2020 Outlook: Our Agile Transformation

by Melissa Boggs

Hello friends! As I write this blog, it’s a blue sunny day in Westminster, CO, with plenty of snow on the ground and a crispness to the cold air. While this Alaskan girl is typically not too fond of sub-freezing temps (I got enough of that as a kid), there’s something about it that feels fresh and open. I’m sitting at my desk on the bottom floor of our new loft-style office looking out the huge windows while cozily staying warm. The world feels full of promise.

In my last blog, I shared a retrospective on 2019. Some of those things are still rattling around in my head, so I thought I’d elaborate on a few of them while sharing my outlook on 2020.

Hiring Events

In 2019, we found ourselves needing to quickly but deliberately hire a number of roles at once. We are incredibly protective of our blossoming culture, and wanted to ensure that we weren’t just hiring for fit—but for culture growth. We also wanted to ensure that our newest team members were choosing us too, that we were authentically ourselves when meeting them. Several months ago, I wrote about our hiring events when they were first getting started. Like everything around here, they have evolved and grown over time. All in all, we’ve conducted six hiring events of varying scale and for varying roles. Our most recent hiring event resulted in hiring eight new team members in one day, with confidence and excitement that our needs and theirs were in alignment. 

Here’s what has changed since my last blog on hiring events:

  • We’ve introduced the empathy toy
    • Instead of creating a brand new exercise for every role we hire, we have introduced the empathy toy as an activity that allows us to see how we can work together with our potential team members, as well as create some fun and laughter. We do this first, to help release some of the pressure of the interview.
  • We’ve experimented with multiple role hiring - then scaled back
    • We tried a big event in October in which we opened the doors for guests interested in many different roles across different competencies and teams. We successfully hired a couple team members from that event, but overall found that the scale detracted from our ability to focus and learn from our guests. 
  • We’ve involved team members more deeply in facilitating events
    • In the beginning, these hiring events were risky and I had a very specific idea on how they should be run. I ran the events from beginning to end. Maybe a little command and control peeking out from my past there. *smile* Over time, I have handed the facilitation of the different modules to different team members. It’s been neat to see different team members step up to facilitate, adding their own flair to the activities. It gives them the opportunity to interact with the guests differently, and removes me from having such a deep investment in who the teams choose as their new teammate. 

All in all, we really believe in the power of this way of hiring. It feels real to us, and results in new team members joining with confidence, excitement, and a sense of adventure.

Paired Leadership

Paired leadership was in our retrospective twice—as something that went well, and something we learned from. Working together in a shared leadership position is not something that they really prepare you for in “Leader School,” particularly when you are different in almost every way except your values. We are opposites in personality, gender, communication style, approach, and even different in our relationships to the community. We are almost perfectly aligned, however, in our vision and values. It challenges us and makes us better, and it is something we have to work on every day. We have both learned to wrestle with our egos and how to exist in the world together. We have learned to communicate in our own style but also in the style of our partner. We’ve learned to lean hard into the things on which we agree and see the divergence as a strength. We’ve learned to share a stage! I can tell you some funny stories about our debut at the Global Scrum Gathering Austin—both at the trainer/coach retreat and opening the Gathering—but that’s another blog for another day.

Here’s the bottom line, though. It’s not always pretty, but it’s always worth it. Howard sees things that I don’t, and I hear things that he doesn’t (and vice versa). Much like the Wonder Twins, we solve complex problems together by combining our individual strengths. We keep each other accountable and cheer each other on. Sometimes being in this role is a lonely place, and I am grateful to have someone in the boat with me when things go sideways, and when they are looking up. It’s a journey we are on, but after a year of partnership I am so proud of where we are right now. We are both laser focused on a vision of joyful, prosperous, sustainable work for our team and the world—and we both know that there is nothing more important than that.

Coaching Strategy

At Scrum Alliance, we obviously believe wholeheartedly in the value of agile coaching. So much so, that we have four Certified Agile Coaches that have been on this journey with us since early 2019. These four have delivered on the promise of agile coaching through facilitation, training, coaching, and consulting. They have helped us walk through challenging situations and nudged us to grow our skills. These are four coaches from four different companies, with different styles and different strengths of skill. Like paired leadership, this diversity of thought and talent has been invaluable to our journey. It’s difficult, however, to really maximize the value of that thought and talent when the coaches are coming in and out at different intervals and at different times. 

As we kicked off 2020, we recognized that our coaching could use some alignment and a deeper strategy. As the organization stabilized and began to grow, we needed to bring some intention to how we worked as a coaching team (and I as their product owner, strangely) We spent an entire week together in January, retrospecting and strategizing about 2020.

Here were some outcomes of that week:

  • A Coaches Corner
  • A shared coaching backlog
  • A working agreement
  • A commitment to more transparency
  • A Team Health Radiator to help focus our coaching and inspire conversations with teams and ScrumMasters

I’m excited to share more of what these phenomenal coaches are doing in service to this organization. Stay tuned!

2020 Outlook

You can probably tell from the tone of this blog that my outlook is incredibly optimistic. We have come so far in the first year of this journey, and it feels like we have moved mountains to set ourselves up for a successful future. So much has changed that will enable us to remove barriers and the wheels on the train to begin moving even faster. I’m not sure how much of it is visible from the outside just yet; this is a long game. But I can tell you that the conversations we are having and the way in which our team is exploding with personal and professional growth, the way in which these team members are living into the Scrum values on a daily basis, and relentlessly focusing on our community members—it’s a new ball game here in 2020.