30 Second Review - The Personal and Career Cost of Agile Adoption

2020-07-08 This post is over 2 years old

I recently watched the first talk from the virtual Agile Shift Conference. If you didn’t know, the entire conference went virtual and concluded just last week. They’ve posted the videos, which I’ve found very informative!

Back on topic, I think I watched this talk at like 2AM, while rocking my newest child to sleep. But one of the ideas was clear, and tangible enough that even at that wee hour I was able to grasp it. I even applied it right then: the 30-second review.

The 30-second review is what it sounds like. Take 30 seconds after you finished consuming an input, to jot down some notes. Your personal takeaways don’t have to be big, just what stood out to you. Derek Sivers does something similar with the books he reads. As a result, I thought sharing my 30-second reviews might be a quick way to benefit the community. We’ll each pull something different out of a given talk, so here’s mine.

Naturally one of my takeaways from the talk was the 30-second review. The note I captured was: ‘Post input, take 30s to boil what you learned down to the most useful takeaways for you.’ Quick and simple. And it fits nicely into the Tiny Next Step framework.

Elsewhere in the talk, Devlin spoke about the scary career territory that Agile Transformations tend to create. While talking about what it takes for a transformation to succeed, he specifically mentioned to need to care for the people affected. Consider the Project Manager. What happens to their role when the department becomes agile? Can it truly stay unchanged? Some people suggest they become Scrum Masters. But the truth is those jobs require different skill sets. And not every Project Manager will find being a Scrum Master fulfilling. At the same time, we cannot expect them to ‘just figure it out’.

If we did that, we should expect those affected to be come disengaged at a minimum. In the worst case, we could expect them to being to actively resist the change. Personally, I suspect this may be a key reason why so many agile renewals fail to achieve results. People don’t see their place in the new system, and act in rational self-interest. Now that can feel a bit jaded. People aren’t always rationale.

Consider a more emotional case then: What do you say to the one who’d work for the last 5 years to be ready for a position that evaporated overnight!? Sorry, better luck next time !? I think this was part of the career cost that Devlin points to in the title. If you want an agile transformation to take root, you must build the ramp for the people to buy-in, and to be included.

The last note I had from this talk points to journalling. In the Q&A period, Devlin was asked about how he had prepared himself to lead these kinds of organizations. He pointed to journalling. Particularly, he mentioned a PowerPoint template that he uses when ‘he’s messed something up’. The comfort he had with a template composed of guiding questions eased the mental friction I’d had with my own journalling habit. If he can rely on a template with leading questions, then there is no reason I should try! This reminder of ‘journalling templates’ encouraged me to try to establish the habit again.

So what did you think? What’s in your 30 second review?