The Agile For Agilists Podcast

An Epic Adventure of Agile Transformation: Discover the Path to Agility with Agile Velocity coach, Andy Cleff

June 22, 2023
The image depicts the album cover for Season 2 Episode 10 of the Agile for Agilists Podcast the image include a picture this episodes special guest Andy Cleff who is a enterprise agile transformation coach with Agile Velocity and Co-Host of the Agile Uprising Podcast
Agile For Agilists
An Epic Adventure of Agile Transformation: Discover the Path to Agility with Agile Velocity coach, Andy Cleff
In this enlightening episode of “The Agile For Agilists Podcast,” our esteemed guest, Andy Cleff, an agile transformation coach at Agile Velocity and co-founder/host of the “Agile Uprising Podcast,” leads Brad and Drew on an eye-opening journey down the Path to Agility. The Path to Agility, a methodology developed by Agile Velocity, transcends frameworks and emphasizes achieving tangible business outcomes. Andy provides a condensed overview of this approach, including its companion tool, Navigator. Furthermore, he delves into the depths of agile transformations and the criticality of embracing business agility. Our discussion zooms in on the pivotal role of funding models in supporting agile transformations. We shed light on the limitations of conventional funding approaches such as Capex, Opex, profit centers, and cost centers, which often impede organizations from fully embracing business agility. These rigid models, burdened with excessive overhead, pose significant obstacles to swift responses to market changes and user feedback. Moreover, we explore the intriguing intersection of change management and agile transformations. Traditional change management methodologies, while valuable in their time and specific contexts, often rely on a plan-driven approach that contradicts the iterative and adaptive nature of the agile movement. Andy reveals that the renowned Kotter 8 Step Change Model, developed by Dr. John Kotter, has recently evolved to accommodate this crucial need. Throughout the episode, Andy Cleff generously shares his wealth of real-world experience and practical insights on successfully achieving business outcomes through impactful change and agile practices across all organizational levels. Don’t miss out on this illuminating episode of “The Agile For Agilists Podcast” as we embark together on the transformative Path to Agility. #AgilePodcast #BusinessAgility #ChangeManagement #AgileTransformation



[00:00:00] Drew Podwal: Welcome to another episode of the Agile for Agilists podcast. I’m Drew Podwal, your host, and I am again, super excited for this episode. I’m here as always with my co-host, Brad Nelson. Hey Brad.

[00:00:15] Brad Nelson: Drew. Hey everyone.

[00:00:16] Drew Podwal: And the reason why I am so excited is we are joined today by the wonderful and amazing Andy Clef, who is a Agile transformation coach with.

Agile velocity, expert in all things path to agility, which is what we’re gonna be focusing the conversation on today. But also, we didn’t realize this when we originally scheduled this, but Andy’s also the superstar co-host of the Agile Uprising podcast as well. So, fun fact, we did start recording this already.

We’ve done this, this is the second time we’re doing this, but we’re gonna jump right back in again. I felt like last time I, I bungled the hand off to you a little bit, Andy, so I’m glad that we got to do it again. But why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, where’d you get started?

And, and take us

[00:01:05] Andy Cleff: I, I do not deserve all those superlatives. Wonderful, amazing, super deluxe. Um, let me start with that. Um, by no means an expert practicing Agilists like many of you, both of you probably, and many of the listeners. I did not wake up one day. I did not. Uh, have the desire or the inkling or the plan to be where I am today.

I turn left. I turn right, and here I am. when I started outta college, I, I, I don’t even think I knew what coaching meant. I’m gonna date myself a little bit. for the listeners, when I, when I left college, the PMI was big. I, I had a civil engineering and architecture degree and I went into project management.

So I, I, I did project management literally with, with bricks and mortar for almost a decade, and was quite successful at it. Managed to budget, managed to schedule managed quality. at some point I, I noticed that there was collateral damage and it wasn’t environmental, it was human. Um, the, the cost of sticking to schedule, budget and quality caused a lot of burnout and a lot of people, I was fortunate at that point that it was in the early days of the Macintosh Desktop Publishing, and so I, I did a, a switch.

I got into graphic design, which led me to web development, which led me to, what’s this HTML stuff and css, and, and started building sites and, and got into e-commerce and, and built quite a great book of business. along the way I kept trying to use what I had learned in the previous decade, project management, and it wasn’t working.

I was getting requests for a proposal, written by people who. Didn’t really know what they wanted. And so I stopped responding to RFPs and started building relationships and, and that grew into trust and confidence and success for both of us, both the buyer and the seller. I, at some point, I ran into some people who had started a web-based social media company and gotten some venture capital and said, we’re looking for something, I think it’s called Agile Project Management.

Can you help us? And, uh, like any entrepreneurs, the answer was yes, of course. And then it became, what the hell have I gotten myself into? Fortunately we had a wonderful CTO who said, I don’t know either, but I know we can do better. And then there’s these things that I’ve heard bits and pieces about this, this Agile thing, something called Kanban, something called Scrum.

Do what you want, experiment. and we took two development teams. They were platform focused, one Android, one iOS, cuz they were, they were very different technologies and skillset

and and started doing rudimentary Kanban. All we did was limit WIP . And we went from six months development cycles down to six weeks to eventually, we could release as, as quickly as the the end users would tolerate it.

And I was like, wow, there is really something powerful about this. And opportunities grew and expanded. Uh, and I went on to. Other larger organizations where the same simple principles came back time and time again to help, uh, people be happier, which produced better outcomes for everybody involved. Long, long, and rambling tale of how we got here today.

[00:05:07] Brad Nelson: Lots of cool stuff in there. you, you mentioned the, the native apps. I also kind of got my break into software development and native apps and. many people didn’t live, may not have lived through those times or have forgotten that. There was a time where nobody updated their apps. Like if you pushed out an app too much.

Customers were like, what are you doing? And they would get mad and annoyed, whereas now everything just automatically updates. So I was definitely in that era of, we had to make sure that before we sunset some sort of feature or service that enough people had actually updated. so I think you lived in a similar time, which is pretty awesome.

[00:05:44] Drew Podwal: You know, the other thing that you said, that really struck a very vivid memory for me was when you talked about how you started out as a designer. And I remember back in the day, I forget which version of Photoshop it was, but you would, you would make your entire website as a layered image in Photoshop.

And I remember like back when I first started using Photoshop, there were no layers, but you would put your image as a layered image in Photoshop. You would use the slice tool to slice up the divs and then you would export it and they’d have like semi clean XHTML, right? Um,

[00:06:19] Brad Nelson: I totally forgot about that. You just like unlocked a memory for me when you had to like delete the blank images and it was all on a table gross. That was

[00:06:27] Andy Cleff: Oh my goodness. And, and then, and then all the futzing with, you know, single pixel images to get it to work. And then somebody said, could you make that? Fit on my monitor. I’m like, what do you mean your monitor? And sudden we had to learn responsive design, using those primitive tools and they’re like, oh my God. Thanks for the memories, gentlemen.

[00:06:52] Drew Podwal: really amazing how far we’ve come, right? In such a short, like, I, I like to remind people of that, my first iPhone or my first phone, mobile phone, I think I got it like 96. It was a Nokia 100. I actually have it somewhere in my office. It, it’s like this big paddle thing. Um, and then I think my first iPhone was the second generation one, and I forget what year that came out.

But you know, between there I had a Treo. Do you guys remember the Treo? It was like a, it ran Palm Os and it had a stylist. Um,

[00:07:25] Andy Cleff: Pilot. Oh my god, this is a memory lane podcast.

[00:07:29] Drew Podwal: the rate of acceleration from the amount that we can compute. Right. And, thinking about like, Friendster then became MySpace and then MySpace lost out to Facebook and then Twitter and like, I think we take for granted just how much technology is rooted in everything that we do.

The way that we connect each other, the fact that like, we could have this podcast where we’re logged into this platform and it can record it, and then AI can now give us a transcript of everything that we’ve said. the rate of acceleration is just tremendous. It’s no wonder that Agile coaching, right.

The idea of having a therapist for people who have to keep all this stuff moving, is, is necessary. It’s a little shocking that not every organization gets the idea that, you know, we need a therapist called a scrum master for a scrum team, and an Agile coach called a therapist for the product, organization and, and whatnot, uh, help them to clear out the clutter and, and keep innovating and delivering high value.

[00:08:36] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. I also think it’s crazy to think like the Agile Manifesto was written over 20 years ago, but people were doing Agile before that. Like they, they had come together and said, all right, let’s come up with a name of this thing that we’ve been doing for 10, 20 years, uh, and technically longer in some cases, to think that they were doing that with Yesteryear’s technology.

Now we have so many developer tools that there’s almost no excuse to not be able to release constantly.

[00:09:02] Drew Podwal: Well, and I think this is a good segue, right? Because we want to talk about path to agility and, path to agility is what unlocks all of this. I, when I interviewed at, at Agile Velocity last year, around this time, I think my understanding of path to agility was that it was really, like a waist level up or waist level down kind of framework, right?

and I went to the Business Agility Conference in New York. About a month ago, there was a, there was a question that was asked to one of the hosts on stage who was a business agility, consultant coach, worked like 40,000 companies in larger transformations.

And they, somebody asked him, you know, what do you think that we can learn from the technology teams who have been doing Agile transformations for a while now? And his response was, oh, I never really thought about that. And that like, kind of like smacked me on the side of a head. but I’m realizing that there is a separation now that’s kind of existing between the business agility layer and the technology layer where, where we need to really bridge that gap.

And I feel like path to agility does a great job of

[00:10:14] Andy Cleff: I, I’ll wholeheartedly agree. I, I don’t think the separation between business and technology is new. I think it is as old as the hills, and it’s part of the problem because I. It’s, uh, us and them, not us two in this together, and one or the other becomes the, the scapegoat for why we can’t, uh, hang on to market share.

How come we can’t, go better? So yeah, I, I think path to agility as a methodology, as a mindset, uh, brings it all together. Uh, top to bottom, left to right, all axis. You know, I, I was thinking about. This the other day. And, and is it a framework? Is it a, is it a, a methodology? What is it? It it is a methodology.

It, it, it is not a framework. It is not a method. and in terms, I’d love to do storytelling. So forgive me if, if I mix all my metaphors this evening, but I, I use it as a trail guide. It, it’s a, it’s a compass and a terrain map for this, this rapidly changing environment that the minute we draw the map, it’s obsolete.

the minute we point in a compass direction, things changed. So I use it in my transformation as a companion to help me navigate this ambiguous, terrain. to help the, the organization understand where they are with where where they should go next. So that they can adapt where they want to head ultimately is driven.

And this is such a core piece of the path agility framework, not to, to achieve some Agile maturity model, not to do some framework better, but to achieve a measurable business outcome.

[00:12:15] Brad Nelson: That’s really interesting and I admittedly don’t know much about path to agility, Drew. Has talked to me about it since we’ve met. Like, I think it, it maybe even came up in our first conversation. And so it’s something that he’s talked about a lot. I’ve looked on the site and the impression from the site is that it’s a tool, right?

Like a, a tool you have to subscribe for. And so that’s really interesting, uh, to hear that’s a methodology.

[00:12:41] Drew Podwal: It’s a dessert topping,

[00:12:43] Andy Cleff: it it is. So thank you for that feedback and, and I will pass that along. So we have been using Path to Agility for near a decade. it, it started out at the team level, which is where most transformations started back 10, 10 years ago. Can, can you teach our teams to do the, the Agile scrum thing? Um, because cuz we bought the Jira and, uh, you know, and can you just, and, and we hired a project manager and a scrum master or a scrum manager or, and a product owner.

I can you come train our people? And, and so we started there and we’re like, great. Um, there’s some key things that we need to do. we need, we need to align on this. are you people on multiple teams? Well, that’s a problem because. Okay, so let’s get semis, stable teams, and let’s get people in the roles.

And then, you know, we would get a bump in something 10, 15%. But then we realized that the system, those teams operated in and the, the connection between the nodes of the system were the next impediment or the next viscosity. So we started to develop, a systemic view and then maybe we’d get two x, improvement in some measurable outcome.

And we’re like, what’s, what’s, what’s missing here? Oh my God. It’s the leadership mindset. It’s the organization, the policies and the structures that that system lives in that’s holding them back. And so gradually over time, the, the methodology grew from teams to teams and systems team systems org. And then we started to look at the stages that they went through.

Pick any change model. A satir curve is a big one, right? Where, where you get the J curve. And so we’re like, we’re noticing these patterns. if we try to go too fast, without being able to steer, bad things happen. So let’s, let’s make sure, uh, we know what we’re doing before we try to accelerate so we have it aligned.

Well, what do we, what do we need to learn? We need to align around our purpose as an organization. So we developed these, they aren’t discreet stages, but it was align. Okay, why are we doing this? Learn new ways of working. Now we get to a point of we’re starting to get predictable. What’s keeping us from going faster?

Some of the things we talked about, if, if it takes you six months, how do you get to six weeks? If it’s six weeks, how do you get it? Two weeks? How can you do it instantaneously? How do we accelerate? So the next one is accelerate, and then once we, we, we can move quickly, can we adapt to the changing environment?

Right? So what you talked about at Business agility is that ability to adapt, to turn on a dime for a dime that you really want to do. But all this stuff led up to it. So this is coming around. So we, so we built this internal system for tracking and visualizing and we, we, we thought there’s could be a platform in here.

And so Brad, you’re, I went to your website and it looks like it’s a tool. We, we have a big push right now for Path to Agility Navigator, which is that companion I’m talking about that says,

[00:16:18] Brad Nelson: Okay.

[00:16:18] Andy Cleff: Our job as coaches and, and this is not like the big five, is to work ourselves out of a job.

[00:16:25] Brad Nelson: Mm-hmm.

[00:16:26] Drew Podwal: Yeah. Yeah,

[00:16:27] Andy Cleff: Just it. Our job is to work ourselves to, to be dispensable, yet still wanted because we’ve helped you accelerate and adapt over here. You’re a huge enterprise. Let’s, let’s go over here and let’s go over here. And low and behold, when we start scaling, now we see enterprise patterns that reflect leadership system and teams.

And we’re like, we gotta get out of a Google spreadsheet cuz this is not scaling. So we built our own, Tool if you are a platform and it’s path to agility Navigator. And thank you for the feedback, Brad, because that’s, that’s front stage on our website right now. Cause it’s like this is an awesome thing.

We’ve been using it, uh, we think everybody else should be using it.

[00:17:17] Drew Podwal: You know, along those lines, the first time I went to the website was about a year ago. Um, and, and my interpretation of path to agility is that, you know, it’s very similar to like the team health radars or um, you know, the product organization or program health radars and all those things, except that the way that it’s structured and worded starts from the outcome perspective, right?

So what are the outcomes that you want to achieve? Alright, well, if these are the outcomes you want to achieve, then these are the practices and capabilities that you should start focusing on. and if I recall correctly, there’s some that. Are contingent upon others, but not very many.

[00:17:57] Andy Cleff: I don’t have the, the marketing’s bullet list here, and, and I’m not deeply familiar with, the current state of Team Health radar, lean, Agile intelligence, but you pointed out one, one key difference that some of these competitive tools have started to pick up.

What are your measurable business outcomes? Why are you doing this? Some of the earlier versions that I looked at, you know, is maturity level based. Well, is your team doing all these things? If they are great, but so what? Are, are you increasing customer satisfaction just because your team’s doing the pick your framework better?

Uh, in, in the course of our development of, the, the methodology as well as the, the tool, we purposely made it agnostic. And in fact, we have pressure tested it outside of software. We’ve used it with marketing organizations. We used it with hardware organizations. We used it with hardware, software, and, and they’re like, uh, you don’t care if we do scrum, compound scum, bond, dad safe, et cetera.

It doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. They, they’re not incompatible. they will overlay nicely with it, but the, the goal is, Okay, what is most important? Is it speed? Okay. What does speed mean to you? Okay. what are the conditions necessary to go fast? Oh, you need to have stable teams. Well, do you have stable teams?

No, we we’re trying to go really fast, so we’re burning people out. Got it. So you actually have an employee engagement issue. I bet you have a quality issue too. And, and maybe that’s why you can’t go fast and, and the light bulbs go off and like, great. What, what do we need to go get rid of our quality issue?

Well, you need to solve your underlying issue of employee engagement. So let’s look at what you need, in terms of, Agile conditions, right? You need semis, stable teams that have ownership that aren’t just, feature factories and code monkeys. And, and once you’ve aligned on that, okay, what’s the next piece?

And underlying it there, there’s capabilities, and yes, there are practices, but it’s all, uh, a double loop learning that says, great, um, how are we doing that? Are we, are we increasing this measure, et cetera, et cetera. And, uh, the, the tool that we put together helps us visualize where to where we are where to move next.

with the overlay of, okay, what is most important business outcome that you want? What’s the next constraint that we need to address? And, and it, it really is a simple, elegant, and deep method that seems to resonate from the, the individual contributor. That’s like, I knew that if we just fixed that thing, uh, my life would be easier up into the C-suite that says, wow, I didn’t think it was possible.

But in three months, uh, we moved that needle.

[00:21:17] Drew Podwal: that was the aha moment I had about a year ago when I first looked at it, right? Was that, it does guide, right? It, it provides a guiding factor that, , that helps people to see the outcomes, right? My, my recent aha moment was that, path to agility can exist in all layers.

but that what it really, the power that it really has is to help to achieve business agility, and the, you know, the health radars are wonderful, But you know, like you send a health radar to a scrum team to take or whatever it is, they’re, they’re really great. but the thing is, is that, you know, to us they make sense when we read the outcomes, we’re like, all right, yeah.

This is what we gotta work on. Of course, right? But they don’t connect anything to the outcome, and it requires an Agile coach to almost read the tea leaves, right. to then say, well, this is why. And oftentimes people don’t wanna know the why. They just want to know how the, how. Right. , and I feel like, so we had an episode about two episodes ago.

We talked about, , story point estimation. Um,, it was an aha. Moment for me, I, I came into it being a fan of story points, Brad, and another woman who we had on another Agile coach, , Amanda, were schooling me on, on why no estimates is a, a great way, and I, and I was changed, you know. , but the one thing that I said that these guys, you couldn’t really argue with too much was that it creates a shared language, right?

That a story point or t-shirt size or an animal right, creates a, a, a shared language where now we can have a common understanding of things. And I feel like the way that path to agility is written is that shared language between the coach and, the C-suite or the executive committee or whoever that is.

It really helps to, to talk about things in a way that is in that middle ground that helps to unlock. Getting buy-in at that next level up. And that’s like the name of the game. Like you started the scrum team. You wanna get buy-in at the product right. At the program. At the portfolio. Right. And, and that’s, that’s what’s always impressed me the most about, about the, uh, the framework or the methodology,

[00:23:28] Andy Cleff: Yeah, I, I love that, that concept of a shared language. And depending on who we happen to be talking to at the time, you can shine a light on that part of the methodology and quickly say, well, where does it hurt? Oh, you know, you will get an earful from whoever you’re talking to. You’re like, yeah, well, let’s just look at this map here and look at the interconnectivity of things.

Well, how you doing on that? Oh, that’s even worse, huh? Well, what would unlock that? When we bring in the lens of business agility and that, that whole org flexibility, what really starts to show up and in our recent version, we, we emphasize some of this are policies and practices that go back to the 19 hundreds. Finance, budgeting, hr. and so a big piece of, of getting to that business agility is this holistic picture that says you can change here. You’ll get a little bit, you can change here, you’ll get a lot, you can change here and you can 10 x what’s going on. But that requires the chief people officer and the chief financial officer to be on board.

And they’re only gonna be on board, certain conditions. And w without their, support early, we quickly hit an impenetrable barrier that says, yeah, you can change everything except the funding model. And then you’re like, well, if, if, if your funding model is based on projects and opex, CapEx, you’re never gonna turn on a dime for a dime.

[00:25:21] Brad Nelson: Mm-hmm.

[00:25:22] Andy Cleff: I if your funding cycles are. Five years or three years, or one years, and, and you only release the funds on that, we will never be nimble. We will never have the speed that you need at the business level to be, truly adaptable to respond to the changing world that as we’ve all seen in the last two years, if not in the last two months, the pace of change is increasing.

And we really believe, this approach, gives the enterprise the ability to sense and respond what is going on in, cycles that are appropriate to, to take action, to unlock the next best capability that leads to an outcome that, again, is measurable, and that everybody can rally behind.

[00:26:14] Brad Nelson: That’s really cool. and so you have this methodology that powers this tool. And I know as an Agile coach, I’ve made way too many assessments type radar tools in Excel. I never want to open Excel again, sorry, Microsoft. but there is something to be said when communicating with leaders.

It’s, it speaks differently to them if you can show them something instead of just saying it yourself, it seems to impact them more. And, even as like a, a product manager, that’s something I’m really big on is how can we visualize this? How can we map this out to make it clearer for people? Because it’s easier for them to understand, it’s easy for them to digest, and it just feels more tangible at that moment.

And that’s one of the things that I think is really cool from what I’ve seen of your navigator tool, is that it looks way better than Excel.

[00:27:07] Andy Cleff: It was born. Born in the, the free version Google Sheets. and it quickly hit like all of us know, you know, I, I don’t wanna do it here anymore. It’s too painful. And so you stop gathering data, which means you stop having perspectives to share. And so it was born out of necessity, and I’m glad that you, you see it.

covid, helped us accelerate it because we, we used to be able to have big visible radiators, that the SVP or the suite speed would pass by the team room and like, what is this map on the wall that’s full of all these interesting, you know, yarns and, and things. And it would, it was a great.

Conversation starter. And now that we’ve, we’ve migrated to this, uh, hybrid space, it’s really become a powerful tool where we can bring it up and go, look what’s happened over the last six months. And we can see, so I, if you’re a fan of, red, Amber Green, we have, there’s a visibility to say, look, it’s where we started.

Little bit of green, lots of amber, lots of red. And, and you can see typically down at the, the team level in the early stages of a line and learn, it’s, it’s okay because people have been doing team level practices long enough, that, that the team practices are good. But when we overlay the system and we give them some objective measure, they’re like, oh, that’s yellow, huh?

And then when we turn on the, the, Org layer Right. The, the meta system and there’s lots of red, and it’s like, what is that? Well, that’s, that’s your funding model. That’s your leadership mindset. That’s your, giving people the ability to focus. Well, how do we fix that? Well, here’s, here’s some ways to tackle it.

And if we’re on a, uh, an engagement multiple quarters, we can show tangible progress as the green expands and then tie into that metrics around these key business outcomes. , and we can say, look, , these are lagging indicators, but , the things that we talked about that was most important, predictability, look what’s happening. And so what follows market responsiveness. Or, , customer sat, take your pick. Right. And, and so the, the business objectives, the business outcomes can change over time. Not every week, not every month, but, in the course of half a year, great. We, we have solved the employee engagement problem. We, we now have stable teams with, good sense of autonomy, mastery, and, and co-learning what’s next.

[00:30:00] Drew Podwal: Setting aside the conditions where you’re like golfing buddies with the ceo, right, or fishing buddies or something like that. What are the optimal or the second suboptimal set of conditions that need to be in place to kind of get started? or like, I guess another way of phrasing it is if you come onto a new client, right?

There’s probably certain things that you want to see in place, certain maybe behaviors or certain, buy-in from different parts of the organization. What is the optimal condition for you, apart from being golfing buddies with the ceo?

[00:30:44] Andy Cleff: Wow. That’s a great question. we’d sometimes talk about it as the red velvet rope policy. We want to be successful. We want our customers to be successful. one of the key elements is that leaders are willing to lead the change. This can’t be, uh, a solely team level engagement. It can’t be solely grassroots leaders. Somebody needs to, to to be bought in there. There’s another element. You touched on it.

this cannot be another project. It needs to be value driven. There needs to be a mindset that says, yeah, um, we used to do projects. We don’t do projects anymore. We, we, this is about value delivery. Uh, it’s about serving a product. we need, an appetite and a willingness to embark on what for many. Organizations is a difficult change journey. This is, this is not a walk in the park for many groups. And, and so a commitment, that supports the journey. Uh, and the last piece, I think we talked at the business. It’s not just technology, it’s business partners too. It is a whole org commitment.

So they’re, they’re really the, the keys to the success. You, you have some clear business outcome in mind. This is not about doing the Agile better. It’s not about adopting say, fast left at. It’s not about checking that box. Leaders are invested, it’s product focused. we’re willing to manage the journey. and it’s, it’s the whole org. They’re, they’re the keys to success that we look for. Do we get all five? Mm we’ll settle for three. Golfing buddies are nice too.

[00:32:39] Brad Nelson: Yeah,

[00:32:40] Drew Podwal: I, you know, the other thing I was thinking about actually as you’re talking is that , I don’t know, maybe you guys do this, but I was thinking that if you funded your fee for service or rather structured your fee for service in a way that they could experiment with funding it internally, Apart from profit cost center models where they’re funding it as a product, right?

Like I always say that every company has three products. It’s the product that the customer is putting their hands on to move the levers and press the buttons, right? It’s the, the product of the C I C D pipeline, which enables things to move to production, quickly, expediently, and, and, and without friction.

And then the last product that every company has is the, the company’s cultural organizational ability to collaborate and work well together. And, um, so I’m wondering if you guys have ever experimented with the companies that are maybe, you know, hesitant to say, all right, we’ll give you the keys to the kingdom everywhere, but we’re still funding this as a project, you know, by saying, well, let’s create an experiment here, right?

Here’s how we suggest you, you fund us as a way to try to to learn how to fund things in a different way.

[00:33:54] Andy Cleff: It could work. It, it’s very situational. We at Agile Velocity, have as a, a sweet spot enterprise transformation. We’re, we’re not talking about a, a couple of teams of, of

right size teams. We’re, we’re talking about multiple systems of 150 people plus that, that scale up to thousands. Right. And so, We typically don’t go in and, and say like, we’re gonna transform all thousand people or 50,000 people.

No. There, there’s pilot programs and those are funded. And because of the way this works, we, we can quickly, demonstrate progress by not focusing just at the team level, uh, but looking at the entire, value stream. And, and, and if, if it is funded as a pilot experiment, that’s fine. many things have started that way and many of our customers are, places that we worked with a decade ago that did that, had that model that have moved on and gone to larger places and said, yeah, this, this feels like we could use you again.

and so, It’s the, parallel to the golfing buddy. but it’s somebody, who’s at, at a significant viewpoint in the organization that can see, look over the balcony and see that this is not a team level problem. This is not a technology problem. we, we have an organizational change issue, and if we could rally behind something that all of us can agree on, and it’s important, we can, we can do a pilot, we can scale it and, and see what happens.

[00:35:45] Drew Podwal: you’re touching on organizational change management and, you know, most companies are, familiar, at least with Kotter or Adkar Prosci. Um, how do you, how do you leverage that kind of familiarity to help them to see the path to agility?

[00:36:02] Andy Cleff: Great question. Our workshops with senior leadership, right down to the team level use Kotter’s model, the Eight Steps to Change. We, we have a client that says, yeah, we love Kotter, but we use Prosci, like, doesn’t matter. Same fundamental principles, right? Align around why you’re doing this. Uh, get a small group of people that are, that are willing change agents, um, get some quick wins, celebrate propagate, scale, and move on.

And so throughout this P to a, we bring that into account. So a, a big part of Kotter’s model, if you know it is why are we doing this? What, what is the compelling purpose? The sense of urgency. That that is a key element of our aligned stage. We are not changing to do the Agile. We are not changing to do the Save the Scrum.

We are changing because our business survivability in a five to 10 year stake, um, is at risk.

[00:37:13] Brad Nelson: Mm-hmm.

[00:37:13] Andy Cleff: And, and we don’t wanna end up on the floor. Like pick your, pick, your recently retired your MySpace or Blockbuster or anybody that was at the peak of their ecosystem that was suddenly displaced and they didn’t see it coming.

Right? So that sense of urgency. All these models, Kotter, Prosci have this, okay, why align around the, the vision? And so a big part of our, uh, initial align stage is at an organizational level. Why? We have a concept of a Agile leadership team. It’s the guiding coalition that’s part of Kotter, uh, I don’t know what the equivalent pro PCI is, but it is people cross-functional team that are the sensors at the team system and org level that, that bridge the high level strategy and the, uh, the implementation that become the WD 40 and the duct tape and the, and the, uh, the umbrellas and the, the bulldozers to, to sense the impediments and get rid of them for good change.

And so all these models, take into account you’re gonna hit impediments, you’re gonna hit resistance. You need a way to, deal with that. And, and so in the learn stage, we are building that capacity for people to, build the ability. To take appropriate ownership, make decisions with risk containment so that they can begin to get predictable.

And, and so all of those change models are part and parcel of the model because when we started, we found if we didn’t include that, we failed it. You know, so many of those anti-patterns are, oh, we just need to train people. It’s just a team level. we don’t have a motivational why. And, and 10 years ago, um, great.

We’d get a team predictable, but So what, when you have a hundred teams and you only got five

[00:39:25] Drew Podwal: and that, that to me is the danger of the Kotter model, right? Is that the reality is, is the world is never gonna be stable, Again, like, or like it was in the eighties and seventies or whatnot, right? Like the, the rate at which new technology is arriving on the scene and disrupting the way that people are doing business is just tremendous.

And that’s never gonna go away. And so the reality is, is that the transformation from a Kotter perspective has an end point, right? It’s funded as usually as a project and what we’re suggesting from a business agility perspective is that you’re gonna be stepping into a perpetual state of change.

[00:40:08] Andy Cleff: exactly. So I, I don’t know when it was but it was in, within the last three years, Kotter used to be stair step, which applied you ended, you got to the destination. If you look at his eight steps now, and I don’t know when it changed last year, two years ago. It is cyclic. And so there’s these mini loops within loops, and you’re exactly right, the transformation.

There is no end point. And so whilst as outside partners, we may have a scope of work that ends, the transformation doesn’t. And, and many organizations have formed, uh, a lace, a lean, Agile, center of excellence, right? And so this has become a methodology that’s part and parcel of teaching them how to keep the transformation alive. As the world changes, as the this, the teams change, it’s dynamic. And, and so, will you get to the end point in Nirvana where everything on your chart is, is solid green, never. But it’s a method, to continue to navigate. Great. Our, our business outcomes has changed. Now, what’s important? Where do we go look next? Great. Um, continue to in inspect and adapt. So, the Kotter model, yes. It used to be stairsteps and a destination. You arrived transformations. Yes, you ran outta money. but today it’s become different. it’s continual transformation, continual loops. and I think path to agility helps support that.

And again, as we said at the outset, our job is to work us ourselves out of a job and, and to build the internal coaching capacity within teams and systems in org to keep it going no matter what happens in their environment.

[00:42:08] Brad Nelson: That’s really interesting and, and similarly, I was, I guess, familiar with the older Kotter model. Uh, it was really popular for a long Built a lot of guidance around that too. And, uh, and Agile enablement teams or, uh, leadership teams or strategic teams like that, that’s a, seems to be a pretty common theme with, um, enterprise coaching.

And so all of that makes a lot of sense to me. And one of the things that I was gonna ask you is if you’re familiar with Lean Change management,

[00:42:40] Andy Cleff: Mm-hmm.

[00:42:41] Brad Nelson: uh, we’re actually, we don’t know what says, we’re actually gonna have the author on our next episode, so introducing him. Uh, but, and so that was immediately where my thought went to when we first started talking about organizational change management.

Uh, but it sounds like Kotter has got the notice and is like, yeah, we need to be more Agile with our transformation, uh, especially taking an Agile approach to learning agility.

[00:43:05] Andy Cleff: Yeah, I, I can’t speak for, went through, through ahead, but we can see the out the output of whatever their thinking was and now it is nested loops. With the idea that, okay, it’s a circle, and at some point, uh, at the bottom is celebrate wins. And, and that is the engine that keeps the whole transformation wheel going.

yes, it’s gonna be difficult. Yes. It, it, there’s gonna be pain points. And yes, if, if you see small winds, you get out of the J curve and you, you climb up. But we all know there’s another J curve and another one. So our approach is to, to minimize the depth of the fall and the time that you’re in there,

um, uh, and, and make it lots of small j curves that continue to go up.

tell me more about when you say lean change management. What resonates for you? I don’t mean to change this back into a

flip the interview, but let me see if, if we can connect it back to, our methodology. I just wanna make sure we’re speaking the same language.

[00:44:15] Brad Nelson: yeah, no, it sounds very similar in that like, we’ve kind of moved a little bit away from the word Agile in the industry, and now we’re focused on change, or they might call it change resiliency. It’s, you know, how capable is your organization of changing, of introducing new changes to it? How, how, how good are you at adapting to your situation?

And so lean change management very similar. It’s right, how can we get in there? How can we make small changes now and solve your problems now? As opposed to some of the traditional approaches we used to take where we did treat it as a project and we came in with, a health check or an assessment and you know, we’re like, here’s your starting point.

And you know, a week, two, three weeks, sometimes a month later, we’re like, well, here’s your report. You know, let us know if you want us to help you with it. There’s not a lot of value add there. Whereas with lean change it’s, you know, let’s get in now let’s have conversations. Now let’s start to introduce small changes now.

[00:45:14] Andy Cleff: Yeah. very, aligned with our mindset. Big, big changes are very difficult. Yeah. You know, most organizations have such inertia, uh, that it’s a fool’s errand to try to think in a short time you can change the course of, of something with the, you know, the, the, the Queen Mary with a few, uh, hundred horsepower motors or people rowing horse.

, part of the approach is d scale. Part of it is get rid of the, the waste in the system, which I imagine is a huge part of lean change management. Like find where, where the bottlenecks are, and this, this approach is things in the same way.

[00:45:59] Drew Podwal: the word management is a huge

trigger for me. giant trigger for me. Um, I, I, I gotta examine that a little bit, but, to the degree where, like, even when I think about ma, the idea of management, right? Like there’s management and there’s leadership, leadership is empowering and, and, and, you know, management, you’re serving your manager.

Everybody’s got a manager or a director or whatever, right? Um, and everyone serves the person above them. And in leadership, you’re serving the people below you and around you. I, I get so triggered by it. I, and I think to myself like, all right, well, there’s leadership and there’s management, and they’re both, and I can’t, maybe you guys know, like they’re both styles of organizing people, and, and I feel like I, I can’t say the word leadership without management, right? But so the idea of like lean change management, well, management, To me that implies that, you know, we’re gonna be very prescriptive about how we’re gonna do things, and, uh, and I know that healthy organizations can’t sustain and thrive and adapt to ever changing, things that are happening in the world on a daily basis when things are so prescriptive.

And, and I feel like the, the goal of a management mindset is to create a solid foundational framework that can create stability for the organization to stand on in the midst of this maelstrom that’s going on around it. And I think that that’s just a fallacy to think that, that there’s a, a way of structuring and organizing our people through the principles of management that are gonna be able to withstand that maelstrom that gets the foundation is already crumbling at the seams and, um, And not fast enough in my my opinion,

[00:47:46] Brad Nelson: Wow. I I love that you say that because my, my lean change management trainer at my company, Ken Rickard, you’ve met him, uh, he drops the word management on like all of his stuff. He actually really dislikes that word too. So he just calls it lean change.

[00:48:02] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

[00:48:03] Andy Cleff: Words. it’s funny, we just put together a discovery and assessment report and, uh, one of my, I was reviewing it internally and they’re like, you didn’t use the word Agile in here much, did you like Correct, astute? We just talk about getting better at getting better because so many of these words are trigger words for so many people.

I’ve done Agile, it doesn’t work here. Well, tell me, what did you do? Oh, we bought the tool. We did the stand. Oh, so you did what we call taco Agile, and they’re like, what are you talking about? Titles and ceremonies Only. That’s funny. I I bet it was pretty superficial. Agile. And the problem wasn’t the Agile, it was the superficial nature of it.

It’s the same when we talk about management and leadership and transformation. I have no idea what, what people think. I’m saying. philosophically I think management and leadership are both necessary, but that’s my definition of management and leadership. Um, I, I love Deming and, and so many of his thoughts, what a brilliant thinker way before his time.

Right? And if you look up Deming, he is like, what is the role of management? management’s job is continuous improvement of the organizational system. Well, hallelujah. I I’d love that. Um, I don’t know what he said about leadership. I, I like, uh, David Marquette’s version of leadership. It’s at every layer. It’s the close persons closest to the issue that is, that has decision making authority that’s appropriately risk contained and has demonstrated competence and understands the mission.

[00:49:52] Brad Nelson: I, I,

[00:49:53] Andy Cleff: And, and, and, that’s leadership. And, and if you look at the military, which was traditionally a hierarchical, all their playbooks have changed to what it means to be leadership.

Like do you know, understand mission intent? Yeah, go do it. Do you have the, all the skills necessary on your pick any unit you want? Fire team, squad, battalion. Yeah. Go do what you need to do. You understand mission clarity, you have technical competence. Go and, and so the role of management in my world view is to enable that to happen and to remove the impediments. That are organizational or systemic. We touched on some of the big ones. The funding model, the HR model. Oh, your title is your reporting relationship is your salary band is, those are anti patterns to true business. I, here comes the word, um,

[00:50:56] Drew Podwal: Huh.

[00:50:57] Brad Nelson: Ring the bell.

[00:50:59] Andy Cleff: We have one, right? If, if you want, if you wanna respond to change so quickly, you can’t have, traditional hierarchy going up, going down, right? by the time the decision comes back, the military has proven this, the situation has changed. It’s no longer relevant. And, and so

[00:51:21] Drew Podwal: I remember back in the days where every silo had their own technology team. Right. Um, and, uh, when you had to integrate decisions and there were disagreements, decisions would have to go all the way up to the top for somebody to solve the problem, and then the decision had to come all the way back down.

And you were just waiting at the bottom hoping that the, the, the apple fell off the tree on the right side. In, in your favor, Well, you know, Andy, this has been a great conversation and, I’m really glad that we set aside some time to talk about this. I feel like I’ve definitely, pulled a lot of takeaways, from this.

I, I would like to ask specifically though, right, because we have listeners who are Scrum masters, we have listeners who are product owners, product managers, Agile coaches, What do you feel like is one, tangible, actionable takeaway or something that somebody could try to put into practice as an experiment to learn more about business agility in practice in their organization?

Is, is there like a little tidbit gem that you can give us?

[00:52:30] Andy Cleff: Uh, I, I might have a tidbit jam. It might just be a crumb. Um, stop focusing so much on process and practice and tools. Focus on what the C-Suite loves. Outcomes, business outcomes. That’s the C-suite. Love language. Like one of our fellow coaches. Like you, you ever wanna get your butt fired? Walk into the C f O office and try to explain story points.

Uh, I’m sorry, they don’t give two flying Fs about your story points, but go in and talk to them about heart metrics, right? Customer acquisition, and, and say, yeah, we can improve that. Um, we just need to, to focus on these other things, right? And so think about success not as, being more mature in your Agile practices, processes or tools.

Think about, those outcomes. where do you want to go? What’s that rallying cry that you can share that people understand? Right. That’s, that’s qualitative and quantitative that everybody can share. and then use that, use that as your navigational beacon.

[00:53:42] Brad Nelson: I have one more, I have multiple questions, but I wanna squeeze one more question in. Uh, so early on you said path agility is, you know, it’s not just a tool, it’s a methodology. There’s a tool that helps with the methodology, and you’ve mentioned practices, that help you to achieve business outcomes.

But then just now, and, and I love the message, it’s that, you know, don’t focus on the practices, focus on the business outcomes. I may have a talk on a, um, but are there values and principles? That path to agility has, that’s unique to them or does it just rely on like the Agile manifesto? Like what is the driving force behind this methodology?

Through our conversations, path to agility seems very business outcome focused.

It seems to leverage practices. But as you, you mentioned practices aren’t everything, so I’m curious what are the, the principles, values, or kind of guiding light that path to agility hangs its hat on.

[00:54:42] Andy Cleff: I think it comes back to business outcomes are the guiding light. I if part of the, the reason we have practices because they are necessary but not sufficient. Many of the assessment tools like you can check off, are we doing all these practices? There is no, so what there is, there is no, so what that means something to the C-suite.

So the, the, overarching values and principles are rally behind the why that is grounded in some key business outcome. why are you in business? Great. Uh, You wanna stay in business, great. What is necessary for that to happen? all of Lean Agile values and principles support, and our part and parcel of this.

But I think it comes back to that, that key focusing element. If you could only pick one priority, little tidbit. Uh, the word priority came into English language somewhere in the 14 hundreds, and it existed in singular form until about 1900. And then it started becoming plural. what happened in the 19 hundreds Industrial revolution assembly lines, right?

So what is the most important, the one important thing that’s necessary for a business to thrive, if you can focus on that. You have a better than average chance of succeeding against your competition and against this crazy world that, uh, we find ourselves in.

[00:56:23] Brad Nelson: I, I love it.

[00:56:25] Drew Podwal: It’s crazy, but it’s exciting, right? Like seeing the changes that happen and, and everything that’s coming about, like, you know, we’re talking about chat, G p T and stuff like that before we started hitting record. Like the things that you can do today that you couldn’t do five years ago that you couldn’t do 10 years ago.

And if you keep going back, right, like, um, It’s just amazing and it makes sense that we’re in this predicament when you look at it from that perspective.

[00:56:54] Andy Cleff: Yeah. And so the, the, the question that I keep co back to is great. So we have all these tools, so what are we gonna do with them? How are we gonna use them?

[00:57:04] Brad Nelson: Yeah. That’s great. So thank you so much Andy for joining us. This has been very fascinating. Drew and I were both excited for this. I think Drew might have been more excited than me, but I am definitely very happy we had this conversation. Uh, I feel like I learned a lot about Pat to agility. and for those listening, you can’t see, uh, Andy has this like giant, very infectious smile.

That’s a, that’s a human trait of his. That is fantastic. Uh, and has been fantastic. Throughout this conversation, if people have more questions about path to agility, how can they contact you to get those answers? Andy?

[00:57:43] Andy Cleff: Check the show notes for the following URLs. Uh, path to Is great. Agile Um, both will get you pointed in the right direction, and of course, um, you can reach out to me directly. Uh, happy to connect you to the right person within our organization. And, um, I, if anybody’s interested in learning more, taking a test drive or, or getting a demo, uh, we, we love to do that because we are very happy with what we’ve got and we think, um, it’s an indispensable tool.

Uh, coaches are dispensable, but methodologies, uh, in the right hands with the right learning are indispensable to not just surviving but thriving in this, in this vocal world. So,

[00:58:38] Drew Podwal: Well, I don’t know if Resalin had told you or not, but the plan that I’m hoping will come to fruition is that I’d love to be able to take one of the path to agility courses and then come back on the podcast and do a follow up debrief for, uh, what that experience was like.

[00:58:55] Andy Cleff: I would love that. And, um, I, I’m not sure if we’re doing it monthly or every other month. Uh, it’s a single day workshop that, that works through the, the, the model and the practices and equips you. Again, it’s one day you’re not gonna be a, a transformation coach on day one, but it gives you the, the mindset and ability to, to go and practice and, and take it to your teams and, uh, hopefully scale it. So, path two Agility, P A t H T O Uh, even though we say P to a with the number, it’s path to there’s workshops, there’s a, there’s a workshop menu, and you can see where the next course is.

[00:59:47] Drew Podwal: You know, and I was gonna ask you one final question about Agile uprising, you know, which is if there’s one episode that you think should be listened to, um, which, which one is it? Or if there’s two or

[01:00:01] Andy Cleff: A anyone that was released around April Fools.

[01:00:04] Drew Podwal: do you guys take part in the, uh, who was, who was it? Brad, who you said always does the, uh,

For mountain

[01:00:10] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Mike Cone.

[01:00:12] Andy Cleff: Yeah, Mike Cohen does some really wonderful stuff.

[01:00:15] Brad Nelson: My favorite is the Scrum Master fragrance.

[01:00:18] Andy Cleff: right, w we did one years back about the Fragile Manifesto, uh, where we pretended to go back to, um, that, that place, that room in snow mass while it was under renovation. And we found all these sticky notes, uh, that were crumbled up on the floor and we read them.

Uh, so that’s one. So the, the Fragile Manifesto is one of my favorites for, for a laugh. Um, the, they, so we’re hosted on Lipson and they have a decent search engine. So find our podcast land there, and, uh, jump in any keyword. But, uh, FRA fragile Manifesto would be good. That’s good for a yuck.

[01:01:03] Brad Nelson: Fragile

[01:01:04] Andy Cleff: The, the, the other ones, uh, I, I, this was before we, we started, we hit record.

We talked to, uh, 15, I think, of the 17 signatures of the Agile Manifesto. And so each of their discussions are fascinating for, for history buffs. Uh, so we did that a couple years back. I think it was around the 15th anniversary, so it would’ve been 2016 or, or 2017. So the Agile Manifesto series is wonderful.

[01:01:35] Drew Podwal: I

feel like, uh, talking to all the, the, the signatories of the manifesto was akin to like a 12 year old dream of eating a hotdog at every single major baseball stadium in the United

[01:01:46] Andy Cleff: It was, it was, and uh, it was just such a fascinating conversation. the conversations went in so many different directions,

[01:01:56] Drew Podwal: Well, I know what I’m gonna be listening to by the pool this weekend is cuz that’s my life. I am super duper nerdy and I listen to. Agile podcasts on the weekend now, apparently so.

Well, Andy, thank you so much. This has been a great discussion. Uh, I look forward to continuing the discussion and I look forward to taking the course. And, and uh, lastly is that, uh, we’ve got Agile for Agilists podcast prismatic stickers. And so Andy, if you send us your address, I will drop a couple in an envelope for you.

but anybody who’s listening, if you use the hashtag Agile sticks and repost one of our episodes, I recommend this one. we will reach out to you and figure out a way to get you some stickers as well. So,

[01:02:49] Andy Cleff: I love it. I love it.

[01:02:52] Drew Podwal: We are Agile for Agile Agilists dot com, and you could email us at podcast Agile for Agile Agilists dot com as well.

So thanks for listening.

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