It seems these days people are looking for the one-size-fits-all approach to get all of their organizational challenges solved. The problem with that is that there is no single approach that you can map to your organization. How to deal with these challenges?
Henrik Kniberg joins Sander to discuss how to grow both culture and frameworks to fit them into your organization and what you can do to support it.
What you’ll discover in this show:
– Contrary to popular belief, the Spotify Model does not exist
– Copy pasting cultures and frameworks, does not work
– Finding your corporate culture is an empirical process too
I code Minecraft @ Mojang, coach teams & leaders, and jam a lot!
I do Minecraft design/development at Mojang, and coach the teams using Agile & Lean principles and methods like Scrum, XP, and Kanban. Previously worked with Spotify and LEGO, helping to implement agile culture there and in other fast-moving and fast-growing environments.
I cofounded OperationalExcellence.com together with Niklas Modig.
I accidentally sort of co-created something called the Spotify Model.
I’m into climate change, and co-founded http://GoClimate.com. Help us save the world!
Sander Dur (host)
Scrum Master, Agile Coach, trainer, and podcast host for ‘Mastering Agility”
Sander Dur is a Professional Scrum Trainer at Scrum.org, podcast host of Mastering Agility, Professional Scrum Master and Lead Agile Consultant, and trainer at Xebia. Besides this, he’s an avid writer for predominantly Serious Scrum on Medium.com. Sander has a major passion for the human side in complex domains. Ensuring a high level of psychological safety, therefore, is a critical part of his work. Organizations in complex domains can only survive when innovating. Innovation can only take place with the right balance between low social friction and high intellectual friction. While most organizations now understand how to apply Agile frameworks, they struggle with the delivery of value. Psychological safety is the next step in this evolution and Sander has a huge drive to help organizations reach that step.
He gained experience as a Scrum Master, Agile Coach, and Leadership consultant in many different top-tier organizations, including Nike and ASML.
Let’s connect! Sander is always up for new connections and discussions!
Discord community: https://discord.gg/6YJamBJxUV
The Spotify Model
Experimenting at Mojang
The Magic of Minecraft
Encouraging Psychological Safety
Starting with your own cultural evolution
people, spotify, psychological safety, companies, organization, minecraft, daily scrum, frameworks, talking, feel, bit, henrik, adapt, agile, scrum, mojang, question, culture, good, leaders
Sander Dur, Henrik Kniberg
Sander Dur 00:03
Welcome back, everybody to a whole new episode of the mastering agility podcast. This podcast aims to inspire you and others by bringing in the best of the business. I need to make a slight correction based off the previous episode I mentioned in the intro, it was the 10th episode of the third season. It’s actually it was actually the eighth. So now we’re heading into the ninth episode, everyone can make a mistake. Even I, my apologies. Again, I would like to ask you guys to join the Mastering Agility Discord community, where we inspire and connect other people with the best articles, podcasts, video clips, you name it, help people guide through the PSM three or the PSD process where people post their job offerings and jobs wanted, need some help getting a job, this community is ready to help and connect and inspire others. And this is just one of the ways to do it. I would love to see you guys there. Also to help you get inspired in this week’s episode, we have Henrik Kniberg. And we’re talking about how to evolve, evolve, culture as well as frameworks. It seems these days that everyone’s looking for a silver bullet that one size fits all approach that’s going to magically solve everyone’s problems. That doesn’t work. What might work for my organization might not work for yours. But how do we use all these kinds of things? Henrik is here to talk to you about just that with us? And like never, thank you very much for joining. Well, thank you. You are in an awesome inspirational place. You are having
Henrik Kniberg 01:49
this the podcast is only voice it’s only audio, right? Okay, yes, they can’t see. It’s nice. I’m out in the kind of archipelago outside Stockholm. And it’s blue sky, and it’s actually sunny and warm for a change. So we’re all outside.
Sander Dur 02:05
What does it do with to the dynamics of your team, being in such a place compared to being in an office building,
Henrik Kniberg 02:19
it changes the dynamics quite a lot. But it makes us more creative, I think and less focused on what’s the next thing I have to do right now. We try to kind of clear our calendars as much as possible when we head out outside of the office. And that means we have more time for spontaneous conversations, which is super valuable.
Sander Dur 02:41
Very valuable. Is this something that you learned during the pandemic? Or is a culture within the company anyway?
Henrik Kniberg 02:47
You got cut off just for a second you repeat that?
Sander Dur 02:51
Is that something that you guys learned and developed during the pandemic? Or is it something that has been the culture,
Henrik Kniberg 02:56
I would say it came out of the pandemic, to some extent says everyone went home and was alone lonely in their apartment or house for two years and, and built up this pent up need to, you know, be together. And now when people are starting to get back to the office, we’ve kind of learned that you know what work can happen. Also outside the office, we’ve learned how to work remote. And now so now that’s kind of part of the of the toolbox more than it maybe was in the past.
Sander Dur 03:24
Do you would you ever want to go back to do you think maybe there’s a different meta question? Do you think we’ll ever get back to the office full time?
Henrik Kniberg 03:33
Full time? I suspect not. Unless, of course, there are some business where you need to be at the office. If you’re you know, if you’re running a restaurant, people come there to eat, you need to be there. But like IT companies and similar where you can work remote, I have a hard time imagining that people will go back to full time. But it’s gonna be interesting to see where it heads because I mean, hybrid is kind of a challenge. And we haven’t figured it out really. And I think many other companies are struggling a little bit with how do we get hybrid to work in practice.
Sander Dur 04:04
And maybe that’s a good segue, because what I feel is that we’re very much in most companies are very much looking into. Alright, that’s something this just framework, this way of working work to that organization. Let’s implement here as well. This works during the pandemic at organization acts. And so now we got to do that as well. Let’s try that would not be the best approach to handle these kinds of things. Well,
Henrik Kniberg 04:32
I think it’s useful to be inspired by bypass experiences and of course, also from other companies. But maybe not copy paste wholesale. I kind of like the phrase copy, paste, adapt. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel your company’s probably not as unique as you think. So find something similar. If so if a similar company is doing something that seems to work for them, then don’t reinvent the wheel maybe get inspired by what they’re doing. But don’t just copy from one company still the best bits from several Have them, mix it up a little bit and put your own flavor on it.
Sander Dur 05:05
It’s funny that you mentioned that you’re not as unique as you think. And this is one of the most common things that I’ve ever heard when when, when I entered as a consultant, being the Agile consultant, the use case, well, this agile thing, I don’t think is really going to work here. Because we’re different. We’re special. Yeah. Just like all of your competitors, just like every other organization, you’re very
Henrik Kniberg 05:29
all special, we’re all the same.
Sander Dur 05:33
Yes, we’re very much special. And therefore we’re going to try to run something that would be a one size fits all approach.
Henrik Kniberg 05:40
Although I do have a huge respect for context, though, so I haven’t seen any, it’s not like, I don’t think companies are exactly the same. And they should all work the same way. But sometimes we tend to reinvent the wheel more than we need to, instead of looking around us exactly.
Sander Dur 05:56
But it’s what makes that so hard in your experience.
Henrik Kniberg 06:02
Part of it, I think, is maybe this whole psychology of not invented here syndrome. Like it’s the same in code or any kind of design situation, it’s, you know, if you make up something yourself, then you know what it is, and you’ve adapted it to your context. Hopefully, if you’re taking something from somewhere else, well, a you need to be aware of that it exists in the first place, which may take some time to look around. And then you’re not sure if it’s gonna fit. So I think, you know, typically in like working with technical frameworks, that’s very like, Okay, I need logging in my system. Well, there’s lots of logging frameworks out there, but I’m not sure which one I should use. And our needs are quite simple. So I’ll just make my own, for starters, and then you end up making this really huge, complicated beast. So it’s, it’s, it’s kind of hard, if there’s some value in creating your own thing for your own context. But then at some point, you kind of need to notice that wait a sec, we’re not in the business of making logging frameworks. Maybe we should find a third party, well, that might not fit us 100%. But if it says 90%, and then it saves us a lot of time.
Sander Dur 07:00
Exactly what those you require, as an organization, a little bit of that introspective character trait, yeah, to be able to really constantly say, we don’t know where we’re going, we just need to start and then adapt. And I guess that’s what you did with Spotify as well. And that’s
Henrik Kniberg 07:19
also kind of what I liked, which was agile frameworks, although like, none of them has a silver bullet, of course, but they’re all I would say, good starting points. So if you don’t know where to start, and you’re in a product development company, well just grab Scrum. Just just do it by the book, and then start tweaking from there. It’ll give you a decent starting point, for example.
Sander Dur 07:39
How long in your opinion, should organizations run in by the book? Because organizations, you usually start to cherry pick and this is going to work for us, this is not going to work without actually going through the motions and feeling the pain, the growing pains. And
Henrik Kniberg 07:54
I think that’s a super interesting question. And also really hard. Because, yeah, it’s it’s not very good to start adapting immediately. But also not good if you’re stuck doing things by the book for years. But I would say a little bit is maybe based on experience, if you have a team that is very experienced with with an agile way of working, then there’s no need for them to follow any recipe. They can, you know, pick and choose practices and principles as they as needed for that context. But if a team is a little more junior, or maybe unused to the Agile way of working, then I would suggest do something by the book, and stick with it at least for a few months, probably. But then make sure that it doesn’t become dogma
Sander Dur 08:35
know exactly what this is. Scrum or any other framework is still a means to an end and not the end itself.
Henrik Kniberg 08:43
That’s very easy to forget along the way.
Sander Dur 08:46
Yeah, exactly. Because that’s a lot of expectations that I get. We have to do Scrum. Perfect. Yeah. Why?
Henrik Kniberg 08:54
It’s all it’s all so hard. I have a huge respect for how hard it is, for people who are new to this. To know what parts can I change safely? Like Scrum is a very tiny framework, right? It’s it’s not intended to be complete. There’s a ton of things you have to figure out yourself. But then the question is, when do I overstep the bounds and start breaking the framework by mistake? And I guess that’s where people like you and me come in as kind of coaches to help guide that, like, you know, okay, maybe not eliminate the product owner role, the first thing you do. But if you want experiment with, you know how often you do daily scrum, or who’s in the daily scrum, that’s a safer thing to experiment with maybe
Sander Dur 09:31
I want you conduct such an experience, because I think that daily Scrum is one of the most most fitting examples that we can can pull out to start with is, you know, well, what do we do? We’ll we’ll do our daily scrum once a week, are we doing it right or what would be your answer?
Henrik Kniberg 09:50
I like to kind of emphasize the why of every practice that we introduce, and kind of be over clear about that. So why do we have daily scrums? What problem is it supposed to solve? because that becomes useful when experimenting because then we can ask, okay, daily Scrum is a synchronization meeting is to keep us from running in a different directions. So is that working for us? And if we start changing things, let’s say people have some reason why they want to do them less often, oh, first want to ask why? What problem do you want to solve? And maybe change your daily scrum? isn’t the best way to solve that? Or maybe we’re not sure. And maybe we do want to try it. So then I would kind of take the scientific method approach and say, what’s our hypothesis? What do we think is going to happen? And then follow up on that and say, Okay, so now we do status quo with once per week? How’s it working for us? And also checking on the why, like, this meeting is supposed to keep a synchronized, how synchronize? Do we feel now that we’re doing them less often? And maybe, maybe we’re fine? Or maybe we realize that, oh, maybe we should do them more often, after all. And if we do end up going back, then we’re still wiser. We learned something along the way. So I still think it’s a good thing.
Sander Dur 10:55
The why is usually one of the toughest questions to ask, or to, to really to grasp the why behind it. Usually, the development teams understand what a developers Scrum teams understand what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. But the whys a lot less tangible. How do you make such a thing clear,
Henrik Kniberg 11:13
I can’t think of any other way than just repeating it often. Like, especially if it’s if a new team that I’m helping to get started with, with an agile method, I tend to at the beginning of every ritual, just take 20 seconds to remind them of what the purpose of that ritual is. Maybe not every day at the daily scrum that gets a bit repetitive but, but like sprint planning retrospective, is if it just takes 30 seconds to remind people of why we’re here, then that’s worth it, actually. But of course, for a very experienced teams, it’s not necessary.
Sander Dur 11:47
Do you ever think with your teams and organizations that you coach on what’s the desired culture that we want to have like we’re currently doing this? We need to adapt? Let’s say we have a very traditional organization, what where do we want to end up? How does that look like? And how can we move that?
Henrik Kniberg 12:05
I guess, I kind of tend to automatically nudge the organization towards becoming more curious, in general, like, don’t take stuff for granted. So I kind of like the organizations that I find work really well is when everyone has kind of like children, questioning things, what happens if I do this? What if I do that? Why are we doing this, you know, kind of ask those questions that people didn’t ask in the past. And that tends to create an experimental mindset, which is pretty fun, first of all, but also pretty effective, because that helps us avoid, you know, getting stuck in waste.
Sander Dur 12:40
Where did we lose our childhood? When it comes to our child is open mind when it comes to asking these kinds of questions?
Henrik Kniberg 12:46
That’s the million dollar question. Right? What happened? That’s actually a really interesting kind of philosophical question, too. I can just guess, but I think, to some extent, the school system can in some sense, have a negative effect on it, depending on of course, it varies from place to place. But in many cases, schools, it’s like you take a test, there’s a right answer, and everything else is the wrong answer. And you kind of learn to, to, you know, study and then repeat the correct answer, then that can I guess, over time, maybe, you know, become a negative in the sense that you lose your curiosity. But I don’t know maybe people, as you grow up, tend to become a little bit too confidence. Like I’m an adult. Now I’ve learned things, things I should know. So maybe a bit of it is about confidence, or lack of confidence. And that’s one thing is interesting. In a culture, if you can get a critical mass of people that are willing to ask the obvious questions are willing to make mistakes, and willing to try ideas, then that will make others dare try things as well. So it can be a positive spiral or a negative spiral, depending on how it’s how it happens.
Sander Dur 13:55
And I think that’s this. You mentioned, the very interesting thing there the willingness to make mistakes. If I make putting the wrong answer, then I’m gonna get blamed. And it’s the wrong thing to do. How do you get rid of such a thing? Because this is something that I’ve been discussing with this guy, Alyssa Atkins, as well as the schooling system is ingrained throughout university. If you don’t get the highest grades, you won’t go to the next class, you won’t go to the best university, blah, blah, blah. So you get very much prestigious focused cultures. How do you move back to, it’s okay to fail? I’m going to be open and say, I messed up
Henrik Kniberg 14:35
here. I think the leaders in organization have a critical role in that. If the leaders, especially the top leaders, if they don’t have that mindset, I find it almost impossible to get it in the rest of the organization. Because they tend to squash it intentionally or unintentionally. But on the positive side, if on the positive side, if you have leaders who have that mindset, then it tends to spread. So that’s it are a bit sad, because that means that at least my experience is hard to change organization. If leaders are very much, you know, set in, you know, you have to be right, you can’t make mistakes, you can’t take risks. But it’s interesting to see sometimes I’ve seen organizations where one of the key leaders or founder or someone, like, leaves, someone else comes in. And sometimes things can change pretty quickly, when that person hasn’t has another Mindset. But another thing that, of course, helps is just like if you repeat something often enough, it starts becoming a habit. And that’s what I really like about Iterative methods like Scrum, because you don’t have to really explain to people why it’s important to experiment, if you just do a few sprints, and experience the feeling of of shipping something and getting feedback and adapting to that feedback, or going to a retrospective, talking about what worked well, what didn’t changing something. And then following up two weeks later, how did that work? Maybe should try something different. If you do that enough, it almost builds up a new kind of muscle memory of like, oh, you know, what, we tried some things the past few months, and some of them didn’t work out, and we changed them and things are a lot better. And hey, no one got punished for it. And this is working quite well. And like, if you do that enough, that it it, it tends to spread.
Sander Dur 16:14
Do you think punishment and punishment in the working environment is still ingrained? Coming out of the industrial Industrial Revolution?
Henrik Kniberg 16:23
That’s a good question. I’m not so sure. I guess it maybe it depends on the people at the company. Like most people haven’t experienced the industrial revolution in their life. So, so right, unless you’re really old. So what you’re seeing is remnants of it, right, the nine to five things and you know, going into an office and Time reports and like, if efficiency focus on those, these are remnants of it that are kind of sit in some of our rituals and habits. So, but sorry, I was original question, I lost it.
Sander Dur 16:58
Whether you think that punish punishment driven behavior, let’s, let’s call it
Henrik Kniberg 17:03
pain driven development. Think it’s super, super damaging, like in those in those situations where people get punished for almost whatever reason, it tends to drive people to safety, to pick in the path of least exposure and risk. And that basically kills any kind of innovation. So that’s really, really hard. Indirect punishment, if I, if I call it that, I think could work in the sense that if we, as a team, ship, something that our users hate, and we ship it early, so we find out early that they hate it, it is a kind of punishment to get feedback that the users don’t like what I shipped. But it’s a good kind of punishment, because there’s something I can do about it. You know, I can listen to that and approve it. And then it’ll be better. But the arbitrary punishment of like, oh, no, you ship this thing late. Oh, but I didn’t make up this date or make up this plan, yet. I’m being punished for being late, right? Or, you know, I tried something and it didn’t work out. And then from being punished, that news tends to spread fast. And that just puts a big, it just dampens all innovation. And honestly, I’ve had a few cases where I’ve been at companies seen that happen, and basically given up left, because I don’t know what to do when when the leaders have that type of culture.
Sander Dur 18:19
Know exactly, but how do you, yourself display yourself in such a leadership role? I mean, you’ve grown a large audience, you’ve become a celebrity in the Agile field, I can imagine that organizations have high expectations of you as well. But Spotify, for instance, very much different than the team and the crew now creating Minecraft that you’re working with, how do you leverage it? That’s
Henrik Kniberg 18:42
actually really interesting, because to some extent, part of what I think I’ve gotten known for is an experimental mindset. So when people bring me in as a coach, that normally means that they are interested in trying stuff. So in that sense, I think it’s fine. What’s scary a little bit sometimes is that if someone has like read my books, or seen a talk or something, and everything can sound so polished, and simple and clear in a talk, but reality isn’t like that, right? So then I come in, and then I don’t have all the answers. I just mostly have questions and the experiments. What can sometimes happen is people take me, they, they trust me too much. If I suggest something, I say, hey, maybe we can try this thing. And then they sometimes treat that as gospel. But it’s not it’s an idea. And it may or may not work. That that’s mostly risk in short term engagements. If I come into a company for just one day, and maybe it’s they’ve been trying to get me to come in for a long time. So then they have these super high expectations. And then they believe that everything I say is somehow true, but I’m mostly just throwing out ideas and trying. So that can be a little bit scary. But with companies that have been at for a long time, like Mojang na or Spotify, like that wears off pretty quickly. Like within a month, people get used to that I’m just a guy on the team trying to help. And then that kind of, you know, public speaker thing wears off pretty quickly. And that feels pretty good. Because then I can be more daring. And I can speak out with crazy ideas without being worried that people are going to believe that to automatically work.
Sander Dur 20:21
That gospel thing is that something that happened to Spotify as well with the quote, unquote, the Spotify model, where, even though explicitly mentioned, this is what works with Spotify, it might may not work for you, therefore do not call it the model isn’t something that happened there.
Henrik Kniberg 20:36
It didn’t happen internally there. It never became gospel internally. That’s why people internally laughed a lot when they saw what happened to the world. When I put up these videos to like, what people literally came and asked me Henrik, I heard about something called a Spotify model. What’s that? And I’m like, that’s the thing people are calling the video that I put out, oh, whoa. Like, so people were very surprised, especially when seeing everyone’s misinterpretations of it, because it was just a video and a case study. So I’m glad to see that it never became gospel inside. But it did became gospel to some extent outside. And I’ve just mostly kind of fascinating. I felt kind of like sitting in the audience with popcorn watching what happens when he went to release this case study. But it was also kind of inspiring, because I know that there’s, there’s been some negativity when you know, people just copy a model, it’s happy, happy when I wrote my first book, Scrum and XP from the trenches, people took that some extent as a model and started copying it. And then Spotify was the same thing again. But what I noticed when visiting companies that are saying that they’re using the Spotify model, what they’re actually doing is copy, paste, adapt. They took this thing they got inspired by they use the same word squads and tribes, etc. And they use it differently. And some people might, you know, score in at that and say, ha, ha, idiots, you misunderstood, you know, you’re doing it wrong. But no, they’re they’re adapting it, which is what, which is what they should is, it doesn’t matter that they’re conservative is quite as different from Spotify. In fact, that’s actually good. So some mostly, I’m pretty positive, too, in the sense that, yeah, it wasn’t intended to be a model. But I’ve seen a lot of companies take this model as the trigger that caused them to start questioning how they work. And they rarely end up in a worse place than they were before. It seems like the worst cases I’ve seen where companies that didn’t go anywhere, they took the model or renamed all the roles and teams, and they kept doing what they’ve always been doing. But that’s not so bad. They didn’t end up in a worse place. So yeah, overall, I don’t I think it’s pretty, pretty fine. Learn from others get inspired, copy, paste, adapt.
Sander Dur 22:44
There are a million things I want to continue on. How do you make How do you ensure that you’re not sticking to just a model, but moving forward from accompanying behavior as well, like, that’s, that’s stick, I don’t want you to stick too much with the Spotify model. But let’s say an organization approaches like this, this is the model that we’re going to go for, even though they have to adapt? How do they ensure that they switch the behavior and the mindset accompanying to make it successful?
Henrik Kniberg 23:15
Well, in many cases, they don’t. Like, unfortunately, in many companies, like organizational change is seen as an event, something you do, and then you’re done with it. So it’s like, Okay, we’re gonna now change our organization. So then you have those meetings and workshops and stuff, and maybe you take a model like Spotify or something else, and they’re like, No, we’re gonna do this, because a change program and then ends. And then it’s like, no, we’re done. And typically, maybe they ended up in somewhat better place to before, and then they kind of stopped, which is a bit unfortunate. So that sometimes happens. But in other cases, what I see is when they start applying, you know, an agile framework of any sort. Because the practices in these frameworks are all about iterating, and experimenting and adapting to change, then that’s sometimes not just the culture into being more accepting of change, which is, which is really cool. So yeah, see, the whole scale of the whole scale from nothing really changed to everything changed. And sometimes, the status case I find is when companies really, really, you know, adopt an agile mindset and start really improving things and changing things. And then a new manager comes in after two years. And the managers used to waterfall approach. And they’re used to being in control of things with clear roadmaps and clear accountability. And, you know, they know who to blame when things go to fail and etc. And then they come into this agile organization, they’re like, this is so confusing. We’ve got all these teams and I don’t know what they’re doing and things keep changing and and God forbid, they’re talking directly to the customers and then acting on their feedbacks. I’m not in control anymore. And it’s ah, and it’s scary so that they kind of just put a brake on it say no, we need more structure here we need specifications and, you know, fixed roles. And then it basically all all reverts back. Which is really sad.
Sander Dur 25:08
How do you guys handle that with Mojang? Because it’s a huge platform, millions and millions of stakeholders. I can imagine if you screw up one experiment and has a detrimental effect on on Minecraft itself, it’s gonna bite you in the ass when it comes to exposure. Yeah,
Henrik Kniberg 25:25
I think Mojang is really interesting, because it’s a bit of a unicorn in that sense, because most companies I’ve seen that start kind of as a small, like small startup tend to be agile by nature, because you have to be or else you don’t survive as a startup. But then, as they grow, and especially if they become successful, super successful, then there are all these pressures to kind of start regulating everything, and not take risks anymore, because we’re safe. Now we have, you know, we were the big kid on the block, right. But I think it’s cool that despite Microsoft buying Mojang to do very, very different cultures to different organizations, but there’s still in the team has this very strong sense of agility, this very strong sense of we ship every week to our users get feedback and act on that feedback. So that’s, that’s really great. There, probably other companies as well, that grow big and managed to keep that, but it seems fairly rare. So I’m really glad that so far, we managed to keep that with Minecraft. I think part of it is also that, that we’ve been doing this for like 11 years with Minecraft has worked this way with, you know, frequent iterations and always adapting to feedback. So it’s become ingrained in the culture, it’s considered like the obvious thing to do, you try things, you get feedback, and you change, where we’re trying to do this, take it one step further. Because although we do experiment a lot with our features, we have not very often put put a feature out to users and then taken taken away again, once we put a feature, you know, make it visible to our users, we iterate on the details of how it works. But the feature itself usually says, So lately, we started experimenting with actually putting some experimental features out, and then actually taking them away and saying, Thanks for your feedback, we decided to not include this. And just to kind of train our users and ourselves that it’s okay to do that. Because then we can raise innovation level one more step, hopefully.
Sander Dur 27:19
How do you ensure innovation? How do you make sure that happens? It’s really easy to do the same trick over and over and kinda stay shy away from that, that intangible in the unknown. But how do you ensure that innovation continues to happen?
Henrik Kniberg 27:35
I guess, I guess leadership comes into play because innovation is a strategy, right? And you need to budget for it. And it does involve some risk. And if the leaders aren’t on board with that, then it’s going to tend to not happen. But I would say, so there’s no way to ensure it, really. But there is a way to, there’s ways to support it. And I think to some extent agile methods do that automatically if you apply it kind of as intended. Because again, you’re we’re iterating, we’re trying things, we’re getting feedback, and we’re changing stuff based on the feedback, which is kind of what innovation is about. But it’s hard because doing real innovation requires you to build stuff that you don’t know if they’re gonna succeed at all. And that means you kind of need to count on having some failed projects. And if that doesn’t feel comfortable to you, that’s going to limit your ability to innovate.
Sander Dur 28:26
That’s very much how you approach that as well. I mean, if you define how you define success, I guess, if learning is the definition of success as well, then you’ve learned something, it didn’t work the way that you wanted, or hoped that it would work. But you still learn something, therefore, you
Henrik Kniberg 28:45
can also work on reducing the cost of failure. So we can say that we expect certain percent of our products to fail, but let’s try to make them fail as fast and cheaply as possible. And that’s where things come in, like, Okay, we’re gonna actually, we’re gonna ship prototypes to our end users. It’s cheap to make prototypes. And then we’re gonna learn from that. And maybe we can shut down the project earlier, if it didn’t show promise. But that’s kind of hard to because many companies, especially when they get famous, they only want to ship things that are all polished up and you know, finished. So to show your dirty laundry and your crazy, half baked ideas, that takes courage, but if you do that, then you can fail fast on stuff, which is which is fantastic.
Sander Dur 29:24
Do you still play Minecraft yourself? Yes, I
Henrik Kniberg 29:26
- But in periods in fact, most of my teammates are kind of the same we play in periods so click could be a few months of not playing it at all other than of course, you know, play testing our work, but but actually playing for fun with our friends. That could be peers not doing it at all. And then some periods where we play all the time with each other or with friends. So it varies a lot. And that’s quite typical of Minecraft itself as a game. Like what’s interesting about the game is it’s it’s a pretty special game in the sense that most other games, people start playing it and they’re really into it and then they stop and never come back. But Minecraft is kind of game We’re like people never stop playing really they stop playing temporarily and then they tend to come back later. So the way we play Minecraft is quite similar to I guess most of our player base as well.
Sander Dur 30:11
What makes sense so what’s the magic of Minecraft
Henrik Kniberg 30:15
there’s been a lot of people kind of trying to define that all we have a series. But I think there’s a number of things that interplay. One is the simplicity in it, in that it’s not a very polished game when he come in, it’s pretty it’s pixelated. You know, a lot of stuff in Minecraft is kind of ugly, if you walk into a village, the it’s, it’s compared to other games that are really super polished. This looks very simple. But that invites players to build things on themselves, they don’t feel intimidated by man, this castle is amazing, I can’t build anything like it. Instead, they walk into a village and see a very simple house and like, I’m gonna improve this house, or make something myself. So there’s that. And also the fact that it’s not targeted any specific type of audience. So it’s kind of a sandbox. So almost any kind of player will find something for them in Minecraft, some people like going on adventures, you know, finding treasures fighting monsters, well, Minecraft has that. But if you prefer to just sit, you know, and tinker with your with your house, or to build some amazing artwork or build some crazy machine. The Sandbox allows those very different playstyles. So that allows different age groups, different cultures. Plus, people who stopped playing tend to go back later on, and maybe they play in a different way.
Sander Dur 31:37
It almost feels like the Oh, you can almost check box will check all the boxes by Daniel Pink. Yes, you can completely outlive your autonomy, mastery purpose, definitely on all the
Henrik Kniberg 31:48
definitely. And I think also the way we work has been helpful that we ship every week a snapshot. So we get feedback every week on the work we’re doing. Which means that by the time we do our actual releases, which are about once or twice per year, we’ve had so much feedback and so many chances to iterate along the way. So it’s almost guaranteed to be successful, because we’ve already tested so much. So that means that every you know, once or twice per year, we make some improvement to the game that people generally like and then they make a fuss about it. They make videos and generates lots of you know, Buzz and hype. And that keeps the game relevant people come back to it because maybe they maybe someone hasn’t played for for a year or two. They happen to see a video on YouTube where someone is talking about the new features. And then they’re like, Oh, cool. There’s no mangrove swamps and frogs. I’m curious about that. And they come back here and they’re like, Hey, I remember this game. You know, they start feeling nostalgia, they call their brother and say, hey, you know, let’s play Minecraft together. Yeah. And then it kind of keeps coming back.
Sander Dur 32:49
Is this something that has a lot to do with the graphics as well the keeping that nostalgia because it’s very simplistic. For instance, I’m an I’m an avid Halo player, or Call of Duty. If I now go back to the first Xbox is very much different. The first day low nostalgia one on one, I would play that until the end of day. But you’ll see the difference in in graphics. And for instance, now they’re working on the new Call of Duty, they could never stick to the same old graphics from the first or the second. We have done
Henrik Kniberg 33:21
some overhauls the graphics like a few years ago, we hired a person who kind of a pixel artist who just changed all the textures, because in the beginning, it was all programmer art. And just made it a little more, you know, pleasing to the eye. But it’s still the same pixel size is still pixelated. But there are options. I mean, like sometimes, like I use shaders, you can just download shaders, and it changes it makes it you know, photorealistic almost still blocks right but beautiful. Like you get reflections from the water you getting like, it’s just beautiful. And then I’m kind of like, oh, and it feels so great. But what’s interesting is I’ve noticed that sometimes when I play and I forget to turn on the shader, maybe I’m on another computer. I don’t realize it until later that I forgot to turn it on. And I was having just as much fun. So it’s kind of like the first 10 minutes like wow, but then after that, it’s like I’m just played Minecraft and the graphics don’t matter that much actually.
Sander Dur 34:17
Coming back to a little bit of culture. I think one of the most important aspects that we kind of intangibly already covered, is that psychological safety. Yeah, ensuring that you’re comfortable and knowing that you’re okay to fail, and it’s okay to completely be yourself, regardless of any routine repercussions or whatsoever, is that something that you actively discussing and engage with?
Henrik Kniberg 34:41
I’m very much actually. And I’ve noticed in several companies that I work with, it’s become something that people talk about which they did in the past. I’m not sure what triggered it. But I’m really glad that it’s happening. Yeah, and also as part of it also the acknowledgement that people are different and that a lot of agile practices cater tech introverts and there’s been an increased increasing understanding of that a lot of people aren’t extroverts, especially in the IT field, and that some practices need to be adapted to make sure their voices are heard as well.
Sander Dur 35:13
What do you define as psychological safety? Is that something that’s universal? Or is that something that it’s very much been fitting to Spotify or psychological safety when it comes to Mojang? Or is there a universal way of discussing psychological say?
Henrik Kniberg 35:28
Probably not, because as all terms that get popular, then everyone has their interpretation of it. I mean, there are people who teach courses on psychological safety and spend days on it. So, but in my mind, what I what I put into it is really the culture where it’s okay to speak your mind without being punished for it. I think it’s probably if I had to boil it down to one thing, it would probably be that
Sander Dur 35:54
what about leadership? Do you work and engage with them on psychological safety as well because I personally, I feel that we’re kinda now outgrowing the whole one size fits all approach a little bit on when it comes to Scrum and their their organizations are evolving. The next step is psychological safety. There’s more awareness. But it’s still just being traded like Scrum. You guys do your scrum thing. You guys do your psychological safety thing? And then we’ll continue to do to do whatever we do in our ivory tower.
Henrik Kniberg 36:23
Sander Dur 36:24
how do they?
Henrik Kniberg 36:25
Yeah, yeah, I, the discussions I’ve seen a psychological safety is pretty decoupled from Scrum. It’s a general thing. And it’s definitely at a leadership level. And I think and I think that’s really good. That’s what needed to happen. A few years ago, it was more like you said, it was more like, oh, yeah, that’s inside the scrum team. But you don’t have psychological safety only inside your scrum team and needs to be wider than that, because Scrum is all about transparency, right. So if teams are safe, feel safe to speak to each other. That’s not enough, because there’s a daily Scrum and there’s a sprint review, and there’s other people listening in. So it needs to be really thought about higher up in the leadership level, but also for the leaders themselves, they need to feel safe, to make mistakes and say things.
Sander Dur 37:10
I think there’s one of the most powerful things that leaders could do is to be open about things that either they missed, or they don’t know, or they’re they’re very much uncomfortable. I think that’s very powerful. But do you make for instance, I’m not gonna say definition of done on psychological safety, we’re just talking about it makes it so implicit. You create something that’s more tangible.
Henrik Kniberg 37:37
Let me get back to that in a moment. So I just wanted to mention one thing that I that came to mind when he talked about the leadership thing, I just, I just remembered that one of the things that impressed me at Spotify was exactly that the leaders there, especially the CEO, he had a habit of getting up on stage and town halls and talking about hypothesis, we think this is what we need to do as a company, but we’re not sure. So let’s try and find out. Or we thought we should do this, we did that. And it didn’t work. So now we’re going to try this instead. And this is what we learned. And he didn’t make a big deal of it. It was just his habit of communicating in that way. And I think that indirectly influenced everything in the company. That’s really powerful.
Sander Dur 38:17
Did influence you as
Henrik Kniberg 38:18
well? I think so. Yeah. Because that made me feel a little more secure as a coach. Seeing that, you know, the CEO is, is open to making mistakes and trying things. Plus, it made people more inclined to listen to me when I would suggest trying things and making mistakes. Instead of saying, Yeah, Henrik, that sounds good. But you know, what’s gonna happen if I make a mistake? But yeah, you were asking about implicit? I don’t quite understand the question. Maybe if you could repeat it
Sander Dur 38:45
more. Excellent. Well, if we talked about psychological safety, it’s it’s not that tangible. You know, if you have a definition of done, it’s somewhere listed on Confluence or on the how do we know if we have it? You can basically, yeah, exactly. Like, what is that? What do we define this? For instance? It’s the same vague term as self value.
Henrik Kniberg 39:07
Yeah, that’s actually a really good question. I have no idea. I agree. I think we probably need something like that. Because it is a bit wishy washy. The whole phrase, it’s like, Okay, what if what if the leaders come and say we now have psychological safety? We’re done? How would we know? Right? So the only thing I can think of now is surveys, you know, good old, boring employee surveys. But that can be a starting point, just asking to what extent do you feel comfortable speaking your mind on things? If nothing else, it could be a baseline to see if we’re noticing any improvement.
Sander Dur 39:39
Have you ever been a victim of an organization or not necessarily organization but a culture where you were on the receiving end of the repercussions and affect you?
Henrik Kniberg 39:50
Yes, I have and it was horrible. It’s all I can say. It hasn’t happened very often. But it did happen once that I can’t get into too much detail without exposing people. But yes, I got a taste of what it can feel like and it was really, really deeply horrifying. Basically the feeling of you know, I’m trying to do the best for the organization and not being punished for it. And it made me in that context wanted be quiet. But it was a useful experience, because then I understand more, you know, what, what it can do to people?
Sander Dur 40:30
Yeah, exactly the there was this something I was thinking about? Is it not necessarily recommended? But do people need to feel in order to understand
Henrik Kniberg 40:41
I think a starting point is just talking about it. I can take a related example, impostor syndrome, is something that came up during my time at Spotify. And it was interesting, because it turned out that Spotify was his kind of, you know, hot startup that attracted a lot of very smart people who were kind of well known within their different fields. So what happened was without anybody really realizing it, almost everybody was feeling impostor syndrome. Like people going to Spotify felt like, Oh, my God, this person is working here. He’s the one who invented this framework that I’m using. And that person wrote that book and all these people that are like gurus to me, now I’m not I’m colleague with them. And how am I gonna live up to this. So then they feel really freaked out that they’re gonna be exposed as an impostor at any moment. But the funny thing is, one day, someone in one of the teams started talking about it, and just kind of admitted to feeling impostor syndrome. And immediately everyone else was like, what you’re feeling that too, I thought it was just me. And that everyone, even these gurus, like, we’re admitting that holy shit, I really felt this. And it was like this very funny situation where people started talking about it. And then we noticed how it really became a vicious cycle. Because you could have a team where, you know, let’s say, I’m feeling this kind of impostor syndrome. And I’m like, Oh, my God, these other people are so smart. So I’m going to work a little bit on Saturday to finish this thing. Because otherwise, I feel like I’m not that as good as everyone else. I’m going to work a bit extra on Saturday. And then I come in on Monday, and I show this cool thing that I made. And maybe I even lie about it. And I don’t say that I worked on Saturday, because, you know, I want to make it seem like I did this during my normal work hours, right? So I show this cool thing I did. And everyone’s really impressed. And guess what, now they feel impostor syndrome. They’re like, Oh, my God, this guy, Jim just did this really cool thing, just like with his left hand, how am I gonna live up to this. So then they start sneak working on Friday evenings or something, and it becomes this vicious cycle of everyone trying to just live up to their expectation of how they should be. But just talking about it helped a lot. Because then we could call each other out on it and laugh about it. And it became easier. So yeah, talking about things, it’s a good starting starting point.
Sander Dur 42:51
If you don’t do that, you’ll head into burnout charts rather than burnout.
Henrik Kniberg 42:54
Definitely. And I suspect the psychological safety thing is a little bit the same thing when you start talking about it. Even just talking about it is a good starting point.
Sander Dur 43:05
Well, yeah, understanding or feeling confident that it’s okay to speak up about that. You shouldn’t fear the repercussions. So to anyone listening, we’re challenging you to speak up about that as well. Yes. Talk about psychological safety. Talk about how you feel talk about in boss,
Henrik Kniberg 43:25
yeah, and then talk about stress and burnout. It’s such a big hidden problem. But if you’re feeling something like stress, burnout, psychological unsafety or imposter syndrome, you’re very likely not alone. There’s probably others around you. Exactly. And as long as it’s hidden, that just makes things worse. So if possible, it’s a bit of a meta problem, because it needs psychological safety to be able to bring up these kinds of things. But, but, but you know, start with someone you trust near you. And it might spread.
Sander Dur 43:56
You got to break the banner somewhere. And it’s very, it’s
Henrik Kniberg 43:59
a huge relief, you know, open opening up all these things.
Sander Dur 44:04
Yeah, exactly. And it’s going to be a snowball effect. People will look up at us, and it’s going to it’s going to spiral and people will stick to, and there’s absolutely no shame in admitting I need help here. I’m overflowing. Flooded with work, even though I pulled it in myself, because I want to impress and that impostor syndrome. Now, almost the last question, what would be your recommendation in for organizations that are starting off with development, that are looking for a framework that fits them or how they want to evolve their culture to something that that fits for them specifically, where to start? How to evolve?
Henrik Kniberg 44:47
Hmm, I guess it depends very much on what they do. But I would probably look at what are the most common frameworks within this industry or area that people use What are some well known companies that seem to be doing well, and just do a bit of research in a read up on some of these frameworks, maybe visit some of those companies or read case studies or watch a few talks, and kind of go on a data gathering spree with your team. And it could be, you know, basically put pieces of inspiration on sticky notes on the table. I look at it. Okay, here’s a bunch of ideas. Which ones? Are we excited about? Which ones? Do we feel that this definitely fits us? Which ones do we feel might fit us and are worth trying? And which ones are we going to skip? Even if everyone else is doing it? And then most importantly, you know, do to do retrospectives find out like, go back and look at it and say, Okay, how are we doing? And maybe even before doing that, put, put down a vision, what do we want to be like, as a company? Like both in terms of, of course, our business plan, like what do we want to achieve? But also, what do we want it to be like to work here, like if someone describes to their friend what it’s like to work at this company, what words should come out of their mouth, and write those down and then use that as kind of a basis for for determining how you’re doing?
Sander Dur 46:07
Also, going back to a little bit earlier in this conversation, do not skip the Rookie actors like don’t don’t evolve from that point. Don’t Don’t cherry pick to to move that out. Too often. I get the question during the scrum, the door courses I teach. Can we just leave out the retrospective? Well, yeah, you could. But it’s probably you’re probably set yourself up.
Henrik Kniberg 46:28
Yeah, probably the last thing I would repeat what you can prove. There’s lots of ways you could change rituals, you can change how often you do them, or who’s involved or, you know, there’s all stuff, all kinds of stuff you could do, but just eliminate them entirely, I think is really just putting your head in the sand. And there’s, there’s the irony there the catch 22 Is that the the mooring client if you’re too stressed, to have retros. That’s probably when you need them the most.
Sander Dur 46:53
Yeah, one of my colleagues mentioned that earlier. She said, It’s a good thing to meditate. Every day, at least. If you’re feeling you’re very much stressed. You don’t have the time you’re having a very busy agenda, and more.
Henrik Kniberg 47:10
But I guess the thing is that sometimes retros suck. But most cases, it’s not because you don’t need rituals, it’s because the way you’re doing them isn’t good. So try to distinguish those two things from like, oh, retros aren’t good versus we’re not doing retros very well. Most likely, you’re just not doing very well. And that just means keep experimenting, try different ways. Bring in a coach or something right.
Sander Dur 47:34
If people are looking for Coach Henry and I are both coaches, you can hire us. Speaking of that, where can people find you?
Henrik Kniberg 47:41
They can find me on LinkedIn and on Twitter. I also have on the crisp website, if you just Google my name, it’ll you’ll you’ll find my page on Krypton SE. And then I have some contact info as well. And the FAQ for stuff to the Twitter’s I like people to read before they reach out but mixed results.
Sander Dur 48:02
Remember whether if I’ve read the FAQ.
Henrik Kniberg 48:06
I don’t remember. But if you did your forgive, there’s
Sander Dur 48:09
a there’s a comment in the chat by Bart one of our audience. Henrik is my agile hero. Anyway, way back. Thank you very much for being here. Really appreciate it. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Oh, super fun. Have a nice day. You too. I really enjoyed this episode. Henrik is one of my favorite people out there when it comes to Agile to his mindset to the way that he has made an impact on the community and the wider delivery of the agile mindset. Again, I would love to see you guys over at the mastering intelligence discord community where he connects people, inspiring people, help them on their jobs, helped them becoming a professional scrum trainer as well as she had the best articles. We guide people and we connect people to each other. One of my favorite things to do, I would love to see you guys there. Else. Thank you very much for joining this episode. I’ll see you again next time.