curved line

Ep. 81: 12 year-end suggestions for 2023


12 year-end suggestions for becoming more agile in 2023.

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podcast recording


[00:00:00] Peter Maddison: Hello, and welcome to another exciting episode of definitely Maybe Agile with your hosts, Peter Madison and David Sharrock. How are you today, Dave?

[00:00:07] Dave Sharrock: Oh, it's the end of the year. It's always good looking outside, getting a great crispy feel to the air. I'm looking forward to that time when you get a few weeks to decompress and think about next year and reflect on last year.

[00:00:21] Peter Maddison: Yep. What do we have on the cards today?

[00:00:23] Dave Sharrock: Well, of course we've got the 12 days of Happy holidays. 12 things to take away as we wrap up for the year.

[00:00:32] Peter Maddison: I think, as we were writing these down, we came up with four general categories. The first of those was around marketplace, change and the world we find ourselves in today.

[00:00:41] Where would you like to start there?

[00:00:42] Dave Sharrock: If you look over the last few years, so many different things have been hitting organizations one thing after the next. As we come to the close, a lot of organizations are looking forward to next year with trepidation, with concern about another thing. Which is the state of the economy, inflation and various things like that, which are beginning to bite in a number of different sectors. One of the first takeaways is to recognize that in a sense, this is the new normal. Change is the new black. It's the way it is. We have to adapt to it all the time rather than occasionally.

[00:01:19] Peter Maddison: Yeah. It feels like we're always adapting to the next crisis. The next thing that's coming at us, the next external event which is coming. So we've got to be able to build systems that respond to that. So stop looking at the world around you as if it's static, and start thinking about the fact that it is going to be changing. And based on that, how are you going to respond differently?

[00:01:38] Dave Sharrock: I think it's a concept of static, versus dynamic. You want to be nimble and ready for continually having to adjust. Rather than static, and being fragile. Let's be nimble on our feet. Let's think about how to help our teams do the same thing through systems, through the way we work. But what else would you add around marketplace and change?

[00:01:59] Peter Maddison: So the second one, also under marketplace and change, is around thinking holistically. Think about the entire system. Very often we get stuck with just looking at a single part of the system and not realizing that there's so much more going on. What are the inputs in the outputs? Where is everything? Systems exist within systems. Start to think about the system, the whole, rather than looking just at your piece of it. If you find yourself running into barriers or impediments, start to think " could I look at this in a different way?"

[00:02:28] Dave Sharrock: I think it's also that we deal with what's in front of us and we can end up having the blinkers on. Taking that moment to step back and look more holistically allows us to see the context within the broader systems.

[00:02:40] This actually brings us to the third point as well, which is where you get information from. Maybe this is one of those things to look for in the new year is, how do you get information about what's happening from a broader range of sources? When you're looking holistically, you need to get that information coming at you more frequently, and more varied, diverse sources. So how do you get the insights about what's working, what's not in the systems that you are operating.

[00:03:07] Peter Maddison: Very often we get stuck into a set of information sources that we're used to operating within. We always go back to the same places to find them. But there's so much more information out there than we can possibly consume. So going out and finding finding new sources of information that you can use to help refine and build your model of the world that you're operating and interacting with.

[00:03:27] Moving on from marketplace and change, our first category, we're going to move on to our second category, which is pragmatic stuff to remember. Where would you like to start here?

[00:03:35] Dave Sharrock: Yeah, this is my little soapbox that I jump on over and over again, which is shorter time horizons. Deliver short increments quickly. In the world of product development, it's released more frequently. In the world of organizational change, it's small micro changes repeatedly that you can learn from and move in a direction and then pause, and move in a different direction. This whole concept of shorter time horizons, of getting things out of the door more quickly so you can steer, so you can learn, and get feedback is the way we handle dynamic change.

[00:04:09] Peter Maddison: Since you had one of your favorite quotes, I thought I'd have one of mine for our second point too. "You don't rise to your goals, you fall to the level of your systems". This ties back into what we were saying about change and into the shorter time horizons. What are we focused on? What are we actually building? If we just try and work towards our goals and we never achieve them, the system will support us. Are we also building up our system? That will allow us to be able to build, become more responsive and more nimble.

[00:04:31] Dave Sharrock: Yeah. I always think of that as the visionary leader. Without the pragmatic leader backfilling process you're not going to get where you need to get to. They're rarely the same people and they're rarely the same leaders.

[00:04:44] Third thing that we might look at here. We're seeing a lot of people rejigging, rethinking what they're going to do in the new year. One of the key things as you come into the new year is prioritize what you're doing and stop doing stuff. That shift from the old year, to the new year is a really great time to sit down and reevaluate what's essential. Double down on that, but at the same time stop something.

[00:05:06] Peter Maddison: I ran a retro at the end of a strategy workshop for a team of executives last week. The comment I made at the end on, is we didn't say no to anything. It was great. It was wonderful. We put all this work up. We made all of this work visible, but there was nothing that we said no to.

[00:05:21] Dave Sharrock: It's exciting saying yes to new opportunity. And it's really heart rending pulling the plug on things. That the time has come, we've done as much as we can, we need to focus our energy somewhere else. And that's really where we look to our leaders to make those tough decisions.

[00:05:37] Peter Maddison: So our third category is: don't forget.

[00:05:41] Dave Sharrock: We're looking at the economy and we're looking at where things are going into the new year. One of them is, don't forget your people. Really it's spending that time to communicate, to help people understand the uncertainty and help people understand how decisions are being made. People want to know what's going on next year, and they want to know how things will fare. That's a really critical piece to bring to the table.

[00:06:02] Peter Maddison: Security. Security is becoming more and more important as we look at our environments. It's getting integrated into every aspect of the systems of building, the processes that we have in place, into the way that we organize our work. it's such a key part of everything that we do. Looking at how you're going to integrate that into all of the things that you're doing is becoming more and more essential. Every day, it seems we get yet another message about another a hundred million accounts have been taken. This again ties back to thinking holistically. Think about the whole system. Make sure that everybody is at the table so they understand the importance of this. So it isn't something coming out of left field.

[00:06:38] Dave Sharrock: All of these sort of rotate partially around not forgetting your people and having that mindset that we look after our people because they're going to look after our systems, our customers, our future of the business. But that security is an arm of a much broader conversation that you and I have touched on a handful of times through the year, which is the attention given to quality overall. Whether it's development quality or system quality. We've touched on it in the fact that years ago, engineering practices were a big part of the discussion when it came to Lean and Agile or DevOps. Whereas in more recent years, that's taken a backseat. It's been pushed to one side. Yet we've talked a number of times this year about the importance of bringing that back up, and it just feels like now is the right time, as you look into that new year of making sure quality is more important than you think.

[00:07:28] Peter Maddison: This ties into quality as an aspect of value. There's a whole other podcasts we can dig into that one on.

[00:07:35] Moving on to our last category here: what should we be doing for the end of the year?

[00:07:39] Dave Sharrock: One of the things we always encourage our leaders to do is reevaluate the objectives. Look at your North Star. Is it still the right North Star? Given everything that we've talked about. It's a natural time to reevaluate that, to look at it, even to make sure that how you are addressing that is still relevant as you step into 2023.

[00:07:58] Peter Maddison: There's also an opportunity to think about from a self-improvement perspective. What can I go and learn? How am I integrating learning into my day-to-day work and how I operate and my routine? Am I giving myself an opportunity to step back and think about things.

[00:08:14] Dave Sharrock: I just want to pick up on what you were saying there, Peter, because you're saying it from the I perspective, which is a very natural piece. But I also think that this is the time where leaders in the organization can set expectations, can create space for exactly that. So as leaders, we can encourage, we can support, we can create that space. Sometimes when we're busy delivering something, if somebody wants to learn about something which is slightly off the wall or not essential to the delivery that we're working on right now, we might not necessarily encourage or give the time or opportunity for that. Maybe now's the time to let people look at the adjacent rather than focus on what's right in front.

[00:08:53] Peter Maddison: Of one of favorite examples of that is something called Yeti. Year end technology innovation, I think it stands for. The concept is just built around that. What Yeti are you going to produce while you have time? And not all organizations go through a year end slowdown. Some organizations get busier at this time. For quite a lot of industries tends to be a time where things slow down a bit.

[00:09:15] Dave Sharrock: What are the things that we promised to spend time on and just never got a chance? Sometimes we try and utilize every single working day to the end of the year, and I think there's a huge value in just allowing the organization to breathe in and out a bit. Again, depending on your industry, it might be that the time is a different time of year, but there's still that breathing in and out.

[00:09:35] This neatly brings us to the sort of reflection piece, as our 12th thought for the day. Journaling. Taking that time to be thoughtful. I think there's a lot to be said for that. Sometimes we can be work, work work, or work family, work family, or whatever the conjunction of those things that keep us busy. But there's time and space for something different too.

[00:09:56] Peter Maddison: Going back and looking through and seeing what did I accomplish, what conversations did it have? What sort of ideas were out there? What other things could we follow up on and pull together? And being able to mine all of that information is invaluable.

[00:10:09] Dave Sharrock: Sometimes it's really easy to get into this race mentality. And one of the things I really appreciate about spending that time of reviewing where things are and looking ahead a bit and looking behind a bit, is recognizing how well things have gone. There is a long list of stuff that I personally wish I had got to and I didn't. But there's also a long list of stuff that I got to. And I'm pretty happy with where it went. And sometimes taking that moment just to congratulate oneself on the progress that was made.

[00:10:36] Peter Maddison: So we've, we've got through all 12. That's pretty impressive. Should we do a rundown?

[00:10:40] Dave Sharrock: The first group of three: marketplace and change. Recognizing change is the new black. It's here to stay. We've talked about that a lot. Thinking holistically, being able to look around and look at the bigger picture. And getting information from places we've not got information from before.

[00:10:57] Peter Maddison: Then we touched on the second category around, pragmatic stuff to remember. Things that can help guide us. We talked about the shorter time horizons. Making sure that we're actually finishing work and not just starting work. Actually getting things done. Talked about, we don't rise to the levels of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems. About investing and building the systems. Making sure that we're not constantly striving for the next thing. Then the strategic piece: if I'm going to say yes to taking on new work, what am I gonna say no to? What am I going to take off my plate so I'm not constantly getting busier and busy.

[00:11:26] Dave Sharrock: That led us to three things not to forget. And I really love the way you hand over there, because part of the saying no to things that are on people's plate, is don't forget the people. Don't forget that they've got work to do.

[00:11:38] There was also don't forget to communicate. Part of that was also two things that we bump into quite in our own work, which is watch out for security. Bring it, maybe raise it a little. And the other one was around quality. Quality is perhaps more important than you think, is the phrase we came up with.

[00:11:56] Peter Maddison: And then the last category was around things to do for the end of the year. There we covered off revisiting your objectives. Are you still on track? Do you understand your North Stars? Is there anything that needs to change? And then there's reflection. Looking back at what has happened this year and celebrating what we've achieved and not just dwelling on all the things that we didn't get done.

[00:12:14] Dave Sharrock: Well, this is a great way to wrap up for the year, right? What's amazing is we started this year finishing out, 52 weeks and 52 podcasts. And then we introduce the new season format that we've put together. And it's been a real pleasure, Peter, having these conversations, getting feedback, answering some of the comments. Looking forward to doing more of that next year. Yes.

[00:12:36] Peter Maddison: Yeah, that'll be good. Thank you Dave. It's been fantastic.