Agile – The Secret is in the Sauce


Thoughts from Day 2 of Agile 2022

CAVU’s CEO Chris Sims is attending Agile 2022 this week and we’re sharing his thoughts on what he’s learning while there. Stay tuned to for a special edition of CAVU’s 16th Minute podcast next month where Chris and our host Rebecca Dobrinski will chat further about Agile 2022.

Yes, the secret is actually in the sauce. Day 2 for me was all about designing teams, businesses, processes, etc. – or, at least, the recipes for these things.

Build it with BAPO

The day started with Nivia Henry, Spotify’s Director of Engineering, and her talk about building the teams that make building the right things easy. This includes things like having organizations and teams be as complex as they need to be, maximizing the impact non-engineers have on the product you are creating, and Conway’s Law (the concept that your product resembles your org structure).

“Friendly reminder that tech includes more than engineering. It takes a whole team to deliver a product. Stop minimizing the contributions of product managers, designers, researchers, analysts, data scientists, testers, and anyone else who [works to deliver software]” (Nivia Henry)

Whether or not we are aware of it, our environments share our outcomes. If we want to impact our outcomes, we need to take a look at our environments. We can do these things through concepts like BAPO, Conway’s Law, and Domain Driven Design.

What came to mind for me during this was: Keep the Shu – Ha – Ri in mind. Yes, the ultimate goal is to have freedom and trust, but don’t assume you start there. Don’t start with the Ri, start at the Shu. Your transformation is a journey and don’t let anyone feel bad about where you are on that journey.

Start with business

  • Who are your customers?
  • Why do they come to us?
  • How would you describe the products/services we provide?
  • Who is involved in providing the above?
  • At what stage are they in the product life-cycle?
  • Codify it.

Design your Architecture

  • What are your capabilities?
  • Who creates and curates them?
  • How do they interoperate?
  • Who uses them?
  • How would you categorize them?
  • Ask lots of questions and use tools that make it easy to change your mind.
  • Once you get the systems in place, categorize them between strategic and tactical.

Design your Processes

  • What is your value stream?
  • How does it compare to your architecture?
  • What are the necessary interactions between different members of your value stream?

Now go create your organization.

A More Humane Workplace

Esther Derby’s Luminary Session was a great way to add to Nivia Henry’s BAPO discussion. Esther explained how “giving people and teams more agency” and “creating a more humane workplace” are two of the things that drive her work.

What is a more humane workplace?

It is one with greater empathy. Empathy is key to trust and it promotes psychological safety, which then allows people to be more creative.

It is one where people work at their natural best. Management should create an environment where good work is the default. You aren’t working against the forces of the workplace for people to do their best and contribute creatively to solve the problems.

It is one where it is safe to make a mistake and ask for help. We all make mistakes, and we need to pay attention to the kinds of mistakes we make. We need to nurture carefulness in our organizational environment. We need to foster a space where we normalize learning from mistakes. These kinds of environments foster a team’s sense of psychological safety.

It is one that values curiosity, play, trust, and joy. Companies with a high level of trust are 300% more productive than companies with low trust. If you have trust then it is easier to be curious as it allows you to be willing to ask the difficult questions, including asking for help.

As a CEO, I was struck by Esther’s 7 Rules for Positive and Productive Change:

  • Strive for congruence
  • Honor the past, present, and people
  • Assess what is
  • Attend to networks
  • Experiment
  • Guide and allow for variation
  • Use yourself – because you are the most important tool for change

It’s not just the organizational structure and processes that will make a company function well. This is where you also have to deal with culture. Ultimately, the recipe for the sauce is to be deliberate when you are creating organizations, systems, processes, and culture.

Read Chris’s thoughts from Day 1: Agile is an Infinite Game.

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