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Q&A with Kathryn Criston Briskina

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Kathryn Criston Briskina, Agile Coach, Trainer & Podcast Host.

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

I am an Agile Coach, Trainer, and Podcast Host, advocating systems thinking and inclusive decision-making.

My career path is non-linear and creative. I began as a classical musician, earned a BFA in filmmaking, and started working as Director of Photography on small film projects. I discovered Agile and Sociocracy 3.0 while looking for a way to increase productivity with effective collaboration in teams. Seeing cross-functionality and self-organization work - invited me into a career as Agile Coach and Trainer.

At a leading Cloud managed services provider in Switzerland, I led the co-creation of a new operating model based on changes in the covid and post-covid market. Before this, I enabled a leading online tendering platform in the DACH region construction sector to collaborate across cultural boundaries in Business and IT and align to growth strategy with their parent company.

Self-organization and self-governance is hard. Especially because individuals can take on many roles to be cross functional. Over time, roles can lose clarity and self-management can collapse to confusion and bickering. Enabling effective self-organization and governance depends on having clear roles and purposes.

This is why I teach role-based collaboration courses. I offer a 4-course Sociocracy 3.0 curriculum, for essential understanding, governance participation, facilitation and organizational development - to help you become the enabler you need to be, to self-organize, self-govern, and co-create your organizations.

When you're interested, you can read more about these courses and upcoming course dates on my website

And if you're curious what Sociocracy 3.0 is all about, check out my podcast: AgilewithS3.Th. This is where I share in-depth explorations of Sociocracy 3.0 in practical scenarios along with hands-on strategies for implementing Agile within an S3 context.

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

Companies in many sectors are surfing the waves reverberating from Covid's influence. Changes in supply chains, customer needs, partnerships, and other complexity drivers challenge digitized organizations even more - because of internal technical dependencies of products and services, sometimes organizational structures and roles as well.

The way of working has changed also - after years of fully remote work, communication siloing, mental health challenged by isolation. Coming together to make decisions - and increase the lead time of decision making - has emerged as a new challenge.

I experience teams and leaders asking questions like, "How can we adapt to market changes, with a compass for where we are going? How can we pivot, considering the internal complexity of our products, services, tech legacy, etc…as well as external complexity drivers?"

Agile practices make our problems painfully clear.

Agile Frameworks like SAFe and Scrum have become the norm for tech businesses, and more. These frameworks give clear roles, rituals, and iteration rhythms as a blueprint for continuous learning and adaptation. In the past 2 years, I've seen companies implementing these agile roles, feedback loops, and organizational structures at scale, without developing the culture and empirical practices to get the most value from the feedback they receive.

All too often, agile organizations become feature factories where teams and functional roles are pushed to produce at the expense of quality and sustainability. The benefit of transparent empirical information and the wisdom of the people doing the work - two main ingredients for defining complex problems effectively, creating a compass and collaborating on pivots - can be lost.

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

I've had the pleasure to support Agile transformations using a spectrum of classic Agile and Sociocracy 3.0. In my experience, companies which use empirical information and transparency well are those that create systemized engagement for decision making that is inclusive, sustainable, and results in wiser goals and actions being taken by teams and leaders. These companies utilize meeting practices, to have the discussions that need to be had with the relevant people, design experiments based on careful study of available data, run a localized, controlled experiment and study the results before designing another.

It's having the skills, patience and practice to do this fundamental practice of agile and lean - plan, do, check, act - that makes the difference. The 'check' step might need more scientific thought and analysis than we are accustomed to.

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

As long as Agile practices prove useful for solving real problems, I believe teams and leaders will continue to invest in agile.

To actually solve the problems, we might need to go beyond our conventional toolkit of Agile Frameworks, blueprint roles and rituals. We need to empiricize our gut feeling, learning skills to study relevant information and design experiments, learning the most relevant models to prioritize and act effectively in complexity. I think improved methods for systemic visualization and collaborative decision-making will be the next 'big thing' for effective agile management and operational success.

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