Agile? How (some) Companies Work
Day 2 of onboarding.
George (👨) had found the first day hard (albeit a bit boring) reading the policies of the recruitment company he’s joined. He'd spent a good part of the day watching all the compliance and health and safety videos.
Day 2: Today looks more promising. George likes the idea of meeting the senior managers to find out what’s what.
Jamie from HR has been talking for 5-minutes.
👨💼‘I love working here, George,’ says Jamie. ‘I love the agile culture. We’re an agile company – agile in everything we do.
We have an agile structure, agile projects, agile marketing and agile sales. Agile operations and agile HR.
Why I love agile so much, I use it at home,’ continues Jamie.
‘Last month, for example, I took the wife and kids on an agile holiday.’
👨‘Any good?’ asks George.
👨💼‘Not too bad George,’ replies Jamie.
‘I took one week’s holiday. In the end we drove round for two-weeks not knowing where we were going - or if we’d arrived.
It was a bit embarrassing phoning work and asking for the extra time off. But apart from that, fine.
The kids' rugby team is struggling a bit,’ continues Jamie, ‘but it’s early days. The opposition seem to score when we’re having our team meetings every 10-minutes on the half way line.
We need to improve our sprints – and our scrums.
Let me introduce Lucy, the Head of our Project Management Office.’
👩‘Welcome aboard,’ says Lucy, ‘I couldn’t help over hearing. Yes, we’re agile to the heart – it helps get the work done quicker in a non-hierarchical way. Get ready for a great adventure, George. ‘ continues Lucy. ‘Why, over the next few months you’ll learn an entirely new way to do every aspect of your job. You’ll attend workshops, go on offsites, watch online courses and participate in role plays.
You may even play with Lego.
You’ll learn a brand new language. ‘Given, when, then’ formulas, heartbeats and scrum ban. You’ll draw happy or angry faces at the end of each sprint. There’s a lot to look forward to.
From tomorrow, you’ll start the day with a ‘stand up meeting’ and work in a scrum. You’ll have a scrum master. You’ll pick tasks to do in a sprint and at the end of the sprint, you’ll have a retrospective.
Instead of a sprint you could even have a kanban.
If you work hard, you might be selected as your team’s ‘ambassador’ - then you’ll attend a meeting of all the team ambassadors to keep everyone on track. It’s even possible you’ll be invited to a meeting of the scrum masters - we call this our scrum of scrums.
It’s so straightforward.
The scrum masters report to an agile coach - who report to the company agile coach and then to the agile practice leader - who reports to me with a dotted line to the CEO.
There’ll be lots of other day-to-day meeting to attend, of course.’
‘But Lucy, with all this going on, when will I have time to find and look after my customers and candidates?’ 👨asks George, looking concerned.
👩‘Wow George, where did you get that idea from?’ asks Lucy.
👨‘What do you mean, Lucy?’ says George.
👩‘We’re far too busy running the company and delivering important projects to have any customers or candidates,’ replies Lucy. ‘Gosh, we have 250 staff – a company of this size doesn’t run itself.
Here’s Tom, our Head of Customer Services. He’ll explain.’
🤷♂️‘That’s right George,’ says Tom.
We’re rushed off our feet, everyone under so much pressure – totally blitzed – overtime through the roof. People working evenings and weekends. Work and home life, no dividing lines at all.
But we’re very pleased with progress.
We even won Call Centre of the Year award in 2020.’
👨‘But we have no customers or candidates,’ exclaims George.
🤷♂️‘That’s right – and when the judges came in they found no abandoned calls, no long waits, no outstanding queries and customer complaints. We were far ahead of all the other call centres.’ Nobody else came close.
We’re so busy. We have all that training to do – there’s lots of compliance and internal processes to follow. There’s the company call handling standards and all the technology issues we’ve faced. We’ve also developed our customer service charter – just in case we need it.’
By now, Erica, Jamie’s boss from HR has joined them.
🤷♀️‘Truth is, we’re a very staff focused company,’ says Erica, ‘it’s why we’re a recommended place to work.
We put the welfare of our staff first at all times.
We’ve so many important things to do - setting objectives, real-time feedback, 360-degree feedback, upward feedback, downward feedback, performance appraisals, competency frameworks, coaching, mentoring, personal development, leadership development. The list is never ending.
To be honest, we find that customers and candidates are a bit of a distraction – they add to the stress levels of our staff as well. I’m sure you understand,’ says Erica with a knowing smile.
‘Agile has been great for HR,’ continues Erica. ‘We trained all the staff in agile and the older, more experienced ones didn’t have a clue, thought it was a lot of nonsense and couldn’t follow it at all – it was a fabulous way to get rid of them.’
👨🏻‘Spot on,’ says Frank, Head of Marketing who has entered the room.
👨‘But….we have a marketing department….and no customers,’ exclaims George, his voice rising by at least an octave.
👨🏻‘Correct,’ says Frank. ‘I’ve worked here since I graduated and I love it.
We’re so busy’, continues Frank – ‘developing new propositions and services, market research, reports and innovative routes to market.
The digital explosion in marketing has been phenomenal – it’s made huge demands on my team.
We have to keep up-to-date, you know. Why, in 2020 we won best marketing campaign of the year award.’
👨‘So how come it didn’t attract any customers?’ asks George.
👨🏻‘Well, you have to be very careful,’ continues Frank. ‘We only advertise on Twitter - and other places no-one in their right mind would ever dream of looking.’
By now, Lisa, the Head of Sales has joined the conversation.
👩🏻‘The only problem with working here George is the pressure. It’s intense,’ says Lisa. ‘ The sales team are working 18-hours each day – we have 3 staff off with burnout and it piles work on the others.
We have sales targets to set and monitor, conferences to go to, meetings with prospects, proposals and presentations to prepare. It’s non -stop,’ adds Lisa.
👨‘But, how can all this be going on – and we’ve got no customers?’ asks George in desperation.
👩🏻‘Well, to be honest,’ says Lisa ‘we’re so bad at recruitment, we’ve never managed to bring anyone on board who’s capable of selling anything.
Thank goodness – if we sold things there’d be all that administration to complete. Heaven knows when we’d find the time to do all that.’
There’s a hush as the CEO enters the room.
🧔‘Welcome, George,’ says the CEO. ‘Yes, agile has been a fantastic find for our company.
You see, we’re very ethically focused,’ continues the CEO. ‘We believe in giving back to the community – and agile has provided so many extra jobs for our local people. We’ve also kept the town’s supplier of post-it notes in business.
You’ve joined a great company young man,’ says the CEO patting George on the back.
‘Revenues a bit low, accepted – but we aim to float the company in the next 5-years so no point in making a profit.
Anyway welcome aboard George – and remember:
Be agile – and always put the customer as your number one priority.’
George left the building – and was never seen again.