1st Conference: Heart of Agile Champion Interview - Phil Gadzinski

This year at 1st Conference, we are basing the learning around the Heart of Agile's four quadrants "Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect and Improve". I thought it would be valuable for you to hear from someone who has been applying the principles in their everyday work.

Phil Gadzinski has spent the last 11 years working with Agile delivery teams in a variety of industries. His passion from early in his career has been (in his words), "working with people to help create cross functional, self organising, high performing teams".

In this work, he spent a few years leading an Offshore Tech Company's Australian Agile practice. Right now, he is the Executive Agile Coach for IQ Consulting, on an engagement with a major Australian Bank as their Acting Head of Agility. His goal is creating the framework and services to create a consistent approach to agile adoption for the organisation, helping the organisation to improve how it responds to change in our complex world.

Phil presents a fantastic opportunity to hear from someone invested in the Heart of Agile framework,  he has a vast experience and wants to share some insight about how he has gone about implementing it in his work. Phil isn't an official Presenter/Speaker at this year's 1st, however, he will be around during the event, so have a chat with him about his experiences.

Take the opportunity to understand the applicability of the Heart of Agile in what you do.

As always, if you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to reach out to us. My email is Ringo.Thomas@tabar.com.au and I'm always happy to hear from you.

We need to help leaders understand that their main roles in moving towards agility is to help people to be able to collaborate better,  encourage the free flow of information, and take decision making to the work

Ringo: When did you first come across Heart of Agile, and how?

Phil: I was first enlightened to the Heart of Agile model when I attended my first Advanced Agile Masterclass with Alistair Cockburn - I have now been on three of them, so I’m either a slow learner, or really love the learnings! 

It immediately resonated as a way of cutting through the rhetoric and the confusion that surrounds agility and what that truly means today. In my time leading the agile practice at Infosys, before i knew the Heart of Agile concepts, I was fortunate to work on a major program where i worked with an awesome agile lead - Chris Chan! Working with him and the client team we helped co create an effective end to end delivery approach that didn’t need the trappings of a formal “framework”. 

I now think it was then that I started realising we don’t need the complexity of formal template models to succeed at helping people to discover how to work better. Then i learned about the Heart of agile, and it’s now my anchor to most conversations on agility adoption.

Ringo: What was it that appealed to you about it?

Phil: The simplicity. The applicability of the ideas to any scenario and any team. The ability to direct any conversation on agility towards the people element, away from the complexity and to simplify the conversation. The way that you can apply the concepts even in teams that consider themselves fixed, waterfall or plan driven and don’t think they can adapt. The Heart of Agile concepts can apply in any scenario without massive disruptive change, such as turning people into train drivers….

Ringo: What sort of role would you be in that it would be valuable to learn about the Heart of Agile?

Phil: In my view it’s applicable in any role and any scale. I’ve applied the concepts at team level, including offshore in Delivery Centres in India with distributed mixed vendor and client teams. Now I’m working at scale across an entire organisation, and working on how we take the principles of the quadrants - Collaborate, Deliver, Reflect and Improve - and apply them at a broad enterprise level, then distill it into practices that people can work out how to implement and lead us to the holy grail of agility…

Ringo: In what sort of scenario would it be valuable for an organisation to start adopting its principles? Is there somewhere it should start?

Phil: I think we need to start end to end. We need to help leaders understand that their main roles in moving towards agility is to help people to be able to collaborate better,  encourage the free flow of information, and take decision making to the work. 

Also the importance of taking the time to Reflect and Improve - for some reason there is still a well held concept in some management circles that people should be 100% utilised to be efficient, and we don’t give them the time to pause and improve what they are doing so that we can become more productive. 
At the team level any team can start applying the principles immediately, then use the idea of reflection and improvement and get better at what they are doing.

Ringo: What are the road blocks you could come across trying to implement the Heart of Agile in your organisation?

Phil: The Simplicity - it seems like the more complex the offering/agile framework, the more acceptance it gets at the leadership level. When we start a conversation with “agile can start really simply” I get blank stares! And I think that part of the idea behind why Alistair decided to create the concept - to break through the complexity and give people a simple framework to use as the anchor to moving towards greater agility. Once I break the four quadrants down it’s like the sun has dawned and most people I work with get it pretty quickly and the conversation turns. And then apply it.

Ringo: Is there one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting their Agile journey?

Phil: Read. Come in with a beginner's mindset. Get to lean coffees, community forums and so on. Adopt a stance that you are always learning, with a growth mindset. 

I made the mistake a few years back of thinking I had all the answers. I learned I didn’t and in fact the more I learn now the more I realise I don’t know, it’s a never ending journey. Most importantly, start now. 

It’s better to move forward with imperfect information than it is to change nothing and keep turning the hamster wheel. The agile community in Melbourne (I can’t speak for Sydney) is very open and transparent, more so than maybe any other I know. So if you want to learn there are always avenues to do so, it’s an investment in time you will always profit from. 

Once you learn, give back. The soul of collaboration is to share with others when there is nothing in return for you. Practice that!