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Q&A with Michael Huynh

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Michael Huynh, Agile Coach.

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


I can describe my career in one - "Serendipitous." It's been a delightful surprise, starting as your run-of-the-mill developer handling everything from front-end to CMS and back-end work. But I craved more than just coding – I wanted to solve real problems. 


The turning point? A shift into Product Ownership during my stint with a Healthcare product. Introducing a fresh customer focused approach, we hit the jackpot – winning a prestigious Australia Project Management Award and scoring as the runner-up in the APAC region. The success paved the way for more, and I found myself in the role of a Scrum Master to cultivate more effective agile teams.  


The journey didn't stop there. Agile coaching became my next gig, guiding organisations on their Agile journeys. I later found myself in an Agile consultancy, wearing multiple hats – developing certified courses, teaching, coaching, uplifting capabilities, fixing broken Agile setups, and unraveling complex organisational problems. 


Being located in Canberra, I had the wonderful opportunity to work in the public sector, collaborating with state and Australian Federal Governments. Together, we delivered some of the most critical digital assets that now serve as the backbone of services used by Australians daily – from Digital identity to Welfare Payments Systems and Government Integrated Services. 


And now? I've taken a leap into the private sector, exploring the renewable energy sector. It's 6 months in and still feels like a brand-new adventure. 



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


The impact of Agile practices has undeniably permeated through companies, reaching various facets of their operations, and successfully crossing the chasm. The understanding of common Agile practices is solid at both the team and teams-of-teams levels, with most organisations embracing it, things like regular planning, improvement and alignment cycles to adapt to emerging needs. Even the Executives are jumping on the Agile bandwagon, throwing around terms like blockers, stand-up meetings, and sprints. 


This widespread adoption has provided organisations with improved visibility, enhanced work prioritisation, and a commendable level of transparency. However, amidst the talk of Agile's grandeur, the actual results present a mixed bag of outcomes, like jar of assorted candies. As its popularity grows, there's a noticeable trend towards commodification, adhering to the "Law of Raspberry Jam" – spreading Agile thinner as it becomes more widespread. 


This thinning out has raised questions about Agile's efficacy and the value it truly delivers. Executives are scrutinising the associated full-time roles, leading to a notable exodus of Agile positions, including Scrum Masters, Agile coaches, and even some Product Owners. This trend paints a somewhat bleak future for these roles, signaling a wake-up call for the Agile community. It's time for us to collectively improve, add more tangible value to businesses, and showcase the real impact of Agile beyond mere rhetoric. 

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


The agile transformations that have truly left an impression on me are the ones that embraced a genuine appetite for change. It's all about leaders stepping up to the plate, not just paying lip service but throwing their full weight behind the transformation, skin in the game and all. What sets these transformations apart is the meticulous modeling of behaviors – they become the guiding light that sets the bar high for the entire culture. 


Success in these transformations is directly proportional to the depth and breadth of support throughout the organisation. It's not just about leaders giving a nod; they need to actively back it up with tangible actions. The real game-changer is when leaders don't just delegate Agile as something to be done in a corner – it's about a wholehearted commitment to change. No more "you do Agile over there, we'll stick to our old ways" mentality. It's about fostering a culture of continuous improvement. 

The ones that stand out prominently in my experience are the transformations I've been part of in the Australian Federal Government and my ongoing stint with my current employer in the Private Energy Sector. These aren't just transformations; they're the cornerstones of impactful change, demonstrating real and tangible impact. It's a rare but powerful sight to witness these and share part of the journey.  



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

The trajectory of agile practices is interesting – while they've crossed the chasm and gained widespread acceptance, there's a nuanced shift in the nature of interest. It's not that agile practices are losing attention; rather, the foundational, rudimentary practices might be perceived as somewhat routine, even mundane. The real buzz now centers around achieving business agility and refining the systems and processes that surround it. The goal is to make a tangible impact on the bottom line, whether it's by speeding up value delivery, safeguarding existing revenue streams, or exploring avenues for revenue diversification to be nimble to demands from the market and resilient. 

The challenges in this context are less about the practices themselves and more about aligning behaviors to foster genuine agility towards achieving the right outcomes balancing value for the customer and the business. It's not a lack of tools or methodologies; it's a behavioral challenge. What I often observe is rigidity in applying a specific framework without a deep understanding of the context, culture, and the readiness of the environment for change. It's crucial to recognise that agile practices didn't emerge fully formed; they evolved through experimentation. Frameworks, on the other hand, are a mix of practices that worked for certain organisations, somewhat codified for broader use. 


In essence, agile frameworks should be more like scaffolding, an exoskeleton supporting the organisation's agility. It's the behaviors that should be in the driver's seat, not the framework acting as a rigid endoskeleton fixed into the organisation. Navigating this shift from foundational practices to a focus on business agility requires a keen understanding of the dynamic interplay between behaviors, frameworks, and the organisational context to maintain the right balance between for impactful change verses simply shuffling deck chairs around on the titanic.  

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