Episode 160: Agile Lessons From My Younger Self with John Sullivan

Craig is at YOW! Hong Kong and has a chat with John Sullivan, the CEO at Elabor8, and they talk about his Agile journey in Australia from ThoughtWorks to Sensis to Qantas to MYOB and the challenges and learnings along the way

  • The Agile Revolution episode 159 “What Colour Agile Would You Like Today with Nigel Dalton”
  • Extreme Programming Explained” by Kent Beck
  • Sensis was a very early corporate in Australia that adopted Agile from beginning to end, moved teams out of the building so they could work uninhibited in an Agile way
  • The technology teams almost always aren’t the problem with product delivery – it is the product team taking an idea from the top to the bottom of the organisation and getting it in a form that is fit for customers
  • Not happy Jan! – Sensis had their focus on print and was not willing to disrupt
  • You need sponsorship and objectives right from the top if you want to make change – otherwise there are reasons why you do what you do and you won’t change
  • Do the things that are the hardest to do because then that gives you the freedom to do the things you want to do
  • Need to stop thinking about Agile as an institutional process
  • You can’t focus on the practices, you have to become Agile and then adopt practices that are the right thing to do
  • In relation to feedback, you need to value people’s effort and return something of greater value than what they put in
  • A real Agile digital transformation is about the shift to provide something that people want to use and then we can monetise it, which means you need to build something people need not what you think they want
  • Need to put teams together for a customer journey as opposed to divisional handoffs – that is an Agile digital transformation
  • John Sullivan’s YOW! Hong Kong talk – “A Presentation to Myself on Organisational Agile Transformations”
  • The theory is that the twelve principles were written to be too strict to apply and too heavy to consume at the time – the manifesto was written to be flexible around those principles – now the manifesto gives people too much slack
  • The Agile Revolution episode 119 “Agile (Raccoon) is Dead with “Pragmatic” Dave Thomas”
  • John Sullivan’s YOW! CTO Summit talk “A Common Vision is a Matter of Principle” where he mentions that platform manifesto
  • We need to stop trading off doing the right thing because the shortcuts drag down the productivity and it becomes an anchor – do the right thing right now, pay the cost, take the ownership and don’t give in on the principles

TheAgileRevolution-160 (51 minutes)

Episode 159: What Colour Agile Would You Like Today with Nigel Dalton

Craig is at YOW! Hong Kong and is sitting with Nigel Dalton, Chief Inventor at REA Group and the Australian “Godfather of Agile” and they reminisce about:

  • Anita Sengupta’s YOW! Hong Kong keynote “The Future of Mars Exploration
  • Akin’s Rules of Spacecraft Design – “don’t mess it up, there are people involved”
  • Nigel Dalton’s YOW! Hong Kong talk “Agile is the Last Thing You Need
  • The two early experiments of Agile in Australia – Lonely Planet and Suncorp
  • The success of the REA technology teams today was the move into multidisciplinary teams where the influence comes from product – it was a difficult decision and chaos at the time
  • John Sullivan’s YOW! Hong Kong talk “A Presentation to Myself on Organisational Agile Transformations
  • ANZ is disrupting the power base of senior management – Shayne Elliott video about their way of working and Bluenotes podcasts, inspired by ING
  • The wish for REA is for new hires turn up and say they came to work here “because I heard the managers are awesome”
  • Google Project Aristotle brought honour back to the role of manager
  • The Mythical Man Month” – Frederick P. Brooks
  • Love Spotify for their humility, honesty and contribution to the industry, their high impact video series, “if you had a music streaming startup that was well funded based in New York and Stockholm with 700 people, then the Spotify model is perfect… If you don’t, you need to think about that for yourself.”
  • Data debt is going to be a huge issue in the future
  • Mark Hibberd’s YOW! Hong Kong talk “Lake, Swamp or Puddle: Data Quality at Scale
  • REA solved scaled prioritisation across lines of business works via a product council that meets monthly, they prioritise the work and re-allocate teams
  • Guilds are an internal meetup, taking a senior level interest by turning up and sponsoring a small budget ($2,000) for pizza or to bring in speakers is essential for success
  • Building architecture is a hot topic – open plan versus the Fog Creek “office for every engineer” – have found that you need overhear the conversations as everything moves so rapidly, had to sacrifice flexible work spaces as the number of employees grew
  • It’s interesting to see how some of the early Agile success stories have declined – have a change in leadership and the organisation changes
  • “Change the habits and change the work process and you get culture change for free” – Deming
  • The REA culture is likely to survive a change in leadership because the ownership of the way of working has been spread to all areas of the business and people get tech
  • Transformation doesn’t happen overnight – REA is 5 years in and probably 20% of the way
  • The Machine That Changed The World” blew the lid on the Toyota culture – Jim Womack reflected recently that he really wanted work and workplaces to be better
  • Reflected on why it was so hard to get meetups happening in the new REA Melbourne building and realised that no other professions have meetups, it’s a differentiator of working in tech, a healthy community of free sharing
  • Extreme Programming Explained” – many of the early adopters were inspired by this book
  • Blend of Lean systems thinking and Agile is likely to come back around again – we need to cross the streams
  • The Agilista frameworks methodologies like Kanban, Scrum, SAFe will become LeSS important #dadjokes
  • Starting to get comfortable about having conversations about productivity – immense gain to be had across the whole flow
  • John Shook – “Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping” – need the technical brains to read that book
  • Diversity and Inclusion is the solution to the shortfall of people working in tech
  • Sir John Bagot Glubb – “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival” – it explains everything!
  • It’s time for Australia to double down on science
  • How do we make our biggest companies be more innovative?

TheAgileRevolution-159 (49 minutes)