PEOPLE TEAM ON THE ROAD TO SWEDEN
AGILE PEOPLE LOVER’S DIARY
AGILE PEOPLE SWEDEN CONFERENCE | DAY 1
Barry White’s deep voice resonates in the bus driving us passengers to the aircraft heading to Monaco. Try to fish out the song’s title in my memory, but nothing. I’m already in Agile-thinking mode. And it’s been a while since my ability to remember titles doesn’t function as well as it used to. I’ll have to live with it at some point. Sleepy faces surround me, looking down, busy on their smartphones and it’s only 5 o’clock in the morning. Don’t know…
Land at Monaco Airport and a galactic and unaffordable clothes window distracts me from my Agile-thoughts, I smile.. just last night with the marketing girls I was plotting about shopping sprees, to be scheduled as soon as possible.
Why am I here?
Simple: I have been in recruiting for twenty years and I realized that most of the skills have acquired so far, are no longer needed. There, I said it.
Stop. Game over. Game rules have changed.
So what? Fly to Sweden, Stockholm, willing to listen to the pioneers of Agile HR, indeed of the Agile People.
From October 23rd to 26th, Stockholm is hosting the 6th Agile People Sweden 2018 Conference. Grandiose name in fact, but I’m telling you that the thought behind it deserves it all. Imagine this as if for 4 days the States General of the HR were reunited under an Agile perspective.
To those who already dabble this mindset, it is no use to say anything else; whereas for the ones who have only barely heard about Agile and have not yet understood if it is just the fashion of the moment or something, I’ll try to explain that in my words.
Agile is a style of thought, a set of values and principles on which you can base your actions, not only professionally.
It’s like running: you start slowly, the hard way, at some point you feel like quitting, and eventually “Alakazam!” It changes you, it becomes part of your way of being and doing. You can no longer do without it.
Its purpose? Teach you a way to make good decisions in a particular situation. Make sense of what you do within your organization. Simplify. Accommodate the change, rather than hinder it by following a plan. Quick change, complex world. You already have a headache, don’t you?
Agile is something that sometimes is easier done than said. Martin Luther King said it well: there are things, situations for which words do not exist.
It’s been a while since I wondered how myself, daughter of the Command & Control Generation, could think that in a changing world, the HR cared about what happens around and within organizations?
My dream as an HR? To be able to bring equity into the organizations.
That’s the reason for my trip.
Follow me: I’ll take you with me through these days of speeches and talks, workshops and more, on the world of Agile People.
Stay tuned and Agile Alè!
AGILE PEOPLE SWEDEN CONFERENCE | DAY 2
I open my eyes at 7 with no alarm clock (away from home it becomes unnecessary) and the first thing I see is a bed bug fluttering over my head. I realize in a nanosecond that considering the average temperatures of October in Stockholm, that horrible being that I hate more than spiders, could only have come here in one way: he traveled with me in the suitcase from Treviso. I lunge standing on the bed (thanks running, thank you!) and what does the disgusting thing do?
It flies even higher and blends in perfectly with the bed bug green-colored curtains. Adios. I’m forced to live with it until Saturday, I already know that.
Quick shower, breakfast and I rush in the street, Google Maps on hand in order to get there 15 mins earlier, something I skillfully do in such situations. I get in, invoking the Cloak of Invisibility which does not descend on me, sigh…
I make myself as small as possible (one of the flaws I have lived with ever since, with no hope to get over), play the field, scan faces and raise antennae.
Here they are! I catch friends’ faces, Dario and Michele, two of the creators of the Italian Agile Business Day. Big smiles, and in the middle of a “What a combination!” and “Let’s see what the Swedes say..” the first talk starts.
Dave Snowden, with his “Doctrine, domesticity and Delinquency: returning Agile to the wild” seems to have just emerged from a cabin in the mountains. And as if that were not enough, it seems he’s there to remind me that speaking English is cool, but everyone has their own accent: it takes me a good ten minutes to understand that his “what” is not exactly British or American, but strong Scottish. So I just have to glue my eyes to the slides showing, stretch the ear and try to bring home at least a couple of concepts.
But it’s when the time comes for Andrea Darabos and her “How to develop accountability and self-reliance with practice” that I feel I’m in the right place. She inspires me more of everyone else today. A frail blondie with the sweetest face who when was a child, hindered by the parents, dreamed of becoming a software engineer and discovered as an adult to have kick-ass people skills.
She puts herself immediately out there and with a hint of emotion tells us her personal story.
That of getting involved first-hand with the respective collaborators is something that resonates several times today in the talks.
Sharing with each other. It’s the first way to be a team and I find the confirmation of why I like it so much. It’s a simple, Agile, handy way of all of us, regardless of the work we do. And that, unwittingly, is the way I’ve been for years.
We all can share ourselves with each other if we want to. It makes us feel less distant, less alien, less inappropriate. It makes us feel much less minuses and perhaps with a few more plusses. That we are not alone and that we can do it.
Andrea asks us at the end “How would the world be if we all believed we can?” Better, I hear myself answering in low voice, surely better. No doubt.
Stay tuned and Agile Alè!
AGILE PEOPLE SWEDEN CONFERENCE | DAY 3
I open my eyes and I think of yesterday’s bed bug and where it might have slipped (in the suitcase again would be the last straw!), but fortunately the appetite makes me get out of the bed, shower, then I get myself dressed ready to reach the “corridor of breakfast” as it were already my place.
Yes, because after the first day everything is easier, choosing the strategic table, getting the right things, forgetting about the Ikea style meatballs and caviar in 300g tubes. “Very Swedish” recipes, indeed, Svettish.
It reminds me of Cleber, my son, and I smile again thinking about our conversation before departure. For him in Sweden people speak Svettish (in Italy Sweden sounds like Svetia..) I try to tell him they say Swedish and not Svettish, he answers that yes, he understood, but after kissing him goodnight my budding wizard asks me “Mom look for a magic shop and buy me a deck of Svettish cards, will you?”… There’s no way
After all, in Scotland they speak Scottish, don’t they? I think back of my Dave Snowden friend of yesterday’s conference and I get nervous again. Blast you and your pronunciation! Why can’t we say they speak the Svettish in Sweden, then?
I’m confident that Cleber already thinks out of the box in a perfectly Agile style.
The hell I’m correcting him again! I’ve got an Agile intern at home and I didn’t know it.
I get to the Hotel Odenplan and it seems all calculated. If the first day of the conference ended up with one of those cosmic questions, the second could only start off likewise: “Are we building a dream?”
Federica asks me that; she’s a Swedish adopted Italian project manager who works at the Electrolux, who I meet in the classroom. We are the only Italians at today’s workshop, held by Fabiola Eyholzer. On one hand, I do recognise that the title sounds a little ambitious, “HR as People Champion”, but on the other, I see we are attending one of the most referenced meetings in the industry: fair enough.
I do not know if we are building a dream, that’s my answer to Federica, definitely, there is something that has really changed around us, within the organizations where we work, and we, people of the HR, are asked to give a strong contribution, something that can make the mark.
We can’t look the other way or think it’s always someone else’s turn. Meanwhile, let’s try to move the lens. On people and relationships rather than on processes and tools.
And you know what? This is also the first principle of the Agile Manifesto.
She staunchly nods at me and it’s like we’ve always known each other.
The HR has a challenge to grasp: it is called upon to find a key that helps people and organizations to get the best out of the changes rather than suffer them.
Changes are there, we can’t get rid of them. Plus the cost to contrast this is too high.
And so between one experience and another, there comes the time of greetings. The Icelandic colleague throws a direct provocation to a hypothetical Mister HR: “If you would not exist, what would be missing?”
A question that creates embarrassment and turns the classroom silent. That’s how the group say bye to each other.
I take my things, smile to everyone and go out. I need some fresh air and a Svettish magic shop for Cleber.
Stay tuned and Agile Alè!
AGILE PEOPLE SWEDEN CONFERENCE | DAY 4
I wake up at 7, this time half helped by the alarm. Strange. Usual ritual shower-breakfast-makeup, then a message from Federico reminds me that today is my birthday. I call him and I think about the gift I’m going to open tonight. It’s always nice to unwrap the gifts that he and the boys buy me, they always hit the target. The other night they cared to tell me that they had all gone together to take it and if I hadn’t stopped them, they would have told me in detail what they bought. Yes, because they can’t really keep a secret about gifts. Men.
I throw everything quickly in my suitcase and go out to enjoy the last day in the city.
The weather has changed. The sky is cloudy and it’s windy as happens to us only in February (when it happens!).
However, no problem, I am equipped with a hat, scarf and gloves as well as with a special windbreaker which in Treviso I wear maybe once a year.
I opt for the tour of the metro stations. Yes, because you need to know that art here in Stockholm is everywhere, even in the underground. And many stations are real works of art. I discover that the Svettish even organize guided tours.
I buy a one-day ticket and I break into the depths of this beautiful city. It discloses a crazy and unexpected show made of wonderful colours and drawings.
It’s like that, wandering from station to station I think back to the two days full immersion of the Agile People Conference.
What about it? If I were to summarize with a word what remained of it, I would say INSPIRATION.
There is a lot to be done among companies of our territory and one thing first of all: create the conditions for people to feel valuable, not a cost.
Let’s start by asking each of them: what’s important to you? What are your needs, your moving motivators? Instead of asking why some Guy Person has left (it would be useless, too late), let’s ask ourselves: why are the other people still here? What makes them stay? What are we already sharing and what more can we do?
It is time for people in organizations to feel free to talk openly about what is bothering them and what is not, to be asking questions, to admit that they must have mistaken by asking “How did it happened?” rather than “Who did it?”.
Those who think and act in an Agile way call this “psychologically safe organization”.
No doubt about it, these Svettish are great!
So long, to next year and Agile Aleè!
Monday starts again, and I find out from Barbara of the marketing team, that the good Dave Snowden is not Scottish, but actually Welsh. No harm done, his terrible accent will haunt me for a while anyway.
Monday starts again, I was saying, and so happens that a company customer with whom I’ve been holding a dialogue for a while recontacts me while I’m here. Their HR is a brilliant young man, with little experience, but with lots of desire to do well, animated by the best intentions. The numbers are good, but still, they have got the feeling that something is not spinning as it should. They ask me for advice, support. Your People, I told them. Your People are the key to everything: “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.
If you are available to start from there, you can count on me.
Originally published at www.interlogica.it on November 7, 2018.