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Have you ever felt that the system was against you?  That you were struggling against the system in a battle of wits that was impossible to win?  I did, and I have the scars to prove it.

Back in the 1990s, I was delivering technology projects for large organisations, struggling against impossible timelines in an environment where the cost of the project was more important than the people doing the work.  I felt there had to be a better way, but I had no idea what it could be.

I remember the day I first encountered agile as if it was yesterday, I didn’t know it at the time, but it was going to have an enormous impact on me.

IF SOMEONE OFFERS YOU AN AMAZING OPPORTUNITY AND YOU’RE NOT SURE YOU CAN DO IT, SAY YES – THEN LEARN HOW TO DO IT LATER.

Sir Richard Branson

My manager told me we were ‘going agile’ and gave me a book to read.


The book was “Agile Software Development with Scrum” by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle.  It’s a terrific book and I devoured it in a weekend.

Suddenly, I was a Scrum Master, even though I had no idea what that meant.

I remember feeling like I’d been set adrift, I’d been delivering software for a long time and was confident in my abilities, but this new Scrum Master role was entirely unknown.  Sure, I’d read the book and knew the basic mechanics of the framework, but most of it was completely unfamiliar, counter intuitive and felt like voodoo.

At the time, I thought I was doing a decent job of it, I did all the activities and ticked all the boxes, but as I look back now and with the benefit of hindsight, I know I was rubbish at it.

After many months of struggling to come to terms with my new situation I started to understand some of the intent behind the practices and developed some small level of confidence.  Solving people problems is certainly more complex and more difficult than solving technical problems, but it was also much more rewarding, and I came to enjoy the Scrum Master part of my work more than the software development part.


As my grasp of agility grew, I came to love the fact that it put the focus back on the people and the outcomes instead of the cost and the output.


Through my work as a Scrum Master, I learned about the practices in agile methodologies and became proficient in teaching and training teams how to adopt those practices.  I grew to the level of competence where I could adapt the practices to suit individual circumstances without breaking the underlying intent.


Enjoying the role and starting to understand how much I didn’t know; I developed a hunger for learning and a passion for helping those in my team to learn.  I set about reading everything I could get my hands on and doing every course I could enrol in.

THE GREATEST DANGER IN TIMES
OF TURBULENCE IS NOT THE TURBULENCE; IT IS TO ACT WITH YESTERDAY'S LOGIC.

Peter Drucker

Then I became a Product Owner at a major beverages company.  I thought I knew enough about agile and understood the role well enough, but once again, I was out of my depth and struggling just to stay afloat.

About a year into the role, I could start to show real improvement in the team’s ability to deliver customer and business value, and I had a fair enough grasp on the activities and functions of the role, even though I was still operating like a Project Manager.  I’d like to think I was fairly good at it, but I certainly wasn’t great.


That was when the wonderful community that was building up around agile came to my attention and I started to engage in different groups and meetups, attending presentations and participating in workshops.

My passion for learning became turbo charged.  Here was a community of like-minded people who were happy to give of their time and themselves to share their learning and experience with others for the sheer joy of helping others.

I learned about agile planning techniques and ways to map out a feature or requirement so that it is easier to break it down to small pieces and techniques to assess priorities so that we were always working on the most valuable things.

Over the next couple of years, I had many lightbulb moments that each blew my mind in ways I could not have previously imagined.

One of those lightbulb moments came when a team member asked why we were working on a particular feature.  I couldn’t answer beyond the fact that management had requested it.  I reflected afterwards and realised that I had not been operating as a Product Owner with real ownership and accountability for decisions about value, but simply taking orders from management and passing them on to the team.

Another ‘aha’ moment came when I found a way to report on the real value delivered by the team.  They had been struggling under stifling micromanagement in a culture of command and control with all their decisions being made by their managers.  Focus had always been on cost,... delivering on time and within budget seemed like the only important things.  When I was able to attach an actual value in dollars to the things the team delivered and show that they were delivering far more value than they were costing, the thumbscrews came off.


Everything swiftly changed and the team became empowered to make some of their own decisions and were finally allowed to take some level of control over their own destiny.  The additional autonomy motivated the team even more and their performance improved dramatically in a very short period of time simply through being able to prove how valuable they were.

Through a series of workshops and learning events, I found myself connecting with a lot of the elements of agile that had earlier escaped my attention because I had been doing agile in a way that focused on the activities and functions of the work, not the intent or the mindset behind it.

AGILE IS AN ATTITUDE, NOT A TECHNIQUE WITH BOUNDARIES.  AN ATTITUDE HAS NO BOUNDARIES.

Alistair Cockburn.

I had been doing the job exactly as it was described but I was missing the point entirely, agility opened up before me and it was so much more than a set of practices or any specific activities, it was a way of being and a mindset that resonated with me in a way that none of the work I had ever done previously did.

A few years later I took a job as an agile coach and my learning journey accelerated once again.

My experience with being a Scrum Master and a Product Owner allowed me to help people with the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of their work as well as the ‘how’ of getting that work done efficiently, but was still more focused on doing agile practices rather than living an agile mindset, (more an what an agile mindset is later.)

Through my work as an agile coach, my understanding of the importance of culture in any group grew, and I slanted my learning towards understanding and influencing group dynamics within human systems.

A couple of years into the role, I stumbled across, “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.  It was written in 1984, (before agile was even a thing,) and brings together so many of the agile techniques I had been practicing in a way that allowed everything to click in my mind.  Suddenly I understood a much bigger picture about how optimising the entire system for the effective delivery of valuable customer outcomes is one of the hidden objectives of being agile.


My eyes were opened in a new way.  It wasn’t about the practices or making teams go faster, it was about the big picture and how to make adjustments in a complex adaptive human system.


Agile isn’t about individual practices, methodologies or frameworks, it is about how you put it all together.  When you bring it all together, agile really is bigger than the sum of the parts.


When that came together with organisational culture, making the flow of value visible, agile planning and delivery techniques and the ability to make empirical decisions based on real metrics, I realised I had the makings of a new approach to applying agile ways of working that would help not just the people doing the work, but their customers and leaders as well.


When I tested the approach out with the teams I was working with, the results were staggering.


One team that was working on a reporting feature that would normally have taken them 6 weeks, was able to apply see their overall system differently and allowed them to deliver the entire solution in 3 hours!


Another team that was struggling with never ending changes in requirements, was able to apply some of the agile planning techniques and complete their first successful release in 2 years!


In my learning journey to get to this point in my career I’ve read literally hundreds and hundreds of the best books in the industry, attended and spoken at dozens of conferences all over the world, been a conference organiser, and been certified in just about everything agile you can imagine.  I’ve boiled those down along with hard earned experience at the coal face of delivering difficult projects to bring you the simple, proven system you’ll discover in the rest of this book.


My name is Terry Haayema, my personal purpose is, “To help people see differently, so they find joy.”  That’s why wrote "BE Agile" and it's also why I’ve designed these training programs.

If these training programs help you to see your role differently and that helps you to increase your income while enjoyin gyour role more, then my job is done.