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The Power of Self Management with Angela Johnson

George Grombacher June 16, 2023

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The Power of Self Management with Angela Johnson

LifeBlood: We talked about the power of self management, the philosophy and practice behind agile and scrum, the benefits of mutual commitment to principles and values, and how to get more done by empowering others, with Angela Johnson, Certified Scrum Trainer, Agile Guide, author, and Founder of Collaborative Leadership Team.     

Listen to learn how to help others become better self managers!

You can learn more about Angela at, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Get your copy of The Scrum Master Files HERE

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson

Episode Transcript

eorge grombacher 0:02
left with this is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong, powerful Angela Johnson. Angela. Are you ready to do this?

Angela Johnson 0:08
Let’s go.

george grombacher 0:09
Let’s do it. Let’s do it. Indeed, Angela is a certified scrum trainer and agile guide. She’s the founder of collaborative leadership team. She is the author of the scrum master files. Angela excited to have you on. Tell us a little about your personal life more about your work and why you do what you do.

Angela Johnson 0:30
So a personal first mom to an 11 year old self fulfilling prophecy because his first name is Chase. It’s all Dad and I do and people will ask if he is our first and I say only when you’re a geriatric mother and start late, you know, because that’s what they call you. We’re good. We got one. He’s perfect. We’re done. What do I do? I am a professional people geek. So I love helping people work in a completely different way. The primary ways that we go to market in doing that are called Agile or more specifically Scrum. But we help individuals and companies pivot turn on a dime for a dime. Agile, right? So we are all about helping people with their personal and professional agility.

george grombacher 1:23
I love it. So Agile and Scrum, what is the relationship between those two terms?

Angela Johnson 1:29
You heard of the game of rugby? Are you familiar with rugby? Oh, yeah, the huddle that they get into the scrummage. So Scrum is just a shortened abbreviation for scrimmage. People working together in a rugby like huddle, getting that ball going in the same direction. Because if we’re all pulling in different directions, we’re not likely to hit our goal. But if we’re working together, we’re more likely to reach our goal and objective. Agile is more of an umbrella term. The creators of Scrum got together with creators of other frameworks who said, Hey, we’re doing something a little some similar, but we don’t call our scrum we call ours Extreme Programming, or some of these other frame marks, they all got together and decided what they had in common was being agile, nimble pivot. So that’s kind of an umbrella term. So one might say Scrum is agile. But agile doesn’t necessarily mean Scrum. Not it.

george grombacher 2:28
If, for those who are listening, and you’ve never seen a rugby, Scrum, just go ahead into YouTube, or wherever you watch videos and type that in because it’s fascinating. So it is literally these giant people locking arms and trying to advance down the down the field. So I think that that’s a great now now it makes all sense of the world. So the philosophy and, and, and the practice.

Angela Johnson 2:56
The philosophy is really values based, we value focus, because if everything’s priority, nothing is we value making a commitment. You know, stop, stop starting, start finishing, we value openness. Are you open to change? Are you open to doing things differently? Hey, are you open to feedback? So the core values to scrum are openness, focus, commitment, respect, and courage. Agile, took those values along with the other values from the other frameworks, and rolled it up into some more generalized statements. But at its core, all of it is just common sense to me. It’s talking to each other, rather than just blindly following a process. Right? What a crazy idea, let’s talk to each other first. Let’s get some stuff working. Let’s be very, very open and transparent about it. Then we can get on with the practices that you know a lot of people in traditional project management, start with a lot of traditional practices start with the documentation. They start with the process, they start with plans. With Scrum and Agile, it’s flipped. We start with this crazy idea of people of talking to each other working stuff out, then writing down our shared understanding. So it’s not that we’re not gonna document. It’s not that we’re not going to have some of these practices. We are just not the at the expense of completely misunderstanding each other. Because you can totally misinterpret the written word.

george grombacher 4:34
That’s never happened ever, ever, ever.

Angela Johnson 4:38
And see emojis emoticons, right? It’s like, here’s what we really mean.

george grombacher 4:44
You’re right, that is common sense. And, like so many things in life, like literally, all we want to do is just do tactics and strategy. But if we don’t agree on the The philosophy and the values and we’re not all on the same page, you could do all the tactics and strategies in the world, it’s not going to, it might work, but it’s not going to be as efficient as it could be

Angela Johnson 5:11
correct. And that’s a we see a lot of people will come to our workshops, we do offer a certification workshop. And so some people in their rush to get the letters behind their name and to learn all the mechanics, or those practices go straight there. And you hit the nail right on the head. If they skip that philosophy, if they skip the mindset, then they come back and go, Well, it’s not working. Well, wait a minute, why isn’t it working for you? Let’s look at some of the choices you made. And you skipped all the, the mindset. So you’re actually misusing the practice. No wonder it’s not working. No wonder it’s not working for you. Yeah,

george grombacher 5:51
that’s certainly not a surprise. And going back to the, to the actual rugby deal, all the people on the team are certainly aligned, and they understand the rules, and they understand the goals, and they understand their teammate. And that allows them to work so closely together on such big problems. So again, it seems really, really, really important, but also very human, that people would simply skip over that just to learn the strategies and stuff like that.

Angela Johnson 6:21
Yes, absolutely. And I think that’s common if you have done traditional process, or you’ve done traditional project management, because that’s where they start start. They start showing you Gantt charts and project plans and these monolithic documents, and everybody thinks that’s where they need to go. And it’s like, well, well, well, we’re doing something different. We’re doing something different, we’ll get to that. Sure. But we’re not going to just misread a bunch of words, we’re going to talk to each other. And then we can figure out how we want to work together.

george grombacher 6:53
And this happened fast. Can I like how do you actually, so I come to the program, I embrace the philosophy, I learn the actual practice of it. And then I take it back to my organization, how do I actually make the rubber meet the road effectively?

Angela Johnson 7:12
Organizations is a whole ball of wax, right? Is it a company of 10 people or 10,000? People? Right, my sweet spot is organizations that are 6000 or less. And if you think about why companies that are 6000, or fewer people, preferably privately held, we have fewer bodies, we have less red tape, potentially regulatory. And now we are poised to pivot faster, the bigger the organization, the longer it’s gonna take. And I mean, it may never happen, right? Just because there’s 10s of 1000s of people, you may be publicly traded with a board of directors and shareholders and I could go on. But if you come to a workshop, it’s a totally different philosophy than other certifications, because people say, but I don’t have any experience. You don’t need it. You didn’t have any experience when you got your driver’s license either. But they sure as heck handed you that license to get on on the road after you pass the test. So you did a little behind the wheel and nobody said, you’re now an expert. No, they said, you know, barely enough to be street legal. So it’s the same kind of philosophy. Come to a two day workshop, we’re going to teach you a different way of working enough to be street legal. And there’s going to be a quiz. But then once you get that quiz passed, and you get the three letters behind your name, go do it. Just go start working this way. And if you do want to get higher level credentials, those are available, of course. But this the Certified Scrum Master has become kind of the resume screener out there in the world of work. And we have people all over the map when you talk about well, what kind of industry Angela, the IT community, the information technology community tends to be the fast adopters. And this did become popular in it. So some people might even be listening and say, Well, that’s what those it talks IT people talk about. They talk about agile or they talk about that scrum stuff. Isn’t that an IT thing? No. This is a we’re all in this together thing. So although it became popular, and it we have school teachers who came to our workshops that are running their classrooms using Scrum, we have people flipping houses using Scrum, because they got a cross functional group of people to work differently and to do that faster with higher quality. We’ve got people in med device, people who make foam products, robotic devices. Oh, yeah. And software. So it’s all over the place. You know, with people learning to work this way to work differently.

george grombacher 9:57
Why wouldn’t I want this? Why wouldn’t I want to have Got a two kids and a wife and another kid on the way and maybe one day we’ll have a dog, why wouldn’t want everybody to be able to do this?

Angela Johnson 10:10
Some people are resistant to change, you know, some people just think that the more they can try to control change, and you said you have kids, so you know, change control, not going to happen, right? Any parent knows, you can try to control change, it just happens. So if we learn to roll with it, or adapt with it, we’re going to be poised to have a saner life and to make better choices. You know, I don’t know how old your kiddos are, but mine just turned 11. And so when distance learning was a thing, when COVID first hit, and everybody had to be at home, a lot of parents were telling me just horror stories about kids being checked out. And being demoralized and not learning anything. And I was thinking, we don’t have it so bad in my household. And as I thought about why my kid knows how to work it to do list. In Scrum, we have an ordered list that we call a backlog. Well, we’ve been working with our son, since he was four and a half on self management, pulling the highest thing off the list, and making it very, very visible, what’s in progress until we get it to done. So I was thinking to myself, well, that was a nice set of circumstances that we had already started using the method that we teach in our household. And it’s paying off during distance learning because he didn’t have such an adjustment period, that kids who had not been indoctrinated into that self management did.

george grombacher 11:40
Those are two of my favorite words in the entire English language put together self management, I guess it’s one word, whatever, you get the idea, I think it’s one of the most important things that that that is out there. So is that you? In order for somebody to be a self manager, they need to understand, to do lists prioritization, focus work, things like that. So I go into a 6000 person organization, or 5000, or whatever. I am the CEO of this organization, I see. Okay, wow, if we could get a lot of those people, 6000 people to become self managers, that would increase our productivity by 5% 10%. And that would be giant.

Angela Johnson 12:24
Absolutely. And so often, CEOs, leaders will have good intentions, they’ll say we want higher accountability. And then the very first thing they do is take it away from people, they take people’s accountability away by trotting out layers of adult daycare providers. Accountability has to be experienced. Somebody has to say I got this to done boom, self management, their accountability just went way up. But we’re so in intentional sometimes with no, no, no, no, no. Let me tell you what to do. Let me tell you how to do it. Let me tell you, whoa, whoa, whoa, now you just put in an automatic resistor? Well, that isn’t my idea. That was just the boss’s idea. So you want buy in you want self management, you want higher accountability? We have to trust people to do that. We have to give them the opportunity to do that.

george grombacher 13:19
Is it what is it term the is appropriate? Is it like a pod or a pod? We’ll have the scrum master. And then they have 20 people under their purview that they’re helping just I want to ask

Angela Johnson 13:32
a team, I do understand what you’re asking. And some people have adopted the word pod. So that’s why it was like, Oh, how you’re very current. adopt it, right. Some people have adopted that word if they don’t like Scrum, but it’s just the scrum team. So we have developers and we don’t mean software developers, we do mean product developers, doers, delivery people, people, whatever you want to call them. We have a product owner, and they’re kind of our quarterback calling the shots. They’re the they’re kind of the person saying, here’s the intention. You all go figure it out. Here’s the goal and objective now I asked you on the how SCRUM masters are the coaches that the master of Scrum. They’re kind of that you know that that Sensei, so coaches don’t run in there and rip the ball out of your hands. They don’t say, Oh, let me do that for you. They give you feedback. They make suggestions, they make observations, they ask the tough questions are the ones that force somebody into self reflection. So that’s really the role of a scrum master is to be that coach to be that guide.

george grombacher 14:41
What is the we talked about to do lists and prioritization and being committed to it? What, what are some of the other or is that those are some of the fundamental things that each contributor each human being needs to have? What what do I as the screw On master scrum leader, pod leader, king of pod, need to make sure that each individual contributor knows or does.

Angela Johnson 15:10
It sounds really simple. But in practice, sometimes as adults, adult learners or people who’ve been in the workforce X number of yours, you know, practice makes permanent. There’s this tendency, especially in virtual, there’s this tendency to kind of go down your own little rabbit hole, and forget about the other people. So one of the things we have is a 15 Minute check in every day, just to find out, are people on track? Are they not on track? Can you be of help to one of your teammates? Do you need help from one of your teammates? So kind of forcing that transparency every single day, but then also reminding people, this is a team, you have teammates here, you do not have to tackle all this stuff alone? Could somebody help you. And until we have the conversation until we forced the transparency, sometimes people just forget, they, they just forget. And at the end of a free time box that we call a sprint, which is just a fancy word for saying one week, two weeks, three weeks, you know, how, how are our chunks of work going to naturally flow? Oh, at the end of that chunk, we reflect on what we could have done better. So if you’ve heard of lessons learned, or I hate the phrase post mortem, when people use that in projects, I’m like, God, did somebody really die seriously, something, something died. Sometimes you can’t take advantage of those great ideas at all, because they break up the team. And then they’re on to the next thing. With Scrum. We’re immediately taking those ideas into account and putting them into practice so that we can go, does that make things better? Oh, crap, it didn’t. Let’s try something else. Oh, that made things so much better. Well, then let’s go on to the next thing. It’s this idea of continuously improving, making that commitment to really working differently.

george grombacher 17:04
Post Mortem is such a terrible term, isn’t it? It’s so gross. It’s like our project is done, something’s dead, something died. Terrible.

Angela Johnson 17:13
That’s positive.

Unknown Speaker 17:15
Right. So

george grombacher 17:17
this 15 minute check in every day, I can see that going several different ways, I can see people really appreciating it, because they’re there, they understand and they are bought in. And I can see people really resisting it. And that could be a wonderful selection tool to help somebody select out of an organization.

Angela Johnson 17:37
Totally. And it all goes into the scrum master and the expectations that they said, I, I do run into a number of Scrum Masters who do it a disservice who don’t understand the intent of it themselves. And then they set it up to fail by just calling on every single person like they’re some sort of like I say, adult daycare provider or Romper Room administrator, so calling on each person and then saying what would you do yesterday? What what are you going to do today, you know, turning it into this really gross status report. And that is not the intention. The intention is to let the team self manage. So a better practice is if a scrum master were to say, Hey, George, why don’t you start us off? And you could, you could say, You know what I am doing really well. I’m on track, I don’t really need anybody’s help. I’m throwing the ball to Angela, you know, so let them self manage by calling on the next person. And teaching the intention is a scrum master move that can really set us up for success. So if they teach people, the intention is not to find out what you had for lunch yesterday, and what you did at 115? Or did you put a cover sheet on your TPS report? None of that the intention is, are you on track for our goals? Do you need any help? Are you available to help anybody? That’s about it. And if you really don’t have anything beyond that, then toss the ball right call on your pal next. So I do see a lot of Scrum Masters exasperate the problem of, hey, I want to opt out, because they set this up to be a de facto status report. And it is not intended to be.

george grombacher 19:18
I’ve been in organizations that have, and I’ve never thought about it like this before, but some just cringy meetings where everybody would have to go around and report sort of numbers or progress. And there’s an opportunity to make it an extremely productive session, which is what you just described. But that’s, that’s why people need training. So we need to understand how to actually implement this and how to make it a effective and empowering thing to do things you’re talking about. So I love it. Cool. Super cool. Angela. Well, thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can they engage? Where can they go? Get a copy of your book, The scrum master files,

Angela Johnson 20:03
two ways. If they go to scrum We actually have a free gift that people can opt in and download. It is a three simple and easy ways to get started with Agile and Scrum. So if they just go to scrum they can grab that free gift straight away. The second way I engage with people is primarily LinkedIn. But a name like Angela Johnson, you’re gonna find about 30,000 of us. So if you put in Angela Johnson Scrum, I bubble right up to the top.

Unknown Speaker 20:36
That’s literally how I found you on LinkedIn

george grombacher 20:38
this morning. Angela. You should you should put a scrum team together with all the Angela Johnson’s.

Angela Johnson 20:44
Oh my gosh, some of them are in much, much more interesting fields. There’s

a comedian, there’s a singer there’s I mean, there’s all kinds of Angela Johnson’s children’s book author. Yeah.

george grombacher 20:57
Awesome. I love it. Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did, so enjoy your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to scrum It’s SC r u m Pick up that free gift that Angela has been talking about how to start actually implementing these ideas and find her on LinkedIn as well Angela Johnson Scrum. And if this resonated with you, as it did with me, it could be a great fit for your organization. It’s good, Angela. Thank you. And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best

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