A New Year arises, we’re back to work, and have deliberated a dry January - but it’s not all doom and gloom. The cold weather and train strikes could not prevent a mass of like-minded people from attending our first ‘Stand Up and Talk Agile’ Open mic meetup of 2017.
Carrying on with the success from previous meetups, we kick-started the session with one open mic slot, and were dazzled in exchange with a generous selection of four thought-provoking talks. Loosely focused around motivating teams, each talk brought new insights that naturally fuelled further discussions and learning.
Nevil Wharton, our very welcoming host for the evening at the Hiscox venue, was first to take to the stage. He discussed the positive impacts that adopting Agile ways of working has had on his team, and the ripple effect this has had on the organisation. He shared the three key ingredients which led to a truly motivated team.
The first ingredient was delivering metrics on the team progress across the business. This not only offered the business true transparency on the work, but also instilled trust - trust being the fundamental requirement to fulfil motivation, and a common theme discussed during a previous meetup. Trust also gives the team a sense of pride by delivering products faster.
Second ingredient on the list was innovation. Nevil explained how the team had the opportunity to be truly innovative and consider cutting edge products/ designs. This creative pass blurs the line between work and play, offering the perfect environment for collaborative idea generation.
The last ingredient, but by no means least, was the ability to be social, drink beer and eat pizza. Nevil explained the importance of carving time aside for team days. This downing of tools may to some look like a ‘non value-add activity’ but as Nevil explained, this could not be further from the truth: “We might begin these team days with trivial conversations but we naturally loop back to work and have some very valuable discussions”. In the spirit of Nevil’s closing points, we then undertook the important beer, pizza and networking ritual.
Excited by the free-form nature of the meetup, Andy Deighton then took to the stage to share his epiphany. He had spent his whole life delivering software but suddenly questioned ‘why?’. He would celebrate success of delivering the software early and often, but began to wonder what happened to it. This was when he moved into the field of product discovery.
Andy was passionate that you shouldn’t deliver anything until you have built a deep empathy for the people it is for. When referring to business specialists who were disconnected with genuine customer need, he stated that “listening to expert opinion can kill”, and that “the best method for software development was to gain empathy for the people you deliver products for”.
An engaged crowd went on to hear Andy discuss the benefits of talking to real people and discovering problems that can become real opportunities. He went on to suggest that teams who speak to real people will be more motivated over the work that they deliver. “Before you go to the delivery you need to know more about the customer and end user”.
What I found deeply fascinating with Andy’s talk is his notion of gaining empathy or awareness for the needs of the end user, which is the primary step within the Design Thinking cycle. I am very interested in the comparisons that can be made between Agile and Design Thinking methodologies. Both methods require engagement or input far beyond the team during product development, both methods adopt an iterative approach and apply an empirical process of inspection, adaption and transparency. I would be interested to hear more about people’s experiences of applying both methodologies and viewpoints on Design Thinking versus Agile. A future topic for our Meet-up in the making!
Continuing with the team motivation topic, Ash Sheikh was keen to discuss the culture that lies beneath the surface of an organisation, and the importance of creating solid connections between the needs of an organisation, teams and individuals. Making reference to Daniel Pink’s book ‘Drive’, Ash addressed the three core enablers of motivation, which are Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.
Paying special attention to purpose, he highlighted the importance of simplifying business problems so that teams could focus on the right problems, and find a purpose that people would like to get behind. One final remark from Ash was that “once you find purpose, you can find self-worth, and once you find commonalities between what motivates you and the organisation, work will no longer feel like work”.
Barry Chandler concluded the evening by expressing how the talks had resonated with him and shared some exciting news about his meetup group SEAM (study of enterprise agility), and the upcoming conference SEACON UK, taking place on the 10th of April, where attendees will get to hear and speak to thought leaders such as Barry O'Reilly, Joanne Molesky and Dan North.
At the end of the evening, as well as after the event, we received some very encouraging feedback from the community who appreciated the format of this meetup, the opportunity to host an open mic talk, and the engagement visible across attendees.
One of our members, Svetislav, said that “the format definitely gives people more freedom to talk and can trigger some very interesting conversations", and then proposed a future talk around meditation and stress management.
Svetislav’s proposal inspired me to consider this theme for the next meetup: ‘Wellbeing and Sustainability in the workplace’, which will take place on Thursday, February 23rd.