As an SPC, you learned about SAFe, the values and principles that power it, as well as how to implement the framework. Join us for the next episode in the SPC Journey series as we explore the realities of leading a transformation. Our guest speaker, Angela Smith, is deeply experienced leader in the healthcare market who has gainer her SPC as she leads the SAFe implementation at Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield. Join us to hear, first hand, about the real world joys, challenges and ways to accelerate and sustain the journey to greater business agility and customer delight.
Together, we will explore topics including:
Moving from “what if” to doing?
Gaining and maining executive support and engagement
Communicating the goals and plan for change
Choosing the right people and partners
Organizing and aligning around value
Preparing for your first ART launch
About the SPC Journey series:
The SPC Journey is a series of webinars and panel discussions, hosted by SPCT Phil Gardiner, designed to help SPC’s and those they support on their journey to learn, grow, and succeed in implementing SAFe.
Phil Gardiner, Applied Frameworks – SAFe Practice Lead
Phil Gardiner, SPCT, leads the SAFe Practice for Applied Frameworks, where he serves as an Executive Consultant, enabling enterprises to accelerate the delivery of products and services through Lean-Agile ways of working. Phil has a passion for deep, sustainable change, and this has led him to become a thought leader in the Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) space while also developing an outcome-based approach that meets his customers where they are while cultivating the capabilities of their leaders, changes agents, and SPCs. On his journey, Phil has worked with dozens of enterprises and agencies, from Fortune 10 corporations to the US Department of Defense.
Angela Smith, Program Manager to the CIO
Angela Smith, aka “Angie”, is the Program Manager to the CIO at Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. She is a polymath with diverse professional experiences. Angie holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. Over the past 30 years, she’s been in the classroom educating bright young minds, assisting physicians to conduct research studies, developing leadership skills, and most currently driving execution of the CIO’s strategy. When not acting as a driver of innovation and change, she can be found outside swimming, biking, and running.
Transcript created using otter.ai and may not be perfect. Please ignore spelling and grammar errors.
Laura Caldie 00:00
Well, I’m excited that Angie is here to talk about her SPC journey, as she has been working with Phil and the team, we will be sending out the recording of this to everybody. So for people who are here or have to leave early, we’ll definitely be getting the recording out. As you know, applied frameworks helps companies with profitable sustainability. And generally, how that applies in Agile environments. And so safe is a really big part of what we do when we’re thinking about sustainability. And that has to do with money. It has to do with people it has to do with culture. And I know those are the things that Angie and Phil are gonna get into. So with that, I’m going to turn it over to Phil and Angie, and as you have questions, please put them into q&a, because I’m going to go off camera, and I’m going to be looking at the q&a. And I’m going to be making sure that we have time for Angie and Phil to talk about some of the questions that you may have coming up. So I will turn it over to Phil, and I’ll be looking at the q&a. And again, thank you so much, Angie, for joining us. Thanks, Laura.
Phil Gardiner 00:56
Of course. Yeah. So everybody. Thanks again, Laura. So this is our I believe our sixth installment of this SPC journey series. And it started out as just kind of a reminder to everybody that the ESPYs getting an SPC is kind of the start of your journey, not the end. And it’s of all and almost kind of an interview show where we get a wonderful guests like Angie, and just kind of pick their brain on what they’ve learned. And SPC is somebody that you know, has gone through the implementing safe class, they’ve passed an exam and they basically are ready to go, that that combined with their unique skills, experiences, their attributes, all those things, allow them to fulfill a variety of roles and help with, as Laura mentioned, sustainable profitability at their enterprise, or, you know, accomplishing that mission on a government program. So from our you know, the way we’ll run this today is basically just kind of have a series of conversations, feel free to use the q&a function. If you do have a question, Angie, and I will both can see that and we’ll do our best to answer as we go. However, we’ll have time at the end just where you can pick my brain or better yet again, she’s brain. So with that said, Angie is she works for the the CIO for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. She’s a polymath with with diverse profession, professional experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership. So she’s been in the classroom, the real classroom, not the easy classroom of teaching safe, although I think that’s coming up on Monday for me, she’ll hear a little about that. Over the past 30 years, she’s been educating bright young minds, assisting physicians to conduct research studies, developing leadership skills, and most currently driving execution of the CFO CIO strategy. Part of that is her role as an SPC leading the transformation for Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, when she’s not acting as a driver of innovation and change. She can be found outside swimming, biking and running. I’ll tell you that when I do talk to Angie. And she has told me that she just, you know, just did the Ironman. It’s like, whoa, okay, I’m looking around my soft middle thinking I need to hop on my bike a little bit more. For those of you that don’t know me, I’m still Gartner I hit my I’ve been involved in, say for a decade, this year, which is kind of crazy to me. And I’m just happy to and honored and humbled to kind of host new SPCs on here. This series is designed for individuals that are in SPC at whatever point in their journey, or even an sp CT, as well as those that might choose to hire them, partner with them, work with them, learn from them, teach them whatever. So with that said, Angie, any opening words for you or we can get right into our topics?
Angie Smith 03:44
Um, well, just thank you for having me. And when you say pick my brain, you may have to you may have to pick deep.
Phil Gardiner 03:54
Yeah, I know that as a leader of a transformation, you can get spread pretty thin sometimes. You know, it’s there’s, you know, there’s there’s SPCs I know that focus on the classroom, and you’re definitely not one of those. Let’s, let’s talk a little bit about your experience moving from, you know, what if we were doing this right, I met you, I think, Gosh, eight, nine months ago, when in class, I wasn’t actually teaching it but I stopped by to check out the parking lot. And, and you were just thinking about this. What was going through your head at that point in time after taking implementing safe?
Angie Smith 04:30
Yeah. Well, I will say in your opening remarks, Phil, when you talked about you know, go through the the training, take the the exam, you’re an SPC, you’re ready to go. I would say no, you’re not ready to go, so to speak. You know, just drawing on my past experiences just just when I earned my masters and my licensure to be a principal. No way would I be ready to step into that principal’s office. So, same sort of thing in terms of really reaching out and partnering with you folks that at Applied frameworks to help walk this journey with us, is has been just really valuable. You know, the what if they have been talking about, you know, implementing agile ways of working here, since before I was employed here, before my boss was employed here, he and I are fairly new to the organization. And so, when he brought this up that we want to do this, it’s like how we’ve talked around this for so many years. And now it’s time to put it into action. So that was the charge I was given is to jump in with both feet and forge forward. So yeah, so first, I’ve got to learn about it. And then kind of you become a salesperson of sorts, right? And you need to be able to communicate the whiff of the what’s in it, for me to gain momentum around around the change, because it’s a change.
Phil Gardiner 06:16
One and as a, as somebody who, you know, is looking at at leading a change in the transformation, you work for the CIO. You know, other people may be starting at a at a different point in the journey, right there will be there a scrum master on a team and they get their SPC, what are some of the what are some of the challenges? That you’ve had to overcome? Kind of going from that? Okay, I’ve been to the class, now we need to actually do it. Right. What are some of those those those challenges? You’ve overcome? Any advice? For individuals in the audience? Um,
Angie Smith 06:51
yeah, some of the challenges. You know, there are many, right, there are many challenges. So when you our organization, is what I would call a very legacy based organization, we’ve had people who have worked here for 30 years, and really trying to message that there are benefits from the change. So I would say, you know, approaching those challenges is really, really important to meet people where they are. allow them time to digest, allow them the time to reflect, be very proactive. What I have shared over and over with the folks who are experiencing the pain points is really to be be flexible, and embrace the stock, because there is going to be some stock. It’s so embrace the stock I I am reminded of Tony Robbins has a quote, the only impossible journey is the one you never begin. And change is inevitable and pain is ever present when when you’re making a change. So embrace the stock.
Phil Gardiner 08:06
You know, having having seen you in action, I know that, you know, there’s something we don’t cover and implementing safe. Or any, you know, safe specific class is kind of executive whispering specifically senior execs, we have a question from the audience here. What’s made you personally successful in engaging senior leadership support for your transformation? Because you do have a partner involved in and it’s not pro bono for us. So yeah,
Angie Smith 08:35
I am, I am, you know, I’m in a, I don’t know, if it’s a unique situation, I call it a really, really great situation in my boss is the Senior VP. And so this is his vision. So already at that level, we have support. And what I have personally done is look for opportunities to just engage in conversation about the benefits, right? So I, one of my superpowers I tell people is building relationships, I it’s really important to me to be able to build relationships, authentic relationships with folks. So it doesn’t sound like you’re just asking for something when you need it. For example, one specific instance, we had a leadership forum, or all the leaders came together for two days of retreat type, you know, activities, and there was a social gathering, the evening after the second day and our CIO or I mean, our CEO, happened to be in there and and he came over to me and he said, I’d heard your name, but I don’t think we’ve ever really officially met and so I introduced myself and he’s he asked the question, so what are you doing? And I’m like, Wow, I’m engaged in this really exciting work. And I was able to talk to him about this new framework without getting into the weeds of all of the acronyms and all of the details just very high level, and what it’s going to do for our folks and what it’s going to do for our, our customers. And he’s like, sounds great. So looking for opportunities like that, to just add a very high level, have conversation about the framework and the benefits it brings to to not only your customers, but to your staff, as well. And I also feel think it’s really important that you yourself, believe in it, and are able to speak because I’m pretty transparent people as my husband tells me all the time, who nobody guesses what you’re thinking on. So when I get just exuberant and excited when I talk about this, people feel that and they feel that energy, and they’re like, ooh, this might be something really good.
Phil Gardiner 11:10
Well, that I think that that energy in that evangelism is important. It’s interesting. I didn’t hear you mention, you know, getting your senior execs to go through leading safe, right, in the implementing class. Currently, it talks about this three minute pitch and you get everybody through today leading safe. How did you? How did you get get that executive engagement going? Did you bring up you didn’t bring him through leading safe? And how did you? You mentioned earlier without getting down into the weeds? Can you share with the audience some some techniques? Or how you approached that that right amount of information? Is it all about safe? Or is it give a different mission? for leading this transformation?
Angie Smith 11:51
Yeah, so I mean, you will learn right, the tipping point. And so if you leverage that tipping point on as it we have a particular customer, that is very important to our business, and we needed to improve some of our processes around serving that customer. And so when we made that the primary focus of you know, starting the transformation, people paid attention, like, oh my gosh, yes, if we can, if we can make this customer happy and accelerate their happiness. This is worth worth a try. Right? And and as we grew through the process of like, I, you know, identifying the value stream and our team of teams. Just excitement and momentum built. And so yeah, we and we were very creative around getting the the right amount of information to the right people, right. So we’ve got constant firefighting going on here, all the way up to the executive level. And so some some folks, we offered a four hour executive workshop, just a high level, let’s get to understanding what this is all about and what it can do for us. And then other people went through the two day leading safe. So you know that I spoke earlier about being flexible, really just being flexible and nimble, about what, what works for you and meeting people where they are. Right. So there’s the roadmap, and if you try to force everybody into that roadmap, my opinion is you’re going to create more abrasion and less success traveling down that road. Great,
Phil Gardiner 13:46
great point there. We have another question here. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna frame it up, which is just kind of follow your journey a little bit. And we’ll end today, talking about your first your first art launch. That was actually what last week feels like, challenges. Oh, my word. Look at that in just a moment. But the question here was, what was the team’s reaction to your executive leadership support? Did the team’s feel it was genuine, how powerful was that? I’d like you to maybe start with describing for the audience here, the value stream and identification workshop that you did, because I think that that there’s some that’s where I personally observed a little bit of executive I would call it more than support it was engagement, how long how long did your boss and the you know the business exec on the business side, the business owner, how long did they stay in the value stream workshop and they just stopped by to say, Hi, I can’t recall.
Angie Smith 14:44
I you know, I felt I’ll even go one step before the value stream workshop as we trained, the people who were coming to that workshop and leading save the two VPS involved, sent out emails to all of those people. saying, we are so excited about what you’re going to learn, we got a snippet in the executive workshop. And quite honestly, we’re a little envious of you getting to do two days worth of learning about this. This is really important, and we support you attending this. So that came from the VP level. And then when we did the value stream identification workshop, added my, my boss as optional. Yes, as the Senior VP, you know, the chief information officer. He was there the entire time. He came that morning, he stayed the entire time he engaged in all the activities, our VPS were there the entire time? So yeah, we’ve had fantastic support on as individuals start to do they feel it that people feel it’s genuine? Absolutely. As they have individuals have started to earn their certifications. We post that as a celebration, and those VPs and the SVP, the CIO, will send an email, great job, keep it up, keep up the great work. This is this is great. When we pad trainings, they will stop in at the end of the training to thank the people for their commitment and taking the time to to embrace this new way of working.
Phil Gardiner 16:32
Awesome. And then they were fast forward to the your art launch your business owner, right. Oftentimes, we hear about people having difficulty getting the business involved in in safe and an implementation. And you know that, you know, it’s pulling teeth to try and get the business owner exact to come by and listen to a team readout. How long was the spoiler alert? How long was the was the business owner there?
Angie Smith 16:59
Our business owner, who is a VP was there for the entire two days, all day, two days and jumped into well, we we had so spoiler alert, this is pack your tap shoes, right? So we had planned on you know, our stay for teams for two days. And then the two days of Pei planning all in person had everything arranged and then an ice storm hit us. So after the first day, we had to pivot to online and much credit to the frameworks team for Wow, working really hard to get that into a virtual format was fantastic. But our business owner jumped in to the breakout rooms and answered questions and you know, provided information provided guidance. Our, my boss, the CIO was there for quite a bit of a time listening in. And, and another VP and the iOS area was there at the entire two days as
Phil Gardiner 18:01
well. Thanks, Sanjay, we have another question here. Once you started the journey, what are the ways to sustain and enhance your journey? So how are you? How are you keeping up the momentum? And I know that that was that was last I think, in December was the executive workshop first leading safe. Your art launch was the last week of January? How did you keep the momentum up through January over the holidays? And how are you keeping it up now?
Angie Smith 18:28
Yeah, I mean, I mean, that’s a great question, because we are so early in our journey. And I will say again, that we are so fortunate to have highly engaged executives. They talk about this in their meetings, and how fantastic it is. And so I have had other areas of the business now knocking on my door saying, hey, we want to learn about this, we want to start working this way. Yesterday was a big staff meeting of two areas, and we provided an update. So any opportunities that you can to continue to inform people on our senior leadership team meets once a month and so I provide updates to my boss to to share in those meetings. As a matter of fact, it is very timely. I’m going to read to you a text I got from another area of the business after that meeting yesterday. And it said, wanted to let you know that since the morning meeting, I’ve heard nothing but Yups in our halls about how enlightening and valuable your session was last week. No joke people were amazed to hear from the executive. And I think that says a lot. So well done. Can’t wait for a new chapter and to be a part of what you’re building.
Phil Gardiner 19:56
That’s exciting. That’s exciting. You know, I know that I’m A couple other things we have to talk about here. One thing I want to throw out there, just really just a side note, right? So not everybody in our audience has the ability to bring in a partner. Right? And when I teach implementing safe, you know, one of the last things I parting advice I give to our, our soon to be Ste C’s is find your people, right? If you have, you know, if you want to accelerate your journey and get sustainability quicker, you know, find a partner that will join you on your journey. But there’s, you know, there’s there’s meetup communities and all sorts of other ways. What was anything you can share regarding, you know, how you chose the right, the right people and partners? What, what advice you might have for people as to what to look for, not necessarily who, but what, what, what traits, what approaches, what mindsets do you look for in a partner, would you recommend?
Angie Smith 20:49
Yeah, well, I really appreciate it. And what spoke speaks to me is, again, it’s not it’s not a cookie cutter roadmap, and, and save is, is not a hard and fast etched in stone blueprint. It’s how it’s going to work in your organization, right. And also, you know, as a, as a person who does all these crazy races, and I coach people to do those crazy races, that’s what I’m looking for is somebody to coach us. So we can take that, this way of working forward, not telling us what to do, but guiding us in what to do, and helping us to be self sustainable.
Phil Gardiner 21:42
You know, you can’t you can’t rely on consultants forever. Any, any specific traits that you look for, I know that you know, even within our, with our team, there’s individuals that you may have clicked with more than others, you know, anything when you think about the journey that you’re on, which is really the legacy mindset and a lot of the company. And it’s complicated. It’s not just software development, there’s a lot of stuff there. And so it’s really high stakes. And the trace, do you look for not only in in partners, but also within the individuals that you’re, you’re bringing into your team, because your team is going to be growing? I imagine. Yeah, yeah. That’s your first RTE now.
Angie Smith 22:21
Yeah, I mean, truly people, you know, and this is gonna sound coins, like I pulled it out of the content, but definitely somebody with a growth mindset, right, you have to be able to open your mind to the possibilities versus what could go wrong. And so people who are open minded, and quite honestly resilient, because like I said, You got to embrace the suck. And I tell people all the time, I mean, this is one of my coaching phrases, and I’ve used it with many of our folks involved in this. Growth only happens outside your comfort zone. So if you stay within your comfort zone, there’s really no opportunity to grow and be better.
Phil Gardiner 23:13
Yeah, and that word resiliency, we do a lot of work where, you know, there’s a question in chat right now is how do you convince business to get engaged in the safe agile journey? We have struggles Today, technology is good, but how do you get business engaged? And I think about it, and for us, 90% of the time, businesses, they’re at the beginning, you know, anything you can share for that question regarding how how you convinced Marcus to get to get involved?
Angie Smith 23:43
Yeah, that with them, right? What’s in it for you in terms of satisfying our customers? You know, what we’re doing right now is creating some immigration. So by doing this, we can have built in quality, we can avoid those problems, I’m not gonna say eliminate them. Because when human beings are involved, you’re always gonna have mistakes, but how do we learn from them? How do we move forward on and be able to be transparent about it? And and it’s so that I think is, you know, showing the possibilities? What are the benefits? What are the benefits to our customers? From your perspective, right from your from your role,
Phil Gardiner 24:29
I observed at your at your PII planning event. One of the things that I view I view as a leading indicator of your success was the business owner engagement. And you spoke about transparency. And it was it was fun to watch as your business owner spent the entire team breakouts in with the different teams and he made it around all the teams both days, asking clarifying questions about their PII object is being there to answer questions for them. And it was interesting, I saw a couple of times where there was some alignment. So no matter how hard product management, tried the message from the business, and therefore from your customers, we’re trying to accelerate their happiness there that didn’t, somehow in the telephone game to get that down to the teams, you lost the soul of it. And so it was really powerful to see, as an observer is very powerful to see that happening. Because, you know, I remember, Mike, who was serving as your RTE, this first time around. Your your business owner was asked asked the question, well, why are we doing why are you reading out on these team plans? Because I’ve already already know him? All right? And the answer is, Well, the reason is, we want everybody to know the plan. And not just you. But it was cool to see that happen ahead of time. When when you think about, you know, organizing around values, I’m gonna stay true to our bullet points, we want to touch here. One of the techniques that you implemented in your value stream workshop was not the way safe safe says to do it, you had, you know, kind of really going in, you really kind of had you thought a couple of these value streams. But there was the thought that it could be one big value stream. And then there was like, 60 people in your value stream workshop, and you broke them down into small groups, tackling the same value stream. And then they came together and gave readouts anything you can share from that approach? Because I remember, that’s where I started seeing a lot of lights coming on. And I’ll steal that. And that’s where that’s where I remember. Brett, your CIO getting up and actually more involved?
Angie Smith 26:44
Yeah. Well, the value in that was all the different perspectives, they didn’t all look the same, right? Based on who who’s doing the work, and what area of the organization they weren’t, because we brought people from all over the organization to represent different areas to represent those different perspectives. So when you brought in that scope of perception, you’re going to be better informed on what the best best construction of your your art is. And quite honestly, again, you know, that whole concept of remaining flexible, we’re pretty sure we don’t have the right construction right now. And that will morph over time. So being being open and flexible to that is well, and that doesn’t mean that the framework is failing, and it’s not working, it just means they’re learning more and learning how to make it work better for you.
Phil Gardiner 27:52
Another question from the audience here? Andy, what are some of the challenges or opportunities that you see in applying safe in the transition? So product management, portfolio management, and DevOps?
Angie Smith 28:05
Well, I inherited just some of our challenges here, one of our hugest challenges that we’ve identified is our tooling. We, we don’t, we’ve operated in silos for so long, that that we have multiple different tools that teams work into. And so that has been a real challenge for us and still remains a challenge after this launch. So that being said, being able to raise that challenge has some discussion around it, now we’re getting the right people to have the right conversations, right? Because if you don’t have the visibility or the transparency about the challenges, you don’t have much of an opportunity to try to solution, the problem. Other challenges, I mean, like I said, legacy, legacy? mentality. You know, we’ve tried this in along with legacy mentality is on the other end of that spectrum is maybe newer people who are like, I’m really excited, but I’m really cautious. Because what if this gets pulled away from us? What if it if all of a sudden they say no, we’re not going to do this anymore? Because they believe that has happened in the past with different initiatives. So I’m really building that trust and I think that’s where, you know, executive leadership, being as supportive as they are, is is helping in that fashion.
Phil Gardiner 29:49
Yeah, it’s interesting, you know, you truly is a challenge which creates a tough time making doing some baseline metrics. We have we have a question from one of the one of the audience are keen to hear your insight on demonstrating value from the transformation journey to all levels of the organization from the CIO from the CEO to the coalface. basis. But, you know, I know you’ve had to, you know, I recall, two sticky notes from your CIO, right? At that value stream workshop. There were a couple soft spots, you know, hotspots in the flow that kept coming up in conversation. And I look at those as kind of potential early wins, but couldn’t answer the question on your own, I don’t need to.
Angie Smith 30:36
Well, value stream mapping has been really valuable. Because because it means it’s all intertwined here with our processes and lack of common tooling to map out a flow, and then a sign in and identify delay times is so difficult, it’s a manual process of trying to and that that process has opened people’s eyes to what how do we demonstrate value? If we can’t measure it?
Phil Gardiner 31:08
You’re talking about something different than the value stream audit information workshop?
Angie Smith 31:12
Yes, yes. Yes.
Phil Gardiner 31:15
Does that mean that everybody here may know what you mean by value stream mapping? Yeah. Just take a moment to talk about that. I know you’ve led those sessions yourself.
Angie Smith 31:23
Yeah. So getting a group of people together who work on a certain I don’t know, function, I guess is what we call it, and helping, you know, facilitating a conversation. What it you know, what is the trigger? What starts this process? And what is the value you deliver at the end? And identifying every step that happens along the way? As well as what are what are some point pain points that are associated with those steps? Who are the people involved in those steps? Because again, now you’re starting to get to visualize things, and trying to understand where your bottlenecks are, where your delays are, so that you can identify opportunities for improvement.
Phil Gardiner 32:12
So you have going back to the how you measure value; we have a question here about about how to business value for the PII objectives. I know that in speaking to your business owner, that’s what’s being communicated. Right. So those consolidated PII objectives, the mission for the arc this quarter, that’s what’s being communicated up the chain? Is that going to be the primary measure of value as accomplishing those objectives? This, this first pie? How are how are you looking at that? How are you fast forward three months from now? How are you going to articulate hey, look, here’s, here’s the value. Here’s how we’ve accelerated that happiness. Yeah, how are you planning on that? But
Angie Smith 32:55
the P, the P i objectives, definitely, you know, having our business owner, you know, assign the actual value gained. That that measure of predictability for our teams will be very important. You know, also along the way, as we are solving our tooling issue, to be able to pull metrics from the teams around flow. That will be another measure of success and in the built in quality, right? How many? How many fixes do we need? That seems to be one of the big issues right now.
Phil Gardiner 33:39
So awesome. We have a couple more questions here, then we’ll spend a little bit of time on on, on your stories from your first art launch, preparing for that lessons learned and advice. You might have got one here, how long are you seeing adoption of safe taking? And are you seeing some acceleration of accepting and adopting safe?
Angie Smith 34:00
Um, well, we started our journey on October, right, October, and we launched our first art last week. So it took us about three months to to launch that art. I’m accelerating. Yeah, we are seeing some acceleration. And I do think it’s because we keep socializing, what’s happening around the organization. Oh, and I should also mention to one of the many hats I wear. In my my role I put together and published a monthly newsletter to the entire isn t organization that also gets circulated around executive leadership. And every month there is a standing article on the scaling agile update in keeping people informed about what’s happening and what’s going on. On an offering for them to reach out to me with any questions. So the more you socialize what’s going on, and in small snippets, educate people, so you aren’t overwhelming them with all of the concepts on it prompts more questions and more engagement. You know, we had a manager and above meeting for the ICT organization yesterday, I gave a little update on the PII planning. These are our next steps. If you you know, we’re looking to scale if you’re interested to learn, reach out to me, I had three emails before I even sat down, add some chats today, we have another area that business, like I said, knocking on my door, and they’re attending the leading safe training. This is a lead executive and four of his staff are attending not next week, like we want our trains. So I just think that, that perhaps the pace of work and the firefighting that has happened here, and I call it whack a mole, people are looking to find some relief, and they’re seeing the value in this framework to be able to provide that for them.
Phil Gardiner 36:20
Well, I know you’re, you’re teaching your first class Monday,
Angie Smith 36:23
well, a small maybe a small portion of it,
Phil Gardiner 36:27
you’re not gonna you’re not gonna jump all in and teach it all yourself the first time.
Angie Smith 36:31
I told you, I got I got pulled into something. No, I don’t want to do the whole thing.
Phil Gardiner 36:36
Well, I just think I was thinking about, you know, your newsletter, and part of the people in that class are actually going to be individuals that aren’t part of the art aren’t part of that, that value stream. They’re actually other parts of the organization that are curious. About other questions here. One audit one person, the audience, they have several business owners for the art might be one business owner per feature. So they’re having a struggle in business value for the PII objectives. I’ll jump in on that one first. And, wow, that’s a lot of width. And a lot of how do you? How do you heard that cat? Because you may end up you know, how many features do you have coming into PII planning, if you’ve got 100 features coming in, which is, interestingly enough, a fairly common challenge that a lot of people have, when they first get started, is that they’re used to writing features for a team. And when those teams aren’t all set up, around, around value, it can really be tough. Anything that that you might think of that you could offer as an idea, imagine if you had more more business owners involved, any tips you might have?
Angie Smith 37:48
Yeah, I mean, I’m, I’m not sure I can offer too much there. Because what we actually identified is we did not identify all the business owners we should have. Leading into this, we have many conversations about it. And because of the complexity of our need, and how our teams are structured, we just never got to that. And we we did commit to the forcing function of wanting our art, so fully knowing that everything would not be perfect. So that is actually one of our steps that we’re going through right now is identifying those additional business owners. And fortunately, the business owner we have is a legacy type. staff member, the VP, he knew so much about everything that was happening, that he was able to provide really good perspective. But I know he pulled Brett into the our CIO into a couple of those to discuss as well as Gary one of the other VPS. So I’m not sure I have a ton to offer on that, because we’re crossing that bridge. In our next pie planning.
Phil Gardiner 39:06
I’ll share a technique with you that you’ve kind of already been set up for. And for me personally, what I found is that I don’t like surprising executives. And I don’t want to I don’t like it. It doesn’t feel good when the team’s playing gets blown out of the water during the draft plan review or the final plan review. So I work really hard to encourage our clients and those that I mentor to have optimized your pie planning event for more collaboration time, which means expand those team breakouts and have the business owner circulate. So imagine if you’ve got 10 business owners, and you’ve got 10 teams during that breakout period as the PI planning SPF learning is occurring on day one, and you’re starting to get pi objectives forming. Imagine if you’re wandering around from team to team you’re going Gonna see three PII objectives. Well, as a business owner, for Team Jigglypuff. Here, you don’t care about any of those. So you move on to the next team, right? So you may end up having, you know, 10 teams, you got 30 or 40, PII objectives of those, how many of you care about what I found is score the ones that you care about. And if somebody comes along and cares about the same one, you have a conversation. Otherwise, those people are canvassing all the team breakouts, and you’re getting business value assigned to all of them. I’ve had situations where people put the business owner or put their their initials next to it. So peeps, other person knows, hey, this is one where Joseph was on this, or Marcus or Susie or whatever, right? And it’s not just one thing, you might one thread, you might go for that. Lots of questions today. This is a you’re a rock star here sharing this I, I’m so thankful that you’re on here, because you’re in the midst of it, you know, I I have a different perspective. And we talked about multiple perspectives here. So this question here, I, I don’t think you’ve encountered it yet. But it may be one that you’re going to encounter. So what are the challenges you resolve when there was a pushback to adopt new ways of portfolio management? From traditional management? They’re transfixed how to meet demand to capacity for example.
Angie Smith 41:21
Yes, we are we we have not implemented lean portfolio management, there’s interest in that space. And I think baby steps is where they’re at right now in towards in terms of moving towards that. I will say that words matter, language matters. We just had this this conversation this morning. When you talk about and this is where it’s important not to get into the weeds because I went there yesterday. And it was like my dad, I shouldn’t have done that. When you talking about, you know, planning the the iterations and calculating your capacity and your load. Very traditional mindsets will be like, What do you mean, you’re only planning at person and of, of what your capacity is. And there’s this perception that they’re going to sit around twiddle their thumbs for 20% of their time. So words matter, language matters. And so in retrospect, I would have said something that around more more high level, you know, there’s a way that we, we calculate and allocate so that teams can work at full capacity.
Phil Gardiner 42:46
Yeah, no, no capacity allocation? That was part of the question, right. So your teams, many of the teams are doing a lot of support and maintenance work, right? You’ve got customers that need changes daily, sometimes. And so not all of your teams or Scrum teams, some of them are focused on flow with Kanban. Do you remember how capacity allocation came into play with the guy planning for all the teams that 100%? No,
Angie Smith 43:14
no, like, 50%? Yeah, because because of the way we are structured organizationally, right. And so again, you have to be flexible, and, and operate with and meet people where they are, and we got to meet us where we’re at where we’re at now, is it the ideal structure organizationally? Probably not? Will we realize that and maybe make some changes around that? I, I proceed that we will. And not forcing the issue is how you’re going to lead people to come with you, versus having them oppose you.
Phil Gardiner 43:57
Um, and then, another question we have here, what are the metrics you’re planning to measure? When you think you and I have talked about competency outcomes and flow? No, are there any that come to mind for you?
Angie Smith 44:16
Well, I think that the biggies are we’re going to be doing the self assessments. Right. And so we’ll be able to measure improvement by using those those assessments. We definitely want to get anecdotal type measures from our customers like are we getting fewer complaints? Are we are we getting more praise around around delivery? You know, along with with flow, and and quite honestly, one of the other measures of success for us will be employee engagement.
Phil Gardiner 44:59
I know Now that you’ve got some I know that you were you were faced with a challenge that many of many of you many, many people face are faced with, which is we don’t have HR roles for product owners and our T’s and Scrum Masters and product owners. What the heck do we do? How did you tackle that initially?
Angie Smith 45:22
Initially, yeah, we’re in the midst of it right now. And the what we did initially is, is really had some quality conversations with leaders around the attributes of the end characteristics of what you’re looking for, in a product owner in a scrum master in an AR t. And then letting them have some conversations about who in their organizations fits that bill, and would they think would be be successful. And then what was key is to invite them in to that role via conversation, versus assigning it to them, we have a pretty unique situation where now they’re almost working two jobs at the same time. And so they will, interestingly, they are willing to do that right now. Because they’re See, they see the potential, the benefits, and just constantly communicating with them that we are working with HR, we are working with HR to come up with solutions to offer you. And in the meantime, we did offer them spot bonuses as a as a thank you for going above and beyond.
Phil Gardiner 46:48
That’s pretty cool. I I gotta say that, um, you know, for those of you who have followed me on my journey, I talk a lot about, you know, the personal side of things, right. They’re the things that you don’t see on paper. And you mentioned attributes, right? Those characteristics, right? So, you know, product owners and product managers with curiosity, right, are two E’s that don’t feel like they need to be in the limelight all the time. Right. There’s a lot of attributes. And you definitely I’ll give you kudos there for, for finding individuals. And I think that’s kind of a holistic piece that, as an outside observer that I view, when I think about people starting a safe journey, or to find a new way of working, leading indicators, or that level of engagement, not just support yet. Anything you want to share about about preparing for your first art launch. I know you, you know, it’s nerve racking, I know that the primary coach working with you sent me a nasty gram for pushing you to launch at the end of January, as opposed to pushing it out to February sometime. But I did it and it worked.
Angie Smith 47:55
It did it did. And lessons learned, right? Definitely take a look at your business cycles. When big important things happen. In your business. For us open enrollment was going on, and it really stressed people out and so in retrospect, not the best time for us to have done this. That. So again, kudos to our people for stepping up to the challenge kudos to our leaders for supporting them in doing that. Definitely, I prefer in person in this is going to be I think a hurdle that many of us are going to be be facing in this new remote world since the pandemic is many people enjoy working from home and remote work and would prefer that. So trying to balance that is going to continue to be a challenge for us, quite honestly. So how how we manage that. Stay tuned, I’m not sure how well we’ll manage that going forward. But you know, how, if you don’t have the partners like I would I did with you all at at Applied frameworks. Just you got to stick to that preparation list. You have to you know, be on top of that and be organized and map it out. So that it feels seamless, you’ll be exhausted. And and you will feel well, I shouldn’t say well, you may you may feel really frustrated and and for me disappointed when you’ve invested all of this into this fantastic opportunity for people and then they complain so And only a couple people? Where are your armor? Where are your armor?
Phil Gardiner 50:03
Or your armor? Yeah, you can’t please everyone is interesting. I gotta say that personally, it was it was, I missed the sound of 100 people collaborating that we had before the ice storm hit. And, you know, what are your thoughts on on individuals that might want to skip, say, for teams, because it’s an investment doing, you’re getting 100 people into a training class for two days,
Angie Smith 50:28
oh, you’re just not going to be as efficient and effective in your planning, if you don’t do that with those teams first, because even them having done that for two days, there was still a lot of confusion with what they were doing during the Pei planning. And I’ll tell you, some of the feedback that we got from our leaders, our executives, was how valuable it was to have what they call a coach. So in each one of those groups helping to facilitate those people on with the tasks at hand, so I would say don’t try to do it single handed as a one person show because I’m not sure you will get get the best the best outcomes that you could get.
Phil Gardiner 51:17
One more One last question. I’d like to invite Laura back in I know she’s been in the background there, Laura back, she may have a question of her own. But first, we’ve got one from the last one from the audience. The scrum master could be considered as transformation leader, or could he or she lead the transformation? And I think this is from a career pathing perspective, I would imagine.
Angie Smith 51:41
Yeah, why not? I mean, we a you know, as a change agent and a leader of change, you know, engaging, support, right, soliciting, and enlisting support for that, that change as a scrum master. If you can get people in your camp to help support you to lead a transformation? I would say, why not? So
Phil Gardiner 52:11
thanks so much. Angie, Laura, do you have a final question? I know you’ve been listening in you knowing knowing you you’re so Laura’s an SPC as well. And any questions pop up on your mind?
Laura Caldie 52:24
Well as AMG? Are there any surprising partnerships that you created with people internally, that really helped you either accelerate or helped you gain other support that you needed that you maybe didn’t think of ahead of time? Right, like, whether it’s with roles or with particularly leaders or with
Phil Gardiner 52:45
side picking the RTE?
Angie Smith 52:49
Well, as a surprise, she’s a rock star. I mean, we. Yeah.
Laura Caldie 53:00
Start with that, while that I apologize for that. But one of the things that I’m recognizing that really is aided your success is that you spread a very wide net, you didn’t restrict your thinking around who can help you accelerate, and maybe sometimes people try to be too precise, on who they want and and who they want out. And I think you approached it differently. Like you were open to anyone who wanted to lean in, even if they weren’t, obviously the kind of role that you would have initially gone to go recruit. Right, right.
Angie Smith 53:34
Yeah, I mean, show it with our transformation team. Yeah, we cast that net really wide. And again, it’s about building those relationships, socializing the framework and the benefits of the framework. Because if you can cast your net wide to begin with, the, the acceleration of spread, is going to be much quicker, right? Because then this person tells these people and these people tell these people, these people tell these people and, and, and it really actually models breaking down those silos, right? Because if you’re only going to invite people from your silo into this transformation, it’s maybe not necessarily walking the talk. So right now
Phil Gardiner 54:19
you’re the only SPC at Arkansas Blue Cross Blue Shield, high speed, increased demand and casting a wide net. So are you out there looking for for new SPCs people that could go into the class and have that mindset?
Angie Smith 54:35
Yes, our staff meeting this morning, I announced that to all of my colleagues that I will be sending you a list of characteristics and attributes. And I would like you to think about people in within your span of control, who may fit that bill and then have some conversations with them to to investigate if they would be interested in pursuing Got this and we had some good choices about what it could mean for them. What does it mean for them? Because that’ll be the question, Will I make more money? Well, maybe down the road. But right now,
Phil Gardiner 55:10
that why you want to is that? Is that why you want to do it?
Angie Smith 55:13
No, no, no, you want it you want to impact change, and you want to make make life better for folks. And that’s, that’s, that’s my perspective is I see the people like frantic. And one of the benefits I and I didn’t get to share this earlier that that I saw from our associates doing the work who are on these agile teams, is they finally had an excitement and a sense of purpose, because they understood how their work connected to our organizational objectives and initiatives and imperatives. And that’s something that I think has, that is missing in a lot of organizations. And so people will lean in and, and become more engaged. And that’s why that’s one of our good metrics, once you start connecting those dots for them.
Phil Gardiner 56:09
Okay, lastly, I just want to say thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule. This this is this is you know, for those of you watching, this is where I want to take this SPC journey series to get more people like Angie to share, to share their thoughts and their insights from the from the real world. You know, I’ve got webinars I do myself where you can hear me blah, blah, blah. But this is about highlighting those people out there as SPCs or those that hire them or partnering with them, or doing so, or anything, any parting words are and you
Laura Caldie 56:41
know, I for me, I just grateful and it’s so much fun to work with you, Angie, because this energy that you bring to the change, right? It’s like leading change, you’re in some ways you’re a natural and another ways I know you’re a national because you put a lot of work in to think this through carefully. So I applaud you. I think it’s been a great journey so far.
Angie Smith 57:01
Yeah. Well, and what I love to Laura is, is that you all say that I’m a natural and I have zero technical expertise. So great SPC, right, anybody, anybody can do it. Thank you so much for having me.
Phil Gardiner 57:21
Thank you. We’ll have you back on a future session. So thank you so much, everybody, and thanks for watching. We’ll see you next month. Look for a notice about next month’s topic. We’ve got some pretty cool people already signed up. So thanks, everybody. Have a great Day. Bye Bye.
As leader of Applied Frameworks’ SAFe Practice, Phil is responsible for large-scale transformations and guiding change agents as they learn to apply the Scaled Agile Framework. Phil is a Certified SAFe Program Consultant Trainer® (SPCT), one of less than 100 people who hold this certification globally. Read Full Bio