TL; DR: The Agile Movers & Shakers Interview with Diana Larsen
While Diana Larsen continues her coaching, mentoring, and consulting practice in a limited way, she has shifted more toward involvement as a co-founder of the Agile Fluency Project, a startup that is intended to help agile coaches grow and strengthen their practices with the Agile Fluency Suite of materials and the Agile Fluency Game.
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Agile Movers & Shakers: Diana Larsen’s Questionnaire
- Please describe what you do in 280 characters:
“On my best days, I contribute to the growing and strengthening of the practices of agile coaches and teams through as many channels as possible.”
- What brought you to ‘agile?’
“In 1997-98, my consulting practice had evolved into primarily the organization change sub-area of socio-technical systems work process design and redesign. I engaged with knowledge workers/creatives forming self-directing teams. Through a series of surprising events, I stumbled into an ongoing conversation with several of the early extreme programming proponents and, eventually, Agile Manifesto signers. They showed interest in my work and, because I had begun in computer science, I was fascinated with theirs. The rest was following my nose in the direction of my questions (a.k.a. learning) more about the field, meeting more of the people, continuing to work with teams, primarily in software and IT, presenting at conferences, and writing articles and books. Eventually, I joined the Agile Alliance board of directors.”
- Why do you believe that being passionate about ‘agile’ is worth your time?
“I’m passionate about the potential outcomes that agile can bring to the workplace. When people spend so much of their lives engaged in their work, that work should happen in a place that offers a healthy, productive environment and the chance to excel. I see people doing their most creative, most satisfying work as part of teams that produce valuable outcomes. In as far as agile enables and fosters that, I’m on board. It’s my life purpose.”
- How would you characterize your way of contributing to an organization’s success in becoming agile?
“Today I’ve come to the place where I contribute by building an ever-larger cadre of leaders (senior leaders, managers, coaches, scrum masters, technical leads, etc.) that understand the role of continuous learning, continuous improvement, and team greatness in software development. Team behaviors and skills reflect the nature of the organizational system. Through my work at the Agile Fluency Project, we offer additional tools, practice proficiencies, mentoring, and system understanding. If leaders can enable and invest in teams, then the teams can produce the business results the organization needs to thrive.”
- What is in your toolbox?
“I can’t begin to enumerate every tool that I’ve encountered and adopted in my 30+ years of practice. My early career toolbox included instructional design tools, employee and management development tools, organization development and design tools, leadership development tools, organizational change tools, and facilitation tools galore. In the past 15 years, I’ve added tools from many agile software methodologies; Human Systems Dynamics and Cynefin tools for seeing, understanding, and influencing complex systems; as well as the synthesis of the Agile Fluency Model with its suite of tools and materials. And, I rely continuously on the tools from our “Five Rules for Accelerated Learning” model. I know I’m leaving some out. ”
- Do you believe in removing yourself from a team or an organization in the long run? If so, why is that and have you done so in the past?
“Absolutely. If I’m not helping the team (and organization) to build its capability, capacity, and competence in self-organizing and its resilience in an environment of more or less constant change…and worked with the teams’ leaders to do the same…then I’m not doing my job. I have held that intention in every engagement. ”
- What has been your greatest success so far, and how did you manage to realize it?
“My greatest success is the amazing network of human and conceptual connections I’ve created in my life. I said “yes” to the opportunities for growth and joy, and minimized (not entirely eliminated) the paths of stagnation and distress. I reflected on my direction and the needs of my family and communities and made adjustments in response to changes and new information. ”
- What has been your worst failure so far, how did you contribute to it, and what did you learn from it?
“I cannot read and digest all the wonderful books and resource materials that are available. There are SO MANY! I make choices about how to use my time. I’ve learned that my best course is to rely on the knowledge, skills, and wisdom of my colleagues. ”
- Finally, what is your magic tool as a coach/trainer or Scrum Master?
“Continual reflection on the “Five Rules of Accelerated Learning” and the ability to build models that other people find useful, and to use the useful models that others have contributed to our work. ”
- Which newsletters, blogs, podcasts, or Youtube channels do you follow that deserve more credit than they receive now? Any recommendations?
“These days, I read widely in Medium across many interests. I also enjoy the inspiration of the Corporate Rebels blog and the practicality of the many retrospectives resources. I listen to the podcasts from “This is Retrospectives” and “Fall of Civilizations” along with many podcasts that have “Agile” in the title.”
- If you could recommend only one book on ‘agile,’ which book would that be?
“‘The Art of Agile Development’ by my co-founder, James Shore and Shane Warden.”
- Whom should we interview next?
“Jutta Eckstein or Richard Sheridan.”
- Where can we learn more about Diana Larsen?
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