Easy Agile Podcast Ep.9 Kit Friend, Agile Coach & Atlassian Partnership Lead EMEA, Accenture.

by Nick Muldoon, Co-CEO

11 Jun 2021

"From beer analogies, to scrum in restaurants and neurodiverse teams, it's always a pleasure chatting with Kit"

Kit talks to agile methodology beyond the usual use case, like working with geologists & restaurant owners to apply scrum.

Kit also highlights the need to focus on a bottom-up approach, providing a safe space for leaders to learn & ask questions, and whether neurodiverse teams are key to effectiveness.

This was a really interesting conversation!

Be sure to subscribe, enjoy the episode 🎧

Transcript

Nick Muldoon:

G'day folks. My name's Nick Muldoon. I'm the Co Founder and Co CEO of Easy Agile, and I'm delighted to be joined today by Kit Friend from Accenture. Kit is an agile coach at Accenture and he's also the Atlassian Practice Lead there. Kit, good morning.

Kit Friend:

Morning, Nick. Sadly only the Practice Lead for a bit of things, but I try my best. It's a pleasure to be with you, for the second time we've tried this week as well, in the lovely world of broadband dependent remote working and things. But here's hoping, eh?

Nick Muldoon:

It's beautiful, isn't it? Now, for those of you at home listening in just so you've got a bit of context, Kit is a father to two, he lives in London, and he's been at Accenture now for a little over 10 years, right?

Kit Friend:

Yeah, September, 2010. Fortunately I met my wife in pretty much the same summer, so I only have to remember one year, and I can remember one by the other. So it helps when I'm trying to remember dates, and sort things through because I'm not very good with my memory, to be honest with you.

Nick Muldoon:

Oh well. So for me, the reason to get you on today, I'm super excited to hear about the journey that you've been on in Accenture, and I guess the journey that you're on with your clients, and on these various engagements. Before we dive into that though, I wanted to know, can you just tell me what is one of your favorite bands from the '90s, from the early '90s?

Kit Friend:

Yeah, and I really enjoy that we had a delay between things, because it's like one of those questions, because I'm like, "Hmm." And I think I'm a victim of playlist culture, where it's like naming an entire band feels like a real commitment. It's all about tracks now with things, right? But I have narrowed it down to two for my favorite 90s band and I think I'm going to commit afterwards. So my undisputed favorite 90s track, Common People by Pulp, right? Hands down, yeah, it's right up there. For me, I studied at St Martins, the Art College, so for me Common People is the karaoke track of my university days with things there. So Common People by Pulp, favorite track.

Kit Friend:

For bands wise though, I was split between... Initially I went Britpop, I was like, "Cool, that feels like a happy place for me." Particularly at the moment in our weird dystopian society, I listen to Britpop and it's kind of happy. So Blur was right at the top for me for band commit of the 90s thing then. But then I remembered that Placebo is actually technically a 90s band, even though I did not listen to them as a 13 year old Kit and things. So I think Placebo edges it for me on favorite 90s band of things, just about. But I do have to admit, even though it's not my favorite 90s track, I do think Wonderwall is perhaps the best song ever written.

Nick Muldoon:


Oasis? Love it.

Kit Friend:

Yeah, for track wise. But for me particularly I was at Oktoberfest with some colleagues a couple of years ago and I don't think any other track could get 600 drunken Germans up on benches together with everyone else, all the way around from the world, with a rock polka band singing at the top of your voices at 11 o'clock at night or something. So yeah, that smorgasbord, but I'll commit to Placebo for favorite band in that weird caveated sentence.

Nick Muldoon:

I love it, thanks for that, Kit. And so it's interesting because you touched on then that you went to St Martins, which was an art college. So I'm interested to know, what did you study? What are your formal qualifications and then what led you into this world of Agile delivery and continuous improvement?

Kit Friend:

Yeah. I mean to do the Twitter bio caveat that all the opinions are my own and not Accenture's before we go down the journey of things. Although it must be said I am trying to convert as many of my colleagues and clients to my way of thinking as possible. But so I studied St Martin or studied at St Martins College, so in the UK certainly, I don't know what it's like in Australia, but when you go and do an art and design degree they basically distrust your high school education. They're like, "Nah, everything you've done before is..."

Kit Friend:

So they make you take what's called, or they advise you to take what's called a foundation year where you try a bunch of stuff. So you come in thinking you're going to be a painter or a product designer or something, and they're like, "No, no, no. You haven't experienced the breadth of the creative industries and things." So I did one of those, which was amazing, and I came in thinking I was going to be a product designer. Ended up specializing in jewelry and silversmithing and things, so I made like... Yeah, sort of wearing long black trench coats and things, I was making gothy spiky armor and all sorts of things, and [inaudible 00:04:24] work with silver. So I do have a Professional Development Award in Welding from that year, so that was my first formal qualification on that. I'm a really bad welder though.

Kit Friend:

Then at the end of it I was like, "I don't really know what I want to do still." As you do as you go through university, so my formal degree title, adding to my trend of very long unpronounceable things, is, Ba Hons Art And Design And The Environment, Artifact Pathway, and what it was was... Your face is-

Nick Muldoon:

Yeah, I'm trying to process that.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. I think the course only existed for three years, it felt like a bit of an experiment, or it only existed in that format. So we had architecture students doing the first part of their architectural qualification, we had what were called spatial design students who were, I think, designing spaces. They weren't interior designers, they were a bit more engineery and then we had this weird pathway called Artifact, which was the rest of us and we weren't quite as strict as product designers, we weren't artists. We were making objects and experiences and things.

Kit Friend:

Yeah, it was a really interesting experience. I mean towards the end of it I began specializing more and more in designing ways for communities to come and build things and do stuff together, and it's a bit weird when you look backwards on things. You're like, "I can directly trace the path of the things I've done since to that sort of tendency [crosstalk 00:05:54] liking bringing people together."

Nick Muldoon:

So yeah, do you think that community building aspect was kind of a genesis for what you've been trying, the community around Agile transformation you've been developing over the past decade, or?

Kit Friend:

I don't know. It's easy to trace back to these things, isn't it? But I guess I've always-

Nick Muldoon:

You don't see it at the time.

Kit Friend:

... liked bringing people together to do things. No. It's a theory anyway, isn't it? An origin story theory as we go. So I did that and then I complained lots about my course, I was like, "This is rubbish. This is all really random and things." So I got elected as a Student Union Officer, so I don't know how it works in Australia but in the UK you can be elected as a full time student politician effectively, and you can do it... You take sabbatical either during your course or at the end of your course where it's not really a sabbatical. So I was the Student Union, served full time for two years after I finished my degree, which is a bizarre but educational experience.

Kit Friend:

Again, it's about organizing people, like helping fix problems and having to be very nimble with... You don't know what's happening the next week, you're going to protest against unfair pay or you're going to have someone who's got their degree in trouble because of their personal circumstances and things, so it's a really interesting mix. So yeah, that's where I started my journey into things.

Nick Muldoon:

So it's interesting for me, because you talk about this, the early piece of that is, "We don't trust anything that you've learnt prior to this and we're going to give you a bit of a smorgasbord and a taste of many different aspects." How does that relate to an Agile transformation? Because I feel like we went through a decade there where an Agile transformation was literally, "Here's Scrum, do two weeks Scrum, story point estimates, no rollover. If you rollover we slap you on the wrists."

Nick Muldoon:


There probably, 10 years ago, there wasn't a lot of experimentation with different approaches to delivery. It was just, "We're going from this Waterfall approach to this Agile approach." Which back then was very commonly Scrum. Why don't we give people the smorgasbord and why don't we give them three month rotations where they can try a bit of Scrum and a bit of Kanban and different approaches?

Kit Friend:

Well, I guess it's practicality, isn't it? These things. It's a challenge, and it's a challenge, it works within a contained place. I teach a lot of our product container courses for our clients and we always use the David Marquet video of Greatness Summary. What's great about the David Marquet situation, he's got this Petri dish, right? Literally a submarine, aint no one interfering with his submarine crew. So he can do that, he can go, "Well, let's try this thing." I vastly oversimplify because it's an amazing story, right?

Kit Friend:

But you've got that space to do something and try something out, and actually when we do talk to clients and colleagues alike about Agile transformations, I think one of the things that I say consistently in terms of the role of leadership is they do need to create a safe space, a little place where they protect and they're like, "In this space we're doing Agile, we can experiment, we can do these things. Leave my guys alone. Trust me within that."

Kit Friend:

I think where I see Agile going well, it is where there is a bit of that safe space protected to do things. I've got colleagues who work in companies where they go like, "Okay, we're going to try now and all we're going to ask you to do is forecast your next week's volume of stories. Everything else is up to you, you can choose to apply Scrum, you can use Crystal, DSDM, whatever it is. All you have to do for us as a company is give us a high level view of these metrics or something." So there's flexibility. I think when I think about your journey as an Agilist and trying to do things though, people saying try a bit of everything, it's lovely advice but it's a bit difficult to actually do because it's like we still need to make things, we still need to do stuff practically.

Kit Friend:

So when I talk to people who are starting off their journey or both clients and colleagues who are wanting to move through things like that, like what do they do first, I still say Scrum is a really good place to start because I think there's that quote from somewhere, it's probably in the Scrum Guide, about, "It's simple to understand but complex to get right." And you would think with complex and chaotic situations, right? But I think that-

Nick Muldoon:

And the discipline required is-

Kit Friend:

Yeah, yeah. But discipline's a good thing, right?

Nick Muldoon:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). But not everyone has it.


Kit Friend:

No. But one of my colleagues, Nick Wheeler, he uses the phrase, "Too many beanbags, not enough work done to talk about Chaotic Agile." I think you've got to have that focus on getting things done, right? Value delivery has got to be there, as well as it being a pleasant working atmosphere and balance. So it's about somewhere between the two, and I like Scrum because it gives people something too... It's a framework, right? It gives people something to hang off to start their journey, otherwise I feel like you could spend months debating whether you have an Agile master and what do they do? Where do we go? Do we have a person who holds the vision and things?

Kit Friend:

I think when people are starting off I always say, like, "Why not try Scrum? Why not see? Try it for a couple of sprints and see what works for you and then see what comes out in the wash." I mean if they're in an area where there's some fundamental contradictions, like, "Yeah, I'm not going to force sprints on a call center, right? It doesn't make sense." I was talking to someone yesterday who works on a fraud team, and it's like I'm not going to ask her how much fraud is going to be committed in two weeks time, or as part of MPI, right? It's absurd.

Kit Friend:

So in those circumstances, yeah, you start with Kanban methods and processes and practices instead. But for people who are building products, building things, I think the Scrum is a pretty good fit at the beginning. So yeah, that's my answer, so both. Why not have both is the answer to that, I guess, on the way. Yeah. It'd be interesting to see what other frameworks rear their heads. I mean I found the other day a scaled Agile framework called Camelot that involved lots of castles and things in the YouTube video. I thought that was marvelous. But there's room for a lot of planning and thinking.

Nick Muldoon:

As soon as you saw Camelot, for some reason my mind goes to Monty Python. I don't know quite why. But what's this flavor of scaled Agile called Camelot? Can you tell me about it? Because I'm not familiar with it.

Kit Friend:

I've seen one YouTube video on it, Nick. For anyone Googling it, you can find it related to the X Scale Alliance. I think it's a picture of the Monty Python Camelot on the front page.

Nick Muldoon:

Is it actually?

Kit Friend:

Yeah, yeah. I'm pretty sure weird things. And you know what it's like with techy geeks, right? There's a lot of embedded Hitchhikers' Guide To The Galaxy and Monty Python references in component names and things. So I'd be unsurprised. What I like about something like the Camelot model, other than me thinking Monty Python and castles and things, is it does evoke something in people. I think when we're talking to people about Agile we do need to evoke a feeling with them. We need to get people going, "Oh yeah, I kind of get where you're going."


Kit Friend:

So I always like to do the cheesy uncapitalize the A, what does agile mean to you? Yeah, is it about being nimble? Is it about being flexible and that kind of thing?

Nick Muldoon:

I mean I'm conscious you've obviously done Lean Kanban in university, you've done Scrum Alliance Training and Certification, Prince2, Scaled Agile of course. Why do you do all these things? I mean is it curiosity? I mean is it there's an expectation from clients that you have these certifications? And would you go and get a certification in Camelot? Or even one that I was introduced to recently was Flight Level Agile, Flight Level Agility. Which is a different way of-

Kit Friend:

Ooh, another one?

Nick Muldoon:

Yeah, another one. A different way of describing. Actually I remember, bit of a sidebar sorry, but Craig Smith from... who was at the time I believe was working at Suncorp, an Australian bank. He did 46 Agile methods in 40 minutes or something like that, and he spent a minute and he introduced people to all of these different approaches.

Kit Friend:

Yeah, and methods versus frameworks and things is a fun one to draw the lines between. I mean I've been surprised actually how few times I've been asked for certifications around things. It's changing a bit more, and I've seen definitely more enthusiasm from our clients, and in fact I'm seeing new people within Accenture which is really nice, to require and encourage certification. I don't think it's necessary that the safe course then guarantees that you're going to scale Agile successfully, right? But it's a good way of demarking whether people have done their homework and have put some effort into [crosstalk 00:14:50] knowledge.

Nick Muldoon:

And they got the foundational baseline stuff.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. Now in terms of your question around Brett, so my view is that if we try and attach the word coach to ourselves... I think I've seen country by country different trends, so when I look at my colleagues in the States there's a bit more codifying on the term Agile Coach. There's an attachment to ICA Agile and Lisa Adkins work and all sorts of different things over there which is good. Certainly in the UK and Europe, I see it as a lot more varied at the moment and it's a term that's attached to a lot of people.

Kit Friend:

If you look at people, just anyone on LinkedIn with a CV title or little bio title Agile Coach, you can see a big variety of people who've been doing different Agile frameworks for like 20 years doing things, and you can see someone who's been a Scrum Master for three months and then switched jobs, and they'll have like Agile Enterprise Coach as their title. And you're like, "Hmm, how many people have you ever done Scrum with? And have you done anything but Scrum?" And my view is if 40-

Nick Muldoon:

But I mean Enterprise Agile Coach because I've done Scrum with my team of six people in a-

Kit Friend:

In an Enterprise, right?

Nick Muldoon:

In Enterprise.

Kit Friend:

But my feeling is if all you can do to a team that you're coaching is offer one way of thinking and one approach to doing stuff, how are you coaching them then? There's no breadth to what you're able to offer. But if all you've experienced is Scrum and then you get landed with a team doing fraud investigation, how are you going to guide them on a path which doesn't include sprints and those things? I mean you might do, because you're going to take things from Scrum that become sensible, but you need that spectrum.

Nick Muldoon:

Give us a sense, Kit, what is the most quirky, or unusual perhaps is a better way to frame it, what is the most unusual team that you have introduced to Agile practices and Lean principles?

Kit Friend:

So I've got to embarrass my colleague Giles, because mine is not the most interesting. So Giles was looking at introducing Scrum to geologists for site surveying and things, which I love as an example to talk about because it's so-

Nick Muldoon:

Wow. Yeah.

Kit Friend:

When you unpack it's so interesting to think about what that would mean, and I need to catch up with him to see how far through they got actually applying it. But because it's like, "Why would you do that?" And then it's like, "Ooh, actually, they probably have a really big area to survey. Wouldn't it better to introduce some feedback loops and look at how you slice down that problem to get some value and learning delivery out of things?"

Nick Muldoon:

That's interesting.

Kit Friend:


So I really, really like that. Yeah. Then I always reference when we're teaching, there's a restaurant called Ricardo's in London that I have to make sure it's not gone out of business. I think it's still in business, but-

Nick Muldoon:

Well, I thought it-

Kit Friend:

Well, COVID, right? I think he's their owner, Ricardo. At least he's the person that's inspired their name. He applied Scrum and it's beautiful, looking at the exercises they went through when they put it in place. And on his website, which I'll ping you the URL for the show notes, but they do this cross functional teaming thing where they got all the staff at the restaurant to look at the role types that they needed, and then their availability and things. They were like, "Only this one guy can do the bar. Maybe we should up skill some other people to be able to work on the bar?" And I love that thinking of applying those elements of stuff.

Kit Friend:

So back to your question though of where have I applied unusual things to my teams, I haven't done any really quirky ones, to be honest with you. I mean I think having a background in art and design I find it... When I talk about iteration and all those areas, my mind immediately goes back to projects where we made things and did stuff and have it there, and particularly when people get panicked in a business situation I think back to... I used to freelance doing special effects with my dad whilst I was at university, because it's a great way to make cash for things. My dad worked for the BBC and freelance. I think about that immediacy and panic when I'm talking about Kanban and handling ops and incidents and things, and I'm like, "You guys don't need to panic, it's not like you're on live TV." And they have a countdown of three, two, one, right?

Kit Friend:

No one has that in our business. We panic sometimes when something falls over, but there's never that second by second delay. So I think the quirkiest places that I've applied Agile thinking are probably before my career in technology. They were in that kind of place where we're making creative things and doing stuff, and it's there where you're like, "You would never do a 400 line requirements document for a piece of product design or jewelry, right?" You would produce something rough and see what people think about it, and build things in so there's a balance there.

Kit Friend:

I mean when you're launching live products though, you do some strange things, right? And you have some fun memories from that. So I remember when we launched YouView in the UK, which is a public credential because it was for Accenture. Fine. But during launch day a colleague of mine, Ed Dannon and me, we became shop display people for the day so we were at the top of John Lewis in Oxford Street in London demonstrating the product, and that was a part of our Agile working for that week because that's what they needed. That was how we delivered value was physically being the people going like, "Hello, Mrs Goggins. Would you like to try this YouView box at the top of things?" So I remember those days fondly.


Nick Muldoon:

And so was that capture on a backlog somewhere, or?

Kit Friend:

Do you know what? YouView is where I was introduced to my love of dura, so I suspect, yeah, I don't think we did formally add a backlog somewhere. It would've been nice too, wouldn't it? I'd like to claim that my entire Accenture career could be constructed out of Dura tickets if I piled them one on top of each other for 10 years. Certainly about a 60%-

Nick Muldoon:

How many Dura tickets do you reckon you've resolved over the years?

Kit Friend:

God. How many have I duplicated is probably the question, right? Which is like 8,000. There's always duplicate of things. It's got to be in the thousands, hasn't it?

Nick Muldoon:

Tell me, you've, okay, over thousands of duplicates resolved. But you've been doing this for a while in the Atlassian space, and obviously with the Agile transformations at scale. How have these engagements at scale evolved over the past seven or eight years? And what do they look like in 2021 with this completely remote mode of operation?

Kit Friend:

Yeah. Starting at the end of that, I see light, I see goodness in things. But I guess similar to how you expressed 15 years ago, 10 years ago everyone was like, "Do Scrum and have some story points and things." I think during that period, if we go back like 10 years ago, so we're like the early 2010s or whatever we call the teens in the decades, I think we see a lot of people experimenting with early versions of SAFE. They'll do wheel reinvention and people simultaneously going, "Let's have a big meeting where everyone plans together. How do we normalize story points? You shouldn't, maybe we should. How do we do metrics there?" And that kind of stuff.

Kit Friend:

So I think certainly what I've seen is a lot of people trying out those things as we go through, and then trying to weave together concepts like design thinking and customer centricity, and there are all these bits of stuff which feel good, but they weren't very connected in any way that was repeatable or methodical or codified. Then what I quite enjoy, and linking back to your last question, is then the branching of the approaches to things. You've got SAFE, which is laudably to everyone who works on that, right? They try and write down everything.

Kit Friend:

I always say this to everyone, you're like, "Thank goodness someone decided to go on that website and make everything clickable and everything." Because when you do need to reference one of those elements, it's a godsend being able to go and go, "Yes, here is the page that talks about Lean budgets. I might not agree with everything on it, but it's a really good starting point. It's a really good point of reference to have."

Kit Friend:

Then you've got the others, and I do use SAFE at one end of detail, and even if you're doing SAFE correctly you don't do it by the book and copy and paste, right? And that kind of thing. But there is a lot of detail and a lot of options there. At the other end of the scale you've got things like Less, where it's intentionally about descaling and it intentionally focused on simplicity. Look at the front pages of the website, and on the SAFE website you've got everything. On the Less website it looks like we've done it on a whiteboard, right? And that's intentional, both of them are intentional at the end of the scale. Then we've got Scrum on the scale, which seems to be the new, rising, kind of darling of things at the moment, and that was the other thing. So what I see now-

Nick Muldoon:

And they all have a place, don't they?

Kit Friend:

Yeah.

Nick Muldoon:

It's interesting that there's a large enough audience and market for all of these to succeed, and there's a lot of overlap between them in the various ideals and practices that they suggest that you experiment with.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. I mean what I've seen in the past few years is that I think people often get laudably enthusiastic about the scaling bit. So they take a look at a word like Lean Portfolio Management or a business problem they have of how can I capacity manage? And they go straight to the scaling frameworks without stopping at the teams on the way, and that's definitely a tendency I hear more and more from friends, colleagues, geeky friends, colleagues, clients, right? They don't make that initial investment in getting the teams going well, whether it's Scrum or whether they're running in anything else.

Nick Muldoon:

Sorry. But hang on, are you saying then, Kit, that people are actually coming into a scaled Agile transformation and they haven't got the team maturity? Sorry, forgive me, but I felt I guess my belief and my understanding was that these scaled Agile transformations, for the most part, are building on top of existing successful team transformations.

Kit Friend:

I think that is how it should work right. We should be going bottom up, or at least to a certain extent. In the SAFE implementation roadmap it talks about reaching a tipping point and having... I mean you can start with Waterfall and the SAFE implementation roadmap, but it talks about ad hoc Agile and those things there. I think when people in large businesses and organizations come with a problem though, they're coming with a big problem and they want to fix that, and yeah, it's a difficult message to land, the, "Hi, you've got one to two to five years worth of getting your teams working before you can deploy the fancy portfolio management Kanban and see a flow of things right." Because people are nice. Most people are nice, most people are enthusiastic, most people want to fix things, and so they want to fix that big scaley thing.

Kit Friend:

But it's difficult to land, the, "No, you've got to fix these things at the bottom." I was describing to a colleague, Lucy, last week, and I said, "If you want an answer a question of how do I capacity manage and how do I balance demand across a large organization, you should imagine each of your..." Let's pretend they're Scrum teams without debasing it for a moment. Let's pretend your Scrum team is like a bar with a row of different glassware on it, and each time box is a different sized pint glass or a schooner or whatever you have. Now, my capacity management for a single team is me with a big jug of beer and I've got all the work that I want to do in that beer. My whole backlog of things. My capacity management for a team is pouring it in and hopefully I guess it right. I probably don't and I spill some beer in the first ones as we go through. But over time I'm trying to guess how much beer I can pour into each time box of things and we go through.

Kit Friend:

Now, the only way that I can know how much I can fit in in the future is if I see what I've got in the past, like how it went and can I predict the size of the glass, and over time I can, and we stabilize. So everything's a pint glass after a while, after we've experimented with everything there. Now, if we don't have that ability to forecast and measure, get the actual data back via some tooling at a team level, how can we manage across multiple teams? Right? You can't. You can't have a big top down roadmap where you're like, "Yeah, we want to launch the easy Agile bank across all these areas and go into the teams." Unless you have that team level maths that you can rely on.

Kit Friend:

It doesn't matter whether that's story points or whether you're doing no estimates stuff and you're just measuring flow or you're using Monte Carlo, whatever it is. You need some mathematical way of helping people understand the flow of work and what's happening there, and ideally tying it back to value with some data. Workout whether is your easy Agile bank actually a good idea or should we pivot and do something else? Yeah, is it delivering the thing that customers want when we've given them easy Agile bank beta at the beginning of things.

Nick Muldoon:

How good do you think clients are these days? So here's the thing, I guess, you talk about early transformations and it was, "Hey, we're going to go Scrum." But now there's the design thinking, I mean there's devops, there's DevSecOps, there's so many different aspects now that people are exploring and they're exploring at the same time. How do you help the client navigate this? Because they get it from every different angle from different aspects of the business, and in fact it's just got to be overwhelming, quite frankly.

Kit Friend:

Well, it's overwhelming for us trying to help right, right? People like yourselves, I mean you're like, "How do we cope with this weird specific configuration that they want to feed into easy Agile programs?" So I think that the light at the end of the tunnel that I referenced before is I see a lot more people coming with an ask of helping them get the bottom up things right, so they understand there's a pincer. We can't ignore-

Nick Muldoon:

Get the foundation.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. But we can't ignore that there's the big business, right? There's the people expecting big things and they've drunk the Agile Kool-Aid, they've read the article and they want to be there. So there is that top down pressure, but I am seeing more and more asking for advice and help to do things at the bottom. On a couple of areas recently, my current theory of the day, and I have a favorite theory every six months or so so this won't be the same later in the year, but I really, really like training the product owners first to help with that transformation. My current theory is that it's because they're like the battering ram to help the business understand what's happening with these delivery teams, and build the bridge and link between things and form that.

Kit Friend:

Because if you don't have the product owners being the conduit and the voice of the business and the customer and the voice of the team back to the business in doing things, I think the rest of it falls down. So my theory at the moment is that if you start by training the product owners that's the best way to begin things and it helps with the scaling body scaling, the focus on the team level to help do things.

Kit Friend:

To be honest, even if they're not doing Scrum, I think that the role of a product owner, relatively close to what the Scrum guy says, if we take out the sprint references and things, I think that's a sensible thing to have in every cross functional Agile team, regardless of what you're doing. And it's a distinct personality type, right?

Kit Friend:

I often talk when people are doing our Agile Foundations course, where we're like, "Here's everything. Find your place." I think that most people, or certainly most people I train, fall quite clearly into a product owner or a Scrum Master style personality type. I'd say about 80% you can tell, like, "You're a producty person. You're a Scrum Mastery type person. Or if you're not doing Scrum, a coach, a facilitator, a team builder." Maybe about 20% can flit between the two, and they're special people. The Unicorns as we have in every industry and type, but most people fit into one of those. I think it's good to think about how those personality types work in your business.

Kit Friend:

The other thing I love about training the product owners first, it really unveils upon them that, let's say, we're now at... "Hi, Nick. Yesterday you were the business owner for this process and doing things. You're now a product owner, go. And you can only have till Monday." If we train you, you're like, "Oh my God, I didn't realize I was now accountable for the value of this whole team delivering. It's my problem to make sure they're delivering good things? I didn't know that." So if we do that training right at the beginning I think it sets a baseline of expectations of what we're asking of those people, and the responsibility that's placed on them. Yeah.

Nick Muldoon:

When you're doing this Agile Foundations course that you run for folks through, are you doing a DISK profile as part of that? Again to assess their personality type.

Kit Friend:

No, no. That would be really good. What a great suggestion. I can include that.

Nick Muldoon:

Well, I'm merely inquiring because I wonder. I'm just thinking about it now, I'm wondering, are there personality types that are more likely to be the product owner? Is a product owner more of a CS and is a... Yeah, I don't know.

Kit Friend:

I don't know. I mean it's one of those things, isn't it? I forget the number of personality types and roles I've been assigned in various bits of my career. I can't remember. Back when I was a Student Union Officer, I'll have to look up the name of it, but we had the ones where, "Are you a completer finisher or a shaper?" And all sorts of those things there, and then DISk was relatively popular. We've got a Gallup Strengths Test within the Accenture Performance Management Tool, which is actually really interesting.

Kit Friend:

The bit I like about the Accenture one is when you join a new team you can bunch yourself together in the tool and see what people's different strengths and personality traits are, so you can be like, "This team's very heavy on the woo. Or you're a team that's full of energy or ideas with things, and it's quite interesting too." I mean it's nice to see the strength, but it's also interesting to notice where you might have gaps and you're like, "I need to make sure that someone's keeping an eye on quality because we all get very excited and run fast."

Nick Muldoon:

Do you remember, this would have to be a decade ago now, I'm sure, but I think his name with Larry Macaroni or Larry Macayoni, and he was working for Rally Software at the time, and he did a very wide ranging study of the effectiveness of Agile teams? And I'm just thinking back on that now, because he was looking at things like defect rates, escaped bugs versus captured bugs and all sorts of other bits and pieces. But I don't think he touched on the personality traits of these teams and whether even Dave the Cofounder here at Easy Agile, my business partner, he was talking. He shared a blog article this morning about neurodiverse teams and I'm just trying to think, do we know is there a pattern of DISK profile distribution, neurodiversity distribution, that leads to a more effective team?

Kit Friend:

I don't know. I haven't read. Yeah, it's Larry Maccherone, but it's not spelt the way I suspected originally. I put in Macaroni, based on your pasta based pronunciation of things. So it looks like it's the quantifying the... What's it called? Quantifying the Impact of Agile on Teams, which is really interesting.


Nick Muldoon:

But I don't know if that sort of study has been done since he did it back then.

Kit Friend:

Particularly the personality types is interesting, and neurodiversity is another interesting element. So I've got dyslexia and dyscalculia, and one of the bits I've found-

Nick Muldoon:

What's dyscalculia?

Kit Friend:

Well, just like dyslexia, there's quite a spectrum covered by one term of these, so it's large. But effectively my particular diagnosis, I have problems processing sequences of numbers. So you can read me out a sequence of numbers and if it's exactly that, I can cope with it normally because I can do visual processing, because that's my creative industries background, it's what we do, right? We visually process. But I can't repeat them back to you backwards, I can't reprocess them as units of stuff with things. My wife says-

Nick Muldoon:

How did you even come across that?

Kit Friend:

So a retrospective again, so my sister was diagnosed with dyslexia at school, and she's got a more traditional dyslexic diagnosis. So when you hear dyslexia, people normally associate it with not being able to read and spelling and grammar and that kind of stuff. Dyslexia, as you might know from [inaudible 00:35:00] is actually... I'm waiting for them to split it, to be honest with you, because it's so broad. But my diagnosis of dyslexia is more about my short term memory processing, so it's the ability to process. I can read and write fine.

Kit Friend:

My sister got diagnosed at school, had blue glasses, all the conventional grammar and spelling related elements of dyslexia. My dad got diagnosed then in his mid 50s, I think at the time. So he started working at the University Arts London, my art college, my dad still runs the woodwork shop in central St Martins in their beautiful new campus in King's Cross in London. He got diagnosed with things, and I was like, "Hmm. I know it's hereditary, I should probably get checked." So I think I was 25 or 26, and one of the lovely bit... I mean there's many lovely bits about working at Accenture, but a large corporation has really, really good support networks and things.

Kit Friend:

So I pinged the right people around, and they were like, "Yes, of course we can support you getting an assessment. We'd love to make sure that you're able to function." So I got an assessment done and they were like, "Yeah, you're dyslexic and dyscalculic on this kind of area." But the more interesting thing was that they were like, "Here's the coping mechanisms that you've developed." And the coping mechanisms was a list of my career and choices and education. It was like, "You will choose things where you can do abstract thinking and drawing." It was really funny because I never felt like it blocked me at school, I quite enjoyed exams and things.

Kit Friend:

But I was terrible at revising, right? I can't go through notes and do things there. Looking at my diagnosis I was like, "It's because I don't process things that way." I have to process things visually, I have to draw, I have to chunk things. Now I look at the way that I work with Agile teams and I coach teams, and I create abstract references to things, right? I'm teaching product owner and Scrum Master courses on Mural where we move things around and create objects.

Nick Muldoon:

Or the example that you used before, Kit, with the beer glasses at the bar.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. I can't deal with numbers in abstract, right? I have to deal with them in an analogy or I have to be able to visual them. I'm hopeless at coding, I can't store concepts like variables in my head. They just fall apart, it's like building with sand in front of me and it's all dry and crumbly. And I think in fact when I looked at that diagnosis and I was still, what? I'd be like three or four years into my career at Accenture. I looked at the way that I'd begun to get slowly addicted to tools like Atlassian and Dura, and I was like, "Ah, I'm compensating for the fact that I have basically no ability to memorize things in the short term." I'm helping visualize stuff in the way that I help teams and build tasks and things, in a way that means I'm outsourcing my short term memory to this lovely tool where we do things there.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. I've grown to love it, I think you have to work with it right. I speak to some of my colleagues, I teach at the moment with an Agile coach called Lucy Sudderby and another one called Charlotte Blake, and I'm like, "Thank you, guys, for compensating for my dyslexia. I appreciate that you kind of balance out my inability to memorize anything." Yeah, hopefully they feel they benefit from some of the quirky strengths of it when we go through, but it's a balancing act, right?

Nick Muldoon:

That's very cool. Thanks for sharing that.

Kit Friend:

No worries.

Nick Muldoon:

I'm just thinking about it now, as you mentioned coaching with Lucy and Charlotte, and going back to something that you said earlier, Kit, with respect to... I don't know if you said the leaders, but basically the folks at the top drinking the Kool-Aid. I'm interested to know, how do you create, going back to this other thought that you had, I'm trying to connect dots, going back to this other thought that you had right up at the top about the psychological safety, right? And that feeling safe. How do you provide a safe space for these leaders that could be CEOs of business units or execs, GMs, whatever they happen to be, provide a safe space for them to actually ask questions and do Q&A and learn without feeling?


Kit Friend:

Yeah. Because we forget that they're people too, right?

Nick Muldoon:

Yeah.

Kit Friend:

There's this idea that these leaders are somehow insurmountable, they have no fear. But we need to build a safe space for everyone around things, I think you're right. I think we get the same sort of question when people talk to me about how they can convert people to Agile or make the case for things in an organization but not sure about it. I think that the answer, relatively saying, in that we need to give them some data, some facts. So my view is that it's not good to come to people and talk about...

Kit Friend:

I somewhat cynically criticize when people talk about Agile ways of working, and they'll often abbreviate it to WAW or something as well. I think when we talk about agility too abstractedly, and I say the phrase wavy hands too much, but when we talk about it within specifics too much, it encourages a sense of anxiety and it's a nebulous, wishy washy kind of thing so I like to bring some data to people. My favorite ones to use, and I need to get updated stats, but the Sandish Chaos Reports are an amazing project management journal, where they talk about success and failure of Waterfall versus Agile projects.

Kit Friend:

Now, there's a bunch of questions it leads you to about how do they classify Agile and all sorts of things. But indisputably, what it tells you is that the traditional way of doing things that we are told is secure and safe, if I go to a procurement team or a finance team and I go, "I'd like to build this thing, guys." They're like, "Great, give me the milestones, give me the plan." And there's this inbuilt assumption that that's a safe and responsible and proven way to do things.

Kit Friend:

The Sandish Chaos Reports tell you it's a terrible way to do things, right? They're like, "Statistically, doesn't matter what you're building, what industry, what you're doing, it's a terrible idea to fix scope at the beginning, trust your plan and have a system which fails when you have any change." And when you unpack it, like when we talk about agility overall, what are we saying? We're saying it's not a good idea to begin something and for it only to be able to succeed within fairly tight boundaries, where no one changes their mind for the duration of the thing, everything goes exactly as you plan and when does that ever happen with technology? And the world doesn't change for the duration of your thing.

Kit Friend:

Most of the time when we're talking about these project things, like how long are they? Three months to three years is the window I usually give. Three months, I see rarely in any industry these days, right? These big efforts where people are trying to do these things at scale, you're talking multiyear. What are the chances that the scope can be frozen for that period? Pretty low, and also what's the chance that the people that you asked for the requirements at the beginning really knew them all? Everyone's normally really nice, they try their best.


Nick Muldoon:

The chance that the people you ask at the beginning are going to be there when you actually get to the next-

Kit Friend:

Yeah. There's a whole set of fundamental problems with that. So I like to bring that kind of data to our leaders when they're asking about the case for agility, so it's not about, "Do you want to sign up to use a framework?"

Nick Muldoon:

But let's say, Kit, that they've made the case for agility, they're there, they're doing it. What's the space that you provide for them? Do you have a CEO round table where they can go and they've got a shoulder to cry on and go, "This Agile transformation is going harder than I thought it was going to be"?

Kit Friend:

Agilists Anonymous, [crosstalk 00:42:19] company. Yeah. I think it is a good idea to pair them up, so I get a lot of requests at the moment for us to provide coaches directly to support leaders. I've also seen a trend in reverse mentoring, separately big companies. But that kind of idea of, okay, you've got these people who are really experienced, and their experience is relevant, right? We're not saying that the CEO's 30, 40, 50 year career in something is invalid now and we know better than them. But they're trying to match that up with these, not even emerging, right? Because the Agile Manifest is 20 years old now. But they're trying to match these up with these foreign, new practices and things they've got, and that requires a bit of hand holding. So yes, there's a personal angle there. I don't think necessarily a round table is the way to do it per se, but giving them someone that they can chat too and, yeah, an ability to relate and go like, "What is this thing?" And decode the jog, I think is really useful.

Kit Friend:

So data about success rates is important, right? But the other data that's really important I think to help provide that sense of safety is about value delivery, and this is where I think most people are still having trouble. We've just about got to the point where people can start to attach a concept of benefits and value at the start of things. Now, often that's still too big. We talk about the value of the entire project, can you assign a notion of value to every epic and story in your backlog or whatever units of stuff you're doing?" Probably not, right? Can you do it in a pound or dollar or euro or whatever your local currency is figure? Probably not. But can you even rank them one to 10? Maybe with things.

Kit Friend:

So I think the evolution of OKRs and KPIs coming in, and people starting to internalize that more, offers some hope. It's still relatively immature in most organizations and you're still kind of getting there. I feel like every sort of practice and things, it's probably going to have some misinterpretation, enthusiastic and well meaning interpretation, but you're going to get some people using it somehow to Waterfall things probably in some areas. But bringing that data that gives them some sort of feedback loop that makes sense to those people in those senior positions I think is really powerful. The opposite of this is where they expect to see RAG statuses and milestones and that's the only data they get from their teams, right?


Kit Friend:

I sat down with an executive of an organization a few years ago and I was like, "Please invest in your tooling. Please do it." And he's like, "Why would I need to? I have these slides where they tell me green and the dates are there." And I was like, "I love that you're trusting, and I like to trust." The trust in the teams was really, really good. But I knew the teams and I knew they didn't have any tools. It was project managers getting stressed and running around, and then I knew that all the RAG statuses were going to go, "Green, green, green, green. Red." It was the Watermelon Effect that was going to happen, right?

Kit Friend:

So when I see conversations like that happening, I want to empower them. I want to empower them with data and bring those things together. I think that data about why doing Agile is really important, the data about how it's really going on your teams, and the ability to make decisions based on it is really important. There's the Scrumming case study on the Saab Gripen is lovely because they, in one of the articulations, they do the sequence of morning standups and allegedly, according to the case study, I'm pretty sure it's true, they do 7:30 in the morning, which is insane. I don't know why they start at 7:30 in the morning in Sweden, but apparently they start at 7:30 in the morning. But they do a sequence of standups and the idea is by the end of the hour the cascade of standups means that any impediment can reach the executives within the hour and they can fix it.

Kit Friend:

That feeling of connection, that trust in teams and that show of progress, real working things being the way that we communicate that we're making progress, I think that's how we build some safety in and help our leaders do things. Not RAG statuses and milestones and Gantt Charts. They have to have that realness with things, hopefully.

Nick Muldoon:

It's interesting. It makes me think, we did a factory tour recently and it's a factory that makes air conditioning manifolds for commercial buildings, and they actually-

Kit Friend:

What? Why were you touring an air conditioning factory? Were you buying some air conditioning?

Nick Muldoon:

No, no, no. Lean principles, right? You want to see the application of the principle.

Kit Friend:

Wow, you're living it, you're living it. It's wonderful.

Nick Muldoon:

Yeah. So they do breakfast from 6:15 to 6:45 or 6:30, something like that, and then they get going. I think they do their standup at 7:45 after they're actually in the flow, they come together, "Okay, where are we at for today? What are we working on?" Then that rolls up to the ops team and then that rolls up to the leadership team, and then at the end of the day they do their closing huddle for the day, "Hey, have we got all of our tools? Are we back? What are we going on with tomorrow morning?" So it was like the start and the finish of the day and it's really interesting.

Nick Muldoon:

Just thinking about, we introduced an end of day huddle in COVID, when we were all on Zoom all the time, and I think it was very useful. But then of course as we get back into the office, it drops away. It's interesting how things evolved, right?

Kit Friend:

Yeah. And you're the big Head Honcho, right, Nick? I have a worry niggle with end of day meetings, about whether they're for the team they're for people to feel they're across stuff, and I find it interesting because I'm having to take people through practicing for Scrum Master exams and things, lots at the moment, and I really like talking about how standups are for the team. They're for the developers, they're not for the product owner even, they're certainly not for the stakeholders. Now, I consistently see with a lot of these Agile ceremonies, I'm like, "Who's getting the benefit from that meeting? Is it someone getting a status check in or is the team getting it?"

Kit Friend:

And if the team enjoys it, if the team gets something from the end of day huddle and things, I'm cool with it. But sometimes I see things, and the two anti patterns I see with leaders joining, of any level, joining the meeting, so the first is that they use it as like their aeration platform. The team's ready to go with their standup and then the leader of whatever level pops in and he's like, "Team, I've got this update for you." And then it's like 10 minutes of their amazing update and mini vision for the day, and then at the end it's like people are going, "Yeah, now do your standup. Now do the Scrum kind of thing." And then the other thing is that where it becomes like a status check in for stuff, and I'm like, "It's not what it's for, guys. We should be focused on [crosstalk 00:48:57]-"

Nick Muldoon:

We do. So we can get done with 22 people in six to eight minutes.

Kit Friend:

That's slick.

Nick Muldoon:

It's taken time to get here, but what we actually started out asking for was one good thing, and that's typically a family, community thing, what are you going on with today, do you have any blockers? And it's interesting now that we're having this chat, Kit, I do not see blockers come up very often, so I wonder why that is.

Nick Muldoon:

Yeah, anyway. Hey, Kit, I'm conscious of time. I've got one last question for you.

Kit Friend:


Yeah, go for it.

Nick Muldoon:

What are you reading at the moment? What books are you reading or have read recently that you'd recommend for the audience to read?

Kit Friend:

Yeah, I'm between businessy books. I need to find a next one. One attribute, and it's probably not my dyslexia, I think it's just because I'm lazy, I'm really bad at reading business books, like serious books with things. So I rely on audiobooks lots to consume meaningful data. I really, really enjoyed listening to Lisa Adkins Coaching Agile Teams audiobook when she released it, because I knew I wasn't going to get through the book and so-

Nick Muldoon:

Did she narrate it?

Kit Friend:

Yeah, which is even better, right?

Nick Muldoon:

Cool, yeah.

Kit Friend:

So lovely to hear from the authors' voices when they're doing things. So I'd really recommend that, and then accompanying it after... I mean either way round, listen to the Women In Agile podcast series on coaching Agile teams, because they talk about each other and there's a whole episode on language, and she talks about how between writing the book and narrating the book, reading it, there was bits of language where she just cringed and she was like, "I can't believe I wrote that." And it really resonates it with me, thinking about my Agile journey and how I would cringe at what I did with teams five, six years ago. As we all do, right? You look back with hindsight.

Kit Friend:

So Coaching Agile Teams is really, really good, and I'd recommend. When [crosstalk 00:50:54]-

Nick Muldoon:

Isn't that beautiful, right? Because if you look back and you cringe, it shows that you've evolved and adapted and you've learned, and you've improved?

Kit Friend:

Oh yeah, if you look back and don't cringe, either you were perfect which is unlikely, right?

Nick Muldoon:

Unlikely. Unlikely.


Kit Friend:

[crosstalk 00:51:07] things, or you're oblivious which is more likely. I don't mean you personally, Nick. So Coaching Agile Teams is really good, I still recommend the Whole Time if people are trying to get their head round what it's like to work in Agile, what's there. I used to recommend The Phoenix Project, and then I really enjoyed The Unicorn Project more for filling in a team. Your talking about the air conditioning factory just reminded me because of all the Lean kind of things. I really like that, and I struggle when I explain to people because I'm like, "It's not dry, it's a novel about an Agile transformation, but it's not [crosstalk 00:51:42]

Nick Muldoon:

It's not. I love it. I get up and I read the newspaper, right?

Kit Friend:

Yeah.

Nick Muldoon:

That's my thing in the morning, and I would never read a business book at night. But The Phoenix Project and The Unicorn Project, I've read them several times as bedtime books.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. To your kids, Nick? Do you sit there [crosstalk 00:52:01]

Nick Muldoon:

I will. I'll get there. I'm starting to teach them about Lean principles, build quality in. Yeah.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. If you haven't done it already, getting your kids to story point Lego is really amusing and I've enjoyed a lot. I know it's just like time gym, but I enjoy doing it with my son, Ethan, because you know how difficult it is to get adults to get relative sizing in units, and kids just get it. It's wonderful how they just don't get distracted by the fact that you've got an abstract unit, and they're like, "I get that idea." I got Ethan story pointing in five minutes, I've struggled to get some adults story pointing in like five days and they argue about, "Do you mean it's days, ideal days, hours?" Things.

Kit Friend:

So yeah, Unicorn Project I think are really good. I haven't actually read it all yet, but I do want to read and I recommend the whole time because of a really good podcast, 99 [inaudible 00:52:51] Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. So when we talk about being customer centric and about really knowing who we're providing our products for, I think there's a really powerful story around making sure we understand the data and when we're going through, and Invisible Women has some amazing, horrifying, but amazing stories and bits of data and narrative around it. So I think those would be my three at the moment, three's a good number to ask people to start with, isn't it?

Nick Muldoon:


Okay, cool. Kit, this has been wonderful. My takeaway is I've got to read The Invisible Woman, because I haven't heard that book.

Kit Friend:

Invisible Women, there's lots of them is the problem, Nick.

Nick Muldoon:

Invisible Women, okay. Thank you. That's my takeaway that I've got to read. Kit, this has been beautiful, I really enjoyed our chat this morning.

Kit Friend:

It was a pleasure as well. Thank you so much for having me, Nick.

Nick Muldoon:

I hope you have a wonderful day, and I look forward to talking about this journey again. I want to come back and revisit this.

Kit Friend:

Yeah. Let's do a check in. We should do our DISK profiles for the next one maybe, and we can find out maybe I'm meant to be a product owner and you should be, I don't know, you'll be like test lead or something it'll say. I don't know. We'll find out.

Nick Muldoon:

It's beautiful. All right, thanks so much, Kit. Have a wonderful day.

Kit Friend:

And you. Bye now.







Easy Agile Podcast Ep.9 Kit Friend, Agile Coach & Atlassian Partnership Lead EMEA, Accenture.

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