Adventures with Agile | Agile Software Development Training UK
We believe agile ways of working contribute to a better working life & products. We do this through agile coaching, agile training & agile community events. Follow this blog to get articles, podcasts and webinars on Agile and much more.
Perfection is all around us. Just look at the sky. Can one say that the patterns the clouds make or the arrangement of the stars in the sky is not perfect?
We are the peak of all life ever to have existed in the universe. At least to our knowledge. We have subjugated most of nature to our whims and have dominion over all the lands. We have changed our environments to suit our precise needs: we can have French croissants with fresh strawberry jam for breakfast, Moroccan Tajiine for lunch, and Mexican Burritos for dinner with wine from any number of global locations.
We have successfully organised ourselves to collaborate with millions of others to bring healthcare, security, and instant light and heat to our fingertips.
Why then is there so much dissatisfaction?
Human suffering is all around us too. In fact, to be precise, the suffering that human’s cause is all around us. Not only do we hurt each other and ourselves, but the carnage we create on the animal kingdom is unprecedented in earth’s history.
More of us kill ourselves through suicide each year than all of those killed by war or violent crime put together. (Source: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari).
Why then do we behave so poorly and are so unhappy when we have so much perfection all around us and so much power of our own world?
This is not a new phenomenon, as Shakespeare (Hamlet) said:
“What a piece of work is man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals. And yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me; no, nor Woman neither; though by your smiling you seem to say so.”
Is the progress we make creating happiness? Are the changes we are making to organisations inviting staff to be happier? What is the point of all this work, progress, and change, if not to bring happiness?
It turns out happiness is a state of mind.
Our behaviour changes when we change our internal state. Without changing that, we are moving deck chairs on the Titanic.
We are capable of being happy with what we have. I have found in my personal exploration of happiness, that it is not the constant change, or the gaining of new things, that makes me happier, it is in the remembering to be thankful for what I have now.
Being thankful for what we have now creates a state of bliss that allows us to see the perfection of the now. Without this, all the change we create is pointless.
Think of this when working with people in your organisation as part of ‘transformation’. Is the real transformation happening on the outside or the inside?
Join us at SEACON 2018 – The Study of Enterprise Agility Conference
SEACON is the only conference in the world that brings together the capabilities required to help enterprises and their customers adapt and grow in a rapidly evolving digital world. At this year’s event on 12th November in London at the HereEast Innovation Centre, we’ll be covering Digital Transformation, Agility, DevOps and enabling technologies such as the Cloud. There will also be insights on Open Banking and the use of data which impacts us all, regardless of what industry we work in.
You will have the opportunity to:
hear from experienced Fintech practitioners and globally renowned thought leaders
take part in workshops
listen to case studies
and collaborate with like-minded people such as:
Megan Caywood – Chief Platform Officer at Starling Bank
Barry O’Reilly – Co-author of “Lean Enterprise”
Belinda Waldock – Author of “Being Agile in Business”
Dan North – Enterprise Transformation and Technical Delivery Lead
Alberta Soranzo – Director of Service Design and Systems Thinking at Lloyds Banking Group
Simon Powers – Founder of Adventures with Agile
All attendees will receive a copy of Barry O’Reilly’s new book “Unlearn” which is being launched at SEACON. As well as taking away the book, you’ll take away a wealth of new ideas, concepts and proven ways of working that you can apply in your context to help you, your organisation and it’s customers win!
Here are a few comments from last year’s sell out event:
“I found the case studies really stimulating. It was also cool to meet people from different backgrounds and to discuss my opinions with some of the speakers.” Martina Srdoc (Lean Delivery Agent, Awin Global)
“…SEACON gave me a number of fresh perspectives which has helped me think differently about technology.” Rory Bateman (Senior Portfolio Manager, Schroders)
“A fantastic agenda with thought provoking insights from the likes of Joanne Molesky, Dan North and Barry O’Reilly. The sponsor expo was also very good and has led to a number of interesting conversations.” Martin Mersey (Head of Transformation, Barclays UK)
JOIN US AT THIS YEAR’S CONFERENCE
60% of tickets have now been sold and early-bird prices will be ending soon. Book your place at SEACON now with a £50 discount for AWA community members by clicking the following link here.
Learn Scrum by Building a Revenue Generating Product in 15 Weeks!
With the launch of “Certified Scrum Master: Build a Revenue Generating Product in Fifteen Weeks!” we are executing on a dream that we’ve had for a long time: sharing Scrum principles and practices while building a real product that customers love. Scrum is at its best when a team uses it to navigate a complex environment in which the customer is discovered, the product is created and launched, and the team itself forms, storms, norms, and performs. By testing your Scrum skills, awareness, and knowledge in a real world situation you will emerge with the confidence to be successful in a wide variety of challenging situations.
The Agile Manifesto begins, “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it.” In this course, you will sweat blood as you:
Meet your teammates for the first time and learn how to create psychological safety and trust
Brainstorm and invalidate dozens of products until you find a product that customers love
Build and launch your product and watch it fail and then re-build and re-launch your product until it gets traction with customers
Make your first sale!
Throughout the course you will learn about the Scrum roles, artifacts, and events which will support your Scrum team as you go from knowing less than nothing to becoming confident in your ability to use Scrum to navigate complex product development. At the end of the course you will have the opportunity to take the Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Master exam and earn your CSM.
This online course is being offered for the first time and is open to no more than eight people. Join us today for this exciting adventure! The program starts on September 1st at 8:00 PST / 16:00 (London) Secure your seat online here.
Michael de la Maza, Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach
Mark Palmer, Scrum Alliance Certified Team Coach
In my world there are two different kind of problems, problems we actively choose to address and problems that are pushed upon us. Let’s say you have some habits that you know are really bad for the environment. If you decide on your own to address this, then it’s a chosen problem. On the other hand, if the government decides it for you, and you have to deal with it, then it’s a pushed problem.
Problems that are pushed upon us are usually a lot harder to handle. It’s not uncommon that we feel overwhelmed, unmotivated and get a feeling that we’re not in control. A lot of the times we believe these problems are someone else’s problems and we won’t get committed.
The problems that we choose to address we also tend to handle as something we own, we get committed. Since we chose to address the problem, it’s more likely that we feel that we are in control and we actively search for solutions with passion and creativity.
In the real working world out there, unfortunately, a lot of people feel that someone else are making the decisions about what problems they should solve and what they should care for and be passionate about. The deciding people can be managers, groups of people or similar.
What does this have to do with agile? Maybe nothing, or maybe everything!
Many organizations are still running projects or similar where teams are told what problems to solve and to often also how to solve them. This does not foster a never ending improving organization that will have great success in the future. This will only foster an organization with people that do what they are told. Innovation and creativity dies with a command and control management style.
Organizations would be much better of handing over the steering wheel to people that actually have the know how. Include them as early as possible and as much as possible. If they get the possibility to decide what, how and when to solve problems, they will take ownership and they will solve those problems with passion. They will put in the effort that is necessary and they will do it with joy.
here’s a challenge for you…
If you think that this might work in other organizations but it impossible in yours, here’s a challenge for you. What do you have to lose? Give it a go and let the teams take ownership, I can promise you that you will have happier and more productive teams. Let go of the command and control and free the power of your teams.
AWA to Offer First Ever ICAgile Certified Training in Portugal
We’re excited to announce that we will run ICAgile Certified Training in Portugal starting this September. The first class will be our 3 day Agile Team Coach course. Attendees at the class, which will take place in Lisbon, will be the first in Portugal to earn the ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC) designation, one of the most sought after certifications from ICAgile’s comprehensive learning track.
What is the Certification?
ICAgile is a certification and accreditation body who helps training organizations create learning programs that cultivate an agile mindset and enable sustainable organizational agility. ICAgile offers a competency-based expert certification program, which is unique in the industry. Their Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC) certification, which was first launched five years ago in response to an overwhelming need to provide clarity around this profession and discipline, has subsequently raised the bar for the agile coaching profession.
We also design and deliver ICAgile Certified Agile Fundamentals (ICP) and Enterprise Agile Coaching (ICP-EAC) training, which will run in Lisbon following our first class in September.
Portugal has a strong, growing agile community with a range of conferences and organisations practicing agile ways of working, including Adidas, Microsoft and Sky. For the last few months we have be working with our local partner to find the best way to share our training with the agile community in Lisbon.
Lisbon has been increasingly establishing itself as the place to be for the digital world over the last 10 years. Since then, the tech scene has exploded, with the world’s leading tech conference Web Summit relocating to the capital city in 2016, along with the opening of digital hubs by global orgs such as Google, Mercedes Benz and Volkswagen. Lisbon’s drive to build a vibrant and creative centre is underpinned by the idea that people can access a high quality lifestyle – sun, sea, surf and access the world’s leading organisations and fast growing startups.
Agile Coaching is not only about agile. Although we already have a growing list of courses, certifications and accredited institutions that promote agility in Portugal, it will be awesome to have the first ICAgile certified course, focused on theory, practice, tools, and tips on how to coach, mentor, teach and facilitate agile individuals and teams. – Rafael Ribeiro- Agile Coach
Demand for Agile Coaching
The demand for agile practitioners and those with coaching experience is in strong demand. When coaching within agile environments is done right it can be a powerful and effective enabler for organisations to be successful with agile ways of working. Often, the behaviours we experience and sometimes exhibit at work aren’t in alignment with our own goals and the goals of the organisation. This is what makes achieving agility so hard. The role of professional coaching is to help individuals and teams increase transparency of their internal and external blockers, which are stopping them from being successful in achieving these goals. Our course explores the variety of ways that a coach needs to engage based on the needs of the situation. Including teaching, coaching, facilitation, problem solving and working with conflict and collaboration.
“A really great course that has given me confidence to give people the space (silence) to work out how to reach goals” – A. Soddart, Delivery Manager
If you are working with agile teams and are wanting to learn how to help them be successful and to reach their goals, then come and join us on our first class in Portugal this September. Limited Super Early Bird seats are now on sale – sign up here to secure your seat.
“A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still” – Adapted from Samuel Butler’s Hudibras (1612-1680) and popularised again in Dale Carnegie’s book ‘How to win friends and influence people’ 1936.
The word metaphor means ‘A figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable’.
Agile is a metaphor. This makes it very powerful. Unfortunately, it also makes it easy to misunderstand and abuse.
The agile metaphor has come to mean a lot more than the word itself. The manifesto is an attempt to codify the meaning behind the metaphor.
People over Process
For example, Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools, is a value which can be summed up as People over Process.
It is my belief that most Agile Coaches know in their hearts what respect for people really means. Pretty much everyone I have ever asked why they came to be a change agent say the same thing. It usually goes along the lines of wanting to help people be the best that they can be.
However, much of the work I have seen in organisations barely touches upon respect, diversity, and equality. Most consultants don’t want to bring up this ‘elephant in the room’ as it challenges the way leaders (and employees) show up rather than what they need to do. These can be difficult conversations.
Another principle is ‘The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams’. The two main words here are ‘self-organizing’ and ‘emerge’.
The message is the same across all agile literature, the best teams are:
and have a high level of:
team emotional maturity
personal emotional maturity
With high levels of maturity and trust it is possible for teams to ‘..reflect on how to become more effective and then tune and adjust its behaviour accordingly.’ This implies that the team has autonomy to choose their own process. Which makes sense when you consider the value of ‘People over Process’.
Innovation, solutions, and good stuff emerges without having to force it. This happens as a result of teams being truly present with each other with good Emotional Intelligence (EI) in the moment.
We know from the world of professional coaching that the most powerful tool we have is to listen. In the world of clean language, non-violent communication, and powerful questions we actively remove our own content to allow our coachee(s) to hear their own voice(s) and to be empowered by it. We seek not to muddy the waters with our own agenda and ego. However, installing or forcing an agile framework on a group of people seems to defy all these principles. It is arrogant and defeats the goal of ownership and empowerment and is ultimately self-defeating.
Agile Industrial Complex
Through the need to placate clients, maintain the status quo, and to pay mortgages, Agile coaches, conference leaders, and consultancies, continue to install agile frameworks over the top of existing cultures, and to push agile and the processes around it, to people who don’t want it, don’t understand it, and maybe even don’t need it.
This is happening because organisations don’t know any better, and those who are able to exploit this lack of knowledge do so because they make a lot of money out of it.
I issue this post as a warning to organisations looking to improve the way they are working:
Agile is not about the process you choose. The process arises from a shift in the way employees think about their work and each other.
Agile cannot be installed. It arises from a shift in the way employees think about their work and each other.
Agile is not top down, bottom up, sideways, middle management or anything else led. It is a shift in the way employees think about their work and each other.
The shift in the way employees think about their work and each other can be defined as a change in mindset from single autonomous individuals who are progressing their own agenda, to an interdependent team of powerful people who are building something they believe in.
This is a fundamental shift in the way everyone sees themselves. Without this shift, everything else is meaningless and will revert to the status quo within 18 months.
Any work that does not include a shift from individual to self-organised powerful teams who choose how and what they are working on, maintains the long-term status quo.
Doing Agile to people in the name of teamwork and improvement and not changing the management culture of control, belittlement, and inequality, is to use agile as a weapon.
Most ‘Agile’ transformations I come across pretend to be something new but actually reinforce the same emotional and culturally damaging structures that already exist.
The agile manifesto doesn’t need more definition, despite some people trying to add more to it.
I invite coaches and consultancies to help their clients by listening to what the business problem is and helping to change the mindset to invite powerful people who can self-organise themselves to get better business results.
I also invite conference leaders, sponsored communities, other media to stop giving a voice to individuals, consultancies, and thought-leaders who continue to propose installation of frameworks that do not allow or promote self-organisation and powerful people.
We will be hosting and creating large scale facilitation events for participants to learn how to facilitate and be facilitated, from coercive and controlled cultures to self-organising and emotionally active teams. In typical AWA style, we will be bringing interesting people from around the world to help facilitate the move to self-organisation and powerful people. We will announce the program shortly.
In addition, we are going to be offering coaching spaces for anyone who wants to lead by coaching rather than telling.
We intend to shake up the mood around this topic and to evolve (or return) the agile metaphor to mean something more than frameworks and process.
What if I told you that you have choice about how you feel and what you think? That you have the choice of either feeling stressed and anxious or feeling content and at peace? Would you believe me?
According to the teachings of Krishnaji – the founder of the schools of consciouness transformation, there are only two states of being: a Stressed State or a Beautiful State. You can choose to live in either of these states i.e you can change your state of being. Tony Robbins, one of the greatest self help coaches of our times, and student of Krishnaji, is a big advocate of state change.
All humanity lives only in 2 states of Being. Suffering state or a beautiful state. There is no 3rd state. And the greatest choice that lies in every moment of our lives is from which state do we want to live our life – Krishnanji
You have a choice about your life. When you are in the Beautiful state you can create the life you desire and perform better at work.The state you choose to live from determines the output and outcomes.
Which “State” are you in? Why does this matter to the world of work?
Depression is an epidemic. According The World Health Organization more than 300 million people are now living with depression, an increase of more than 18% between 2005 and 2015. With things like depression, anxietyand stress increasing at an alarming rate. When we are stressed we are not working at our best resulting in poor decision making, loss of concentration, difficulty with thought processes or even anger. Resulting in negative impact on our work, our relationships and our societies.
“The difference between peak performance and poor performance is not intelligence or ability; most often it’s the state that your mind and body is in.” —Tony Robbins
How can I change my state?
Do you ever find yourself in a bad mood, feeling negative, irritated, insecure, stressed or anxious? If you answered “yes” to one or more of these, you are not operating at your full potential. You have the ability to change what state you’re in. When you know how to shift your inner state you become more effective. Tony Robbins teaches that you can change your state simply by standing up and doing a weird body movement and some vocal noises.
Observe your posture when you are happy, as opposed to when you are sad — or what you look like when you are angry, versus when you are elated.
The impact doesn’t only affect your physical appearance but your brain too.
If you have a poor posture, it only lends itself to poor emotions, or a negative state. Good posture and alertness produces a more positive state.
There is more to state change than doing a weird body movement. International leadership coaches and trainers, Michael and Audree Sahota have been researching and studying state change at the schools of consciousness transformation in India with KrishnaJi. This Summer they will be sharing the teachings of state change by going deeper into the mechanics of state change on their forthcoming course – The Beautiful State: High Performance in Action, which has been designed specifically for leaders working in high-pressured complex organizations. Participants of this training will go through a process to begin shifting the brain’s bio-mechanics to create a permeant change of state.
The Beautiful State & Leadership
The course is about the two states that we live from:
the stressful state:
what it is
when we began to develop its patterns of the stressful state
what is does to our bodies and our lives
the Beautiful State
what it is
how it is the only way to create the life you desire and perform better at work
that you have a choice about your life
how the state you live from determines the output and outcomes
How is this different to Certified Agile Leadership 1 (CAL1)?
The Sahota CAL1 experience gives participants the practical tools for successful Agile Transformations by creating the required shift in Mindset and Culture. It overcomes 90% of challenges with Agile – for both Mangers and Coaches – and works regardless of authority, budget or permission. CAL1 teaches that we have a choice about how show up, that you need to be “Clear” by letting go of existing behaviours that block your ability to be an effective leader, as well as exploring models of culture and a playbook to guide the next steps on your journey of creating high performance organizations.
The Beautiful State course looks deeper into the process of how to be Clear, the deeper meaning of how to be clear, what happens when you are not “Clear”. The course goes deeper into the science and philosophy of behind these ideas and why it’s a must have for leaders and anyone who wants to achieve an amazing life.
Taking the next step
If you are ready to embrace a wider worldview than “business as usual, have a strong desire for results and willing to go “outside the box” for answers then you need to attend this course. Our next class is on the 10th – 11th July in London. Seating is strictly limited and there are only a few places left. Enrol today to secure your seat.
Embark on your Agile Journey with Adventures with Agile
We’re happy to announce that we are now accredited by ICAgile to run our Agile Fundamentals course for their ICAgile-Certified Professional certification, the gateway certificate to all other ICAgile tracks and expert designations.
This two-day class is an interactive and immersive learning experience using Training from the BACK of the Room accelerated learning techniques to explore the agile mindset and what is needed to be successful working in an agile way. Adventures with Agile have designed the class and taught by our experienced, certified trainers.
This course is for anyone who is wanting to learn about working in an agile way, including project managers, product managers, HR / Production / Commercial / Marketing Manager, Managers, or for people wanting to get the ICAgile Certified Professional Certification. Through a series of practical and theory led workshops you will be taken on an immersive learning experience, covering key concepts such as the agile mindset, adaptive planning, value-driven development, team collaboration and frequent feedback for continuous improvement.
Some of the topics we will cover include:
History – explore the history of agile, where we are now, and we got here. We look at the agile manifesto, discuss its meaning in the workplace, including using agile outside of IT.
Mindset – explore the culture and environment needed for agile ways of working to be successful, and why how we behave is important especially when faced with high pressured situations.
Practices – discuss the different frameworks and tools that exist under the agile umbrella, like XP, Scrum, and Kanban. We’ll look at their shared values and discuss practices like estimation, planning, reporting, and metrics. We’ll look at the roles and responsibilities and gain clarity around the shifts expected for people in those roles.
Product & Customer – through workshops and games experience the benefits of reducing batch size, creating a product vision, and how you can use techniques like impact mapping to the build the right thing and improve the value of what you deliver. You will learn how to successfully engage your stakeholders and customers during and throughout product delivery.
Team Building and Development – learn how to build the right foundations for high-performing teams by encouraging communication and developing shared understanding. You will come away with communication, facilitation and collaboration skills for maximizing team success, which you can put into practice once you get back to the office.
plus much more!
Join a public class or book a private workshop
If you, a colleague or somebody you know is wanting to take the first step in their agile learning journey or are wishing to gain the ICAgile Certified Professional certification, then take a look at our Agile Fundamentals course page for more details. We’ll be running public classes in London with more cities to be announced soon, like our CSM and CSPO courses we offer self-payers to take this class for only £600*. If you would prefer a private onsite class, we can arrange this for you too.
Save with “Agile Activate” Training Pass
We are also offer a special training pass called “Agile Activate” which includes this course and the Certified Scrum Master for only £1300* (RRP £1890)
*all prices ex vat and booking fees. fantastic, excited to take all the ideas back to the office to improve how we work – Brendan Cain – Team Lead
If We Change How Organisations Operate & What They Value, Can We Change The World?
We’re excited to announce and welcome Tessa Copper to our next AWA meetup. Tessa is the director of People and Culture at FutureLearn (a social learning platform, enabling online learning through conversation. It offers free and paid for online courses from world-leading UK and international universities, as well as organisations such as Accenture, the British Council and Cancer Research UK). When Tessa first proposed this workshop to us it immediately sparked our curiosity since it’s deeply aligned with our vision of making working life better. We hope you can join us for what will be a fascinating evening!
Organisations are microcosms of society: by changing how they operate and what they value we can change the world
ABOUT THIS MEETUP
This workshop will explore the ways in which organisations reflect society, and how breaking unhealthy systems and values within your organisation could not only make your organisation more effective but also transform the wider world in which you operate.
Tessa Cooper, Director of People & Culture, will begin with a 15 – 20 minute talk about which negative and positive elements of society she has seen reflected within organisations and share stories of how changing some of the things that a team or organisation values, and adapting our relationship with work, can affect change beyond the walls of that organisation.
She will then facilitate a workshop which will encourage you to explore one idea for how your team or organisation can change what society values and develop a plan for why it also has business value.
Explore the ways in which your organisation reflects society
Develop techniques for understanding what you and your team values
Be able to make a case for why it’s important to invest time & money into changing organisational behaviour or values
you want to build a more sustainable business or team
you want to make a difference to society
Tessa Cooper – Director of People and Culture at FutureLearn
After 5 years of building product teams at the Guardian, Comic Relief and FutureLearn Tess moved into an Organisational Development role helping the entire company, not just the product team, to develop their practices and ways of working. She was promoted to Director of People and Culture at FutureLearn and is now focussed on building a diverse company where people are able to fulfill their potential and work together in an open way.
Using Agile principles to Develop Company Culture Part 3: Customer Collaboration Over Contract Negotiation
In this third post about applying agile principles at FutureLearn, Tessa Cooper, Director of People and Culture, talks about how you should identify, understand and collaborate with your ‘customers’.
Before you read this you might want to read the first couple of posts:
The second line of the agile manifesto principles is “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation”. This is highly relevant to a lot of disciplines beyond those involved directly in developing products, it’s just that your ‘customer’ is different. When I was a product manager I spent a lot of time thinking about who our ‘users’ were — “What are our users trying to achieve? How could our product help them to achieve that? What barriers do they come up against?”. Our team focussed on getting people using our products early, providing us with feedback and working with them collaboratively on improvements — this was more important than developing a feature checklist for us to ‘to’ and ‘fro’ with a customer before deciding what to build.
Perhaps you work in a HR team, where your customer is your employees. Or perhaps you work in Finance where your customer could be a combination of employees, suppliers or the board. Whatever your job is at some point there is a ‘customer’, because if there wasn’t your job wouldn’t exist. The same questions I asked as a product manager should still be relevant to you: “What are your customers/employees/colleagues/suppliers trying to achieve? How could your work help people reach their goals? What barriers do they face to achieving their goals?”. The most effective and productive teams I’ve seen are those who involve this ‘customer’ in answering these questions and then collaborate with them to develop and iterate on the services they provide.
Understanding the motivations of your ‘customer’
When we are servicing others, particularly if they hold a certain power over us (e.g. they are the ones paying us, they are more senior, they are a team that is well-revered in a company) it can be all to easy to fall into the trap of nodding in agreement to whatever they say and hoping that it can be delivered in time. And it can be equally as easy to say ‘oh they don’t know what they are talking about, they’re not experts’ and quickly forget about their ideas or suggestions.
Collaborating with staff on what one of our values ‘Think big’ means and how to embed it within the company
My role involves serving our whole company: we have 130 people, who form various teams, working towards a variety of goals, in varying ways, all with varying motivations to some extent or another. So I have had to put in quite a lot of work to really understand my ‘customers’.
Here are just some of the ways I try to do this:
I regularly offer teams my help with facilitating their meetings — this is an unobtrusive way of listening to and digesting what people are working towards and why it’s important. It helps me to connect up how my work fits into the wider company picture.
I set up a “Random Coffees” slack channel where people are randomly paired each week to catch up for coffee. I mostly introduced this to encourage conversations across the invisible or visible divides that exist in all companies. But I partly introduced it for the selfish reason of wanting to meet as many of my ‘customers’ individually and learn more about them.
I created a staff survey which asked people to talk about what they’d most like to celebrate about FutureLearn and what they’d most like to see change, and explored what their challenges and hopes were for the coming year. This was more than a ‘company pulse’ survey that measures happiness — this was about asking people to reflect more deeply on their motivations for being at FutureLearn. I can use the results to now start prioritising what work I do to service my ‘customers’.
Building with your ‘customers’
In the same way that it would have been impossible for me as a product manager to build a great product without getting real users adopting it and offering feedback, I believe it’s impossible for me to do my current role without getting our employees to provide feedback and experiment with me and my team in how we build our company and our culture.
In any role I’ve done I try to make my work as visible and accessible as I can so that everyone feels able to contribute. In my first week as organisational development lead I stood up at our all staff meeting and said ‘We’re experimenting with how we do things as a company, we’ll try some stuff, we’ll see what works and then we’ll embed it as company practice — here’s how you can help me to make this happen”. Since then, together with a whole variety of people from across the company, we’ve started to transform the way our company operates. We’ve transformed the way we run meetings and workshops through developing a facilitation library & advocates. We’ve transformed our culture to make it more open and to provoke conversation around important issues — the people team now regularly share things like pay gap analysis or staff turnover with all staff and make space for discussion. We’ve started to transform the way we give feedback to one another and how we set and share our individual objectives. But it doesn’t feel transformational. Because the people affected by the changes are the ones driving those changes.
Sharing the journey we’re going on
Part of the reason why companies set out a Vision & Mission is to make this public to their customers. To show them this is where we are heading to, together. If a company is too focussed on ‘contract negotiation’ their thinking is in the now — they’ll say things like “what can I give you right now and what can you give me right now?”. If a company has a mission and works collaboratively with customers they’ll say things like “Hey look, I don’t know all the details of how to get there but this is where we’re going and we want you to come with us!”
Once again I believe this is applicable to everyone in every line of work. If you want the people you service to believe in you and support you, you need to show them what your mission is and offer to take them on that journey with you! I believe every single team in your organisation should have a team mission:
When I was the Organisational Development Lead at FutureLearn my mission was to “Champion and embed the culture, behaviours and practices that help our people to work together effectively towards achieving our company mission & strategy”.
Our Data & Insights team mission is to “Gather and share accessible knowledge, proactively improving understanding inside and outside FutureLearn, to enable informed decision making throughout the company”.
Since stepping up to my new role of Director of People and Culture, my team have recently developed our vision which is to “Build a truly diverse company where individuals are empowered to be the best they can be and work together in an open way to achieve FutureLearn’s mission”.
In addition to sharing our vision the People team have also made all of our objectives, and the work we are doing towards them, open to the entire company through Trello. This approach allows people to collaborate with us by adding their own feedback and ideas to the board, and they can get updates on each of our objectives through keeping an eye on the comments or the key results checklist that we’ve associated with each objective.
The way we collaborate at FutureLearn with our various ‘customers’ is not perfect, but we are experimenting and trying to bring everyone along with us. We’d love to hear more about how you collaborate with your ‘customers’ (users, suppliers, shareholders, employees & anyone else you service) and answer any questions you have about how this agile principle can help you in your day-to-day work.