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Frank Tino Talks About His Experience Adopting OpenSpace Agility
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| Interview with Frank Tino Follow 0 Followers by Dan Mezick Follow 0 Followers on May 02, 2015 |
46:34

Bio Frank Tino brings 30+ years of experience in developing & managing software projects and is a strong practitioner of Agile methodologies. He is currently a Director of Product Development for Intuit. Prior to that he was CTO for Game Show Network and has held VP roles at Vela Systems (acquired by Autodesk), Connected Corporation (acquired by Iron Mountain), and Revenio (acquired by Vignette).

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1. What is your real name and what do you really do?

My name is Frank Tino. I'm the director of product development, which means I am responsible for the engineering team, which consists of about 35 developers and about a dozen or more QA folks and the operations team which are the people that run the software in our data centers, about another dozen or so folks. So all in 50 to 60.

   

2. Coming into this Open Agile Adoption process, Frank, what's your Agile experience coming into this? Your role's relatively new as we do this together, right?

I had been practicing Agile principles for a long time, probably mid-'90s. I didn't know what to call them, I didn’t prescribe a name to them. But once I did learn of Agile and Scrum through of course the famous Sutherland and Schwaber book, the colors on the front. I took it to a startup I was doing in 2008 so that one my first official following a lot of the Scrum processes. Then I took it with me to a larger organization where I was the chief technology officer, and then I brought it with me to where I am now.

   

3. Had you ever done, used invitation or the opt-in concept before?

Never. So I was what I would call very prescriptive. In the 2008 experience, I read the book, internalized it, went to the team and said, "Hey, guys I read a book. Here's the playbook and here's how we're going to track our time in the burn down charts, and we're going to have these meetings, and here's how long they're going to be." I was also the scrum master or acting scrum master in that capacity.

   

4. Oh, and you were their boss at that time?

I was their boss at that time too. So that adoption was pretty good. It was a small team. It was a very good team. I became emboldened by the success, and so when I took it to my second opportunity in a much larger organization, I said, "Oh, I'm just going to do this again." I laid out the playbook and said again this is exactly how we do it. And again, served initially as scrum master although eventually found somebody else authorized in the organization to take over when my responsibilities took me elsewhere, and really had mixed results, to be honest with you. I think in the beginning people were like, "Okay, he's the boss. We're going to do what he says." They followed the playbook.

But I noticed that as I -- so, okay great, we got some success. I'm going to go focus on higher level of business issues. The engagement level, the productivity really backslid pretty significantly. And I couldn't quite understand why, I said I'm doing the same thing at this place that I did at the last place; telling people what to do. I really didn't want to get back into rolling up my sleeves, and directing the teams the way I had been. When I came to where I am now, I was looking for a better way. I really liked the Agile principles. I liked a lot of the productivity gains I had observed especially with my first experience with it. But I felt like if I do the same thing again at this place as I did at my last place, I'm probably going to have similar results, so I was looking for a different approach to getting teams and organizations to adopt Agile in a way that really made it stick. So I spent a fair bit of time researching the different coaches in the area, going to a bunch of conferences, and trying to understand what might an approach be that would have better results.

Dan: Right. And then you went to a public user group meeting, and there was a heretic there.

It was.

   

5. Had you ever been to open space before we did this together?

Never heard of it.

Dan: Okay, never heard of it. That's so interesting. Okay, so, you and I worked together. You brought me in as a coach. You authorized me to be the co-chair.

With great trepidation, I might add.

Dan: Well, that's good. It's good to be a little on edge. So, we did this thing together and I asked you if we were doing this and you told me, "I don't really have the authority to say yes, but my boss does. You'll have to convince her." So we were able to -- eventually she was on board with the idea of doing the first meeting. We hadn't even really discussed that there was second meeting, right? We're doing this in line. It was a lot of improv.

I did read the draft of your book that talked about the open spaces bracketing sort of a 12-week experiment. I had the basic concepts that you were talking about but again hadn't experienced it, didn't quite understand it, and felt like the best way to internalize it was to do it by trying.

Dan: So we go into the first open space. We get a group of people to create a theme. So we start to socialize the meaning, pre-socialize it. And then --

In a serious way, which was kind of cool. It was not really clear what was going on. There were little signs that would show up in the kitchen and in the men's room and the lady's room about come, we're going to talk about Agile in service to what, and that's all it said. So it created a lot of whispering in the halls. What is this? Should I go? What's it all about?

Dan: It created that sort of --

It was a buzz??

Dan: It got in their head. So we get to the meeting. I bring a friend in to facilitate because I don't feel I can be effective there. What are you thinking as you're sitting in the circle and the leader of the company -- the company's about a hundred people at this point, there's probably about 90 people there.

Yeah, we had an incredible turnout.

   

6. What are you thinking as you sit in the circle and you're listening to the facilitator open up the space, especially the leader of the organization for standing up and saying what she says, and then the facilitator coming in, how was this feeling for you?

So initially, pretty anxious, anxious driving in toward that day thinking I'm going to go to this thing. What happens if it's me and four other folks, right? The invitation went out to 100 or so and was very pleased to see a very high turnout so that was kind of cool. A little bit anxious about, okay, how was this day going to go?

Dan: It's unscripted.

Unscripted, right. I hadn't been through it before. I didn't know how to facilitate. So my boss gets off and just authorizes the event which was very cool.

   

7. What do you mean by that? Let’s drill into that for 60 seconds. What do you mean authorize the event, Frank?

She did an amazing job. She sort of stood up and said, "Hey, I don't know what's going to happen today. I haven't been through this either. But I'm okay with experimentation and I'm comfortable with this organization spending a day. Worst-case scenario we've lost a day, and we ate a bunch of good food. Best-case scenario is something wonderful comes out of it, so I'm glad you're here. I have no high expectations for what's going to come out of this." And so, by saying those words, it kind of took a lot of the anxiety out of the room because we feel like even if we kind of bounced around the walls for six hours, my boss is okay with it. So that's what I mean by sort of authorizing the event.

Then the facilitator gets up and explains how it's going to work, talks about the different kind of guidelines, the law of two feet, who's ever there's the right people. And he said, "I'm going to open it up, and I want people that are interested to the topic to come to the front of the room and write their topic or question on a piece of paper on a clipboard, and put their name, hold it over their head and then walk to this grid where we have the times and the different corners of the room, and paste it on the grid." And then he walked off. And of course now another anxiety level where great, what happens if this crickets?

   

8. We're all sitting in this circle, and the circle is empty. There are just markers and paper on the floor in the middle, right?

Right. So we're in three or four concentric circles. I got a hundred or so people in this room. He does this very loose guidelines, right? Well, only really for a few minutes, and then wanders off. So again, there's all this -- now what do we do? I'm thinking, stupid me. Probably should have prepared a question ahead of time in case there's nobody standing up there to get this thing started. I hadn't thought that through. And thirty seconds, nothing, right? So there's a little bit of -- and then, of course, first brave person gets up and walks up to the front and writes a phenomenally great topic, right? How do we do Agile across geographically diverse teams? Cool. And he walks up and tapes it on the board. And now, the second person gets up and writes down another really cool topic. I think it was how do user experience and developers and QA work together in a cohesive way in an Agile framework?

And now, a line starts forming and bam, bam, bam, people are going to the front and asking questions. And within ten minutes, that 5x5 matrix of topics was filled, and some people had to go and sit back down again. So it was pretty cool to see that level of engagement, and the topics were really thoughtful. I knew that they would lead to good discussion.

Dan: Yeah. And there were some cheering, or some hooting --

There was.

Dan: --for some sessions, like you said.

Yeah. People started to get emboldened. I think in one of the topics somebody walked up and said -- and don't forget, I'm in the room, my boss is in the room, there are other members of the leadership team in the room, and somebody walks to the front, and posts a topic - what would we be crazy not to do in the next 90 days?

Dan: That was a great topic.

That was a great topic, right? I mean who would have thought. And I actually ended up going to that session, and it was phenomenal. I think that one got some hooting and hollering because people were like, "Good for you. Great question. I'll be there." And again, as the facilitator said, people voted with their feet. So you saw some sessions, just a crowd of people, other sessions, maybe a little less so, but kind of a lively conversation. It was not what I expected in a very positive way.

Dan: Yeah, well that's one of the slogans, right? Be prepared.

Be prepared to be surprised. And I think that's how I actually ended the day. So, at the end of the day, the facilitator calls all back together, put us back in the circle again, and he had a talking stick and asked us to go around and just say a couple of sentences of what we thought. So when it got to me and I think that's what I said, I said in the beginning of the day, you said be prepared to be surprised, and holy crap, was I? And after everybody had finished speaking, there was a bit of a -- I mean it sounds corny to say, but we all got up and people started hugging each other, which was a bizarre thing. We're not a super touchy feely culture, but people clearly had a great time and a number of people came by to thank me for sponsoring this and arranging it or whatever you want to call it. So yeah, I was really pleasantly surprised .

   

9. [...] How is that feeling for you and how do you perceive the organization is feeling through that period?

Dan's full question: We're feeling our way along. We're planning to have a second event. We haven’t completely articulated that there will be a second event, but as the first event ends, we socialized that idea, hey, listen, this is going to happen again in 90 days or so right? So, how was your organization feeling and how were you feeling as you go through this 90-day, 100-day window between the two open spaces realizing that you're going to have at it again; and that no matter how bad it gets, you're going to experience that suspension of the normal rules of engagement for a day? How is that feeling for you and how do you perceive the organization is feeling through that period?

Yes, so we have a culture here where we're really okay with failure as long as we fail fast and learn from it. It meshes really well with this. So with the concept of the second open space, it really time boxed the experiment. So people were much more open to trying things, knowing that worst that can happen is I wasted a period of time, but I probably got a lot of good learnings and in that case, I wouldn't call it a waste at all. I call it highly valuable. In my mind, setting a stake in the ground early that there's going to be another open space kind of really last with people that it's okay to try things as long as we have a finite duration for the experiment.

Secondly, much like exercising, you don’t go to the gym once and say, "Yeah, that's it, I'm good," that this was going to be a part of our operating rhythm, a part of our culture that we care deeply about self-improvement and that good ideas come from everywhere. And so the fact that these were going to be regular occurrences really reinforced to people that there is going to be a chance to keep getting better. And as new hires started to come on board, it was cool because the stories started being told. Oh, you got to wait until this next open space thing is coming. You haven't seen anything like it before. So now these people that are new to the organization are like, they're kind of intrigued and I think again there were some great stories being told about it because we knew another one was coming.

   

10. [...] How important do you think that is, and how nervous do you think people are coming out of the first open space? And how do the stories maybe calm them down?

Dan's full question: Yes, let's talk about that for a minute. In this open Agile adoption technique, leadership engages in storytelling over that 90-day period, so not only that but the people on the shop floor are telling stories about the open space. So how important do you think that is, and how nervous do you think people are coming out of the first open space? And how do the stories maybe calm them down?

So, I think a couple of things. Coming out of the first open space, people were now very curious to see what would happen to these proceedings? Lots of phenomenal ideas get generated. I think we were typing them up fast and furious that day and true-to-form we sent out the raw proceedings that night. But it was like a 20-page document, a kind of stream of consciousness. So there was a fair bit of, okay, great we had this really cool energizing day, but now what's going to come of it?

Dan: So that's actually an interesting idea in the Agile mythos. It's like big, bad management withholds authorization. Here, you're authorizing people in this flow to take it up. That's an interesting concept.

It freaks them out because they don't believe it. I mean, one example where we had a team working on a re-architecture. We added up a bunch of resources to it. And they came to me and said, "How would you like us to organize? Who do you want to be on which team?" And I said, "You are the closest to the work. You are in the best position to make the better decision here. Go figure it out. Here are the constraints I put on it. You can't have unbalanced teams. You can't have teams that are specializing in one thing and not another. But within that framework, but you are free to self-organize." And they were like, "Really?" And I was like, "Really."

   

11. You still withheld final decision authority though, right?

Yes, "I said come back to me and let me verify that you are living within the constraints I established, right? So I'm fine with your decision, insofar. So they did a pretty cool thing. They took it upon themselves to pick up their belongings and they went to another section of the building that had been unoccupied, huddled together, worked together as one large team for two weeks to try and get a feel for who did what, what matched with which person. They kind of sorted out and they came back to me and said, "Here's what we'd like to do." And then I said, "You've met my constraints. You've got two balanced teams. They've got an equal mix of junior and senior people, and appropriate skills sets. So be it."

   

12. [...] Can you tell us a little bit about that process because there was a messy middle, wasn't there?

Dan's full question: That's interesting. Let's talk about constraints for a minute. Coming out of the first open space, we communicated to people that any practice would be okay as long as it didn't offend the manifesto values and principles. That formed a kind-of constraint. We did some scrum teaching, training and some coaching. There was a perception that was an investment in scrum. There was some pushback from that from people in the open space and afterwards. We basically told them as long as it's not blatantly opposing the manifesto, go do whatever's going to work within that constraint. Can you tell us a little bit about that process because there was a messy middle, wasn't there?

Yeah. I think I would have actually switched the ordering of things. I did scrum training for the teams first, and then we did the open space. So I think it's a little bit of mixed message that, oh, we're doing scrum here. Fortunately, what happened after the open space, people started to really grok that we were truly letting people organize amongst themselves. And what I found that what happened over time between the first and second open spaces is different teams adopted different practices but they again had to maintain conformance with the overall Agile manifesto.

So some decided to do Kanban, some did more traditional scrum, some changed the sprint length durations. So they really did organize according to what best met their needs, but I felt like, if I had done it in the other way around, it would have really driven home that point sooner. But I think of this as a game. Games have to have rules, and so there had to be some constraints. And again, that was about honoring the Agile manifesto and not offending its principles.

   

13. Which wasn't such a loose constraint after all, wasn't it?

It wasn't, but again people were free to operate within that. I think if I had done the training after the open space as a, hey, here's a particular practice. It doesn't offend the manifesto that you may choose to use. There might have been a cleaner message in the way I did it but we live and learn.

Dan: Well, we are backed into it.

Again, I was coming from past experiences where I was prescribing the methodology, right? And so, that mindset, I said, "Oh, well, of course, we're going to do scrum. Here, so let me get training scheduled."

Dan: Completely well meaning.

Of course.

Dan: I mean it's all with the best of intentions, the prescription. It reduces the sense of control and also belonging and being part of the authoring of the practice.

Exactly. And it drives on engagement. We care deeply about engagement here. We actually measure it twice a year through annual employee surveys. And as you can imagine, I was anxious to get the results of the last survey to see what people were saying with the results of their scores and very pleased to read that 90% of the dev population said they feel highly engaged or very highly engaged, which was a significant uptick the year before, the six months before.

   

14. And the baseline that the ball gate or the quota is supposed to be 85%, right?

Eighty five is the goal. Eighty is closer to what -- you sort of get, okay, you're an eighty. That's a reasonably good place to be at.

Dan: So are you saying you heavily crushed it?

I think so. Well, it means more work to do. The journey is not over and that was the cool thing was development was highly engaged. We spent a lot of time recently between the second open space and the third open space, kind of extending this to include a lot of other disciplines. Then QA had been a big part of it initially on but now these are experience, and the product management organization, the PMO, the tech-writing organization. They are now kind of also part of this and having a hand in crafting how it works and emboldened by the success of these organizations, other disciplines which traditionally don't adopt Agile principles like sales and marketing and our leadership team are doing a lot of the principles.

Dan: You mentioned the third open space. Let's get to that in a couple of minutes. For now, let's spend just a minute on what the leadership team ended up doing between the two open spaces. The leader of this organization came to me and said, she asked me, "Do you think it would be a good idea for my management team to take a shot at this for a month or two and see what's actually like? We'd have a backlog. We'd do daily meeting and then we'd demo our results to the whole company, at our monthly all hands. Tell me a little bit about the genesis of that and your experience of being on staff when that happened.

Frank: So this is fascinating. So my boss was predisposed to experimentation and open to new ideas which helped a lot, had seen this incredible amount of energy out of the first open space, had seen this uptick in energy in the halls, in the PD, product development, section of the building. And we're having a one-on-one, one day, and she said, "I really (a) want to learn more about how this works; and (b) what do you think about if we were to adopt some of it and that might validate it?" And I said, "I think it's a fantastic idea."

We looped you in for some of your guidance as to how it might work with a team that was composed of a head of sales, a head of marketing, and a head of development, and a head of product, a compliance officer, and a few other things. We crafted our own methodology which was we did month long sprints. Our boss was the product owner, so we had stories that were business oriented. We had grooming sessions where we put them on cards and reordered them and worked on done criteria. We had a planning meeting where we pulled the month’s worth of work in. We did daily stand-ups to talk about progress against the stories. We did a retrospective at the end of the first month, and then we did a sprint review which in our case was an all hands meeting.

   

15. You guys have an all hands meeting which the entire tribe gets together for an hour, an hour and a half and you assess the previous month and look forward to the upcoming month, and you welcome the new hires, and there's some rituals in there. What are you saying -- during the all hands you demoed your sprint review?

You got it. Yeah. So the first brand, like any new team, we probably hit 70% of the stories. The other 30%, we weren't quite done and so people were like, "Well, I want to talk about them," because they did all this great work in the month about this story. I said, "Well, if you're going to honor the principles, you didn't really finish all the done criteria, so the story should roll over. So we shouldn't really be talking about it." And again my boss did a very cool and brave thing at the beginning of the meeting. She said, "We're going to demo the stories. Here's the ten stories the team pulled, here's the seven you're going to hear about today, and here's the three with big red x's next to them. While that was great work done, we didn't meet all the done criteria, so we're not going to talk about those, but you'll probably hear about them next month because we'll aim to finish them."

So different people got up and talked about -- demoed. It wasn't working software in the traditional sort of product development scrum sense. It might have been a marketing plan or some learnings on a Go-To-Market strategy or it might be working software, so some of them were above kind of getting certain releases to certain stages of functionality. And my boss said, "We'll do this experiment for three months. We will do three sprints. At the end of the three sprints, as a team we'll decide whether we want to continue it or not." We had a retrospective at the end of every month, but at the end of the third month, she pulled us together and "Should you want to keep doing this?" We unanimously voted to keep doing it and we're now on our ninth sprint.

Dan: That's beautiful.

And I've been taking it to other parts of other business units within our company and talking about how we use it and we start a lot of traction in the other places.

Dan: I can tell you as a spectator watching that and watching the leadership team stand in front of the whole tribe kind of exposed, vulnerable. I'm talking about how some stories were too big. They didn't have complete done criteria. You couldn't split them. You were doing a little mini death marches at the end of the sprint. In explaining all that, the people that were watching this, they were elbowing each other and they were highly entertained. It was striking how edifying that was to the organization as a whole who were also struggling as a group.

They felt validated. They felt like, "Oh, my God, it's not just us." You go to a support group, right? Good to hear of other people have kind of similar situations as you. So when I hear the leadership team saying, "We've been on this done criteria. We over estimated. We had the story pointing wrong," again people were saying, "Oh, my God, that happened to us." It's okay, as long as we learn from it.

One other quick story if we have time: one of the very first scrum teams we formed, their very first sprint, pulled a bunch of stories, and they got 90% through all of them but not 100% through any of them. So they came to me and said, "What do we do?" And I said, "Well, nothing's really done. You can't deliver business value with 90% of something done. So don't cancel the sprint review but just get up and say, 'Here's the story.'" And so people came, I came, my boss came, and they stood up and said, "We don't got much to show because here's why." My boss said, "What did you learn? Got it. What are you going to do for the next steps to not have this happen again?" But, okay, you learned something. It wasn't a wasted sprint, and I think that -- they went back, expecting to be tongue lashed, and instead getting this "Okay, go forth and learn from what you did wrong." They came back the next sprint, nailed it. And so I think having that culture of failure is fine as long as you fail fast and you learn something from it and you incorporate it so you don’t make that same mistake again, I think can be liberating for people. The leadership team doing the same thing was pretty validating.

Dan: And when the authority figures in the company, Frank, validated the failed 90% stories, there was a lot of storytelling triggered by that team about how things are different now than they were before, and this is a different game.

Again, lots of storytelling about pretty dramatic transformation in culture where historically a little bit more traditional. Dev managers walk around and tell people what they're doing this day and then checking up with them and saying, "Did you finish it?" And teams, engineers having to come to people to ask for "Is it okay to do it this way or this way?" And by pushing more of the decision making down to the team and giving them more control -- I hear this over and over again -- they say, "Before I felt set up to fail. I felt like I was being told what to do, how to do it in a certain timeframe because the business needed it be done this way in a certain time frame. I felt out of the get. It was hopeless." And by not locking all of those variables for people and giving them -- we've had seen a dramatic increase in productivity because out of the gate, people felt like, I signed up for this. I now have my personal reputation on the line and my team's reputation on the line to deliver. And that has been I think a big part of the culture change.

Dan: Very interesting. So we're finishing up this 90-day period. We're going through this messy middle. We have a couple of dropped balls and fire drills. It's a little bit chaotic. It's not clearly defined. People are doing lots of experimentation. Some teams are doing Kanban, others are doing scrum, others are modifying scrum, the leadership team's doing the scum hybrid. We're heading into the second open space which was about --

Value system

Dan: Yes. It was about the values of the company. We do that second open space. Everyone knows what it’s about. That open space is not well attended, and the closing circle is smaller. You're at that. You opened it as the sponsor. Tell us the story about that open space.

Attendance was a little bit less than the first one. I think part of it was a scheduling problem. We didn't pick a day that -- there was a bunch of other kind of important events going on, so some folks called away to do a bunch of prep for some big offsite that was happening shortly after that. That was probably scheduling snafu. But it was still -- I had 100 in the first one. We were probably at 75 or 80 at the second one. The problem was it was broader set of topics. I think the level of interaction, if anything, was a little bit higher because in the first one, people were just feeling it out, especially those other ones people were standing by the food and the coffee hanging out. Well, they were trying to figure it out, right? (doing the butterfly thing) And then they feel like, "Wow, I missed some stuff."

The second one, because people knew what to expect, a lot less people hang around by the food -- certain people always hang around the food -- but the people that were there, the level of engagement of them was, I'd say, higher than the first because they knew this was a big opportunity for them to help shape the way the whole organization worked moving forward. Why would I let that slip away by eating some sandwiches?

Dan: That's actually what’s striking to me, the internal versus external open spaces. Open spaces are often done in public events when they're done inside an organization which is more like a large family. I personally was shocked by how little help people needed to get the proceedings written. It's like the folks realized that this artifact is going to guide decisions going into the future. They wanted to write that story and they were actually waving me off.

Yes. I think a big part of it was the way we had -- when the facilitator had orchestrated the first one which he was so sufficiently hands off, they said, "This is your meeting. I'm not going to guide you through it. I'm not going to tell you where to go from period one to period two." By the second one, people were like, "This is our day. No one's going to come here and tell us..." And so, people were running around, ripping off the big post-it notes from the sessions and running to get them typed in. And so it felt more like it's our meeting. It's our day. We're going to make stuff happen.

   

16. The topics we had decreasing scope and increasing detail. There was a general consensus that we needed a roadmap to understand how all the products were going to intersect in the future, right?

That was a huge improvement that came out of the second open space where part of that messy middle, as you say, after the first one, I think teams got pretty good at sprints and intervals and experimentation, but there was this feeling on the product development side of the house, gee, I know what I'm doing for the next two weeks, but I don't know much beyond that. And then conversely on the product management side of the house, this feeling that I know what the teams are doing for the next few weeks, but I don't know what -- you know. So there was a little bit of lack of clarity looking further out. And people said, "You can’t have road- mapping in Agile because Agile is all about short durations." And I was like, "No, in fact I think the two are incredibly complementary."

And so big learning coming out of the second open space was we did some very cool roadmap planning after that, so we had another multi-hour event where product development types and product management types got together.

Dan: How many people were there?

Probably, 50-ish person group, the way we organized that particular session. The goal of that was to try to get -- the goal was to do a six-month roadmap. We actually overachieved, and actually came out with the day with a 12-month roadmap. We kicked it off with a larger group, stepped people through the high level business objectives, and then had the teams, the scrum teams, break off with their individual product owners and go through a series of high level planning, t-shirt exercising. With again this comfort that it's okay to not be perfect. Engineers particularly, as you're say, are paid to be perfect, and it was very hard to let them be comfortable with in precision. I said to know how long this is going to take six months from now you are going to be imprecise - embrace it, right? Just kind of learn as we go, and once we get new data, we'll refine the estimates but let's put some high level stakes in the ground. These groups went off and they did t-shirt exercising, and they did some sessions where they pulled multiple teams together. There were the dependencies that had to coordinate. At the end of the day, we reconvened and we plopped up not a six-month plan but a 12-month plan and kind of stepped everybody through what the findings were. And that was awesome for the whole business. I mean, now sales & marketing were like “fantastic, I now get to see what the overall pipeline looks like”, so we can do the next level of planning which is about how we put the offerings together. So that was the direct function of the second open space.

   

17. [...] What were the criteria for inviting people to that roadmapping?

Dan's full question: I'm going into the second open space. There were some blockages in the organization around being able to see ahead four, six, twelve weeks, even six months, right? There was a general intolerance for that situation that came into the second open space and manifested as this roadmapping which you crowd sourced the roadmap. What were the criteria for inviting people to that roadmapping?

So essentially, everybody that was on a scrum team was invited, and when I say scrum team this was the cross disciplinary team of developers, QA, product managers, user experience designers, visual designers, tech writers, operations people. And then again in the spirit of transparency, people could audit. So again, if you wanted to come and watch the sausage being made, you were certainly welcome to, but we encouraged the rest of the disciplines of the organization to come, especially at the beginning and at the end of it, so that there would be alignment around the overall business strategy at the beginning, and then communication and understanding of what the roadmap was at near the end of the day. And so, that's why I said it was probably 50 or so people that were doing their work for the lion’s share of the day, but the beginning and the ending was sort of even more.

Dan: So you did a first open space, you did a second open space, it became a reduction that pointed towards this roadmapping, which you crowd sourced the whole roadmap and everyone was participating in.

We had it facilitated. I mean, it wasn't a chaotic meeting. So I had people on my staff that facilitated the day and helped to make sure it went smoothly and that people knew the expectations and the relative time blocking of the pieces.

   

18. So summing up about this before-after open Agile adoption approach, what's one belief that you had going in that you don't hold anymore, or what's the new belief that you got that you didn't see coming?

I met the enemy and it is me. Again, I came into this organization thinking that I've been doing this for five years. I know how it's done. I've seen success. I just need to tell people. I need to give them this rigid structure, and that they will be productive in it. Now having experienced it both ways doing it that way and doing it the way we're doing it here, I'm never going back. This model of really authorizing the teams, giving them the constraints, telling them the rules of the game but let them play the game, has driven up engagement, driven up a sense of belonging, and most importantly, driven up productivity. At the end of the day, we're a business and need to execute on our deliverables.

And so to me the biggest learning and takeaway is that I feel firmly convinced that if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, that the organization would continue to run this way and operate and get better, whereas in my previous experiences as the champion of this, if I get hit by a bus or left, it would just spiral back to whatever. I talked to lots of peers in my industry and I hear this story over and over and over again. And I talk about what we're doing, and it always raises lots of eyebrows.

Dan: There's a lot of well-meaning managers and leaders that are engaging in prescription, and they don’t realize that it's reducing engagement and that engagement is the fuel of --

It takes up bravery to let go, right? I remember when you and I first met driving home going, this sounds like it could be chaotic. It's going to reflect poorly on me. If there’s chaos in the organization, why aren't I doing my job of kind of managing, right? And so again it takes a little bit of courage to do that. But at the end of the day, you get people that feel empowered and they're being treated like adults and that if you've hired the right people, they want the same thing as you, right?

Dan: Right, which is to be great at something.

Which is to be great at something, right? And so because you're at the end of the day goal aligned and letting them hand in solving the "how" is -- they're going to land at a good place. Occasionally, you got to bring somebody back in from the outside the circle where they kind of violated the constraints, and that's fine. Help people know where the boundaries are but -- I've just seen great results and really pleased by it so far.

   

19. And the last question is, what about the capacity of the organization, and then your personal capacity which you spoke to? What new capabilities or capacities do you see in the organization as a result of going through the first and the second and now the third open space, which will get into a second? What can the organization do now that it couldn't do before?

To me I sort summarize it with one word which is “scale”. So I think you're always playing for success. Success means you're going to be doing more; it's going to be bigger. And the big capacity is I think this really increases our ability to scale the organization and scale the business results, right? So it doesn't require me to have twice the amount of time I was spending, because now I have twice as many teams, right? The workload is more equally distributed and even our managers, right? So typically, I've come through organizations where once you get to have six or seven or eight direct reports, the manager's job becomes very difficult. You're going to laugh when you hear this; one of the managers has 20 something direct reports, right? How can that possibly be? Because she's not running around every day checking, here's what to do and did you do it today, right? She is leaving that responsibility to the team, verifying it. We make sure that obviously stuff is getting done, but she gets to spend most of her time helping the teams remove people-related impediments and to invest in people's careers.

And I can't tell you how many people come by to me and say they love their manager because my manager is invested in me and my professional growth, which I haven’t heard too much previously because usually manager's time is spent managing the work and directing the work. And her time is much less spent managing the work and more about managing the people's careers and their professional aspirations. So to me, it's about scale. It's given us the capacity to scale in a way that we wouldn't have been able to previously.

Dan: Beautiful. Well, hey, thanks a lot for your time, Frank. It's very enlightening and I appreciate it.

My pleasure. Happy to help.

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