Agile is putting people before everything else

16th August, 2016

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a mature agile organisation and was completely taken aback by the buzz around the floor.

People were talking, pairing, standing at whiteboards, laughing, clapping. It was completely infectious.

Collaboration was evident everywhere you looked. You could see what teams were working on, how they were working and, most importantly, why they were there.

Once you’ve seen that, it’s difficult to go back to an office with physical and metaphorical walls between teams and people.

Agile at MYOB

Agile is a mindset, a set of values and principles and implemented in an almost endless number of practices and behaviours.

The agile way of working values individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan.

At MYOB, we see evidence of agile in all parts of the business.

We live and breathe the agile values because we believe in delivering customer value at all times, we believe in delivering in small batches for faster feedback and we believe that collaboration is the key to organisational success.

One of the great things about our business is the way we leave it to teams to find a system of work that is best for them. Agile is non-prescriptive and we uphold this value by making sure people are free to find a way of working that suits their context and needs.

The role of an Agile Coach

I’ve been working in an agile environment since the early 2000s.

My role at MYOB is to help people and teams collaborate and improve while keeping the customer value always in focus. We coach and equip people with the right techniques and practices to live and breathe agile and lean values and principles.

The best part of the job is the chance to help teams experiment in a culture of continuous improvement. We’re creating an environment that makes it safe to fail and learn, so our culture is innovative and always improving.

Agile values technical excellence which means we believe in giving our people room to grow and master their craft regardless of their role.

The most challenging part of being an Agile Coach is knowing when to coach from outside the team or within and alongside the team. It’s my job to make sure people can thrive on their own so there is always a need to step back and allow them to experiment on their own. Seeing this done, however, is also the most rewarding part of the role.

The customer is at the heart of everything we do

If you walk around the offices of MYOB you will see evidence of the customer everywhere. The way we work helps us deliver the right things to simplify business success for our customers.

We use continuous, incremental delivery to validate ideas with little waste to make sure we are always focusing on value.

One of the common misconceptions amongst agile critics is that agile is only for low-risk work. You hear statements like “you would never use agile practices on medical software, or for a NASA space mission” and I always refute this.

In fact, the more there is at stake for the customer, the more important it becomes to collaborate closely and adapt to their changing needs!

Constant refinement

We love new starters at MYOB. They come in to the organisation with a fresh set of critical eyes.

Our approach is to question constantly. People who join us have their own experiences and their own ideas of things that work well. We encourage a culture of open feedback and want people to share opinions and thoughts regardless of how long they’ve been with the company.

I ran a retrospective recently and one of the team members had never participated in a retro before. At the start of the retro he stated he was just there to observe and learn however by the end he was fully participating and contributing just as much as everyone.

That’s what a great workplace culture is all about. It’s not about learning how to follow processes; it’s about human conversations and the willingness to help each other get better at what we do.

The agile journey

It’s important to note that agile is a journey, not a destination.

We are always striving to do better and will never consider the job to be “done” in regards to being an agile organisation. That’s the thing about agile – you should never stop changing.

Never stop questioning. Always be clear on why you are doing anything. Put people before everything else.