Episode 43: Agile is a People Practice with Scrum Trainer, Agile Coach and Change Agent, Lizzy Morris

Buzzwords like Scrum and Agile are often misunderstood by leaders and workers alike. Jenn DeWall talks to Scrum Master and Agile Coach Lizzy Morris to bust some common myths and share some real ways to bring Agile to the people

Jenn DeWall:

Hi everyone. It’s Jenn DeWall. And on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast, I am talking with Lizzy Morris. We are going to go more in-depth on all things Agile if you will. Now, if you caught last week’s episode, you probably got a little bit more of a high-level perspective, and Lizzy is going to share with you, based on her experience as a certified Scrum trainer and Agile transformation coach and a consultant, different ways that you can develop your Agile skillset. Enjoy the conversation.

Meet Lizzy Morris: The Scrum Provost, Agile Coach and Change Agent

Jenn DeWall:

Hi everyone. Thank you so much for joining us on this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit, I am talking to Lizzy Morris, and we’re talking all about Agile! Lizzy, go ahead and introduce yourself. Let’s— they want to hear a little bit about you. What brought you into the Agile space, and how you help organizations and leaders implement and apply Agile tactics to be more successful? I’m so happy to have you, by the way. Thank you so much for joining us.

Lizzy Morris:

Thank you so much for asking me to listen to this every way. Hi, my name is Lizzy Morris. As some of you will be able to tell, I’m a native Brit who’s been in the US now pushing on into the 15 years mark. And I got introduced to Agile through pain. So it wasn’t that I thought, Oh my gosh, I’m going to be so strategic and take Agile on. It was your project that is now going to use Agile, and we’d like you to learn about Scrum. And I was like the, what? The, who? So I had the heartburn reaction to it, right? Because I was a staunch project manager. And I thought this was just the biggest cowboy mess that people were bringing in, but what it did, and every time I remember it, it’s like life-changing. It brought the people in the team back to life.

And I’m used to, when people go into that burnout mode that, you know, they hate their work. They hate their job. They hated me, right? Because I’m pushing for those deadlines. It needs to be delivered, but people seem to transform when Agile came into the room. And that’s what got me actually bought into wanting to know more was what it did to the people. Yes, they’re great effects and what it does to the environment and the work product. But the people- that’s what made me become an agilist. Right? And when I look at the four values today, the one that I really lean in on is the one that talks about individuals and interactions because we cannot make projects work— or anything happen in this world unless humans are having interactions with humans. So when it comes to being Agile, I just think of it as a way of life, right?

So be Agile versus you do Agile. And as we get into the conversation, I’ll be able to do more into that. So I’ve been helping organizations transform and adopt these principles and values with different frameworks for them to actually actualize it through. And I’ve helped organizations that have over 10,000 people. I’ve helped small organizations that are like kind of 1000 and a little bit above. And I’ve done a lot of charity stuff with nonprofits to help them take this, to kind of give them some momentum or boost. So it’s a great thing to know about. And I’m really happy to be here to talk about it.

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah. I mean, what a powerful thing to say that it can breathe life into an individual or a team that if they’re maybe burnt out or frustrated and can’t see a way out that by embodying or applying some of those Agile principles that they can be kind of refreshed and rejuvenated.

Lizzy Morris:

Yeah. It’s like, it’s like, it’s like a metamorphosis. These people come back, and you finally get the person versus just the role. Right? And that in itself is so powerful because that’s what you’re hiring, right? When you’ve gone to hire people for change, you looked at their skills, and this is the person that you want to bring in, but they start to embody your role. And then you lose the person. So that creativity gets lost. That innovation ability goes down the drain, and you turn the Agile key on. It’s like, you’re liberating your teams. And amazing things happen when people feel that sense of freedom and individual thought that my thoughts are worth something. And then, you merge my thoughts with my other team members, thoughts, my other team members, thoughts. So, you know, you now have this amazing collage that we call innovation.

Jenn DeWall:

I think that’s so great because you don’t typically hear when people think about, Oh, we’re trying to do something to make the team more efficient. Let’s focus on understanding the individual—those things. I don’t feel like you hear very often. They don’t say, well, you can probably do that. But really Agile at the heart and soul is a people practice.

Agile is a People Practice

Lizzy Morris:

That’s right. It’s very much a people practice. It really is. You look at every single one of those values. They’re all tied into humans. How humans react or how humans respond. Even if we look at working software over comprehensive documentation. Well, who do we think software works for? It’s going to be a human, right? You’re making it work for a human to utilize it. So the human is still there in the delivery of work. If the human doesn’t value the work you’ve given to them, they’re not going to keep paying you. They are going to go elsewhere. Right? So there’s always that human component that’s in there, but a lot of people miss it. And then they wonder why. Well, we tried Agile, and it didn’t work for us.

Jenn DeWall:

Why do you think they miss it?

Lizzy Morris:

I think the reason people miss it is because we’re so programmed to output. Although we’re in a modern age, we’re still very industrial thinkers. So we’re still using that industrial framework of the mindset of resources, time, materials, as it were mining coal picking up bricks. That’s still because most organizations that we’ve grown up in are really old. Right. And they’re founded on that industrial mindset principle, but it doesn’t work for where we are today. But if that’s your default programming that doesn’t have humans, it has resources and resources are the same as bricks, mortar, coal, diamonds, wood, steel resources. When you start talking about Human’s, that’s different.

Jenn DeWall:

Why don’t you think it works today? I mean, I know it’s kind of like the square peg in the round hole, they’re going to keep trying to push it, but they’re likely not going to get the same results that they had in the past, by still trying to force that application. Why doesn’t it work today to do you know, an approach from the industrial revolution or an older, more traditional approach?

Lizzy Morris:

If you think about even just the education level, right? Most team members today are more educated than their managers. And they have way more cognitive- I would say- renewal. Back in the day with the industrial, the people who were educated were managers, not the workers. So you were dealing with an uneducated workforce who would just brute force pick up stuff. Do you know what I mean? Now you’re dealing with thinkers, right? People who are creating, it’s not industrial, it’s a different paradigm. So trying to use the old paradigm with these new thinkers who are extremely educated, spent years getting degrees, etc. And this old way of work, well its not going to work. That makes sense.

Jenn DeWall:

So I think that as you look at, even the younger generations, the Millennials, Gen Z, are lifelong learners. They’re always wanting to challenge the status quo or they stay at organizations that give them developmental opportunities or career path. It sounds like by embracing Agile, you’re going to be able to engage your employees in a way that connects them back to what they’re doing. That gives them meaningful work. That makes them excited to probably work for you.

Lizzy Morris:

Which means attrition for you goes down, which attrition is a huge cost. High attrition costs you a lot. So if you can keep your attrition down, think about the savings and the return on investment your organization’s going to have because this newer generation wants to be attached to a purpose. And whenever you’re talking about being Agile, you’re talking about being Agile to make a purpose come to light. So it attaches to the people today, do not want to be managed or told what to do. Now you’re giving them the space to be, right? So it feels like for them, it’s my choice to be here. It’s my choice to work for you. And it’s my choice to give you my talent and my thinking. When I feel it’s my choice I will give way more because I chose to do it. There’s a huge impact.

Scrum and the Agile Manifesto

Jenn DeWall:

So before we go further, Lizzy, let’s dive into the basics. Because you know, I, I gave a webinar on Agile. I understand the surface probably in a way that maybe some of our listeners do, but I’m going to guess that some of our listeners were like me and Agile was still new. It was definitely something that when I heard Agile or I saw, or like saw the word Scrum, I just assumed that that was a place that was reserved to some tech software developer down where I would probably never interact with them. But tell it, like, let’s go back to the basics of what Agile is and how it actually has moved into maybe the forefront of someone that’s not in the tech space. So what is Agile? And I know we’re going to talk about the Agile Manifesto, but I want to hear from you. How would you describe this shift into modern day, I guess, business practices.

Lizzy Morris:

So when, when you look at Agile, right? Agile came about 2001 that’s when it was morphed, right? It was kind of birthed. But what you’ve got to understand is the people who came together to birth, that we’re already doing different frameworks. So let’s take the Scrum framework. That’s extremely popular. The creators at the Scrum framework helped to create the Agile manifesto, which is why the two of them married so well together. And they support each other because the influence from Scrum came into Agile. The influence of extreme programming came into Agile. So there’s all these elements that came into the birthing of these.

So these 17 minds that came together in Utah, right after a three-year conversation- understand that- they will go back and forth for three years talking about stuff. You know, you kind of, you know what, it’s like, you go to a conference, you meet people, you pontificate, right? And they like, I love pontificating with you over a beer. We should exchange details. Right? And then you keep doing that through emails and all the rest of it. So when they finally came together, it wasn’t just in that moment, it was moments that had built to that point. So they were able to say, okay, what could we all be comfortable agreeing on that we believe could change the way the workplace looks and the way the workplace acts. So those four values that they came up with.

Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools

Lizzy Morris:

First- individuals and interactions over processes and tools. We all know processes and tools exist. We use the processes, we use the tools, but how about now, reengage these processes and tools to empower humans, to have better interactions together. That’s where you see what I call the cha-ching-ching happens.

Okay. So classic all cell phones, the process of making a call. You think about the process of managing your calendar, communicating. We took this and we socialized it around humans being able to interact with each other. Think about how that’s affected the banking industry, right? How has it affected the mortgage industry? Every industry in the world has been affected by this particular tool because it helped humans come together. Now it’s not just friend humans its business humans. Right? So when I have to have a business interaction, when I have to buy a car, when I have to apply for loan, I can do that all now to my device. So here I’ve took a processing tool and it has enabled individuals to have interactions. So we see that value everywhere, everywhere, right? The telephone market is what? Kind of like in the trillion dollar market?

Jenn DeWall:

Wait, I’m not even sure. I know that’s a, you know, obviously a very large market

Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation

Lizzy Morris:

Right! And then we look at the second one working software over comprehensive documentation. Now, today people get bent out of shape about that. Well, I don’t do software. I’m not in software world. And we say replace software with what you do. So if you’re a life coach, right, we’re saying good life-coaching services, over documentation about it. So you’ve written about it. You’ve done videos about it. But when I come with you and you take me through that journey and you’re coaching me, I should be getting that happening in great coaching service and a great value. Not just, well, your brochure said, if I had like 10 sessions with you, I feel better about myself but I don’t.

Jenn DeWall:

So rather than just a pretty brochure of what that is, actually just doing the service that people will want to invest in. So if you’re a consultant, you know, you don’t have to spend all the time on the website or thinking about how to market, but it has actually the I’m not just talking about it. I am doing it. And providing that benefit for you.

Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation

Lizzy Morris:

And that’s the second one, just provide the benefit you’ve told people you’re going to provide, right? And you can do that best by implementing the third value, right? Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.

Jenn DeWall:

What does that mean?

Lizzy Morris:

Build relationships with your customers! Collaborate. Collaboration is not me just talking at you or you just talking at me. It’s a sharing ideas. It’s morphing together. So I truly understand what it is to be in your shoes. So now when I put a contract in place, I’m not about the red letter of the contract, the contract is aligning how we’re going to collaborate.

Responding to Change over Following a Plan

Lizzy Morris:

And then the fourth value, right? Responding to change over, following a plan because I’m open to responding to change over following a plan. It helps me collaborate with you better because my job is to help you as a business, right? As an multimillion dollar company, as a person, just trying to do better in their relationships with the people they care about, have those better relationships.

So I’ve got to listen to hear what’s going on with you to empower you, to have better interactions with the people you’ll have interactions with. So if you look at it, it’s this, it’s not one, two, three, four, in a line. Relationships make all the difference in the world. I can think about organizations where I’ve had relationships with leaders and I’m able to bring people on site based on the relationship, right? Even though we haven’t had master services agreement, all done, et cetera, relationships make a difference. Why humans are doing business with humans, not doing business with robots.

Jenn DeWall:

Sometimes we need to remind people of that. Basically. I think people, I think leaders even forget that you’re in the business of leading people, not a means to an end, and everyone can tell when they feel like a means to an end. And that doesn’t feel good. But one thing I want to touch on. So you just, you know, for our audience, that’s listening, what Lizzy just gave you are the four core values that are rooted in the Agile manifesto. But I think number four is pretty, pretty big. It’s a pretty big ask. Because you’re, you’re asking people to really get comfortable being uncomfortable because they have to become okay with change. How would you, I mean, I imagine there’s a lot of resistance there. As you know, as a consultant, how do you overcome some of those barriers are the people that are just unwilling to change or don’t want to see it because it’s maybe a little bit overwhelming or they’re afraid of the outcomes. What do you do to kind of get them on that page to embrace change?

Agile is Only Possible if You Embrace Change

Lizzy Morris:

So one of the things I do with people to help them embrace change in an organization is help them understand change is difficult. And as humans, we hate it. So give them a common playing field. You’re not a bad person right now because you don’t want to do this. Right? This is change and as humans we hate it. And the reason we hate change is because it comes back down to that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Right? We need safety. We need to be able to predict what will happen because we feel, we can’t predict we’re going to be in danger. So it’s that raw human fright flight that comes in. Right. So it’s helping people go, it’s okay to scream. But guess what? Once you finish the scream, you’re still going to be here and you’re going to be okay. Right. So it’s like, if you think about somebody who goes through a horrible divorce at the time, they can’t see how their life would ever be the same, how they’ll be able to figure it out. But the time happens and they’ve become even a better person. So change when you teach people that it helps you to evolve.

One of the classics I use with executives who really have a problem is I asked them this question. When was the last time you saw a dinosaur? Right? And they’re like, like, what is this woman on this? Dinosaur? Where was she going with this? Right. And then every now and again, I’ll have what I call like a smart alec, you know, Lizzy. I just took my son to the zoo the other day. Like, God, that’s so amazing. Why is it you saw an elephant and not a Tyrannosaurus Rex and then we get back to, okay, where’s she going? I go because the elephant was able to adapt to the changing climate that was happening on the earth. The others worked. And where are they today? They’re in our cars as Petro. So as an organization, you have to make a choice. Are you going to be a dinosaur that people talk about and uses fuel? Or do you want to be an elephant?

Jenn DeWall:

I love that analogy.

Lizzy Morris:

It’s like, it’s like the light bulb goes off and well, Yes, of course. We want to be an elephant. We want our company to be here. So that’s what we’re talking about. We’re going to have to respond to the changes that’s happening. And if we put these frameworks in place, they will create a security for you while you’re dealing with the complexity that’s happening around you. You can’t shift the complexity, but you can shift you. And that’s why it comes back to that human element. Right? Understand the human in the place is what you can shift and change at will. Circumstances you can’t, they’re out of your control.

So us as complex beings, have this amazing ability to be able to make shifts. You just gotta be reminded that you can, and failure is not part of the equation it’s learning and adapting. And that’s what it brings to the table. So those are the conversations I have with people. I help them to see their own inward fear of change first. So we deal first with internal transparency. Who are you right now? Why is change a problem for you? And a lot of times it’s what got me into executive coaching. A lot of times, the reason why people leave in such a very tight way is because growing up and in their life, they had no control. So now, as a result, these are things they, because it gives them a sense of this is who I am. So what they do is now attached to the value of who they see themselves at. So it’s helping people detach from things, being the value to them being valuable.

Jenn DeWall:

I love that perspective just in the sense of, you know, I think that people, as you grow older or as, from childhood were never taught to internally value or to internally validate to, to see themselves as adding value. And yes, it was always, maybe being controlled by someone else or feeling like you had to meet the expectations of someone else. And so really it sounds like a part of Agile is getting to be more confident in your own strengths and what you bring to the table and also being able to articulate and describe that what you see in yourself that adds value, but also holding space to see the benefits that other people have.

Lizzy Morris:

Right? So it comes back to individuals. So starts with the person, then having interactions with other people. So, when we’re talking about being Agile, it starts with you. And it starts with me.

The Myths About Agile

Jenn DeWall:

What are the myths about Agile. Like what do you think people don’t understand about it?

Lizzy Morris:

Okay. Biggest myth, Oh, if we’re Agile, we’re going to save money. We’re going to be fast, biggest myth, right. It’s magic. Right. Second myth. It is a place. We can get there. And we will then be able to like, kind of take the flag in the pole. We are Agile. Yay. Drop the mic. That is probably the worst myth.

Jenn DeWall:

Like there’s some finite point. It’s kind of like perfect perfection. Like you will get there and be able to do it even though that destination doesn’t exist.

Lizzy Morris:

It’s the journey of life. As long as you’re alive, as long as your company’s doors are open, you’re going to be shifting and you’re going to be changing. So what ends up happening is we use the phrase of talking Agile maturity. So just as a human grows and becomes more mature in life, through experiences, et cetera, organizations become more mature in being Agile, but they’re never going to get the drop the mic moment. So there’s really no ticking the box. And that’s one of the things that people have to realize. So a lot of times when senior leaders decide, they want to bring Agile into the room, so to speak, they’ve got boxes, they’re trying to tick. And they think, okay, well we’ve done it now.

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah. Like they have that skill set. So now we’re good because you know, they have this experience or they went to that school. So yep. Now we’ve got that good check a box- set and forget.

Lizzy Morris:

Right. Or another myth that people think is if you bring Agile in, your teams are going to just love each other and work together.

Jenn DeWall:

Well, assuming like, Hey, well I guess if we’re all seeing the people and they forget about the fact that you still need a leader, that’s going to come in and kind of govern and facilitate those relationships.

Lizzy Morris:

Right. And another myth is that Agile is for the teams and not the leaders

Jenn DeWall:

Tell me more about that. Where do you think people fall into that maybe trap or that myth and believe that?

Lizzy Morris:

A lot of times leaders have a habit of kind of being in the ivory tower. Right? You know, and it’s, it’s kind of like, you know, even as I’ll compare it to parenting. We have a habit of telling kids don’t do what I do, do what I say. So that comes back again from the industrial age, command and control. So leaders command an organization to Agile by X date, not realizing they are going to have to lead the change they want to see. So it begins with them. And most consultants don’t tell organizations that it begins with you as leadership. Because again, when thinking about the consultancy model, right, it’s about getting into the organization, getting in as much people as you can, make it as much money as you can, have a billable hours, it’s not always about helping people to solve their problems.

Jenn DeWall:

We gave you this framework. So you go and be empowered, go and create your success. Cause we checked that box for ourselves,

Lizzy Morris:

Right? Well, we have got to help leaders to understand if you want an Agile organization, it starts with your own personal transformation. Leaders have got to understand that most leaders, sadly, when they bring Agile into their organization, they’ve never read the Agile manifesto, never!

Jenn DeWall:

What’s the benefit of reading the Agile manifesto? We talked about the 4 values, but there’s also the 12 principles.

Lizzy Morris:

So there’s the 12 principles behind it, right? So you’ve got your 4 values, got your 12 principles. It’s important to see what that is. So that as a leader, you can look and say, Oh my God, are we ready for this? Are we ready as an organization to embrace these 12 principles? Do we have organizational structures in place to support this? Are there things in our organization that are going to block this, that we’re going to have to tear down and reorder the way we do things? Not necessarily just about reorganizing the way you’ve got people, but reorganizing your processes, right? Looking at the system of your organization. Does it support agility? A lot of times it doesn’t, but if you’ve never read it, you wouldn’t know. Right. You will know.

So when somebody complains, well, our teams are really having a hard time getting stuff done. You know, we don’t have a great production environment or they’re like, we’ve got blocks and nobody’s listening. You’ll understand well with the structure. They’ve got to go here, here, here, here, here, here, before anything gets done. So, wow. Maybe we need to pull apart that and really empower teams. Right? Give them the ability. Maybe a team has its own budget. It has the ability to make its own decisions. It gets empowered in that way. You know, there’s lots of different ideas that will come to the leaders once they read it.

Jenn DeWall:

So what you’re saying is if you want to even start to scratch the surface at incorporating Agile practices into your team or organization, it’s got to start by reading the Agile manifesto. And it’s not this well, I guess maybe it is this huge book, but from how I’ve seen it printed, it, isn’t just a quick, like here’s your four values. And here’s your 12 principles.

Lizzy Morris:

It really is not like crazy. And I mean, one of the principles that I love is principle number 10. Alright. Simplicity. The art maximizing the amount of work, not though. What does that mean? You listen to it. It’s basically saying, find what it is that truly moves the needle for your customers or your organization and focus on that thing. So find where the value really is not the noise is your differentiator, right? So the I, which is why I say simplicity, the art of maximizing, what you don’t do, because it is an art form to be able to always hone in on the value. And if it’s not valuable, we’re not doing,

Jenn DeWall:

How do you get people to like even prioritize it like that? Because I think, you know, I’ve worked with leaders in the past that, bless their hearts, they see so much opportunity. They see so many possibilities. But you can’t always just connect those possibilities to actually value-add. And so how do you encourage people to prioritize all of those things and kind of let go of the fear of missing out by not doing something, if it doesn’t connect to the value.

Start with Remembering your Purpose

Lizzy Morris:

See, now that’s where really great leadership comes into place. And one of the things I often say to leaders is how did this organization come about? What was this organization doing? Why it became an organization? Because a lot of times people don’t realize the reason you opened shop was because you had a service, a product that was something you were exchanging for money, which is why this thing came up. Right. So the thing that you did then is that still the thing you’re doing now is that why you have customers? Is that still your value driver making that thing amazing? Or is it something else? So sometimes it really is having to go back so that you can go forward. And that brings us into principle number 12, right? At regular times, the team gets together and inspects, right? So the actual wording is it reflects and becomes more effective. Then here’s one, then tunes two. Now, if you think about a musical instrument, right? Pianos guitars, you can play them alot, but you always have to tune them back to that note. Like, what is the standard for the “E” key? Is it at the standard common E? So if an organization doesn’t tune itself back to what is the reason it’s in existence, you can’t find its value.

Jenn DeWall:

Do they, how do they start to do that? You know, one of the things you talked about is the need for it to be a culture shift. What does that look like? Or how, how do you actually start to transform the culture into a more Agile culture? What’s one of the prescriptions that you would recommend to leaders?

Lizzy Morris:

The first thing I have leaders do is dream. I know that sounds really weird, right?

Jenn DeWall:

Well, it’s kind of like love and dreams.

Lizzy Morris:

I have them dream. I’d have them do a dream exercise where I have them draw a circle. And I asked them in the circle, describe your perfect employees, your perfect teams, your perfect organization. So I’ve given you an abracadabra. What does it look like? And when they have all of that, they’re right. It’s kind of like the persona that building of their new organization. Then I ask them to take that as a mirror and look at their organization today. What stops the organization today from being that organization in their dream? A lot of those key 10 steps they could make to take the organization. They have now closer to that organization that they really want. That’s the beginning. Because that’s where they get really honest and transparent. So when I do those sessions, it’s not a session that happens as a town hall. It’s a session that happens with the real core C-Suite, really asking hard questions, right? So you can add to, there’s not like a perfume, right? That you just could spray on. You are going to have to get naked. Right? I say, I’m actually preparing a talk about how true Agility comes from learning how to skinny dip.

You’re going to have to get you to be exposed and take it all off. Right? And look at who you guys are as an organization. And from there now you can do the necessary building. And that’s why you really have to have a coach help you with this. Right? So when you bring in a team, you really need to bring in somebody who has experienced really coaching leaders so that you can take them through that. And they begin to map what they want the organization to look like, because here’s the thing about culture. Culture can never be erased. It has to be evolved.

Jenn DeWall:

Can never be erased. I like that statement. It’s always there.

Lizzy Morris:

Right? Right. You can’t, you can’t erase your past. It doesn’t happen. It’s there. So now we have got to say, where do we want to be? And we start making steps. And we start teaching ourselves to think differently, teaching ourselves to be different, giving ourselves that room. That’s where that evolution and emergence starts happening. And there is where now the new culture starts to form.

The Gemba Walk – Know Your Front Line

Jenn DeWall:

What advice would you give to a leader that says, okay, I want to bring this into my culture. What are some actionable things that you would have them start doing if they actually want to lead Agile style efforts or, you know, to embody that, To walk the talk? What are some tips? I know, you know, one of the things you had mentioned is maybe being in the trenches. And why does that matter? Because I know we talked about the ivory tower and how we can’t do that in Agile. And why is it so essential to be in the trenches?

Lizzy Morris:

Toyota had this thing that they came up with when they came up with; they call it the Gemba Walk, right? And it’s Where the leader comes down, amidst the people and watches what they’re doing and walks the walk. So walks through all the processes. A real leader who wants a culture change and wants to know what’s going on. Cannot just wait for reports. They can have to go look, they’re going to have to go talk. There was a leader. I encountered some years ago and he is by far, I think just one of the favorite leaders that I have in mind. Right. and he made a point of making his office in the cafeteria.

Jenn DeWall:

That’s fantastic! Talk about accessibility.

Lizzy Morris:

And so just people could come up to him and he could observe and you see people and it made such a difference. It was a very strategic, intentional move, right. But it gave him sight of what was happening. Sight and how people were reacting. Because if your surveys are saying, everybody loves this organization. When you were in the cafeteria, people laughing, are they having fun? Or do they look stressed? You can see what’s going on. And as a leader, if you are going to lead, you must see the people you’re leading and be able to see where you want to take them to. That’s why that dream part is so important, right? Because then the vision truly becomes about, and it’s okay if the vision today, isn’t what the vision was yesterday. At least we’ll know that. Right. But we need to be transparent. And transparency is one of those key things that comes out of the Scrum framework, right? The three pillars that hold Scrum up are transparency, inspection and adaptation. So if you think about that, that influenced the creating of the Agile manifesto, that number 12 principal at regular intervals, take the time out to tune. That tuning is take the pause, get naked. And I like to say, not actually naked, because we’re not talking about telling anybody to strip clothes off at work. Okay. I just want that to be really clear.

Jenn DeWall:

That is not happening on this podcast either! We are not promoting that.

Lizzy Morris:

We talked about vulnerability, right? So and you think about Brene Brown, right? How important it is to be able to move forward. So the organization has to be vulnerable. That’s that transparency. Make it a point to pause. A pause is necessary. Look, what’s happening in our world right now, the universe put us on pause, right? Because we haven’t been pausing and now organizations intentionally pause. So have time boxes as a leader. We’re not saying every God-given day, you’re going to be walking with the people. It’s not necessarily practical. Right. But have a point every month that you have in your calendar where you’re taking intentional time out to go look, what’s going on.

What is Scrum?

Jenn DeWall:

So I want to back up there because time boxes or the sprints those are, you know, a little bit of the foundation of Scrum. Could you just give us a general description of what that is for someone that may be unfamiliar with those terms?

Lizzy Morris:

So in Scrum, a time box is a calendar month or less, right? That’s that sprint? So the sprint is a fixed time box and what is lovely? It has a character, right? So the character of the sprint is it’s always time boxed and it’s always protected. Meaning for that time box that we pick. We don’t let outside change, change the directive.

Jenn DeWall:

Okay. So if it’s worth, if we commit to this task for the next single bonds, we are solely focusing on that task. And even though there might be noise from the outside, we’re not allowing that to come in until we go to that until that expires

Lizzy Morris:

Right now, you may find though, you’re in an organization where you can’t do four weeks, it’s too long. You’re in a very dynamic moving place. So forward four weeks is too long to insulate from change. So maybe you have to be in a two week window, or maybe you have to be in a one week window, right? Because you’re insulating from outside change and staying focused for that sprint. And that’s the key thing. So it’s like, you’re getting ready to run a race. And you’re just focused on hitting that line right. For that amount of time. And that’s the power that Scrum gives you is this time box. Because it allows you to say, okay, let’s enter the time box. Here’s our hypothesis. We’ve got to get an idea of this is what’s going to happen. But by the end of the time box, you know, if your idea was right or if it was wrong and all you’ve done is spent that time.

Applying the Scrum Timebox

Lizzy Morris:

You didn’t spend six months, 12 months before you waited for the lessons learned to, you know, to see all the mistakes you have this small time box. So it’s insuring you guys against risk. It’s insuring against unnecessary spend. Now the third characteristic is that iterative, meaning we keep this cycle of habit consistently going. So we always work in a time box. And when we’re in a time box is always protected and it’s always focused on something. And last but not least is that it’s iterative. I think that’s the magic of Scrum, personally, right? Is the fact that you got these little bite sized pieces and you can figure out is that what you really want? You know, like if you go going for a wedding, right, and you go for a tasting, like you do a little small taste before you pay to feed all these hundreds of people this food and to show and be like, what are they giving us here? You didn’t, you didn’t do the tasting.

So the increment allows customers and the people they’re working with, right. To be able to collaborate around this taste, this taste, right. Do you want it to be a little bit more spicy? Do you want it to look this way more? And they get to see? Cause a lot of times when you have an ask, you don’t really have a visual. Now when you can see and get tactic with it, you’re like, Oh yeah, I don’t mean it like that. I thought I did, but no, I actually could you do this? And now you can go back and make the adaptation. So the sprint is a powerful thing and it’s something that you can bring it to everyday life.

Jenn DeWall:

You know, whether you’re an individual contributor or whether it’s a suite leader, you can think about how am I going to what’s most important. You talked about two questions. What were those questions?

Lizzy Morris:

Yes. So when we talked before, the two questions I always say to people is, is this value add as an, is this thing that you’re going to drive the value that drives return on investment? Okay. Or second question is this thing necessary activity to drive value-add to like compliance. Compliance is a necessary activity you have to do, depending on the industry you’re in, because you can’t release your stuff if its not compliant, right? So it’s unnecessary activity, but is it a necessary activity for us per se to have, I dunno, let’s say sucralose coffee everywhere. Is that necessarily right? It’s one of those things. Is it value add, is it really necessary if it’s not doing those things anymore? Remove it out of the way.

Introducing Agile or Scrum as an Individual Contributor

Jenn DeWall:

Wait, can I pause on that one? Because one of the, I was listening to a different podcast and the person that was being interviewed in terms of Agile, one of the things that he recommended is banning the reoccurring meeting, which I think could cause someone to have a little bit of a panic moment to say, what do you mean? That’s the time that I’m actually connecting with my team. And we’ve had that every Monday for the last five years. What? You’re asking people to, you know, throw out something that they’ve likely thought was really valuable,

Lizzy Morris:

but turns out it was actually waste, right? Because if you need to have a conversation and you’re really collaborating, we’re going to compensate. It’s normal. So do we have to have a standard that every Monday we’re always meeting, right? Does it make sense? And it comes back down to that idea of focus. And focus in Scrum and here back simplicity. What do we need to really meet for? Like, what do we, we need to meet for what’s the value we’re getting out of this meeting. And if you can’t determine value that you’re going to get out the meeting old value that you’re going to give to the attendees, because you know how much meeting time gets on people’s calendars and they get invited to all these crazy meetings. What’s the value you’re giving back to them. If you can’t quantify that and that meeting shouldn’t be in anybody’s calendar.

Jenn DeWall:

You know, I was leading a session yesterday and one of the things that the individual brought up was that he worked for an organization that he would sit in, you know, anywhere from four to eight hour meetings. And when he would share the feedback with higher level leadership, Hey, we have too many meetings. He felt as if he, you know, they saw him as kind of being more cynical or negative. And he was really, I guess he didn’t know how to address that. How do I tell these leaders, if I’m not in a position of power that these meetings may not be adding as much value as they want to believe that they are. How do you even start to, I guess, educate people on why they should reconsider some of these,

Lizzy Morris:

Call it an experiment.

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah. Let’s just try this out.

Lizzy Morris:

We just experiment, you know, all the cutting edge companies are doing that. They’re running their little experiments. How about we want an experiment where for, you know, maybe four weeks, we don’t have calendar meetings. We just have doctors’ hours. So everybody keeps their door open from, I dunno, 10 to two. And you need to talk to that person. You arrive between 10 to two and talk to them. And added to that you empower that person to be able to make decisions.

Jenn DeWall:

The autonomy. I want to go and talk to you, then I’ll talk to you. Otherwise, if I feel good, I feel good.

Lizzy Morris:

There you go. And see what happens. I actually ran that experiment with a few organizations, but the first one I did it with, it was really like the experiment, right? When we did it, we noticed how much time executives got back, right?

Jenn DeWall:

Oh, that’s what they need. That’s what they want.

Lizzy Morris:

Okay. You brought executives into envision to lead, to come up with things, concepts, to immobilize teams to do them. And they don’t have time when they’re supposed to do that. Most people do their work after five o’clock because they’ve spent all day in the meeting. That doesn’t promote a healthy lifestyle for a human. So if you’re constantly running in burnout, when do we get new, fresh ideas?

Jenn DeWall:

Yes. So this is the opportunity for you as a leader to challenge the way that you think. To challenge the way that you structure your time, to challenge what you know, and determine if you are willing to risk those comforts, to achieve something greater than what you have now.

Lizzy Morris:

I say. Because if value is what it’s about, because when you hear the buzzword “business agility,” right? When we’re talking about a company, having business agility, it’s the ability to deliver value the value at the right time. At the right time, you are not going to be able to deliver the right value at the right time. If you can’t even quantify what value activity is. And you have no real mechanism for prioritization, you’re trying to do 10 things at once.

Jenn DeWall:

I feel like if people bring in Agile, I think that way solve at least challenges that I even had earlier on in my career, a feeling like, why are we trying to do so much? Why are we measuring what we’re trying to do to determine whether or not it’s the right thing? I feel like you’re probably going to give people sanity. Some of these things, because they, you know, if you’re not in a position where you have a seat at that table to offer that insight, you’re likely just thinking in your brain, like what, wait, why are we doing this? And so you’re further disconnected from the vision in the first place, because you’re not seeing the value.

Lizzy Morris:

One of the things I have a talk to individual contributors to do, like people on in leadership position is to create a visual that everybody can see. Right? So when people are in the workplace, I’d say, put it on your wall, showing all the activities everybody’s asked you to do. What you’re working on right now. Right? So when somebody comes, you can say, not a problem, I’ll add that to my backlog. Right? And then when you sit with your managers and they can play with and say, okay, I brought my backlog with me. Can you tell me which thing do you believe is a higher priority. A lot of the things that got to do. So when I say back off all those to do’s, everything everybody’s emailing you about every single boss has asked you to do, put it in a list and then go back to them and say, could you prioritize this for me? What’s going to drive the highest value, right? To help me to help our department be what we’re trying to do this year. That’s simple.

Learning to Prioritize

Lizzy Morris:

Because then sometimes people just don’t have the insight as to how many things are going. So they really don’t realize it. But when you see it, you’re like, Oh, well this is more, this is high priority. And I’ve even done that in my organization. I had a team member come to me, well, you asked me to do this. You asked me to do that, she asked me to do this. I said, here’s your prioritization. I said, this is how you always prioritize. If it’s going to drive revenue, we’ll help our customers. It goes up to the top. And then if you can’t decide between helping our customers and driving revenue, talk to me. If you’ve got something that’s sitting right in between those two, ask me and I’ll prioritize it for you.

Jenn DeWall:

This is also a moment of development.

Lizzy Morris:

Yeah, I liberated them! Because I’m like, don’t be overwhelmed, there’s no need to be overwhelmed. This criteria, because you know, I had a couple of people who were. I said, pause, stop, stop, choose your base priority. Use this all the time. If it’s not revenue generating, it’s not helping our customers. It doesn’t come up to the top. So anything that doesn’t fit into that, it’s going to be lower. Now, if you have concerns, talk to me, let’s talk through it. And when I did that, they can calm down, so you’ve taken people out of the stress, right? So now they can think, now they can create. Now that can be productive. And that’s what you want. As a leader. You want productive teams. If people are in overwhelm, they’re panicked, they’re have anxiety. How are you thinking they’re going to create anything for you that’s worthwhile in that state? They’re not. Right? You need people to be in a calm state to do great work and there’s data that says not only do you need them calm, you need them happy.

And that is not necessarily a concept from the industrial age. Happy? What do you mean? You should be happy you’ve got a job, you are privileged to be here! Yeah, that’s not happy. You know, I think about it. Mental health is a huge thing, right? The amount of people who commit suicide, those statistics are off the radar for people in corporate organizations. And why does that happen? They don’t feel they have an outlet. They feel overwhelmed. And when you have constant overwhelm, your brain tells you, it’s always going to be this way. You’re always going to feel this and who wants to feel that all the time. So we have to, as leaders really inspect our environments that we’re creating. So create environments that allow people to thrive, not simply survive.

Jenn DeWall:

My gosh. I think that’s a great ending point. Lizzy. You’ve given so many nuggets to our listeners, just so many different perspectives speaking from even, you know, the last point that you had said, I just, I see so much opportunity. If you’re thinking about teaching someone, how to prioritize, and if it’s someone that’s newer in their career, newer to your organization, by doing that, you’re also connecting them probably in a quicker fashion to the big picture and helping to really develop those strategic thinking and decision making skill sets that are essential. If you want them to add value as they continue through their career. But I know that we have to wrap up. What would be maybe one last thing that you would want to share with our audience? Or I could say it this way. One of the final questions we typically ask our guests is what is your leadership habit for success? What do you do to create success for yourself to be successful? So, you know, I would say take it that way you can answer. What is your leadership habit for success or what is one thing you would want them to know in your closing remarks?

What is Your Leadership Habit for Success?

Lizzy Morris:

I would say, if you’re going to adopt a new leadership habit for success, it would be to take time every day, to be very transparent with yourself, to inspect the things you’ve done for that day and figure out what is the next best thing you could do that would make your life better, make your organization better, make your teams better and make you better. If that becomes a practice for living, leadership, will go from here to here because then you’ll teach that on. That will become part of you. And then it will have a knock-on effect to become a part of your teams. Then before you know it, your culture of your organization has become value-driven. And that’s just simple. So it starts with you.

Jenn DeWall:

Gosh, that’s a great place to end it. Lizzy, thank you so much for just sharing your time, sharing your insight, sharing your ideas with our audience. I really enjoyed our conversation and I know our listeners did too. Thank you so much for being here.

Lizzy Morris:

Wonderful. Thank you so much. It’s been great. It was absolutely fabulous to talk about something I’m so passionate about.

Jenn DeWall:

Yeah, you can absolutely tell. We are going to be giving information on how they can list. They can connect with you in the bumpers. So stay tuned and we’ll give you some insights on how you can connect with Lizzy.

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Leadership Habit Podcast. If you want to connect with Lizzy, go ahead and meet with her all over LinkedIn. She posts weekly updates. She’s got motivation. She’s got different resources that you can follow. So it’s Lizzy Morris at LinkedIn. Connect with her. Ask her questions about Scrum and Agile. If you loved this episode, don’t forget to share it with your friends, help them become better leaders. And most importantly, we would appreciate if you went and rated and reviewed this podcast episode over the leadership habit, podcast in general on your favorite podcast, streaming service. Thank you so much for tuning in until next time.