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Q&A with Orod Semsarzadeh

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with Orod Semsarzadeh, Agility Coach, Founder & Director.


 

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


I began my journey as a backend developer in 2003, employing traditional waterfall approaches. In 2010, I embraced Agile while working in a cross-functional Scrum team, implementing XP practices like TDD and CI/CD. This prompted me to earn my Scrum Master certificate. Utilising my accreditation and experience, I transitioned to a Tech Lead, introducing Scrum to various companies and showcasing its benefits.

 

In 2016, I redirected my career to become an Agile practitioner and later a trainer, aiming for a broader impact. Since 2018, I've spearheaded over 10 Agile transformation projects in both large and medium-sized organizations. As the founder and director of Bee Agile Academy, conducting 300+ certified courses, I've certified over 1000 practitioners. Recently, I've concentrated on Kanban, developing the first Kanban System in government. I've shared insights at numerous conferences, advocating Kanban's evolutionary change approach for sustainable solutions and improved agility. As a co-founder of the Kanban Lab podcast, our goal is to demystify Kanban, addressing common misconceptions and helping listeners grasp its benefits for teams and organisations. 

 

 

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


After COVID-19, many organizations realized the importance of being flexible to adapt to market changes. To achieve this, they adopted Agile and Kanban practices and principles, seeking a new and effective way of working. However, numerous organizations fell short of their goals due to common mistakes.  


  • Overlooking the impact on people and underestimating their resistance proved a significant setback.  

  • Some organisations failed to grasp their own maturity level, attempting solutions that weren't a good fit for their readiness. Many focused on predefined solutions and frameworks, causing confusion instead of solving problems.  

  • To succeed, we must view the organization as a dynamic entity evolving over time.  

  • Another key mistake was the lack of support from management and leaders. Improving agility requires not just new methods but also a holistic understanding and commitment from all levels of the organization. 

 


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


After making lots of mistakes, I've found a more effective way of working. Instead of focusing only on solutions or frameworks, I now help organisations figure out their exact problems. I create solutions that match their specific challenges and goals, making sure they're ready for change. This is where the Kanban Method comes in handy—it's not like Agile frameworks that don’t have the context and might not fit their problems. The Kanban Method focuses on the problem and encourages everyone to participate and try out new ideas for improvement.  Since I started thinking this way, my dealings with clients and people have gotten much better. The solutions are designed by the client so they make sense to them, building confidence in the process of change and, in the end, making customers happier. 



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

 

This question can stir debate, and I'll share my personal take. The Agile Manifesto doesn't prescribe specific practices, but frameworks like Scrum and SAFe do, such as timeboxing and Daily Scrum. 


To answer the question, it's important to know that organisations deal with challenges. Our goal is to improve how work moves from customer needs to fulfilling them. While frameworks can help with this, focusing too much on them can be counterproductive. It's better to stay flexible and prioritise supporting organisations and their customers rather than strongly promoting Agile. 

 

Many Agile practitioners struggle because they focus a lot on Agile framework practices. These practices are supposed to be helpful, but if they end up causing more issues and confusion, it might mean either companies aren't fully ready for them or they just aren't beneficial. It's better to explore different solutions rather than sticking to one method; be open to different approaches that might suit the situation better. 

 

The key is improving customer satisfaction, and if Agile frameworks contribute, that's excellent. However, the focus should remain on flexibility and practicality. As long as Agile supports organisations in enhancing customer satisfaction, it will sustain interest. 

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