Recorded live at the 2019 North American Global Scrum Gathering, this episode of The Reluctant Agilist features a conversation with Scrum Alliance Chief Product Owner Howard Sublett. During the course of the interview, Dave and Howard discuss Dan Pink’s opening keynote at the Scrum Gathering; the Scrum Alliance Labs and volunteer work that have been done to create a free library of material aimed at helping to develop a more mature and more highly-skilled agile coaching community; an update on how things are going with the recent shift in Scrum Alliance leadership moving to a Chief Scrum Master and Chief Scrum Product Owner instead of a traditional leadership model; and the video series Unscripted, which features updates from Howard and Melissa Boggs, the Scrum Alliance Chief Scrum Master.
Note from Dave: at 15:38, something really important in this interview happens. Howard refers to a question he asked Melissa during the first episode of Unscripted. The question was “How are WE doing as a LEADER?” It is a subtle thing, but language is a virus and words matter… “WE” is plural, while “LEADER” is singular. The way the question is encoded demonstrates a very subtle, but important aspect of an Agile mindset. Howard and Melissa have complimentary but different roles in the Scrum Alliance and the two of them together function as a single Leader.
Failure Bow: I got The Wonder Twins (Zan and Jana) a little confused during the interview. I have brought shame upon my family and apologize to any comic geeks who were listening. If you are not clear on who the Wonder Twins are: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonder_Twins
Links from the Podcast
Contacting Howard Sublett
You go to conferences… and there are moments when you pick stuff up that can help you do your job. But, once and awhile, there are those special moments when people share things in sessions that permanently change how you look at the work you do. It’s rare… but it’s awesome.
That happened for me this September in Memphis at the 2018 Digital PM Summit. I attended a session led by Abby Fretz called "Sustaining the Project Honeymoon Phase: How to Build Effective Client Education.” In the session, Abby drew a connection between the relationship we have with our clients and the relationships students have with teachers. She reminded everyone that all of our clients are not just emotional humans, but they are also family members, friends, and experts, and that we need to care for them as a teacher would care for a student. Moreover, she reminded everyone that as much as we are the teachers of our clients, they are our teachers as well.
I wish someone had said this to me 20 years ago.
In this podcast, Abby and I discuss her session from the 2018 Digital PM Summit, what led her to her metaphor, and how it has impacted her work. There is some powerful stuff in this interview and I hope it will be as valuable for you as it was for me. I am very indebted to Abby for teaching me something that seems like such common sense— I’m a little ashamed I had not though of clients this way before.
Here are some of the links mentioned in the podcast:
The 2018 North American Global Scrum Gathering kicked off with a keynote presentation that was incredibly unique and inspiring. Billy McLaughlin is a professional guitar player who spent his life working to reach a level of success most musicians only dream about. But just as he reached the top, the tools that got him there began working against him.
Billy suffers from focal dystonia. You may not be familiar with this condition, but for a professional guitar player, it is one of the the worst things that could possibly happen because it means you can’t do the one thing you have spent your life mastering.
While something like this might cause a lot of people to give up on their dreams and find something else to do, Billy found a different path. He learned to play the guitar left handed instead of right handed. (Just for frame of reference, imagine learning how to write again, using your opposite hand, but having to write everything backwards… what Billy had to do was harder than that.)
In this interview you’ll hear Billy explain what focal dystonia is, how it impacted him and how he worked through relearning to play guitar all over again.
The story is inspiring all on it’s own, but for me, there is something deeper in this story. In the interview you’ll hear Billy talk about the struggle of working through all the relearning and how he stayed motivated and kept at it. While it doesn’t touch the level of complexity that Billy had to work through, there are some parallels to what traditional PMs go through when they have to relearn how to do their jobs using Agile. For me, that journey felt like I was being forced to unlearn everything I had spent years trying to master, and then start over from scratch. Maintaining some level of motivation and not giving up hope was one of the hardest parts of the transformation. This is something Billy and I discuss in the interview, and for any of you who need inspiration from time to time, my hope is that his story will help.
There is contact info for Billy below, but if you’d like to check out his keynote presentations from other events, you can find them here.
Links from the Podcast
This podcast features Michael Tibbert and Dhaval Panchal helping me out with a question submitted by a student that focused on implementing Agile in a traditional supply chain organization. We also address the question of whether or not it is easier to implement Agile in a band new organization than it is in an existing one.
Oh - and also… The Parable of the Watermelon
And if you want to read more about the Parable of the Watermelon
(And in 2 weeks, when he gets his website sorted, that will be added here as well.)
For large scale organizations that need to scale Agile, one of the biggest challenges is selecting the option that will fit best. In this interview Scott Ambler, co-creator of the Disciplined Agile framework offers explains the origin of DisciplinedAgile, what makes it different than the other scaling options and how to handle some of the more common issues facing traditional orgs that are trying to adopt Agile and handle governance.
00:07 Interview Begins
00:35 Background on the Disciplined Agile Framework
01:34 The Origin of Disciplined Agile and what it was designed to help with
05:01 What drives organizations to want one common way to practice Agile
06:13 How Disciplined Agile responds to the desire for one process to rule them all
08:36 If you support multiple approaches to development, how do you bring it all together from a governance perspective and how do you communicate with management about process and progress?
11:10 If you are going to govern, what should you actually be governing?
12:30 Do we really want the PMO to be in charge of governing all aspects of the work?
13:20 How Disciplined Agile looks at the bigger picture with respect to governance
15:55 Making room for someone who can watch how things are being measured and keeping track of performance
16:39 We do not want to inflict the same process on 50 different teams. We need to up our game and look at the full enterprise picture
17:24 Everything in the complex adaptive system impact everything else in the system
17:56 The difference between Disciplined Agile and the other options for scaling Agile
20:55 There is no such thing as a best practice… EVER
21:08 If you want to be effective, pick and choose the techniques that work for you
22:50 Teaching them how to make decisions on their own, rather than just prescribing a solution
23:15 Getting qualified, experienced coaches to help you adopt Disciplined Agile
25:19 How Disciplined Agile makes sure the people teaching it are experienced it and know what they are doing
26:42 The first step is not to park your brain at the door. Hire someone who has experience and knows what they are doing.
27:25 The legions of Agile coaches … a 4 day class does not make you an experienced expert
28:55 Avoiding the trap of hiring “experts” who have merely completed few days of training
30:20 Making the case to senior leadership for taking a more mindful approach, despite the additional risk and effort
31:36 If it took your organization decades to get into the state they are in now, it is not going to go away overnight
32:50 The investment is more than just dollars
34:44 No matter how good we are, there is always something more we can tweak to get better
35:12 Organizations need to wake up, observe and have an honest discussion - make the bigger picture obvious
36:47 If you want to get in touch with Scott
37:44 Scott’s upcoming speaking events
38:22 Interview Ends
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON SCOTT AMBLER AND DISCIPLINED AGILE