Soon I will release Reveille, the first book of The Dominant Gene Series, a business novel series about the journey to become an Agile leader. You can read my blogs to learn more about main character Joel, and Eve, his Agile coach. They come to life so very well with fantastic illustrations by Ian Corrao.
The word culture appears 36 times in Reveille, so it seemed appropriate to offer you an excerpt of the chapter from Reveille entitled the same:
I’m sitting in another department’s monthly director team meeting to offer alignment and perspective. I do add some value on occasion, so I kept this one on my calendar. For now. It’s not the worst meeting of the month, but it’s tedious. The meeting is for a group that is part of our division, but Lora’s not in this meeting. Her peer, Vladimir, is. He has an even larger group of directors who report to him, maybe 10 of them, and most of them are in attendance. Anika is one of them; she is in charge of this month’s meeting. She’s a lovely Dutch woman who has a niche expertise. It is not, however, holding concise meetings. She beats a dead horse with the best of them, and lets others do the same. She knows how to play the WL culture game well. Her pointy, tortoise shell glasses are her best prop to pull it off.
“We have a director team summit in two months, and I need some help planning it. Anyone interested?”
“What is the goal of it?” I ask. “Maybe that will help us.”
Crickets. And questioning stares.
“What do you mean, the goal?” Anika casually asks. “It’s a director summit.”
Crap. That was New Joel talking. The one being coached to look for where I can add value. This room doesn’t know New Joel yet. If I’m not careful, I will sound like a quality jerk.
“Yes, an all-day summit—”
“Two days.” Anika interrupts. “Well, a day and a half, and then we can go to the bar.” She is looking over her glasses at me with full superiority.
“Okay, two days. But why are we getting together?” Man, hold it together. Don’t say the word value… “What are the expected…outcomes?”
“Alignment, of course.” Anika smiles nervously and looks at Vladimir, who has stopped writing. She has an answer for everything, because she is the all-knowing defender, and I am the challenger. She has no idea why we are having a director summit, but since we’ve always done a summit in the spring, we should do a summit.
“Can anyone think of another reason we are having a summit?” Anika asks like a third grade teacher.
The room tenses; everyone else smells trouble, and so they remain neutral. Neutral crickets. Agree with Anika, and get assigned some big planning task that no one has time for. Agree with me, and it’s a roll of the dice where that goes. Why pick sides if you don’t have to?
“We have some vision work to do on agile,” Vladimir says without looking up. “Everyone is very busy.” He finally makes eye contact with us. “Anika, can you please find some resources to help us plan it? We need to keep our eyes on the ball right now.”
Anika adjusts her glasses. “Yes, of course. I will tap the resources we used last year and see if they’re interested.” She smiles and then looks over at me. “I’m sure they would love the opportunity.”
“So, we’re going agile?” Chase, a veteran director, asks. I know he knew this because he attended a different meeting with me when it was a topic.
Before Vladimir can answer, Anika butts in. “Are we going to get training for that?”
“Where did you hear we are getting training?” Chase asks.
“Well, I haven’t,” Anika shrugs. “If we are directors of teams going agile, don’t we have to get them training?”
Chase sighs. “Oh. I thought you meant that we needed training.”
“I don’t think so…” Anika looks at Vladimir.
“We should all go to training,” Dipti adds.
And coaching! I can’t believe all of this happened from one question about value. It’s created discussion and discomfort, all at once. Eve is going to die when she hears this one.
Anika takes her glasses off. “I hear the training is five full days. And very expensive.”
“So who’s budget would that come out of? It sounds like a nightmare.” Chase holds his head in his hands.
Vladimir interrupts the nervous chatter. “We are going to use agile at WL.” More sighs and whispers. “Everyone calm down. This is a good thing. If you are really interested in agile, why not sign up to help plan the summit?”
Silence. Except for Anika’s fingernails clacking on her laptop. She’s scheduling a planning meeting for next week and inviting several staff to it.
“We will revisit agile when we have the right group in the room. In the meantime, do not send anyone to training. Do not go out ahead of what the vision is.”
“What is the vision?” Chase asks.
Vladimir smiles. “I guess we have an answer to what we’ll be doing at the director team summit.”
Now that the calendar has been thrashed to death, we get into the lightening round…
- Agile Leader Coaching: A Force for Good
- An Agile Leader Story