The art of Business Agility – Andy Cooper
Join Shane and Blair as they chat to Andy Cooper on his experience working with senior executives to help them introduce Business Agility to their organisations.
Read along you will
Shane Gibson: Welcome to another “AgileBI” podcast. I’m Shane Gibson.
Blair Tempero: And I’m Blair Tempero.
Andy Cooper: And I’m Andy Cooper.
Shane Gibson: Hi Andy, welcome, and thanks for joining us. Today, we’re gonna have a bit of a chat about business agility. And I suppose what piqued my interest is, as I coach teams, I’ve kind of come to view now that there’s three types of agility we need to introduce into an organization. So in the middle, we have agile delivery which is pretty much where I’m focusing on coaching teams about techniques and tools and approaches for doing that with data. Underneath at the bottom, we kind of have automated operations, or DevOps or DataOps and how we can automate these things so that we don’t get the dreaded BAU bleed as we deliver more and more value that we have to maintain. But at the top, there’s this thing called “Business Agility”, which is enabling the organization to operate in a way that makes those Delivery and DevOps types of teams and approaches successful. So for me, the easiest way I always explained that is with anti-patterns. So an organization where it really needs to be signed off as an acceptance criteria by a committee, or an organization where funding is based on a project budget lifecycle, or an organization where there’s a large PMO, program managers, project managers, and the agile team somehow integrates with the fixed view have a roadmap for a while. So we hadn’t caught up for a long, long time. So when we did and, as we talk through kind of what you’ve moved into in terms of this world of helping organizations understand what business agility is, and how to move into that paradigm. I thought it’d be great to have a chat today. So as we have a background, why don’t you tell us a little bit of a story or background about where you started and how you got to this land of business agility?
Andy Cooper: Sure. I think like a lot of people, I was sort of stumbled my way into it over time. My first sort of understanding of agile, probably was about 10 years ago, when I was working at a software company called CA, known as computer associates, big company. I was running a quite a large marketing team, so not an IT, I want to become an IT user. And one of the things that we did when we owned was the web which, obviously, even 10 years ago was important. So we were rolling out our brand new website, and it was quite a complex thing. And the person who handed that off decided that we should try and do it a little differently. And they had read a book about Scrum. And they said, why don’t we try this? So I sort of got my first insights where we were 10 years ago as a user of agile about that sort of whole iterative model. And it seemed to work very well for that type of project. And so that sort of gave me a sort of practical insight that. Agile, as opposed to the traditional long planning horizons, and wait to the end and see if it works which I’d seen before many times, it didn’t work. There seem to sort of offer a lot from my mind flexibility, and the opportunity for a lot more interaction so that as a user, at the other end, I didn’t feel we were having something thrown at us. We were actually involved in it. And therefore it felt like it was something that we could use and be happy with, which normally wasn’t the case. When we were at the back end developer normally had something thrown on us. And we’re expected to use it and like it. And of course, even if it was good we did. That’s the reality of users. So agile was seemed to make sense. After leaving CA about eight years ago, I went to Soft Ed, so or otherwise known as software education. So by its nature, we teach people about software. So Agile has been around now for about 18 years. So when I started at software, we’ve already been involved in that space for some time. And we’re already doing quite a lot of training in that space. And so I sort of as Head of Sales and Marketing for software, I had just quickly get my head around what this was. So there was sort of that need. Being a relatively small company, I also inherited the job of CIO for a while which was interesting. And as part of that, we were also looking at a new website. And we also want to try and develop a couple of apps to help, improve some of the efficiency. So this would be a good opportunity of putting theory into practice. So as the CIO I tried to make sure that when we develop things that we applied what we taught, and that gave me good practical understanding of agile as a sort of user, and as a delivery, and the technical side of it as well, which is often undervalued. I’d see a lot of what I call sort of fake agile, which is sort of the veneer of agile. And a lot of cases, it’s just sort of few ceremonies, the trappings of it. So it looks shiny, like the apple on the outside. But in the inside, it’s not very agile at all and that’s quite common. And part of that is that people don’t actually focus on from a software point of view on actually developing agile using principles that were built for that with that in mind. The whole XP, which has been around a long time, and all of the things that surround that are the things that enabled us to move towards DevOps, and all that sort of wonderful stuff. So was good to see how that actually worked in practice. And then since I moved out of that role, but I’ve now been doing a lot more advising. So as I sort of deepened my understanding of agile and coming back to my more business focus, so obviously, I have a technology background working for technology companies, but I’ve also been a business user and marketing and other in other roles. So look at it from that perspective, as well, to sort of how does it help other parts of the business like marketing or finance or other things? So that sort of attracted me into the whole business agility space, which was taking the principles first, and the mindset that supports that. And then how do we apply that in a business context to sort of remove some of the problems that you have. Well, I try to create the agile organization, and that’s a small ‘a’ as well. So we’re able to sort of see some of the benefits that you see some of the fast moving organizations like Netflix’s and Amazons, and in local ended with zeros and those sort of companies that have applied some of those principles at the start and how they’re able to grow and respond quickly. So more recently, I’m doing more advisory sort of thing, a lot of it’s now comes back to real core belief now this has got to be a whole business thing, and the people that will influence that are their leaders. So we need to really lift the understanding of agility as a discipline for the leaders. So that’s sort of my personal goal is to try and help the leaders understand what agility means not agile, per se, but agility and how they can help their people in their organization become more agile. And then within that apply agile practices within the right context.
Shane Gibson: So are you saying that their appetite start to evolve? Are you seeing people at senior roles and organizations now wanting to understand what this small agile thing is? What it means to them? Or, is it still kind of in a very much an early adopter phase where they still see it as something for IT, something for software, something for your digital transformation project, or something that a vendor is going to bring, that they need to be aware of but not really involved with? I suppose, if you’re using allergy of the pig in the chicken, they might not even be the there. They might just be the farmer watching the animals. What are you finding?
Andy Cooper: Different countries have different stages. So some have bought into it in a big way. We’ve seen some local examples, like Spark, has been sort of heavily guided by McKinsey, who have a very clear agile operating model that they’re trying to implement. So that’s a sea level board level, sort of interaction. So they’ve got a very deep focus on it at that level. We’ve seen other examples ANZ in Australia, but obviously now in New Zealand as well, where the CEO has come out and publicly stated that, they want to become an agile organization, and they’re basically transitioning the whole organization to an agile way of working. So we’re seeing the whole organization moved into cross functional tests, they’re using the Spotify tribes and Guild all that stuff, which I think personally is a little overused. But anyway, they’re using that with the purpose of trying to move their people to closer to the customer. And that’s the big focus behind it. So that’s been organizations seeing that with Spark and other Telco’s in Asia that also have done that whole reorganization of their business to the cross functional
Blair Tempero: Vodafone, came out.
Andy Cooper: Vodafone is another one. Westpac is another one, both in Australia and locally that’s doing that. I work with a lot of other banks in Asia, DBS is a very well-known example, Khan bank, I work with an Asia as well, a lot of these organizations are now sort of going through this. So I think you could say it’s somewhat industry based, like the banks are probably moving faster. And also, not all of them but a lot of them are. And I think that sort of loosely follows what I’ve seen described as a disruption index. So the organizations that either are currently being disrupted or actually are aware that there could be a probably the fastest to move the ones where perhaps there’s less competition and less pressure are probably slower to move.
Shane Gibson: So that’s interesting, because when we worked in our software vendor, many, many years to go together, I remember the saying, you’re ever in a business or you’re out of business. That was the whole idea of .com before it became .bomb that if you didn’t change and adapt, you wouldn’t survive. And one of those organizations actually survived more than the .com. And so if I think about business agility, I was listened to a podcast the other day on it. And the people talking about it, they talked about the organizational structures we have today have come out of the Industrial Revolution, or when we have factories, and when we wanted to make factories more efficient, we trained people and specific roles. And then as we needed to scale we bought a managers and people were highly will make decisions, and we got the hierarchy of decision makers. And the point that we’re making on their podcasts was for those organizations to change is incredibly disruptive. So I’ve seen ones where organizations that are large or behave that way try to do innovation labs, or they try to create a subsidiary, and I suppose one of the companies I love from a brand point of view in New Zealand’s power shop, they’re owned by meridian. So you kind of look at and think, obviously, Meridian spun off a small startup to disrupt the market without disrupting the way they work. But all those ones are out on the sides, they’re not changing the core part of what their organization is and how it behaves. And then if I apply that concept of large organizations with very large hierarchies with lots of decision making, who probably the least able to move towards an agile paradigm, I call banks. For me, it’s not working for some of those banks. And even though we were doing agile projects and agile ways of working, we were pockets. We were small pockets that had to fit into the rest of the organization. So do you think it’s the fact that we’re the financier all those startups that the banks are now looking and saying, we do have to make the change or the disruptors will disrupt us? They will Uber us, they will Netflix us. So we have no choice. But if that’s the case, they must be must be two more than they have to take away and organizations worked with that many people for that long, and somehow disrupted without completely going to chaos?
Andy Cooper: Well, it’s good point. I wouldn’t say that those any of those organizations find it easy. But I think the other side of that is that, once they’ve done that, I know people that work in some of those organizations and they’ve moved into cross functional teams, and that sort of Hallelujah. We’re actually now in a team where we’ve got everyone together to be able to get something done. We didn’t have to go and get five levels of permissions from that manager and fill out 10 forms to do something we can actually we’ve got a problem. We’ve got people here who can actually fix it. So at the grassroots level, they may have been skeptical at the start of it because agile sometimes can be pushed too heavily without the right understanding or context. But once people sort of realized that this is what it’s actually about, it’s about having group people together that can react quickly to a customer need and deliver value quickly, then we’ll be out of time. So I think that there is always going to be when people roll this stuff out concern about change. And that’s partly because we’re not very good at doing it, and we’re not very good at receiving it as people. So one of the big things that needs to happen with this is, we’re starting to see sort of more enlightened organizations like Microsoft and use them as a good case study of, even though Microsoft you would say is relatively new. It’s now an old software company, we came from Oracle. And they had the problems. But with really smart CEO coming on board, who realized that for Microsoft to survive and thrive, needed to really change the way it went about its work. And so he has really instilled this whole concept of agility from a mindset perspective. So they have a big focus on the core principles that underpin agility. So, for example, what is in an agile mindset, or growth mindset using their Carol Dweck sort of terminology? So how do we accept that we can grow, we can change? How do we develop the behaviors and the actions that allow us to do that? And when we do that as an individual, then as an organization, we can respond to changes much faster. So when you start attacking the sort of things that stop change, and things that stop people moving quickly, then it can happen. So Microsoft is a good example of big organization. Smart leader working with really good people below that. So he’s got a very good HR group that is really looking at this from systematic way. All the barriers that stop us bring innovative, and this is some of the common things we see, what are the HR practices that a lot of organizations have that prevent us from being agile moving fast and working as a team. So things like performance appraisals, where those things have often been somewhat punitive. In some organizations they’ve sort of had the forced ranking, which has led to people being fired or promoted. And then sort of didn’t matter how good your team was forced into that sort of mode. And there were an annual painful event. So, though, a lot of organizations are moving completely away from that, and move into a much more dynamic sort of approach. It’s about having clear goals at a corporate level. The OKR sort of model has become very popular amongst the high growth companies. So that’s objectives and key result areas, having clear line of sight of what those are, and then as an individual, and as a team being focused on them. And so that comes back to clarity of purpose as well. That’s another key thing that I think a lot of people have lost sight of. So what am I here for? What is the purpose of the organization? And so good leaders really have that provide that clarity?
Shane Gibson: I suppose examples you’re used as where it comes from the top. More come back to that a minute. But there’s an interesting one nearly that you mentioned that I’ve never actually heard myself before which is what I kind of picked up on is, it’s coming from the top. And it’s saying it’s a culture change, which we know is hard. But actually what they seemed like they were doing is taking more of a lean approach to processes, but not naturally going after the manufacturing type processes. Not how we build software, or how we service an account, actually looking at the processes that will stop a culture change happening. So actually been quite inwardly focusing saying, what internal processes do we have? Where we need to take more of a lean approach and remove? And why do we do an annual review every year just because?
Andy Cooper: We talked about innovation a lot, the innovation economy, innovative organizations. So one of the key aspects of innovation is to allow people to think, which is really where innovation comes from, you’ve got to remove the practices and the thinking that creates waste. So some really good research has been coming out recently, just showing that for average knowledge worker which is a lot of us probably only spend a maximum about 20% of our time, doing valuable knowledge work, the other 80% is actually doing sort of tasks without any specific outcomes. I’m not saying these things are not always important, but they’re not always the most important. So, part of this is to try and develop that sort of lean approach to work, which is by clearly understanding where my value is to the organization and how our organization creates value. And then I try and figure out in the agile sense of prioritization, what’s my own backlog? How do I prioritize what I do? Do I really need to attend that meeting? Do I need to block time out of my schedule to get knowledge work done, rather than just be available all the time? Which is what part of the issue?
Blair Tempero: So have you seen organizations sort of bring out agility in the business and other ways? And what I mean is that you start with your traditional agile development shop, you bring in product owners, you train them how to act as product owners and represent the business and then it spreads out rather than the top approach. Have you seen that succeed?
Andy Cooper: No, it’s not that cut its success to a point. But it’s sort of the antibodies of the rest of the organization swarm around this agile thing. So like everything, you’re only as good as the weakest piece. So, goodness also happen. And being organic is good from the sense that people see the value and want to do it. But it’s got to be embraced through and through. Again, what I’ve seen happen is that may happen. But if we’re not looking at our HR policy, we’re not looking at our finance policies to move away from this big bang multi-year project to a much more investor sort of funding model, then you’re not really agile. And this is really what I see happening time and time. Again, is sort of like these anti patterns that will come in and swarm around. And one of the common things I keep hearing from our customers is this, but you need to talk to my manager, or you need to talk to HR, you need to talk to this, this and then the other. And so this is what happens, it can happen, but it happens slowly. And it’ll still stop at the weakest point. So if the finance chief doesn’t get it and doesn’t want to change, then that remains the bottleneck, or manager doesn’t want to change.
Blair Tempero: We’ve seen standards pop up around the organization because we’ve been doing Agile for three years that that’s all it’s all about. And they will have their morning stand up. Everyone I’d have a say, and then they’d go back to doing the same stuff.
Shane Gibson: So I want to say people that stand ups have value to have communication on a daily basis about what you’re doing, or even just how you feel is valuable. Now, it’s better than going once a week. It’s better than going into a room for two hours and having somebody talk at you for two hours, no one actually asked the team talk to themselves. So stand ups have value, but stand up are not agile.
Blair Tempero: Not under the notion that you’ve got business agility.
Shane Gibson: Or even agile delivery.
Blair Tempero: Because you’re dying.
Shane Gibson: I suppose one of the things I always struggle with and the majority of organizations I work with, I get bored to coach delivery team. And so one of the things before I started that work, I kind of talked through with the stakeholders, there’s how much business agility there is and we’re doing a transformation and we’re going Agile. And what I know is that, there is not a business agility process going on. One of the first indications we get hit with is we never get given a product owner. We get a proxy product owner or an absent product owner, because the HR processes, they can’t come and work with your team for full time for three months because that’s an FTE shift. And there’s a whole lot of organizational issues around there. So what I say to them is, there is value in doing agile delivery. We will get value, we will get better, it will be better than not doing it. But we won’t get the whole benefit until it’s solved. And the second thing I learned is that if there’s not what I call my agile umbrella. If there’s not a person above that delivery team who has minor or a senior enough in the organization to earlier called the stop ship flowing downhill. If there’s not in place then actually we often fail because we’re not safe. We have when somebody can fly in and fundamentally disrupt and change the way the team are behaving and working and not allow them to fail safely iterate their own behavior. So for me, that’s kind of still not at the stage where I’ve been lucky enough to go into an organization that has true business agility and work from there, but I’ve gotten a bunch of kind of non-negotiable now, if I don’t see that the agile umbrella then we’re all going to be unhappy at the end of this is not worth my time and not worth the money. Do you find that? I mean, you’re obviously lucky enough to go in at the right organizations at the right level and help them on their journey rather than demo at the delivery phase?
Andy Cooper: When you close the umbrella at the moment, for most people, it’s a little umbrella. It needs to be much bigger that’s just the reality. So I think that’s normal for a lot of organizations. But I think the challenge in this is that this is an organizational wide change program that they’re trying to do. It’s not an agile transformation, or digital transformation. It may be directed towards digital technology, or whatever, if that’s where they’re gonna get their competitive advantage but to become a digital culture, which is really another sort of part of it which is quite a massive undertaking. And it requires a lot of discussion and a lot of thought to do it well. Because overloaded saying, we’re gonna move to cross functional teams but that’s going to disrupt the whole lot of people’s lives. People who’ve built their careers around being functional managers, and what are they what’s their role going to be? And if we don’t think that through and provide them opportunities to grow, then the outcome of that my view is always that they’ll either actively or passively resist it. And we get this concept that’s sort of pejorative, and I was the frozen middle. We have a lot of middle managers which has shined a light. I’ve talked about, they’re actually middle managers are actually super important. If you want to get innovation and deliver innovation, they’re the ones that will enable or disable it because they’re the closest customer. So if you think about it by leaving them out, we’re actually probably not going to actually achieve what we want. So really focusing on a lot of effort, and we’ve got to have the top support, we’re gonna have the people on the ground doing it. But if you don’t put effort into that middle layer to help them be the ones that they’re actually to do this, then you’re not going to get the fast returns, you’re not going to get real agility.
Blair Tempero: And supplying the resources to the teams.
Andy Cooper: If they’re seen as if they are treated as part of this, and provided the opportunity to grow to help them learn what this means, because this is quite a big shift in what they’ve done. So we really got to retrain them around what is the role of the leader or manager in an agile organization, it’s a much different type of role than what they may be used to. So if you think about the whole goal of the team is to deliver value fast. So, if I’m a manager, what am I trying to do? I’ll make that team do that, we’ll help them do that and let’s not tell them what to do. Let’s get out of the way somewhat, but provide that clarity about purpose and try and remove the things that this is what being the person that shields them from some of the other stuff, all those and unblocks the issue with finance, or wherever else, that’s the role of agile leaders to help them, make sure they understand what the purpose is, and be clear about what they’re there to do and make sure that they do that. But then remove the things that prevent them from delivering the value fast.
Shane Gibson: So we’re in at the moment because you kind of got a team leader, you’ve got a manager. So I need an agile umbrella. But really, that’s a temporary role until the organization has business agility, then umbrella role is consumed by many other roles in an organization that’s been through that.
Blair Tempero: There’ll be a lot of well-trained skillful product owner.
Shane Gibson: Who found an impediment and help the team unlock it. But where I’m at the moment is the way articulated as that instead of being a manager, or leader, there really is two roles you can kind of assume. One of a coach and one of pastoral care. So pastoral care for me is, your role is to work with people to make sure they’re happy, safe, growing. There is pastoral care they’re here to make them successful when the personal and their work life and they need that safety especially a scrum. It’s a Sprint, but really it’s a Sprint a marathon.
Andy Cooper: It’s a slogan. So it’s not easy. Every two weeks you’re up to deliver something and it’s pretty tough. It’s tiring.
Shane Gibson: So you need that high school care. You need somebody that’s not part of that delivery cycle there. It was gonna look after you look after your health and well-being. And so what that leaves us is we’re running Scrum, we have a scrum master. We have somebody that helps the team iterate and unblock ceremonies but we need those coaching roles. We need the people that can look at where the organization’s going and help the organization and the teams kind of get better. From your point of view, if you’ve seen any other ways of articulating what they are, or that frozen middle, this is a great term. How can we make the frozen middle kind of have a purpose in life, because those roles are really important? And we don’t need to fly in new people. We just need to help people more what they do to them one more year to one of those two roles that they’re good at. Typically, I’ll say a person is typically a good coach, or typically, they’re good pastoral care. Have you seen any other type of roles off the top of the heat that you would be able to articulate?
Andy Cooper: I mean, there’s a good sort of descriptions in a way. Again, if you think like a functional manager, so let’s just say that in a traditional software team, you’ve got devs, some testing, and they’ve got product owners, and Scrum Masters, so in sort of more of those sort of agile organizations. There’s still typically a line manager for those different areas, and they are more of the postural sort of sense, but they’re thinking about what’s the needs of, so how was that Guild? Or, what do you want to call? How do we make sure that we’re keeping up with the skills and looking out for the things that are preventing us as a team? So those things, that’s a pretty important role. But the difference here, they’re my team member and you can’t have them which is tend to been how it’s sort of still to a large degree in a lot of organizations that sort of ownership, and then people fighting for resources, or you have people which still can have to happen sometimes. But they’re spread across a number of teams. Again, that’s the reality. Some organization is not big enough to have product owner for every team, you may have to have that. So we can be too pedantic about some of this stuff then. But we need to be realistic about what that compromise might mean.
Blair Tempero: Because you’re still going to have data standards that your organization wants to data governance best practice.
Shane Gibson: You’re using the words I hate, but the words that come with the words come with a whole lot of many behavior or default.
Andy Cooper: Well, there’s a lot of. And I know agile thinking that comes with it sometimes and we’re trying to create. And again, we think what drives that is that humans hate being criticized or punished, or we avoid that stuff. So if we think about a lot of the organizations that we probably work in, they’re not safe organizations. So government organizations are not safe with public who get jumps up and down about any expenditure that’s not wise in their eyes. And we have politicians that will change their minds, and also argue with each other and put a lot of pressure on. So government organizations by their own nature of not going to be safe to fail. So that creates all those by nature that sits around it, this sort of behavior. So it’s hard because we can’t change the mindset of politicians, and the taxpayer sort of mindset overnight. And that’s the thing that makes government somewhat different than perhaps commercial organizations where a board of directors and management can say, this is what the culture of the organization is, and this is what we want to be. They still have the stakeholders, they still have shareholder groups and all the other people but there’s a different pressures and government perhaps so there’s not easy things. But what are we seeing in other places where they’re really adopting the agile mindset? We try and move away from Think Big to think small and acting quickly, so that’s what I told. As to me, you sort of agility is like, not thinking big. You might have a bigger vision about or you may have to have a bigger vision about what you’re trying to achieve. And it might take a while to do it, but then do it in small chunks quickly. And that’s not in the DNA of a lot of organizations. So we’ve got to break that down. And when that’s down, because there are big organizations doing it now, so maybe they’re not on the government, but I know some government organizations that are as possible. Big banks that have huge amount of scrutiny and financial regulations and massive fines and get it wrong are able to do things in an agile way. So, if they can do that, so can any organization.
Shane Gibson: It’s just not about startups anymore?
Andy Cooper: No, it is about a mindset. It’s about if we really want to become a fast moving organization, we need to look at it holistically, treat it that way. And then figure what are the impediments to stop them. And it becomes an organizational business wide whole of business sort of focus, not just a little piece that stuck in delivery in agile.
Shane Gibson: One of the things you say it, you’re not doing a digital transformation project that happens to be implementing agile. You might implement agile culture or an agile mindset that’s quite a nice term. So you’re going to implement an agile mindset, which is a culture change, which will take time and you may use your digital transformation program will change as the first cab off the rings and start that journey. So if you get approached by CEO. So CEO of an organization gets the new job, and they rock up and they look at it and they go, I come from an agile mindset background, it’s worked for me before this organization doesn’t collaborate, it doesn’t communicate, it doesn’t change, can’t iterate. And they approach you and says, we want to make this change, here’s my lead team rather than get rid of them and bring in all the people I know, which isn’t an approach. Because actually, as much as I’ve never liked their behavior, if you think about it, bring the people with the mindset. And then it will naturally cascade through the organization over time but they’re not going to do that. And they say, cool. Here’s because the marketing background. Here’s the Chief Marketing Officer, what would you say to them first when you’re working with them, and you’re explaining the concepts. I’m assuming first, given them a framework of the words, the terminology and giving them a safe place to look dumb and ask those things in a safe way? What would you say next to them? What do you tend to every customer is different, of course, but what would you say is the first thing to do try?
Andy Cooper: Well, the first thing is to find a happy with what the way things up. Because again, we know from any sort of change through that. If people don’t believe this needs to change, then they’re not willing to do it. So you’ve got to sort of start with the sort of beliefs, and we’re going to start with the facts from a business perspective first. So what is it about our current organization or current way, we’re doing things that we’re not happy with? Is it speed to market, it takes too long from an idea to an outcome? So what does that look, and be quite specific about some of that stuff. So let’s find out how long does it take? So start gathering some information to build some facts around the current state. So that’s part of it as well, as we’ve got to start from business space. These business people in there, they’re making business decisions. So start from that not start with Agile or anything else, they care about that. They want to really understand about, how do I grow a business faster? Or, how do I improve efficiency or whatever the problem is, but let’s focus on those problems. And look at what we’re trying to actually achieve as the first step, then once we’ve sort of got clarity on what we’re trying to do and where we’re currently at, we can start looking at, let’s try some different approaches. We would always start with suggests. We start small, because there’s two ways of looking at. Some people say go big, go big, go hard, or you sort of start small, and then sort of expand out. And so whenever people say go bigger, had huge risk involved in it. Because we don’t really know there’s a lot of unknown unknowns in it. So we would always suggest that we want to start small just to sort of figure out what works and what doesn’t in our organization. And then use that as a way of sort incubate that sort of, so make a quite set up for success. But it’s like a lab we were doing that with the purpose of experimenting to see what works and what doesn’t in our organization, and what are the barriers and the good things that happen on the bad things as well and embrace those from the point of view that that’s realistic and real. But we then have a sort of backlog of items that we know we’re going to have to start addressing when we if we scale it up. And if we haven’t addressed some of then we might slow down. But we can or should move at the speed of that’s realistic. The key part then is so have a business focus. Start small, or in a small area test and learn from that. And we’ve also got a lot of communication on the why not the hell. A lot of people talk about agile was how learn Scrum, we’re gonna do that it that’s an important people. And that really doesn’t matter. It’s why we’re doing this. First, the need for changes, the first thing we’ve got to get, then the how has got to be context based. So again, a lot of mistakes I see is that people start with Scrum. Some people think Scrum equals agile, what it isn’t. It’s one popular flavor of agile that’s widely adopted, but it’s also has a whole bunch of premises that are quite difficult culturally for people to adopt. So it’s sometimes gonna be the hardest thing you can do. So that’s good if you want to test there, but not necessarily want to get success. So we should go in with a mindset of what’s the right set of practices that that support whatever we’re trying to do. So if there’s another set of agile practices, whether they’re formally within the software or not, we would love to adopt those. So it could be Kanban or something.
Shane Gibson: So what goes on is create your own AgileBI way, it’s a valuable practice, which is the word I like to use now. So type patterns are one of the things I’m working with right now, we’re just experimenting with pair programming. It makes me to change some things about the team and the way they’re behaving to give us this little bit around the quality of the code, but actually that’s not the reason we’re experimenting with to solve another problem. Often taking some Lean or some Kanban approaches, or using more of a flow based Kanban approach, but adopting some of the Scrum ceremonies, or release train or those kinds of things.
Andy Cooper: Again, it’s context based. So let’s look at what we’re trying to do and figure out the approach that’s most likely to succeed. Sometimes we might start with one pattern, one set of things first, and doesn’t work what we adapt. But where a lot of organizations get stale is that they don’t they just stay on the training wheels which whatever it was, and don’t move forward. It’s not agile, there’s inspecting and adapting using terminology and figuring out better ways of working, which means that we’re going to keep borrowing new ideas, because agile is 15, 17 years now, let’s come up with lots of new ways of doing stuff.
Shane Gibson: And then organization innovates on things that work better for them. I suppose, when I look at. So then say, use the patents that make sense to you right now and adopt and change them over time. The bit that I’m missing, and that’s made me realize this is I’m always focused on how I’ve intrinsically? Because I’ve been hired yet to coach there is a why, but I’ve never really articulated that. So what one of the things I’ve learned over time is that because normally, it’s an agile delivery team who first or second on the organization to start the journey, we actually need to start creating collateral that explains to the organization what we’re doing a pitch deck, whatever you want to call it, but a way of describing this is the way we’re working. This is the processes with approaches we’re taking.
Andy Cooper: The key focus is on why.
Shane Gibson: The thing I’ve just realized is we need to have a slide at the beginning of why are we doing this change what we can’t, that’s for our delivery cycle.
Andy Cooper: This the vision for the project, or the, the middle of the first place.
Blair Tempero: Okay, so coming into the workshop with that statement already.
Shane Gibson: We’re just about the whole process. So normally, as I said, there’ll be an agile umbrella. There’ll be somebody who’s willing to spend the money for me to come in and coach the team. And we’ve had a conversation on why they want this change to happen. But what we never do is we never write that down. We never articulate amongst the team or even definitely outside the team. Why are we adopting a completely new way of working? Because we want it to be faster, safer, cheaper, more fun. If you see faster, safer, cheaper, you’re in trouble because you might get there eventually. But for the first year, you’re gonna get a mentee payment for those three, it’s not safer for the team. That the beginning we’re learning how to work and new ways of working it’s definitely not faster. And maybe it’s cheaper because you’re fixing the cost.
Andy Cooper: You should get if you’re doing it well, there’s sort of good cost curves that show you this as well. So the start point it’s not going to be cheaper that we get the big savings or should get the big savings is further down the track when the cost of rework, or the cost of work that shouldn’t have been done. And that’s where a lot of hidden cost comes into a lot of traditional waterfall projects is. The defects that come in, and we’ve did fix them at the end, or the huge waste that’s come in from features that people said they needed, they didn’t really need.
Shane Gibson: The de-scoping of critical hard things to take into.
Andy Cooper: That hard value, but there was some of that stuff’s hard to actually, it’s not easy to actually put $1 and cents thing. But I actually say that actually, the real value of agile was, is actually in speed value. It’s about if we thinking in small MVP type things, but real MVP, it’s about how quickly can I deliver something to meet a customer need, and that is the speed of Agile is having that mindset that constantly works in that way. And so the real value is in that, the cost of delay will minimize in some of that, by actually getting and learning because we might stop it as well, we realize that actually, that wasn’t a problem that customers really cared about.
Shane Gibson: Actually, there cost of delay is a term that I picked up on a podcast a little while ago. And I like that again as it’s the cost of doing nothing. So if we take six months, there’s a cost of doing there. But if we deliver something really meaningful weeks, three weeks, then this five months, and one week of using it. And so the cost of delay for that small piece of functionality or a small piece of value, should be able to be quantified.
Andy Cooper: It’s harder, but that’s the stuff that we do. And we’re starting to look at business cases done, look at that, that’s the value of our job is, is actually be able to quantify some of that stuff, and make business decisions about. Again, get good at not focusing on what we add, but what we don’t add as well. So lean thinking should apply to software to if we think about that’s exactly what Apple’s done, in there is that they really thought hard about removing stuff, not adding stuff. Otherwise, we end up with those hideous remote controls that came about from the old VCR because someone said that we had another button. We are software developers do the same? And the actual essence of a lot of agile thinking is less as best. The simple it can be the better that faster,
Shane Gibson: All the other say no, the number of times I’ll start with a team, and they’re trying to deliver three products. And I’m like, you’ve only got capacity to deliver one.
Andy Cooper: Combined thinking with all the work in progress, sort of getting the more disciplined about not taking on too much. Again, that’s all part of this as well. This is why this is a big topic, it’s a big area. And there’s a lot of aspects to it to actually get agility requires focus on a lot of this stuff. But it’s not, you shouldn’t never work because it’s hard or complex shouldn’t start, you should. But where I come back to is let’s start from a business perspective to try and understand what we’re trying to do. So what is it about the current setup that’s not working? And treat it as that so we’ve got the clear why. And then figure out, tackle the biggest problems first, and then figure out what’s the appropriate practices. So with the right mindset we now know that we’re going to change, we know that we’re going to have to change, get some good advice about change as well, because this is a massive change thing, you can’t avoid it. So you need to get good at when it’s a managing change. That sounds almost being manipulative but actually introducing change and getting people comfortable with it, and becoming that as part of the organization DNA.
Shane Gibson: Bringing pastoral care around change,
Andy Cooper: Communication is one thing you can’t really skimp on, if you do it sort of cost you at the end.
Shane Gibson: And got to be more of an agile approach to communication. It can’t be once a month, we’re going to send out a newsletter. Now, it’s like got to be multiple channels just in time, different ways for me to consume it fits my communication, collaboration style and y availability.
Andy Cooper: A lot of forum so just giving people opportunity of having the interaction of.
Blair Tempero: Biggest comms we try to do.
Andy Cooper: Exactly. But it’s just indirection. If you want to have people embrace stuff, or at least give them an opportunity, when standing it was their concerns. So you know in advance what they are, and then you’ve got a strategy for dealing with those.
Shane Gibson: And then come back to if there’s not an agile mindset at the top table. Then your chance of having business agility is a lot harder. However, you still can have agile capability, agile delivery, and domination and operations which has value. It just means you won’t reach the true potential of that organization.
Andy Cooper: I’ve seen a really interesting presentation from a guy who used to head up the head of agility at Barclays. So 350 year old organization, 120,000 employees, a massive big organization and they were actually quite an impressive case study and in agility, and they’ve done a lot of smart things across the business to help them become an agile business. He sort of presented the PMO. Again, you sort of talked about that as a negative thing. But then PMO is journey from the traditional controlling budgets, and policing of things to a garden a value that was really one of the things that they sort of said, and so they help the organization understand how you value things? And how do you built cases that help people understand that? Because I don’t think we’re very good at it and then how do you measure it. So you start having building this language of value and the organization, and part of that shift is moving away from thinking big to thinking small, so you’ll get funded and like a VC does in small stages to prove an idea, a lightweight business case prove it. And then once you’ve delivered proof, you get more funding. So it keeps going and that sort of iterative model, not in a big bang.
Shane Gibson: But also means that when you ask the next round of funding more, you can answer more detailed questions, because you’ve done some work. So I just I like the word PMO (Project Management Office) because it comes with a whole lot of project management behavior, if it was called the Agile coaching office, or the change coaching office, or the delivery coaching, it was called coaching office. For me having a group of people whose job or whose role it is to coach different parts of the organization and how to do this well with lessons learned, as apart from putting me out of a job, it’s valuable, it’s just as you say, PMO comes with a whole lot of baggage.
Andy Cooper: Some of those are changing. For example, they will do change their title over time and realize that a projects, we don’t really want to be doing many projects. So that sort of model, there’s the whole no project sort of philosophy. And that’s more constant, so it’s more product based or service based and more continual sort of changes to those rather than that one project per team gets disbanded and we lose all the knowledge and off we go. So that sort of notion of project mentality has started to change to more continual sort of consistent teams that work on something over time. But that may start as a project. So again, we’re still going to have some element of that, that’s okay. But not as a business construct in the same way that we see it now. So some of those organizations are now re-naming themselves and there’s different terminology, but I’ve seen value delivery office. So that’s quite a nice term that’s about value delivery. So that’s their focuses on helping the organization deliver value which is ultimately something you can’t really say it shouldn’t be what we’re about. So, that’s happening. We’re working with clients, that’s exactly what they’re doing, they’re transforming themselves from that to these things take time. I mean, that’s one thing that I would also put into that, if I look at the sort of lifespan of a lot of these organizations, for a big organization to become an agile organization is a multi-year. And that requires discipline, and requires support from the board and from a CEO that’s got a really good agile mindset. And then sort of working get through the organization, and that takes multi years. It isn’t going to be one of those that happens overnight things, it definitely is a multi-year thing. How many years is a function type of organization and so government again, just more challenge in some ways, because of the political and other things. And the speed of it is largely going to be governed by the ability to change the mindset of organization that people.
Shane Gibson: But also goes back to what you said before, why are we making this change? Therefore, what does success look like? So, it’s never going to stop. I’ve never actually they become an agile business, they’re gonna iterate, they’re gonna change, they’re gonna consistently look at how they determine and add value. But there’s a point where you can go, we’ve made the tipping point. The things we wanted to change, that we’ve changed them enough that we can call that meeting our successful acceptance criteria. I just looking at time. I mean, I’d love to deep dive on OKRs because it’s one that I Aside of the research at the moment that I don’t have a lot of experience on, but I keep hearing it. So that might be another session. But just before we close out, so if somebody wanted to get hold of us operate, find out what you guys do approach you because they come in with an agile mindset, and they need to make a change and they’ve agreed that it’s not an overnight thing, what’s the best way for people to get hold of you?
Andy Cooper: They can contact me email@example.com I haven’t have a chat. I see part of my role as sort of an evangelist for this somewhat. Again, I’m just trying to help organizations and individuals, embrace these ideas but hopefully in a way that makes sense as well, I’m not going to shove agile down their throats, say you need to do Scrum. We’ll start with the first principles first. So I’m always happy to talk to people about how I can share some ideas on things that I’ve seen work, I’ve worked a lot of different organizations around the world, and I’m happy to share my insights about what I’ve seen working and not to anyone.
Shane Gibson: And that’s one of the things we talked a while ago that I found really cool was that the majority of your work is remote, your coaching business stakeholders remotely on how to make this change, which is awesome. That actually, based here in sunny Wellington, you can go and global domination is the goal. So that’s great. I have actually figured out how to put stuff on the podcast when I publish it now. So always looks to the details. Hey, thanks for that. As always, we probably could talk for another hour. But topical for me at the moment, and what’s pleasing about them on the shipping is gonna be difficult for him.
Blair Tempero: I’ll ask about them.
Andy Cooper: I can put you some good stuff. I’ll send you a really nice short little guide on them.
Shane Gibson: I welcome you back for another podcast on OKRs. It’s been a good 30 minutes talking about those and like I said, they seem to be a good valuable pattern.
Andy Cooper: I think that’s part of the answer. It’s like everything. There’s no answer. There’s a series of things you can do and helping people to align to the purpose and give you a line of sight on what I’m doing align to what the business is about them and that helps me feel good about what I’m doing.
Shane Gibson: That’s cool. Alright, so we’re gonna catch a rabbit on the air. So catch you all later for the next one.
Blair Tempero: Okay, thank you. Cheers!