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Q&A with John Clopton

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with John Clopton, Certified Sailor. Agile Coach. Public speaker.

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

My career path had a few detours. I never planned on getting into tech. In fact, I grew up with every intention of being a graphic designer. I even attended art school. However, my first year left me unfulfilled and uncertain about a career in design. Soon after, I attended film school, but it also left me with the same uncertainty and lack of fulfillment. During that time, I learned how to build websites in my spare time, which eventually led to my first job as a front-end developer.

Years later, I heard about this thing called Agile. During my training, the concepts and ways of working resonated with me deeply. Everything made sense; it seemed like common sense to me. As a result, I left coding behind to pursue a career as a Scrum Master. Nowadays, I spend my time as an agile coach in the healthcare industry. I often tell my teams, leaders, and stakeholders that the goal isn’t to be best at "doing Agile," but rather to use it as a tool to accomplish our goals.

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

Though the term "Agile" was codified over two decades ago, it's a relatively new concept, especially for large organizations. However, these organizations have recognized its potential to increase their effectiveness. When COVID hit, companies needed to adapt their business models, and ways of working to survive. Effecting such changes in an organization's operations and mindset wasn't an easy task either. Agile made sense for some. It came with the promise of accelerating time-to-market and realizing returns on value sooner.

So, when it comes to companies that’ve been successful in their transformations, the focus wasn’t solely about adopting a framework, or methodology. Over the past two years, those companies realized that it took fundamental changes in behaviors. COVID acted as a catalyst for that, and hopefully organizations have learned not to wait for the next global pandemic to build a culture of adaptation.

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

While I collaborate with product managers, business analysts, designers, coders, testers, and all the roles one might expect on a development team, I also get to work with nurses, doctors, marketing specialists, and others. Agile ways of working might not seem to resonate with individuals outside of IT, but in my experience, they certainly do.

What used to take months, if not years to implement, teams are now talking about how to provide value to patients sooner. Leadership focuses on setting direction and bringing greater transparency to organizational goals. While Agile was created by software developers for software developers, what stands out most to me is how a hospital is actively working toward embracing those behaviors.

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

I've come across several blog posts and videos discussing the notion that Agile is dead. While this might hold true in certain tech sectors, in my experience, large organizations are only just beginning to embrace it. The more success these companies demonstrate by generating value sooner, reducing costs, and achieving better returns on their investments, the greater the interest in Agile will become.

One challenge that I’ve consistently observed over the years is the misperceived overhead that Agile brings to the table. The numerous acronyms, tools, and frameworks associated with Agile have become almost synonymous with it. As a result, when costs don't decrease, timelines stretch, or people find themselves bogged down in excessive meetings, Agile often gets the blame. Building a shared understanding Agile requires ruthless prioritization, discipline, and a fundamental change in behavior will continue to be a challenge.

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