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The new competitive advantage is the ability to anticipate, respond and adapt to change.
Do you think Agile is just an IT thing? Well you’d be surprised!
It’s the 24th February 2013, and my girlfriend and I just got engaged.
I’m sure many couples planning a wedding can relate to the
“OMG moments” when realising that they have agreed to get married, but also agreed to plan this once-in-a-lifetime event, where everything will be beautiful and run more smoothly than a precision racing team.
Having run many projects and led large teams across multiple timezones – I seem less than puzzled by the thought of arranging everything. After all it’s just another project isn’t it? Wrong! At least that’s what my fiancé reminded me 🙂
I’ve spent the past 12 months myself on an Agile journey, learning the ways of visual management, lean and flow. With much gusto I pulled together a Trello board. I was excited, but not sure that my fiancé shared in my enthusiasm. None-the-less we pushed on and started to plan our wedding.
Back in the day, when I worked in the USA in a fascinating startup (then called ePredix, who were rolled into Previsor and are now part of SHL), I was regularly set on my chuff by one of our amazing technical advisory board members for thinking that anything at all under our digital sun was NEW, or that any of our 21st century science of Industrial-Organisational Psychology (in simple terms, big data about people, for hiring and development) could be viewed as a sure thing.
Our tech advisory board had every right to proffer those kind of opinions to a young economist whippersnapper, as between them they had invented several of the things the science was founded on!
The tools we were building at ePredix were online selection tests, delivered in short form on the web. We had patented ways (don’t get me started on patents by the way…) of serving up a couple of dozen multi-choice questions and then stack-ranking the applicants in their suitability in the role. Bloody clever, big data, but a PhD required to do the maths.
One of my most memorable moments was at dinner one night when one advisory board member quietly advised me “you know, it’s all baloney really, you might as well just let teams self-select – they’ll be just as successful”. He went on to tell me of the Lancaster bomber crews of the RAF in the early 1940s, where after short training periods, Bomber Command were stuck with terrible problem of selecting the crews.
Their creative solution? Jam them all (several different flying disciplines, from multiple countries around the world) in a hangar or mess hall, and tell them they had 10 minutes to join a crew.
The result was some of the bravest, effective, well put-together teams in the history of the war. That said, the odds were against them surviving as a team – at the final tally, half the 125,000 young men had been killed or wounded in action, and nearly 10,000 became POWs. The crews had a fair idea of what they were in for – in some cases, 25% of intakes were killed in training.
With a lot of discussion at present about team self-selection in the agile world, it occurred to me the Lancaster bomber story was worth looking into again. Here’s Sandy Mamoli’s recent blog post on squadification at Trademe in New Zealand for example.
I found this book by Leo McKinstry from 2009. Here’s the key quote that validates what I heard way back in 2001:
“Once all the initial course had been finally completed, the recruits were sent to an Operational Training Unit, where they began their real preparation for bomber combat. It was at the OTUs that the individual trainees formed themselves into crews for the first time. After all the formality of the previous selection procedures and examinations, the nature of ‘crewing up’ seemed strangely haphazard, even anarchic.
“There was no involvement from the senior commanders, no direction, no regimentation. Instead, the trainees were all taken to a large hangar or mess room, and just told to choose their colleagues to make up the 5 man crew: pilot, bomb-aimer, gunner, wireless operator and navigator. The engineer, who had to undergo specialised training, and the second gunner, would join at a later stage. Without any guidance or rules, the trainees had to rely entirely on their own gut instincts in selecting which group to join.”
Location 4295 of 12152 in Leo McKinstry, Lancaster, 2009 (Kindle Edition).
The book goes on to discuss the kind of people who made up the trainee group of Bomber Command – aged between 17 and 27, self-selected into the jobs (not conscripted), intelligent, inwardly motivated, with broad-based educations.
“They did not need leaders or formal structures” concluded Frank Musgrove in 2005 (Dresden and the Heavy Bombers).
As someone deeply involved in my own day job experimenting with REA-Group’s organisation with new ideas that change traditional leadership roles and formal reporting structures, I’m excited to find these kind of references. I see similar patterns in the world of rock bands and music – but that’s another blog post!
Let me be the first to concede that RAF Bomber Command is a horrific story, for both the crews and the millions of civilians who bore the brunt of this brutal military strategy on both sides of the war. But the extreme nature of the situation called for unusual methods to be applied – we should not ignore them today as we find old ways of running things coming up short and wasting time and money.
And as a grandson of a UK war veteran, I offer a moment of thanks for their sacrifice.
As the humanists (and Dan Pink!) will remind us, so often a “thankyou” can be as big a reward as any monetary thing, and in this case – doubly so. An enterprising Melbourne agilist enlisted family members in the Ukraine to find us some amazing Soviet-era Lunokhod stamps. Some all the way from Cuba and Mongolia!
So thank you Anna!
On our Luna MBA booklist you’ll find The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen. Written in 1997, you shouldn’t be bragging about just discovering it now, though many people are. Better late than never I suppose. I love Clay’s thinking and the way he writes – he crystallised some frightening trends in the shrinking lifespan of business models that became evident in the 1980s, in language that everyone could understand.
Thus, when the opportunity to see him in person came up this week, I was compelled to go. Sure, it was $800 a ticket. Sure, you can read the books (we have). Watching and listening to this giant of a man (in all senses, he is 203cm tall!) is like seeing Leonard Cohen in person, rather than downloading his greatest hits on iTunes. Or perhaps trekking to town and buying vinyl in James’ case.
With his entire oeuvre of change and business teaching available (8 books!), what did this towering figure from management literature choose to talk about?
1. Disruptive Change
First Clay reminded us how disruptive change is defined in his work – that disruptive innovations create new customers and markets, rather than fighting in the home ground of existing products or services. This makes them very different to changes that you invent to sustain your current business model.
His personal example was transistor radios adoption by teenagers in the 1950s. At the time, the core consumer market for radio and TV was wealthy middle class families – spawning a massive industry supplying valve based products to US consumers that were large and costly.
Realising that the transistor was going to be part of the future of the technology, the main industry players invested $3b on R&D to develop transistors that would produce high fidelity sound and pictures. None of which delivered a new product in the short term for consumers.
The industry disruption occurred because of a change in the metric of performance from quality of sound to portability of sound. Teenagers were perfectly happy with static-filled rock and roll music if they could listen to it away from the prying and censoring ears of their mothers!
The key question around this kind of disruption becomes “is it better than nothing?” rather than “is it better?” The disruption is occurring away from the core market, in a place that likely seems unattractive to the incumbent players.
He used the Peapod electric car (later seemingly a victim of the downturn in the US car industry) as another example – are there possibly customers for a car that won’t go far or fast? Yes – parents of teenagers. Compare that to manufacturers chasing the easier to understand mid-range and higher end electric car segments – Toyota producing the Prius, and Tesla the $100,000 Model S.
He talked about the emerging trend of corporate universities eg Purdue Chicken’s university (as opposed to the prestigious Purdue University!); and how in the 1960s a Toyota Corona was so much better than walking to a college student. In his books he details the disruption of the floppy and hard disk industries in the same way.
Now – were stupid managers to blame for missing these opportunities and driving 9 out of 10 of the main American consumer TV and Radio manufacturers into bankruptcy? No! Turns out that the rational pursuit of increased profit drives managers to focus on products and segments with bigger margins, often in luxury or higher end market segments, and allow low cost disrupters to get a footing (steel mills, cars, disks).
Those bottom-end disruptive entrants that went on to disrupt the established, high margin players started out by chasing markets the big players never wanted. Astonishingly, after adjusting for inflation, the first Toyota in the USA cost 1/4 the price of a Model T! How did they do this? The clue is in the supply chain, which for a Ford was 60 days in the 1960s (including how long components took to order, build, deliver and store for the production line). Toyota made that a 2 day process – just in time personified.
A ‘technological core’ is what enables disruptive innovation in his parlance. In the US steel industry example, the mini-mill, which improved dramatically over time (through measurement of the ingredients making the output of steel products from rebar to finished sheets predictable) was exactly such a core. You could take that technology and move your way up the market to the top, eventually displacing the old industry players.
Hotels don’t have such a core – to move up-market you must emulate the higher priced options down to the uniforms of the staff and the chocolates on the pillow. In that market the disruption comes from outsiders like AirBnB. Higher education had no such technological core, until the internet came along!
So now you don’t really need to read The Innovator’s Dilemma.
2. The Church of New Finance
The way new, disruptive market entrants are born and grow up can be described as a cycle, beginning with ‘market-creating‘ innovation; followed by sustaining innovation (which increases the capability of your existing product or service, often beyond the useful requirements of the consumer by the way); then finally efficiency innovations. The latter eliminate jobs and free up capital.
How is that capital then used?
By the 2000s, the Church of New Finance, a less than holy alliance of business school professors, accountants and financiers began to advocate ratios as the new measure of business’s success/ profitability (as opposed to weighing ‘tons of cash’). Managers now fiddled with whichever was the easier number (between denominator and numerator) to manipulate the fraction – eg improve ROC by getting assets off the books through outsourcing.
One result was companies reinvesting savings made from efficiency innovations back into further efficiency innovations with a 2 year payback vs 10; thus avoiding the need for capital and risk associated with market-creating innovations. This breaks the cycle in Clay’s view.
As an example, the steel industry got obsessed with gross margin percentage. If they had thought about net margin per tonne instead, and they would have likely stayed in the low end of the market, and defended their industry against the smaller electric powered steel-making plants called mini-mills.
This is what Clayton calls ‘the capitalist dilemma’. One result is too much money is released that isn’t applied to disruptive innovation, and with this flush of cash, when the cost of capital tends towards zero, measures like NPV become useless. The time value of money in the future is worth the same as today – zero. Traditional economic analysis busted!
Trillions are now languishing in investment funds globally, with nobody daring or bothering to invest in the riskier disruptive innovations.
He talked about ‘royalty capital‘ – a new model of funding startups and post-startups (those likely to be beyond the venture capital stage, and more likely to be taking private money than listing publicly with all the management overhead).
With royalty capital you bring cash into a company as licensed ‘IP’ with an annual royalty of say 3%, payable when revenue starts to come in. The royalty builds up until it pays off the capital sum, and the license to use the money as pseudo-intellectual property is taken off the books.
This apparently aligns the investor and the entrepreneur for growth, longer term. There is less obsession with liquidity – much better than venture capital, which wants in and out quickly.
Another economics ‘bust’ is how traditional assumptions that the ‘do nothing’ scenario that your boss made you prepare for the economic analysis of your business case is value neutral, whereas it is more likely to now be destructive to revenue, and of negative value to your business. The net present value (NPV) calculation thus has to include the avoidance of the negative outcome. Good point, though never built into any business case I have ever seen. Way easier to just do nothing it seems, as you can’t be blamed for waiting and seeing what happens next.
With an industry example close to my heart, Dell got out of the motherboard business by devolving production to Asian supplier Asustek, who originally only made simple circuit boards. They then chipped away at assembly, then logistics, until all Dell had left was the brand. With no assets, ROC was better for Dell every year! Genius right? Nope, because they had just funded a vicious competitor in the US PC market.
Thus, in business, the right metric of profitability might just be good, old-fashioned money.
With an increasing level of interest in education, Clay also pointed out that measuring kids this way is distorting their education, and leaves us not caring for 10 year outcomes.
3. PROBLEM: marketers analyse customers, not the job to be done.
This is a useful insight from his work in The Innovator’s Toolkit. Imagine your product or service is not a thing, but a person. That person can be hired, or not hired. What job are you hiring them to do?
It’s a good way to jolt yourself out of traditional thinking for a minute. In a nutshell, marketers and product people don’t spend enough time thinking about for what purpose (or a job that needs doing) a consumer would ‘hire’ this imaginary person.
In my day job context – why would a person hire our REA Commercial iPhone app? What job were they hoping it would do for them? When you understand this (as I believe we do), you’re in a much better place to innovate.
Clay gives us this framework for thinking about the architecture of a job to be done:
1. What is the job to be done? (Functional, emotional and social dimensions).
2. What experiences (in purchase and use) do we need to provide so the job is done perfectly?
3. What and how to integrate within that experience?
4. Purpose brand: a snapshot or glimpse of a brand that represents all of the above.
Turns out the hard bit to copy is the link between #2 the experience, and #3 the integration steps, with a good example being Ikea (good people to hire when the job to be done is to furnish an entire apartment). Why has nobody followed Ikea?
Obsessing about the job to be done is the Clayton Christensen secret, as opposed to obsessing about consumer behaviour, products and services, which are easily mimicked. He went on to talk about retailers, and their spectacular miss with this point. Are you listening Australia?
4. Final thoughts.
During the final panel session, I enjoyed a great quote from Alan Kohler, founder of the Business Spectator in Australia, who was famously fired from Fairfax for predicting that the end of newsprint in its traditional form was nigh – way back in 1993:
“When it comes to predicting the future, being early, and being wrong, amount to pretty much the same thing.”
On surviving disruptive innovation, there were too few cases that are easily drawn on for organisations that have successfully adapted over time. Clay offered an unlikely metaphor (being a deeply Christian person 😉 that as individual humans, we don’t evolve in our lifetime (like products, we are engineered for a fixed duration), but populations do. In parallel, business models don’t evolve, but corporations can over generations.
His example given was IBM moving from $2m mainframes, the size of a building, to $200,000 mid-range computers (the IBM 36 features in my career) to $2,000 PCs, then consulting, and finally to software. It’s a radical example, where the centres of innovation had to be geographically at opposite ends of the USA to survive. Today’s obituary of IBM’s own inventor of the PC, William Lowe, tells a bittersweet story of that organisation’s treatment of its disruptive innovators.
In the closing panel, Clay also made the observation that data is heavier than water in most companies. It stays at the bottom while managers try desperately to find the solution and float that upwards toward the boss, making themselves look good. Thus the chances of a CEO knowing the truth are low, the Chairman even less so, explaining why so many smart executives and directors miss opportunities to see disruptive change coming.
Avril is a talented artist and QA super star. While we worked with her team she would always paint pictures to express what was going on. In this very honest piece (re-posted from her own blog with permission) she shares the story of what it was like for her team to try Agile in words and pictures.
The department I work in (Technology) did a bit of an experiment last year to get agile software development going for a bit – that was a really interesting time to live through.
(If you want to bone up on Agile: wikipedia article is here)
We had two mentors, Nigel and James, who took us through the process – they took us out to the Lonely Planet (an interesting story of a company that went entirely agile in every team) to show us the workings, and they worked through our issues with us. I have nothing but praise for these guys, they know their stuff:
I need to point out that this was not their actual heights or what they looked like. I rather think James was affronted by this picture! hehe.
This is their company website: Lunatractor
Basically agile is a way of an attempt to cut out the pointless crap around a project, allowing the teams to run themselves, giving everyone a say at allocating their own work, making the workflow obvious, and doing small, continuous releases of working software so that there are benefits straight up (releases every two weeks, known as a ‘sprint’). This way you actually start to get the benefit of project immediately, not wait months for requirements, and every two weeks, a reassessment of the next most important bit of work comes in.
The way we ran it was a modified version of ‘scrum’: the work was assessd, broken down into small do-able units, written out onto cards, which were stuck on ‘the wall’. Each bit of work was a ‘story’, and the stories went through development, testing, etc cycle.
An example of a story: “As a member, all my leave without pay must be factored into my service”. Then we’d take that and break it down into the tasks we needed to do and how long they would take. The devs would develop it and i would come up with test cases and a way of testing it.
‘The Wall’ was the source of truth, and anyone could come and look at it and see the stories was we were working on. If you moved a bit of work on, you physically moved the card to the correct spot on the wall. It was a really good way of keeping track of who was doing what. If you worked on a card, you put your avatar on the card (we all were represented by a different picture).
At the start of every day we had a 15 minute stand up, where we discussed what we would be doing that day. We used to run our stand ups sitting down cause we were all lazy.
All the team sat together and conversations happened all the time about the work. Sometimes there was cake. My team appear to be obsessed with morning tea. This is not a bad thing.
Work was nutted out on the whiteboard, lots of yelling and gesticulation happened, and everyone knew at all times what they were doing. We all leveled up in how to interact with the other people we worked with.
It was a great project to work on. Of course, not everyone liked this approach, and it did not suit everyone as it was very different in mental approach to very traditional software development (lots of specs and paperwork).
At the end of each sprint we did a retrospective : what we did well, what we should do better next time, what the problems were. The first few sprints were hard, very very hard. There were a lot of arguments. We had some defections from the team. There were some bodies – we put their little avatars into the ‘graveyard’ bit of the wall when that happened. By the end we were churning out 8-10 fixes and enhancements every two weeks, which was an incredibly fast pace – and we got no return prod defects from our work. Something to be proud of.
Also at the end of each sprint we invited all the stakeholders to come to a presentation, which was usually prepared with much hilarity that day – this is me and Nancy and Erica getting the powerpoint slides ready:
This is Mick and Aaron doing their very amusing presentation to the stakeholders at the end of their sprint:
I attempted to do a presentation once but my public speaking is ATROCIOUS. I actually forget what I’m talking about quite easily and I also say “fuck” a lot when I’m stressed. IT DID NOT GO DOWN WELL.
We did very well and we got the backlog of work done, we fixed defects we found on the way, it was an excellent process.
Ultimately though my company is not an agile based company, and the methodology was misunderstood and not adopted. We hit a lot of problems working against the status quo – Prince II methodology (which to me seems to be just moving shit around spreadsheets but not actually producing anything at the end of it – PLEASE can someone tell me why I’m wrong if i am!).
There have been a few more projects that have been done agile methodology, also with success, but the value is not really recognized and i doubt there will be more.
This picture represents the fight of us against the status quo.
I would not mind working for another company that does agile properly one day, though that being said, I’m aiming to get out of doing software and get into doing art full time. So back to what they call waterfall but what is actually V-model software development for me!
Such a pity!
Such inspiration, at any rate.
As a postscript since this was written Avril let me know she’s working on new agile project, and things are changing for the better.
Nearly every organisation we meet in our Luna Tractor travels talks about wanting more innovation, and some that they are looking to techniques like Agile to get it. There’s a problem with this though: Agile is fundamentally about iteration and making calculated incremental changes. That’s not to say that innovation isn’t also an iterative process because it typically is; the issue is that true innovation – the invention of new and unique things – requires more than just an iterative learning cycle.
Throughout the history of science we see the same discoveries being made in different places around the same time; I have to believe therefore that someone would have invented a laser printer eventually. Xerox’s 9700 Laser Printer was the most commercially successful idea to come out of their PARC labs, but it almost wasn’t invented by Xerox at all.
The Laser Printer’s story begins with Gary Starkweather, having only narrowly chosen optics over nuclear physics, seeing Theodore Mainman’s first pink ruby laser created at the Hughes Research Lab in Malibu. This laser revolutionised the field of optics forever and inspired Starkweather’s masters research. He ended up working at Xerox PARC’s older internal rival, the Xerox Webster Labs, trying to get traction for the idea of using lasers to create images in copier drums rather than the present crude approach using lenses. Having gotten as far as creating a basic prototype as a side project and yet still he couldn’t get traction with either the theoreticians or the business types who wanted him to focus on improving the lenses in their existing designs instead:
“What’s the point of painting at 200 dots per inch?”
“Where will you ever get 1,000,000 bits of information?” (That’s less than 1/10th of 1 MB.)
Starkweather also realised that his laser approach would allow a way to use data created directly on a computer to make computer printouts as we know them today – a problem not previously well solved in computer science circles. In response to all this his section manager said…
“Stop, or I’m going to take your people away.”
He read in an internal newsletter about the new PARC lab being built on the West Coast and tried to get transfered. Again his boss rebuffed him.
“Forget it, Gary … you’re never going to be moved to the West Coast. And you’re to stop playing around with that laser stuff.”
Eventually Starkweather made a successful appeal to a more senior manager, George White, who as chance would have it had spent some time at university working with lasers during his physics degree also. He saw the potential and had Gary transfered over to the PARC Labs against all corporate protocols.
By 1971 it had taken 11 years from the time Gary Starkweather started studying optics at university until he and his team created a working laser printer in the PARC labs. The story continues as the team then had to work out how to feed data to this new printer. Another knucklehead move by the administration saw the computer science team moved about 2 miles away from Starkweather’s lab … ‘just for a year’ … This limitation led to the creation of a modulated laser link to transfer data between the labs, and apart from the concern it caused folks who saw the red beam on cutting through the air on foggy mornings it worked flawlessly.
Despite everyone at PARC using their laser printer internally to print millions of pages it still took years for the rest of Xerox to catch up with some corporate behaviour so boneheaded (and disturbingly familiar) that it hurts to read about. The story concludes in 1977 with the 9700 printer finally being launched after three cancelations of the product. It was one of Xerox’s best-selling product of all time.
While Gary and team did use iterative appraoches to work through their problem lists, solving them one by one, it took quite a bit more than that to drive the true innovation. They also needed:
– A long term outlook with no guarantee of success.
– Freedom from traditional ROI measures and governance.
– Ceative and alternative thinkers with clear mental space.
– Sources of inspiration and new ideas. This came from bringing together the disparate fields of optics and computer science.
– Separation and air cover from the traditonal Xerox organisation.
True innovation is time consuming, unpredictable and hardwork. That’s why we’re still waiting on our flying cars.
Ref: Dealers of Lighting
The gang at health.com.au was Luna Tractor’s very first client and so it’s not without a certain amount of pride that we watched them win the Telstra Business Startup Award this year having used the Agile and Lean approaches we worked with them to develop and evolve (plus a certain amount of startup blood, sweat and tears).
As part of the Startup Spring events they are telling their story, taking visitors on a walk-through, and then throwing a BBQ to finish things off. There are few better opportunities to see a non-IT startup in Melbourne who have adopted Agile and Lean techniques at every level of the business. Even fewer to meet a CFO who will tell you that he’s never been so personally effective in his life after adopting the crayons and scraps of paper to run his life !
Hope to see you there !
I talked about one of our favourite clients BAUM Cycles at Agile Australia 2013 in the middle of the year – It must have been popular because I’ve been invited back for the Agile Encore in Melbourne on the 14th. I’m also running a workshop in the morning before the afternoon session – Here’s an insight into what you’ll get !
Afternoon Talk – Agile, Lean, Broken Ribs and a World Champion
Taiichi Ohno was reputed to take new graduates at Toyota to the factory floor and draw a circle on the ground. The graduate would then be told to stand there and observe; if upon his return they had not seen enough then he would tell them to observe for longer. While it might feel like something out of a Karate Kid movie Taiichi Ohno was really teaching a simple lesson. The only way to really understand a problem is to go to where it happens and see it.
Admiral Rickover (father of the nuclear submarine) understood this only too well and long before the Toyota Production Systems day he would force ships’ captains into boiler suits to crawl the bilge of their ships with him looking for problems on ships in for repair and refitting.
“What it takes to do a job will not be learned from management courses. It is principally a matter of experience, the proper attitude, and common sense – none of which can be taught in a classroom… Human experience shows that people, not organisations or management systems, get things done.” – Rickover
Genchi Genbutsu – Go and See.
How then do we do this when more than 90% of us are creating virtual things – intellectual property, software, design or products – not something you can drop on your foot?
One of Luna Tractor’s most interesting projects over the last year has been working with BAUM Cycles. Their bikes are widely regarded as the Ferraris of the bike world, ridden by world champions who pay their own money and line up like everyone else. In a small, sometimes hot, often cold and dirty factory on the North Shore of Geelong, they have been steadily shifting the operation of the entire business to an Agile and Lean process.
With a blue collar workforce, most factory language unprintable and the background noise a constant mixture of Triple M and machinery; some different approaches are required. Hear real world lessons about Lean flow, physical stock management; Agile sales and customer service along with who ended up with the broken ribs. Get a sneak peak into the new factory design that we are currently building also.
You can sign up and see the rest of the program here – www.agileencore.com/index.html
In addition I’m running a workshop in the morning covering a wide ranging background of Agile, Lean and Systems Think as it can be applied across a whole organisation. This session will be great for beginners and experience agilistas alike with a focus on the background, and philosophy of Agile, Lean and Systems Thinking as well as interactive discussions about how to practically start using these approaches right across your organisations – not just in IT.
Full Details and workshop sign up here – www.agileencore.com/workshops.html
PS: Use the code ENCORE-JAMES to save $100 on the workshop.
It’s become a bit of a tradition for Nigel and I to write some reflections after the annual Agile Australia conference. This year Nigel was stuck at home in Melbourne, so it’s just down to me.
I felt like the conversation was much more sophisticated this year. Lots of people talking about Agile and Lean in the same sentence. Lots of folks grappling with their whole end to end program, budget cycle and corporate cultures. A recognition that iterative test and learn approaches are the future no matter what your size or market position. After many years focusing on techniques, frameworks and patterns this year there was a new focus on values, culture and the human element.
5 years ago the conversation was basically: can this agile stuff even really work ? Now it feels like a whole new breed of people are wanting to understand and embrace Agile, and it feels much less cynical and defensive on their part this time. This is a promising evolution though it does mean I’m going to have to stop making jokes about a few companies like Telstra who have not only seen the light but are working bloody hard to change their course.
A couple of conference highlights for me:
Dave Snowdon – Cognitive Edge – Smart grouchy man; he hurt everyone’s brains… Understanding how we humans think and process information is really important. Something Dave and his team are exploring is the idea of capturing what users want or are experiencing through micro narratives. Stories. If you want to know what your company is really like ask someone the story they would tell their best friend.
Ryan Martens – Rally Softare – An elegant and heartfelt call to action for engineers to think about how they can use their powers for good and not evil. The world has many big and complex problems and if we can combine basic human empathy with our engineering chops and the scientific method, then maybe, just maybe we can make the world a better place. Seeing an MRI machine turned into a pirate ship so that kids wouldn’t be so scared to go into it was a beautiful example of empathetic insight.
The reception for my own talk about applying Agile, Lean and Systems Thinking approaches to a small Australian high-end bike manufacturer was very gratifying too. I’m not sure if the session was videoed, but I promise I’ll write about the story here soon for the people who missed it. For anyone interested in seeing BAUM’s transformation in person just get in contact and I’m sure we can organise a field trip to Geelong.