfect close to our leadership summit.” Rita’s work is focused on creating unique insights.  She has also founded Valize a companion company, dedicated to turning those insights into actionable capability.  You can find out more about Valize at McGrath received her Ph.D. from the Wharton School (University of Pennsylvania) and has degrees with honors from Barnard College and the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. She is active on all the main social media platforms, such as Twitter @rgmcgrath.  For more information, visit   Social Media/ Websites: LinkedIn: Twitter: @rgmcgrath Instagram: @ritamcgrathofficial Youtube: Websites: and Rita's Newsletter/ Articles Substack: Medium: LinkedIn: Books Seeing Around Corners by Rita McGrath The Entrepreneurial Mindset by Rita Gunther McGrath and Ian MacMillian The End of Competitive Advantage by Rita Gunther McGrath Disrupt Yourself by Whitney Johnson Humanocracy by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini Reimagining Capitalism by Rebecca Henderson When More is Not Better by Roger L. Martin Being An Adult by Lucy Tobin Only The Paranoid Survive by Andy Grove  Ula Ojiaku: My guest today is Dr. Rita McGrath. She’s a best-selling author, a sought-after speaker and advisor and consistently ranked among the top 10 management thinkers in the world, including the #1 award for strategy by Thinkers50. In this episode, Rita talked about the concept of inflection points from her book ‘Seeing Around Corners’ and how as leaders, we can train ourselves to spot these inflection points and act on the information we receive. She also talked about making complex things simple for the people we work with. I learnt a lot speaking with Rita and I’m sure you will find this conversation insightful as well. Thank you again for watching! It's an honor to have you on the show, Rita McGrath. Many, many thanks for joining us. Rita McGrath: Well, thank you Ula. It's a pleasure to be here. Ula Ojiaku: Great. Now, can you tell us about yourself? How did the Rita, Dr. Rita McGrath we know today evolve? Rita McGrath:  Well, it would have to start with my parents, of course. I mean, all great stories start with your parents. And so, my parents were both scientists. My mother was a Microbiologist, and my father was an Organic Chemist. And so, I grew up in a house where, you know, (if) a question couldn't be answered, you went and got the reference book and figured it out. And both, (had) incredible respect for science and for diligence. And, you know, the house was always full of books and lots of emphasis on learning. I wouldn't say we were, financially all that well-off – we weren’t poor by any means. But it was, you know, there wasn't like a lot of money to spare, but there was always money for books, and there was always money for, you know, educational experiences and that kind of thing. So, that's the household I grew up in. So, my parents, when I was born, were both on the staff at the Yale Medical School. So, they were both researchers there. And then my dad in the late 60s, got an offer to go join this upstart, fledgling company that was at the cutting edge of all kinds of things in his field and that was Xerox Corporation. And he was very conflicted about leaving academia, but went off eventually to Xerox. So, we moved the family to Rochester, New York. So that's where I did most of my growing up. And my mother at that time, decided to stay home, more or less. And then she started a scientific translation business. So, she moved into an entrepreneurial career more than her scientific career. And then when it came time to go to college, I went to Barnard College in the City of New York. I’d always thought New York was an amazing place and was accepted there. So, went off to New York, did my Bachelor's and my Master's in Political Science and Public Policy. I was very interested in public policy and matters of social contract and those kinds of things. And then my first job was actually with the City of New York, I ran purchasing systems for government agencies. It doesn't sound very glamorous. But today, we would call it digital transformation. It was the very first wave of companies taking their operations in a digital form. And it was very exciting and I learned a lot. Then I got to the end of… the thing about public service is when you start, there’s (this) unlimited sort of growth that can happen for a few years, and then it really just levels off. And you're never going to go beyond that. So, I kind of reached that headroom and decided to do something different. Ula Ojiaku:  Was it at that point that you decided to go for your PhD? Rita McGrath:  And that was one of the options I was considering. And my husband basically said, ‘look, if you get into a top five school, it's worth doing and if you don't, it's probably not.’ But you have to think in that time, MBA programs were just exploding, and there'd been a lot of pressure on the administrators of MBA programs, to put PhD accredited faculty in front of their students. The big knock against the MBA at the time was, oh, they're just trade schools. You know, we've got some guy who ran an entire company comes in and talks and that's not really academically suitable. And so, there was a huge pressure for schools to find PhD accredited people-  that still exists (but) the market pressures has changed a lot. But when I was doing my PhD, it was pretty sure I would get a job if I managed to complete the degree. So that that gave me that extra input to do that. Ula Ojiaku:  Did you already have like children when you started the PhD? Rita McGrath: Yes Ula Ojiaku:  And how did you cope? Rita McGrath:  Our son was, how old was he? He would have been nine months old when I started my PhD program. Yeah. Ula Ojiaku: Wow, 9 months old. Rita McGrath: Oh, yeah, it was a real challenge. And I guess everybody manages those kinds of challenges in their own way. But yeah, it was a struggle because, you know, typical day would be you know, get up, get the baby to daycare or wherever and then do school or whatever I had to do that day. And then it was sort of pick them up. By the time I had a second child it was pick them up, get them dinner, get them bedtime, get them story, and then I'll be back at my desk at nine o'clock at night, trying to do what I needed to do. So, it was a new turn. It was tough. It was difficult years. I mean, joyful years though but it was just hard to fit everything in. Ula Ojiaku:  I can imagine. I mean, although I'm thinking of starting my PhD (studies), my children aren't that small but I do remember the time (they were), you know, I was still working full time. So, the challenge is you'd go to work and then come back to work. I mean, to another type of work. And then when they go to bed, the work continues. Yeah, it's interesting. Rita McGrath: Quite exhausting. Ula Ojiaku: You can say that. I'm so glad they're not in diapers anymore. So, it's baby steps, we are getting there. So, can we go on to your book, “Seeing Around Corners, How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen”. I'd like to start from an unusual place in the book. I started from the dedication page, and you know, reading everything, and I noticed that, you referred to a conversation, one of the last conversations you had with your mother. Could you tell us about that? Rita McGrath:  Oh sure. She was well, at the time, she was quite ill, she had sarcoma in her lung, and she was quite ill. It's a horrible disease, and we haven't got any real treatments for it. So, the recommendation is you do chemo and that really knocks you out. So, she was quite ill and sort of migrating between the chair and the couch and the chair and the couch. And in one of those conversations, she just said ‘I want you to know I'm proud of you. And I've had a good life and I'm prepared for whatever comes next.’ And I thought that was lovely of her to say and I thought in that moment to pass it on to all these other women. And you know you bring up motherhood and being a working woman and all those complicated emotions that come with that because there seems to be guilt around every corner you know, if you’re not at home full time, oh you’re a terrible mom. And if you’re not at work full time, you're a terrible worker. I just I think so many of those things are just designed to twist us up into little balls. And when I look at my own mother's experience - she was a working woman… I grew up but I think I'm third or fourth generation working woman so it never even occurred to me that wouldn't be possible. But I think what often is missing is this validation, you know that for women who are trying to you know make their way professionally and be great, responsible parents and do all these other things that often there's a sense of a lack of self-worth you know, ‘oh, I'm not doing enough.’ The more I hear that… Ula Ojiaku:  I feel like that some… most days I feel like that… Rita McGrath: Believe me, you are doing enough Ula Ojiaku:  Sometimes I ask my children, am I a good mom? Rita McGrath:  I think part of it too is we, and when I say we, I mean baby boomer mothers and maybe a little younger. We got ourselves all tangled up in this if it's not like organic, hand-processed  lima beans with you know, organic succotash, mixed in you know, it's not good baby food. Honestly, Gerber's exists to provide perfectly nutritious food for really young babies and they've been doing it for decades and you can trust that and if it makes your life easier, go with it. Ula Ojiaku:  Thank you! Rita McGrath: You know, I think we I think we get ourselves all tossed up in like, what does good mean? I mean, honestly, the kids don't mind you know? I mean, they’d celebrate if it was chicken finger night. Ula Ojiaku:  Let's go to the book. You know, because in your book you said you it's about how to spot inflections before they happen in business. Can you give us examples of, you know, businesses that had these inflection points occur, and they failed to recognize it and what was the impact? Rita McGrath:  Sure, let's take one that is quite sad to me, which is Intel. And Intel built its, well, Intel went through a major inflection point, in fact, the originator of the concept was Andy Grove, who was their former CEO. And he talked about his inflection points in his book, Only the Paranoid Survive, which is really a brilliant, brilliant book. And one of the reasons I wrote my book was that very little had been done since his book on that topic. And Grove built this incredible company, Intel. And they were making microprocessor chips. And they were very, very powerful, very fast chips. And so, the assumptions inside Intel's business model was, what customers were going to pay for was faster, faster, faster, more computation power, more and more powerful. But what they didn't really think about was energy consumption. And as the world went more mobile… so the Intel product is the PC, and the PC, the desktop PC remains firmly plugged into the wall. And then later, we make PC chips that maybe have slightly lower power consumption to power PCs, but it's still that notion of power, you know, and I think the inflection point that caught Intel by surprise, to some extent was, this movement towards mobile, where the vast majority of chips being made were these completely different architecture chips by  companies like ARM and you know, and companies like that, which, from their inception, recognized that low power was the way to go. Then they weren't very powerful in the sense of speed, which is what Intel was driving its business towards. But they were powerful in the sense of ubiquitous low power, long battery life, that kind of thing. And I think that's an example of the kind of assumption that can cause a company to get into trouble, when the underlying shift in the business environment says, ‘wait a minute, this thing you've been building all this time may not be what is needed by the marketplace.’ Ula Ojiaku:  That's interesting. So, it brings me to the point of, the points you made about, you know, the indicators, the early warnings, and you mentioned the concept of you know lagging, current and leading indicators. And there was an emphasis in your book on, you know, leading indicators. Could you tell us a bit about that? Rita McGrath:  Sure. Well, so leading indicators are today's information about tomorrow's possibilities. And what we unfortunately rely on a lot in business is lagging indicators - so profits, performance, you know, ROI, all those things are lagging some kind of decision that you made a long time ago. So, the concept of leading indicators is to try to get business leaders to think about what would have to be true, you know, before I was able to make a certain decision, what are the leading indicators? So, an example would be back in the 90s, computer scientists all over the world realized that come the year 2000, from the turn of the millennium, that the way computer programs had been programmed, was only two digits for the year. And so, when the year went to zero-zero, computers, were going to think it was 1900 and this was going to be terrible. Because they all get out of sync, you know, and planes would drop out of the sky. You're gonna become unstable, and you’ll all need to move to Montana and stuff … I don't know if you can remember this. Ula Ojiaku: Yeah, the Y2K bug… Rita McGrath: Oh my goodness…! Ula Ojiaku: It was a big sensation. Yeah… Rita McGrath: Apocalyptic – remember?! And yet, when the big moment came the year 2000. What happened? Well, nothing happened. Why did nothing happen? We looked at that early warning, and we said, whoa, if that happens, it's bad. And then so companies, prodded by their accounting firms, prodded by other security considerations invested billions in correcting that flaw. And so, that's an example of an early warning. And there are a couple of things to understand about early warning. So, the first important thing is, the measure of a good early warning is not, did it predict what happened. The measure of a good leading indicator is, did it help you prepare for what might happen? And so, I think that's a really important distinction, because we oftentimes, oh, you that didn't predict this or that. But that's not the point. The point is, did it help you think more broadly about what might happen so that you could be prepared? So, I think that's the first thing. The second thing to remember about leading indicators is they're often not quantitative in the way that we like to think about quantitative things. They're often qualitative. They often take the form of stories. And they often come from what are called unrepresentative parts of your mental ecosystem. So, you know, it's that person on the loading dock (saying to themselves), ‘this is, well, that's weird, a customer never asked for that before’, or the person answering the phone, you know, in headquarters going, ‘Well, I don't understand why they need that information…’ You know, it's those little anomalies or things that depart from business as usual, that are often the weak signals that you need to be paying attention to. Ula Ojiaku:  So, can you give us an example where you mean, I mean, of how we can go about choosing good leading indicators? Rita McGrath:  Well, in the book, I describe a technique that I use, which is you take a couple of uncertainties and juxtapose them on each other. And that gives you four or more you can do this for as many as you like, stories from the future, possibly a future that we could live in. And then depending on which one you want to think about, you say, ‘okay, I'm gonna write a headline as if it came from a newspaper story about that scenario. And I'm gonna work backwards and say, what has to be true for that headline to emerge.’ So, take an example that's playing out right now, chronic and accelerating decline in birth rates in the United States. People are just deciding not to enlarge their families or not to start their families at all. And for very good reasons, you know, the level of social support for families is very low. Mostly women are bearing the burden. And very often women are the ones that make a large part of the decision about whether the family is going to grow or not. And so, we're facing a real baby bust. Well, if that's true, and we follow that along, well, what are some things that would be early warnings or indicators of what that world will be like? Well, you'll see a decline of working people relative to retired people, or people needing assistance, you'll see, you know, fewer kids with more resources to support them. So, the kind of baby Prince phenomena we saw in China. There are lots of things you can kind of work through. But once you say, ‘okay, I see a world with a million fewer children three years from now, than we would have expected well, okay, what now working backward? What does that tell us we need to be paying attention to today? Ula Ojiaku:  Yes, yes. That's a great example. And I wonder, though, so given all, you know, the research that has led to, and your experience as well, consulting with, you know, most of these large organizations, the case studies, you've come to witness and all that, what would you, what would be your advice to leaders of such organizations, you know, in terms of how they can better prepare themselves or equip themselves to recognize these inflection points, and lead effectively? Rita McGrath:  Well, I think the first principle is you have to be discovery driven. In other words, you have to be curious about what's going on. And if you're the kind of leader who (when) someone brings you a piece of information, and instead of treating it like a gift, you're like, oh no, you don't understand that's wrong. That's not the way the world works. If you're dismissive of information people are bringing you that's very dangerous. Because the information you need is not going to come from your lieutenants at headquarters, it's going to come from that guy on the loading dock. So, I think you want to think about establishing some kind of information flows, that go directly from where the phenomena are happening to your desk. So, as an example, a company I really admire is the German metal services company Klockner. And their CEO, Gisbert Ruehl was taking them through a digital transformation. And his big concern was not that they meant it, right? But that his lieutenants, his middle manager, cohort, would be so expert, and so experienced at the way business was, that they would just shut down these digital efforts. And he was very, very concerned about that. He said, well, I need some way of making my message heard directly to the people that are on the frontlines and I also need a way of hearing from them what's going on. So, he implemented Yammer, called non-hierarchical communication. And the deal was anybody in the company that had something he needed to know should feel comfortable sending him a note. And I'm told, I don't know this for a fact that I'm told that at headquarters, he had his instance of Yammer set up so that the lower the hierarchical level of the person, the higher it came in his newsfeed. Ula Ojiaku: Oh, wow. Rita McGrath: So, you know, I can talk to my lieutenants, anytime. Information I need is in the, you know, 24-year-old person who's just joined us with an engineering degree, who's looking at our manufacturing process for screwdrivers and saying, ‘Why do you do it that way? There must be a better way of doing this…’ That's the information I really need and he set up a whole system to try to get that information to him, to himself. Ula Ojiaku:  Would you say there's a typical kind of leader with, you know, some certain characteristics that's best equipped to spot the inflection point, and you know, kind of lead the charge and get the organizations in line? Rita McGrath:  You know, I think it's more of the behavior, it's not the characteristics. So, I've seen charismatic, attractive, you know, movie star type CEOs be good at this. I've seen people you look at and you go ‘Really? He looks kind of like he slept in his clothes all night.’ I've seen those people be good at it. So, you know, I think the differentiation is this, this hunger for new information, this curiosity, this relentless… ‘tell me again…’ and ‘why was that and why was that?’ It is this urgent need to really learn what's going on. And then and then putting yourself in the, in the context. So, one of the people I'm working with right now is a brilliant retail CEO, and everything. And one of the things he would do before hiring anybody into his senior team, is he would spend a day or two walking the stores, you know, and in his explanation to me was, ‘I want to see how they react to the stores. I want to see how they treat the people working in stores. I want to see what they notice, you know, I want to see if they notice that there's a thing out of array and I want to see how they are with me, like if they spend their whole two days in store visits, sucking up to me - that's not somebody I need, you know. And so, I think the best leaders along those lines are people who are relentlessly curious, bring people around them who are diverse, you know, you don't just want echo chambers of themselves. Ula Ojiaku:  True, true. You don't want ‘yes’ men if you really want to make an impact really. Yeah, and how can I, as a person, train myself to also recognize these inflection points. Rita McGrath:  Well, it depends what the inflection point is. So, if it's a question of, you've been making nice steady progress in your career, and now you've hit some kind of ceiling and you just feel you're not growing or developing any more, then that choice is really okay, I need to… the way Whitney Johnson would put this, she's written a great book on this, “Disrupt Yourself”, right? You go up this S curve, then you need to make the decision if you're going to take on the J curve, right, which is the part below the S curve before you get into the next round of learning. So, that's a personal decision, really only you can make a decision like that. Then there are the cases where inflection points are thrust upon you. So you lose a job, your spouse has some setback, a family member has an urgent need that makes whatever you were doing before impossible. I mean, there's all kinds of outside things that can happen to you. Ula Ojiaku: Yeah… Rita McGrath: And I think the best way to try to look at those is. ‘is this a slingshot to a better future, potentially?’ And you know, how many people have you talked to who got fired, and some years later say, ‘that was the best thing that ever happened to me, it shook me out of my complacency. It made me think differently.’ And so, I think a lot of times, you know, we, it's very comfortable (staying) stuck in our ruts. And sometimes it takes a bit of a jolt to get us out of that. Ula Ojiaku:  That's a great one. Can I just ask you about so it's not really about your book, Seeing Around Corners, but this one is about the Entrepreneurial Mindset? Just one quick question. Because there's a quote, in your book, that book that says, you know, “the huge part of becoming an entrepreneurial leader is learning to simplify complexity, so that your co-workers can act with self-confidence.” That quote, it made me kind of be more conscious about, am I really making things simpler for my co-workers instead of