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“No one cares how fast you were going if you shipped a product that is not usable.”
When someone mentions agile - what are your associations to the word, both positive and negative?
Aljaž: Too often, I hear people associate agile in product development with speed alone. “Look at how many issues we closed!”, “Look how quickly we went to production!”, “Time is money, so don’t waste it!”, etc. Designers get especially frustrated in such environments. No one cares how fast you were going if you shipped a product that is not usable, desirable and/or economically viable.
To me, agile is much more about adaptability. Acknowledging you are working on assumptions, allowing yourself to explore multiple options and accepting failures as stepping stones on your way to success. Perhaps that perspective comes from being a designer and shows why I love prototyping so much. With it, you are learning(!) fast, but shipping only stuff that is actually worth shipping.
You are working on digital products. How goes the way you work to relate to agile?
Aljaž: When I came to 3fs, it was already a very agile company. Product owners were trying to convey product ideas via rough wireframes, teams were using kanban, and initial development phases would often use off-the-shelf UI themes and other shortcuts in order to get early results with limited cost. However, it still meant using a whole development team from day 1, and designers only had a minor role in the process.
Nowadays, digital design tools have prototyping capabilities, getting better each day. So we started leveraging that, spearheading each product initiative with prototypes created by a designer in collaboration with PO and a consulting engineer. This enables a significant increase in the fidelity of exploration and rate of validation before each full-team build, making the process more cost-effective and risk-averse.
If you would describe non-agile and agile companies with a metaphor of an animal, what would they be and why?
Aljaž: I’d say most animals have great situational awareness and bodily capabilities, as they are crucial to their daily survival. But, animals are specific to their native environment. Change that environment to quickly, and all their awareness and capabilities may not be enough to sustain them in the long run. They are simply unfit to cope, new species will need to emerge that exploit (rather than fight) the new conditions.
What is one main change you’d love to see in our work culture in companies in the next 10 years?
Aljaž: We already see a generational shift at 3fs, with younger employees looking for “meaningful” work, and looking closely at company values, relationships, and amenities when considering a job.
But, if we really want everyone at the company to work towards common goals, they need more than that. They need greater ownership of the final results (the good and the bad ones). Not just in attribution or decision making, but equity as well. I recently read an article in The Economist, titled Who are companies for?, and I highly recommend reading its musings on drivers of healthier competition: tying ones’ motivations to long-term value, rather than just monthly paychecks or quarterly returns.
What is on your bucket list for 2019 that you really want to do?
We have an exciting roadmap for 3fs, and I will continue to contribute to the best of my abilities in making it a reality. One big obstacle to our development is the lack of qualified designers. Too many are still stuck polishing designs in drawing tools, lacking technical insights or business proficiency to deliver outcomes, rather than pixels. A small talent pool, like Slovenia, only exacerbates the issue. So I started looking at the possibilities to remedy that, and have a few ideas I’d like to test out in the following year.
Which (business) book did you read in the last few months that you would recommend and why?
I could talk at length about different ways-of-working, leadership and design resources, … but one of the most impactful reads of late has been the Matthew Walkers’ Why We Sleep. High-performing professionals, doing motivating work in agile environments are prone to over-work themselves (me not excluded), and Matthews has made it really clear how important rest is to concentration and creativity in problem-solving.
On a related note, I am also looking forward to reading It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson from Basecamp.
We talked with Andrej Zrimsek and Omar Dalgamuni from NiceLabel, where they adopted agile methodologies over 12 years ago. At Agile Slovenia, they will share their experience through the years of growth that lead them to ISO 9000 and how they managed to align it well with their agile processes.
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