The Agile For Agilists Podcast

The Conference Hangover: Brad’s Agile International Conference and Transform 2023 Journey

March 28, 2023
The album cover for season 2 episode 4 of the Agile for Agilists Podcast with a picture of Brad Nelson, agile coach, change agent, and conference speaker at the Agile International Conference 2023.
Agile For Agilists
The Conference Hangover: Brad's Agile International Conference and Transform 2023 Journey
After two weeks of travel to Miami and Dallas, Brad has returned to the podcast with tales of his travels. In this episode, Drew welcomes Brad home and attempts to tap into his goldfish memory with a discussion on lessons learned, recognition to fellow presenters, and highlights of Brad’s presentations “The Velocity Trap” and “Platforms as a Product.” The Velocity Trap highlights the dangers of only measuring productivity and shares how to get started with outcomes, whereas Platforms as a Product reveals how Product Thinking can transform component teams from barriers to enablers.

Brad discusses briefly what Transform at Insight is, including Brad’s presentation on Platforms as a Product, leading Drew and Brad to have a high-level discussion on scaling with platform teams, guilds and tribes, and SAFe.

Brad also shares AIC highlights from Rick Reguiera’s work with the leadership at TracFone, David Hartmann’s skill-tree approach to career development, Quincy Jordan creating personal awareness and space with Agile Psychology (and Eminem), and Veronica Stewart treating her agile transformation like a product with Radical Product Thinking and lessons learned from Shark Tank.

Lastly, Brad provides a brief overview of his talk, The Velocity Trap, and Drew and Brad tease the impending but never scheduled talk with Amanda Rae Arseneau on #NoEstimates.

Jump into this episode to hear Brad butcher names, an overview of some great events, and a more casual conversation between Drew and Brad,

Checkout Brad’s upcoming conference dates:

⁠- Good Tech Fest⁠ virtually on May 4 (Use code “FRIEND100” for a free virtual ticket worth $100 or $100 off your in-person ticket)

– ⁠Agile & Beyond⁠ in Detroit on June 13-14


S02 – E04 – Brad Post Conference

[00:00:00] Drew Podwal: Welcome to another episode of the Agile for Agilists podcast. I am your host, Drew Podwal, and with me today is my other host, Brad Nelson.

[00:00:13] Brad Nelson: Hey everyone.

[00:00:15] Drew Podwal: And today I always say this, it’s an exciting episode. Um, , I am excited for this episode. Brad’s been gone. This is the first time I’m seeing you now in two weeks, and I feel like you and I for the past, like maybe four months, have at least been on a Zoom call or been recording a podcast like once a week, early days.

It was like almost every other day that we were jumping on on some sort of conference call.

[00:00:42] Brad Nelson: Yeah. I, I think longer than four months. Yeah. Yeah. We’ve been pretty, uh, tightly tied together and yeah. Two weeks has been a long time.

[00:00:50] Drew Podwal: It’s been a while, man. I miss you

[00:00:51] Brad Nelson: I, I, I feel like I’m a guest now on, on our podcast,

[00:00:55] Drew Podwal: yeah. Well, why don’t you tell us where you’ve been for the past two weeks? Brad?

[00:01:01] Brad Nelson: yes, I’ve been hiding under a rock. , no, I’ve been traveling the world. Uh, , the first place I went was Miami. , so I’m sure a few people are jealous, especially in the Midwest, that I got to go to Miami in the middle of winter. Uh, it was hot. I had forgotten how hot it was, and that was at the edge, , the Agile International Conference.

So I was accepted to speak there, to give my presentation the velocity trap, which I’ve even a few times now. And so that was really exciting. Completely new conference for me. Completely new circle of people. If you don’t go to a lot of conferences, you might not know that every conference kind of has their own click.

It’s like a set group of speakers and people and volunteers, and it’s usually regionally based. So it’s really cool to meet so many new people. And then after that, I had to go to Dallas for a conference called Transform and Transforms. Interesting because it’s an internal conference to my company. My company to my knowledge, has three internal conferences, at least in North America.

I think there’s some in, in like EMEA and stuff. But uh, we have internal conferences that are geared towards different things and we have, we have a lot of partners with my company. We’re consultancy. We lean pretty heavily in our partners, and so our partners essentially fund this to allow us to speak to each other and like to grow and to share our expertise as a company.

And then also to get kind of like the scoop on what’s the new cool things that are coming from our partners. What is their area of focus? Uh, so for example, uh, the other one that I, I usually go to is called Mastery. It’s much bigger. It tends to be a lot, uh, I’ll say less technical. Uh, we’re, we’re a technology company, so everything’s technical, but slightly less technical.

And Microsoft was there and they were talking about, um, like renewable energy and their focus on the impacts of the planet. And I forget the, the actual term for it, but you know how we can help clean things up. Um, and so that was pretty cool to hear from them. Uh,

[00:03:10] Drew Podwal: Let me, let me ask you a question real quick cause I want to get some clarity on something. When you say your partners, are you talking about your clients or are you talking about like other vendors or,

[00:03:21] Brad Nelson: no, um, technology companies, right? So like we are. Microsoft’s top partner in multiple categories, which means that if Microsoft sells a Fortune 500 company, an Azure, uh, license, Microsoft doesn’t help them install it. They, they field that out to partners. So like that’s something we do for them. And we’re partners with Apple and Red Hat and Cisco.

And just about any company you can think of.

[00:03:48] Drew Podwal: Gotcha. So you guys brought in speakers from all of these companies to talk about what the new technology is and the new features and bells and whistles and the new products that are being developed. Um, probably some case studies from, uh, from other clients that they’re showcase showcasing and stuff like that.

[00:04:05] Brad Nelson: Right. Yep. Yeah. So like Nvidia was there and they were talking about like their new AI stuff that they’re working on and,

[00:04:12] Drew Podwal: That’s really cool.

[00:04:14] Brad Nelson: Yeah, it’s really cool. And so we have our partner talks, but then we have our internal talks. So internally any employee can submit to give a presentation. And there’s a board that says whether or not they think it’s, uh, something valuable, uh, for now, right.

For this instance of it. And so you have the internal message from our experts of, well, of, you know, hey, here’s the things that we’re working on or the things that we should be aware of or the future we should be creating.

[00:04:42] Drew Podwal: Oh, that’s really cool. So, um, are you allowed to talk about some of the talks at the internal conference or is that proprietary information?

[00:04:50] Brad Nelson: I can talk about some of it for sure. So the talk that I got asked to give was the same one I got asked to give last year, and I’ll be asked to give it multiple times again. Uh, and it’s called platforms as a product. And so platform engineering is blowing up right now. Uh, it’s very popular and I’ve written an article about it on our solution.

As well. So that’s why like it’s already public knowledge. I’ve already shared a lot of the information and really it’s just about applying the product mindset to a platform team. And it’s, I mean, it’s gonna be the next big thing. Some people call it the DevOps killer, which I think is ridiculous cuz it uses DevOps.

And DevOps is is right an Agile under the Agile umbrella. And the whole idea is that like in Agile we talk about cross-functional teams, right? You need to be able to, to deploy across the full stack in order to, to realize your solution in production and any sort of handoff is, uh, a waste and ineffective.

And so we don’t want that. And so for years we’ve been fighting this kind of component team setup that organizations naturally do, where it’s like, oh, I have to, you know, open a support ticket with middleware to get this database update so that I can push this out. Well, What we’re finding though, as well is that developers don’t wanna do everything.

And there’s some maybe misunderstandings with teams as well. When we say cross-functional, people think everyone on the team has to do everything, not the case. but teams are struggling and then a lot of teams are solving the same problems. And then there’s, they start spending more time like

[00:06:27] Drew Podwal: more like

[00:06:28] Brad Nelson: worrying about security of their database and worrying about, uh, the structure and maintaining libraries and all that stuff that doesn’t actually contribute to the value that their team was created to provide.

so then it’s like, okay, well maybe we should go back to component teams. Oh, and now we have the same problem, the same struggle. Well, if you apply the product mindset to your, your component team, and I’m using air quotes here, uh, you essentially treat it like they’re a third party vendor. So for example, if you buy hosting from a cloud provider like Google or AWS or Azure, uh, you can log in.

And then you have APIs, control panels, all of that where you can use their tool without, uh, immediately self-service without opening support tickets or anything. And so the idea is you create that same structure internally so that your internal teams can leverage your internal platform self-service without any hiccups.

[00:07:29] Drew Podwal: I align with that. You know, the two things I want to throw into the mix there is one, most of the teams that I work with don’t do a good job with identifying, , NFR non-functional requirements. Right? So like security and performance and, load and all of that stuff, right? ideally like epics and features, right?

Should have nfr. Well, there should be like global NFR that just are static and everybody’s aware of them. And then if there’s additional constraints that need to be placed onto like an Epic or a feature, then those NFR travel with the, the epic and the feature and get inherited into the stories that get created.

And, the, the thing from that perspective is that improves quality and improves rework, right? And then it reduces the strain that you’ve got on the need to have a separate. Component team, the other thing that I was thinking as you were talking is, is that, and I’m not sure what the right answer is, you know, I’m just kind of like, like I usually do sometimes where I just kind of spout off an, an idea that I’m still like, marinating on in my head.


[00:08:39] Brad Nelson: Yeah.

[00:08:40] Drew Podwal: the, the overlap between a scrum team or scrum teams and various communities of practice, right? , and the idea that you could have a component team, community of practice, right? Or you could have like a, uh, data scientist community of practice or scrum master community of practice or product owner, community of practice, or various different types of architecture, communities of practice.

And you could be a member of many of those communities of practice, right? , and also be a member of your scrum team. And so this way, If you’re on a Scrum team and, uh, you’re working on something that requires, infrastructure and whatnot, and you’re a member and somebody on your team is a member of the, that infrastructure community of practice, right.

which then would enable knowledge sharing to happen and might eliminate the need or decrease the need even further for having like specialized, component teams.

[00:09:42] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Like, like tribes and guilds. Kinda like the Spotify model. Is that what you’re thinking?

[00:09:46] Drew Podwal: Yeah. Yeah. like the Scrum team is the place where I do my job with other people who were, solving complex problems and innovating on a daily basis.

Right. And the total sum of all the Scrum teams, team members are members of. Many of the various communities of practice. Right? Um, and, um, I don’t know, like I’ve never seen that model like really be deployed in that way, but I feel like there’s a lot of trust that goes into that. , and also, you know, you really gotta crack your head to the left and say, all right, so now I’m a member of a scrum team, but I’m also have to be a part of like three communities of practice or four communities of practice.

Like, isn’t that gonna take time away from my day? But then the other side of the coin is, well, by being members of those community of practice, the quality of your work will go up, the knowledge sharing goes up, your innovation goes up. Um, you as a person become, uh, more knowledgeable. And, but I’ve never seen that.

I’ve never seen that actually deployed in that way. That’s really just hypothetical one for me.

[00:10:52] Brad Nelson: Yeah, I mean, all of these things that we’re talking about are scaling problems. Like to me, a platform team is, is a, a scaling thing. You’re not gonna do it at a startup if you only have one team. It’s, you know, you have multiple teams. And the same thing with the, the Guild’s approach. Uh, when I was at Meyer, we had two mobile app teams and they did that where they met to talk about like, architecture and development things, but it was only two teams.

And so I feel like that was pretty easy. I, I think it would get to your point, exponentially harder the more teams there were. And we kind of did a platform team there as well, which, uh, I, at the time I didn’t really like, realize it or, or think about it. And I wasn’t necessarily a proponent for it, but I became the voice of it.

Uh, cuz as, as ScrumMasters tend to, , it was something the developers wanted, they believed in. I, I heard it out and I was like, okay, yeah, I see some legitimacy in this. And then I became that, that voice that, uh, that fought the good fight with leadership and it became a reality at the end. And, and it was very similar.

It was a service team, but what we realized is they weren’t doing work, uh, with their, um, their other teams most of the time, their Scrum teams. So as I mentioned, they were working on their mobile apps and the mobile apps used the services in, in order to function. Uh, but the services existed long before the apps and we just kind of adopted ’em and, and use them.

And then we would get on their roadmap for new enhancements, you know, as needed. But they did a lot of work with, uh, the stores themselves and like connecting, uh, our discount software. So any discount in the store, any coupon sale, anything used. Their service as well as like, just the no prices in general.

And so they, they, they worked with the stores, they worked with the website, they worked with the internal software for managing that. So they, they were maintaining these services and doing work that didn’t align to the other teams more times than they were doing work with the team.

[00:12:57] Drew Podwal: the one that I love is, is whenever I show up on site and the, the systems team is, is known as the DevOps team and I’m like, ah, uh, DevOps is not the name of a team. It’s a culture and a mindset.

[00:13:08] Brad Nelson: Yeah. That’s a struggle.

[00:13:09] Drew Podwal: but the one that I’m thinking of that stands out the most was I was standing up an Agile release train and, the system team convinced, Leadership that they were just too busy doing systems stuff to attend the first PI planning.

Um, and, uh, we, we got them to be part of the safer teams training ahead of PI planning, but they, I think they wound up leaving like halfway through day two to go to their systems teams stuff. But the cool thing was, by the end of the first pi, as we were getting ready for the second pi, they came to me and they were like, Hey, Drew, um, we actually want to be a part of this, but we just don’t know how.

Because we have, we have work that, you know, comes up day to day that can’t be planned for. And then we have platform enhancements and improvements that we’re doing that can be planned for. And so we just don’t know how to deal with that. And I was like, well, you know, we could resolve that, right?

Like we could come up with some sort of hybrid model where, Certain classes of tickets are Kanban and other classes of tickets are. Scrum tickets that are planned out. Right. And, uh, you know, we could forecast that maybe 60% of your time or 30% of your time or whatever that is, is, is dealt dealing with like one off emergencies.

And then, you know, we, from a capacity planning perspective, we know that we can allocate, X amount of work. And so then we got into PI planning and for the first time ever right, they’re taking all of these, these features, right, that they had created before. And they were breaking them down into the stories and they realized that even without allocating time for their fire drills that they have to do on a daily basis, They had like three times more work that they were committing to, um, um, in the pi. And, and the, the cool part was they were so grateful about that, right? because they hadn’t realized that. They were like, well, what do we do about this?

And I said, well, let’s go find the product manager, and the architect and talk to them about this problem and ask them how they wanna solve it instead of like, you guys trying to solve it, because you’ve already said you have three times more work than you can sustainably do, and there’s no reason why you need to figure out how to fit nine months worth of work in three months.


[00:15:37] Brad Nelson: right?

[00:15:38] Drew Podwal: and they were like, oh, we could do that. We’re like, yeah, because Safe tells us we can do that, you know? And, people have a way of seeing that visually and then they could do something with that. So,

[00:15:48] Brad Nelson: I don’t think it’s necessarily like, oh, safe just tells us we can do, it’s. , there’s no rule that says we can’t do it. It’s like self-imposed. Like we think that we can’t say no or we can’t say like, okay, when you need it, or I’ll get to it after this. We just think we always have to say yes.

[00:16:05] Drew Podwal: well I think part of it though is the visualization of your work, once you actually can create that visualization of capacity and over capacity and dependencies and all of that, that’s something that anybody in the company can look at. Right. And, and and clearly see what the problem is, right?

Like, you don’t have to be an engineer to see that you can’t fit, 20 gallons of beer in a pint glass, right? Like

[00:16:33] Brad Nelson: right?

[00:16:34] Drew Podwal: Um,

[00:16:35] Brad Nelson: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Uh, visualizing your work or just visuals in general are, are so powerful. it’s why pretty much everything that we do, it’s like, well, let’s use a PowerPoint deck, right? There’s, there’s the joke. Leaders speak in PowerPoints and it’s because if you visualize it, it’s more tangible.

[00:16:52] Drew Podwal: yeah, I gotta learn your PowerPoint. alchemy, like you, you’ve got some great PowerPoint game. I’m, I’m like, I have a hard time like not writing like eons worth of paragraphs on, on each page, but.

[00:17:07] Brad Nelson: It starts that way. It’s, you work down, you refine over time, you smooth the stone. And I probably spend more time than, than I need to on it,

[00:17:16] Drew Podwal: So how many conferences have you spoken at so far?

[00:17:18] Brad Nelson: uh, this year.

[00:17:23] Drew Podwal: jerk

[00:17:26] Brad Nelson: uh, I, I mean, I’ve spoken at over 20, over the last few years. This year I had Code Mash in January, which is in Sandusky. That was fun. That was a, a developer focused. , conference where they liked, they, they let me share the velocity trap there. Uh, and I love, I love talking to people who aren’t Agile Agilists.

Cause I feel like as Agile Agilists, we kind of hear the same stuff over and over again. Now I want to hear, I wanna hear what they think of it and I think other people need to hear it. so I love that. That was a lot of fun. And then, uh, I just had the AIC in Miami, which is phenomenal Velocity trap as well.

And then my platforms as a product talk at, uh, transform are the three that I’ve done this year.

[00:18:08] Drew Podwal: Gotcha. So let’s talk about Miami, right? Because I feel like we could probably have, uh, more freedom of discussion about what happened in Miami than, than what happened in

[00:18:17] Brad Nelson: definitely. Yeah. Yeah. I’m, I’m gonna self market a second though, and say I just got accepted to Agile and Beyond. In June, I’ll be in Detroit,

so that’s, yes. Yep.

[00:18:28] Drew Podwal: Very cool.

[00:18:29] Brad Nelson: Yeah. So, and then May 4th, I’ll be virtually speaking at Good Tech.

[00:18:35] Drew Podwal: Oh, that’s awesome.

[00:18:37] Brad Nelson: So, So,

That’s it so far.

[00:18:39] Drew Podwal: we gotta carve out some time at some point so I can figure out how to get on this conference thing as well, you know?

[00:18:45] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. We should do, uh, we should do a joint, joint talk.

[00:18:49] Drew Podwal: and we could also like, oh, we should definitely do a joint talk. That’d be a lot of fun. but we could theoretically, uh, is your microphone, usb or, or is it XL.

[00:18:59] Brad Nelson: It’s, it’s both. I use USB right now, but it’s


[00:19:03] Drew Podwal: Yeah. I mean, we could theoretically bring these to a conference. They’re like, I know mine at least is one of the things they say is like, you could bring it to a sports stadium and you could adjust the mic so that you’re, you know, don’t hear the, the crowd drowning you out.

So I feel like we could walk around. I’ll, I’ll carry this boom arm around over my shoulder and clamp it onto the, the booths

[00:19:25] Brad Nelson: do the Freddie Mercury, like half a mike stand?

[00:19:28] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

[00:19:29] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Uh, so at, uh, I didn’t go to it, but at the Agile internal or international conference, they had someone doing a live podcast as one of the sessions. Uh, I don’t remember what it was. It, if I, when I looked at it, it didn’t look like it was Agile related.

And so I was like, yeah, I’m out. Um, so I, I should look up and see what it was. But, so that was kind of cool. That was different.

[00:19:58] Drew Podwal: So what are the highlights? What are some of the highlights?

[00:20:01] Brad Nelson: Yeah. So, I believe, Rick, probably gonna butcher last name. I’m sorry, man. Rick Reg is, uh, is the guy that, that is over overseeing all of it. And, he works for, um, transformation experts. And so my understanding is that company facilitates the whole thing and then they have sponsors in, in the sort. so this is their second year. Their first year was apparently a lot smaller. This one was significantly bigger. It was at fiu, Florida International University.

And they took care of me as a speaker, like more than anywhere else. Like they had promotional materials that they made for me. I’ve never had a conference that before. They had their own deck, they had an onboarding call. They, they’re very eager to please almost to a fault. Like at one point I was just kinda like, you know, I’ve done this before.

It’s okay, I got it . Um, so that was really cool. And all the proceeds went to, like a Women in tech thing or, or something like that. So, um, they didn’t pay my lodging, which most conferences do. thankfully my company Insight is very generous when it comes to that stuff and, and covered it for me. I feel very fortunate, that my company’s sponsors me to present in that way.

[00:21:23] Drew Podwal: cool. Yeah. You’ve got a great role.

[00:21:26] Brad Nelson: yeah. Yeah. And then, um, so it’s in Miami, it’s on fiu. And one of the things that like really kind of just was so awesome is that they have their opening keynote with Rick and, um, and he’s talking about, well, saying the keynote, but he, he talks about this transformational work that he’s done with TracFone, like the TracFone and the C E O of TracFone and the CMO of TracFone are there to corroborate his story and they’re like giving him praise and they’re talking about like how much it’s changed them as leaders.

And Rick’s making the point of how important it is for leaders, uh, to be involved in the Agile transformation. And essentially they’re, uh, it’s impossible, right? To be successful without the right leadership. And you never see that, like ever, like barely ever do you see companies openly speaking about this, but then to actually go their way to the conference, I was like, man, this Rick guy’s got something going on.

Like he must, he must know what he’s doing and he must be killing it.

[00:22:32] Drew Podwal: well, were there’s others, like were there other CEOs? You think in the audience that. Needed to hear that, or was it just like coaches and Scrum Masters and,

[00:22:42] Brad Nelson: uh, I mean, that’s a great question. I do know some were there, some CEOs were there, but I think more like consultancy type CEOs, so probably not the ones that needed to hear it. And that’s one of, I would say my, I don’t wanna say complaint, that’s, that feels strong, but one of the things that I’m noticing and observing.

When I go to Agile conferences, I do typically say things that other people aren’t saying. So that’s just kinda how I think and I act and I don’t want to just regurgitate what everyone else is saying. but I’m, I’m still kind of preaching to other Agile, Agilists and so I’m building great connections and great bonds with Agile Agilists that help me to become a better Agilists.

But I’m not getting this message outside of the Agile industry, and I’m not getting it to the people that need to hear it, that either, generate more work for myself or my company, or impact the larger industry.

[00:23:34] Drew Podwal: Maybe we should change the name of the podcast to the CEOs for CEOs podcast and this way, we’ll, we’ll trick CEOs to listen to us and they’ll be like, oh my God, these guys are onto something. They’re so right.

[00:23:47] Brad Nelson: Yeah, so, so Agile international conference. Uh, one of the CEOs that that was there gave a talk. So he was the CEO and founder of a company called Silver Logic. His name was David Hartman, and he had this really fascinating talk as well, partially because it leaned on gaming, and as everyone knows by now, I’m a huge game nerd.

Uh, I’m also a generalist and, and it kind of spoke to that. So he’s created this tool based off of this internal thing they were doing, uh, I think it’s called Wayfinder, where instead of having like that typical like here’s, uh, an associate level and here’s your regular level and here’s your slightly senior level and here’s your more senior level and here’s your super senior level, uh, role within a a hierarchy, he creates, like little skill paths based off of different skills that you could learn.

And they may not necessarily be the standard ones for your particular role. So you can be more cross-functional. , which is something that I definitely am. And then he ties incentives to that. So he is like, if you master this tree, like you are worth, X amount more to me. So you can get like little incremental raises by mastering and demonstrating these different skills.

[00:25:01] Drew Podwal: So tell, tell me more about it. How, how does this merit

[00:25:07] Brad Nelson: yeah, so I mean, uh, uh, I’m trying to remember the examples that he had, but, we’ll, I’ll just make one up. So it’s like, you know, you’re a scrum master and a part of being a scrum master is you have to know Scrum, and so you would figure out like, okay, what, what are the different like aspects of Scrum that someone needs to know?

And then once you master it, you would get like a $2,000 raise or something. And it’s something he uses internally at his company. But I, I will say, once again, it’s a small company, small consultancy. So I don’t know how this would scale to like a Fortune 500, but I’m very fascinated by this.

[00:25:42] Drew Podwal: See, I like the idea of looking that as a spike. you know, like what I said in the, one of the last podcasts about a spike being a way to inject knowledge into the team, and that if somebody picks up a spike to research a problem, one of the default acceptance criteria that I like to create for every spike is that they have to create a presentation to the team on their findings, um, from the spike or maybe even across at the team of teams layer.

so I, I like the idea, I definitely like the idea of. Of like, all right, you take your csm, you get a bump in pay, you take, a leadership course, you get a bump in pay. But I also like the idea of that, the acceptance criteria for that is not just attending the class, not just passing it, Not just passing it with a certain score, but also like creating some sort of either article or video or, something to demonstrate an aspect of what you’ve learned and present that to everybody else. Right. As, as the last act of, you know, confirmation that you, you’ve had that achievement.

[00:26:49] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t remember the exact examples he gave, but there was a demonstration part of it. It’s not just like, oh, I know all this stuff, so I get more money.

[00:26:56] Drew Podwal: yeah. That’s cool. So, uh, what, what else, what are some other highlights that stand out to you?

[00:27:01] Brad Nelson: Uh, so I went to a few talks and, and I was kind of live, live, uh, I was gonna say tweeting, uh, what is it? Linking LinkedIn. I was sharing a few posts as I was there, which I, I, I think caught a few people off guard, cuz it’s pretty common as a speaker to just kind of like hide in the speaker’s lounge and only show up for your thing.

But I was like, no, like I wanna take advantage of this. I want to see what other people are saying. I wanna meet some other people. and so like the one person that stood out to me was, uh, Quincy Jones. He was this presenter. Fantastic name for one.

[00:27:32] Drew Podwal: Wait, wait, the

[00:27:33] Brad Nelson: or, or no, I’m sorry. Quincy Jordan was his

[00:27:35] Drew Podwal: I’m sorry. Oh,

[00:27:36] Brad Nelson: My bad.

Sorry. Quincy, uh, Quincy Jordan. Still a very, awesome name. but the thing like that stood out to me is that he started it with music and he had different sounds throughout his, throughout his presentation built in. a few of them I would say were better done than others, but, when you introduce yourself to my name is you immediately have my attention.

 but his, his was awesome. Cause it also kind of resonates with things that, like, I, I’ve dipped my fingers in and I, and I’ve talked about as far as psychology and Agile and his whole thing was that if Agile is a mindset, then we need to know how the mind works and we need to learn. Ways to, to affect people’s mind mindset.

[00:28:20] Drew Podwal: Yeah. Yeah. And, and, but we’re not a cult.

[00:28:25] Brad Nelson: But we’re not a cult Yeah. Yeah. He talked about like influence and all of that stuff that we talk about. Yeah. Yeah. Cuz we are, we’re totally not a cult.

[00:28:35] Drew Podwal: you know, there’s a coach, and I’m not gonna say his name. there’s a coach who reached out to me a while back on LinkedIn, you know, kind of hard sell kind of guy. He wanted, wanted to be my mentor, wanted money for. , definitely saw value in it. Uh, really nice guy, but I started to notice that he was like, and I didn’t realize what he was doing until like a year later, but he would neg me.

He was, I, I really felt like he was using pickup artist tactics and techniques to try to convince me to purchase his, his mentoring services. And like the first time around, you know, I, I didn’t realize he was nagging me, right? And, and I was like, Hey, listen, your approach and the way that I like to collaborate with others doesn’t feel like it’s a good fit.

Right? And so then three months later, he reached out to me again and, and it was, he, recognized that what he did, and he apologized for it. And, you know, we reset the clock a bit. You know, I still didn’t purchase. The service. But then three months ago, I reached back out to him. There was, , the podcast had just launched.

I was really excited. And, there was some other things that were going on, and I had this great idea for something that I was working on that, that I’m not working on right now. But, um, and I brought it up to him, you know, Hey, I, I, I feel like this is something that you and I could work on together. And he abs fucking literally just nagged me. And I was like, dude, you’re using pickup artistry on me. Um, . So there, there are coaches out there that are using lots of different psychological principles, even like pickup artistry, principles and whatnot. And, uh, , I think that’s fascinating. I, I always say like, you know, Agile coach is like a, a therapist, except we’re not licensed therapist, so, you know.

[00:30:24] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. We’re more dangerous. Um,

[00:30:27] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

[00:30:27] Brad Nelson: the, there’s a book called Influence, uh, and I think there’s a subtitle, but it’s Influence, and I forget the guy’s name. It’s harder for me to pronounce. , uh, which is, so I can never remember it. Uh, but I, I have an audible and I was like, man, I really need the physical copy of this cuz I, I need to take some notes.

And it’s long. So I haven’t finished it yet. but I’ve, I’m probably halfway through it. And he talks about the different forms of influence and ways that, that we can influence each other. And reciprocity principle is one of them. So I give you something and then you feel like you need to give me something.

And it’s very, very common in sales. you know, and it doesn’t matter what it is. I give you, you know, a, a piece of candy and now you subconsciously feel like you owe me. And it, and it’s funny because I had a door-to-door salesman knock on my door today, which I have not had in forever. and I didn’t know what he was selling at first.

It was a Kirby vacuum, which I was like, wow, they still do that. but the very first thing he does, he like, introduces him himself very politely and he hands me a roll. of like disinfecting wipes, which is a weird gift. And, and I take it and he’s like, that’s for you. Like, you know, I, I’m not here to sell anything.

I’m just here to, I get paid to do demonstrations. And as soon as he hand it to me, I’m like, this guy’s trying to use this re reciprocity principle on me. Not cool. And because I’m aware of it, it almost has a, an adverse reaction to me. And I heard him out. He wanted do a demo or whatever, and I was like, uh, I might have covid, so I don’t think that was a good time.

And then he was like, oh, yep, gotta go Uh, which is true. We didn’t mention that yet. I got really sick, after I returned from Texas. And so maybe a little rough on the voice today, but definitely a lot better today.

[00:32:11] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

So, were there any Exercises exercises that,

that, Quincy Jordan, not Jones,

[00:32:16] Brad Nelson: Yes, Jordan. Sorry, Quincy, I’m terrible with names. you know, you asked me that now, and I’m, I’m drawing a blank. Of it. I know he had some pretty good points and he ended up having to wrap it up a bit at the end. Cause there was just like a lot of conversation that was happening. Uh, and I think he lost track of the time a little bit.

but a, a lot of it was, I think just like being aware of, of people’s mindset and creating space and not being like overly domineering. So that was something he talked about a lot. And one of the guys in the crowd said he knows he’s the domineering voice, so he actually counts the 10, like he says something and then counts the 10 and waits for people to respond before he continues.

So creating space was a really big one for him.

[00:32:56] Drew Podwal: Well that’s cool. Self-awareness and that’s a great technique.

[00:32:59] Brad Nelson: Mm-hmm.

[00:33:00] Drew Podwal: Yeah. You know, the big conundrum we’ve talked about on the podcast before is, you’re expected to create change, And so if you’re expected to create change, then your natural tendency is to want to lean in to create that change, but the, the right approach to it from a psychological safety perspective, from like what you said in the last podcast, uh, gotta remember the companies are made of people and people have emotions, right? The, the right approach is not to go leaning in right away, right? It’s to observe, it’s to see, it’s to listen and, ask questions.

I, I wrote a great article, that’s been getting some traction about this. Like, there’s a lot of people that I see, Posting questions on lots of forums about, I just got my first job as a scrum master and I, you know, what do I do? And so I wrote this article from the standpoint of like, what do you do if you’re a day one scrum master?

And it’s all about, pretty much like what you shouldn’t do, right? It’s, it’s just leaning back and watching and, because if you go in like a bull in a China shop and, and start pointing at the scrum guide and all that, like, you’re never gonna repair that damage or it’ll take you a while to repair the damage.


[00:34:16] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. That’s a, a common mistake that I see even experienced Scrum masters do their first day in the job is, well, the scrum guide says, and it’s like, well, the, the scrum guide is a, is a great source, but until you’re, until you’re solving people’s problems with the different, different practices in the guide, it’s not gonna resonate.

[00:34:37] Drew Podwal: well, you know what it is, Brad, Where that comes from is, you know, when you show up on day one of a job, you’re the new person on the block. And your natural tendency, and the natural expectation is, to show value, right? And the expectation is, show me your value. Right? And it’s a real trust fall to when you’re in that situation, To provide value by asking questions, to provide value by listening, To provide value by, finding out, what their team’s needs are, In a way that isn’t overly pushy or trying to influence change.

[00:35:16] Brad Nelson: Mm-hmm.

[00:35:17] Drew Podwal: um, you know, it’s a little uncomfortable to say, all right, well, you know, tell me a bit about how, how this works here with you guys, right?

and. Do some back of the room coaching. , but, um, I think that’s the trap that people fall into. And it, the other time where that comes into play as well is the idea that like, oftentimes you show up day one of your job, you’re in your manager’s office, right? And maybe they don’t understand Agile and Scrum either.

And, uh, you know, they’re giving you the wrong signal of, go get ’em. and so that’s what you do. You go and you get ’em, you know, but you don’t wind up getting ’em.

[00:35:58] Brad Nelson: right? back on the, the conference in Miami, you know, we just mentioned transformation. . The other thing that really stuck out to me is, uh, Veronica Stewart gave this presentation of what she’s doing with her company, and she called it like Shark Tank. but the book that she mentioned was Radical Product Thinking, and I’ve never read it before.

Uh, wasn’t even familiar with it. so it’s something I wanna look into at some point. My, my book list is long and I haven’t been reading as much, so I’m not, I’m not gonna, I’m not committing audience to, to reading this anytime soon, . But, uh, it was interesting in that she talked about the importance of treating your Agile transformation, like it’s a product.

[00:36:42] Drew Podwal: I’ve talked about that with you

[00:36:44] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:36:45] Drew Podwal: I like, and I was thinking about this before when you were talking about, platform teams, the way that I look at a Scrum team is that the product owner is the product. Person responsible for the product that the customer is putting their hands on, right?

And the lead engineer, lead developer, on the team, they’re responsible for the product of platform stability and best practices. And the scrum master is a product owner of their team’s Agile capabilities. And then that scales up where you’ve got a product and safe at least. but the product manager is still the product manager for the customer value.

The architect is the product owner for ensuring platform stability at the team of teams level and the Agile. The, the RTE is the product owner for the Agile release trains. Agile. Capabilities as a product. And so I love that. radical. So her name is Veronica.

[00:37:51] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Veronica Stewart,

[00:37:53] Drew Podwal: Veronica Stewart, and she’s the author of the book, or

[00:37:55] Brad Nelson: She’s not? No. Nope. I, I forget the author’s name. but it’s something that she was leveraging, and so I will say I, I feel like the analogy isn’t like exact one-to-one. When we say Scrum master is the product owner of the process, because I feel like the lead engineer and the actual product owner, there’s a little bit more.

Like they have a little bit more of like, well, this is priority, this is, you know, what we need to do. Whereas a scrum master, I would say is more suggesting and guiding. but in general, I, I think I agree with that statement. in the way that she was describing it, it was more like at a higher organizational level, and it was more, um, like, what is our goal? What are our metrics? How are we gonna measure this success? And then like, she has to sell this like, and we all do, we all, when, when we’re in an organization where we’re trying to, uh, promote Agile and create Agile adoption, it very rarely looks like this official transformation.

And most people don’t say like, Hey, let’s go do a transformation. Right. You’re essentially selling this idea of working in a better way. And so you need to think about that. Like, you know, what is my, what is my sales pitch? What’s my approach? What is, what’s gonna resonate with my customers? Who are internal people that need to adopt Agile?

And, and what does my leadership need to see to, to be bought in and to feel like I’m going in the right direction? And out of all of the Agile things that we could be doing, or what is the highest value right now? Right? What is the easiest to deliver? You know, so on and so forth.

[00:39:29] Drew Podwal: You know, it reminds me of, um, I was doing some research last week. people don’t want to buy products. They wanna buy outcomes, right? And the, the famous quote from, uh, Clayton Christensen is, uh, nobody wants to buy a drill. They want to buy a quarter inch hole.

[00:39:46] Brad Nelson: Mm-hmm.

[00:39:46] Drew Podwal: Um, yeah, I think a lot of that mindset comes into play when you’re thinking about like, the Agile transformation, Developers and architects and engineers and product owners, right? They don’t know about the Agile transformation. It’s it’s something that is really kind of impacting them, happening to them. they may be bought into it. They might not be bought into it, but that’s definitely not their like, reason for being, their reason for being is, Developing code and solving problems and whatnot. and so if you’re thinking about the product versus outcome perspective, If you focus on the outcomes with the people who are part of the organization, Um, that’s a great way for them to buy into the ethereal idea of a transformation, of going through this, this change process.

[00:40:37] Brad Nelson: right? Yeah. Which, so you said outcome, which brings me to my talk.

[00:40:43] Drew Podwal: Okay.

[00:40:44] Brad Nelson: So

[00:40:45] Drew Podwal: I was gonna save the best for last. I just want you to know, you

[00:40:48] Brad Nelson: yeah. Uh, sleepy. The money on the table. Thanks for the, thanks for the setup. Um, . So my talk is called the Velocity Trap. hopefully it’s provocative enough to, to interest people to go, although I did get feedback from a conference that I was not accepted to that said that they felt trap was being overused right now.

And I was like, I want you to know I wrote this 2019. but anyway, so it’s called the Velocity Trap. And the reason is because in my mind, velocity is the most abused metric we have. In it in the Agile industry. And this goes into our talk that I don’t think we scheduled yet.

[00:41:28] Drew Podwal: No, but we should do it. I was, I wrote it down while we were talking. We should reach out to Amanda and see if she’s available next Thursday night so we could do it.

[00:41:35] Brad Nelson: All right, cool. Yeah, yeah. Let’s get on the books. and that’s a part of it, but the whole thing is, and, uh, I think Melissa Perry talks about it and she’s got the build trap, uh, which was kind of a, a coincidence. People probably won’t believe me, but it came out around the time I was writing this and, and I didn’t realize it.

What really inspired me is I read the book Accelerate by Nicole Fork and Gene Kim, Jess Humble, one of my favorite books, uh, one of the most, like inspira inspirational game-changing books I’ve read in my career as an Agilists. And it’s all about the, the Dora research that they do, DevOps Research Association.

And the first half-ish of the book is all about the findings. The second is all about. her process. So she’s got doctorates and research, she’s super smart. I was like, I trust you cuz I do not have a doctorates in research. I didn’t read the second half. but the first half, it’s true research on, you know, we measured this thing or, or we looked at this thing and this thing had an impact on whether or not a team was high performing or not.

And, and leadership was a huge part of it. Culture was a huge part of it. Psychological safety. Uh, but they also looked at metrics and like what metrics are, are actually have a correlation to high performing teams and they’re called the four key metrics. They have ’em on a website now. and I was like, wow, that’s incredibly fascinating and I wanna share this.

So I started writing this talk and then I was going through it and I was like, you know what? It, it doesn’t matter though. Fast, you’re putting stuff out. It’s like throughput was part of it and like time to respond. I’m like, it doesn’t matter how fast I’m putting stuff out, if the things I’m putting out aren’t valuable.

Right? Like 80% of features in production don’t get used and like, so we’re putting out a lot of unvaluable stuff, so what does it matter if I’m putting it out even faster? And so I actually rewrote the whole talk to start with that. And I didn’t want, I tried to take a positive lens. I don’t wanna be like, you’re dumb cuz you’re using metrics for productivity.

I more just start with like the story of like, this is why businesses are in business and you know, we need to be measuring outcomes and we need to be actually delivering value. And this is what, this is how you determine what to build. And then let’s look at these metrics and see do these metrics actually align to what we’re trying to do?

No. Well then maybe we’re measuring the wrong thing and this is what we need to be measuring.

[00:43:59] Drew Podwal: I agree with that. I agree with, with all of that. I, I’m, I’m trying to be very polite to not slide down the slope of, of what we want to talk to Amanda about, but, so, you know, I, I definitely wholeheartedly agree that story points get abused. that it’s very easy to use them in the wrong way.

that we need to be focused on measuring outcomes, right, Val, the value of the outcomes, right? um, we need a way to connect user feedback, to those outcomes, uh, or to each of the features that are, are released or PBIS or whatever. and use that as a measurement, but I’m also thinking about the idea that.

There’s a lot of work that gets abandoned,

[00:44:39] Brad Nelson: Mm.

[00:44:40] Drew Podwal: right? And, and measuring the, the work that gets abandoned, deprecated, or whatever you wanna call it,

[00:44:47] Brad Nelson: Mm-hmm.

[00:44:48] Drew Podwal: against what’s actually been delivered to show the efficiency of not the team, right?

But the efficiency of the system, Because the reason why things get deprecated isn’t always because of a team, right? It’s usually never just because of the team. it’s usually beyond their control, you know? So, How does that fit into your model for how you’re thinking about this?

[00:45:15] Brad Nelson: Yeah. So I was having this conversation at Transform with my buddy, uh, mark Canora, who’s a development manager at my company. And I mentioned that 80% features not being used, and he kind of spun it on his head a little bit and got me thinking, and he was like, well, if we’re experimenting and we’re failing fast and we’re doing things knowing that we have to learn and it’s probably not gonna be right the first time.

He was like, is that a bad thing? And I was like, oh, that’s a great way of looking at it. However, I believe this research is more like these are features that are like out there in production and like are staying out there and, and there’s no plan to iterate on them. Right? So like, I I, I’m reluctant to to say it, but I’m gonna say it.

Uh, like Microsoft, right? Look at Microsoft Office. Yeah. There’s a lot of things I like about Microsoft. but Microsoft Office, most of their features don’t get used. You look at Word, there’s so many things in Word. that probably don’t get used or don’t get used often, and there’s a cost to keep those there.

Every time they do an update, they have to test all that different functionality, right? So what we tend to teach, right, in product management and product thinking is like, well you should, you should decide what’s not being used and don’t keep supporting it, like sunset it.

[00:46:34] Drew Podwal: Or keep it as an optional plugin or something like that, you know?

[00:46:38] Brad Nelson: right. Yeah. So I, I think that there’s just as much importance in sunsetting things that aren’t adding value as there are in, in adding new things that add value. Like that’s the balance that a lot of companies and a lot of product owners and product managers that I’ve seen, uh, just don’t do partially because there’s just like this always like, I gotta pump new stuff out, mindset.

[00:47:02] Drew Podwal: Hey, you know, along those lines, and this is a little bit of a sidebar. I was doing something in Photoshop today and I needed to make an arc and I went to find the ARC tool and I couldn’t find the ARC tool. Did they get rid of the ARC tool?

[00:47:15] Brad Nelson: Um, I don’t know. I don’t know if I know what the ARC tool is off the top of my head.

[00:47:20] Drew Podwal: Well, the, you know, the tool that lets you, like, you can make a circle, you can make a full circle. It’s super easy to make a full circle, but if you want to make like a 35 degree arc, right? Um, like I know you can do that using the pen tool and like s-curves and whatnot, but that requires you turning the grid on in the background and using like, guidelines and, maybe even a protractor that you’re holding up to the, to the screen.


[00:47:46] Brad Nelson: I do know some of their shaped stuff has changed and like their gradients are now like in little folders and like there’s some things that they’ve done that, that I’m not a

[00:47:53] Drew Podwal: Fan. I couldn’t even find it in the help text. I found articles about how to use it online, but I couldn’t find it in the, well anyhow, we got a guy we could just talk to Cena and we could ask Sena to,

[00:48:03] Brad Nelson: Yeah. Yeah. Hook us up. Yeah.

[00:48:05] Drew Podwal: But back to what you were talking about with regards to like measuring the value of value features and supporting features that customers aren’t using anymore. And, how do you propose, and whose job do you propose, is it to measure that, right?

Because you’ve got like, X number of product owners and X number of product managers. Right? And um, and we don’t have BAS anymore, right? Like we don’t.

[00:48:32] Brad Nelson: Sometimes,

[00:48:33] Drew Podwal: Sometimes. And, and, and I think that bas can be valuable as like assistant pos almost, to where, the PO can entrust a BA to go do some investigation on their behalf and bring the findings back and collaborate with the PO to prepare features.

But in, in your model, who’s responsible for that? And, and how does that work?

[00:48:56] Brad Nelson: yeah, I mean, it’s, in my mind, it’s whoever’s responsible for the product. So ideally it’s a product manager, you’re responsible for it. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do the work of getting the, the data, but you’re responsible for making sure that the data’s there

[00:49:10] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

[00:49:11] Brad Nelson: and that it’s being tracked.

So I would say, yeah, product manager or if you’re in a situation where you have product owner, um, sometimes bas Oh. , my experience in the industry is that you have bas who are acting like product owners and then you have product owners who are not empowered. So they’re basically bas . And then you have the added responsibility of, Hey, Joe, your day job is something completely different, but you know, this product the best.

So now you’re the product owner, uh, have at it. No training, no nothing, no clue what it means. You’re now the product owner. So I think our, our product owner area is greatly underserved. Uh, which was another talk that I gave at Sensei deliver last year a little bit, was on the power of, of product owners and product managers in promoting agility.

It’s very underrepresented, field right now. So I would say, if you’re a ba one of the things that you can do that can really differentiate yourself from other bas and make you very, very valuable to your organization is to start adopting the product thinking mindset. And start looking at those sorts of things.

Companies don’t naturally think of that sort of stuff, but once again, you, paint a pretty picture, right? And you show the problem and you sell it because we’re all sellers. isn’t Dan Pink? was it to be human as the seller or something like that?

[00:50:36] Drew Podwal: Yeah.

[00:50:37] Brad Nelson: you know, you need to sell those ideas and, and it’ll be worth, it’ll be worth it, for sure.

[00:50:42] Drew Podwal: Yeah. And I think it ties along to what I was talking about a couple of weeks back with you and Cena about the idea that a developer needs to develop soft skills, right? People skills, and that having those people skills will make them a better developer, a ba uh, or somebody ancillary. To the scrum team, learning about the role of a product owner, right?

And more importantly, like really just getting a sense and background, at least a background understanding of what does it mean to be customer centric, right? Um, whole product thinking. and, and how do you measure, like oftentimes bas just get handed, you know, a big sack of bricks and say, this is what you have to build, right?

And they’re just researching it and they’re not given a chance to say, well, is this the thing that we should really be building? but at least having the knowledge of, of that type of thinking, it, it gives you the opportunity to provide that knowledge to other people to maybe help divert the train from going off the tracks that one time, that two times or the every day that it happens.


[00:51:53] Brad Nelson: Yeah. I, I think maybe it’s a little bit easier for me than other people. I don’t know. Naturally a rebel or something. . in fact, one of my, my work buddies today was like, I just love how you can, you can still be like outraged at so many different things. Like, you still have that passion. Don’t ever, don’t ever lose that.

And I was like, that’s kind of like a, what is that, like an insult disguised as a compliment type thing? I forget the term for it, but I was like, wow, okay. Uh, I’m gonna have to process that. but when I was a ba my very first time as a ba, I didn’t have training.

Most of us don’t get training, right? Like, that’s the reality of the world we live in. We don’t get training how to do our jobs. We just do it and we figure it out. And I ask a lot of questions and I asked stupid questions and I didn’t care that they were stupid. But one of the things is that I cared, I cared a lot about whether or not the things that we were doing made sense.

And if it didn’t make sense, I said, this doesn’t make sense. Why are we doing it? And, and I had those conversations. And my developers were the same way. My developers were just as outraged when they’d be asked to do something that they’re like, this is dumb. People don’t want this. I mean, I didn’t go to the, to the stakeholder and say, this is dumb.

Nobody wants this. Right? Like, that would be effective. Uh, but I questioned it. I said, okay, like, you know, what has led you to, to think that this is what we should do, because it’s not resonating with me, and I wanna make sure I understand the problem we’re trying to solve so that we do the right thing for you.

And then sometimes it was legit. They were just like, yeah, this is why. And I’m like, oh, wow, that makes total sense now. But other times they’re like, oh, well I’m really trying to do this other thing. And I’m like, oh, well I, I don’t think this is gonna do that for you.

Like, you know, let’s, get you in front of our team to talk about it and like, let’s brainstorm on it and let’s figure out what we should be doing. And there was a lot of times too where if it was a, light bulb moment for me, like, oh, this makes sense now. I also said, Hey, would you tell this to the team directly?

Like, I want the team to hear it from you.

[00:53:50] Drew Podwal: You know, I was talking to somebody this morning, right? Uh, cuz like what you’re talking about is, is taking the call to action. Right? And, and I was thinking about it from the stance of like, let’s say, I. Went to sleep one night and I woke up in the morning, and when I woke up in the morning, I’m in the Matrix and there’s Morpheus, and he’s Jeff Sutherland and Jeff Sutherland.

I know using the, these two words on a podcast is the worst, but, or I guess four words. and Jeff Sutherland Morpheus puts his hands out and says, if you take the blue pill right, you’ll forget everything there is that you’ve learned about Agile and why this is so important. Right?

And if you take the red pill, you’ll go down the, you’ll continue down the rabbit hole. There’s times where I, I would definitely gobble up that blue pill

[00:54:42] Brad Nelson: Right.

Yeah. The

[00:54:43] Drew Podwal: um, um, it takes a lot outta you to. maintain what your friend says as rage, right? Because it, it’s not rage that you have, right?

It’s passion and it’s drive and it’s conviction, right? but it takes a lot of patience and stamina and fortitude to keep the needle in the passion drive, area, right? And not go into the rage. And I feel like we’ve all had those days where it’s just too hard, and, and you slip down that hole and you, you do get angry, you know, and you lose your, your cool.

And, it’s hard. And, you know, I wouldn’t trade, I wouldn’t trade it. I wouldn’t take the blue pill. But

[00:55:28] Brad Nelson: Yeah. No. So like, I don’t think I get that angry. I mean, I definitely get angry, but you know, my wife hears about that people at work don’t hear about it. but I’m very passionate and I do think that, comes off very strongly sometimes to people. And I’m also very direct and, and that was a personal choice that I made when I was younger.

I adopted a much more direct. because I felt like it served everyone better in the long run.

[00:55:52] Drew Podwal: So now that’s a common trait that I see in a lot of coaches in Scrum Masters. Um, my hypothesis is that comes from that place of like, I, I see how this could be, if we could only, just pivot a little bit and do things a little bit differently, it’ll be great. You know?

Is that like where, where does it come from for you?

[00:56:13] Brad Nelson: So, in, I’ll say it’s a Midwest thing, right? We’re like, passive aggressive and we’re very nice and we internalize and we just take stuff and take it and take it and take it. And because we, we wanna be nice, right? So, so radical candor talks about it like, you know, there’s a difference between nice and compassion, or caring.

I forget the word she uses, but, to be nice to someone is like, to be, is to be polite. But you could be nice to someone to their. And, and that’s very much a thing in the Midwest. We don’t wanna rock the boat. We don’t wanna hurt someone’s feelings in the moment, so we’re not gonna tell them what they need to hear.

And what I found was that when I was working in, especially the corporate world, is like people would say these things that I didn’t agree with and I would just, like, it wasn’t a big deal at the time. It was like a small thing. And so I would just be like, I would just take it and I just wouldn’t say anything.

Uh, and I didn’t wanna be confrontational all the time either. And then, uh, it would sometimes grow into something bigger or would happen over and over again to the point where I’m like, all right, now I need to speak up and let you know, like this is a trend and this is a problem. But because I was very polite and nice up until that point, that even when I came to them and I was trying to be more nice about it and tact with my words, it was a contrast from what they were used to from me.

And I was like, so suddenly now I’m not the nice guy. that’s just nodding my head. I’m the one telling them that they’re doing something wrong and I, and I’m the asshole. And, and that they didn’t like that. And I was like, okay. That’s weird to me because I don’t feel like I’m saying anything that mean. But then the other observation I had is that there were people that were saying those things or saying worst things all the time, and it was just accepted.

And so then I, I, I’m an observer, so I started observing and I was like, Hey, this guy who started this company and was just vocal all the time, he can say way worse things than I can. And people just listen to it and accept it and it’s okay. And so it must be this, this contrast of I was quiet, I was accepting for all this time, and now it’s like a character flip on people.

So I’m gonna start by just being direct all the time. Hopefully not an asshole, right? Like, I don’t wanna be an asshole about it, but just, you know, laying it out on the table. And more times than not, I would say I’ve been more successful with that approach. People appreciate it because they know, they know what I’m thinking and they feel like I’m a genuine person and ultimately I care about them and I, I want what’s best for them.

And that’s one of the great things about our job is Agile coaches is like, our job is to make other people successful.

[00:58:58] Drew Podwal: job.

[00:58:58] Brad Nelson: And people think it’s like to judge them and so they can be very defensive. It’s, and I, I’m very transparent with them. Like, you know, my job is for you to succeed. I’m successful when you’re successful.

[00:59:11] Drew Podwal: Yeah. I, I had that talk with, uh, a, a product owner at a company that I was working at a while back where, I set aside a meeting with him early on and I was like, basically saying what you’re saying. And I was like, how cool would it be for us to be able to partner together and think of all, and, and, and he got silent and then, it was weird.

And he said goodbye. And then I got a phone call from my, my manager. and apparently the way that it came off was, you can’t be successful without Drew And I was like, where did you get that? Where did you get that idea? I’m not saying that you can’t be successful, without me, you know. Um, and I’ve checked in.

Years later with people who still work with him, but he’s still this like lone wolf kind of like, we talk about like customer centricity. This, this person puts himself in the product as the most important, like even ahead of the customers. But let’s get back to the velocity trap. what I want to know from you is what are some of the questions the audience members had for you, um, during your, your presentation?

[01:00:23] Brad Nelson: how did you become so amazing? Um, no, uh, oh, that’s a good question. I would say sometimes I don’t get any questions, which is concerning because I’m like, did I overwhelm people? Am I just so amazing? I nailed it. Uh, this last time. I did get some good questions.

Uh, I also feel like I have a memory of a goldfish, so some of them were on clarity around it. The one person was really struggling with velocity, uh, and why I was saying we shouldn’t use it. And so we had a little bit of a conversation about that and I think, I feel like we’re, we’re dragging the audience on, but definitely something to go into a lot.

in our no estimates episode. but really just kind of explaining how the things that she’s looking to solve with velocity, she could do with throughput as well. And so it’s not that velocity isn’t effective for how it’s meant to be used, it’s that, uh, you can solve it in another way that takes less effort and isn’t as, uh, likely to be abused.

And then I, I had people come up at the end to talk to me. uh, so at the beginning I had my updated picture that I showed you beforehand. So I, I have a picture of myself, uh, and, and one of you that I’ve drawn by hand, well by computer, uh, that I used in our promotional image that I’ve been meaning to reuse in something.

And I added the headphones that I have now with the blue pads as a reminder to, to promote our podcast and just like, be like, Hey, you know, I do a podcast. You should totally check us out. I actually had several people at the end stop by and say like, oh, hey, you do a podcast, like, what’s your podcast again?

Like, I, I want to check it out. And so it was definitely a lot more like praise at the end than necessarily questions, about it. So I’m just gonna say like, I’m awesome at this talk, I guess. I don’t know.

[01:02:19] Drew Podwal: Well, you’ve done it what, five times?

[01:02:21] Brad Nelson: Something like that. Yeah. Yeah. Right around a handful of times. And I wrote it years ago and I recorded a version digitally that’s, uh, not as full on my YouTube.

[01:02:32] Drew Podwal: Well then, you know what, what kinds of questions have you gotten about it or, or challenges? even in years past, like since you’ve been given this.

[01:02:41] Brad Nelson: I think the biggest thing is just like how to get started is the question. And it’s because we feel like we’re so stuck in our productivity metrics, scenario where it’s like these are the metrics that leadership is telling us that they want. And so I feel obligated to provide them to them. And I’m saying those metrics, those productivity metrics, while they may be important to your team for how you operate and how you perform leadership, uh, in particular, your stakeholders should not care about your productivity metrics.

What they should care about is what is the value that you are bringing for them my advice for that is that people care about what you tell them to care. . And so if you have like a sprint review and at every sprint review you’re showing your velocity over the last three sprints, and like, here’s my line, look, here’s how much we got done.

Here’s how much we carried over. You know, you’re, you’re telling them that this is important and they need to care about it. But if you start showing, look, here’s how many users we have, here’s how fast people adopted this new feature. You know, here’s, this other value item. Here’s how we’re trending towards this outcome.

You’re telling them the outcome’s important, and this is what I need to care about.

[01:03:59] Drew Podwal: Yeah, I, I agree with 99%.

[01:04:04] Brad Nelson: All right,

[01:04:04] Drew Podwal: that, that the, your big soapbox, topic, is, is one that, that we conflict a little bit

on, and I am really wanting to talk, like I, I’ve been holding back so much, so I, we definitely need to commit to, um, I, I hope that Amanda can make it next Thursday so that we can duke it out about my thoughts and ideas around why I like story points.

but not as an upstream metric.

Just to clarify. I don’t want anybody getting the wrong idea about me. Um, so

[01:04:41] Brad Nelson: So, uh, and that’s only one of my talks. I I do have several. The other one that I’m giving at Good Tech Fest is deliver, like the mk,


the M

like what’s upm? Uh, M A A N G. So like, it used to be Fang, now it’s M Meta Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google. Um, and the whole thing is like, We, in the Agile industry, we’ve adopted these frameworks, right?

Like I’ve, in, I’ve installed Scrum, I’ve installed Safe, I’ve installed, you know, these frameworks. I have the roles. I’m working in sprints. Why can I not release as fast as Amazon? And the, the whole, uh, concept and aha moment behind it is that when we look at like Scrum and Safe Use Scrum, our development team is three to nine developers.

We have one product owner and we have one Scrum master. Yet all of our trainings, our books, our certifications are all targeted towards our Scrum masters and our product owners. And when our developers are, are learning to work in a Scrum or say, or Agile fashion, we just tell ’em Amazon does it, figure it out.

And so we don’t give ’em the support they need. And so the, the whole premise of that talk, which is what I’m also very passionate about, is about teaching. Agile coaches and Scrum masters and leaders who are not technical about the technical challenges that go into working in an Agile way and the different ways that we need to actually create our code and our structure without showing any code at all.

[01:06:16] Drew Podwal: Wait, say that one more time. So who, who are the learners? The learners here are dev developers.

[01:06:22] Brad Nelson: The so, so this, I mean, it, it would benefit developers that don’t know these things, but I, I give it a Agile conferences. So the idea is more around the people that are influencing developers and the people who are trying to promote Agile adoptions or Agile coaches or Scrum masters, and managers who aren’t technical.

They don’t understand because they, they’ve never been developers, that there are things that you have to do differently as a programmer to enable agility. It’s not as easy as just. , here’s a small story. Now you can release, you know, every two weeks.

[01:07:01] Drew Podwal: Right, right. Yeah. I, I, you know, and I brought this up on the, the scene episode as well, right? Like, developers are like, they’re coming out, they know how to put their fingers in the keyboard, keyboard, the keyboard, and, and right code. but nobody’s teaching them the soft skills. Nobody’s teaching them how to be a member of a Scrum team.

[01:07:24] Brad Nelson: what’s interesting is, uh, did create a course called the professional Scrum developer, the psd, and they couldn’t sell it. So last I knew it wasn’t really offered anywhere. I end up just taking the test because I had a trainer at our company at the time who was certified to give it, and he kept having to cancel cause he didn’t have enough people sign up.

So I’m like, all right, I’m just taking the test. and I took it because I wanted to see if it was a good recommendation for our other Scrum masters to be like, Hey, this is a good way to kind of like round out your awareness of these things. the course I was told there was actually coding in it. I, I don’t know, since I take it, the test I would say was maybe a little bit more in the weeds than I would expect.

Like I don’t expect scrums snow, like dry and solid and, and other coding principles like that. But, there was a lot of high level stuff from like, uh, like the DevOps handbook type thing that I think a lot of Agile coaches would benefit from learning.

[01:08:26] Drew Podwal: No, I, I fully agree with that. And, earlier in my career I would shy away from being anywhere near like systems teams because I felt like, you know, I’ve never been a developer. I don’t understand architecture and, I need to leave those guys alone and let somebody else coach them, you know?

Um, but then I started leading into it because I realized like I can’t limit myself in that way. And I started, you know, researching C I C D pipelines and DevOps principles and DevOps practices. And, um,

And while there’s definitely great coaches who should be coaching dev ops practices. It’s not something I’m afraid of anymore.

But look, listen, it’s getting kind of late and I really think I need to go pick up dinner.

you know, and we’re, this is a long one, but it was a, it was a valuable one, right?

Like you just got back from this conference and we needed to do some knowledge sharing. Right. Um, so, thank you for carving out the time to do this. I know this was, we weren’t planning on doing this, and, and I’m, I’m glad we did it. You


uh, I do have one, metric milestone that I want to point out that we’ve passed.

I had to update the website, because we have more episodes than can fit on the homepage without pagination now. So now on our website, www, www ww too many Ws, um, Agile for Agile Agilists dot com, there is a new header in the menu bar called archives, where you can see all of our episodes. and the homepage, I think is just displaying the top six or the top eight or something like that.

And I even gave a brand new layout for it. so, and also on the website is our memo FM voice record. Feedback tool. So if there’s something that you’ve enjoyed about this podcast or if you want to try to ask Brad a question about Velocity Trap that he will remember

[01:10:20] Brad Nelson: A hundred percent. Yeah.

[01:10:22] Drew Podwal: then, um,

[01:10:23] Brad Nelson: That’s why I need the recording

[01:10:25] Drew Podwal: Yeah.


[01:10:26] Brad Nelson: yeah. Also, at the beginning of the month, we hit 500 plays.

[01:10:29] Drew Podwal: yeah, that’s true too. We’re at, I think I looked today, we’re almost at 700 or are we over the 700 mark now?

[01:10:36] Brad Nelson: Uh, I didn’t, I didn’t check today,

[01:10:38] Drew Podwal: Yeah. The, uh, the Amanda episode, the Capital One episode is three times as popular as every one of the other episodes.

[01:10:47] Brad Nelson: Gosh, it’s that Amanda,

[01:10:49] Drew Podwal: yeah, well, we just gotta be aware of anytime there’s 1500 people that get laid off in our industry and spin up a podcast about it again, and with the Click Beatty title.

[01:11:02] Brad Nelson: right? Yeah. Take advantage of your despair.

[01:11:05] Drew Podwal: Well, this is a good one and uh, I’m, uh, looking forward to next Thursday. I’ll reach out to Amanda and we’ll get it on the books.

[01:11:15] Brad Nelson: Awesome. Awesome. Yeah, and I’ll, I’ll see you Monday for, for our next episode too,

[01:11:19] Drew Podwal: Yeah, yeah, we’ve got two episodes we’re recording next week, so, and they’re gonna be good ones.

[01:11:23] Brad Nelson: forward to it.

[01:11:24] Drew Podwal: Brad.

[01:11:25] Brad Nelson: Thanks, Drew.

2 Responses

  1. Hi Drew and Brad,
    First time listening to your “Agile for Agalist” podcast.
    A friend shared this one in particular since you mention our platform for gamified growth.
    Happy to hear Brad enjoyed David’s talk!
    Since then I have been listening to your other episodes. You are creating great content, thank you for that.

    1. Hey Alice!

      We’re glad that you are enjoying the show! I did indeed enjoy David’s talk.
      I really appreciate your comment, it is definitely motivating to know that people are enjoying the podcast.
      Let us know if there’s a topic you’re interested in that we haven’t covered yet.


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