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Taking an Agile Approach

January 21, 2022

Taking an Agile Approach to the New Year

Interview with Matt Risch (Part II)

By Suzette Spears

Interested in how an Agilist prepares for the New Year? Revisit our earlier blog post, here: Part I

In Part II of our New Year’s blog, we will hear more thoughts from ALTA’s resident Agile Lead, Matt Risch.

What is that one goal you absolutely must achieve in the coming year and how are you going to tackle it?

At one point in my career, I took over as the Capability Leader and HR Manager for a group of Architects providing services for the Healthcare industry. As I was acclimating to the culture and behaviors, I noticed a pattern of people “knowing what they know” and keeping the keys to certain areas.

In one of the first meetings I held, I made a statement to the Team that, “Your value used to come from what you know, what you brought to the table. But for me, your value comes from what you teach, or share with others and your ability to go learn more.” This was a big change in perspective. Some people scoffed, but others shared with me that it was energizing and exciting. Because what I was doing was letting them know that as a leader, my expectations centered around ensuring their continual growing capabilities and creating an environment where it was safe to try new things. I was establishing growth as priority.

Stack ranking my personal goals would place Growth at the top of a “must achieve” list for myself as well. Like an Architectural runway in SAFe enabling the future creation of business value, a growth mindset, or the continuous pursuit of knowledge and happiness, is the cornerstone that I must prioritize for me to make progress on any other goals.

With such a spanning objective, I start off the same way I coach Teams to tackle a large Feature, in smaller pieces each with some level of criteria for success (acceptance criteria in Agile terms).

I have a collection of task (a backlog) that all roll up to my growth goal as I have defined it, including things such as reading a few pages of a book or article (the whole book at once would be too big), sketching out ideas and models on a napkin for later conceptual testing, watching something online or TV that is inspirational, to engaging with someone that has a different perspective on a topic than I do for a healthy debate to reenergize creative thought. Anything that will move my goal forward.

So how do I begin tackling each task so that I can work toward my goal? I again pull inspiration from other sources. In the movie The Empire Strikes Back,  Jedi Master Yoda (a primary character) coaches his mentee’s wavering focus with the statement,  ”Do or do not, there is no try”, and in 1988, US based Footwear manufacturing company Nike adopted the slogan, “Just Do IT”.  So that is what I do. There is no magic ingredient, just multiple sources of inspiration, the awareness that there will be obstacles requiring me to pivot, a plan designed to incrementally move my objectives forward day over day, and an inner drive to succeed. Big goals happen from daily effort combined with the ability to adapt to change.

Keep an eye out for Part III of our interview with Matt Risch next week.

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