In this Sunday rewind, we look back to #mtpcon London+EMEA keynote in 2021. Jonathan Smart, Business Agility Coach and Author, shared some key lessons on ways of working by adopting agile to deliver better value, sooner, safer, and happier, offering lessons in creating an outcome-focused product culture. Read on to hear his eight key lessons:
Lesson 1: Focus on the outcomes
An agile transformation is “80% culture and only 20% process and tooling” John says to focus on the outcomes when transitioning into Agile.
He described five balanced outcomes of agile:
- Better: Build quality into the work as opposed to inspecting it later
- Value: Measure and monitor your business’s unique value proposition
- Sooner: Minimise the time to learning, gaining insights with every iteration
- Safer: Practice continuous compliance, and make effective planning a priority
- Happier: Improve ways of working to benefit customers, colleagues, citizens and the climate
Lesson 2: Achieve big through small
Achieving big through small “requires psychological safety”, John explains, outlining the importance of “descaling the work” in order to scale agility. In a truly agile business, he explains how teams do away with upfront “bloated requirements” and instead look to experiment and learn through iteration, embracing a process which invites “intelligent failure”, leading teams to “succeed sooner”.
Lesson 3: Invite over inflict
John explains how, when introducing Agile, you’ll encounter an Innovation Curve of adoption, with a group of innovators followed by first early, and then late adopters, and a group of laggards waiting to pivot at the point of being the odd ones out. What’s important, John says, is to “invite over inflict”, encouraging participation without mandating a “one-size-fits-all approach”.
Lesson 4: Go first
John shared three leadership tips for his fourth lesson.
- Leaders go first: Act as a role model, embracing best practices, exhibit courage and vulnerability while helping nurture those around you.
- Psychological safety: Create a culture that is safe, and supportive and allows teams to succeed sooner, understanding the importance of experimentation.
- Adopt an emergent mindset: Acknowledge the future is not knowable, prepare to maintain optionality, being open when learning from and adapting to change.
Lesson 5: Build the right things
John explains how agile development means you deliver value early and often, reducing your output, while increasing learning opportunities, stating “it’s about sooner, but it’s not about becoming a feature factory […] building the wrong thing faster, makes you wronger […] it is about time to learning”.
Lesson 6: Minimum viable compliance
When it comes to compliance and controls, John describes how agile businesses often have either too few, leading to instability, or so many it’s like “the brakes are on all of the time”. He recommends aligning a multidisciplinary safety team to the “flow of value” and introducing process improvements that allow for clearer tracking, structured risk stories, and a culture of collaboration
Lesson 7: Pop the learning bubbles
John describes how information is power, and advises against information silos, instead encouraging us to “pop those learning bubbles and become a learning organisation”.
Lesson 8: You’re never done improving
John’s parting lesson is to “go slower to go faster”. If you don’t, he says, “you will end up going slower”. He explains how you require resilience to deliver continuous improvements across an organisation while acknowledging “impediments are the path”, though they shouldn’t come at the cost of incurring technical, process and culture debt.