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Q&A with Jeremy Berriault

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Jeremy Berriault, Speaker, Author & Senior Partner.

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

My career journey has traversed the ever-evolving intersection of technology and business, spanning three remarkable decades. Within this timeframe, I've ventured through myriad roles and industries, each offering unique insights and experiences that have collectively shaped my professional identity. Beginning my odyssey in 1993 as a CRM and UAT analyst, I delved deep into the intricacies of software development. It was a foundational period where I gained an invaluable understanding of the software creation process. After ten years, I started to work more on the business side of organizations using my knowledge gained from work. I created mental models from my MBA that removed the knowledge gap between Technology and Business groups. Closing this gap along with agile mental models saw value grow exponentially within the organization, not just their customers. As the years progressed, I ascended, embracing leadership roles across many industries.

My unwavering commitment to fostering a culture of respect, empathy, and collaboration remained a guiding principle during this progression. This approach was not only influenced by my upbringing, rooted in the values instilled by my parents, but it's also a fundamental mental model that continues to inform my professional journey. My career is an ever-evolving voyage marked by dynamic learning, growth, and a relentless pursuit of improving processes and delivering value.

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

Honestly, the transformation towards agile practices hasn't met its full potential. While many organizations have shifted from traditional processes to agile methodologies, the broader implications of agility often remain unexplored. Instead, a myopic fixation on procedural agility tends to eclipse the more profound aspect of nurturing agile behaviours essential for true adaptability.

It's a subtle yet critical distinction that often gets overlooked. The shift towards agility is not merely about changing processes but a cultural and behavioural transformation. Emphasizing speed as the primary goal is an oversimplification of the agile philosophy. Speed is a by-product, not the outcome of agile environments.

One crucial detail underscoring this distinction is capitalizing the term "agile." I deliberately employ a lowercase 'a' in "agile" because it is not a noun; it's an adjective. This seemingly minor grammatical detail holds significant implications. It conveys that agility is not a thing you can acquire or a process you can implement; it's a state of being, a set of behaviours and values that characterize the organization's culture.

For organizations to genuinely harness the power of agility, it necessitates a profound shift in mindset and a more holistic understanding of the agile philosophy, focusing on the behaviours and values that underpin it rather than merely chasing the illusion of speed.

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

I've had the privilege of being part of several agile transformations that genuinely stand out. These exceptional cases shared a common approach—they embraced the agile environment as an ever-evolving entity and, in doing so, achieved remarkable results. One distinguishing characteristic of these success stories was their ability to focus inward on their organizational culture and agile practices. They weren't overly concerned with how other companies implemented agile methodologies.

It's not that they disregarded their competition or market dynamics; instead, they observed and absorbed this external input to best suit their unique context and goals. This approach highlights the importance of an evolutionary mindset within an agile context. Instead of adhering to prescribed agile frameworks, they adapted their practices, processes, and values to align with their specific circumstances.

By avoiding the trap of direct emulation and striving for a deeper understanding of agile principles, they unleashed the full potential of agile practices. This internal focus allowed them to maintain authenticity within their culture while being highly responsive to market changes and competitors.

The successful cases I've observed underscore the power of treating agility as an ongoing, adaptive journey involving internal evolution within the organization rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

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

Indeed, agile practices will persist in generating interest, but the concern lies in the focus being driven by misguided priorities. The prevailing fixation on speed and the rigid implementation of specific frameworks often overshadows the core essence of agile environments: adapting and evolving in a way that best suits a team's unique needs.

The primary challenge that organizations continue to face is the tendency to tether themselves rigidly to a predefined process akin to an anchor weighing down a boat. This anchoring effect prevents them from fully grasping the broader picture and working from the fundamental "why" that defines the organization.

To address this challenge, organizations should shift their perspective from concentrating on the "how" and "what" of agile practices to delving into the deeper "why" that underlies their existence. By clarifying the core purpose and values of the organization, they can then align agile practices with these foundational principles. This change in mindset can help organizations break free from the constraints of rigid processes and embrace the agility that is meant to be at the heart of their culture. Agile practices should serve as tools to realize the organization's purpose and adapt to its evolving needs rather than as predefined molds that stifle creativity and innovation.

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