Goodbye zanox! Time to move on

After a hilarious four years ride I decided it is time for me to leave my comfort zone again and move on. End of October, in about two weeks, my last day as Lean Delivery Agent at zanox has come.

Looking back, the last four years were a big step forward for my personal development, my understanding of Agile, Lean, and studies on company cultures. Back in 2010 I joined the introduction of Scrum in our organization. My highlight there was to see how effective Agile processes make fundamental problems transparent. I also learned how important the right people with the right mindset in the right positions in a company are, and what a fundamental requirement for the success of “Agile” this is.

Fortunately latest in 2012 the organization got such really great people in the tech management, with CTO Christian Rebernik, Director of Engineering Adam Drake, and Director of Lean Delivery and Engineering Marco Melas. Those guys really rock. Together with them I introduced Kanban as change management tool in the tech department, and supported the growth of a mature, self-organizing, flexible, learning organization. I saw teams developing, focusing on meaningful work, striving for excellence, while a truly “Agile”, people and collaboration driven, management kept their backs free. I saw the successes in trimming down an overgrown, massively complex, 13 years old, legacy-burdened platform, resulting from an unhealthy need to push out more and more features at any cost, to a state of the art, maintainable and sustainable system. Together with about 60 people we successfully fought through a massively challenging key project that bound resources (people, money, time) for about four years – while keeping a sustainable pace. And the most impressive thing: we grew with the challenge of this not very popular kind of special beast, and many good habits we developed stuck even after the project ended.

Together with the Lean Delivery team we run a lot of experiments on processes, tools, habits, meetings, reportings, to find out what works and what doesn’t in our culture and our context. We hacked the culture, coached people and teams and challenged nearly every process and requirement to find out what really matters. That was extremely valuable. Always striving for evolution instead of revolution, to lower the “negative impact” of the J Curve, applying Kanban thinking.

I met a lot of great people and found friends. Besides all the challenges the company was and is facing it turned into a really great place to work. So I’m looking back with some tears in my eyes, and proud of the way we walked together. However, my feelings say time has come to face another challenge, another workplace that waits for being turned into greatness. This time even on larger scale. And I’m sure this will be a big chance for me to grow and learn even more.

Culture Fitness Training with Olaf Lewitz

When I first read about Olaf’s Culture Fitness training I knew I want to attend. And guess what: I made it.

TL;DR: Was it worth time & money invested? Yes.

Why? Well – first of all the participant group was quite heterogenous. People from different companies, with different backgrounds, contexts, experiences to share but amazingly open-minded and trustful. We shared and discussed a lot of things that matter to us in our daily life and this alone would justify the two days spent.

But furthermore I expanded my “toolbox” with some great tools and practical experiences I can use to help growing awesome workplace cultures. My highlights: the amazing Kris Map exercise, the experience of using Lego Strategic Play to help expressing your thoughts, playing Personality Poker to learn more about you and the people that matter to you. Not to forget the excursion into Temenos as room for building understanding, trust and empathy.

All this was decorated in the end with some glimpses at theoretical foundations, reading recommendations from Olaf as well as from the attendee group itself, and lots of food for thought.

Not to forget the awesome pricing model of “pay what it’s worth for you”. Even THIS is a highlight, in so many ways :)

So – can I recommend to attend?
Definitely yes.

Trust, Courage, and Greatness

“So – you’re a ScrumMaster?” I’ve been often asked. “Maybe, but in the end it doesn’t matter”, I replied. Right now I’ve got an even more fancy role title in my organization: “Lean Delivery Agent”.

I don’t care.

I’m in the software business since more than ten years. And until now it was quite a ride. Back in 2008 I started with Scrum, implementing it in a SME in Berlin, when I was building up there development department with a team of eight developers and a Product Owner. Before and after this conscious entry into my “Agile career” I met quite some companies, and every had its own, unique culture. Some were great, some were painful – but I don’t regret anything. Because the awesome thing is: I learned from every culture. What made the great things great, why did failures happen, how good went similar stuff in different organizations.

For me it turned out that three things are crucial in the end:

1. Trust

It’s never about the process – it’s about trust. The less people trust each other, the bigger the demand for processes is. But every process is kind of waste. It doesn’t deliver value to the customer. The customer doesn’t care how sophisticated your processes are, how great your financial controlling works, how well documented your roles and responsibilities are in the company. He cares for your products and services, for their quality and how they ease his live. A trustful culture can much more focus on value than a culture based on control. Trust also fosters autonomy, mastery, and purpose, the three main drivers of human motivation, as Dan Pink wrapped it up.

2. Courage

To move ahead you need to break the rules. You have to find out which make sense and which don’t, and why. To do so you need courage. When there is no courage there will be no improvement, no innovation. If everybody is careful not to change, to break something, the organization will stick in the status quo. But the environment changes, regardless of the organization. The market changes, the customer changes, the technology changes, the people change. So also an organization has to change. But since there is no guaranteed road to success (or even survival) you need to find out what may work and learn from failure on your own. And therefore you need courage. The more courageous people you have, who are not afraid of sharing their opinions, challenging decisions, and just doing things a new way to prove their ideas, the higher the possibility for the success and survival of an organization is.

And again trust is helpful. When there is no trust in that people do their best, and if people have to fear failures, it will torpedo courage.

3. Greatness

Go for greatness. As person as well as as an organization. Try to be good in everything you do. Try to learn, to always improve. Don’t be just mediocre. Don’t hire just good people. Hire great people! Don’t just provide the stuff your competitors have. Provide the better! Don’t just give your employees a job. Give them purpose! (And by the way: just making more money or please your shareholders is not a purpose, as little as just keeping your job). Don’t just do your job. Do the best job you can! Don’t just run a company. Create the greatest workplace ever! The more you accept mediocrity the more you will loose the ability to grow and evolve.

If you are unable to be great in the things you are doing, then maybe those are the wrong things for you. And what satisfaction will you find in the end for doing wrong stuff for long time?

So that are the things I care for in my job, I try to seed and grow, whatever my title may be: trust, courage, and greatness.