Be the change you seek

June 18, 2011

Let me start by saying that these past few days have been awesome! Agile Australia kicked off Wednesday morning with a keynote from Alistair Cockburn. Thursday meant the start of FedEx 17 at Atlassian and Friday was the FedEx 17 finals. Highlights from Agile Australia and FedEx:

  • Alistair Cockburn mentioned Innovation Games in his talk which was super as we use Innovation Games extensively at Atlassian and I had included them in my talk on Thursday.
  • Amazing to see Nigel Dalton share the ‘open company no bullshit‘ approach in his candid talk on the failures and more recent successes at Lonely Planet.
  • Adrian Smith surprised me with the approach to prototyping at Envision as they actually built something for customer development rather than using mockups. Either way, great to see that they used customer development to find their market and prosper!
  • A brand new product from Atlassian, Bonfire, got a huge new feature based on customer feedback from the first week of sales and support enquiries. The outcry from customers for a video feature to record a bug and how it was encountered. Very cool, very quick response to deliver customer value.


I received many great questions at the conclusion of my talk on Thursday, from “how do I get approval for FedEx Days?” to “how do you ensure that people are working on the right thing?“. I just wanted to touch on these two quickly.

Getting approval for something like FedEx in a large company may not be easy so I recommend starting small with Innovation Games and measuring the success of that. When you can point to data and demonstrate how an activity was successful – customer testimonials is a great way to start – then you have ammunition when you ask for a FedEx Day.

The other approach is “to ask permission is to seek denial”, just run a FedEx Day and cop the flack for diverting resources. Fingers crossed you measured the results as that may get you off the hook! I was particularly encouraged by the four Enterprise companies I spoke with on Thursday who were giving FedEx Days a try. Incidentally, all four companies are ASX 20 companies. If they are giving it a try you can too!

Guiding team members towards those ideas that customers would value is important, a Product Owner can help facilitate this by bringing customer feedback to the team. Long term you want the team reaching out to customers and interacting with customers directly via social media, a public backlog, face to face or similar.

Keep in mind that there are valuable ideas people can work on that have no direct customer value. For example, dev speed work which will make the teams life easier and improve velocity over the long term. The most important aspect of this is trust, put the power in peoples hands and make them responsible. When they have to demonstrate their work in progress to their peers they will quickly start to focus on customer value.

Finally, Twitter is brilliant medium for collating feedback from presentations. Thanks to all who came and shared their thoughts on my talk:

Update: Be the change you seek was also referenced by Innovation Games and Things Zane’s Liked and Learned.




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