Agile2017 Culture Growth Leadership

Agile2017 Recap – Day 5

This morning was focused on exploration and continuing to push me out of my comfort zone.

First up was the Stalwarts Session with Lyssa Adkins, and my only expectation for the session was to walk out with some Lyssa Adkins’s magic. When I had the chance to talk with her and meet her at Agile2016, I found that I walked away from the interaction with so many gifts.

This morning, the format was for individuals to come up and ask Lyssa questions. Below are some of the sound bites/learnings from the session:

  • Scrum Masters need to ensure that they’re being transparent with how they’re improving the team to build trust. Sometimes teams have no clue what the Scrum Master does all day and why the Scrum Master is trying something new with the team.
  • When dealing with tough problems, one tool is the Integral Approach, which is a framework that allows a person to be conscious of what we’re trying to do in its four quadrants – 1) People’s Mindset, 2) Practices, Roles, and Products, 3) Environments around the team and 4) Inside the team; what is their relationship.
  • Lyssa also provided the advice to an Agile Coach who felt that they needed to be neutral. She advised the person that it’s okay to not be neutral all the time, and it’s okay to have an opinion. Also, she gave the advice that Scrum Masters and Coaches can easily become beholden to the company, and sometimes we need to let go.
  • Lyssa then shared that we need to deeply consider whether bringing agile into an organization is truly a good fit – maybe we should stop bolstering the organizations that are going to die. She brought up the quote from another coach that organizations “are dying and we’re putting them on life-support.” There’s also the viewpoint that we need to “hospice the death of process and structures that no longer works.”
  • Human systems are massively intelligent and highly subconscious.
  • When advising someone who would like to see a new idea be embraced by his organization, Lyssa provided the advice that “you gotta get the votes.” Create a vision, not the mechanics – put a dream together. Also, recognize that so many things are going right, and “recognize the rose petals scattered at our feet that we’re stepping on.”
  • Don’t trade being kind for being right.
  • If you can’t bring people along, the message doesn’t matter.
  • On the future of agile, Lyssa spoke to the need for agilists to use our knowledge in areas that really need us, for example, planetary and environment concerns.
  • She reinforced that an organization and team need a compelling reason why because it helps people get out of their heads about the process.
  • On what she would change in her book, she would evolve the conflict model to be based on newer information and use the Conflict Dynamic Model.
  • She stressed the importance of being kind over being right, and if you need to speak your opinions, make sure that they are for the group, not for an ulterior motive for yourself.
  • The importance of speaking from an “I” perspective when really riled up to help others understand why it’s important to you. It’ll help move the conversation forward vs. being entrenched in the drama.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of only saying the concept/the high-level idea.
  • Ensure that you’re meeting people where they’re at; ideas won’t matter if they don’t come along.

I loved the Stalwarts session format – it was a great way to connect with Lyssa and other thought leaders in the other sessions. In future conferences, I will attend more of them.

Lightning Talks

Next up was Lightning Talks, and I felt much better about my talk than I had at the Women in Agile Workshop. The latest version of the talk can be found here.

The session was filled with a variety of topics – below is the full list, and Peter is working on getting all the slides posted:

  1. Chris Murman – Your Brain Wants You To Fail (And Other Reasons Why Change Is Hard)
  2. Logan Daigle – The Farmer, His Tractor, and Olive Garden – A DevOps Story
  3. Cristina Liriano – Weird Science: Tales from a Tangled Transformation
  4. Meg Ward – Everything I know about Agile Management I learned from Roller Derby
  5. Ravi Tadwalkar – GetKanban Preamble: How did TPS House influence me to become better coach *and* teammate?
  6. Saya Sone – Overworked and Overwhelmed- What Can You Do About it?
  7. Beth Hatter – “Who am I now? – Exploring Myths and Realities of Managers Working with Agile Teams
  8. Thomas Perry – Slowing Down


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Thanks @chrismurman for capturing this photo.


After the lightning talks, I grabbed lunch by the pool, and then it was time for the afternoon sessions.

What’s in your role? Elevating the Scrum Master role at Capital One

Marie Dingess and Jennifer Honermann told the story of Captial One’s evolution in software development after the acquisition of ING Direct. As a former client of ING Direct, things started to make sense for me.

Capital One technology is a very large organization (over 10,000 employees, or Associates, as they’re called). There are over 500 Agile Coaches / Scrum Masters.

They told the story that they moved away from a centralized focus to a decentralized focus, and also placed greater emphasis on building vs. buying and weaned themselves off third party consultants. The adjusted their tech to ensure that teams could work more independently, and adopted a “you build it, you own it” culture.

As they went down this journey, they also re-evaluated what it means to be a Scrum Master for Captial One. They played a great video on the value that their Scrum Masters bring to the teams – snippets on that value from team members: “Lots of freedom, more responsibility to the team, doesn’t enforce process for the sake of process, removes impediments, raises issues, gatekeeper/protects the team, team focused, great communicator, great listener, facilitator, pulls the team together, sets standards, and the oil that keeps the engine running.” You get the idea.

They shared the evolution of the role over the last five years to be one that’s also focused on the flow of delivery and also have included some technical understanding.

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Likening a Scrum Master’s skills to those of a person cooking to a chef, they began to think of things on a continumum.

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They shared the idea of the three dimensions that a Scrum Master needs to balance:

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I’m curious where Captial One continues to take this work because the career path for a Scrum Master is something that I’ve always wondered. From my view of the work in project and program management, I can see the career opportunities and growth for team members.

Next up was one of my favorite sessions of the conference, Patterns from child psychology to build safety in teams: the Circle of Security framework

I studied child psychology and development in college, so this session piqued my interest. I’m also a firm believer in the need for psychology safety for people to be able to perform at their highest abilities.

Matthew Hodgson and Mia Horrigan explained The Circle of Security Framework, which shows that children need a safe space/safe hands to return to “fill their cup” after exploring the world has become stressful and/or has made them anxious. When the “world” is not okay, they need a safe place to retreat.

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Imagine a beach scene – rolling waves onto the shore, a palm tree blowing in the wind. Now, play the theme from Jaws over that scene. Scary, right? Go back to the same scene, play some peaceful, new agey music. Calming, right? Same scene, the music caused different reactions.

Throughout the talk, they brought up Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs and how it can translate to teams.

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There was an overarching, “if the leader isn’t in a good place and is anxious, the team member won’t believe that they’re a safe space.” That’s why self care as a leader is important.

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But, what does safety mean? It takes different meanings in different cultures. In Hierarchical Cultures, like those in Asia countries, Hierarchy is reassuring.

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And my favorite (ps – the US is high on the Masculine index…)

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What can we as leaders do? What’s the expectation of our team members?

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Matthew and Mia then shared a quadrant to show the dynamics of Psychological Safety and Motivation and Accountability.

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I really liked this slide that helped articulate what happens in an anxious person’s mind.

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How can we help team members move from this square to the learning zone?

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It also helps to recognize feelings, including those that you’re not comfortable with as a leader. Remember other people’s feelings can trigger strong feelings in us.

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And in conclusion:

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I will watch video (hopefully there is one) of this session, it had so much power in it.

Can’t believe that today is the last full day of the conference. It’s been an amazing experience, and I’m already excited for Agile2018!

1 comment on “Agile2017 Recap – Day 5

  1. “it had so much power in it”

    Thanks so very much for coming to our talk. I’d glad you got so much out of it 🙂

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