S07 E03 Chris Williams on the Art of Simplicity

The conversation explores the concept of simplicity and its challenges in various contexts. It delves into the importance of feedback, organizational and cultural change, and the friction between doing the thing right and doing the right thing. The difficulty of simplicity is discussed, along with the power of simple solutions. The conversation explores the importance of simplicity in product development and the challenges organizations face in achieving it. The three main drivers in the workforce are identified as community, cause, and compensation, with their importance varying depending on career stage. Perks and benefits, such as ping pong tables and beer on tap, are no longer sufficient to attract and retain talent. The focus should be on creating work that matters and providing employees with a sense of purpose. Short-term focus and financial stress can hinder organizations and individuals from achieving simplicity. It is crucial to let go of unnecessary tasks and amplify the value of the work being done.

  • Simplicity is the antithesis to complexity and is essential in various domains, including software development and product design.
  • Feedback is crucial in achieving simplicity and ensuring that the right solutions are developed.
  • Organizational and cultural change are necessary to foster simplicity and create an environment that values simplicity.
  • There is often a friction between doing the thing right (craftsmanship) and doing the right thing (meeting customer needs and business goals). Balancing these two aspects is essential.
  • Simple solutions can be powerful and effective, and often the simplest solution is the best one. The three main drivers in the workforce are community, cause, and compensation, with their importance varying depending on career stage.
  • Perks and benefits are no longer sufficient to attract and retain talent; the focus should be on creating work that matters and providing employees with a sense of purpose.
  • Short-term focus and financial stress can hinder organizations and individuals from achieving simplicity.
  • It is crucial to let go of unnecessary tasks and amplify the value of the work being done.

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00:00Simplicity and its Challenges
19:37The Importance of Feedback
30:57Organizational Change and Cultural Change
35:01The Friction Between Doing the Thing Right and Doing the Right Thing
41:06The Difficulty of Simplicity
45:26The Power of Simple Solutions
46:23The Three Main Drivers in the Workforce
48:16The Limitations of Perks and Benefits
49:45The Cost of Creating Work that Matters
50:28The Consequences of Short-Term Focus
51:27The Financial Stress of Gen Z
51:56The Negative Impact of Short-Term Focus on Boeing
53:14The Importance of Work that Matters
53:33Practical Steps to Simplicity
58:40The Importance of Documentation
01:00:09The Shift in the Agile World
01:03:22Amplifying Value and Courage
01:07:05Simplicity in Product Development
01:15:26Letting Go of Beliefs and Amplifying Value
01:19:06Maximizing the Amount of Work Not Done

Chris Williams, Jim, how are you gentlemen doing? It’s good to have a fellow podcaster.

Chris W (09:36.223)

Chris W (09:41.214)
Thanks. Thanks for having me.

Jim (09:43.747)
Doing well. Can’t wait to get into this conversation.

Chris W (09:47.082)
There we go.

Sander (09:47.218)
Me neither, because we’re going to start off, at least we have multiple topics that we want to cover. But we’re going to start off with talking about simplicity. And I think simplicity is one of those subjects that has been discussed a lot. It’s been mentioned a lot, at least, but it’s really hard to keep things simple. And I’m curious, Chris, what, what do you think in your opinion, simplicity means?

Chris W (10:12.765)
So this is something I’m focusing on a lot lately because simplicity is the antithesis to complexity. So if you go, all you have to do is Google Agile version three and hit the images tab and the results, and you’ll see what I mean. That our conception, our approach to delivering stuff is anything but simple. It seems to me that it’s getting more and more complex. And so when you watch discussions on LinkedIn or in various forums, you see a lot of people focusing on the precise how. How do I do this? What…

What I always say, what color talking stick do I bring to my stand up? And the answer is it kind of doesn’t matter. When we say that Agile and Scrum are self organizing, what we’re referring to is that innately, the process should be simple enough that it’s open to wide interpretation. But that interpretation doesn’t always need to be codified. So what ends up happening is practitioners, I think we spend too much time focusing and documenting and not to mention forcing.

our personal codification of how to into the community. That creates a lot of confusion. It creates a lot of elitism. But simplicity should mean that either your code and or your process and or your people, the organization, and finally, your thought and mind should be as uncluttered and simple as possible. What do you think?

Jim (11:36.891)
Ooh. Yeah, I’m a long time fan of Marie Kondo and her tidying up mindset. And I’ve applied that to backlogs. I’ve applied that to designs. I’ve applied that to work in a lot of different ways, which, you know, there’s another acronym out there that many people might know called Yagny, which is you’re not, you ain’t going to need it. And I think that speaks towards simplicity.

Sander (11:36.978)
I’m going to relay this one to Jim.

Chris W (11:58.921)

Jim (12:04.723)
And many people are trying to build too many things. They’re trying to do too many things. They’re trying to add too many widgets to a page because it’s hard to know, or it’s harder to know what you should do and validate its reception by the people using it than to just throw a bunch of stuff at the wall and see what sticks.

Sander (12:33.782)
Why would you just randomly throw shit at a wall? I mean, that’s what happens a lot, right? But is there any good argument to do that?

Jim (12:41.891)
Well, you know, I think it’s the shotgun approach. You know, it’s the shotgun versus the sniper. They both are tools. One is more precise and is able to be wielded by less effective, less trained people. One requires lots of discipline, lots of variable mitigation, all these other things.

So I think it’s easier to throw stuff at the wall, like throw 10 things on a page and say, I hope one of those resonates. I hope one of those answers the question. I was asked to build a dashboard this week. And I said, what would you like on that dashboard? How are you going to use it? What questions would you like it to answer for you? And I got back a list of 18 to 20 different things. And I’m like, I can do this. But.

Is that really what you want? And it’s just another example. This happens over and over again. I think I’d sum up my answer by saying it’s hard to stop, pause, and think about what we actually want instead of just saying, throw it all at me and I’ll find what I need.

Chris W (13:57.05)
So how did you handle it, Jim? What did you do to avoid building the 28 things?

Jim (14:03.287)
Well, I didn’t build everything that was asked for. I did a number of things to try and meet this person where they were at and to kind of find a middle ground. So I did some of the things and then I showed it to them. And I said, what do you think so far? And is this helpful? How are you going to use this? And that conversation was very productive. It was an excellent conversation with this person and they’re like, ooh, what about this though? Or what about that?

Can you make this number into this type of a chart? And I think that’s what I see over and over again is when people don’t know exactly what they want or they can’t articulate their need, they need to see something to react to. The key there is not doing too much if you believe 80% of it’s gonna get thrown away as you zero in on maybe the 20% of what is actually needed.

Chris W (15:02.997)
So this happens a lot in software development, doesn’t it? Was that person that you’re speaking to, was that a product owner?

Jim (15:09.475)
Um, yeah, they definitely do many of the things I would associate with product ownership. It’s not their actual title. But yeah, let’s just call them a leader. A leader of people and teams.

Chris W (15:25.929)
fair enough. So I would say a really good example in commercial software development where simplicity was honored almost to the point of being uncomfortable. There’s this app that I bought years ago called brain.fm and the principle behind it is that some people believe that something called binaural beats which is playing… binaural means like you know everything on the left side goes entirely in one ear, everything on the right side goes entirely to the right.

and they play these beats that are synced to gamma waves, alpha waves, beta waves. The theory is that they will entrain the brain to going into that state. Different states have different helpful features, like more relaxed or more open to suggestion, et cetera. Better for creativity, better for thinking. So they’re unpleasant to listen to though, because of these pulses that, whoa, in your ear, it’s no fun to listen to.

So their theory was if we masked that with atmospheric sounds like beach waves, ambient music, chimes, classical music, would the beats still have an effect or an impact on the brain and improve creativity, improve productivity? So the first release of the product was one set of beats with no, you know, it’s just, this will improve your performance with a very limited number of selections of backgrounds that you could choose from.

You could play and pause, but you couldn’t save, choose a favorite, rewind, fast forward. None of those things were there, but it was enough simplicity to deliver some of the value and prove that A, did it work scientifically? Did it help? Number two, would people pay for it? And to my mind, that’s the elegance of simplicity. So when you’re not really sure what you want, we kind of want all of it. Like I have never had a music player that didn’t have a rewind button before.

I’ve never been able to not save my favorites on things like Netflix or Prime or Paramount. So we think we want all those things, but which are the ones that you value most? If I could only give you one, which one would it be? And that might be a valuable question to enter into Simplicity. And Sandor, I don’t know if you want to contribute there, but I’ll stop for a moment and let you chew on that one.

Sander (17:38.174)
Well, what pops to mind with me is the amount of apps that I have on my phone. There’s a million on there. I don’t know the exact number, but there are so many, but there’s always the same four apps that I keep using and keep using. And the other ones pretty much are neglected, but I still use them somewhere, somewhere down the line. But how do I filter out then as a customer or as a stakeholder user? What is it that I really want? And what kind of things do I

need, like for instance, my banking app, I don’t use my banking app the same amount of time as I would use WhatsApp or Telegram or Signal or any of those apps or LinkedIn or something like that. So how do I filter out? What do I really need and what kind of things are essential? So the there’s a balance that our stakeholders and customers need to find in frequency and value. How do you deal with that?

Chris W (18:33.415)
But isn’t that… sorry, go ahead, Jim.

Jim (18:33.69)

No, I think that, you know, I don’t know how I could sum up how people decide what they need and what they don’t need, except to, you know, in my experience, people need to see something, right? Especially if we’re creating a new product that doesn’t exist. Or, and one of the techniques, and I’ll just throw this out there and then I want to hear from Chris, is I offer…

Two things as a bridge to help people when I see this. One is, is there something that does something similar that you like? If I was building a dashboard, I might say, what other dashboards do you use and what do you like about them? So that I can get a feel for what they like from an aesthetics perspective or a look and feel or a capability. Or I might ask them what they don’t like about them. If you were to design this, what would you eliminate?

And another thing that I’ve used in the past is, you know, just a number of kind of creative techniques to kind of zero in on what is really important to them and say, okay, you’ve given me enough. Let me go off and come back to you. And I think as I’m talking, this is kind of one of the biggest problems with maybe doing too much is

When people don’t have the time or don’t make the time to come back to us regularly, it incentivizes us to get a lot of information, a lot of their needs or wants. I’m not gonna use the damn R word. And then we lack that feedback loop. We lack that, here’s a little something, what do you think? Because maybe if we know we’re gonna not talk to that person for three or four weeks, we don’t feel like we can work that way. Is that part of it, Chris, do you think?

Chris W (20:34.573)
Certainly, but isn’t that what Agile and Scrum are meant to do? Meant to get product into the hands of users more frequently so that they can feedback. And some people would argue, by the way, when I teach feedback in the forge, to me, feedback is a non-event. So every time you have an interaction, whether it’s a meeting or some kind of ceremony or ritual or whatever you call it, we’re looking for small bits of feedback as we go. So it’s theoretically possible to have feedback more often than every two weeks, assuming…

that the customer is engaged. So are you saying that the really big problem is that we can’t find or enforce customer engagement?

Jim (21:13.307)
I don’t know if it’s that we can’t find it or force it. It’s that people feel they’re unable to make the time for it or they’re not unable, okay? They’re unwilling to make the time for it, right? Maybe because in the past, they haven’t seen the benefit of it. Or maybe they’ve said, you know, I used to provide feedback all the time and nothing ever happened to that feedback. So now I’m disinclined to provide feedback to you, Jim, even though…

we haven’t been working together before. So I think there’s a lot of human reasons that they might not want to come back to the table over and over again. But I agree with you. I mean, this is what agility is about. You know, we could come back to the manifesto and look, point out all the human interactions on there and all the principles and the values. Those are not embedded in companies yet.

Chris W (21:51.231)

Jim (22:06.543)
they’re not embedded in people. And I think they want to jump to practices. Like those same people who don’t understand feedback loops may understand things like story points and burn down charts and refinement very, very well, missing the point that if that interaction and that feedback’s not in place, none of the rest of that matters whatsoever.

Chris W (22:31.605)
So I’m of the mind that Agile is best applied. Scrum specifically is best applied in situations where there’s at least a decent double digit percentage of novelty or unexplored innovation in a project. So if you’re using Scrum to manage an Oracle upgrade project, you’re probably misusing the tool. And so it’s not surprising then that, well, do I really need to be in this meeting? The product owner is sitting there going, why do I need to be here? You guys know what to do.

Jim (22:52.379)

Chris W (23:00.061)
But if we’re innovating, we’re exploring something that’s unknown, something that’s never been done or tested before. So I go back to the BrainFM example. It’s not about just showing them something and say, is this what you want? But we would count on a product owner in an ideal world to know their customer well enough that they understand the number one pain point. They should be getting that data either from research, market study, feedback. Like what’s the biggest complaint you get in support calls? What’s the number one feature request?

If we’re not set up to gather, collect, and transmit that data, then something’s wrong. People always scream that the number one reason for agile failure is lack of management support. I think it’s our job as Scrum Masters and coaches to learn how to knock on executive doors and saying, listen, you’re paying a lot for this agile thing, but we may not be making full use of it. In order for this to go, if you want me to bring you results, measurable results, there has to be a commitment somewhere that a product owner…

not on the Oracle upgrade projects, but on the innovation, new product, introduction type initiatives, that those people are going to be there. And they’re going to chase down that data for us and with us. Is that unreasonable?

Jim (24:07.899)
It’s not unreasonable. What I’d love to hear both of your thoughts on is, is it harder now, given the remote way of working, than it used to be to proverbially knock on an executive’s door?

Sander (24:22.618)
And maybe not necessarily harder, but it requires a new way of, again, accustomed ourselves to the way of finding this information. It’s still in the same spot, but it’s more of the process and it’s easier to hide behind our desks or to not turn out our cameras. So as humans, we’re very lazy. We’re very change averse by nature. And now we’ve had this huge wave of change while we’re still as a species getting up to speed with using the internet.

And well, we’re all fairly young. We know how the internet works, but if you look at that over the span of our evolution, it’s just the spec of sand, right? And we still have to get that up to speed. And now all of a sudden that changed in the way that we work in and retrieve our information. And I think the way, or how fast that change has gotten into the workplace where we’re just unable to keep up with that, with that speed. So it’s just a completely new way of working again.

And I don’t think many companies have really figured out how we’re going to do that, how we need to find the information. What’s the fastest process? And I think it’s going to differ per. Per organization, then maybe that’s my hope as well, is that people and organizations finally start to think for themselves, how does this work here? And not like, oh, here’s the Spotify model, which again, as mentioned a million times, it doesn’t exist. But finally, hopefully fingers crossed. People will start.

thinking for themselves what works here. Chris, how do you see that?

Chris W (25:55.313)
So I promised I wouldn’t get political, but I think I have to break my promise. I remember, I’m a little older, so my birthday is next Tuesday and it’s number 53, so I hope you all can make it. But when I was a consultant in the early 2000s, we were introduced to the idea of something called offshoring. And in the offshoring model, all of a sudden we were expected to be on phone calls at two in the morning or 6 a.m. with a group of people who didn’t natively speak our language. We will never meet in person.

And we’re not connected in any real way. And so it’s how are we going to make this work? How are we going to have the necessary conversations to understand progress, to understand blockers, to understand challenges? And they said, listen, here’s a little start, one of those Polycom phones, here’s a free bridge number you can use anytime you want, figure it out. And we did. We figured it out because the pressure was to reduce the cost of delivery.

Offshore resources cost about 20 to 30% of what an onshore resource cost. And we could deliver that at a much higher margin than the project managers here in Canada. So it was figure it out, but that’s because the benefits accrued to the corporation. Now when we say remote work, oh gosh, I don’t know if that’ll work. You know, you never seeing a person. Look, I run the Forge, which is my year long immersion program. And I’m in cohort eight.

When I say that I’ve changed lives, I don’t know how to prove it to you. You have to talk to the people who have been through it. But I know that consistently I can transform people and I’m not sure if any of them have feet, because I’ve never seen them above the navel. So don’t tell me that remote work can’t work. You figure it out. But the problem, I think, is because the benefits accrue to somebody else. They accrue to the worker instead of to the corporation. And that’s why there’s not the same kind of pressure to figure it out.

Jim (27:40.103)

Chris W (27:53.437)
But I honestly believe that when you’re attached to a fixed way of working, that is to say, I think it was to Jim’s suggestion, it’s on us to take the model and say, splat, here, try it. Here’s the first principles of it, and there’s 12 of them. Try it. See how it works for you. You say, oh, this Agile thing, it doesn’t work. We got to do daily standups. That’s not going to work. Okay. What if your standups once a week? Would somebody die? Probably not. Would that make the problem better?

Yeah, it would help. Okay, let’s do that. We don’t seem to have an appetite for doing that. Everyone wants to know what’s the rule. Give me the rule. What’s the rule? What makes me a good employee versus a bad employee? What gets me my raise on my 360 review at the end of the year and what doesn’t? They want answers, specific answers. But it’s not baking, it’s cooking. Big difference.

Jim (28:27.131)

Jim (28:44.931)

Sander (28:45.318)
Wouldn’t you say that if we let people off the hook right away and by not doing it by the book, I say, indeed you do, you don’t do your daily scrum every single day, but do it every other day, it opens the door for other elements to not be done as well, because we didn’t have to do the daily scrum every day, right? So why do the other things by the book or why apply the rules there?

Chris W (29:10.213)
Easy answer because one way or the other, the results are the proof. So if you start off saying these are the basic recommendations, here’s your basic scrum. And so you start by doing standups every day and people are like, this is too much or this is too little. You’ll know. How will you know if you don’t meet your sprint goal? If you don’t feel like you delivered as much value as you could? If you promise some expectations and you didn’t meet them, it’s like, well, why didn’t we meet them? Well, we spent way too much time.

in standups, or we didn’t do standup enough. So we had no clear visibility into progress. We’re not using a scrum board properly. You know, we put one big pasty on the board saying in two weeks, I’ll finish my module. Maybe we should decompose that so we can track a little bit more precisely along the way. You’ll find out by when your variations, and again, you should only test one thing at a time if you’re going to make changes, but you make a change, you should be able to see does this impact the outcome.

So it’s not about letting people off the hook. It’s about finding what works for them. Not in terms of, hey, are you comfortable because there’s less meetings now? That’s not a measure of success. The measure of success is, do we meet the sprint goal? Do we have delighted customers? Do we increase revenue? Do we increase loyalty? Does that make sense?

Jim (30:27.839)
So if I connect the original topic back to kind of where the thread that we’ve pulled, which is simplicity is based partially on feedback. Lack of feedback could be an organizational problem. And organizational problems speak to the culture. And people like us are really there to create organizational change and cultural change. Is that a fair summation of where we got?

are ready.

Chris W (30:58.365)
That’s one thread. The other thread that I’d love to expose if I could is that simplicity is hard. Bruce Lee said both at once that simplicity is the pinnacle of cultivation. But at the same time, simplicity is hard to do. And so until you address the human factors of why simplicity is hard to do, we’re attributing simplicity as some kind of fault of either the developer mindset, the corporate mindset, or the…

Jim (31:00.109)

Chris W (31:27.581)
the process itself. None of those things are really fair. It’s in human nature to complicate things. Why would that be? Number one, we’re not comfortable with the uncertainty of not knowing if we’re delivering the right thing. You’ve already expressed that one. I don’t know what to build. I want to please you. So I’m going to build all of them. I’m going to burn myself out in the process, create a ton of waste in the process, waste a lot of money. So that’s a bad way to go.

Chris W (31:56.261)
simplicity is so difficult is that maybe it’s related, that nobody wants to be the one who puts the signature on the decision that sinks the boat. So nobody wants to be accountable for choosing something, trading off, picking this over that, prioritizing this over that. If they’re not sure that it’s going to delight the customer or, you know, basically we’re afraid of failure, aren’t we? The other thing is something that Sonder mentioned at the end, at the beginning rather, which is that by default we crave…

ease. Here’s something I say a lot that’s a little bit, once again, political, but it’s still true. The bigger the organization you work for, and let’s face it, who buys agile stuff? Do most of us work for banks or insurance companies or large government or very large retail? Probably. Because if you work for Tesla, an innovation-minded company, they already understand agility. We don’t have to teach it to them. We don’t have to force it on them. If you are

selling agile services to a startup. They’re agile by default. That’s a live it or die scenario. But it’s the larger organizations where we struggle the most with complexity. The reason being that it attracts a certain kind of person. A bank cannot select all agile, high innovation, lean thinking people. They just can’t. You can’t find them. It’s hard to groom for them.

They do need a lot of people who, and please don’t take this the wrong way, but when you think about the massive employees, they’re people who do the work, push the buttons, make things happen. They’re content to get a steady paycheck and they’re content to coast towards a pension, but they’re not necessarily the same kind of person who comes up and says, I think I know what my customer wants. I want to try this and I want to try it for a week. If it fails, I’ll say, sorry, but I’m not going to be afraid.

to roll the dice and make a call in the future because that’s the only way we’re going to innovate. So complexity lets people pad themselves against sticking their neck out and taking those kinds of risks. So until you solve that problem, which is hard to do in a large organization, people will continuously throw up complexity for no reason. Some of us just like feeling clever, by the way. When I was an early developer, I used to sit there.

Chris W (34:20.557)
It’s like 25. If I had nothing to do on a Wednesday night, I would sit there and try to make Visual Basic called the Win32 API just to see if I could pull it off. Could I make Visual Basic do something that Visual Basic doesn’t do? And so when I would go and write code for my customers, I’d always be trying to do some stunt or some trick to stretch myself. That’s not what my customer’s paying for though. So sometimes complexity comes from a desire to be clever, a desire to be cool.

desire to create something that’s never created before. So there’s a bunch of, and none of these things that I’ve just spoken about have anything to do with agility. Does that ring? And did I answer your question, Jim?

Jim (35:01.471)
Yeah. No, it definitely rings true for me. I, on this show before, Chris, I have mentioned one of my favorite quotes from Mark Twain, which is, I apologize for the long letter. I didn’t have time to write a shorter one. And I think that goes to simplicity. And that it’s actually difficult to be clear, concise, and to have that brevity.

Chris W (35:17.769)

Jim (35:30.427)
of what you need, what you want, or what we’re producing. And one of the things that is discouraging to me at times is when I get on social media, whether it’s TikTok, YouTube, LinkedIn, et cetera, and I see techies or problem solvers, software developers in some cases, bashing agility or bashing people who aren’t.

pounding on the keyboard and they’re like, we know what to do, just let us do it. And I think they are, I cannot do their job. And in years of training, I probably could not do their job because in those years they’d get better at it and the industry would change. But if they applied equal number of years to try and do what I do, they could probably do it. Like I do feel.

software developers and problem solvers, whether it’s hardware, software, legal, whatever, they can look like magicians. But every industry, every company I’ve in, that I’ve seen and been in, has had people who are, their skills are not in tapping on the keyboard or swinging the axe or tapping the hammer, they’re in talking to users, talking to customers, data analysis, data science.

investigation, UX, UI, human interface design. Those people are no less valuable. And I just think that everyone’s gotta realize that, yes, if I wanted to build the world’s best dining room set, I’d wanna hire master craftsman in woodworking. But being able to…

be a master craftsman in a craft like that does not mean you’re a furniture designer. It does not mean you’re Charles Eames and you’re gonna design the most beautiful chair that has existed for 75 years and that people are still copying and knocking off and paying thousands of dollars for. Those are two very different skills. Sometimes those skills are in one human being, but most times they’re not.

Chris W (37:41.205)
That’s right.

Sander (37:42.174)
that, and I don’t think organizations would benefit from having an entire workforce that would look like that. I mean, it’s going to be rampant chaos. If everyone is going to, like Chris said, stick their neck out and see, let’s, let’s experiment and see what’s going to happen because people are just going to focus on running experiments and not actually building the value. They’re, they’re just like a puppy running after the next shiny bone and figure out what’s the most fun thing to do rather than actually building the thing that our customers need. And.

Chris W (37:47.797)

Jim (38:09.975)
Yeah, I mean…

Sander (38:10.394)
We need a lot of people to build that stuff, but we need like a very resilient group of people that can tolerate, uh, the naysayers and the repercussions in order to get to the point that people can actually build that product.

Chris W (38:20.455)

Jim (38:27.803)
I mean, I have a lot of software craftsmen or just craftsmen that are friends of mine, close friends that I’ve known for years. And when we are sitting around having beers or drinks or just venting, one of the things that pisses them off the most is when they do their job really well and it doesn’t make an impact, whether that software sits on the shelf or it gets diluted.

Chris W (38:28.137)
Can I?

Jim (38:56.535)
by the time it gets to the user, or it just never gets released because the business pivots or cancels it or kills it or what, that bothers them. And I’ve asked them, would you rather work on something that was maybe someone else’s idea, but you get to do your craft amazingly well and have a much higher level of confidence that it’s going to make an impact and get released to the market and that 10 years from now you’re going to be able to point to it and say,

I help do that, or would you rather be left to your own devices and just you and your cronies at your keyboards banging out whatever and have like a 75% likelihood that what you’re doing, even if it’s amazing, is never going to see the light of day? And they always choose option A. And that’s the friction between doing the thing right and doing the right thing.

Chris W (39:45.308)

Chris W (39:52.405)
I like that. Eddie Van Halen and Prince, both deceased, apparently have vast amounts of old tape of experiments that never saw the light of day. It wasn’t a question of, is this good enough for my listener? Because you can never be sure unless you show it to the listener. But it wasn’t good enough for them. It wasn’t right. It didn’t fit. And so you might say, think of all that waste, all the stuff that never saw the light of day. How can you stand that? All that creativity and genius?

and it never touches a living soul. But they understand that’s part of the process. It’s the woodshed work, chopping wood and carrying water, they call it, where you just do the craft. And sometimes it’s got a big payoff, but it doesn’t. We’re uncomfortable with the idea. Think of how a record company thinks. I use this example a lot. It takes only a few Adels and Aerosmiths to pay for all of the bands that you’re never really going to hear of again. They’re comfortable with that model because the payoff…

is not three to one. It’s not 10 to one. It’s a thousand to one. Right? So it pays for the other investments that don’t make anything. If Facebook used to have a feature called poke, you could poke somebody. Hey Jim, poke. What the hell was the point of that? We’re not sure, but let’s build it. And they built it and nobody used it. So guess what? You can’t poke people anymore on Facebook. They decommissioned that feature. I’m going to give an example if I could.

Jim (41:06.619)
Mm hmm. I remember it.

Chris W (41:19.637)
I’ve used it before, so forgive me if you’ve heard this already, of true solutioning. I worked for a very, very large company that during the pandemic was really struggling with employee churn. People hated what they did. The pandemic exposed to them for the very first time, hey, I don’t have to commute. I don’t have to go two hours into Toronto and then two hours back on the way home and miss my family and burn out. In the winter here in Canada,

If you got an eight hour day, book ended by two hour commutes on either side, you leave in the dark, you come home in the dark, you go to bed, you get up and you do it all again. It’s a hard life. People were burning out and they’re saying, you know what, if you don’t value my work enough, I’m leaving. So a big company like that struggles with how do we solve this problem? Because every time I lose a person, it costs me five times their salary to replace them. Very expensive. We lose the knowledge continuity.

Jim (41:57.243)

Chris W (42:17.661)
We lose the sense of family and team. All of those things are injured by not creating a great working environment for them. So what are some of the solutions that you think the company came up with? If you had to guess, 300,000 people worldwide, but we’re talking about just the Canadian contingent, just one department. I was doing my Forge professional with them and this came up. So what do you think some of the solutions would have been?

Sander (42:43.75)
I would, I’m, I’m almost inclined to say that, well, they’re, they’re going to come up with something amazing. The best solution we’ve ever had on this podcast, but I’m afraid there’s going to be something highly, highly corporate.

Chris W (42:55.997)
Right. So they’re going to say, you want more money? Maybe we give you more money. Or how about we do a survey, yet another survey and say, what’s bugging you? Or maybe we’ll offer you some perks. You guys like it. If we had some stress balls that we put on your desk or maybe everyone gets a few movie passes a couple of times a month, all of those things, pizza night, all those things were standard fare. I heard an example from somebody today. I was coaching a client.

Sander (43:15.762)
Don’t forget pizza night.

Chris W (43:24.873)
And they said that they were giving the news that basically your jobs are about to be eliminated. But who would like to play a game? Like a board game or some sort of online game? Wouldn’t that make you feel better? So these solutions obviously weren’t going to work. They haven’t worked in the past. They’re not going to start working now. So I said, any other ideas? What if this were way simpler?

Chris W (43:46.445)
silence, crickets. So the first observation there is that the mindset, the way we’ve always done things will box you into a certain pattern of thinking. I don’t like to mansplain or suggest, but sometimes when you hire a coach, you’re looking for a tiny bit of hand holding. So I offered them this. I said, what if you do this? We are 24 people, 24 leaders in an organization, relatively senior leaders. What if each of us grabbed our teams of 10 people and simply said, hey, look,

By the stats, I know that right now at this moment, probably 40 to 50% of you are at least thinking of quitting and going somewhere else. Maybe you think the pay sucks, maybe you think the work condition sucks. I don’t know what it is. And I can’t promise that I can fix any of them for you. I don’t have the answer. I just want you to know that I care. I want to find a way to tell you how much I value you. I want to hear what’s not working. I want to hear your ideas if you got them.

And I want to know if there’s anything I could do to keep you from leaving. And what we found is if a person had a team of 10, five of them were thinking of leaving, we were able to save two of them every single time with nothing more than a discussion that at no point pretended to solve all of the problems. Because if you need to solve all of the problems in order to release your solution onto the world, it will be by definition overly complex.

But simple means, first of all, oh, don’t we have to ask permission from the executive to do this? No. I’m asking 24 of you to maybe do it with 10 people. Right? So let’s go try that. Let’s go try that. And they say, can you write that down for me so I have the script? So the big takeaways there before I finish and turn it over to you, Jim, is that first of all, the simplest solution is often the best one. Number two, the way we have trained people to think.

Jim (45:26.988)
Yeah, I-

Chris W (45:43.389)
and to act inside large organizations does not open the door for that kind of thinking. They simply never thought of it because they probably believed they weren’t allowed to. And yet we learned that what people want when they quit a job is not more money. There’s a saying out that the people don’t come for the money and they don’t leave for the money. They say they do, but they don’t. So there’s something else. And if we offer that to them, hey, Jim, do you matter?

I feel like when I hired Jim, I hired the best in the business. I think you’re great at what you do. I don’t know how to make this easier, but I’m willing to learn. Would you help me? If I have that conversation with you, I’m five times more likely to get you to stay.

Go ahead Jim.

Jim (46:24.503)
Yeah, I quote a Facebook study quite often. They found the three main drivers in their workforce, regardless of age and career path, were community, cause, and compensation. The interesting thing was depending on where people were at in their career, those things shifted, and they shifted in really interesting ways. You would expect the

the millennial generation or the Gen Zers to be all about the cause, right? Because that’s what social media would have us believe, that’s what the news would have us believe, but that’s not the case at all. They’re after compensation and community second because they’re in the early days of their career where they need to learn and earn. It’s the older people like your age, Chris, or my age, or even older that are after cause because maybe we’ve made the money, maybe we’ve got a network, a community, a family.

Now we want to realize our work matters. But all three of those things mattered to everybody very, very much. It was just which one was kind of winning, right? And I think as you were talking, and I don’t know what the answer to your company was, but not exactly what it was or what they tried. But I remember a similar thing. And I was working at a place that had

wine and beer on tap, they had a chef that cooked lunch five days a week, there was ping-pong tables and razor scooters and all this stuff. And guess what? They still had an employee retention problem. Because those things were table stakes. That’s what anybody in that industry needed to do. They were expected. And it was no longer creating that dopamine rush when somebody walked in and saw it. Now, if you, if you

brought in a visitor from some corporate monolith who is in a gray cubicle for the last 10 years. Yeah, they were blown away, but that’s not the type of people I was working with there. And the funny thing is, is when we would sit around with leadership and say, what do we really need to do to attract the best talent, retain the best talent? The good news was it didn’t cost hardly anything. The bad news is it wasn’t exactly easy because it was the things you’re talking about, like doing work that matters.

Chris W (48:39.957)
That’s it.


Jim (48:46.959)
feeling heard, seeing how your investments and suggestions were making your own work and others better. Like whether you were able to give some agency over how you structured your days, what problems you got to solve, all those other things. But for a big company, if you were to associate a dollar amount to, on one column, ping pong tables, beer, wine,

um, the occasional movie night and on the other column it was finding work that matters it was You know, um customer interviews it was more innovation. It was all those other things about cause and community and doing amazing things It would actually be a hundred x more expensive to do those things. So it didn’t surprise me that companies Did the easy and cheap thing?

Chris W (49:34.901)

Jim (49:45.923)
because beanbag chairs and ping pong tables are cheap compared to the other things. And they’re easier, because you can just log onto a website and order them and they’ll show up. And then you can have facilities, put them together for you. But.

Sander (49:53.169)

Sander (49:59.718)
Four things, four things popped in mind with me when you’re describing this. The first thing is, uh, it’s usually a lot more expensive to erase, uh, or to prevent issues from happening. Right. So we focus too much on the short term. Uh, it seems as if we’re stopping these issues from occurring in, in our production environments, but we’re so busy fighting fires and making sure that the first time, right. That we’re actually creating more problems and it’s creating more

budget required to actually fix the issues that we incorporated from the, from the get go. Coming back to the point of compensation, I saw two interesting patterns the other day emerged from research. One is that Gen Z seem to think these days that they can get rich real fast as an influencer and they’re not working anymore in their job to figure out their salary, but they’re more focused on creating that.

followers on Instagram or whatever in hope or only fans or wherever you want to go in the hope that you can actually Accumulate so much money that your job itself doesn’t care anymore on the other hand third point is Mortgages etc these days that are so high and it’s so hard to get a proper mortgage with a salary that is Almost non-existent. It doesn’t cover it that they’re so stressed out

By the composition that they’re not getting, that they’re continuously running in the same circle. Like we don’t have the money, so we need to figure out a way to do that. So we need to become an influencer or find some other job or do whatever. And they keep running in the circle and therefore composition is more important these days than ever, even though we think it’s cause or the higher sense of purpose in Gen Z, which is not because of the problems that we’ve created a generation before that. And the fourth thing that popped in my mind was Boeing.

Very nice and topical these days. Focusing on the short terms as well, but predominantly on. Raising stock prices. And not our psychological safety or making sure that people are actually comfortable in the organization that they’re working in. But just making sure that we push our stock price as high as possible. And by doing so, they push their own planes down really, really fast. But the other day, there was another art nice article that I read where.

Sander (52:24.434)
Uh, wheels came off a plane that was just taken off in San Francisco and it crashed into a car of one of the workers in Ethiopia. That was another Boeing that fell from the skies, killed everyone. Of course, there was a door that got ripped out in San Francisco just when taken off. All because of the culture within the lower ranks and the lack of psychological safety, but also because of the short-term focus on just pushing up the stock prices and therefore forgetting everything else within the organization.

Chris W (52:30.416)

Chris W (52:39.454)

Sander (52:53.618)
So we, as agile coaches, scrum masters, et cetera, we’re focused on making sure that we can actually thrive within our teams. But if the rest of the organization, especially C level and those people are predominantly focused on their shareholders and making sure that stock prices go up, then everything that we are doing is futile.

Jim (53:14.658)

Chris W (53:14.729)
Was there a question in there?

Sander (53:17.018)
No, just a doomed scenario.

Chris W (53:18.037)
Just an observation. Sure. Jim, we’re going to say something.

Jim (53:20.675)
Wow, painting that pic, painting that positive Rosie picture there for my, for my, I know normally I’m Debbie Downer and today it’s you. Like, somebody get that guy a drink.

Sander (53:26.228)
Usually I’m the positive one.

Chris W (53:26.349)

Sander (53:30.746)

Chris W (53:33.794)
So, I know we’re not out of time, but we must be coming up on the hour. And I wanted to leave you with something practical, if I could. So I’ll give you a link to a guide that I’ve written, which is kind of a wedge into the bigger work that I’m starting to do now that has everything to do with simplicity. So I would encourage your watchers, your viewers to grab this guide, because there’s a couple of practical things.

that you can take away and start doing now. The first thing is, and this applies to almost everything that you just mentioned, Sinder, which is…

Generally, it’s a good rule to never push, always pull. What that means is when you look at a big organization and I see when I teach the forge, I steal from Tony Robbins the idea that there are six prime human motivators. One of them is the ability to make impact, which is to do things. So for example, if I’m thinking of working at Boeing and I’m an impact driven person, I want to work there because of their innovation. But also when I hear that rivets are flying off and doors come unhinged during flight, I want to go help fix that problem.

That’s an impact person. Some people prefer significance. Significance means you’re a little bit like me. You like to be on stage. You like to be known. You like for people to pay attention to your ideas, to interact with you. That’s how you matter. Some people love to grow. They want to be in situations where they’re learning, where they’re expanding their edges, becoming bigger, contributing more. Some people just want to be loved. Some people just want to get approval. Look mom, look dad, look what I did.

Aren’t I great? Some people love risk and adventure. Those are your snowboarders, your skydivers. And some people just like things to be exactly as they were yesterday. They like safety. They like certainty. When you look at a big organization, it’s mostly certainty and safety people. Steady paycheck, hard to get noticed. Basically, if you sit down and be quiet, nobody’s going to be looking at what you’re doing, questioning what you’re doing.

Chris W (55:35.741)
So if I don’t like to make a lot of noise, it’s a great place for me to run my career and no judgment. There’s nothing wrong with any of these six categories I just mentioned. One is not better than the other, but everyone is a little bit different. Oftentimes agile people are impact people. That’s for sure. So when I say don’t push, only pull, I trust that when I work with organizations, like I don’t work with banks anymore because I don’t really feel that my gift is going to

received by the bank in the way I intended it. They’re not ready for what I teach or it’s not valuable to them. And that’s okay. This is me not pushing. On the other hand, I trust that people who love my podcast, who love my work will find me and say, yes, what you have, I want to. So step number one is as an agile practitioner, go and work in places that are aligned to those desires. You’re a perfect fit for somebody. Focus on that fit. You may be great for startups,

But your cousin or your next door neighbor may be better for oil and gas. Because again, their ingenuity, I want to do something significant. I want to fix those difficult problems. I want to create beautiful designs. Different than an agile leader. So first thing is don’t push, never pull. The second thing is you have to let go of your attachments to things. So we suffer when we need to be in control of things that aren’t controllable. We suffer.

when we need to feel right all the time or when we need to feel special all the time. We suffer when we want to be clever or known for our intellect or we want our ego to be in control. So by letting go of things having to be a certain way. So if you’re an agile coach and you work at a bank, if you can’t let go of the fact that they probably don’t get you yet, that they’re probably more focused on shareholder value than they are on fidelity to the agile principles, if you can’t let go of that,

The bank may not be for you. It doesn’t make them wrong and it doesn’t make you wrong, but you simplify the playing field if you let go of your need for anyone to see things your way, do things your way, et cetera, et cetera. So in the guide, I go through a bunch of those mindset first principles that will allow you to be more like Brain FM and say, listen, we heard you, we listened to you, we think this is the most important thing that you want. Makes sense.

Chris W (58:03.069)
Does this improve your study productivity? That feature needs to be there. If I released a piece of software that did fast forward and rewind, but didn’t deliver better performance on your exam, the product would fail. Nobody would buy it. We’d have to shutter our door.

But when you let go of trying to make this thing perfect, trying to make it solve every problem in the organization, trying to know everything before you take the first step forward, you let go of all of those things, you open the door up for simplicity. Simplicity becomes much easier. I’m gonna stop there and see if you have any feedback.

Jim (58:40.031)
Yeah. Wow. I had a couple of reactions in there. I want to ask you a tactical question that came up for me last week. But before I do that, I just want to sum one thing up. A lot of the things we’re talking about are organizational things. They’re cultural things. And one of the points I was trying to make earlier, or when I asked a question around, is it easier or harder, is I’ve been helping people build

Obeya rooms and walls lately. And Obeya is just a Japanese word that means big room. And, you know, one of the most effective big rooms that I’ve had in the past as an Obeya room, we called the Batcave. And it was, it was the hub of a lot of activities and we could go stand in it and have amazing conversations and we could see roadmaps and touch them. We could see dependencies and eliminate them. We could, it was an information radiator.

Chris W (59:30.901)

Jim (59:39.791)
And it was very easy to get executives attention and leaders attention or any busy person’s attention because they couldn’t help it. Walking from the elevator to your desk, you’d see things that would be like, what the hell’s going on over there? I wanna go look at that. It is so much harder to do those type of things and radiate that information when something’s in a system behind a login that you gotta use your authenticator app to see. Or when you’re going from Teams meeting to Teams meeting or Zoom to Zoom and you’re,

Chris W (59:52.413)
Yes. Yep.

Chris W (01:00:04.85)

Jim (01:00:09.627)
dropping in and out. And it was very easy for me to just position myself in an executive’s doorway and say, hey, can I get 10 minutes? I’d like to come show you something. It was very hard for them to look me in the eye, somebody they like, that they trusted, and say, no, I don’t have 10 minutes to come look at something you think’s important. Getting that same person’s attention now via remote work is much harder. It’s different.

And in one way it’s easier, but it’s much harder, in my opinion. So anyway, the short and pithy summation of that is these are all cultural things in the company. And it starts with leaders at all levels of the organization. I don’t, when I say leaders, I don’t just mean, you know, the top of some pyramid. Um, and every company has the culture that they deserve. That is a

Gymism, if you will, I don’t know where I heard it, but I’ve been saying it for a long time, and people challenge me, like, what do you mean? I’m like, well, your culture is an outcome of what you tolerate, how you work, what type of feedback you don’t solicit, how you burn people out, trying to do too much. All of those things create your culture. But what I wanna kinda come back to with this idea of simplicity is, I think we would all agree, and if you don’t, please,

Chris W (01:01:07.068)

Jim (01:01:35.087)
tell me you don’t, is that clean code is simple to understand. And simple to understand code is easy to walk the code and understand what it’s doing. So last week, I was kind of challenged by some very smart people. We don’t need to document that, Jim. Our code is self-documenting. And I said, that’s awesome. I’m glad that your code is so clean and hygienic that

tech people can look at it and understand what it’s doing. But what I was talking about is the why behind the code. Like, why did we write this business logic? Why did we make this decision? Why are we showing this screen? Why is this function even in the product? Where is that documented?

Chris W (01:02:26.993)
Right. So I… really? And what do you think the answer is?

Jim (01:02:27.371)
And I got silence.

Jim (01:02:34.667)
Well, I think at a high level, I think it’s, well, we’ve never really thought about it before. I think this team is very good and they will take this as a learning thing because they understood my point. But I think many teams that I’ve coached over the years would say, I’m not paid to think about why something exists in the product. I am asked to build the thing and I built the thing really well and clean and it passes all the linting rules and it’s good and it’s high quality.

And it kind of goes back to that very early thing we said, and that I think my co-host was talking about, which is people being paid to do a job and doing that job well, and maybe not being bought into the why, to finding it personally satisfying.

Chris W (01:03:22.485)
I think it’s incumbent on anyone who works in our industry to, you know, the old agile principle I used to teach or scrum principle rather, was that the product backlog belongs to the product owner. And it’s not really for the team to say, well, why do you want that? And, but it’s also incumbent on the product owner, not to look at the sprint backlog and say, why are you using Oracle for that? That’s dumb. Like we don’t want to have that blurring of lines, but there is a little area in between where

I think the job of a Scrum team is to provide the most elegant solution that meets all of the requirements of some definition or acceptance criteria. Simple logic. When you look at the example I gave of the company that was losing, bleeding people, what’s the most elegant solution? It’s not always the obvious thing. It’s something much, much more elegant and simple. I think that as a team, a Scrum master…

has every right to say, hey guys, what have we asked better questions? To me, the fundamental unit of documentation is going to be the story. When we write stories, do we write them small enough that we can detach from all dependencies and all complexity, focus on the main unit of value, and maybe ask the question, does this need to be here? You’re writing some validation that makes sure that your address matches your postal code. Do we have to do that? Do we have to do that right now?

Is that the most important piece of value? So how you write your stories and how you split your stories is open to the question, does this need to be here? If this had to be simpler, what would you change? It’s a great question that I’m willing to bet most teams don’t ask each other.

Sander (01:05:05.914)
Probably not. And I think that’s, um, uh, this may be partially due to the lack of, I don’t want to say maturity, but more of awareness to what boundaries we can or are supposed to push and to where our accountabilities go. It still feels isolated in many organizations. Like this is our team.

We just focused on whatever we’re doing and not on the whole. But that’s also because many organizations are enforcing teams to do so. Because either we’re going to compare velocity between teams or whatever dumb reason there is. And therefore they’re not being educated to think beyond whatever their little realm is. And I was recording a very interesting conversation with Jose Casal the other day that’s going to be by the time that this episode is being released, it’s going to take another month at least before the episode with Jose is going to be.

be published. So just as a little Easter egg or not Easter egg, it just adds up. I would highly recommend listening to that one as well. But he said, uh, the, the agile people of today, the generation agile of today are going to be the agile leaders of the next generation. So by the time that we have a whole new generation of developers, the C-level management has been incorporated in the whole agile mindset.

Chris W (01:06:22.893)

Sander (01:06:30.13)
So I like the idea that there is some sort of an agile horizon that is being educated with the ways that we are currently doing it. So I’m very curious and hopeful for the future to see how that’s going to play out. Because by then, hopefully the whole traditional ways of management and thinking and pushing and resource management, horrible term, is hopefully is it going to be erased from our systems in that sense.

Chris W (01:06:56.075)
Mm hmm.

Sander (01:06:58.234)
I’m not saying it doesn’t have any place anywhere in the world, but not in the ways of our agile product development. Chris, I see you’re very eager to jump on this.

Jim (01:07:05.714)

Chris W (01:07:06.065)
Let me… Well, I mean, sorry, Jim, did you want to contribute first?

Jim (01:07:12.676)
You go first and then I have just a quick comment on that. Go ahead.

Chris W (01:07:17.669)
Okay, so one thing I never see enough of is when people say, and you mentioned it, Jim, I can no longer knock on an executive’s door and say, hey, I have something really cool to show you, but it’s, you know, it’s behind an authenticator app or they’re busier than ever or we’re not on the same floor anymore. What I would love to see agile professionals do is take more accountability for the solution. And the solution is simpler than you think.

The solution is when we speak to executives, we so often think in terms of what we value, what we want and what we like, and not enough in terms of what they want. If you go to an executive and send them an email with a picture of a dashboard that says, right now you’re spending $2 million a year on agile coaches and you’re leaking 80% of that investment, you’re not getting what you’re supposed to get out of it. Do you want to hear more? Or say, because you’re using agile, we’re doing it well, we’ve started Obeya Rooms and now…

For every dollar that you invest in an agile coach, it returns $2.50. And we can prove that. Would you like to hear more? It’s only happening on one team. Would you like to hear how we did it? If you speak in terms that they can relate to, they will listen to you. You start an interesting fire that people are going to come around to you to get warm. That was my thought on some of the things that were just kind of said in the last five, 10 minutes.

Jim (01:08:34.267)
Yeah, it’s so important to be able to craft a narrative that pulls people in to want to understand why. Like if you say, hey, I built this cool thing for you, even if they love it, they will discount it. Because when we see somebody do something, it looks easy. Like we go to a high end restaurant and we eat this amazing meal. We might be wowed when they set it down in front of us. But when we’re done, when we’re satiated and we’re like, eh.

Okay, that was awesome, but I have before and we all do it. It’s normal. But when you can connect people to what you did with it and how it made a difference and how it made people feel that story resonates. So here’s an Obeya Room. Here’s what it’s helped us do. And here is how it has helped us get this other project back on track. Or here is how we think it’s going to shave four weeks off the delivery of this core feature that you love, which is going to make

Chris W (01:09:14.654)

Jim (01:09:29.551)
the company $100,000 every quarter, right? That’s much more impactful. And when you can do that over and over again, you will find a lot of interest in the things. But the actual reason I got animated was actually something Sunder said, which was kind of this shift in the industry that I feel. And I think just to get a…

Chris W (01:09:42.409)
for sure.

Jim (01:09:56.387)
book recommendation out there, because I haven’t recommended one yet this episode, is The Machine That Changed the World is probably the book that changed Jim the most. So if you haven’t seen it, it’s about the automotive industry. And what you’ll see is that things are cyclical. And the shift that I see in the agile world is very similar to that book, which is it started with a bunch of passionate craftsmen doing

Chris W (01:10:13.46)

Jim (01:10:24.479)
a lot of impactful work in small places. Then it became commoditized and became an industrial complex and all the big three, four, five letter acronym agencies are selling Agility for millions and millions of dollars. But what I am seeing now, Chris, and I don’t know if we’re in the early days or if we’re about to cross that period where it becomes more broad is a return to understanding that.

A handful of good people doing amazing work that is high quality is safer than hiring a big acronym firm for millions of dollars to get the same things that you’ve been getting everywhere else. When I was in IT infrastructure, one of the phrases I was always defending against or fighting against was, no one gets fired for buying IBM.

Chris W (01:11:10.729)
You got it, 100%.

Jim (01:11:22.943)
or no one gets fired for buying Cisco switches. Even if a small company could bring a much better product to market or service to market, right? Like it wasn’t seen as safe for people to, you know, select during a vendor bake off or an RFP process or whatever. And many of the best people that I see are not

Chris W (01:11:23.656)

Jim (01:11:49.207)
associated with large companies. It doesn’t mean big companies are bad, but we need to make it safe and confident to work with different types of people. And when Dave Snowden was on a few weeks ago, he said something which I think is really, I’ve used it many times since then, which is one of the ways of improving a system, optimizing a system is to amplify the things that are good and dampen the things that are not good, which is why I’m such a vocal

person around, good people are everywhere, they’re in every company, but you don’t need to accept mediocrity. You don’t need to accept the status quo. You don’t need to accept not talking to your customers or not getting feedback or not whatever. And it’s just kind of my way of saying, how can we amplify that? How can we amplify the leaders who are making time to go talk to stuff and look at teams? And how can we amplify…

the people who are asking their employees, what is it that would really make you more in, you know, happier, more invested, more likely to deliver high quality work instead of amplifying the people who just want to throw another day of PTO or a ping pong table at somebody.

Chris W (01:13:05.421)
So these podcasts and books are a great start because they try to teach the world some of the lessons that we’ve learned. But the problem is there’s too many books. I saw in Post the other day, 77 books you need to read to become a great leader. It’s like, 77 books? What are you talking about? Who has time for that? Again, another example of complicating the playing field. Those 77 books probably all say the same three things if you’re willing to look, but that doesn’t sell books. That doesn’t make Penguin rich. That doesn’t make…

O’Reilly rich. So I think that the answer, if I look at all the people who joined the forge, and when I bring them in, I ask them, what do you want? What do you wish you had more of? What made you decide you needed to have this course and this experience? The number one answer is always courage. The courage to do what I think is right, to deliver the value that I want to add, and then to help other people understand it and embrace it.

That’s the thing that’s missing. Remember what I said, if 80% of the people that work for large global organizations are of the certainty and safety type, guess what never happens? Courageous decisions. And if we agree today that simplicity is best implemented by the beliefs and the mindsets you have about what’s valuable. Is certainty more valuable? Is solving every problem before you release more valuable? No. It’s solving the most important problem.

with the least amount of energy possible. See, this is why Bruce Lee loved this stuff, because it was all about taking your opponent’s energy and using it against them. Ancient philosophy says, the sage does nothing, yet nothing remains undone. How is that possible? How is it possible to do everything without doing anything? It’s because you don’t waste time on the things that don’t matter.

So I would say to your point, Jim, one of the most important things that agile people of the future need to get good at is, as you say, they’re going to go into an organization anyway, do great things, but they’re never going to get noticed. I think one of the main jobs of an agile coach or an agile scrum master or anyone on the team is finding ways to amplify the value of what you do. How do you make your message known? How do you get your contribution in front of the people?

Chris W (01:15:22.121)
who can help you do it better and spread it.

Jim (01:15:26.799)
Yeah. Well, I love your quote of Chapwood, Carrie Water. I don’t know if you’re referencing the book, but that’s a book I read at least once a year. And it’s an easy listen if you’re an audiobook person. It’s a quick listen. I think the whole book takes three hours and it’s very consumable. And it’s about falling in love with the process in the discipline of improvement versus the outcome. Because

Chris W (01:15:35.35)
awesome. Awesome.

Sander (01:15:35.474)

Chris W (01:15:45.896)

Chris W (01:15:49.116)

Sander (01:15:53.811)

Jim (01:15:54.251)
Most people want to leap to the outcome. They want the notoriety. They want to be a content creator with a million YouTube subscribers, but they don’t see the journey. They, if you fall in love with the journey, you will actually likely get where you want to go much easier and faster. That’s my takeaway from it. I don’t know if that was your takeaway from it, Chris.

Chris W (01:16:08.661)
percent. Agreed.

Sander (01:16:10.983)

Chris W (01:16:14.293)
Absolutely. So it’s not about, how should I put it? I always teach people the beginning of the forge that you would never get into a car, turn on the GPS, but not punch coordinates into it. Because if you don’t, it can tell you where you are, but it can’t help you get where you’re going in the most efficient way possible. So what is the destination? Do you know it?

Sander (01:16:31.942)
like that.

Chris W (01:16:35.313)
Is it based and rooted in service so that other people can say, Hey, can I help you with that? That sounds awesome. I want to be part of that. If you don’t do that, if you can’t become a visionary person and you just kind of want to hide behind your cubicle and click away at keys and generate curly braces and semi-colons, then you’re probably never going to see your efforts gain much traction. So again, I’ll give you the link that you can put in the show notes where people can download that guide on how to get a little more simplicity now.

and see if that’s useful. But if you’d like to reach out and get in touch, if I can help you or your organization get more simplicity into your day, then by all means, let me know.

Sander (01:17:14.226)
All right, gentlemen, I would slowly want to wrap up because I feel we can talk about this for another couple of hours. Easily, and maybe we should in a different moment. But for now, I would like to start wrapping up. If you would summarize simplicity and product development in a single sentence, what would it be?

Chris W (01:17:19.782)

Chris W (01:17:33.041)
Oh, can I let Jim go first? Because I feel like I need a second to assemble all of it into a single sentence.

Jim (01:17:39.291)
Okay, a single sentence.

Jim (01:17:44.143)
Focus on what you actually need to do and not what you think you must do or what you want to do. And you’ll find that Yagny, you ain’t gonna need its brother is Yagdy, which is you ain’t gonna do it anyway, because most backlogs and roadmaps and portfolios are full of items that aren’t even started. And we’ll never get started and we’ll never be done.

And we just have to get okay with the fact that doing less at high quality is a far better way to live life and go to work than it is to try and do everything everywhere all at once.

Chris W (01:18:25.329)
Yeah. And think of Eddie Van Halen with his vault full of tapes that his son has to go through and try to figure out what would the world want to hear and what would he want them to have. So I’m going to say again, that simplicity starts with helping people let go of the beliefs that more stuff makes better stuff. Let go of the beliefs that solving the problem to 100% when that’s never knowable is usually an accident waiting to happen.

Listen, when you go, if you were to research Agile Principle Number 10, give me some YouTube videos, give me some books I can read. There aren’t any. It’s probably the most overlooked principle in all of the 12 Agile Principles, probably because it’s not in that little four square manifesto that everyone tends to favor, but it’s deeply overlooked. And I think that, I honestly think the founders were probably very Zen about this whole thing. They understood that guys, you’re doing too much. You’re making too much stuff. That’ll never see the light of day.

Sander (01:19:06.972)

Jim (01:19:07.518)

Chris W (01:19:25.677)
So it’s hard because if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. So accept and embrace that it’s difficult to be simple, but it is so worth pursuing because who wouldn’t like to be more like Eddie Van Halen?

Jim (01:19:39.351)
I’ll tell you Chris. Sorry son. I’ll be brief promise. I had a someone tell me the other day that they had a mediocrity issue And I said, you know, I don’t know that you do I think you have at this company here in the US a lot of highly capable people highly capable people will made to appear to be mediocre when you give them 30 things to do when they can only really do two or three at a time and

That I think is, I hope that person is really reflecting on that because there probably is some mediocre people. But any of us could look mediocre if we’re asked to do something that either is not our skill set or we’re asked to do too much at the same time.

Chris W (01:20:15.497)
So yeah.

Chris W (01:20:23.665)
Or is it possible? Yeah. Jim, I like the way you think. I’m glad that people have you to coach them and give them this kind of counsel. Because this is the kind of stuff that makes our industry work better and look better. Well done, sir. And same to you, Sander.

Jim (01:20:36.948)
Thanks. Sunder, what’s your summation of simplicity?

Sander (01:20:37.118)
Appreciate that.

Chris W (01:20:39.833)
I just did it. Oh, sorry. You’re talking to Sandra. Sorry.

Sander (01:20:40.17)
Oh, I’m going to, yeah. Oh, I’m just going to keep it simple. I’m going to say maximize the amount of work you’re not doing.

Super simple, but that’s really summarizing it. It’s so difficult on the other hand, to not do things. And it’s so easy to just go along with whatever every stakeholder says. But really think about, all right, out of all these hundred product backlog items that we have, what could we not do? And still capitalize on the maximum amount of outcome.

Chris W (01:20:51.293)

Sander (01:21:16.454)
And that’s really tricky because then you’re working with a whole lot of assumptions and then forcing people into doing more testing and hypotheses driven development. And I think that is something that more organizations should do.

Sander (01:21:29.23)
I’m going to stick to that. Chris, it was a delight to have you. Really appreciate it.

Chris W (01:21:31.113)
Great summary. It was a delight to be here. Appreciate you. Thank you, guys.

Jim (01:21:36.235)
Yeah, thanks so much. Great conversation.

Chris W (01:21:38.925)
I enjoyed it as well. I’m happy to come back anytime you need me.

Sander (01:21:40.414)
Great to hear.

All right. See you next week.

Chris W (01:21:44.254)
Thanks, folks.

Jim (01:21:45.251)
Later, everyone.

Sander (01:21:48.102)
Bye everyone.