Jun 1, 2017

Making sense of Agile at BNZ

From a Practice Delivery Manager’s perspective

By Stuart Collins

I’m pretty sure my ‘Practice Delivery Manager’ position description didn’t feature blog writing even though it is something I personally do from time to time. But when you’re a part of such an innovative team why would you not want to shout about them. So I got out my toddler’s colouring pencils and then I started typing. (It may look like she actually did the drawings too but I assure you that it was me, I’m no artist!)

So here we are, 2 years in from setting up our Practice Delivery team, we now consist of 3 different specialist coaches focusing on Practice (aka. Agile coach but so much more), Testing and Technical. Contrary to the drawings, we are all above the age of 5 and have now expanded to provide coaching to more than 600 people spanning both our technology and digital teams. We support high performing teams, develop individuals, foster culture and nurture autonomy, and it’s every bit rewarding as it sounds!

Our teams’ values are very much centred around the same mind set as the modernagile.org values, and our wider BNZ mission, to help our customers be good with money! True to our BNZ behaviours of being ‘Bold, Brave and Blue’, we create a safe environment where you can have an opinion, collaborate, try new things and experiment to learn rapidly, which I believe is key to our success. We put our customers first and are transforming the way they manage their money, to do that we need to be delivering value continuously.

Guiding principles

So what is important to our team and what are we working towards? To help answer this and provide alignment on the work across the coaching competency, I have worked with the team to frame our guiding principles. These are what we see as the focus of the work and initiatives that we work on with the teams.

They are:

We believe product over project mind set is a better way to organise work and teams. There are many reasons why and that is a blog post in itself, but in a nutshell we feel it improves engagement, life time product ownership, customer experience, customer value, autonomy, quality and most importantly fun.

You can only optimise individual or team practices so much before you need to look at the wider system they are working to make big improvements. Having a system thinking view to improve the system people are working in is a big part of what we do.

The plan-do-check-act empirical cycle is how we adapt and make sure we are delivering the right value to our customers continuously. The tighter we make that loop the quicker we can learn and sooner we can get value in to our customer’s hands so we work with teams to reduce the cycle time of these feedback loops.

Focusing on craftsmanship is so important to help us grow people. We work with people on identifying areas of their expertise and speciality they’d like to improve. This might be through one on one coaching sessions, in-house group training or facilitating communities of practice knowledge sharing initiatives. We work with the product and people leadership teams to identify future skill needs as well and look how we can support this. For me this is one of the most rewarding parts of the job, helping others grow and be the best they can be.

We have to actively work on promoting a safe environment it won’t happen by itself. Leadership at all levels sets the tone for the culture, they don’t own it, but we support our leadership group on promoting a safe culture with a growth mind set.

Finally supporting team practices to be sustainable, helping teams with the daily and weekly rituals is still a key part of what we do. Checking in on team health regularly helps to give the teams a voice on key topics. It highlights to us and everyone local and holistic concerns and opportunities to grow.

Our team

So who are we? I have the privilege of working with some awesome people. Read on if you’d like to get to know them:

Katrina Clokie, (aka @katrina_tester), leads our test coaches, to those in the testing industry she probably doesn’t need an introduction. Editor of Testing Trapeze, co-founder of WeTest, international conference speaking, frequent blogger, a mentor with Speak-Easy and writing her first book. Did I mention she is also a Brownie leader! Just writing this makes me feel tired.

Ant Boobier, (aka @antboobier), leads our practice coaches. He loves asking powerful questions and will happily discuss with you the merits of empiricism and all things Agile and Lean. He gets a kick from helping people find the best ways of working that fits them. He is an ICAgile certified trainer, part of Nomad8, regular speaker at Agile conferences, writes the occasional blog post and regularly brews his own beer.

Kathy Barker, (aka @watergirl_KB), practice coach. You’ll often find Kathy in the water but when she is not pretending to be a fish you’ll find her digging in to the thoughts and minds of our teams and leaders. She is our metrics champion and makes sure that we all treat them with respect. Kathy loves a good survey to get people thinking. Chat to Kathy about the theory of constraints and you’ll see how important system thinking is in the work we do. She is also a great baker and often turns up with sweet treats for the team! Yum!

Trudi Harding, practice coach. Trudi hasn’t been in the team long but she is making a real impact with her expert knowledge and background in change management and kaizen. She loves to run a good retro and delve in to your problems to help you find a solution. Need to find the root cause of an issue, ask Trudi to help.

Dot Webster, practice coach. Dot is currently on parental leave after having a second beautiful little girl. When she isn’t knee deep in nappies, Dot’s awesome facilitation and mentoring skills can get a team humming along in no time. She brings a lot of energy and passion for making our people and teams great.

Kerri White, practice coach. Kerri has a real passion in helping people understand the why behind the practices they are doing and then helping people nail those practices. Kerri is a certified scrum master and is always helping to spread knowledge about Agile in our wider organisation.

Remi Roques, (aka @remi_roques), technical coach. Remi is our resident Frenchman, he has such a passion for technical excellence and helping our teams focus on technical health. He is true leader in our technical community and is always there to help our developers and others learn about APIs, continuous delivery, virtualisation, TDD, pair programming and whatever the next language or technical thing we need to know about.

And lastly myself, (aka @a_stu_te). Father of two wonderful girls, part time tennis player and occasional blogger. I head up the Practice Delivery team and they like to wind me up by calling me ‘the guvnor’ or ‘boss’ as they know how anti hierarchical I am. I’m passionate about making our people awesome, delivering great digital and technical solutions to our customers and making sure people enjoy coming to work every day.

Just this week four new coaches have joined our team, Aaron Hodder, Anna Marshall, Shirley Tricker and Prateek Sharma and more joining us in the next few weeks as our team grows. Our team is on a constant growth path and there’s so many great opportunities to join  –  watch this space or head on over to our careers site for new openings.★

 

Stuart Collins

Stuart Collins
Agile solutioneer, leader, developer, coach, Dad; taking a pragmatic approach to help people understand how agile and lean mind set can work for you.

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The views expressed above are those of the author and do not purport to represent the views of BNZ. BNZ does not accept any liability for any loss or damage that may result from this publication. More information here.