Agile Rising Podcast: Creating the Agile Environment

Andrew Keener and Tom McDonnell kick off our new Agile Rising podcast with insights into the future of Agile and SAFeĀ®. Listen here and be sure to follow Andrew and Tom on LinkedIn.

Complete audio transcript

Welcome to the all-new Agile Rising Podcast, bringing you viewpoints and expertise from some of the world’s leading Agile experts. Today’s episode features, Tom McDonnell and Andrew Keener, of the Agile Rising team. Take a listen as they discuss issues facing the Agile world today.

Tom McDonnell:

Hi, welcome to another podcast. I’m Tom McDonnell, your Agile Rising host, thanks for joining me. In the next several minutes, we’re meeting Andrew Keener. Greetings, Andrew. Let’s start with you telling us, who you are.

Andrew Keener:

Thank you, Tom. It’s great to be here. I’m the Director of Training Solutions at Agile Rising. I’ve been a coach and Agile consultant for about six years now. And one of the things I love doing most is being able to facilitate workshops and teach classes. In particular, we teach Scaled Agile Framework courses, and we are a safe gold transformation partner.

Tom McDonnell:

Great. Well, welcome to the podcast, Andrew. You’ve been in the industry for some time, what do you find that works well?

Andrew Keener:

Well, I think the most important things are empathy, honesty, and encouragement. I love the quote from Deming that we often toss around, especially with Scaled Agile Framework classes, that people are doing the… Already doing the best they can, the problems are with the system. And I think that we all know that we’ve got this picture of what our A game looks like, and we’re really in the zone, nothing is in our way, and we’re really achieving our best, and we all know that that’s not what we are 100% of the time. Keeping that in mind, that not everybody is going to show up perfect, that the system is often the source of impediments, and really empathizing and listening with people, being honest with them about what you see, using your soft skills, encouraging people and giving their ideas validation, that works better than anything.

Tom McDonnell:

That’s great. So, what do you find that’s not working?

Andrew Keener:

Well, I think we already had a fair number of shortcomings when it came to communications and Agile or DevOps tool chains, to things like virtual classrooms, remote events, distributed planning sessions, facilitating workshops, there’s lots of companies that have locations spread across the entire globe, that was challenging before and now COVID-19 has really exposed that even more, where all those shortcomings are. It hadn’t been working all that well, especially right after everybody went home to work from home. It got a little bit worse and a little more chaotic, there’s a lot of funny YouTube videos about some of the pitfalls about it. But I do have hope for the future that this is an opportunity where we can make things better and hopefully people have a better work life balance, and we can take care of the environment a little bit better by easing remote events and facilitation.

Tom McDonnell:

Sure. So, what do you think could be done differently?

Andrew Keener:

Well, it’s not just our tools and our communications platforms that are kind of disconnected. Really, as a consultant, I’ve seen over and over again these digital and lean and Agile, DevOps transformations that are pursued in these disconnected kind of arbitrary or ad hoc kind of ways. The initiatives are sponsored by various senior leaders, managers, VPs, but they’re pursuing them in a vacuum. So that you’ve got a development group that’s doing an Agile transformation and an IT group somewhere else doing a DevOps transformation, and then your marketing department announces the digital transformation. Everybody step back and look at the bigger picture, using systems thinking, value stream economics, to really organize the entire organization very purposefully around the flow of value and maximizing the value to people in society. That’s one of the things I love about Scaled Agile Framework, is that they’re great content providers who are really trying to help tie in all these different movements into one big thing.

Andrew Keener:

But I think that we could all do a little bit more of this as organizations, and even the coaches and consultants that do the work, definitely need to make sure that they’re not engaged in a turf battle but they’re actually contributing to a bigger picture, transformation.

Tom McDonnell:

Well, Andrew, you certainly speak from experience and numerous challenging aspects that you’ve raised, what do you bring to it?

Andrew Keener:

Well, I’ve worked in a lot of different places. First, in custom application development, and then independent for a little while before joining Agile Rising. We would often joke that we’re gaining experience in dog years. It’s almost like every year on the job was seven years compared to some other environments. And that’s because, we would often work some fairly long hours and wear multiple hats. So, a lot of the different jobs in the trenches, I’ve had firsthand experience at them. So, I’ve gotten a broad understanding, I can talk to just about anybody, talk sharp about what they’re trying to accomplish. Often, I was a consultant in fairly flat organizations or I was just on my own, I’ve had a lot of exposure from the trenches all the way up to the C-suite. I’m really comfortable talking to anyone, [inaudible 00:05:08] that the empathy, the honesty, and encouragement, comes conversations with just about anybody, that’s very useful to have had this kind of eclectic background, so to speak.

Tom McDonnell:

And Andrew, how have you taken those aspects that you’ve gleaned from your professional life and brought to other parts of your life?

Andrew Keener:

Well, that same quote from Deming about people doing the best they can, I really think it’s kind of disingenuous if you try to just turn that on when you’re paid to do it. Really, it’s more of a life philosophy for me. Really, taking seriously that people are often… They’re making the most rational decisions they can, they’re working about as hard as they really can. Human life can be pretty messy, we’ve got all these emotions, we got bodies to take care of, children to take care of, pets, and then we get thrown into these economic systems and value production systems that we get in each other’s way. So, whether you’re waiting in line at the DMV or you’re on an airplane flight, I definitely find that really taking that assumption that people are doing the best they can and trying to empathize with what’s going on with them instead of getting mad, it’ll definitely keep your blood pressure a lot lower, definitely have a much more stoic attitude in life by really bringing that empathy to the table no matter where you are.

Tom McDonnell:

Well, Andrew, I couldn’t think of some better words of advice in this crazy pandemic that the world has found itself in.

Andrew Keener:

Yeah.

Tom McDonnell:

Well, thank you Andrew, for sharing your experiences and insights.

Andrew Keener:

Oh, thank you so much for having me, Tom, it’s been a pleasure.

Tom McDonnell:

This has been Tom McDonnell with Andrew Keener. You can find this in more it agilerising.com.

Thanks for tuning in to the inaugural episode of the Agile Rising Podcast. To keep up to date on all things Agile, follow us on LinkedIn or visit our website, agilerising.com.