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Q&A with Brock Argue

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Brock Argue, Agile Coach.



How could you describe your career path in a few words? 

 

My career path has been a series of next steps taken proactively. What I mean by that is as I’ve sought to contribute value I’ve noticed opportunities where we (me, my team, my organization, my clients) could do better, be better. Throughout my career, I’ve often been the first one to notice where improvement could be made, raise awareness of the improvement, and prove the new approach by going first. For example, around 2005 I became dissatisfied with the long development cycles and the issues created by a plan-driven approach to product development.


After taking my first Certified ScrumMaster (CSM®) course, I returned to my organization and piloted Scrum, proving the efficacy of taking an agile approach to product development. Through this success I was able to take the next step to teach our company how to leverage Scrum in their work. Fast forward a few years, and yet another next step arose in the form of the sale of the company I was working for. They were bought by a much larger organization eager to learn how to apply agile methods to their work. As the resident agile “expert”, I was provided the next step of traveling around the world to train and coach their teams. Which brings me to where I am today. My business partner, Erkan Kadir, and I have taken many next steps and run many experiments to co-found our own business, Superheroes Academy, through which we support our clients in realizing their goals and creating joyful places to work. 

 

 

How do you think agile practices have transformed companies over the past two years? 

 

The past two years have seen society come out of a global pandemic, live through extreme inflation, and are now plunged into the middle of a global economic downturn. Forced to work remotely and needing to deliver as cost effectively as possible, organizations have adopted agile practices as a way to adapt to these major shifts in how we work. Adapting to change by embracing new technologies, extending trust to teams (especially in a remote working environment), creating cross-functional teams, delivering early and often to get feedback from real customers and users - these agile practices are all generally accepted as the way to get things done in today’s reality. The transformation that I’m suggesting here is that “agility” has become operationalized in organizations and its principles are incorporated into everything the organization does. The implications of this are massive. Organizations no longer need to be convinced of the importance of agile practices; they get it. Recruiting departments now look for candidates who have multiple specialties, with the assumption that they are already familiar with and able to work in agile environments. Agilists need to become technologists who also happen to be good at incorporating agile practices into how they work. Agile practices have supported organizations in navigating these dramatic shifts in our world and I believe they will continue to do so long into the future. 

 

 

What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out to you? 

 

One particular case that stands out to me is the success of the organization I joined first in my career as a software developer. I think that they’ve been extraordinarily successful because they had a willingness to experiment, relentlessly pursued continuous improvement, allowed time for processes to work and they asked for help when it was needed. 

 

This organization has been acquired multiple times and looks very little like it did when I last worked there. However, the people in this organization continue to keep an open mind when it comes to new approaches to their work. They’re also never satisfied. They appreciate what has been accomplished and, at the same time, are looking for the next innovation or improvement that will make them even better. I really believe time matters as a factor of success. Mastery comes with consistent practice over a longer period of time. It would be unfair to all of the organizations out there who are closer to the start of their agile transformation than to the end of it if we were to measure their success with the same valuation. 

 

After 15+ years of working in an agile way, it’s no wonder that this organization is really good at it, they’ve practiced and done the work. Lastly, they know when they’re in over their heads or just need a fresh perspective, which is when they bring in experts from outside the organization to help. This organization has maintained market leadership of their products during all of this time, up to and including today. Agility is one of the factors that has helped them do that. 

 

I’ve also seen and been a part of successful agile transformations at major banks and FinTech companies but, unlike the case presented above, those organizations have moved away from the structures of an agile organization and back into a more traditional approach, often after a change in leadership. 

 

 

Will agile practices continue to generate interest? What challenges do you see in the context of deploying these practices? 

 

Our world is only becoming more complex, with change being a constant. Agile practices are designed to manage complex adaptive challenges. I believe that agile practices will continue to generate interest because of this. Something else I believe is that there is now a need for agile practitioners to change the way we talk about, package, and deploy agile practices. Organizations are no longer looking for specialists in agile practices, but are more interested in their people also having agile skills and abilities beyond the technical skills that their role requires. The implication of this is that we are no longer selling organizations on agile transformations or their need for an agile coach, Product Owner, or Scrum Master. What we are doing instead is asking organizations how they accomplish the “why” behind those roles. In an organization that has Product Managers communicating up-and-out, but doesn’t have anyone focused on the vision of the product, understanding the product’s users, or prioritizing the day-to-day work, instead of advising of the need for a Product Owner role, we now need to ask questions about how they’re accomplishing the purpose behind the Product Owner role and then supporting the organization with ways to improve in that area. For example, instead of advising that an organization hire a Product Owner, we might ask: “How do you communicate vision and inspire the team?” which then leads to a recommendation for a vision writing workshop and a communication plan created, rather than the hiring of a specific role. 

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