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Dont´t do it!: Agile or dummy? (Chapter II)

It had been a couple of months after taking the position of General Manager, it was time to make decisions. He had no idea if they would be rightly strong and immediate decisions or if it would be something a little more gradual.

So, I decided to jump into the pool, because I had to adapt to the way of working today. How to get the team to achieve its goals, how to take control of the company, and manage it efficiently was my main challenge. With everyone's expectations, something amazing had to be done to show my hand.

The first thing I did, and like any General Manager, was to undo everything the person in charge did before I took over.

Being very categorical, I told the team “we are going to change the way we work. I don't want boring, timeless meetings, or 1-on-1 meetings every week. Here we are going to start working with agility. We do agile software development for our clients, so we are going to transform ourselves into an agile, top-down company ”.

When I finished speaking, I felt as if everyone was watching me with a great touch of motivation, decision, and enthusiasm. I saw in their eyes as if I were the messiah, the savior, and worst of all, I didn't quite know what I was talking about. I knew some agility but was very far from being an expert.

My commitment to the entire team was to innovate, change our way of working, eliminate old Management, and apply agility to company management. All this while we were looking for growth for 2018 of 18% compared to the previous year. It is literally the closest thing to changing the wheels of a moving car.

I started to read like crazy about agility but, to be very honest, agility is not something that you can only read about it, you have to live it, no matter how cliché it sounds. The solution, as a framework, was to use SCRUM ... without first having sat down to analyze what problem we wanted to solve. This was our first mistake.

The second mistake I made was to implement all this cultural and transformation change, to manage the day-to-day tasks with my direct team. It helped us to organize the house and generate a more autonomous and self-organized way of working. But how did we know if what we were doing added real value to the company?

Did we know enough about ‘agility’?

We got to work without achieving much. We did not have a real guide to tell us if we were applying the methodology well or not, so I hired a specialist to give us an introduction to ‘agility’ through a couple of work sessions and practical workshops. The motivation and expectation of my team were so great that even in the second session, which was on a Saturday, and at 09:00, everyone was in the office ready to start this training. Curious to know what new tools would be available for us.

It was Jaime Carril who nurtured our minds with powerful concepts of 'agility'. He prepared us and gave us key tools to continue moving forward because we could not stop the transformational process we were undergoing.

February 2018 looked at us relentlessly. A couple of weeks had passed, but it felt like months. It had destroyed everything done by the previous administration but had not yet created anything. And the obvious question began to hang around my mind: what do I do now?

We returned to the office on Monday and I already felt like a different man, despite all the doubts. I took off my shirt and changed it for a T-shirt, the Dockers for the jeans, and the shoes for sneakers. I already felt like an ‘agilist’, but the only thing that had changed was my look.

Perhaps by suggestion after our training, I heard everywhere about the 'agile mindset' ('what the fuck is that?', I thought), but the people who said it dressed and looked cooler. At least I had the outfit already. Great advance.

I walked around Imagemaker and looked at my team, I saw that lost look, like not understanding anything. It gave the impression that they were more confused than before, something that is common to happen because "agility" can be a little confusing, especially when the leader does stupid things.

Not knowing what to do, a brilliant idea occurs to me, the first of this process: "Ask whoever has all the answers." Do you think I mean Google? No, I am talking about my wife, Mariana Cordero. Being 'Agile Coach' she could orient me a lot, so after several night work sessions, I managed to understand what the agile mindset is, and she explains it to me with a very domestic example: “Have you seen that when you go to the kitchen looking for something, you go back to the bedroom and realize that you could have taken that glass that was on the nightstand? You see that things are arranged, washed, and stored alone, but it is not so, someone does it. When you get to go to the kitchen for something and take advantage of taking something else, it means that you will achieve the agile mindset ’”.

I honestly didn't know if she was getting my attention or if she was really trying to teach me agility. Now, I must say that I DO have the 'mindset', but I still forget to bring the glass, so I think he was giving me a very colloquial lesson, that's why I love her so much. Sometime later I managed to understand, thanks to her, that the ability to prioritize what adds the most value and adapt to the environment to achieve objectives, is really the ‘agile mindset’.

These months of experimentation and constant failure gave us invaluable lessons. The first, which may be a little obvious to anyone, is that before proposing such an important transformation, you must understand very well the reason for the problem, how this cultural change and the way of working solves it. Today ‘agility’ is part of our culture, without it we could not function, but we must be very careful with it because it is not applicable to all kinds of problems, businesses, and environments.

Agility eliminated the Micromanagement (how much do you need? When do you deliver it?). Having a dashboard that gives visibility of the progress of each of the tasks, even if they are day-to-day, allows teams to organize themselves to execute, within a certain Time Box (Sprint), the tasks committed with clear criteria by which will be accepted as resolved.

In a short time, we began to see the benefit of this new way of working, thanks to the fact that we had generated the habits that agility requires. But, we continued with the problem of not being able to measure the impact that our work had on the company. Something was missing. The day to day was being our end. All wrong. Obviously, we lacked a strategy!

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