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Ep 512: Being More Agile

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As we move through 2023, the pace of disruption continues to intensify. The complexities and implications of the economic and technological landscapes are overwhelming. It is increasingly difficult to break out of short-term thinking and make the long-term strategic decisions that are now needed.

Over the last few years, the word agile has been somewhat overused, but does it hold the key to unlocking the future potential of talent acquisition?

My guest this week is Joshua Kerievsky, Founder and CEO of Industrial Logic and author of a new book called “The Joy of Agile”. In our conversation, Joshua revisits the original definition of agile and shares six mantras to help all TA leaders during these challenging times.

In the interview, we discuss:

• The dictionary definition of agile

• Working with quick, easy grace

• Examples of agile at work

• How to be more agile

• Being adaptable and resourceful

• Be quick but don’t hurry.

• The importance of balance and driving out fear

• Start minimal and evolve.

• Adaptability

• The new future of work

Listen to this podcast in Apple Podcasts.

Transcript:

Sonovate (0s):
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Sonovate (41s):
That’s www.Sonovate.com.

Matt Alder – Webinar (1m 4s):
Before we start the show this week, I wanna tell you about an event that I m hosting later in the month. The combination of technological disruption and the current economic uncertainty is causing all of us to think deeply about the future of talent acquisition. To help you cut through some of the noise out there around the future, I’m running a webinar, Looking at the Road Ahead for Talent Acquisition. It’s taking place on Tuesday, April 18th, at 11 AM, Eastern time. A recording will be made available for everyone who registers, so don’t worry if your calendar or time zone don’t align to watch it live. You can register by going to bit.ly/MattAlder.

Matt Alder – Webinar (1m 47s):
That’s bit.ly/MattAlder.

Matt Alder (1m 53s):
Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 512 of the Recruiting Future Podcast. As we move through 2023, the pace of disruption continues to intensify. The complexities and implications of the economic and technological landscapes are overwhelming. It is increasingly difficult to break out of short term thinking and make the long term strategic decisions that are now needed. Over the last few years, the word agile has been somewhat overused, but does it hold the key to unlocking the future potential of talent acquisition?

Matt Alder (2m 34s):
My guest this week is Joshua Kerievsky, Founder and CEO of Industrial Logic and author of a new book called The Joy of Agile. In our conversation, Joshua revisits the original definition of agile and shares six mantras to help TA leaders during these challenging times. Hi, Joshua, and welcome to the podcast.

Joshua Kerievsky (2m 57s):
Thank you, Matt. Thanks for having me on your show.

Matt Alder (2m 60s):
An absolute pleasure to have you on the show. Please, could you introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Joshua Kerievsky (3m 5s):
Hi. Yeah, I’m Joshua Kerievsky. I’m the CEO and Founder of a company called Industrial Logic. We’ve been around for about 26 years and we’ve been early pioneers of the Agile movement in software development, and we help companies around the world become more Agile.

Matt Alder (3m 21s):
Fantastic stuff. Now, you’ve actually just had a book published called Joy of Agile. Tell us a little bit about what the book’s about and who it’s for.

Joshua Kerievsky (3m 29s):
Yeah, great. There are hundreds of Agile books out there, right? I’m well aware of them because I’ve been doing this for so long. I didn’t want to write yet another boring text about Agile. This book is really focused on the joy of agility itself, so stories of actual people that are agile. They wouldn’t even call themselves agile, but if you look at their actions and behaviors, it’s incredibly Agile, which we should get to the definition of the word, but suffice it to say, the book is a collection of my favorite stories over the last 20 to 30 years.

Matt Alder (4m 8s):
Fantastic and looking forward to hearing some of them in the conversation. As you say, we probably should start with a definition of Agile. I think for a lot of people listening, they’ll know it in the context of software development. They’ll also know it in the context that it’s a word that everyone seems to use for everything these days.

Joshua Kerievsky (4m 25s):
Oh, yes.

Matt Alder (4m 26s):
Give us the definition of it in terms of the work that you do.

Joshua Kerievsky (4m 30s):
Yeah, and this is really central to my book and how I think about Agile. I do not think Agile is some kind of project management methodology. I don’t think it’s specific to the software industry. I don’t think it is something that we can certify people in. The dictionary makes it super clear what the word means. Now, normally, in deference to the OED, the Oxford English dictionary, I would normally quote the definition from there, but I actually prefer the Miriam Webster Dictionary’s definition. There’s two parts to it. Agile, first of all, it’s an adjective, right? An Agile surgeon, an Agile dancer, an Agile team. This adjective means marked by a ready ability to move with quick, easy grace, or having a quick resourceful and adaptable character.

Joshua Kerievsky (5m 14s):
I think it’s important to know that definition, even to know it by heart because when you think about agility, first of all, it applies everywhere. You would like your sales folks to be Agile. You’d like your marketing people to be Agile, operations folks to be Agile. Ideally, executives are focused on agility, which means how can the organization move or work with quick, easy grace? How can you help your customers get their jobs done with your product or service to help them execute their work with quick, easy grace? That’s why it’s an important word, It’s overused, yes, and it’s become commercialized, commodified.

Joshua Kerievsky (5m 58s):
It’s been on a wild ride for the last couple decades.

Matt Alder (6m 4s):
Yeah, absolutely. Give us some kind of examples of agile at work.

Joshua Kerievsky (6m 7s):
Absolutely. Here’s a real simple one, and it’s about Richard Branson, right? This was before he was Sir Richard Branson. Back in the late 1970s, he was going to the airport with his girlfriend. It was in the British Virgin Islands. They were planning to take a flight to Puerto Rico. Perfectly beautiful day, no weather issues, but when they got to the airport, the flight was just canceled. All these passengers were stranded, and there was really no indication of when the next flight would leave. What do you do in a situation like that? Most of us, this is in the days before iPhones, iPads, and all kinds of other things, we do maybe go to a cafe, read a book, call someone, whatever.

Joshua Kerievsky (6m 55s):
Richard Branson calls a charter airline and asks, “What would it cost to fly one way from the British Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico?” Finds out the price, asks how many seats were on the plane, does some math, picks up a piece of cardboard in the airport and writes on it, “$39 US, one way flight to Puerto Rico,” and then basically sells out all the seats and flies uneventfully to Puerto Rico.

Matt Alder (7m 23s):
Amazing. Is that how he started his airline?

Joshua Kerievsky (7m 26s):
Yes, that was the beginnings of him realizing he could actually run an airline. Now, what did he do? Matt, any of us could have picked up a phone, right? Any of us could have made a phone call in that airport, right? We we’re all capable of that. We’re all capable. Probably at that time, there was probably a telephone book, right? We could have found a charter airline in the telephone book, but what empowered him to have that thought? What what enabled him to become an Agile traveler that day? Because he was quick, he was adaptable to the situation, and he was quite resourceful, right? To me, that’s an example of agility.

Joshua Kerievsky (8m 8s):
Now, Richard Branson probably wouldn’t say, “Hey, I was an Agile traveler that day,” but his behavior was deeply Agile.

Matt Alder (8m 16s):
I think the vast majority of people listening will recognize the traits there and why they’re so important as work life gets more and more disrupted and changes happening so quickly, and people are having to think on their feet and move quickly. How can people be more Agile? Is it something that people can learn, can train themselves? How can we all be more Agile at what we do?

Joshua Kerievsky (8m 43s):
Yeah, there’s lots of books, there’s lots of courses, there’s lots of people who are consultants or companies that want to help you learn to be Agile. For me, it’s basically coming down to the essence of what it means. When we say be quick, because quickness is part of agility, the problem is, a lot of times, we’re hurrying or rushing, and that does not lead to the greatest results, especially in business, right? We are often in a state of constant hurry and constant rushing. That’s not equivalent to being quick. Being quick is always good, but rushing and hurrying often leads to mistakes, sometimes costly mistakes. One of the mantras in the book is called Be Quick, but Don’t Hurry.

Joshua Kerievsky (9m 28s):
That is a phrase, a mantra, that a famous coach in the US, a coach named John Wooden, who’s considered one of the greatest coaches of basketball and also one of the greatest coaches of the 20th century. He was not only a Hall of fame player, but a Hall of fame coach. That was a mantra he used every day, many times a day, helping his players learn not to hurry or rush because if you hurry or rush and make mistakes in the basketball court, you lose games. He took many of his teams to championships. I think they won 10 champions chips in a row or out of 12 in a 12-year period.

Joshua Kerievsky (10m 10s):
Just an insane record. That’s a mantra among six of them in the book.

Matt Alder (10m 14s):
You mentioned that you’ve got six mantras altogether. Talk us through some of the other ones.

Joshua Kerievsky (10m 21s):
Sure, absolutely. I just will start out by saying I didn’t start out with a table of contents with these mantras. Not at all. I wrote a bunch of stories that I love, stories that really, to me, illustrate the various nuances of agility. Over time, I had a list of stories and I had to organize them. Started to put them into different buckets, and gradually, slowly but surely, over many months, these mantras came out. It began with be quick but don’t hurry, and then it kept moving. Another one is be balanced and graceful. Again, that uses the word grace because, again, in the definition, it’s marked by a ready ability to move with quick, easy grace.

Joshua Kerievsky (11m 5s):
That mantra is about being in balance is critical in sports. It’s also critical in business, it’s also critical in life, right? If you get older, you don’t have balance, and you fall, you break your hip or hurt yourself, right? Balance is incredibly important. What John Wooden, that coach, would say is, “You cannot be quick if you’re not in balance.” You start to look at the word balance and you start to think, “Okay, do we have balance in our lives? When I come to work, do I feel balanced or unbalanced? Am I off center? Am I upset about something? Maybe I’m not too emotionally balanced.”

Joshua Kerievsky (11m 46s):
John Wooden would say, “To be quick, you must be balanced.” To be balanced, you have to have physical balance, but it’s not enough. You have to have emotional and you have to have mental balance. Then beyond that, the coach would basically want to get other kinds of balances amongst the team – defensive balance, offensive balance, size balance, different sized players. He was obsessed with balance. Be balanced and graceful helps you to implement be quick, but don’t hurry. Being graceful, of course, is critical to harmonious work. If you’re ungraceful with people on a regular basis, you will lose them.

Joshua Kerievsky (12m 27s):
If you’re ungraceful with customers, you will lose them. How can you be graceful with people? How can you be graceful in handling obstacles? This sense of balance is important to being graceful because you’re not in balance if you don’t tend to be too graceful, so the two go together.

Matt Alder (12m 51s):
Without giving all of them away because, obviously, I’m sure you quite like people to buy and read the book, but are there any that you feel would be particularly applicable in the world of talent acquisition HR, the of work that the people listening to the podcast are doing?

Joshua Kerievsky (13m 8s):
Yeah, there’s a mantra called Drive Out Fear, and that’s inspired by W. Edwards Deming, the great management guru who basically said that the manager’s job is to drive out fear. Fear in the workplace just is toxic. It leads to poor performance. It leads to people remaining silent instead of actually using their voice to speak up and put their ideas out and so forth. If you’re afraid at work, you’re just not gonna get the best out of people and people are not gonna feel like this is the greatest place to work.

Joshua Kerievsky (13m 50s):
Fear is just toxic to great performance. Drive out fear is something that is very important, especially in the world of talent.

Matt Alder (13m 56s):
Absolutely. Just give us a preview of the other three because this is such interesting stuff.

Joshua Kerievsky (14m 5s):
Absolutely.

Matt Alder (14m 5s):
You’re gonna move on without finding out about the others.

Joshua Kerievsky (14m 9s):
Yeah, no problem. Another one is being poised to adapt. The word adapt is adaptable. Being adaptable is very important to agility. It’s not synonymous with agility. If you’re adaptable, it doesn’t mean you’re Agile. To be Agile would be to be quick, resourceful, and adaptable, all three, but adaptability is very important, right? The mantra there is be poised to adapt. If you’re poised, you’re actually in balance. You’re ready. You’ve practiced. You have a high adaptive capacity, right? Your adaptive capacity is enough to allow you to adapt in the face of unforeseen or unexpected changes. On a basketball court, that’s important because you’re adapting to your opponents.

Joshua Kerievsky (14m 54s):
In business, of course, it’s extremely important as you adapt to changing situations in the marketplace. Being poised to adapt is a high bar because it’s saying that we need to be practiced and ready to adapt. We need to spend time creating the environment that allows for adaptability, that allows us to make changes. If people are 100% busy, they’re hurrying and rushing all the time, their adaptive capacity is probably very low. There’s just no time to learn new stuff, right? All these AI things are happening now with chatGPT and other AI tools. Some folks have no time at work, they don’t have any slack.

Joshua Kerievsky (15m 37s):
Not the tool slack, but the concept of having some spare time, right? Slack is a wonderful book written by Tom DeMarco. Highly recommend it. I mentioned it in the book. Without Slack, you’re probably not gonna have time to prepare or to learn new things and be poised to adapt. That’s another important mantra. Yeah, a couple of others. The another one is Start minimal and evolve. That’s a general approach we take when we’re being Agile. I play tennis, so if you’re learning tennis for the first time, you’re not gonna learn every nuance of how to hit a forehand from the start.

Joshua Kerievsky (16m 19s):
You’re gonna learn the basics, right? Start minimal and evolve. This applies especially to products. We often will build the embryonic version of the product and then evolve it, evolve it, evolve it as we learn from customers and others about what we actually need to be building. It’s a core part of agility. It’s just this concept of beginning with something small and embryonic, and then evolving it. The final one, one of my favorites, especially in a time of economic challenge is be readily resourceful. We might remember the Richard Branson story. He was incredibly resourceful in that airport. He was not stuck. He did not allow himself to just be a victim of the airline’s issue with the whatever plane that they were trying to fly.

Joshua Kerievsky (17m 9s):
He was resourceful. He found a way around an obstacle. I think it’s empowering to be resourceful. It’s great to study folks who have been resourceful and the story’s all about that. When we’re resourceful, we’re not resentful of our situation. We are open-minded to finding solutions.

Matt Alder (17m 28s):
You mentioned that work is changing very quickly, this kind of thinking is critically important for people as they move through their careers. The pandemic’s also radically increased that pace of change. What do you think the future of work looks like? How do you think we’ll be working in four or five years time? We’re obviously going through this big period of change in the moment.

Joshua Kerievsky (17m 57s):
Yeah, I think there are wonderful advantages to just working from home and then there’s also that human connection that people crave in working together. I think it will remain quite hybrid, which is presents some challenges, but certainly works, the hybrid work workplace. I think that’s here to stay. I don’t think that we’re gonna get back to just 100% in the office all the time. A lot of great things came out of the hybrid approach or, as we started in the pandemic, the completely at home approach. A lot of unexpected, good things resulted from that.

Joshua Kerievsky (18m 38s):
Several years into this now, I, myself, craving getting back to an office and being around my colleagues rather than on video calls all day long. I think that, definitely, hybrid will be the future. The sad thing to me is we, for years, tried to sell our customers on doing some remote work and never got very far with that. Then the pandemic came along and like, “Sure, yeah. Work remotely, no problem.” Talk about adapting.

Matt Alder (19m 10s):
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. All the things that you’ve just been been talking about. Final question, where can people find you and where can they buy the book?

Joshua Kerievsky (19m 22s):
The book is available at all major retailers. They can can find me on LinkedIn or sometimes these days, on Twitter, but more on LinkedIn. I also have a website. It’s called JoyofAgility.com. You can learn more about the book there. There’s some videos. You can download a free chapter, so if you’re interested in looking at what the book’s about, that’s a good way to get started. Yeah, that’s generally how I’m reached.

Matt Alder (19m 51s):
Joshua. thank you very much for talking to me.

Joshua Kerievsky (19m 53s):
My pleasure, Matt. Thank you so much for having on your show.

Matt Alder (19m 56s):
My thanks to Joshua. A quick reminder, you can register for my webinar on the future for talent acquisition at bit.ly/MattAlder. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice.

Matt Alder (20m 39s):
Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at recruitingfuture.com. On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list, Recruiting Future Feast, and get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks so much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

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