Aginext 2019 London

This year I was very fortunate to attend and speak at Aginext 2019 in London.

My talk was especially focused on how the Product Teams at OutSystems is adopting Modern Product Management where the teams are starting to work in Dual Track Agile with concurrent discovery and delivery tracks (highly inspired in Lean Startup or Product Discovery techniques). Two different mindsets for our learning journey.

But this post is not about my talk. Instead, I want to highlight my main takeaways from:

  1. All the talks I attended. Unfortunately I could not attend all the talks I wanted, but will have a look at them once they become available)
  2. All the conversations I got in the coffee breaks.

Leadership = Coaching

Evermore I observe a distinction between Leaders and Managers. Leaders need to know the topic they are leading otherwise they are Managers that simply unblock problems and facilitate things to happen under a very short vision.

There is the saying to put the best person in the right place for a good reason. So it can exist a virtuous cycle where the leader sets a vision and guides, balancing it with the autonomy the follower needs to grow. People follow the vision and not the person.

No surprise the best leaders are the best coaches too.

Everyone can be a Leader and everyone can be a Coach under his bubble of action. The difference relies in the sizes and importance of these bubbles.

Coaching is Applied Psychology by Linda Marshall was over the humanization in the bonds that exist in the organizations. How stress decreases creativity, how deep listening is underrated and the value to let people get the solutions by themselves. And many others topics that I recommend anyone to have a look.

Did we leave Leaders Behind? By Tomasz Kropiewnicki where he goes deep on what means coaching in Agile organization. That leaders need to go first, coaching is not a training session and that we should aim for mindset regardless the practices. I personally liked the emphasis he gave for the coaching of coaches.

Business Agility is the new wall

Many talks have covered the new buzz word called Business Agility.

I think Andrea Provaglio has nailed it quite well. The first wave was around the setting of new principles and values for a new way of developing software. This was in around the ‘80s and ‘00s.

The second wave of Agile was about scaling the production beyond a single team (we are still on this wave)

The third wave, which has just started and is going beyond the IT realm, finally realized that for true Agility we need two things: 1) to be adopted, in context specific- ways, throughout the entire organization and 2) it includes the way the organization interacts with its market and environment.

Many people started to call it Business Agility.

Without this close and honest collaboration with the Business, many organizations are running in many pitfalls such as: delivering a two years roadmap that was already promised to the market; hard to discard ideas that were committed; marketing and C-Level is onboarded only in the final leg of the development cycle;

Business Agility means others organization functions such as Marketing, Operations, Governance need to also be aligned with the same principles and values. Where Business and IT should be working as one as changing planning and respond to change will be the standard and something desirable to happen.

Business Agility means the teams know how to speak the Business Language where the Outcomes metric play an important figure in the discovery through an hypothesis-driven approach.

The Chameleon Effect: Business Agility and Adaptability Lessons by Stephen Parry where he talks about how to create a Work Climate for success (the representation is eyes-open), how to turn an agile workplace into business agility and adaptation.

Business Agility, Beyond the Buzzword by Edward Scotcher. Super interesting format where he moderated a conversation with three seniors leaders discussing why they are investing in Business Agility, what that means to them, and how they are making it happen in their own organizations. Interesting to note that although they were no IT-related people and are under three different businesses, the challenges are pretty much the same.

Growing Adaptive Organizations by Andrea Provaglio brings many lessons from the field pointing out not only the pitfalls but also some solutions that may help. Very straight to the point!

Learning Fast

Discovery has hit like a bomb in the Agile panorama. I was used to find this content in more Product Management related conferences and now I start to notice that is intersecting Agile conferences too. I’m a suspect here though, as my talk was exactly pointing out that product discovery and delivery needs to be a single approach for a product team, regardless of the roles, practices and frameworks in it. Actually the work management framework itself is secondary.

Orchestrating Continuous Experiments by Matteo Cavucci. He brings an outcome-first approach where the teams autonomy is balanced with the global product direction. Funny to notice many resembles with my own experience.

The Complexity Toolkit: techniques for Navigation Uncertainty by Marcus Williams and Simon Lawrence. It was interesting to see another approach to handle uncertain: hypothesis-driven Development and Mikado Method. Many similarities with others approaches, such as Outcomes driven or Dual Track, though. Again, acknowledging we don’t know is essential.

Right to Left by Mike Burrows captured me right from the beginning with its title. Strong presentation on how we should start thinking from the right (why and how) to Left (the how). The advantages and some tips to move away from the hard frameworks.

Summing Up

The challenges faced by organizations when are becoming more responsive to the market are the same regardless of geography. Many times the difference relies in the fact that some national eco-system and business go more ahead in unleashing new ways of doing things (and new barriers).

Conferences like Aginext, that is very focused in the networking component, gives an extraordinary kick to anyone that wants to share insights and get inspiration from. After all we are all change agents leading (in any sort of degree) and enabling a more responsive business.

I was a bit sad in one thing though and I will be controversial. I start to witness a growing number of talks that are less concerned in giving something useful and new to its audience. Sometimes they copy the material from others years confs, being very poor in giving something new to its audience in the form of practicalities or inspiring questions. Sometimes feels like a sales pitch to someone or to a company service based in quotes of books, and simple rewordings of something that is more-less standard. Didn’t see much of it at Aginext (and that’s why it was such an inspiring conf to me) and I really wanted to continue to be like that.

Congratulations to the Aginext organization for being restless in giving all the information everyone needed, in helping the speakers with last minute problems (in my case I got lended a laptop to run my presentation) and to enable a very pleasant atmosphere for networking.

Change is hard. Knowing where to go towards is not clear. But these are exciting times to anyone that is a problem solver, proactive, eager for knowledge and likes to have a key role in foster and nurture more responsive organizations.

From today I will try to avoid using the “A” word. It only brings confusion and bad cargo.