On Purpose #6: Building Engaged Agility with Matt Lasater
Greg catches up with Matt Lasater from Engaged Agility. Matt is an agile coach who has a passion for teaching and creating an engaging learning environment. We talk about the difference between “Agility” and “Agile”, T-Shaped people and what leadership looks like in an agile environment.
Engaged Agility Website – https://engagedagility.com/
Matt’s book list – https://engagedagility.com/book-recommendations/
Video page on the site – https://engagedagility.com/videos/
Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi6QYhIsJ81deWhMvPuG3Gg
Matt’s LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/matt-lasater-engagedagility/
Engaged Agility Linked In – https://www.linkedin.com/company/engagedagility/
00:10 – Introduction
03:25 – Getting in touch with Agile
06:35 – Definition of Agile
10:20 – Introducing clients to Agile
13:08 – Success factors of Agility
26:00 – Defining roles in the company (T shaped person)
32:17 – Adapting to different types of roles within a company
36:00 – What to do with people who are not Agile
39:29 – Hiring a T shaped person
45:06 – Leadership in Agile organizations
47:50 – The sense of why for Engaged Agility
56:36 – Conclusion
Greg: Hi, I’m here with Matt Lasater. Am I pronouncing that right? That’s correct. From engaged agility. Yeah. And we’re going to talk a little bit about agility and Matt’s background and yeah, and kind of the work that you does. So welcome, Mat. Thank you. Yeah. Maybe, maybe then a good place to start is just, yeah, if you could tell a little bit about your background and how you actually came to be involved in agile and then teaching agile.
Matt: Yeah. You know, I straight out of college, I started doing computer networking and I worked for a large financial services firm. And it didn’t take me long to figure out that the level of technicality that I had to really, really learn to be top in that that industry was more than I cared to learn about technical stuff. So I only did networking for, I don’t know, two or three years. And then I wanted to jump into project management. And so I got a project management position that at that same company. And somewhere around 2007, I got to work on my first agile, agile project, and we had some agile coaches that came in and they were teaching us how to do scrum, and they were trying to transform the whole company to think in a more agile manner. And it was all very new to me, but I really liked it. And about a year after that, the company said, Hey, this is not really working the way that we think it should. No more agile stuff just shut it all down. And I was like, Oh, but I literally just figured it out. I just now learned how to do this. I could do so much better on and kind of a stealth agile for a while. You know, I did all the things that they needed me to do, but I tried to do everything with as much agility as I could.
Matt: And then in about 2010, they said, Hey, we’re going to do agile again. And because I had been really learning about it and working with it for the last three years when everybody else had kind of stopped, I kind of became the lead at the organization and I was I became what they called the agile, agile practice lead. And we hired some more consultants. And for me every day going to lunch with these guys and just hearing what they talk about and learning from them was great. And it was kind of at that point that I knew that one day I wanted to start my own business around agility, whether it was teaching agile classes or doing consulting. And so I kind of started working towards that from, I don’t know, from about 2011 2012, up until the time that I actually started my own business, which I picked the most. I don’t know if it was opportune or in opportune time, but February 14th of 2020 was my last day in the corporate world. And then about three weeks later, the whole world shut down, which was really weird and made my wife very, very nervous. But everything’s been great since then, so it’s been a lot of fun.
Greg: Cool. Nice. Yeah. So I’m hearing you speak. I guess I wanted to know. So when you first sort of got in touch with agile, what was it that you liked, liked about it? And what made you think that, oh, maybe I want to continue with this?
Matt: Yeah, there were probably several things. There was there’s a certain naturalness to agility. In my mind, it focuses on delivering value to the customer and moves away from what at that time, I was experiencing a ton of bureaucracy. Like, there were so many documents that we would fill out and things that we would do as a project team that didn’t seem to matter. I was like, I don’t think anybody ever opens this document after we create it. I don’t know why we ever created. And with agile, it was much more focused on delivering value to the customer. So, so there was the focus of it was better. But then the way we did things was much more natural. The the thought patterns of Hey, let’s focus on one small thing and deliver it and get feedback that totally made sense to me. It wasn’t about trying to create large stacks of documents, it wasn’t trying to get all of the requirements done upfront and then two years later, actually delivering something to the customer. It was much more focused, much more iterative, and there was feedback built into it and it just felt natural to me.
Greg: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So it’s kind of this moving away from bureaucracy and moving away from sort of excessive planning. Something that might never happen.
Matt: Right, right, yeah, and that something that might never happen seemed to happen a lot. We would do a lot of things and put in weeks or months worth of work and then people would be like, Oh, wait, never mind. Don’t do anything. And I’m like, Whoa. You absolutely get nothing for what we did over the last three months. What if you could have gotten something and agile kind of answered that? The other thing that I really liked about agile and still like today is the principles and the mindset of it all. It’s not necessarily about the steps and the process that we go through. It’s not about doing daily stand-ups or demos or any of that kind of stuff. It’s about making decisions based on the agile principles of individuals and interactions and about some of the lean principles like limiting your whip. And it’s around things like collaborating with a team and getting feedback from the actual user as opposed to somebody that is maybe tangentially using or being a proxy for the customer. So it’s about getting that real feedback. And I really like those things because when you’re in a tough situation, you can rely on those principles to make a decision and hopefully be moving in the right direction. Mm-hmm.
Greg: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Yeah. I’m wondering, actually, it would probably be helpful if if if you could sort of give like in a nutshell, definition of agile. And then also because I know that you like to distinguish it, you kind of did this already, but distinguish this kind of philosophy from the practices which right? Yeah.
Matt: So, so in my mind, there’s two different words, and they’re both very close. One is agile and agile is a set of frameworks in my mind. It’s based on some principles and values. But when I think of safe, I think of less. I think of the teams that are using a common bond. They’re very much frameworks and processes that people use to get work done. And when I think of agility, I think of our ability to sense and respond to change now. Agile frameworks are all built on the idea of agility, but agility goes much further than just those frameworks. So I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the show American Ninja Warrior, but these guys are running across these obstacle courses and the platforms will shake and the barrels will turn. And as they’re hanging onto these bars, they the bars will drop and they have to sense and respond to the changes in the obstacle course. Otherwise they fall in this in this pit of water down below. And that’s agility. Our ability to sense and respond to change and that’s sensing and responding to change can happen for someone running an obstacle course. It can happen to a company, it can happen to a team, it can happen to an individual. There’s change that happens in our lives every day. And our ability to sense those changes happening and respond in an appropriate manner enables us to succeed or move forward or get the job done or whatever it is.
Matt: But that sensing and responding is very, very important in my mind. That idea of sensing and responding is agility. Now agile, if we scrum is probably the most popular, agile methodology out there, Scrum has taken ways to sense and respond for a team and put them into a process. So you do things like planning and then planning. You commit to things and then every two weeks you re-plan. But at the end of that two weeks, you demonstrate work so that you know, you build two weeks worth of stuff and you show it to the user and you go, Hey, we built this little bit. Does it look right? And then the user goes, Yes or no? Well, if the user says no, that is absolutely wrong. It was just two weeks worth of work that we did. It was something very, very small and that two weeks can be that iteration length can change in the shorter the iteration length, the better off we are because we’re getting those feedback loops faster. But Scrum gives us the mechanics to make it happen where, in my mind, agility is a little bit more. I don’t know the word here, just a little more abstract, I guess. But it leads us to it leads us. If you think about agility, it will lead you to things like scrum.
Greg: Right? Gotcha. Yeah. Speaking of sensing responding, yeah, a man just posted a sign saying, We’re going to test the lights in one minute. The lights go out. Yeah, so that’s happened.
Matt: At least it was the lights and not the electricity, right?
Greg: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Ok, cool. So that’s that’s made things quite clear. And so I guess that leads me to ask when you start to work with an individual or an organization, do you start with agile before start with agility before moving to the agile and the practices? Or is it sort of a mixture of both or it depends on what the client needs? How does it normally go for you?
Matt: Yeah. In the coaching world, we always say that you need to start wherever the client is and come to them and hear what it is that they need and want first. I always try to start with agility in some way, shape or form, but oftentimes the client is 36 six steps down the road and they’re already trying to use one of the agile methods. And the way that I weave it in is as we start talking about the methods that they’re using, they’re like, Hey, you know, we do our demos on every Thursday and stuff like that, and I go and I watch a demo and as I’m pulling it apart, rather than talking too much about the demo, I talk about agility. I talk about the principles of agility. And I’m like, Hey, one of the things that I noticed in the demo was that there wasn’t much around metrics and actual data. You just showed some working software. Have you thought about looking at data and they’re like, Well, what does that mean? And I’m like, Well, let’s be transparent with the things that we built and how we built them and how fast we built them and whatever metrics we collect. And so I’m relying back on some of the the agility principles around measuring things and really making data driven decisions. To help inform how maybe that process of the demonstration. Could be better. And so I always try to tie it in, but there’s I guess there’s a time and a place to bring in those kinds of conversations. And if I just came in in the beginning and said, let me tell you about agility, they would be saying, but I need help with planning and stand-ups and demos and retrospectives. And so I kind of have to I have to make that tie for them.
Greg: Yeah, yeah, exactly. I guess there’s always going to be that tension between sort of. The ideal and getting back to the principles and the basics and sort of just. This sort of urgent needs on the ground that also have to be met, right?
Matt: Right, right. And just like an agile team is there to provide value to the end user, well, these guys are my end-user, and so I’m there to provide as much value as quickly as I can to them so that they can start to realize that value and make their process better and start to realize the gains from whatever it is that we’re talking about. Hmm. Ok.
Greg: Yeah. And I’m wondering. What tends to be the kind of success factors with a client for sort of agility and agile to take hold? Are there things that sort of getting in the way of it or the things that sort of aid it? What you?
Matt: Yeah. Most organizations today, especially the larger companies they were started and built upon a management decision system, if you will, that was designed from factories. And while possibly a bit stereotypical, if you think about the people that were the managers of factories back in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, it was people that had grown up in those factories and knew every single job that was there. And if something broke, they knew and understood, you know, Oh, that broken, it’s going to cause this impact. And so they could literally make a ton of decisions based on the things that were happening on the factory floor. And in today’s world, that’s not really how we work anymore. You know, the manager of a factory might have been the smartest person about all that entire process in the factory back then. But today, the manager of a development team or the management of a marketing team or the management of an HR team may not be the smartest person on that topic anymore because things are changing so fast. But the way that we structure our organizations, the, you know, you’ve got people, the report to a manager that reports to a director that reports to the AVP that, you know, whatever it is, all of that in the way that the organization as a whole makes decisions is still based on that. That mindset from the 40s, 50s and 60s and agile and agility are trying to change that mindset.
Matt: And it’s actually very difficult to do. And whenever I look at an organization, I always try to stress to them how important leadership is going to be. It’s really hard for me to go in and help a team be better at what that team does if they don’t have support throughout the entire system because the system is one large organism and I I can’t just take one small little part, you know better and expect everything to be better. We have to focus on the whole organization, at least in some way, shape, or form and kind of slowly. But we have to make culture change throughout the entire organization so that everybody is starting to think and make decisions in this same agile way, right? I talk about a lot with a lot of the organizations. I talk about the agility bubble, and if I go in, I can start with one small area, be it a team or maybe five or six teams. And we can put them in this bubble and we can make everything inside. That bubble is agile as we can. And what’s going to happen is as they start to really figure out how to make it work, they’re going to realize their dependencies outside the bubble and that they’re going to try to expand that bubble to incorporate the things that they rely on on the most.
Matt: So, you know, maybe they need to talk to the database team a lot. Or maybe there’s a lot of security requests that they need to make, or maybe they have a lot of interactions with the marketing team. And that agility bubble is going to try to expand and bring those other teams into the agility bubble as much as they can. Well, as it expands those other teams, if they don’t understand why they would want to be in that agility bubble, they’re out there with sharp, pointy things, trying to pop that bubble. And it becomes very hard. So we need to kind of prepare the path in by talking to leadership and saying, Hey, we’re going to create an agility bubble. This is where it’s going to go and we need your support that the vision that we’re trying to create for the entire organization is in this small little microcosm of the bubble. And we need you to help everybody else understand that as the bubble expands, it’s OK for them to start thinking in that way, it’s OK for them to change their thought processes. It’s OK for them to change their day-to-day activities and to work and think differently.
Greg: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think yeah because we we’re sort of ourselves experimenting a little bit with the and a bit involved in the terror organization type right type thing. And indeed, with hypocrisy, they really say it’s it’s kind of going to be a whole organization change. I mean, you can run it in a team, but at some point you’re going to run up against. Yeah, just a different culture. And then, yeah, and then it’s you’re not because I guess it’s about. Well, at least we told it’s about individual power, so power being at like decision making, power being kind of decentralized to the people that actually are on the ground and get that feedback, right? And but then if you if you’re blocked in your power by other parts of the organization that just don’t want to give that away, then it starts to fall apart a little bit, right?
Matt: Right, right. Yeah. And those are some of the exact same things we talk about with agility. The decentralized, decentralized decision-making is, is what we call it, but we’re pushing the decision-making down to the lowest level possible. Yeah, they’re the ones that do the workday in and day out and go back to the factory analogy, right? 50, 60, 70 years ago. That manager of the factory had been there and knew what was happening, and so they could make those decisions because they had been on the floor not too terribly long ago and not a lot had changed in the one-two or ten years since they had been on the floor. It was probably all the same machines that they were using back then. But now things change so rapidly. If if you were an amazing developer five years ago but haven’t touched it in five years, you’re completely lost. Now you understand the concepts, but the details of it have changed and you need to let the people that understand those details better. You need to let them make the decisions. One, you’re probably going to get a better decision, right? Because they just simply no more. And two, you’re going to get a faster decision. I mean, imagine if you if every time you wanted to implement some piece of code, you had to go up to the manager and go, Hey, I want to push this code through and you had to wait for the manager and they’re like, Oh, I will prove that tomorrow. I’ve got a very important meeting today. Well, now you’ve added delays into our system to get stuff out, and that’s not good. We want to get stuff delivered as quickly as we can so that the value is delivered to the approvals and the lack of knowledge make decentralized decision-making the absolute best thing we can do as opposed to waiting.
Greg: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, that’s kind of what we know when we’re building up our company because I mean, I started in SEO, so when I was doing that, I had the ability to do it. But then after a couple of years, sort of pass that on to go in a different role. And we had other people doing it. And now it’s been maybe three or four years and I’m like, I’m really not equipped any longer to properly do to do so because it’s just changed so, so much. So I actually, you know, I I way more back someone they now regularly doing it than myself with outdated knowledge.
Matt: Yeah, you have you understand the importance of SEO. You understand some of maybe the larger overarching reasons of why you would focus on it in one place or why you wouldn’t focus in another place. But the nuts and bolts and bits and bytes of it? Yeah, yeah, I’m sure it’s changed since last week. So exactly three years ago. Is ancient ancient
Greg: Knowledge, right? Exactly, exactly. Yeah. And then we were like, because and then it’s almost like there’s two the two mindsets and you talked about a little bit because. When we were building things up, there was this idea of like, OK, we need to get our processes down, we need to get them in process documents and just have everything documented centrally. And we did that bit. But then we noticed that it’s just it was actually such a ridiculous thing to do because we would make a process that then someone that we hired on who has this feedback and is like has the most up to date knowledge would have to try to fit themselves into an inferior process to what they actually know we can do, right? So it was a total waste of time. And then, yeah, it was more sort of just trying. The best thing we found to do is just trying to kind of have a system like guideposts of how it works and then and then just get across the idea that it’s like Ball’s in your court, like just do what you know what to do? And then, yeah. And that seems to work much better.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. No, it’s totally true. There’s the team. I work more with teams than I do with individuals, but the team is going to figure out the best way to get their work done. And you kind of need to give them the latitude to do that. And we call it self-organizing and self-managing teams in the agile world. But the idea is, is that they’re going to figure out the best way to get it done. And yes, there has to, especially in some of these, like in a financial services industry, there’s so much regulation that happens in the medical industry. There’s so much regulation. The government institutions are going to put a lot of guideposts on there. You’ve got to stay within these. But there’s still plenty of latitude to do stuff. And sometimes the way that that team over their works and the way that that team over their works doesn’t have to be exactly the same. They do different things. They interact with the other different groups. So why should they have to use the same processes and methods to get stuff done? They need to work out the best way for them.
Greg: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Exactly. For sure. Yeah, I know sometimes even with because I also I like to process and stuff. So I I have times where I sort of build a process and then give it to someone. And then it’s also just like, this is actually a wasted waste of time. Because, yeah, I mean, I like the feeling of control, but then it’s actually they know how to figure it out better than this thing that I’ve just learned. So, yeah, right?
Matt: Yeah, it’s always best to kind of pull everybody into a group and say, Hey, here’s the problem we need to solve. Let’s figure out the best way for us to solve the problem. And whenever you give somebody a process, you’re that that manager from the 50s saying, Hey, I know this process better than you go do this. And sometimes they look at you like, you’re crazy. Yeah. I think one thing that is really tough for larger organizations is that sometimes they have to dictate process because they’ve created so much separation of duties. So the process to get a column added to a database is you have to fill out the request form, you send the request form in. It sits in the queue for two days. Somebody looks at it and then they go, Oh, I’ll get to that because I do those requests on Thursday and then on Thursday, they get there, they get it done, and it literally takes some 30 minutes to get it done. Yeah, and then they send it back to the team. Well, now the team, it’s like four or five days down the road and they’re like, Oh, yeah, I sent that thing in the other day, but they’re focused on something else. And so it’s it’s processes like those where we have crossed team dependencies that really create a lot of the friction in the overall delivery of value. And I work with a lot of teams trying to figure out how to make that work and we always get back to. But this is how we do it in our organization, and that’s why it’s so hard to to to get or I guess maybe not so hard. It’s so important to get everybody to understand that, no, we want to change the way you think and the way you work to make all of this smoother, right? We want it to be a smooth flow of value.
Greg: Yeah, yeah, that’s that brings up a something. Yeah, an interesting point, which is around, I guess it’s around roles because you mentioned this sort of almost overly delineating roles and responsibilities where then it leads to just this inefficiency. And I because that’s something I went about with us because I would say, we, you know, we have roles, but they are very much on the other side of, not as clearly defined. So people pick up what they can pick up. So like Clayton might have something they just need help with. And it’s not necessarily my role, but I will just help them. And I also wonder. Would we benefit a bit more from defining a bit more clearly and then saying sometimes this is my is not my role, you know, kind of this is for someone else. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on how to find a balance between the two things. Yeah.
Matt: In agility, we talk about a generalizing specialist and we talk about T-shaped shaped people. And I guess the antithesis of a T-shaped person would be an eye-shaped person. So an eye shaped person has one specialty and they have a lot of knowledge in that one thing. And so a from a marketing perspective, it’s I do SEO and I only do SEO. I don’t know anything, nor do I care anything about social media. Right? And a T-shaped person. They have depth of knowledge in one area, but a breadth of knowledge across everything. Meaning that they could go and help and probably learn some things about the other practices or the. I can’t think of the word here. The other practices, the other areas of marketing. And once they start to branch out and get that that T shape happening, they can help out a little bit with social media and they can figure out how their specialty helps with the other two or three or 10. And so having someone that. It wants to be a T-shaped person is beneficial. Absolutely. Having a culture that encourages a T-shaped person is even better. And we call that continuous learning. I want you to learn if you’re the CEO guy, I want you to learn about SEO and I want you to keep up with all the things that are happening there. Yeah, but you also have to realize that there’s other touchpoints that happen just to be the absolute best SEO person in the world doesn’t create the best. Marketing organization in the world, right? It takes it takes multiple people with multiple skill sets, but they all have to know how inner relates because we’re trying to build the whole system. When we talk about lean, we talk about optimizing the whole or we talk about systems thinking. And in this case, the system is How do I build a good marketing organization and an organization that can deliver marketing to others? We want to optimize that whole system, and T-shaped people will help do that. Mm-hmm.
Greg: Yeah. Yeah, interesting. I like I really like the concept of t shaped person because, yeah, even before you mentioned the learning, yet you have the sense of like, yeah, with these like with the arms. Indeed, it’s about learning more things than just what’s in your bucket, and I guess that can also lead to learning as leads to. Kind of discovering areas where you might want to actually act more or take on them or something like that, so it’s right.
Matt: Yeah. And the other thing that I think about and I was working with an organization one time and they had a ton of Java work that needed to be done. Ok. And. They also had a team that only did mobile work, and I asked, I said. Why can’t we, the mobile developers, know Java, right, they understand how to write Java, and they could at least help. And they were like, yes, and I was like, Well, why don’t we put them over there so we can work through that Java work? And the response that I got was will, because they’re mobile developers and they don’t do Java work and I’m like, but they could like they have the knowledge and the skills and the access, right? Yes. Well, why don’t we get them to do that? No, not going to do that. And I said, Well, what are they going to do instead? And they said, Well, I guess we’ll just go find some mobile work for them. So it created a couple of things, right? One, there were people actively looking for lower-value work to do mobile work at the time. We didn’t need to do a lot of it. So they were trying to create work to keep these guys busy, thereby working on something of less value. And second of all, the work that we needed to get done just kept slugging along because we didn’t have enough developers to get the stuff done.
Matt: And it completely didn’t make sense to me as to why we should and ask the question. I said, What happens if one day there is no mobile work, which I know is probably never going to happen, but just play the game with me here what happens? And the manager was like, Well, I don’t know. I said, Do we fire them if there’s no mobile work? Because that’s the only thing they’re going to do? And it was just kind of silence. And I was like, well, you know, we need to be able to shift our people to different places, to do different things and whatever they’re able to do and able to help with that pushes the value. We have to keep the goal in mind. We’re trying to deliver value to the end-user in the shortest sustainable lead-time. And if that means that mobile developers need to go do some Java work, then great. If if we think that it’s so much that we need our mobile developers to actually learn Java if they didn’t know it in the beginning, go learn Java. Yeah, send them off for a week or two or three. Give them the basics of Java, bring them back and, you know, give them the easy Java work to do. That’s all fine, but we can’t remain in our silos. It’s going to hurt us long-term.
Greg: Yeah, definitely. And that kind of relates to actually something I was thinking about just today, which is like that. There seems like having just like a specific role, like a specific job title. And knowing that you are just basically stuck to that job, so exactly like in your case, you know what happens if there’s no buyout, no more mobile work then than I, then I’m throwing out the company and it seems that somewhere in the back of people’s minds, maybe not in this example, but in a lot of cases there is that sense of like. I could be out of a job, and it can almost it feel like it could almost block innovation because, you know, like a lot of innovation at the moment is, say, automating things. But actually, there’s actually a disincentive to automate because you can automate yourself out of a job. So if you have an organization that’s more flexible where you know that, OK, I ultimate myself out of the job, but I know I can, I can learn and I can move to a different type of role, like on a different area of expertise. Then it sort of removes the disincentive.
Matt: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And that’s when you’re a T-shaped person, yeah, you start to worry less about the selfish decision of, I’m going to do this. So I keep my job and you start to worry more about where can I add the most value within this process or within the organization? And I mean, I’ve I’ve been around enough companies. I’ve worked for enough companies. I’ve never seen anybody lose their job because they automated themselves out of a job or, you know, I’ve seen people not have that job anymore, you know, hey, I was I was a widget maker, and now we make our widgets automatically. Now I don’t have a job. I’ve never seen that happen. Yeah, I’ve seen widget makers where we’ve automated the making of widgets have to move somewhere else, and I’ve seen people that can easily make the leap. And I’ve seen people that really, really struggle making the leap to somewhere else. But that’s kind of agility, right? I mean, that’s the I can sense that my field is going away. I need to respond in some way I should pick up another skill I should. Whatever the answer is, I’m sensing and responding to that change that I’m feeling, but the people that don’t sense and respond that are like, Nope, the only thing I was born to be a widget maker and I’m going to stamp out widgets all day long until I’m ninety-five years old. Yeah. If you’re that stuck in in the way I’m in your ways, then I don’t know what’s going to happen when we don’t need people to stamp out widgets anymore, like I literally can’t help you.
Greg: Yeah, yeah. I guess that brings up the topic of like sort of. People like people that are well suited to this type of working or blockers, maybe blockers, to becoming a t-shirt shaped person. And I wonder what like I wonder what you answer to? And this is a question that my mom asked me the other day, just like, you know? What if someone asked about people that just don’t feel comfortable working in that kind of way, people that don’t feel comfortable having? You know, this freedom to basically choose what to do and to take responsibility. How would you how does an organization work with that?
Matt: Yeah, I’ve always thought that organizations should hire for mental aptitude and ability to work with others and all too often they’re hiring for skills, right? You bring somebody in and you’re like, OK, tell me, tell me how good you are at SEO, tell me how good you are at social media. Most of those skills, I mean, I’d like to think that if you and I spent, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s three weeks or three months, but I’d like to think that you could probably teach me enough about SEO that I could be fairly good at it. And so you should be hiring as an organization, you should be hiring for the people that want to learn multiple you. You hire a T-shaped person. I don’t care what your depth of knowledge is. Can you learn other things? If yes, maybe you’re a good fit here. And when you’ve got people that don’t fit, if you’re trying to build an organization that wants to be a whole ocracy and they want to be teal-colored, then you need to hire people that fit that mold. Not somebody that’s good at SEO or good at social media or a mobile developer or a Java developer or whatever. So you really have to hire for those traits and train the technical, which is somewhat backward from the way that at least I wasn’t alive in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, but I feel like back then they were hiring very much for the skills. But like just the and maybe I’m stereotyping too much, but people back then they would get a job at a factory and they would work at that factory for 20, 30, 40 years until they retired and they’d get the gold watch, right? And that’s just not the way the world moves anymore.
Matt: In fact, we have entire I don’t want to say industries, but we have entire practices that disappear within 10 years now. You know, I mean, we don’t need anybody that knows how to do BlackBerry applications anymore. The BlackBerry phone went away years ago, and eventually one of these days, the iPhone will change, too, and we’re not going to need app developers. There’s going to be something new and you need to hire the person that can learn and keep up with what that next new thing is. And when you run into people that are resistant to that change, you have to work with them. That’s really leadership’s job these days is to set a vision and then enable the environment to make that vision happen. And so leadership has to work with the people to say, Hey. I noticed that you really, really liked working in SEO and you resist working on social media. You resist working on, you know, direct marketing ads and email campaigns because you really like SEO. And that’s wonderful. We really appreciate your job in SEO. But I need you to at least learn a little bit out here and you’re trying to grow that person, you’re trying to help them be that t-shaped person and you’re giving them the the tools to help make that happen.
Greg: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I actually wanted to touch on leadership, so I just come to that in a second. Yeah. And then on, yeah, on the on on what you were discussing there about basically hiring people, which is the other way around from what normally happens. And I totally agree with that. And almost like from a sort of selfish personal reason of like I remember when I just came out of university, I mean, I studied philosophy. So. So it’s not like eminently hirable at all. And it got like my first first job. It was like a year long and then it started looking for other jobs and like. It would basically be, I mean. You just unless you had this sort of on on the CV, the sort of specific experience of life than this skill or that skill this school you can get in the door, but I’m like, just I will learn whatever you know, I know that I can learn it. So just like, yeah, like I would. Yeah, which ends. Some people, some people do if they don’t have this skill, they will just they will be able to just pick it up and learn it and then it and then that’s often not written on the CD, so it’s got to be some way to find that in the hiring process.
Matt: Right. You know, one of the things that really comes to mind, there’s a company up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, called Menlo Innovations, and the CEO of Menlo wrote a book called Joy Inc. His name is Rich Sheridan, and it they describe the hiring process that they go through at Menlo. Mm-hmm. And it goes something like this. I’m going to I’m probably going to mess part of it up, but it’s it. It’s directionally correct. On a Saturday morning, they bring in all of the candidates and maybe there’s 20 or 30 candidates and they sit them in a room and they sit them in groups of two and they say, OK, your job is to make the other person in your pair look good. And then they hand them a puzzle like a Sudoku puzzle or a crossword puzzle or something like that, and maybe just one pencil. And they have to work on this puzzle together and solve it together. And people are watching to see how well do you make the other person look, how much do you help them? How much do you get them? Because I mean, they’re there’s people out there, that man, a Sudoku puzzle, they’ll solve it that fast. And then there’s people like me that have to kind of scratch my head like, I know how Sudoku works, but like, I have to look at it and think about it a little bit.
Matt: And then there’s people that are like, Sudoku is a weird word. I don’t even know what that is. You could be sitting next to any one of those people, but you have to make them look good and they have to make you look good. And so they’re not hiring. I mean, this is it’s a development shop. They write software for people. They’re not hiring at that point for how well do you write software? Yeah, they’re writing for how well do you work with others? How these kindergarten skills, right? What was the the book years ago? Everything I needed to know. I learned in kindergarten. Right. It’s do I play well with others and then they go on to other exercises, but they are all built around working with others in some way, shape or form. Hmm. And then if you make it through that, they effectively hire you as like a contractor and they pay you. I don’t know if it’s for a week or two weeks, but they pay you for a short amount of time to come in and actually work.
Matt: And when you come in and work, you’re again working with the team. Their whole organization is set up to where they pair all the time. And so you come in and you’re pairing with different people that have been at Menlo for a while, or maybe not, maybe you’re pairing with the guy that just got here a month ago, right? But now the interview process is not me asking questions. What would you do in this situation or how would you handle or tell me about your experience with? It’s no, I’m pretty much we’re here on the front lines. We’re figuring problems out and I get to see how you think about it. And Menlo will hire people that have very. Basic knowledge of coding, but work really well with others because they know they can teach them how to code like that. That’s the skill, right? But somebody that’s a super-duper skilled programmer, but gosh, just makes everybody else mad when they work with them. They’re not going to hire them. Yeah, yeah. So yeah, it’s kind of cool to think about how they have. They understand the culture that they want, and they have stretched it all the way into the hiring process where they are actively hiring for people that fit that culture.
Greg: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I like it. That last part reminds me of there’s a Dutch company called Spring Mist, which is sort of a I think it’s like an e-learning company and they use hypocrisy. And I think they have Happiness. rule, which basically when they’re hiring the happiness roll is invited and they are basically judging how that person is going to fit into the team, et cetera, which is a little bit related.
Matt: But yeah, yeah, yeah, you certainly have. You have to watch for and hire the things that you want. Yeah. And sometimes if you’re wanting the a number one best person in the world at doing whatever that skill is, you might be hiring the wrong person.
Greg: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly, exactly. Cool, and so, yeah, you touched a little bit on leadership earlier, I was wondering if you have any more thoughts about what leadership looks like in this type of organization or what kind of leadership is needed to make this kind of transformation to make it work?
Matt: Yeah. Just to kind of compare and contrast because we’ve been talking about the factory for so long. Yeah, the manager of the factory used to determine the work that needed to happen. They were the ones that assigned out, you know, we’re going to make 50 widgets today and tomorrow we’re going to paint our widgets purple rather than red and whatever it is. And they would they were very focused on lining up the work to have the workers work on and in an agile organization. And I would assume in a whole ocracy organization the assignment of work changes. So if you’re if you’re in an agile organization, there is certainly someone that needs to prioritize the work. But we want that person to be very closely tied to the customer. They need to be interviewing the customer all the time. They need to know and understand the wants, needs and desires that the customer has. And then they prioritize the work based on the company vision and user input. And they organize that work and give it to the team to work on. But that’s not management. Management in an agile organization is there. And I kind of break it down into two things they set the vision OK, they understand the vision of where we’re going to go.
Matt: We’re we’re going to be the best widget makers in the world. We’re going to be the best marketing agency in the world. We’re going to service members in this very tiny niche of people that were purple shoes and have black dogs. But that’s our target market because we really believe they have some problems that other people don’t. Whatever it is, they set that vision and they know what it is. They want what it is, they want the organization to do, and then they need to build an environment that enables that vision to happen. And none of that means telling the people what to do. They push that responsibility down. They decentralize that decision to the people that are closest to the customer. Mm-hmm. So leadership is very much more about vision. If you listen to people like Simon Sinek, he talks about start with why and knowing and understanding that y and building an environment to make that happen is exactly what you want your leadership to do.
Greg: Yeah, I think, well, that’s great. That’s great that you brought that up. The why? Simon Sinek? Yes. Yes, I mean, this podcast series is called on purpose, so it’s it’s also about this why right? And yeah, I’m wondering, you know, for you personally, it’s engaged agility. What’s what’s the sense of why and how did you come to that? How did you come to that idea?
Matt: Ok. So whenever I started my company, I had been teaching classes in a public setting for a year or so, and people would come to my class and they would say, Hey, we’re so glad you’re here. This class has been cancelled four times or, Hey, we really appreciate your class because like, you made it so much better, I can actually remember the things that you did, and the thing that I was doing was trying to create an engaging environment. I would tell silly jokes. I would. I would reinforce concepts in different ways. We would we’d watch movies, we’d talk about it, we’d draw pictures. I really tried to use a lot of different ways to help people learn, and that’s that’s really my goal is to help them learn the material and the best way that they can retain the material and be able to use it in the future. And is it kind of advanced? I was like, I’ve got to come up with a name because, you know, now it’s not going to be a side gig anymore, it’s going to be actually really doing this stuff. And that idea of engagement really kind of kind of was a bright and shining star, but I knew that I didn’t just want to be an instructor in classes. I also wanted to do consulting and I was like, Well, is there a trail of agility or a trail of engagement that I can take from the classes into consulting? And there is because even with the consultant, you don’t want the consultant that just comes in and gives you the, you know, stack of papers and says here, fill these things out and we’ll solve all your problems.
Matt: No, they’ve really got to engage with the team. They’ve got to engage with the organization, dig in deep and really learn what’s going on. They have to figure out. And like we kind of talked about earlier, we have to start where they where the team is and really help them grow from there. But to do that, we have to engage in everything that they do. And so we want to dive in and we want to learn where they are. We want to build a relationship built on trust. And then as we go through, we remain engaged as we are trying to help them be the best that they can be. And one of our taglines is is if you want to change and be different, you have to change and be different. And we try to help them understand that. By engaging in their change rather than directing their change and pushing it on them.
Greg: Yeah, I like that there’s so there’s the two senses of engagement. There’s one sense of fear in the class in the moment like this is engaging. It’s it’s fun. I’m sort of right interacting. And then more engagement in the sense of fully getting your hands stuck into an organization fully in your hand, stuck in. Yeah. Like it gives you more sort of feels like a more sort of human feel to the whole thing.
Matt: Right, right. And one of the other things that we use in a lot of our material. It says that we believe that engagement is the key to learning and success. And it really does. Like, if you think about it, the times that you’ve learned the most is when somebody really, really came to you and they showed how much they cared about helping you learn what it was. And it was probably some sort of a one on one setting. And there was a mentorship-type role that happened. And they helped you through every step and any time you had a question you could call back. Those are all things that we do. I mean, just last night, there was a lady that reached out and she said, Hey, I took this test. She said I took the class back in February, and I didn’t even take it from you. But she said I took the class back in February and due to unforeseen circumstances, I took the test, failed it. And now I need to study because it’s been so long. Can you help? And so I spent a couple of hours with her just going through and she was like, Oh, the way you say this stuff, it just helps. And sometimes you just have to hear it different, right? You just need to hear different. It’s the same message, but different words. Delivering it and having that one on one session with her was it was magical for her. I’m hoping she takes the test here in a day or two and calls me back and says, Hey, I passed, so we’ll see if that happens.
Greg: Nice. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, like that. There’s this level of engagement feels like sort of also the engagement that you get on that same level of direct feedback with the customer as well. It’s this. Yeah.
Matt: Absolutely, absolutely. Teams have to go engage with the people they’re building stuff for. Yeah. And it works in so many different ways.
Greg: Yeah, I think so. And I think I think, yeah, I almost think that’s a big gift to the workplace because, you know, my experience from working in the large, large organization was this sense. The thing I disliked was the sense of being kind of disconnected from the actual people that you’re working with and the sort of fruits of your labor. So if this disconnection thing, so I think if more people actually get that sense of direct contact, then it’s a good thing.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. Something you just said reminded me of Daniel Pink’s drive book. I don’t know if you’ve you’ve read it, but in it, he says that in the past, motivation was like a carrot and stick, right? It was, you know, if you get this, if you do this, then you get that right. And he said that that doesn’t really work in today’s world, he says. We’re we’re a group of knowledge workers now. And he kind of defines knowledge workers or people that know more about doing the job than their boss does. And he says that when you’re working with knowledge workers, he said, once you take money off the table, once you pay them enough to to meet all of their basic needs and make it so that they can survive the things that motivate people or autonomy, mastery and purpose. And you were kind of talking about purpose. They’re a little bit you don’t want to just be a cog in a machine that’s cranking out something and you’re not sure what it is. You want to be tied. You want to be part of a purpose-driven organization and know what it is you’re doing and understand the value that it delivers to the world and understand the problems that it solves for the people that use whatever our product is. And they’re finding that when you can can tie people to that purpose and motivate them with that purpose of what we’re trying to do, that they’re happier employees, they’re more motivated, they’re more productive. And oh yeah, that helps out the company. It helps out the user and the people that are buying it. I mean, it’s just this kind of exponential win-win situation that continues to happen.
Greg: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely. I definitely agree with that. And I think, yeah, yeah, for us, for us too, it’s been for the core team is to try to just try and take money off. So just get it so that. People feel like they’re being paid enough
Matt: And then
Greg: Take it off the table, OK, now just focus on something else rather than playing this game. I think it’s easy to get caught in this carrot and stick game, but
Matt: Right, right? If if you make sure that people are happy with what they’re getting paid and that it’s meeting their needs. And if you give them a way to have some sort of, I don’t know, upward mobility. I mean, nobody wants to stay making the salary that they’re making today for the next 30 years. That’s not motivating because. And in the book drive, they even say it’s not to say that knowledge workers don’t care about money because they do. It’s just that money isn’t the primary motivator anymore. And the primary motivation switch to to autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Greg: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. So, yeah, I think that’s maybe it may be a good time to sort of start to round it off. Yeah. Is there anything, any last thing that you that you’d like to talk about or that you’d like to get out that we haven’t already touched on?
Matt: Nothing I can think of.
Greg: Yeah, we’ve covered a lot of bases, I think. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Matt: You know, one thing and maybe this fits in somewhere, and maybe it doesn’t. We were talking a little bit about what happens when people don’t want to be a T-shaped person when they want to. There’s another book written by Carol Dweck called Mindset, and it distinguishes between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset. And it even goes It’s been a long time since I read the book, but I think it even talks about abundance thinking versus scarcity thinking, Yeah, yeah. And I think that looking at those ideas around growth mindset and fixed mindset and scarcity thinking and how to avoid scarcity thinking can really drive the purpose of an organization. And it can drive the purpose of an employee working at an organization. And it can create it can kind of create that environment for success. Just being able to draw that distinction and go, Oh, am I thinking in a fixed mindset or am I thinking in a growth mindset? Yeah, down to a team level, up to running a company level. I mean, I find myself in when I’m making decisions for my company, I find myself going, Ooh. Am I in a fixed mindset? Is it really that there’s only this many customers, is it really that I can only do this stuff? But what’s the flip side of this and I have to get my mind out of it? It’s it’s something hard to do.
Greg: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it’s funny. You say that the growth mindset is something that my wife loves to loves to come back to. She just finished a two-year coaching counseling course, and that was something that for her, when she found that distinction, it was like, Oh my god, oh, like, I’ve been in this fixed mindset for so long and it’s just, you know, just refocus. And it’s yeah, for her, it worked really well.
Matt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some sometimes just hearing. Is someone giving a definition to the thought patterns you’ve seen in the past, whether your own thought patterns or of someone else? It really paints that picture on how not to overuse the term here, but how can I engage and fix that thing, right? Whether I have to internally engage or whether I need to engage with that person or that team or that organization? How how can how can I engage and help them move through this?
Greg: Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. And that sort of relates to the abundance thing and sort of leaning in and this. Yeah, I feel. If you can do that, you can almost overcome a lot of fear because there’s a lot of fear that’s sort of mixed up with scarcity thinking, and it’s all right. You’d start to push towards that. You can sort of get out of that.
Matt: Yeah, yeah. And and. That fear it definitely keeps us from doing things it any time you start a company, right? There’s the fear of what if this doesn’t work out? What, yeah, what? What if I’m a complete and utter failure and I never, ever make any money at it, right? Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever read the four hour work week by Tim Ferriss, but in it hehe
Greg: Says, when I first, when I start my business, that was sort of like my on my right-hand side, just sort of like supporting me each time.
Matt: So much good stuff in that book. So much good stuff in that book. And one of them is, you know, you have to think to yourself, what’s the worst that could happen? Yeah. And well, when you’re starting a company, the worst that could happen is, you know, I make absolutely zero money. And in two months, I, you know, I have to figure out something else because my family is going hungry. Ok, what would you do then? Well, I would probably apply for a job. Ok? Do you think you can get a job? Like, how long would that take is? Well, you know, take me two weeks, two months, whatever it is. And you kind of go through the thought process and then you realize that that thing that you were the most scared of the what’s the worst that can happen? You already know a way out of it. Yeah. Well, do you really think that the worst is going to happen? No, probably not. Ok, so we’re somewhere better than the worst. Now what’s keeping you from making that jump? What’s the worst that could happen? And if you go through that enough times, you’ll come down to, oh, whatever it is that I’m scared of. I’ve already thought of ways to get out of it and make the results. Not so bad, right?
Greg: Yeah, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah. And yeah, there’s that. And I also know I think I think maybe it was today, actually, I noticed a sort of fear coming up and then playing out scenario and then sense of like. I’ve been in a situation like this before, I will be able to figure it out like, yeah,
Matt: Right, right. Yeah. The unknown is always scary, but you know what? We can, we can work through it. I’ve got enough experience to work through it. And if I don’t, I’ve got enough friends that I can ask to help with. And if that doesn’t help, then OK, maybe I don’t do that thing. Maybe I go back and rethink from step one, right? Yeah, yeah.
Greg: Yeah. So, yeah, this this this has been really fun. I feel like it’s been a bit of a sort of free masterclass as well and agility, which has been great. Awesome. Yeah. So thank you very much for taking the time, Matt.
Matt: Absolutely. I really, really enjoyed it. This is a good time.
Greg: Yeah, great. And yeah, is there anywhere else? So aside from your website, which we’re going to link in the show notes, is there anywhere else that people can find you or that you’d like to direct the to?
Matt: So I have a YouTube channel for engaged agility, and I’m fairly active on LinkedIn. You can like the engaged agility page or reach out and connect with me directly on LinkedIn. One of the things on the YouTube channel that I think is relatively interesting is that I created a video about the decentralized decision-making that we talked about. So it’s a little, I don’t know, it’s four or five minutes long, so go out and take a look at that.
Greg: Perfect. Ok, cool. I’ll link to that as well. Great. Ok, so yes, thank you very much. Again, Matt and I will speak to you and speak to you soon.
Matt: My pleasure. It’s been a great time. Thank you.