At Agility Scales, we’ve started a new experiment, which will soon become one of the essential parts of our Mind Settlers platform.
Talking to many Agile Coaches, we know that many struggle to make their value visible to companies and teams, in a simple and easy to absorb format.
For many months our team has used a “work out loud” channel on our Slack. Similar to other remote teams practices or Scrum teams, we “write out loud” what are our plans for today. The good thing about this practice is the reflection, planning and asynchronous communication.
Then Jurgen came up with an idea, joining the two, which are explained here:
We explored and expanded the concept in December, then built out and used an app prototype during January. We’ve got enough in it now that we’re releasing it to our alpha app community next week. The Mind Settlers adventure will soon include a way to ‘Make a Mark” on your personal agile journey.
We’ve used some form of Marks for value tracking for 2 months now. We’ve noticed that similar to a fitness tracker, the value you get from using it grows over time, because the objective of getting healthy is particularly measurable after a few entries and activities, after that you see some progress and results.
While I’m using it, I feel more aware of the valuable work that I’m doing for myself and others. And in the long run, I can measure how much I’m helping my team or Agility Scales.
The marks feature try to solve one main problem (of many) for Agile Coaches and individuals:
How much value am I providing to this company/team?
How can I show myself or others my value?
What are the activities that are not bringing value, how can I change them?
Was the effort I put into that small experiment worth it?
As an Agile Coach, I tell my teams to be Data Driven, to experiment and act (and I hope you tell yours, too). I also remind them that organisational change starts with individuals.
What we often fail to teach our teams is that change is not someone else’s change, it is changing yourself and leading by example. Before you ask teams or your organisation to change or blame them for not changing, ask yourself these questions:
Are you tracking your value?
Are you experimenting and changing fast?
Are you leading by example, or you are just pretending?
Want to lead by example and start to measure your Marks in our alpha (Android) app?
Our team started working at Agility Scales in April of 2017, and we knew it was different from the beginning because we had no idea what we were going to be paid. Founder and Managing for Happiness author, Jurgen Appelo told us we’d figure out compensation together as a team in the first few weeks.
We had many good ideas from companies like Buffer.com, as well as our sister companies Happy Melly and Management 3.0, and we were open to new, creative approaches. We made our decision: we wanted salary transparency in our company.
At first, we tried a mix of the Management 3.0 Salary Formula and the Buffer salary formula. It didn’t work for our situation:
How can we define variables if the culture is yet to be created?
Since our company is brand new, we don’t have any data for formula variables
Some of our team members are beginning a digital nomad life — how can we create a formula that takes the cost of living into account? If the coworker changes countries every three months, will that change their salary? The administrative effort would be massive.
Everyone has a different reason to ask a compensation amount.
Our chosen solution was the most straightforward possible:
Each team member can choose any amount of compensation that he/she is happy with.
Each team member must write a document explaining “why” he/she requested that amount.
Every other teammate must agree with their colleagues’ proposed compensation.
Some team members mentioned their country cost of living, what they were used to as income, others family, job market rates, some objectives in life and purpose.
We solved two challenges: we have everyone with a compensation amount that everyone agrees and that they are happy with. And if you summarize every team member’s proposal, we can see our culture start to take shape.
Now four months later, we are recruiting new team members to our startup. It’s the first time we will post open positions on public job ad sites. How should we define and advertise salaries to each role? The answer is simple:
We merely say “you can ask for any amount of compensation you want, you must say why you want this compensation, and your future team members should agree.”
Now I want to ask you a question: how are salaries done in your current company? Do you do closed-door negotiations? Or do you get open and transparent decisions using the wisdom of your team?
If you are an HR manager, be bold and aim to create a truly innovative company, the best way to a truly innovative product. Be a shapeshifter; shape your company for the amazing challenges we’d like to conquer together. If you are a good HR manager, people are not your assets; they are your customers. Blow their minds and give them a WOW experience.
As an Agile Coach, I’ve worked with dozens and dozens of agile teams, and can tell you that few teams achieve and maintain a high-performance state. In our startup team at Agility Scales, I believe we’re pretty near high performance: we’ve passed through the forming, storming and norming stages, and now we’re gaining speed.
If you saw our previous posts, you know that we are looking for new team members. With this in mind, I wondered “how we will share our culture with newcomers?” (Usually, Agile coaches use the jargon “How do we scale.”)
During the past five months working together, we’ve made a series of informal agreements which shape our current behavior — why not make these explicit, so our future team members can better understand our way of working?
I found this interesting exercise from Bob Fischer about team agreements. Here it is, converted and adapted to a simpler and actionable “Guide” format.
We ran it as a team last week and got great results — team agreements we can share through an enjoyable, engaging activity that involves every individual.
You can count on me
This exercise makes it easy for all participants to create, discuss and maintain team agreements. It can work well for co-located or remote teams.
To prepare for this exercise for co-located teams, you will need post-its, pens, and a whiteboard split into three columns with these titles:
Candidates for team wide agreements
Team wide agreements
If you are doing this exercise for remote teams, you can do the same in a whiteboard app like Realtimeboard or Mural.ly.
Tell participants that the group will do an exercise about team agreements and explain what they are (if the team is unfamiliar with them). Explain that it is essential to have some team agreements for a new team that is starting today, or for one that is already running so they can focus on performance improvements. You can adjust depending on what focus you’d like the group to have.
2. Write “You can count on me”
Ask participants to write (on a post-it) a sentence starting with the sentence “You can count on me to _____” which should be completed with a behavior/standard that they feel should be a team agreement.
Participants can write as many answers as they want, but add each one on a separate post-it.
Provide them with some examples:
“You can count on me to bring up difficult topics, even if I find it challenging.”
“You can count on me to have agendas sent out in advance for all my meetings.”
“You can count on me to raise an issue directly with the person involved to resolve it.”
Give them a timebox to fill those post-its 10–15 min should be enough.
While they think and write you may want to say more examples out loud to help them.
Now ask them to individually decide which of their post-its would be the most important team agreement, and then to number them all from the most important (1) to the least important.
4. Each one tells his/her top phrase
Then start sharing what people have written. Ask for an initial volunteer to say out loud his/her top priority sentence. “You can count me ….” (If no one volunteers, you can name someone and invite them to share.)
5. This is a candidate?
After the volunteer read his/her sentence aloud, ask the team:
“Does anyone thinks this sentence can be a candidate for a team wide agreement?”
If at least one person replied “Yes” add this post it to the whiteboard in a column named “Candidates for team wide agreements”.
Repeat steps 4 and 5 for each participant, so that each person contributes their top priority sentence. (If their top priority is similar to one that has already been stated by another team member, have them read their second.) If you have enough time, do more rounds, having participants read their next priority sentence.
Tell your participants that now you will agree as a group on team-wide agreements from the Candidates column on the whiteboard.
Take the first post-it from the “Candidates for team wide agreements” column and ask them to do a fist-to-five vote: at the count of three participants should vote with their fingers one to five — five if you totally agree this item should be a team wide agreement, 1 if you disagree.
If everyone votes with a three or more, the item is accepted without discussion, move the post it to the “Team wide agreement” column. If not, discuss a bit to try to reach consensus if it should or not be adopted as a team wide agreement. If it takes too much time move to the next item.
8. Define team wide agreement
After all items are discussed and voted on, review with the team all the items now in the “Team wide agreement” column and agree that this is the resulting team agreement.
Reserve the final 10 minutes of your exercise to reflect and discuss with the team these questions:
How do we keep these agreements alive?
How do we pass these agreements to newcomers?
How do you feel about this exercise?
If there are any action items, as a facilitator write those and add to the “Actions” column.
10. Review action items
Did the discussion on the previous step generated some action items? Review it, if the answer is yes, capture these and make clear who is responsible for each one.
At the end of our exercise, the result was clear, people loved it, and now we’re ready to live those agreements and share with new hires. We will do this frequently and adapt as our company grows, in line with our mission of ‘shape-shifting’ and enabling continuous adaptation in companies.
Hi, my name is Thomas, and I’m an Agile Coach. I work at Agility Scales.
Five months ago I answered a challenge from a crazy Dutch guy named Jurgen Appelo; he had this vision of creating an app that will help organizations, teams, people to continuously adapt. He called it “Shape-Shifting. ” Jurgen wanted to create a startup called Agility Scales, and we would be a tiny team distributed all over the world, fully remote.
The timing was perfect for me; I was looking for a country to migrate to, maybe Canada, Australia or New Zealand, mainly because I was looking for a safer environment and better education for my one-year-old daughter than I could find in Sao Paulo.
I’ve never even visited those countries, but my determination was so strong that I was happy to go, eyes closed, with my entire family.
So Agility Scales was a great opportunity, as I would be fully remote and could visit those countries, try them out while working, and figure out where we could thrive. I could become a true “Digital Nomad.”
I accepted the challenge. The hiring process was a bit uncommon and fun; it had stage levels to mimic playing a game. I was accepted.
We had to start the company from scratch. Soon I was working with seven teammates from all over the world, fully remote.
And what they say about remote working is real:
You’ll have great freedom, but from that, you will have a great responsibility.
You’ll fight daily with the monster “Am I doing good work?” You will have to be vulnerable and ask for feedback often.
You’ll spend more time with your family — you will be there when they need you. Also, you’ll spend more time with your work — you will be there when your teammates and customers need you. Whaaaat? Yes, this is true, your work-life will not be balanced, but blended.
For an Agile Coach, remote teams are very different than face-to-face, and working with a group of senior people is a harder challenge.
And in a small startup team like ours:
You will do a lot of tasks that are related to your role and others that don’t, but need someone to do them. You will be a specialist AND a generalist.
You will have to be much better than you already are.
Makes me happy to work in a place like this.
But the hardest thing of all is dealing with uncertainty. During these past five months, we worked without truly knowing if the startup would survive or not if we would see another month on our paychecks or not. That made us stronger, pushed us harder to work, to be a team and -like all Agile Coaches say- “to deal with uncertainty.”
Now, this is where the story reaches the present. On the last week of November, 2017, my family and I will move to Rotterdam, Netherlands for three months. Our Sao Paulo apartment is on Airbnb and already booked. We sold our car. We reduced our stuff to fit into a backpack for each family member, donated the rest of our possessions (clothes, gadgets that I never use) to charity.
And now I am starting my nomad life, to experience many countries as possible, so at the end of our journey, my family can choose one place where we can live with safety and proper education for the rest of our lives.
Where will we go after Rotterdam? I don’t know yet. I think that’s called “embracing uncertainty.”
Do you like my story? Agility Scales is looking for new members to expand our team. Want to join us?