The Heart of Agile with Mike Leber

Join Murray Robinson and Shane Gibson as discuss business agility and the heart of agile with Mike Leber. 

We talk about how the heart of agile liberates you from rigid process frameworks by focusing on collaboration, delivery reflection and improvement.  We talk about how the agile industrial complex has turned agile into a heavyweight waterfall process.  And how innovation is happening outside the traditional agile bubble.  And lastly, we talk about agile leadership. If you’re interested in getting to the heart of agile and exploring business agility. 

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Podcast Transcript

Read along you will

Shane: Welcome to the No Nonsense Agile Podcast. I’m Shane Gibson. 

Murray: And I’m Murray Robinson.

Mike: Mike Leber. 

Murray: Hi, Mike. Thanks for coming on.

Mike: Thank you. 

Murray: So we want to talk to you about the heart of Agile today, but why don’t you kick us off by telling us a bit about who you are and your background and experience.

Mike: Yeah, sure. Thanks for having me. I’m Austrian. I’ve been working in this large German speaking area in Vienna, Austria for a long time. My background, the usual one, software developer, studied informatics . Before I started studying I learned how to earn money for coding and went into commercial software application development.

And in 99, I got involved with extreme programming when I worked at Daimler Chrysler. That caught my attention. That brought me into this idea of, there is something behind, working closer with customers, thinking about team collaboration, all these practices were learned. And then it brought me into the barriers, big corporate cultural issues, leadership issues. So I continued in the early days at Daimler for 10 years, internal IT large thing, I think it was about 4, 000 employees at the time, only working in the IT organization. And then basically having been involved with a variety of other frameworks like Scrum and then later came Kanban in the early 2000s, I decided to join a consulting company where I was able to grow an agile practice. It was, I think, 2010. And then only three years later, I started to become self employed and started my own business with a couple of other people, supporting larger projects, this transformation stuff. Involved with many interesting initiatives started focusing more on, the non technical organizational things like Coaching became a topic, started my professional education, I think in, 2011. And then more and more went into leadership which today is one of my, favorite topics. I got involved with the Business Agility Institute in Australia with Evan Laburn. 2019, we hosted the BAI conference in Vienna, Austria. But that’s where I am and Heart of Agile, which is the topic today. I got involved with Alistair Coburn and his group 2018. where he asked me if I would join. 

 

Murray: What was the state of play when Heart of Agile came about? What was the context and the motivation for it. 

Mike: Past 15 years has been an increase in acceleration, and frameworks Like for example, the most simple framework is scrum, it’s at least the smallest and it still is pretty complex. If you think about what all goes into Scrum already, what’s being defined there and what education programs you can go for and what we expect Scrum masters and product owners to all learn and potentially, Grow over a longer period. This is pretty different from the original idea of the Agile manifesto. The original ideas came from IT software development lightweight frameworks. But nowadays, in the past years, we’ve seen, okay, that touched many other areas of organizations. There was probably a potential to step back and think about, hey, what’s the actual core idea instead of following any of these detailed frameworks. So, what Alistair did to say, Hey number one, There are all these developments, that keeps us forgetting about the core. Now we’re getting lost , in all of this busyness with dogmatic debates about, who’s right, who’s wrong and Alistair stepped back and said what is Agile about? It’s the ability to move and change direction quickly on whatever scale. And So, what is the core was the basic idea of the heart of Agile. We’re talking about living systems, right? It’s not just, we’re not just engineering systems here. We’re talking about organizations and we’re talking about complexity. 

It’s about brilliance in the basics. And he referred to an example from the US Air Force who have a lot of different airplanes and there is no possibility for any pilot to be trained on all of them. And so what they do is distill one core, which they refer to as brilliance in the basics, that every pilot should be able to pursue so that they are able to switch cockpits. And the basics are explained with a few, pillars. 

Murray: We interviewed Jim Highsmith recently about his book from Wild West to Agile, and he was saying that before the Agile manifesto was developed, there was a group of people from the XP community, and the OO community, and Alistair and others, who were calling themselves the Lightweight Process Community. But they didn’t think lightweight was gonna help them get consulting work. But the core of agile was always that it’d be a lightweight process movement. 

And if you look around now, Boy, has it become a heavyweight process movement for a lot of people. Apparently Agile means write your Agile project charter, and then your Agile business requirements document in Epics and User Stories for about three months with your Agile business analysis team, and then you handed that over to your Agile architecture team to write your Agile solution architecture document for about three months. And So, on, and it’s really just heavyweight. Waterfall, with the word Agile thrown all over the place. It’s either that, or it’s Scaled Agile Framework for Enterprises, which is this other massive bureaucracy. 

Mike: I wouldn’t have intended to point to the framework, but I knew what you were talking about. Yeah. 

Murray: Back in 2010, everything was going really well with Agile, I think. And people started talking about scaling, and that’s when it became this heavy bureaucracy. So, I see Heart of Agile as stripping away all of the unnecessary things that have been added on to Agile over the years.

Mike: First of all, yes. I understand your sentiment There is this phrase descale, descaling, right? And I think there was even a little bit of a movement where people just said, Hey, you’re taking it wrong. I understood these arguments where somebody said Hey, we’re Intel and we have, no projects for a small little teams. We have thousand developers working on one product, but then maybe the definition as we know it from Les and Craig Larman talks a lot about it. The definition of product is subjective, whether you include a platform, whether you include a whole architecture, hardware, system, whatever, but, zooming forward into 24, I’m looking at companies and organizations that are after different approaches. For example, Haier Group, who work in your area, talking about open ecosystems. It’s not closed companies anymore. If the world is as complex as the internet, then every organization needs to apply the same complexity, Ashby’s law. And that means we need a networked organization. And in this environment, they talk about the smallest possible unit, which they call micro enterprise. It’s a company within the network. It might be owned somewhere by the group, but they are open to get other investors on board, to get it on the free market. They understand complexity requires a different style of dealing with a complex market and with the constraints.

And then they just say, bring everyone in this organization as close as possible to customers. So, that we, understand them and can create value as fast as possible. So, they have this principle, zero distance to customer and many more principles. 

I think this scaling thing, brought us into the totally wrong direction. 

And it is no coincidence, that industrialization of the consulting industry followed. Scaled Agile it’s literally the same business model like it was with Rational Unified Process. It has a lot of similarities

Murray: Oh, that’s where Dean Leffingwell came from.

Mike: And that’s the point. I don’t care about SAFe personally. I had some emotions probably over the past 10 years. I totally stopped that because I think it’s not helpful if we follow these, Wars between camps. And SAFe has a market and they probably also achieve things.

Murray: But why do managers love safe? 

Mike: Managers are part of a system, which has history, I mentioned VW before. That’s a group with 600, 000 employees. It’s a little bit different than a startup. They cannot just stop everything they’re doing. They cannot do what Elon Musk does. So, therefore why do systems that have been established over decades, tend to seek solutions that are mirroring somehow who they are. 

Murray: Yeah, I think we’re in the age of bureaucracies, and Agile is fundamentally a revolution against bureaucracy. It’s like the French revolution demanding, a liberal democracy. That’s how different it is from my point of view. It has a lot of benefits for customers and workers and shareholders. But when bureaucracies see it, they just want to turn it into more bureaucracy because bureaucracies are self reinforcing. A bureaucracy is going to turn everything it touches into more bureaucracy. And behind that, there’s this mental model that a larger organization has to be a machine. Very complicated clock, and that’s the only way that anything can get done efficiently and effectively. It’s the only way we can produce cars cheap enough to compete in the market. There’s these beliefs that people have, which they learn from senior managers, as they go through organizations.

I have been engaged to help write agile processes as probably many of us have, and I’ve said let’s write a process that’s really open and flexible. And it’s just really hard to get that idea across that what we’re after is less process, empowerment. It’s just goes against the whole core ideas of bureaucracy, which is almost held with a religious belief by a lot of people. 

Mike: And, bureaucracy goes back long time, right? When the industrialization probably started and Max Weber, wrote about it 

So, that is one thing, and I’m not sure about revolution and if revolutions are helpful. We already have a lot of them in the world, but we tend to only focus on our realm. I came out of software and Agile was born in this software thing. But there are even parallel developments, similar to Agile, but not the same. The one Haier I mentioned before, it’s been on track since 30 years. 

Beyond budgeting, Bjarke Boksnes calls it the agile thing of the finance world. And teal and all these things. I think we’re rather part of an evolution and we’ll probably understand it better in 500 years or so. But just think about the school systems. I’ve two kids, one in primary school, the other in secondary here in Austria. The system is the same, like probably 100, 200 years ago. School systems, were, trying to make everybody clever, but just to have a basic understanding of things, but hey, don’t become too clever in order not to challenge power the government or anybody like the emperor or anything.

That’s, Long time back, but these systems are currently shaken up. They’re evolving into some new state. There are alternative schools and school turns into university. And then from university comes somebody into an organization, becomes an employee. You’ve got this whole life cycle of a human being. It’s systems within systems and so, instead of zooming back into our topic, Agile and the Agile movement, zoom out in order to refocus. What is actually the core? Where is core value? Where can I create value today? And what next step could we take? And that brings us back to Heart of Agile. 

Not being another framework, it’s just an idea to get people together at one table instead of following any complicated practice or anything that’s maybe even not clever. I always have to laugh about how SAFE documented how to handle story points. If I’m sad, then I pick up the safe documentation and just read it. It makes me always laugh.

Murray: Yeah we’ve been talking about the context, why Heart of Agile, so, let’s go through the core ideas. There’s four pillars, aren’t they? Can you take us through those?

Mike: Yeah. It doesn’t matter where you start but I always tend to start with collaborate, people over processes. So, making people collaborate, which means having a common goal. Going through debates, going through tension and finding agreements and making decisions could be the first pillar, which then gives you the platform or the possibility to create and deliver and finally learn. So, deliver being the second and then reflect being the third Where would we improve any of the previous or anything that helps us to get the whole thing. These are just pillars for conversations to say, okay, what would be behind all of this that’s relevant, that we could pick up, next. 

One of the things we always discuss in this heart of Agile group is this question about making decisions under uncertainty. So we collaborate to make decisions about something we want to create and deliver in order to learn about whether any of these held true or were useful or if we created value or not. I think it includes the human system which by definition is a complex one, the individual as well as the group. 

Murray: So they’re more like core ideas. I could imagine you could have a retrospective and put collaborate, deliver, reflect, and improve up as columns and say, let’s talk about how can we collaborate more effectively? How could we reflect more effectively? And so on. 

Mike: Exactly. That’s a common practice we always suggest. Just put those sticky notes on a MIRO board or on the wall. And then just have a very open, conversation about what matters in order to take decisions. It’s a little bit reflective, right? Because then you will take decisions about what to do next. And it basically brings you into the next cycle . 

If you’re into scaling, if two teams, four teams would start, looking at their work in this way. And whatever comes up as a problem, a challenge. how do we get a hundred teams or 50 teams, 10 teams collaborate together? Hey, there is no prescription for it. Doesn’t make sense. We need to have relevant conversations and find more local solutions. Of course we can use patterns, but create a more local solution than just following a huge concept that somebody else invented and that will probably not cover more than 50 percent of our real challenges, how people think and feel about the issues, what else needs to be considered, the very special context, stakeholders, product and everything alike. 

Murray: Yeah. Things we should think about at the same time, but they’re just simple core concepts for you to reflect on. 

Mike: Exactly. 

Murray: Now I’ve seen Alistair put another layer around these four things. So, I’m looking at one on the Heart of Agile website. Could you explain what’s going on the outside

Mike: I think here it becomes an important message not to see this as any prescription. It’s just a consideration of the concepts which might be relevant for collaboration for example, leadership, a certain type of leadership, we need an environment, a context where collaboration is even valued or possible. Are we able to have a deep conversation where we don’t need to be right, where we don’t need to prescribe anyone anything. Do we, have the right culture for that? 

Murray: Let’s explore each of the four of them. So, that’s collaborate. What about deliver? 

Mike: It’s more examples, right? Talking about flow, which is a topic. Of course, if I want to deliver something, then we need to think about, how does the operational structure work? And somehow we will then meet challenges where we need to consider, okay, things we know from Kanban. Lean topics will be probably relevant at this. point. And then the longer our iterations, the longer it takes for delivery, the bigger the set of decisions we put out in the world in order to learn afterwards. So, it’s basically something we need to validate. And then we also need to think about value creation for the organization. We create value for customers. So, to which extent is that feeding a business model that pays off? So, delivery to create some income, or business results. 

For the reflect part, it’s like, PDCA. what do we build our reflection upon? What kind of data do we use how do we, introspect the process. Reflection basically means also awareness, stepping back, and maybe even creating another cycle, which is about, personal reflection, individual reflection, creating awareness and personal intent, how we collaborate here, how we see our customers, how we interact with each other. 

And then finally the improved thing, which is fed with tons of possibilities, a little bit from the lean startup world. Some might know lean change and everything alike, where we just think about, okay, what kind of experiments could we try in the organization?

Let’s try something completely different and not involve the traditional process and see what comes out of it. So, you see. With each of these, pillars you might recognize many sources, bodies of knowledge, you can involve here. And there is no given, cycle direction or anything. It’s just a matter of focus. Just to say, where do we currently suck the most and what should, get our attention at a certain point in time? 

Murray: All right. So, what are some practical ways that we could use these heart of agile ideas? 

Mike: The most challenging bit in the first place is to free yourself from the idea you have to run a known and well defined process where you get providers and consultants on the market. Because what we just talked about is free form learning in a social context. So, it’s not about saying, Oh, we are now migrating from Scrum to Heart of Agile because we said Heart of Agile is basically a thinking mode. Alistair calls it a reminder and SolePainter calls it a compass. And you can use a compass in any given context. As an example we sometimes do it as part of our regular retrospectives. So, this is the easiest thing to do, just to change the way you have conversations and what you talk about and how you talk about things. 

Murray: Yeah, I went on a course with Alistair in 2014, where he was talking about this. And it’s very liberating. It’s about taking responsibility for developing your own approach to do these things, and that reminds me very much of the early days of Agile. People were coming up with processes and approaches left, right, and center. And Instead of the bureaucracy that we have now. I find it very refreshing to go back to the core ideas let’s not worry too much about following the process. 

Mike: Let’s trust people 

Murray: Yeah. 

Mike: that’s what we brought them on board for. And so totally agree with what you just said. Jeff Sutherland published this book twice to work in half the time. We know it’s a terrible idiotic title for quite a good book. I enjoyed reading the book, but how could somebody call something this way? 

Murray: Twice the value in half the time makes sense. 

Mike: Yeah, but Alistair says, it’s not at all about increasing speed. Everybody’s still fine to work at the same speed. We might have a better ratio of work time invested and value created. But this doesn’t mean that over two weeks, four weeks, six months. It will be more value because it depends on the market conditions, our capabilities. 

Murray: How many times have we been brought in by some executive who says this team is not performing well, they’re not meeting their deadlines. I need you to fix this team, because it’s certainly not me or the system that is the problem. It’s the team and the people in it who are the problem. And some of them should be fired. So, tell me which ones they are.

Mike: Trust right from the beginning. And how often have we said no to such an offer being brought in? Of course we also have to earn our money, but how often have we replied? And what about the leadership team? how are you contributing here? 

Murray: I have done that, but not immediately. my approach is to say yeah, look, my job is to help the team for sure. Let me spend some time with them finding out what their issues are, because in my experience, the team know what their problems are and we just have to surface them and help them solve them. And sometimes that means changes outside the team. I hope Mr. Executive, that you’ll be willing to help with that. 

Mike: And if you reflect after the fact, you’ll probably, they’re talking about Heart of Agile again, you’ll probably have attached to the pillars of this thinking model way more than, having brought up any framework and having told a team, Oh, you understood this framework wrong and you’re doing this wrong. No, you will probably have helped them navigate the way they approach each other. collaboration 

way more? 

Murray: if you take that Heart of Agile philosophy, you’d say that people are complaining about their daily stand ups, and you say, I don’t care if you ask the three questions, what would be helpful? Would it be helpful for people to say, I’m having a problem, and then everyone else solves it? Okay. If that would be helpful, why don’t we do that instead? It Liberates you from process frameworks, I think. 

Mike: Yeah. And I think that Liberating organizations, from any of these prescriptive stuff that is something that is heavily needed. And Most of this stuff probably has some valuable core, but it shouldn’t be prescriptive. There should be a pull mechanism teams, individuals can use. So, that they set the trigger when to look into what and why and then use any of those things to whatever extent. But again, you were just coming with this example, here is an executive, here is a management team that doesn’t feel patient because this is a company that’s, on the stock exchange. So, this whole systemic thing is the problem. It’s not the manager. They are driven too by a system, which they are just part of. So, therefore it’s probably also helpful just to open an honest conversations. What’s really going on here? What is your fear, Mr. Manager, if this thing doesn’t work out in the next few months. 

Murray: Yeah. . 

Let’s talk a little bit about business agility because you are the leader of the business agility conference in, austria 

Mike: Yeah, business agility institute. I can’t remember when it was founded, probably it was 2016 or something. Yeah. When the first conference took place in New York, I was there and joined the team in the very early days and then brought it to Vienna, Austria in 2019. Ran it there. It was a different, fresh, new format, but obviously a fresh context.

And some people are, debating is this even needed to talk about business agility isn’t agile all about that. And I would say yes and no, because first of all, we are expanding the scope. And Alistair would also say the scope was always beyond software, but I think it wasn’t as explicit. And so first of all, there is this broader context. There is this, focus on whole organizations and businesses. And second this term agility is a little bit less dogmatic than agile. Although Alistair says, that there is no intent to become agile. There is just the possibility to become more agile So, that there is no end state. But agility for me is a capacity of an organization that’s made up of many different aspects. We talked about trust before social capital, what kind of culture do we have here? And then we can break it down into the capacity to make decisions, to run processes in a way that satisfy our market. So, it just. reframes the conversation into an arena where we talk about a different scope, different measures, and , a extended audience especially also decision makers. Because, Agile, has a little bit of this tendency to break free from the traditional hierarchy and exclude. Managers, especially middle managers. To say, Hey guys, you don’t have a role here anymore. Do this, otherwise you’re out, right? 

Sure. If we have a highly bureaucratic system we should consider what kind of problem we have but talking about people, it doesn’t help a lot just to fire them or, have a sort of division between groups. Business agility institute we’re talking about understanding leadership, involving leadership and also making clear what it actually takes to drive an organization forward. 

Murray: So, what does the business agility Institute do?

Mike: The conference was a big part fostering conversations a little bit of a different way. So, not only the typical, agile coach thing where people get together and talk their things like practices and frameworks and everything. So, that was a differentiator. The way the stories were told and then immediately reflected on across tables in the room. we bring organizations on board, of course, also providers, especially practitioners in order to run in house conferences to bring more people on board, to involve more people.

They have been doing these research things. Getting out quite interesting and relevant reports, as for example, they just did it together with Scrum Alliance regarding the employer world related to Agile what currently is happening on the market 

Murray: What does an agile organization look like? What are its characteristics? 

Mike: I tend not to use this term, to be honest, Agile organization. It’s even not the goal. Your customers will not favor anything about your services if you say, yes, but these are Agile services. The most interesting organizations and I think Haier Group is one of them nowadays, none of them are even partially involved in any of the Agile movements. So, the actual innovation takes place in totally different places. 

Murray: I would say Burtzorg, that’s another one. Dutch nursing federation where they have almost no managers. They have teams and you’ve got nurse managers, practitioners. And Elon Musk’s companies like Tesla and SpaceX. 

Mike: Which brings up a big topic, of course, with in this case, for me, it’s always the leadership issue with Elon Musk. Now there is his biography out there from isaacson.

Murray: Yeah, there’s no doubt that there’s a lot to dislike about Elon Musk, but what’s really interesting about him is his algorithm. Which is simplify before you automate, for example. Go back to the basics of physics. 

Mike: Yeah. 

Murray: We had Joe Justice on talking about it. He worked in the assembly line On painting in a Tesla factory. And it was amazing how agile they were, without calling themselves that. But yeah, I would agree the most innovative stuff is coming from outside the companies that call themselves Agile. 

Mike: I think that is what the Business Agility Institute also tried to support, just to open people’s eyes for what else is happening in the world. Bringing these stories on board, bringing people together from outside the, bubble, because I think this is something we should be more aware of. We’ve created a bubble over the past few years So that, Martin Fowler started calling it Agile Industrial Complex.

And again, this is just part of the business. It’s just normal thing, nothing to blame or complain about. But it’s important to understand what’s happening. People are being laid off not getting as many contracts anymore. Training business goes down. It’s a good moment in time to change ourselves, because I’m always wondering to which extent are we applying all these things on ourselves? 

Murray: But are we going the wrong way, Mike? Because it seems to me that executives want to buy Agile bullshit and people like us don’t want to sell it to them. 

Mike: Yeah. I think this is now also changing. Agile is everywhere. It works. It’s not stupid. It’s not unimportant, but the way we have been dealing with it was not always clever and there is already a high demand for changing that. So, that, for example, the role of an Agile coach becomes less important. And I’m not surprised that people are getting laid off. I was surprised that, So, many Agile coaches got hired over the years. You mentioned Buurtzorg before I think with 17, 000 people, and I think they have about 10 coaches 

Murray: And they’re not even Agile coaches.

Mike: Exactly. And So, I think we need coaching competence and capacities all across an organization. We need scrum mastery if we use this kind of framework, but we don’t need. Hordes of scrum masters. 

Murray: All right, we’re coming to end of our time. We should go to summaries. So Shane, do you want to kick us off? 

Shane: Indeed interesting conversation. So we started off talking about where did the heart of Agile come from? And the idea was to go back to the original days. That concept of focusing on the core. If we took away those frameworks and those practices, what are we left with? And as part of that, I really loved your definition of what is agility. It’s the ability to change direction quickly. That’s at the core of what everything else is here to support . And then the way that you talked about that idea of brilliance in the basics pilots learning a few small set of skills that enabled them to adapt and innovate and change whenever they had to hop in another cockpit. 

We also talked a lot about this idea that an organization is a system. And what we see in large organizations is large complex systems. And so you talked a bit about the fact that actually when it is that complex, we can’t reengineer them. There’s a whole lot of constraints and boundaries and yes, you are evolving, but you’re not transforming. Organizations before 2000 are typically large, hierarchical, and have a fixed mindset. And organizations after 2000 typically have a more sense of agility. They seem to work in a more agile way. We talked about Hi aer a Chinese company that was actually a conglomerate of about a hundred companies and that each company could or could not use the other part of their company. It was up to them. So there was a marketplace internally, and if you’re a part of the organization, didn’t deliver a service that the others wanted to buy, then your organization died and somebody else took over. It aligns to what Spotify published, in the early days, this idea of autonomy, this idea of teams building their own ways of working. 

So then we talked about the heart of Agile. We talked about what you call four pillars. Collaborate, deliver, reflect, and improve. Collaborate for me is around, smooth transitions. We know that handoffs between people is where things get dropped, it’s where things break. So if we focus on the collaboration to smoothing those transitions, then there’s value in doing that. If we think about delivery, rather than delivering large, we deliver experimental small things and we learn when we do it

We constantly reflect, so we learn from what we’ve done and then figure out what we want to change and we improve everything. improving your ideas, your implementation and your processes,. So improve everything and anything you can. 

And you just made this point that people are not machines. So, what do we naturally do? We go, well, this is all great. Let’s create A process methodology Let’s treat people as machines. Let’s tell them what to do, right? Let’s give them a set of operating principles and then stop them thinking. And I think that’s where Agile has got to. 

The value for me of Heart of Agile seems to be four areas that we can focus on. Those four areas give us balance. We can’t focus on one only. We can’t just collaborate and not worry about delivery and, reflecting and improving, but it allows us to shift our perspective.

So an example I’d use then is if we were doing a retro at the end of a iteration. Instead of just having what went well, , keep doing, stop, that kind of stuff. We’d break it up into those four focus areas. What went well with collaboration? What would we do with delivery? What would we do if we were reflecting on the way we work? What would we do in improving our work? So I like that as a way of focusing. Which of those four things do we suck the most at right now? Let’s unblock that. And then next time we’ll suck at one of the others, but focus on that. 

And that brought us back to this idea of freeform. That organizations aren’t freeform, people are not empowered. People can’t build their own way of working. And that’s what we need to do. And Murray used the word liberating. We pay people well, then we treat them like chickens. And we try and chicken farm them. So we should pay them well, trust them, liberate them, and let them build their own ways of working. When things are successful people are innovating. They’re finding these things out, they’re figuring out how to make them real.

And so for me, Heart of the Agile is a mental model. It’s a very simple, basic, back to the core, four things to think about. Implement them any way you want to, but keep going back to them. Murray, what have you got?

Murray: Yeah, the core idea of Agile Manifesto is the first line. We’re uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. We are uncovering better ways. That’s what this movement is about. It’s a call for us to work together to come up with better ways of developing products and services and sharing them with each other

But the commercialization of it from the Agile industrial complex has been bad. And there’s plenty of people in these big companies, who are very happy to, tell executives that we’ll help you implement Agile and it’ll have all these phases and gates which will make you happy. In other words, it’ll be exactly the same as what you’re used to, , but it’s got lots of Agile words in it. 

But I really like the core ideas that Agile is about ways to collaborate, ways to deliver, ways to reflect, and ways to improve. And that is very liberating. If you just keep that in mind, then you don’t worry about all these processes all the time. Scrum, that’s one way of doing things that can help us collaborate, deliver, reflect and improve. But there’s also other ways. The important thing is the key ideas, not the process or the process framework. It’s very simple and easy to understand. Anything you want to add? 

Mike: Yeah. Famous final words. First of all, thanks for summing this up. It was interesting to listen myself. I liked the reminder uncovering better ways, because it doesn’t say, we’re copying and pasting what others are doing. That’s the point we need to do our things instead of always asking for examples, how others are doing it. I understand people are feeling fear and they just want to see how did they do it, but it’s a totally different thing to have the right conversations with the right people.

Alistair Coburn refers to Agile as a culture of listening. That’s not a culture of PowerPoint slide decks, but rather similar to Amazon’s way, how executives have deep conversations, talking about reading a memo first 20 minutes, 25 minutes into a meeting, silence, everybody just focusing on a deep document. And that means basically getting out of the hamster wheel. Agile is about getting better at creating value. It’s not about speed. I think this is probably the biggest misconception on the market. Speed. If you want speed, get somewhere else. There’s a lot of trucks around you can take, but, this is more about deeper thinking about what is valuable amidst all the VUCA thing around us. 

Murray: Now, Mike, how can people find you? How can they find Heart of Agile? 

Mike: Yeah, first of all heartofagile com is the website. I’m listed there as many others. There is additional material there. Recorded talks by Alistair. We’ll also find a lot of this on the internet. You can find me based on LinkedIn. I think my LinkedIn profile is michael underscore Leber and yeah, I’m happy to answer every question and join every challenging, interesting conversation.

And I also, once again, want to remind the initiative, Jim Highsmith and other Agile manifesto authors set up a re imagining Agile, which is basically not about getting back to the Agile business, but to the core idea, which is similar to the heart of Agile. 

Murray: And do you do training, consulting? Can people hire you 

Mike: Yeah, I do a lot of different trainings. They’re all on my website AgileExperts at for Austria. I would go for the Agile Leadership Journey. The practices are important, all the skills we need but I think what we need to learn more about is our own psyche, how we interact with others, how we evolve ourselves, and that is all about leadership.

Murray: Thank you very much for coming on. We appreciate it.

Mike: Thank you.

Murray: That was the No Nonsense Agile Podcast from Murray Robinson and Shane Gibson. If you’d like help to create high value digital products and services, contact murray at evolve. co. That’s evolve with a zero. Thanks for listening.

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