Gbertin_300pxGuillaume Bertin is a software development expert. His diverse experiences have made him discover different cultures and assume various roles : from developer to analyst, architect and project manager. In recent years, he has been animating development teams of the financial world.

As a manager, he is trying to create team dynamics that allow him to fade away to the benefit of collective intelligence. He likes seeing his teams accomplish and be accomplished. Aware of the tardiness and the potential of his domain, he has become an agent of the Agile transformation in Montreal. He shared his experience with Agile Knowhow…

 

Smart phones and social media are overwhelming our societies by democratizing immediacy. Artificial intelligence pushes back the boundaries of comprehension… Hyper-communication and the digital world are opening up possibilities for those who want to undertake projects. To succeed, would it be enough to take risks?

The world does not want to stop to contemplate anymore. Going from A to B is no longer enough. We are confronted to a new paradigm : perpetual movement. Complexity is exploding, history and knowledge are not enough to understand our present. And you would like to be turned toward the future? Let’s advance step by step, trying things and adjusting if necessary.

Agility should impose itself to us like it’s obvious, by encouraging initiatives, experiments and iterations. In fact, to say it all, I didn’t have the luxury of really thinking about it, I fell into it by chance! Let’s be clear, I have never been a member of an Agile team, nor a Scrum Master or even a Product Owner. I know I’m not very credible and yet I will speak to you about Agility.

It all started a few years back. I was then employed by a big corporation (a bank on top of that, not very Agile…) and Lady Luck was on my side. I was at the right place at the right moment, freshly landed in Montreal, we had the mission of creating the development teams of a new IT centre.

My day-to-day : recruiting in an already ultra-competitive market and negotiating the frontiers of new teams with my international counterparts. The day came when a team adopted Scrum (my thanks to Maxime and Benoit by the way). Their initiative was an echo of our CIO’s will to make, from thousands of kilometres away, continuous delivery a pillar of his strategy.

In my mind, Agility was an infantile methodology. It turned our brain to better enslave us. Armed with their post-it notes, Lean consultants had not really inspired me in the past, as you probably understood!

I imagined a CIO under influence. We were then weakened by the explosion of the costs and the bureaucracy that infects all organizations. Agility was going to be, said the Gartner or other think tanks, the fashionable answer : a more transparent action and a focus on client value. Agility would not only be the end of the tunnel effect but also the light at the end of it!

Short of being convinced, far from it, there was nothing I could do against the enthusiasm and fascination of the teams. They did not give me any choice in the matter and I decided to deal with it : it was the beginning of the adventure.

After all, the Daily Scrum is very convenient to talk to each other. With POs and the rest of the team in NYC, London or Paris, this daily meeting was gold. It was promising but the best had yet to come!

Team dynamics are essential to the blossoming and performance of a group of individuals. Easy to say, no need to be a sociologist, but how should we go about it doctor?

The Scrum team builds and mobilizes itself naturally around a product.

The Product Owner’s vision brings him challenges. In fine, taking on those challenges and perfecting itself allows the team to achieve its potential and constantly reinvent itself. The Stanley Cup is not far!

How to exist in a global organization without being a decision centre? Easy! Agility will become our trademark, it will allow us to be recognized as a centre of expertise.

By adopting the Agile culture, we offered a unique playground. We approached the challenges of a multinational business with the freshness of a startup. Besides, this singularity would allow us to attract a few talents!

Our enthusiasm and determination pushed us to get closer to our users; we made their experiences OURS! Agility brought us out of the historical client-supplier mode : a contract for engagement and a relation that disintegrates as the demands for change arrive.

Agility changes our outlook and asks us to speak the users’ language!

It deeply changes the nature of our relation; we become business partners. We had never considered it, not even in our dreams!

We were pumped and our taste for velocity was reinforced! To streamline our delivery chains, we adopted craftsmanship practices. TDD/BDD alone offered us an automated tests coverage without having to call upon a third party : the no less famous QA. We gained in autonomy. It’s not all, we finally had an up-to-date documentation and we also gained in efficiency. Let’s not forget that we had been spending more time understanding our product than making it evolve.

To those who still doubt, I recommend a kata or a dojo once in a while, it will finish convincing you. Personally, I will never forget my first dojo on TDD (thanks Vincent, Pierre, Jean, Yves and Samir for that moment)!

The day after came, I was dreaming awake, overflowing with ambition and energy coming from the teams.

Our Product Owners and users were unanimous; they praised our state of mind. They invested themselves more and more in the relationship. Thanks to confidence, we were taking more and more pleasure, we could at last take risks and serenely learn from our mistakes.

We need to invite Operations to the party, thanks DevOps for the pretext! Agility stimulates versatility and sharing. The Ops that are joining us are no longer totally Ops and we are no longer entirely Dev anyways!

Enthusiasm invites us to share and beyond, the WE sees greater things! We are not only a fractal organization built around self-organizing teams, new circles are superimposed!

It’s thus that the first communities emerged. I always liked efficiency and being surrounded by talented people, so hats off to Mister Agile. No doubt, Pierre, Kevin, Khaldoun, Jean Michel, Rida, Jonathan, Dan, Ali, Kiosmy and all the others, you touched me!

Changes

I am still stunned, but I have the intimate conviction that my mission as a manager has changed, it will now be appropriate to :

  • Create the basis of a round and moving organization (circles replace traditional organizational charts, no need to put people in boxes anymore);
  • Free the necessary space for the richness that’s in all of us to express itself;
  • Support the teams by providing them with all the possible means;
  • Contribute by sowing a few seeds and helping pollination;
  • Spice it up a little by putting forward an original vision, equal to a renewed engagement.

I was trying to find documentation to better understand what we were living when I realized we hadn’t invented anything. I was disappointed but not less interested. Servant Leadership, communities… everything already existed!

Agility and the freed enterprise are simply genius formulas. How could we not to appreciate this humanist framework that allows the expression of collective intelligence?

We live an incredible era. Autocracy is slowly yielding to participative democracy in the enterprise : citizen in life, citizen always!

I embrace this new form of citizenship and my connection to teams is transforming :

  • Two groups are not talking to each other. Not a problem, let’s draw a circle to reunite them around a new project!
  • I love that idea, I would never have thought about it. Go ahead, go for it!
  • The only limit will be the one you impose, give me your suggestions!

Of course, calling the established order into question is not pleasing everyone. There are no miracles, you need to accept giving back some of your power and its attributes to liberate the energies.

Despotism is not devoid of vision, but on the other hand, for empathy we can look somewhere else. Time has not said its last word, it will take care of the rest.

In IT, the relation between candidate and recruiter is reversed and the talent war is raging. Entrepreneurship is fashionable. We all dream of contributing to something bigger. The emergence of the Millenium generation on the market is only making this tendency stronger.

To the managers who still only believe in the virtues of order and control, I wish them good luck with their recruitment. They can seriously take interest in retention strategies! For my part, I’d rather work on attraction than retention.

Like everybody, I have my own demons. The Agile culture continues to erase the frontier between private and professional life by putting human beings at the centre of everything. Will we work less? Are we part of a new corporate cult?

Agility has deconstructed what I thought I knew, my only certainty from now on: I will never stop learning! It also rebuilt me by unifying the ME. I feel much freer and more accomplished in my actions as a manager, I simply have more pleasure.

Some want to pit Agility against big businesses. It’s true that creating space for Agility is not an easy thing to do and that scaling is often complex. The Agile transformation only becomes more exciting and its benefits more spectacular.

Why would we not see our service like a startup? Why not sell our product internally? Entrepreneurs don’t have fewer people to convince. Playing with perspectives is sweeping a lot of fantasies and Montreal, what a potential! If you like challenges, let yourself be tempted!

I recently started a new adventure. I am discovering a corporate culture made of mutual aid (give back to society) and of the search for meaning (do the right things). The potential is incredible and the playground exceptional, I will be able to continue experimenting. A new journey on the horizon, pure joy!

Agility is not the answer to everything, but it certainly allows us to lay the foundation of a horizontal organization that conjugates dynamism, efficiency and togetherness!

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