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Dave West on Agile Beyond Software, Organisational Alignment and Product Ownership is Hard

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In this podcast recorded at Agile 2019, Shane Hastie, Lead Editor for Culture & Methods, spoke to Dave West, CEO of scrum.org about agile beyond software, the need for organisational alignment and how product ownership is a major inhibitor for many organisations because it is not done well.

Key Takeaways

  • Agile ideas are taking root beyond software development, in business areas and in complex engineering environments 
  • The scope of agility is more than just delivering great product – it is delivering great product, getting great feedback, experimentation and learning
  • The large consulting firms have the relationships at the most senior levels to enable top-down change in organisations
  • Most software teams today are delivering relatively well, however there is misalignment between the delivery teams and the wider organisation’s ability to accept and release product to the market effectively
  • Good product ownership is incredibly hard and most organisations do product ownership very badly 

Show Notes

  • 00:34 Introductions 
  • 01:02 The move of agile ideas beyond software teams
  • 01:15 The use of Scrum for marketing
  • 01:36 How agile approaches are being used in complex engineering environments that go beyond software (SpaceX, Tesla, BMW, Toyota …)
  • 02:04 The core is the importance of delivering value to customers
  • 02:10 The scope of agility is more than just delivering great product – it is delivering great product, getting great feedback, experimentation and learning
  • 02:25 The merger of ideas like Lean Startup and LeanUX with agile approaches
  • 02:52 The large consulting firms such as McKinsey & Boston Consulting are now driving agile adoptions in larger enterprises via their access to the most senior executives  
  • 03:32 “New Ways of Working” as a label for agile adoption at scale
  • 04:04 The need to focus on outcomes to help prevent agile-in-name-only transformations 
  • 04:10 Moving away from thinking about outcomes in terms of plan-budget-risk towards customer value
  • 04:25 Until organisation make this change in focus, nothing else will fundamentally change
  • 04:47 Referring to Calota Perez’s work on the ages of technological change and the changes needed to enable real transformation 
  • 05:18 The large consulting firms have the relationships at the most senior levels to enable top-down change in organisations 
  • 05:56 The world is full of complex problems; solving these problems needs effective teams, and scrum is the predominant way in which teams are organised to be effective today 
  • 06:28 Scrum.org continuing to build bridges into the wider community of ideas such as with Kanban and LeanUX 
  • 06:40 Bring out ideas around leadership and the relationship with Management 3.0
  • 06:51 Trying to build a more consistent, systematic approach to solving complex problems
  • 07:04 The growth in the scrum.org community 
  • 07:30 Scrum.org has been focused on helping organisations, teams and teams of teams solve complex problems 
  • 07:40 Changes coming to the scrum.org content and post-class support infrastructure 
  • 08:02 Building more community and the need to improve coaching 
  • 08:28 Summarizing research done with McKinsey into agile personalities 
  • 08:46 One of the most important characteristics for effective teamwork is agreeableness 
  • 08:57 “Yes, and” rather than “yes, but” 
  • 09:08 The way a good coach facilitates getting to “yes, and” behaviours in a group and how that contributes to delivering value
  • 10:04 The historic gaps in the adoption of scrum approaches – Martin Fowler’s Flaccid Scrum 
  • 10:27 Most software teams today are delivering relatively well, however there is misalignment between the delivery teams and the wider organisation’s ability to accept and release product to the market effectively
  • 10:46 Problems with the way in which we manage work
  • 10:54 Align teams to outcomes and customers rather than to projects and silos
  • 11:24 The gaps are around organisational alignment, funding approaches
  • 11:59 The need to think differently about risk 
  • 12:14 The need for more professionalism in the agile community 
  • 12:18 The number of people who call themselves agile coaches with no background or training in the discipline of coaching 
  • 12:41 Professionalizing the industry is hard 
  • 12:50 Identifying “what makes a good ……” is difficult to define
  • 13:14 The mess in the industry around the role of product ownership 
  • 13:31 Most organisations have an inability to empower people to make decisions
  • 13:34 The skills of product ownership are really, really difficult 
  • 14:08 Product ownership is where the gaps all come together and it’s a hard job
  • 14:48 The contentious relationship between the product community and the scrum community
  • 15:06 The original title for the Product Owner role was Agile Product Manager
  • 15:13 The rationale for the change to Product Owner and the need for empowerment in that role
  • 15:48 Exploring aspects of product ownership and some of the disfunctions that can come about
  • 16:36 Making the decisions about what’s in and what’s out in a product is hard
  • 17:14 Drawing on the very tangible practices from LeanUX to help the product owner and the team make better decisions about priorities 
  • 17:47 Reasons why having Personas on the Team Wall is a good practice 
  • 18:35 Personas give us a clear view of purpose – why are we building this product for who? 
  • 19:01 A story of clear purpose at a pharmaceutical event
  • 19:48 The value of metrics that make sense for product ownership 
  • 20:15 Product ownership is the place where organisational disfunctions manifest themselves
  • 21:10 Advice for technical leaders – 
    • Alignment and clarity around what the teams should be focused on – a clear vision that defines success in terms of outcomes and goals 
    • Stop having all the answers and start asking questions – talk to understand, don’t talk to win
  • 22:05 Solving complex problems needs super-smart people working together and it’s hard
  • 22:34 We can fix all the big complex problems in the world, if we get amazing groups of people to work together
  • 22:58 Build an organisation around you that is ultimately kind
  • 23:11 Ask your team every day “who have you helped?” 

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