My favorite part of the Agile Manifesto is that it starts with “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”. People and relationships matter. Ask any agency owner hiring for a position, it is easy to evaluate skill and experience, but answering “will they be a fit with us”, is magnitudes more difficult. It is also a better indicator for retention.

People and their relationships are also central to Salesforce’s (a proponent of the agile methodology) inclusion of Ohana (Hawaiian for “intentional family”) in their core values.

Ohana isn’t where you reflect your light, it’s why

I recently caught up with a former work colleague and, before the meeting, I check out his LinkedIn profile and found this advice listicle to 26 year olds. The whole thing is worth a ready but one item (26) stands on its own. Here’s a small excerpt of it:

“I am a fragment of a mirror whose whole design and shape I do not know. Nevertheless, with what I have I can reflect light into the dark places of this world — into the black places in the hearts of men — and change some things in some people.

Perhaps others may see and do likewise. This is what I am about. This is the meaning of life.

So whether you’re cushioned in a bed full of throw pillows or contemplating life in a lush field of grass, remember it is not so much how brightly you shine…but where you reflect your light.”

Alexander Papaderous as detailed by Robert Fulghum

Love (your Ohana) unconditionally

I once put my tech career on hold because I was called to teach. I literally cut my salary in half. I was young with no dependents, had money saved, and was optimistic that I could make a change. I asked for a tough assignment and got it: a title 1 school where 97% of the population was on free or reduced lunch.

I launched into it. Year after year. Running myself down as the summer approached. The end was always a struggle until I learned a valuable lesson…

Yes, love unconditionally and throw your entire heart in it, but focus that love on people you know will reflect it further. Boost the ones that will help you and others succeed. You can’t pour from an empty cup.

Seek stable ground (so you can take more risks)

My typical approach when working within an agile framework is to shoot for the moon…but find ways to lock-in incremental (read: deployed code) progress. It’s okay if the target changes later but, if we can first answer “what would the ideal solution look like?” then we are better suited to prioritize the needed investment (or to 86 it…for a relevant anecdote about IBM deciding not to develop text-to-speech, I recommend pages 11-14 on Pretotype It by Alberto Savoia).

There can be only one (at a time): Agile vs. The Grind

Toyota’s production system is famous for the Andon Cord (now a button) that any factory line worker can pull if they spot a problem worthy of stopping production. The grind comes to a halt via an agreed upon signal. Production line workers, engineers, specialists, managers, and vendors all scrum together to solve the problem identified by the cord puller. Once fixed, the person who pulled the cord is typically the last one to sign off and signal for the factory line’s restart.

Every organization needs an Andon Cord or the equivalent. Sometimes we need to be agile and adjust to the surroundings, other times we need to just put our heads down and all row in the same direction. There are two difficult leadership tasks here: knowing when it is time to switch modes and then effectively implementing the mode switch to your team.

The first step is defining what the two modes, typically production vs. problem solving are for your group. For more on this, read A New Approach to Designing Work in MIT Sloan’s Management Review (Winter 2018 Issue)

Agile and The Grind as friends

Most of my consulting work involves either generating or managing leads and I typically work directly with the employees that are utilizing or administrating Salesforce. Sometimes it is a different CRM but the approach is always the same. I help the identify the parts of their job they hate and we brainstorm how we can make them go away. The Grind is there for a reason. It brings results. It makes money.

But that doesn’t mean we have to do it.

Stringent data validation, process automations, and intelligent workflows can shift the dull “production” work away from your sales people…whom you need to be amongst the most agile in your company.