Tag Archives: leadership

Three Ingredients of Agile Success

By most accounts, my first experience with an Agile roll-out (specifically Scrum) was quite successful.  We went from 3 Scrum teams to 12, we increased employee job satisfaction measurably and we delivered faster and more accurately than ever before.  We rolled out six products in less than 3 years and that is a remarkable feat.  One that I am certain we could not have achieved without moving to – and embracing – Agile.  So how did we do it?  What made our efforts successful when many other companies have struggled or failed?  Here are my perspectives on how we found success.

Image Source: http://obdc.com/consulting-for-business-success/

Image Source: http://obdc.com/consulting-for-business-success/

Executive Sponsorship

Agile is a movement that requires top-down leadership to say ‘this is going to happen, here is why it is good and we should all start rowing in that direction.’ Without that vision and dedication to making it happen, it would have been really hard to move out of Waterfall, which had been ingrained into the workflows, processes and the very culture of an organization.  But top-down isn’t enough.  You also have to have a group of developers that are eager to make the change.  Like most things, you cannot force people to change their behaviors if they are completely unwilling participants.   At our company, we were very lucky.  We had incredibly talented developers across the organization who were anxious to try new ideas and see how we could innovate.  That bottoms-up enthusiasm combined with the top-down dedication gave the movement to Agile a fighting chance.

Networking and Blogging – Is it worth it?

Have you ever worked on something only to wonder “is this worth the effort?” “Does it matter at all?”  “Does anyone care?”  I know I have – and it relates in part to these blogs.  In 2013, I set a goal that I was going to write 52 blogs – one per week.  If you have ever tried to maintain a blog site, you know that is an ambitious goal.  But I was committed so even when I would have rather been reading a book or walking the dog, I wrote blogs.  And if I am honest, it did give me a sense of accomplishment when I achieved the goal.


As I worked on my 52 blogs, most were about three subjects that I am deeply passionate about: (1) Product Management, (2) Agileflat orb and (3) Leadership.  I have  a good amount of practical experience, I have taken awesome training classes and I have devoted time reading and studying on these subjects, so I hope that I have something useful to share.

Leadership Traits – Nature or Nurture?

I have been thinking a lot about leadership lately and I have been fortunate enough to work for some amazing leaders – two that come to mind specifically who have shaped my career, urged me to take wise chances and made me a better person, in addition to a better employee.  I also had an recent college graduate ask me what it took to be effective in a leadership role.  I really had to think about it and my conclusions are contained in this blog.  There are loads of books written on this very subject, so I will add my observations to the wealth of research and opinions out there.

1. Process Information Efficiently – all of the leaders that I have witnessed in action are extremely smart. And it isn’t specifically

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Image Source: http://www.agemattersclinic.com/UW-Dementia-Website.php

book-smart or street-smart, but they all have the ability to process and assimilate information very quickly.  They can take two seemingly unrelated data points and see the connective tissue that everyone else misses.  They can thoughtfully consider a catastrophic situation and figure out a way to manage through it.  They can ponder a decision and see multiple ways that it might impact future events.  It is really remarkable to watch, because an effective leader is always thinking, they don’t take anything at face-value, they ask insightful questions and often, they truly are the smartest person in the room.

2. Excellent Ability to Recall – if you pay attention to the effective leaders that you have come across in your career, most have an excellent memory.  Most leaders can recall numbers – $2.5M in revenue for that product, a 41.5% margin, a $25.89 stock price – and they can pull these numbers into a conversation at a crucial time.  This is not to suggest that they know everything and never refer back to notes or get data from their teams, but most leaders can recall the relevant financial information for their business and can use that data when they are processing information very quickly (see above).  They can also recall conversations, decisions, attendees and dates.  This ability to recollect pertinent information sets true leaders apart and enables them to make decisions and move forward more quickly than the masses who must look up the facts before they can proceed.