Part IV: How Deconstructing the Agile Manifesto Makes You Better at Barbecue

Show Highlights

In this episode, Derek Lane and Matthew D Edwards deconstruct principles 3-6 of the Agile Manifesto to help software developers and engineers bring more value to clients but also, become better barbecue pitmasters.

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0:00:00.1 M Edwards: My guest, Derek Lane and I continue our conversation mapping the Agile Manifesto, and its 12 principles to making better barbecue. If this is your first time joining us, we’re covering principles three to six. If this one makes you hungry for more, go back and listen and be sure to subscribe as we drop two more episodes covering the last six.

0:00:25.1 D Lane: There are so many aspects of this that I think we ignore the barbecue face-to-face, the most effective means of communication and efficient is to give someone a piece of barbecue and watch their reaction.


0:00:41.5 M Edwards: Welcome to The Long Way Around the Barn, where we discuss many of today’s technology adoption and transformation challenges and explore varied ways to get to your desired outcomes. There’s usually more than one way to achieve your goals, sometimes the path is simple, sometimes the path is long, expensive, complicated, and or painful. In this podcast, we explore options and recommended courses of action to get you to where you’re going now.

0:01:13.1 Sponsorship: The Long Way Around the Barn is brought to you by Trility Consulting. For those wanting to defend or extend their market share, Trility simplifies automates and secures your world your way. Learn how you can experience reliable delivery results at

0:01:34.4 M Edwards: Let’s talk about principle three. So to deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months with a preference to the shorter time scale. Now, that harkens back to obviously number one, which is early and continuous.

0:01:51.0 D Lane: It also is representative of the state of software development in 2001 when this was written, it was written in February 2001. We have to realize, “Okay, that’s just after the end of 2000,” what happened in 2000, Y2K. Everybody was running around trying to retrofit legacy systems, so you had long development cycle, it was very common for things to be 18-month projects, these were very long type of delivery cycles that’s difficult for folks who are new to technology in the last five or 10 years to imagine it taking five years to deliver the next release of their web app or their mobile app, that’s incomprehensible. But that was reality at the time, that was a huge disruptive type of idea to be thinking that literally in a matter of weeks to months, we’re going to actually not just meet with the customer and show them what we have, we’re going to deliver working software. So correlating this to barbecue is a little more like that waterfall type of thing. The thing that’s useful to understand here is barbecue is a unique genre of food compared to almost anything else, at least in the U.S. that you can go to, you can go almost anywhere, and they open an hour, or the people who cook are there 30 minutes to an hour before the restaurant opens, you can order anything off the menu and get it in 30 minutes to an hour, from a steak to a salad to whatever casserole they have.

0:03:27.2 D Lane: Now, they may have a few things that may take longer than that, but they got there that early that morning and they made that so it’s relatively easy for them to pull it out, you cannot go to a barbecue restaurant if they’re out of brisket and say, “I’d like some brisket and have them whip it up… I’ll wait an hour.” No, you won’t. It won’t happen. “Well, we’re out of ribs,” no, that’s why when you go to a barbecue restaurant, it is common for them to have the menu and have a big line drawn through or something, and they say, “We’re out of this,” because the process it takes to make it is just time consuming, it’s the reality of the low and slow process, and so this idea of delivering from a couple of weeks to a couple of months can affect the planning or the sequencing of how you want to barbecue, if you like to, for example, cook beef ribs, there’s lots of places that quit cooking beef ribs because of the amount of time that it takes and the amount of space they take on the smoker for the number of people maybe who wanted them, so maybe they cut back to one day a week or one day a month.

0:04:39.1 D Lane: So on a certain day, first Saturday of the month, they’re gonna have beef ribs and it will literally say stay on the menu until they’re gone, and they will sell out every Saturday because once folks notice there, and that’s the only place, it’s not only a supply and demand type of problem, it’s literally a matter of, that’s the amount of time it takes for us to make this particular product, and you would like, I don’t wanna wait another two months or another three weeks or till a month from now on Saturday before you have it again, I want some right now, just like you said, I’m getting hungry right now. I would like some of that right now.

0:05:13.7 M Edwards: So one of my favorite parts of that third principle is deliver working software, and then the next word frequently, but deliver working software. My favorite part of that is, we typically tell people when we’re working with our own teams, we’re working with clients, we basically say to you, we want to deliver, we strive to deliver, we do deliver working, tested, demonstrable, production-capable software every iteration. The reason that I think that that’s important is, I don’t care if you have a working PowerPoint, do not show up and talk to me about a working document, I don’t care if you have 15 JPEGs of marker boards that you’ve worked on for 37 weeks.

0:06:00.3 M Edwards: When it comes down to serving the client, delighting the client, delivering what the client wanted. Can you imagine going to a barbecue restaurant and you said, “Dude, I want some ribs,” and they’re like, “You mean like that picture?” “Yeah, like that picture.” “Yeah, we don’t have those. But we have a great picture.” “Well, forget your picture, I’m freaking hungry. Find me some food, man.”

0:06:26.0 D Lane: “And we’re going to charge you full price for that picture.”

0:06:28.2 M Edwards: Yeah, so the clients aren’t interested in your working documents.

0:06:32.2 D Lane: No.

0:06:33.4 M Edwards: Or working tested documents or working, tested, demonstrable, production-capable documents, they want some freaking software that’s what they want. That’s my favorite part of that is deliver working software. And then also the qualifier: frequently, continuously.

0:06:50.4 D Lane: I would agree. I think that, again, to generalize this a little bit more, deliver working software could be deliver value, that means it has to be customer ready, and so this is another case in the case of barbecue where in software, you can take a lot of shortcuts and because it’s hidden in the code, your customer may never see it, they won’t know it, they’ll see the results of those shortcuts, but they won’t see the shortcuts themselves, you take shortcuts in barbecue, it may show up in just how it’s presented, it just looks sloppy on the plate or something, but it may also mean that now it’s a health hazard, there’s something you should have done that you didn’t do, you didn’t keep the product at a certain temperature for long enough and bacteria can be… And that’s true for all cooking. But those are things you need to learn specifically about barbecue, so they’re taking certain shortcuts, to me requires us to add in, essentially, the principle in my mind should say deliver value frequently with the preference for the shortest time scale that is feasible.

0:07:57.7 D Lane: So feasibility is directly related, feasible for certain value is different than feasible for other value. And in this case, because of the circa when this was written, we get from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. That’s really, I think, the context that the writers of this had, and again, 2001. And so it’s not that that’s wrong. It was very much effective and true back then, and a lot of people said it will never be possible to deliver every couple of weeks, I remember people saying that. I mean, big name people in big publications. It was not believed, maybe 100 years from now we’ll get there, but not any time soon. So now that we’re 20 years later and we realize, yes, we’ve been there for some time, and it was very doable back then, it just required things to be done in a more drastically different way, and a lot of those changes have become more mainstream now, so it’s not as drastic as it would have been in 2001, ready for number four?

0:08:58.1 M Edwards: Yeah, let’s do it. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project. So again, we said set right off the bat, that first principle cascades, it’s the top of the Christmas tree for everything that follows. And this point back to that again, actually work with the people, so business people and developers must be together, work together daily throughout the project, that seems so simple.

0:09:31.8 D Lane: And yet it is so far from simple for anybody who’s on it, even in either one of those groups. The thing that this points out to me is an inherent flaw in how organizations are organized. There should not be a separate group of business people and a separate group of developers, if they’re both working on the same product for the same market. They should all be part of the same group, there shouldn’t be two separate organizations. And this is where in business, we often find, especially in western organizations, we find a very hierarchical organization based on Taylor-ism or Ford-ism very much the assembly line type of pyramid, of folks up to the top. And you will find the person at the top of the business pyramid is different from the person at the top of the technology pyramid, and you’ll even see whether it’s the chief technology officer that’s in charge of all the technology and development, and it’s the VP of business development or whatever that’s in charge of business, they have different reward systems, they are rewarded in different ways for achieving different goals that many times, the bigger the organization, the more likely it is that all of the things they are each being rewarded on are actually at odds with each other.

0:11:00.4 D Lane: I worked for a customer one time and they were taking applications for loans, so the VP of Business, the goal they had set for that organization was to increase the number of applications by, I don’t know, 20% over some three month period of time, and that way they could increase the number of the ones that would go through the process and get approved. Now, the technology folks, they were being incentivized to identify fraudulent attacks against their loan system. So they were actually being incentivized to decrease the number of loans and make it harder to get through, and both of these are simultaneously going on and neither group knew about the other group’s priorities. And this is very common, especially in large organizations, but the number of times I’ve seen this or I talk to people and they tell me about this kind of scenario, it’s very common, so the simplicity, as you said, of this particular principle number four, is really encouraging us to rethink how we set up our organizations, it’s encouraging us to think about how we create our teams instead of having a technical team and a business team and a marketing team, and whatever team.

0:12:26.6 D Lane: Why do we do that? We do that because we’ve always done it. Okay, that’s not a good reason. Well, we do that because it’s efficient. Efficient for what? For delivering the customer value? I will challenge you and say, I don’t think that’s what the efficiency that you are optimizing for, so we’re taking the efficiencies from, again, the Tayloristic type of thinking, the assembly line type of thinking from Ford, we’re taking that and we’re still applying those efficiencies and modern business, but we don’t live in that business world anymore, especially in a knowledge-based world where we’re building technology and everybody has to be an expert in their niche or their space, or the number of tools and languages and domains that they have to understand, the level of expertise is much higher, their ability to think is required. It’s no longer optional as a person on an assembly line might have been where once I learned how to put these three pieces together and pass it to the next person, that was the degree of thinking I needed to do. Again, that becomes automatic pilot, that’s automatic pilot. Once I can learn that, I don’t have to learn anything else.

0:13:39.1 D Lane: So if I want to be promoted, I have got learn something new. Everybody on a software development team, it has to be able to think at all times if they’re not, or your management or the leadership is including them telling them, “You don’t need to think, I’ll do all the thinking for you,” that’s the kind of results you’re going to get, that’s a very dangerous thing to do, especially if you’re a software is life or death threatening or a huge financial system.

0:14:04.3 M Edwards: One of the reasons that I’ve heard, more than once, was that, as organizations grow, they need a better method of managing people, and so that then moves into, “Well, what do I do when my full-timer has been here a year and he comes to me for a raise? Well, how do I know how much money to give him? Well, I need to establish some type of step-by-step hierarchy of their vertical job line?” But what we’re really saying here, and it even goes down to one of the principles lower in the list, self-organizing teams, what we’re really saying here is, if you listened to the customer, and the customer said, “I want this experience or this outcome,” then part of the behaviors you’re going to exhibit is, well, in order to get this client from here to here so they could realize that outcome, I’m going to need this type of thinking and this type of thinking and this type of tool and this type of thing, what are all the things that I need in order to help this client realize their desired outcome? That’s a self-organizing team, but really it can only happen usefully with value. If the business and the developers as an example, are working together as a team.

0:15:25.9 D Lane: Yes, absolutely. Instead of saying business people and developers, which again, this is coming from the context of software technologist originally, we could simply say, everyone involved in delivering value for a specific customer segment, product, whatever, however the delivery packaging might be, needs to work together every day. If I’m not on the team when you’re learning this, because I already “know it,” then I will let you go through that learning curve and then I will meet you on the other side. We didn’t have the same learning experience, we didn’t learn the same thing, and this is huge because this is what this is really getting at, it’s not just, do these people talk, it’s are they going through the build, measure, learn cycle as a group of people who are going through the same learning curve at the same time.

0:16:17.1 M Edwards: They must journey together.

0:16:19.2 M Edwards: They have to do it together, and that’s really where the team work, not only happens to get through the journey, but the mental… It’s not synchronicity, but it is a shared understanding that is achieved by going through a learning at the same time, that shared context and understanding, it might have been if you had a team of nine, people that one or two folks, when you finish a particular delivery, what you delivered and what they initially understood was exactly the same for the most part. But many other people on the team that their understanding shifted or there were new elements that were added or they were able to understand some new aspect of your particular product or your market or your domain, by interacting with the customer and helping the customer go through that process as well. So again, while it focuses on business people and developers, we could extend that a little bit more by saying everyone involved, which would include the customer.

0:17:22.9 M Edwards: Principle number five. Build projects around motivated individuals. Okay, that’s fun. We’ll come back to that. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done. Now, those are two different things, they’re put together and they make sense, but build projects around motivated individuals.

0:17:47.1 D Lane: Well, we could definitely spend a lot of time talking about, are folks motivated and what motivates folks?

0:17:55.8 M Edwards: Well, you don’t pick up barbecue unless you actually want to taste barbecue. You’re a motivated individual.

0:18:02.0 D Lane: I would say in general, that’s true. That’s one of those rules. I always, eventually find somebody who’s an exception to that, somebody who will learn how to cook something because someone they love, likes it, but they will never actually eat it themselves, so they don’t know whether it’s really good or not, they completely depend on. Now, wouldn’t that be an interesting measure of success. If we delivered products to our customers, and our view of how successful or how well we did was 100% driven by the response of the customer, I’m not talking about our management, I’m not talking about our leadership, I’m talking about the actual person who is funding the development of this product. If we really got to number one, to the exclusion of however proud we were about the job we did, the level of craftmanship, the level of confidence that we brought, that had to be suspended until we heard what our customer said, boy, would the world be a different place.

0:19:07.2 M Edwards: So build projects around motivated individuals. The way I read that too though, I mean, there is a rabbit hole on motivation, right? But build projects around motivated individuals, the way I read that is, this project is going to get to where it needs to go, because the person that we are building around. So if I have a client, for example, when that client says, “I absolutely have to get here or we’re all going to die,” or, “I absolutely have to get here or my company is going under.” They’re highly motivated, they’re highly engaged, they’re highly invested. And to go and work with that client, you’re going to get to a finish line, to an MVP 01, to a first iteration or however you want to designate, you’re going to get there because of their conviction.

0:19:57.1 M Edwards: But that also applies to the teams, I believe. In other words, to have a client with conviction, and a team without conviction, that client is not going to be everything. That team has got to be monster attitude, also great attitude, great aptitude, an ability to listen, an ability to ask questions. The team has to have conviction, the client has to have conviction, and nothing is going to stop them, except possibly the employer, which is where we’re going in that next sentence, which is give them what they need in order to rock and roll. So if you have a team that’s convicted and says, “We’re butt kickers,” and a client that says, “Oh, we’re gonna win,” and then the environment gets in the way, it’s pretty hard to overcome that. So, the way I read that, and you tell me what you think is, find people that like to win, find people that like to have the ball, find people that like to be in the game and they want to get somewhere, and then give them what they need to rock and get out of the way.

0:21:05.6 D Lane: Well, what about this principle where it says, “Create an environment that supports them and trusts them.” Why don’t we hire people that we trust? So the reality is, is that you are encouraging these folks to leave, you’re encouraging them to learn what they can for the 12-18 months they’re going to be there until someone else recognizes their value and has an environment that allows them to achieve and develop and achieve their full potential. So, if instead of looking at this idea from this quote management position, where we’re trying to control people, if we instead looked at it in the, what if we were… Again, that’s what it’s being optimized for. If we looked at it from a leadership position and we said, “How do we value people in their interactions?” Which includes clients and employees and to all people. “How do we value them? How can we create that environment, give them the support they need?”

0:22:06.7 D Lane: Because we’re hiring people we trust, we’re working with people that our mission is compatible with achieving their particular goals, and we’re going to trust them to get the job done, that level of motivation, those companies, how do they control it? Well, they control cost, because everybody wants to work for that company. They control cost because they can actually pay people more and have a fewer people, because those people are motivated to do way more. So your revenue per employee ratio is going to be drastically different. The ability for us to know what this environment looks like is very difficult for the majority of folks who even work in a so-called agile or lean environment, because as you said, the company environment that they’re in is working on a different model. It’s not optimized, it’s not efficient for the people, and it’s not efficient and optimized for the delivery of value.

0:23:16.2 M Edwards: So if we look at principle six, the most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation. Now, obviously, this was written well before the era of COVIDs and all of the different types of distancing and all of that type of thing, and lots of teams were already geographically distributed. That’s not new, there are very many companies, very many teams that are geographically distributed, but they all deliver against one set of objectives as one team for one client, that type of thing. But what I love about this is it’s basically saying, “Hey, don’t just text, don’t just Slack, don’t just set it and forget it, send an email and just wait for a response,” contact somebody and have direct interaction with them, develop and build, grow this relationship, ’cause you’re on a journey together.

0:24:16.4 M Edwards: You start it together, you live it together, you’re in a ditch together, you’re in a pothole together, you fell because of a speed bump together, and you made it to the finish line together. That requires constant vigilant communication. I think that that parallels in a very lovely, lovely way to the idea of barbecue after you start that fire, it’s constant attention all the way to the end. Am I on the right track there?

0:24:44.6 D Lane: I think you’re right. I think one of the ways that we can illustrate how this principle is often misunderstood is going back to the second value comparison. We value working software over comprehensive documentation. The number of programmers I’ve heard that says, “Agile says we never have to document anything,” is a high number of people. And I’m like, “Okay, where does it say that?” And eventually they’ll dig this up and they’ll show it to me and I say, “Oh, I see,” so it says working software over documentation. Yeah. No, actually that’s not what it says. It says working software over comprehensive documentation. And again, a comprehensive documentation in the year 2000, 2001 was a much different thing than the documentation we have today. Trying to explain this to a college hire, 20-something is trying to explain something to them that they have never experienced.

0:25:42.5 D Lane: First of all, the most effective and efficient method of conveying information is face-to-face. This will often, I will hear this as, well, it says now that we have all these virtual teams so we can’t do Agile, like, that’s not what it says. “Help me understand how you got that out of this?” “Well, it says that we have to do face-to-face conversation to do Agile.” I’m like, “Well, no, that’s actually not what it says.” What it says is, the most effective and efficient, or, I got that in the wrong order, but efficient and effective. So the most efficient means of communication is face-to-face, the most effective means, now, those are not the same word, they definitely… We tend to use them interchangeably sometimes, but they do have a subtle difference in their meaning. So efficient means that there’s a level of succinctness or a level of sufficiency that I can say is true with efficient communication.

0:26:42.7 D Lane: Effectiveness means, but did it work? Did you understand what I was saying? And if you didn’t, did you let me know and was it visible? Was it immediately visible? Did it become visible to you with small amount of time, a little bit of effort as opposed to weeks or months later? Now we’re back to documentation, let’s counter that. If there were 200 pages of documentation, which used to be the reality, read this Business Requirements Documents as BRD, and then we’ll let you start talking about how we’re going to build the system. Well, how many folks read that 200 pages? And the reality is, 200 would be a very small set of documentation. It was more on the order of tens of thousands, if not larger. An excellent skimmer, and what did you miss? You missed something, what was it, how important was it? Was it effective? So to me, what this is saying, and a lot of these are very… Their Scrum is built on top of this. I can map the Scrum guide directly to these values and principles, but I see a lot of extreme programming here.

0:27:49.3 D Lane: Again, where I’m looking at this and I’m saying, the most effective and efficient means of conveying information to a team, well, that’s typically someone outside the team. Okay, well, that might be the customer, so why don’t we just have the customer come sit with us, that’s one of the XP 12 principles, work with a customer every day, okay? And I don’t mean work with a customer through Slack, I mean side by side, sitting down working. And then the next one is that we’re going to within a development team. Okay, well then now we’re back to business and developers should work together daily. So again, we’re back to face-to-face. Well, okay, we’ve got COVID, nobody works face-to-face anymore. Can you communicate? Yes, it’s a reasonable proxy, given the dangers of face-to-face proximity with a pandemic, but it is not a drop in replacement, but it also doesn’t mean that we should ignore that face-to-face isn’t the most effective and efficient, which to me, I thought they were very intentional in how they structured this particular principle.

0:29:00.9 D Lane: We’re not saying it’s the only way to communicate. We’re saying it’s the most effective and efficient, so there are some best aspects to it, but there are times when we realize that’s not true. So, a co-located team, a team where everyone is literally physically sitting next within ear shot of each other, those are almost always the most effective teams.

0:29:24.9 M Edwards: Those are ideal. 

0:29:28.0 D Lane: That’s an ideal scenario for everyone. Now, there’s so many aspects of this that I think we ignore. The barbecue, face-to-face, the most effective means of communication and efficient is to give someone a piece of barbecue and watch their reaction.

0:29:42.6 M Edwards: Right on. It amplifies for me again, relationships are everything. And that’s so far, everything that we’ve talked about has talked about the value of the relationship, the value of the behaviors that enhance or amplify or enable the relationship, but it’s all about the relationship. So if you’d like to deliver value and value in a way that’s actually well, heck, valued by the client, if you want to deliver value to the client in the way that they appreciate, it’s constant communication, constant relationship, constant presence with each other. It’s not talking every once in a while. So far out of all the things we’ve talked about, I think they all continue to amplify relationships matter.

0:30:29.7 D Lane: Absolutely. I think the way that you emphasized the particular term “relationship” is what gets at the face-to-face aspect. I can have a lot of relationships remotely, but they’re not the same, typically the same level, the same quality as being face-to-face, being literally, and whether it’s good or bad, it’s typically not the same level of the same quality.

0:31:00.5 M Edwards: Thanks for joining us, keep coming back and we’ll keep serving up conversations on barbecue as we cover the last six principles of the Agile Manifesto.


0:31:13.9 Sponsorship: The Long Way Around The Barn is brought to you by Trility Consulting, where Matthew serves as the CEO and president. If you need to find a more simple, reliable path to achieve your desired outcomes, visit


0:31:31.2 M Edwards: To my listeners, thank you for staying with us. I hope you were able to take what you heard today and apply it in your context, so that you’re able to realize the predictable, repeatable outcomes you desire for you, your teams, company, and clients. Thank you.



Part III: How Deconstructing the Agile Manifesto Makes You Better at Barbecue

Show Highlights

In this episode, Derek Lane and Matthew D Edwards deconstruct the first two principles of the Agile Manifesto to help software developers and engineers bring more value to clients but also, become better barbecue pit masters.

Read the Transcript

0:00:00.0 M Edwards: I’ve had a large breakfast to prepare for this episode, if this is your first time joining us, welcome. I hope it makes you hungry enough to listen to the previous one and the ones that follow all including my guest, Derek Lane. Derek and I are mapping how understanding the Agile Manifesto and it’s 12 principles can not only help you in your journey to add value to your clients, companies and teams, but can also help you understand and improve your barbecue journey along the way, get your forks out, we’re cutting up the first two principles in this episode.

0:00:34.8 Derek Lane: Let’s elaborate a little bit on it from the barbecue standpoint, as I said, when I first started learning how to drive a smoker, I was really just focusing on one thing, so I’m just going to cook brisket or chicken or whatever it is until I feel like I’ve gotten it to release level, I feel like I can release it, it’s an actual major release, a 1.0, I made a lot of minor releases along the way, I found something that’s repeatable and something that the folks who are… my family or whoever is eating here likes. And now I can learn something different.


0:01:16.6 M Edwards: Welcome to the Long Way Around The Barn, where we discuss many of today’s technology adoption and transformation challenges and explore varied ways to get to your desired outcomes. There is usually more than one way to achieve your goals. Sometimes the path is simple, sometimes the path is long, expensive, complicated and/or painful. In this podcast, we explore options and recommended courses of action to get you to where you’re going now.

0:02:08.0 M Edwards: We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work, we’ve come to value individuals and interactions over process and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more, and that is a wonderful statement, it doesn’t say, these are the things we believe, therefore, all of the other things that aren’t those statements are wrong and bad and horrible. They’re basically saying all of these things may have a time or place. The things that we value, we choose to amplify and pursue are the things on the left, but it doesn’t discredit or devalue the things on the right.

0:03:07.8 M Edwards: And so a lot of folks spend time on this, and that is very, very meaty. I hate to make that pan, although it is funny, it’s a very, very meaty, very short piece of information, but then at the bottom of that page, when you go to the 12 principles, there are 12 principles. I’ll read the first one and then, let’s talk about these things. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. That’s huge already.

0:03:39.4 Derek Lane: And definitely very difficult to do. I think back to the original, the first comparison that you made with the values, one of the things that we try to amplify in the 20-Day 

Agility Challenge that we have referenced before, and we’ll talk a little bit more about, at, is the model that shows each of those value comparisons as a set of scales, where you’ve got one of those values on the left and one of the values on the right, and when it says, we value this more, it means, from my standpoint, we always give that more weight, we have a preference, a deference for that, given that we end up needing to compare, are these two things seen to be at odds with each other. It helps us make a more informed decision in light of being consistent with our values and principles, and as we ship to the principles I think the same thing is very similar as we discuss principles in a coaching standpoint with software development or product development teams, and we are running the same thing with barbecue, is these things will seem to be at odds with each other.

0:04:55.3 Derek Lane: So we have to determine what is the decision process for, how do we solve this, how do we resolve this particular issue? So one of the mistakes for years that I made and without knowing, and a lot of it was the way I was coached, the way I was trained, was to go through that process and then we get into the mechanics of scrum so  I’m constantly trying to figure out, is there’s something that could be improved? And I realized, why are people not referring to these values and principles? Why am I having to keep restating them? Well, because I told them at the very beginning, in whatever training we did that they were really insignificant.

0:05:40.0 Derek Lane: We spent 30 minutes to an hour talking about it, and then we spent the rest of the training time, the rest of the day, the rest of the week, the rest of the next six months coaching on stand-ups and whatever it was that we talked about, building and managing backlogs, those things can be useful, but those are the practices, and one of the things that’s really useful to understand is that the Agile Manifesto is not about practices as a general statement, it’s more about values of principles. Again, the same thing can be correlated to barbecue. Barbeque, if you really want to know the difference between good and outstanding barbecue, as we talked about before, the fundamentals are already there, you can’t tell how many fundamentals this particular pit master is using at the same time because they all flow together. They’re using many different principles and mechanism simultaneously, so there’s a lot there that even they’re not aware of, it just becomes so much a part of who they are. So the highest priority, to me that pretty much says, “This is the thing we’re pursuing.” What is the whole reason we’re doing any of this, that’s our highest priority, any time we have a chance to prioritize, this is what we should prioritize for, and to me, that’s where this starts.

0:07:02.1 Derek Lane: What’s the next most important thing? Well, it’s to satisfy the customer. Well, this brings up a really interesting idea, I suspect when you were growing up and learning just even before getting out of high school, you’ve probably heard many times, “The customer is always right.” You heard that particular statement or a cliché. Well, obviously today, in today’s climate, the customer is rarely right, because everybody has an opinion and everybody’s going to tell you the 57 million ways that you’re wrong.

0:07:35.6 M Edwards: [laughter] It’s tough.

0:07:37.6 Derek Lane: It is.

0:07:39.6 M Edwards: It’s a practiced behavior. For sure.

0:07:40.9 Derek Lane: Absolutely. And what this is saying is that the highest priority is to satisfy the customer, meaning we need to understand what it is will satisfy the customer, and oftentimes they don’t know. As we talk about barbecue, often times we don’t know what’s going to. And this is one of the great things you see exhibited in every one of these TV shows where there’s a barbecue contest and they’ve got the proverbial three judges, and they’re all saying, “Well, I like this one because it was… The ribs fell off the bone.” And the other one says, “Well no, to me, the rib shouldn’t fall off the bone, they should be almost falling off the bone.” And the other one says, “Well for me, I should be able to twist the bone and pull the ribs straight out.” And then that’s perfect. Okay, well, these are definitely opinions, but depending on which one is your customer, depends on how they value the characteristic you’ve been able to achieve.

0:08:31.0 M Edwards: That’s an interesting thing that you’re bringing up, and I’ve been in multiple conversations about this, is we as individuals, aspire, many of us aspire to become the masters of our craft, knowing full well that if you really understand craftsmanship, will only ever plus one infinity. I heard the customers say they want to go to X, but I already know that they’re thinking too small and they should go to Z, and because I have success and they called me, therefore I should take them to Z, but really what this first statement is saying is your highest priority is to satisfy the customer, and that means listening to what the customer is asking for, meeting them where they are, and shepherding them to where they want to go. I might know more than the client at this particular time on this particular subject, but it’s irrelevant. The client said, I would like to have hot dogs on the grill. I know that the hot dogs are not going to be fulfilling on the grill, but with that egotistical, perhaps self-centered statement, I also overlook the fact that they currently have no grill and they haven’t had grilled hot dogs.

0:09:53.3 M Edwards: So if I can help them get a grill and I can help them get grilled hot dogs, as much commentary, I might go with the hot dog, that is helping them move forward, and that is how they’re defining value. So this is a really interesting and conflicting statement, for people who are choosing to become their best and do their best on a regular basis, but then don’t understand why the client may not be where they are, and then having to remove yourself from this equation, my highest priority is to satisfy you, my customer. You want to go some place I’ve already been, rather than trying to make you come to where I am, I’m going to go to where you are and help you experience the journey, experience learning and experience delight. I think that this first principle, in and of itself, sets the stage for all cascading decisions here after. I love this first principle.

0:10:48.9 Derek Lane: I agree. Those are great insights. I think one of the things that we fail to see when we first read the Agile Manifesto, including these principles, is the subtlety and the depth of how we improve over time our own learning journey, and these things are very subtle, they’re very difficult to ascertain until you’ve made many mistakes over time, and you begin to see these patterns.

0:11:21.0 M Edwards: Which goes back to your illustration of some of the barbecue masters or competitors, because of their journey, they may not even tacitly recognize or recall for you, “These are the 14 things that I do, I do them in this order, in this combination because… ” Really what’s happening is they’ve done it so long and they’ve practiced so many different iterations and combinatorials and so on, they may not even realize how they have blended or how many steps were actually in there or how to deconstruct it and teach it. So it’s gotta be a journey, but really if you take one of those barbecue masters and say, “Teach me.” It may take them a few minutes to figure out, “Alright, what’s the most important thing to say first.”

0:12:08.3 Derek Lane: Yes, because teaching and learning, not the same activity, and while they’re related and they can, each one can amplify the other as it’s often stated, and I’ve definitely learned one of the best ways to learn something or to demonstrate the things you have left to learn is to try to teach it, teach it to someone who’s at your level or lower. And you will expose the things that you thought you had a high degree of understanding or mastery or ability to communicate and you will learn, “Okay, this isn’t working, I realize I only really know three ways to say this and I need to learn seven more.” And this gives you the chance to expose that about yourself. And this is part of learning how to be, in my case, a continuous learner, but learning how to be an effective continuous learner, being interested in lots of different things is one thing, being interested and effective in learning those things, I’ve learned, is another level that I can improve.

0:13:15.2 M Edwards: Let me push us forward just into the second sentence as is written, through early and continuous delivery of valuable software, those are three conversation spots right there, through early, so this isn’t established the agreement, receive trust, disappear and come back six months later with what you perceive to be mad magic, but rather early, which is, “Hey, I know we just started this conversation three days ago, I’ve had some thoughts, I have some deliverable, some prototype, something for us to look at, poke at and talk about and change, it’s now, I start the relationship now, I start delivering now, and then I continuously iterate and continuously deliver along the way, so we’re only able to discover value through the eyes of the client by learning to ask questions and then practicing shutting up. Ask questions, shut up, ask questions, shut up and deliver iteratively. This first principle sets the stage for entire relationships, entire engagements, entire product delivery experiences. Every one of these is a wonderful entree of meat.

0:14:27.5 Derek Lane: Absolutely, I think you’re completely right. So let’s maybe elaborate a little bit on it from the barbecue standpoint, as I said, when I first started learning how to drive a smoker, I was really just focusing on one thing, so I’m just going to cook a brisket or chicken or whatever it is until I feel like I’ve gotten it to release level, I feel like I can release it, it’s an actual major release of 1.0, I made a lot of minor releases along the way, I found something that’s repeatable and something that the folks who are… My family or whoever is eating here likes. And now I can learn something different. To me, what I’ve also learned is now that I want to try different things as you grow and expand the number of things you cook, I no longer want to cook just chicken or what goes with chicken. Well, I want to cook something else. I want to cook some smoked beans. I want to cook some… You know, I want to cook some cobbler. Okay, so now we’re getting… Okay, now I’m not just cooking one thing on the smoker and everything else in the house, I’m cooking the whole meal on the smoker, and one of the things this holds through early in continuous delivery.

0:15:41.9 Derek Lane: Because working with the smoker tends to be a rather drawn out process compared to most folks who go in the kitchen and 30 minutes to an hour, they’ve whipped something up. Not the case here where we may have hours, even a day or so of time actually cooking, because it is low and slow. So one of the things I’ve learned to include in my plan, in my strategy, is I want to have satisfied customers, I want folks… So I figure out, “When are you coming over?” And if you’re coming over in the middle of the day, well, guess what, I’m cooking lunch too. While the brisket or whatever may not be ready until dinner until 5:00 or 6:00 or 7:00. There’s going to be something in the middle, so we’re going to have the hot dogs, hamburgers, fish, chicken, we’re going to have something else, cobbler, we’re going to have cobbler, a crisp. There’s so many different variations of these recipes, and we’re going to have one of those or two of those, we’re going to have some different… If I find out that folks, like in the South, especially in Texas, something with jalapeños is typically very big, so whether you stuff them with brisket or cream cheese and you wrap them in bacon or chicken or you put onions or whatever the recipe is that you have, those typically take anywhere from about 45 minutes to an hour and a half.

0:17:11.6 Derek Lane: Well, now all of a sudden I’ve got… And it’s no different to when you go to a restaurant, you serve like an appetizer, well, the point of that is to not just hold you over because it’s taking the chef longer to cook here, it’s to create an experience and to allow you to incrementally improve. Here we are through early and continuous delivery of valuable barbecue, but because I’ve done this continuous and early, they can go back and say, “But that chicken or those kebabs or that cobbler, that is the best I’ve ever had.”

0:17:43.5 M Edwards: Right. So you’ve managed the relationship all along the way, which then helps build and manage and set expectations as well, which is basically saying, “Hey, we have together step by step for some period of time, there were some things you absolutely loved, there were some things you wanted me to modify again for next time, and then when we finally did get to… ” We were calling the brisket, for example, we’re calling the brisket the culmination of a wonderful day, and then I just didn’t rock it. It wasn’t amazing. There were all those other things that were amazing along the way as well, it’s a really interesting way to manage the expectations with the client. Alright, so let’s talk about the second principle, welcome changing requirements, even late in development, Agile processes, harness change for the customers competitive advantage. That is gold. I love every word in that sentence, and it flies in the face of so many expectations we set for ourselves when we’re running projects, scope request, scope changes, all of the drama that goes with that, contract changes, etcetera, but the reality is, this statement is saying, prepare for, expect, and in particular, my favorite word, invite change, don’t be afraid of the dark rooms without flashlights, invite the opportunity to become more and to add more value for the client.

0:19:22.0 Derek Lane: So we just talked about the first principle, which we really focused on the highest priority is to satisfy the customer, what is number two about, it’s we’re harnessing change for the customers competitive advantage, it’s still about the customer, the customer is still the goal, the focus.

0:19:41.0 Derek Lane: The way that the customer interacts with us is going to be through their learning process as well. The number of times I’ve had a customer be convinced, whether it’s a turn key thing or just the next incremental quarterly release that they have, I know exactly what it is my market wants, this is what they want, this is what… The number of times that they actually validated that with the market is a very small number. The person who’s driving this tends to be a product person, a sales or marketing person, someone who maybe is an expert, they’re certified accountant or lawyer or business person, a financial person, they may be an expert in their domain, but when we’re dealing with trying to achieve something for a customer, we actually have to do the thing we talked about, you have to talk to and listen to your customer. There’s any number of things that could change, that could cause, as time passes, the customer to change their view about what they want, and many times, back in decades ago when the delivery, the development and delivery process was much longer and was expected to be because you just couldn’t build technology and software that fast and deliver it.

0:21:04.3 Derek Lane: You could take six months to a year. The customer could come look at it, like you said, disappear, come back a year later, look at it, and you could show them, this is exactly what you asked for. And they will almost always say, that’s not what I want. And you said, but that’s what you asked for. It says so right here in the contract, but it’s not what I meant. Okay, it doesn’t include this, and we just heard two months ago about this, but if we don’t do that continuous early conversation, and if we don’t do the focus on change in requirements so that as we learn, again, the lean startup to build, measure, learn. We don’t do those things in that order, and it’s just a big circle then we are going to miss this chance to be able to help the customers be and stay competitive.

0:21:53.6 M Edwards: Yeah, that’s a really good call out, it’s just an interesting thing, even if you look at your own personal behavior, not you personally, but if I look at my own personal behavior, there’s what… First of all, it’s my own kids that helped me learn that I wasn’t as great a communicator as I believed that I was, one of my kids, just said, “Dad, you’ve probably heard this, but you seem like you have forgotten it. There’s what you said, there’s what you meant. There’s what was heard.” And of course, she nailed me, so I was very happy to know that my daughter heard me and that she was applying some of the things that we had talked about through the years, and then she used it on me, that was less pleasant, but she was absolutely right. And so I reflected back on that with clients, how often have they said, this is what I want, but I didn’t hear what they meant, and then I didn’t reflect back to them what I heard so that they could refine. The conversation in and of itself is an objective, to your point, there’s an inspection re-factor loop involved in the conversation over and over and over again, so to welcome changing requirements doesn’t mean that you have no backlog, it doesn’t mean you have no product road map, it doesn’t mean you have no priority, it doesn’t mean it’s the Wild West.

0:23:17.7 M Edwards: I have heard someone say, “We do Agile, therefore we don’t have product plans and project plans, we just adapt.” That’s not true, that’s not the implementation that makes the most sense for the client, that’s… They’re blowing money out the window and just hoping like stink that it’s going to actually work out into something magical, so that doesn’t mean you don’t have a backlog, priority or road mapping and that stuff. What is basically saying is, we have a plan, but I’m going to continuously talk to you, I’m going to continuously deliver and we’re going to continuously re-factor if and as we need to, and it’s possible that you’re going to need less than you thought, or it’s possible that you’re going to need something different than you communicated, but this is a really hard behavior.

0:24:05.3 Derek Lane: Yes, it is. And so to tie it back in to what we’ve talked about earlier, we go back to the value comparisons, the value options here, we value working software over comprehensive documentation, what is often included in that documentation, big plans, requirements documents, lots of specifications, things that are tied to delivery dates, we value customer collaboration over contract negotiation, doesn’t mean there’s no contract, no, it’s when we know the least, but that’s when we’re locking things down, that’s when the VP of whatever is signing the thing and then expecting another department who wasn’t involved in the discussion to deliver on it. So we’ve created this dynamic of conflict by avoiding these particular values and principles. Here we are at principle number two saying, no, we should invite change because we’re going to learn something, we’re going to learn something as we’re trying to build the right thing the right way. As we understand it, and as we incrementally expose it to the customer, the customer is going to give us feedback to help us steer towards what they ultimately will agree is success, but they don’t know what that is yet, because they haven’t been there yet. It’s still nine months before we get there, it’s still eight months before we get there.

0:25:25.5 Derek Lane: Help us find a flexible way to work with you, but still have a way for you to predict and control your costs so it’s not the Wild West. So there are definitely ways to manage this and from both party’s standpoint.

0:25:39.3 M Edwards: So obviously we would be remiss if we didn’t say to invite change can actually be abused, I can invite change, but there has to be some type of common sense balance here, which is… Look, we have to get to the market by third quarter because we understand our competitor’s going to be there in the fourth quarter, we have to deliver these widgets because that’s what we are, that’s our sweet spot, and we also believe that’s going to edge out or nullify some of the things our competitor is going to bring together, as well, I have to consider my risk appetite for the organization, I have to consider my budget, my resources or team members that are available, a lot of things. So after you get done looking through all this, the highest party still satisfy the customer early and continuous delivery of value, which is then… That includes change, so if you’re doing early and continuous, there will be change no matter where it is on the pipe, but you still have to balance it, because I guarantee that you would change your tune if we were going to deliver this build and deliver the software for a company 12, but we use your bank account.

0:26:48.0 Derek Lane: No, that’s good. I think that, first of all, it’s useful to understand everything and anything can be abused, it can be misused and what I’m sharing here and what I try to incorporate in the 20-Day Agility Challenge is many of things that I’ve misunderstood and tried to learn over time, both for myself and my experiences as well as working with other folks, so I think that we have to accept as the default, but it is worth stating upfront, any and all of these can be misunderstood and therefore abused in extreme ways and say, “Well, we’re doing this in the same way.” Wait a minute, that’s not possible, in the same way that the contract you negotiated with the customer will be abused in order to create a death march for you to build something that when you get done and you work all the overtime that’s included in the fixed bed, we’ll still not meet the customer’s needs. So if you’ve ever been on one of those projects and almost everybody’s been on several of those at some point… We all have experienced that. So the reality is that the second thing I’ll mention is the emphasis you put on number one, they’re delivering value, not valuable software, I think is key.

0:28:04.1 Derek Lane: And then the last thing I’ll mention here on number two is maybe related a little bit more to a barbecue, changing requirements could be that maybe somebody shows up who wasn’t for barbecue, and I didn’t originally know that we’re coming, and it turns out that they’re allergic to half of what I’ve done there, or they’re vegetarian… I’ve got people, my members of my family who are vegetarians, so if I don’t know they’re coming… If I don’t expect them to come to a barbecue event, then I’m not going cook things that I know that they would like, because most other folks aren’t necessarily going to like those things, just like I wouldn’t build a product for a customer knowing that that’s not what that customer likes, that’d be ridiculous. So it’s just the reality is that… But we may have somebody show up, I don’t know, somebody brings a date, well, it turns out they’re a vegetarian, okay, great. Didn’t plan on making a certain number of things, so I need to adjust, change in requirements. Even late in development, hey, we’re going eat in four hours, I need to figure out what I’m going do.

0:29:10.1 Derek Lane: So now I’ve got to say, “Okay, now what is on the list of things that you can eat?” And then maybe I can come up with something, maybe I already have something in my tool bag that’s something I’ve used before that is somewhat repeatable that other folks who like to eat the same things might have said was a good enough to try it again. And here’s something that is really not stated here, but this is reality, and it works in the business world as well. I can also just invite that person to come help me cook for them, a pit master in the sense of I want to become a master of my domain, it’s like, “Okay, everybody leave, I want to know how great I am because I can control all this stuff, I can master all this stuff.” That’s really not barbecue; now, we’re violating value number one of valuing people and interactions over processes and tools. So now we violated that and we’re also about violating principle number two, so there’s nothing wrong with me saying just like Extreme Programming does, “Hey, Mr. Customer, why don’t you come and sit with me? Sit with me today. Help me understand.

0:30:20.3 Derek Lane: I think I understand what you’re saying. Let me show you what I think you’re saying, but you can very quickly help me see if I misunderstood something, if we have a terminology problem, if something means something in your world, we’re using the same words, but it means something completely different in my world, we can more quickly resolve that misunderstanding that misalignment, and we can quick, get more quickly to what Eric Evans in domain-driven design calls ubiquitous language.” So that we are saying the same words and they have the same meaning, both of those things have to be true in order for number two to… For us to be able to actually execute on number two in an effective way.

0:31:05.3 M Edwards: I hope this episode reinforces your appetite and appreciation for always keeping your customers at the center. Remember to put people first. And always invite change. Now, after this conversation, I need to get some food. I hope you join us for the next episode where we discuss principles three, four, five, and six.

0:31:32.2: The Long Way Around The Barn is brought to you by Trility Consulting, where Matthew serves as the CEO and president. If you need to find a more simple, reliable path to achieve your desired outcomes visit

0:31:48.6 M Edwards: To my listeners, thank you for staying with us, I hope you’re able to take what you heard today and apply it in your context so that you’re able to realize the predictable repeatable outcomes you desire for you, your teams, company and clients. Thank you.


Part II: Deconstructing the Agile Manifesto to Make Better Barbecue

Show Highlights

In this episode, Derek Lane and Matthew D Edwards dive into the Agile Manifesto word-by-word to help software developers and engineers bring more value to clients but also, become better barbecue pitmasters.

Key Takeaways

  • They are both “people sports.” Barbecue and software are meant for someone to enjoy it.
  • Mastery and knowledge wins over equipment every time.
  • Get the fundamentals down before scaling. However, you don’t have to understand all the fundamentals to make progress.
  • Be ready for the things that will get in the way before you even start. 
  • The best recipes (comprehensive documentation) adapt to what you have on hand.

Read the Transcript

0:00:00.0 M Edwards: D Lane and I picked up our deconstruction of the Agile Manifesto and how it relates to iteratively improving your barbecue. Yes, two of our favorite things, barbecue and Agile. So if you’re trying to listen to this podcast on an empty stomach, maybe take the time to go get some barbecue so you can fully participate in the rest of this material. If you’ve missed the first two episodes in our series with Derek, I encourage you to go listen to episodes 15 and 16. 

0:00:39.2 D Lane: The way I know it’s really good is you take one bite and you want to sit down and just have a party all by yourself. That’s when I know I’ve done something, I’ve done something valuable, I’ve achieved some level of success that’s beyond, “People can eat it”, or, “Well, it’s not that bad,” but my brother-in-law’s… No, you take one bite, you just sit down, you’re like, “Okay, I need to sit down and enjoy this.” This does not happen very often.


0:01:08.2 M Edwards: Welcome to The Long Way Around The Barn, where we discuss many of today’s technology adoption and transformation challenges, and explore varied ways to get to your desired outcomes. There’s usually more than one way to achieve your goals. Sometimes the path is simple, sometimes the path is long, expensive, complicated, and/or painful. In this podcast, we explore options and recommended courses of action to get you to where you’re going now.

0:01:40.3 S3: The Long Way Around The Barn is brought to you by Trility Consulting. For those wanting to defend or extend their market share, Trility simplifies, automates, and secures your world your way. Learn how you can experience reliable delivery results, at

0:02:00.5 D Lane: If we start out with the Agile Manifesto, and the part most people are familiar with, and that’s at, it says, “We’re uncovering better ways of developing software.” If I replace that, and say, “We’re uncovering better ways of making barbecue by doing it and helping others do it,” that sentence says so many things, and I have learned now, and I’ve adapted this to a lot of coaching, if I’m doing training to help people understand, I will take that sentence word by word and decompose it. There is so much meaning that just gets ignored, because we tend to focus on these four values that are in the middle of this page, and we tend to ignore the beginning and the end. But that sentence is powerful, especially when it comes to barbecue, because you will not become good, much less great, at barbecue unless you practice. And it is very difficult for you to practice on your own. You’re always wanting to share stories, you want to say, “I tried this, what can I do here? Should the fat side be up? Should the fat side be down? Do I pull the membrane off the ribs?” There’s a million things.

0:03:15.3 D Lane: “How much rub do I put on? What goes in the rub? Do I make my own rub? Do I buy my rub?” I mean, it’s okay, which is the standard build-or-buy kind of decision that we have in technology all the time. So there’s a lot of that learning curve that’s really just encapsulated in that one sentence, that oftentimes gets skipped over in both the Agile and, in my case, the barbecue world. Through this work, we’ve come to value individuals’ interactions over processes and tools. Barbecue is a people sport. This is not… I’ve seen… There’s gadgets, there’s people selling all kinds of… There’s the biggest, the best smoker, there’s the stainless steel that and the other. I will tell you that you can take a garbage can and a fire and somebody who knows what they’re doing, they will outperform somebody with the most expensive equipment.

0:04:10.6 D Lane: So it’s not about the equipment, it’s not about the, “Do I have a wireless thing that talks to my phone to tell me when something reaches a certain temperature?” It’s not about any of that. It’s about the people. I value, in this case barbecue, over comprehensive documentation. As someone who did not have access to the internet, it wasn’t available when I was learning, my learning curve was reading lots of books, reading from other barbecue experts, reading from people, and what I learned was…

0:04:38.3 D Lane: One of the things I learned was that there are a million ways to do it, and a lot of them will reach some level of success, but what I also learned was it that if you’re going through the learning curve and you’re at the beginning part, do not mix metaphors. Don’t take something from what one person says and mix it with what something somebody else says, because you will not get a result; you don’t understand why they did those two things in their own context, much less the ability to take them out and strategically tie them together, to cherry pick them. It just doesn’t… It won’t give you the results you’re looking for. So if you find a book that you like, stick with that book, learn what that guy has to learn and then go to the next, or website, or whatever.

0:05:21.7 M Edwards: That’s a really good callout there. I am young, or new, to raising cattle, and I have found that for every rancher out there, there is their own perspective or methodology on how to raise cattle. And I have found, perhaps similar to what you’re saying then, that I need to thoroughly understand and implement the ideas as taught by one person first.

0:05:52.9 D Lane: Yeah, the same is true very much with Scrum and XP and all these other things, and I think that’s one of the situations people find themselves in when they try to go either directly to something like the Scaled Agile framework, SAFe, if they try to… Or DAD (Disciplined Agile Delivery), or any of the other larger “scaling” frameworks, is that they didn’t master the nuts and bolts of the simpler thing first. One of the things I often hear Agile coaches say is, “You need to walk before you run.” And I was taught that years ago, and I learned that that’s actually not correct. Biologically, that’s not correct. The first thing a baby does is run. They don’t run well, they fall, but they don’t walk in a controlled manner. So the first thing, this idea that we crawl before we walk, we do crawl, there is this crawling thing, but we really don’t go to walking, we go to running. There’s this wobbly, I’m trying to catch myself, catch myself, and then I either fall or I grab a parent or the nearby object. And so that’s not the same kind of running as we’re seeing in the Olympics kind of thing, but of the common characteristics that we have that we share as humans, it’s the closest to running. It’s closer to running than it is walking, which is a very refined, controlled movement, or crawling.

0:07:26.2 D Lane: And so this idea that we go straight from crawling to walking is really incorrect, and we need to adjust how we adapt our learning models and things to that, as well.

0:07:40.0 M Edwards: But you’ve asserted about the Agile Manifesto is people kind of flow past the first sentence, and so you’re saying, “Hey, in order to actually make use of this thing, we need to deconstruct this one sentence, one phrase, one segment at a time and understand what are its ripples, what are its implications?” And that’s what you’ve been doing in order to map that out to tenets or behaviors or frameworks as it relates to barbecue. And one of the things I also want to call out that is important, is there are fundamentals. And so, for example, in order to be a musician, you need to understand the scales, you need to understand things like triads, you need to understand inversions; you need to understand fundamental things that says, “Hey, there’s all these notes, and what are all of the notes in like the C scale?” Well, knowing the C scale is a fundamental.

0:08:34.5 M Edwards: Now, maybe not everybody tacitly knows that they know the C scale, dependent upon how they got into music, but in order to get from the fundamentals to there, they had to first know the fundamentals. And your point, I believe was, “Hey, you could pick up Scaled Agile Framework, ’cause that would be fun and amazing,” but it assumes that you understand some of the most fundamental behaviors that exist. And this entire Agile conversation, Agile as, body of knowledge or set of collective ideas, which is, “Hey, how does a team operate?” And then after that, you’re building up, and then sell similarly, then I think that what you’re illustrating is the same thing with barbecue is, there’s the build versus buy.

0:09:20.6 M Edwards: What are the most fundamental things you absolutely have to know and understand. And I love that you called out that somebody who actually understands the art of what they’re doing makes the mechanism or the medium pretty much irrelevant at that point.

0:09:37.0 D Lane: I think another thing that was in there that I didn’t specifically bring out is, it’s one thing to understand the mechanics, the fundamentals, and you don’t have to understand all the fundamentals to make progress, there’s this idea that we’re constantly learning, that we should evolve. When we get to the principles, we’ll talk about this principle of emergence, and I don’t know how much time we would have to spend on that. But the idea that over time the best ideas, the best options, are going to emerge. As I learn… Your ability to play music progresses as I learn more fundamentals. The thing that is fascinating to me that I can correlate to music is that when you learn one instrument, now you go try to learn a second one. There are things that will translate and there are things that will not.

0:10:30.4 D Lane: The fundamentals of music will transfer, but the way you play one instrument, the way you play another instrument, even if they’re very similar instruments, could be drastically different in order for that instrument to achieve what it is uniquely created to do. And that is no different with Agile or with Lean. If you’re going to do something and you learn the Eric Ries Lean Startup approach to something, that’s great; in there, he has a lot of connectors to other fundamental mechanisms. You could use Lean UX, if you like, but they would all still work with this premise of that, I’m gonna build, measure, learn; that I’m gonna build a hypothesis, I’m gonna figure out how am I gonna test the hypothesis, I’m actually going to test the hypothesis, I’m gonna look at the answers and say, “Do I need to pivot or persist?” 

0:11:28.5 D Lane: This is true here, this is true with barbecue. The same thing is absolutely true. I need the fundamentals, I need to learn, “Okay, if I’m going to cook and this is the way I did it, brisket, I need to quit switching and cooking different things every weekend; I need to cook brisket every weekend, until I get some level of acceptable… Basically a release.” I need to get to the point where it’s repeatable, and the thing we’re going to eat we’re actually looking forward to. And so, across any of these mediums, the principles and the patterns are the same. And kind of the extension of that, which you alluded to, was that these things are related. We can learn the fundamentals in each of these areas, but they’re all related.

0:12:19.1 D Lane: The next value is customer collaboration over contract negotiation. Lots of times we are so specific in barbecue, we are trying to follow this recipe the way that it’s written, to the line. My mom, my grandma, all the women in my family are great cooks. If I ask them for a recipe, they will have to stare off into space for a while to remember what they did, ’cause none of them use a recipe. Well, how can they be such great cooks and never use a recipe? Well, because they don’t always have the same ingredients, because they need to adjust, they need to adapt. Well, gee, doesn’t that sound like every day in building a product? So the idea of, we’re constantly figuring out what it is, if I’ve got a barbecue recipe and I find out that someone’s allergic to curry…

0:13:10.3 D Lane: Well, if I’ve got a curry in the one of my dry rubs, I need to know, “Okay, I need to adapt.” If I’ve already used it on something, I need to tell them, “Don’t eat that.” If I’m making a rub, and one of the things I’ve learned is I want to find out what people want before they’re gonna come over to eat. And if there’s an allergy, if there’s something that they don’t like the taste of, then I’m going to adjust to try to incorporate… To make this a good experience. Now we’re back to valuing and respecting people over, “Well, this is just how I do it. These are award-winning ribs. How dare you tell me… Just don’t eat the ribs.” I’m like, “No, no, no, can we make some good ribs for this person, too? Doesn’t that demonstrate a level of skill that’s beyond the fact that you came up with a recipe that is repeatable?” And I’m not saying that’s not… That’s a level of achievement, but let’s go beyond that.

0:14:06.0 M Edwards: That’s a real good callout, and we do see that parallel in technology ranks on a regular basis, where someone may illustrate or suggest, “I have created; everyone else needs to accept,” or, “This is what I think, and because of my title, therefore, I have now given you what you need to think.” So we see those types of things in the technology space on a regular basis, which probably maps out to the unlimited… The agility conversation that you have in terms of servant leadership, which seems to be still the same level of service, when you’re saying, “Hey, it’s not enough to be predictable, repeatable, and make great meat. I need to be able to create based on what’s available to me for the people that I’m going to interact with, so I can bring value to them in a way that they value.” As opposed to, “I have made these, eat them, serve me, leave the money in the jar at the door.”

0:15:11.8 D Lane: Yeah. The idea… At the point at which… This is one of those kind of reality checks. At the point at which you think you have become a master, that’s the point at which someone needs to help you understand you’re not even close.

0:15:29.0 M Edwards: I have received that serving of crow many times in my career. [laughter]

0:15:32.4 D Lane: Many times. As have I. So there have been many times where I’ve gone into a new project or something, and I’ve got all the answers, I know exactly what to do, I’ve mapped it all out in my head, I put it on the whiteboard, I created a PowerPoint, whatever I needed to do to prove to someone that I had it all figured out, I had all the answers. Only to, obviously, quickly learn that I not only didn’t have all the answers, I didn’t have all the facts, I didn’t have all the information. And now we gotta do a value number four, responding to change, but I didn’t even deal with change yet. I’m just saying that’s a whole other thing, is that now we’ve gotta deal with change over following a plan. This is the one most people tend to focus on, because it’s the thing that is the easiest to see, it’s the easiest to identify with, especially in business.

0:16:19.0 D Lane: Responding to change in the context of barbecue comes in, again, in lots of different ways, but one of the more common ways it comes in is in fire management. The level of smoke that your particular smoker is going to put out has… Any of the great barbecue folks will tell you what was called clean smoke. Clean smoke looks more like, if you’ve just driven…

0:16:46.6 D Lane: Let’s say you’ve driven your vehicle for an hour and it’s 100 degrees outside, and you park your vehicle in the driveway, and you go outside and the vehicle’s turned off and you just look at the hood. You will see the waves of heat that are rising, because it’s hot outside, it’s hot, and it’s even hotter on the engine, but the difference in temperature now is closer, so you’re seeing those waves as the transfer of energy happens. Now, when we go to barbecue and we’re dealing with smoke, that’s what clean smoke looks like. Sometimes it’s even called blue smoke, ’cause it’ll come out a really soft, it’ll look a little blue, it can look blue or grey. But the darker it is, the thicker it is, that’s what you don’t want. What that means is they haven’t cleaned the pit in 20 years.


0:17:34.0 D Lane: That’s really what that means. Because their belief is that if they cleaned it, it would no longer have the ability to produce the same level of food. So there’s things like that that you learn over time, which is you need to keep your smoker clean. That doesn’t mean shiny, we’re not talking about military boots here, we’re talking about removing debris. Now, translate that to Agile. Is there such a… Can you imagine something that would be considered debris when we’re trying to apply Agile principles or values?

0:18:11.6 M Edwards: I just thought it’d be perhaps classified as friction in a continuous flow-based process. Like you’re able to achieve this goal with this number of steps, this number of actions, and then someone may have proactively inserted some type of quality process, inspection process. Or it’s a conversation of how many steps does it actually take; for example, with Amazon, what’s the fewest number of key clicks it takes to separate you from your wallet? Well, their answer is one. [laughter]

0:18:43.5 D Lane: Yes. They’ve been able to get it down to one.


0:18:48.8 D Lane: So I’ve seen this a lot of times where some of that debris could be a disbelief by the people that I’m there to help, I’m here to help teach them, whatever… Or coach or whatever. Or I’m on the team and I’m there trying to be a contributor. But they don’t believe it when management came and said, “We’re going to adopt this approach.” Or, “We’re going to move in this direction.” Why don’t they believe it? Because the last time management said that they changed it or the last time they bought into it… There was a situation where I was coaching a team, they were going through a transformation, they really didn’t have to deal with a lot of the typical organizational cross-dependencies that happen in large organizations that were relatively separated, and after several months we were able to make progress with everybody except for this one team member, and I couldn’t figure out what was going on, so finally I sat down, I was able to get them off to the side and talk to ’em, I said, “What’s going on? You seem to be really enjoying this. Oh yes. This is fun. This is great, this is exciting. Why are you still doing these things the way you’ve always done them?”

0:20:03.7 D Lane: “Well, because last time we did this and did something like this, and I followed what my leader said, I ended up losing, I got docked for vacation, I ended up getting penalized, I end up getting… ” Oh, okay, well, that’s some debris that’s in the way of this individual being able to believe what their management is saying, the management saying two different things, and you know which one they’re believing, they’re believing the one that the reward system is attached to. And this is a fundamental… This is a hidden thing, and it’s hidden in most people’s smokers too, because they don’t know that periodically, you’ve gotta go in there and it’s not just weeping out the ashes of the wood at burn, you need to check the chimney, you need to check a few other things, the smoke exhaust, whatever it is, there’s some places you need to check for some things that might be hidden, they’re not obvious, they’re not in front of you, they’re not on the checklist.

0:21:02.2 M Edwards: So that seems to map out to a couple of different things. Working software over comprehensive documentation. The way I’m interpreting the things you’re saying suggest that, yeah, there’s a plan, but there’s some additional things that don’t get documented, more communicated that you need to be aware of and you’ll discover and you’ll need to figure out how to adapt to, and then responding to change over following a plan, that idea also perhaps maps, which is, “Hey, I didn’t plan to have to clean things today,” or “I didn’t think I was gonna get black smoke today,” or “What the heck has taken so long, what did I do wrong?” I mean, responding to change is, I have a plan, but, oh my gosh, this happened. And many people just call that Murphy’s Law, which is, “I’ve got a plan, and then things are going to happen and I need to adapt to that,” so I like the illustration of, “Get on the bull and you’re gonna take the ride that’s given.”

0:22:00.7 D Lane: Yeah, that’s definitely true. A more common one with barbecue is, is that no matter what the weatherman says for five days in advance, you’re sure it’s gonna be 75 and nothing, you get out there and it’s 42 and wind or… I’ve run my smoker in every condition there is, snow on the ground, ice on the ground, and a matter of fact, I think that was probably one of the longest smokes I’ve ever had was a 20-something hours with a smoker during the winter time when it’s snowing, and it’s blowing snow. Try to keep your fire lit then, where normally you gotta check it every 30 to four, five minutes. You kinda have to babysit it. So the ability to adapt to that which you’re given is, just the expectation of that, in my mind, is a degree of mastery, the acknowledgement and awareness is one, but the expectation of it. I expect things to change. I expect it to, I’m not saying I’m not planning for success, that’s not at all what I’m saying, I am planning for success, but I am ready for the things that will get in my way before I get there.

0:23:18.2 M Edwards: That’s a great call. A great tenet, a behavioral tenet, if you will, which is anticipate, even invite change. And so part of the value and the whole point of an iteration isn’t just to deliver, it’s to also gain feedback so that you can make whatever you delivered even more valuable as you go along, so to iterate, “I delivered this, now with your feedback, I can deliver this better and better,” and so on. So the idea of iterative delivery makes a lot of sense. Responding to change doesn’t mean, to your point, I’m planning to fail. What it means is I have a plan, and now, oh client, I’ve delivered this, I invite you to give me feedback that might require some change, and you know what, I’m okay with that, because I want to deliver something that matters to you, which goes all the way back to one of your original arguments was, “Hey, why don’t you talk to the people in advance of picking the meat and doing the meat and delivering the meat, ’cause maybe they wanted bell peppers.”

0:24:26.0 D Lane: Right. And to expand on the idea in iterative barbecue, when you start, at least for me, most people start with one thing again, with a brisket or with ribs, they’re gonna cook one thing. Now, I’ve got a couple of different smokers, I’ve got one that I can cook for 150, 200 people on. When I cook, it’s going to be… I’m gonna cook a lot of stuff. Now, the point here is to say that I will schedule… This is my plan. I will schedule the order in which I’m going to put things on the smoker, something will always go wrong because it wasn’t prepped because it wasn’t… Because I didn’t have the rub made, because I forgot something, because an ingredient ran out, I didn’t expect to use this ingredient in three different things, and something happened and I didn’t have enough. There is always going to be something. So my schedule, my plan, basically the order in which I’m going to put things on so that I know what order they’re going to come off, that’s one set of change, I have to adapt to. The other set of changes is that I cannot control fire, I can’t control chemistry, there will be something that will need to come off early, and there will be something that we’ll probably need to stay on there, the 30 minutes or an hour to be at the level of done that I’m looking for.

0:25:55.0 D Lane: There’s a lot of principles in barbecues that are all over the Internet, like 3-2-1 for ribs. The idea that you’re gonna put them in there, put some ribs on the smoker for three hours, then you’re gonna take them off and wrap ’em and put ’em back on for two hours, then you’re gonna take them off and let them sit in a warmer for one hour, that 3-2-1 method is very popular and I’ve used it, it’s a great set of training wheels to get started with, but a thermometer is better.


0:26:34.2 M Edwards: And that may be a learned thing.

0:26:36.8 D Lane: It is a learned thing. I have learned, I trust the thermometer. I’ve met people, I’ve gone to restaurants where they have a pit master who can literally touch a piece of meat, they can touch anything that they’re used to cooking, that they put on their pit, no matter how big their pit is, they know the hot spots, the cold, they can touch it, and they will be able to tell you how much longer it has or whether it’s done, that’s a level of… Like a magician, there’s a level of mastery there that very few of us are ever gonna attain, so I’m perfectly happy to stick with the thermometer. I trust the thermometer. When the thermometer is not working, I get another one. It doesn’t hurt to have two or three… If you’re concerned, you don’t get two or three opinions on something, it wouldn’t be any different than we would tell a team if we didn’t know the answer and they didn’t know the answer, let’s get two or three opinions, let’s find out, let’s don’t just always listen to one person.

0:27:33.9 M Edwards: One of the parallels that I have heard from you, you may not have said exactly or explicitly like this is part of the manifesto itself, is suggesting that we have a plan, we have one or more sets of patterns, we have people, we have intent, goal, we have all of the things, but the responding to change part illustrates the fact that even though we’ve done all of the things, things are still going to happen that we didn’t plan or may happen different than anticipated, and our responsibility is just to adapt. I have the framework, I have the training, I have the tool. Everything will work exactly the way I’ve said it to. And if it doesn’t, it’s probably a people problem and that person needs to get back in line, and it’s an interesting contradiction between the way life actually is and the way we want it to be when we’re at work or when we’re doing planning, which is order. I control all of the squares in this waffle, no syrup will leave each of the squares, they will all stay in their squares, they will be evenly distributed, and this will be a gorgeous waffle, that’s just not the way it works.

0:28:53.2 M Edwards: And so this desire to say, I want my cost of acquisition to be exactly what you said it would be, and I want my cost of ownership to be exactly what you said it would be. And then to discover along the way that there were second and third order dependencies or ripples that required change, and then adaptation, is an irritant. “Well, that’s not what you said. So you must not know what you’re talking about.”

0:29:16.7 D Lane: I think you’ve got it. We assume or we infer that if we know, the level of confidence is directly related to what we feel we know ahead of time, but none of us know the future. We know, none of us know the future, but we all expect that the degree of expertise that someone has is directly related to their ability to tell the future, and that is a completely insane connection to make, and yet in business, it is made every day, all day long. Yes, you can make an educated guess depending on if you’ve done this in how long, but now that’s assuming that the playing field didn’t change, that’s assuming that you don’t have a new competitor, that’s assuming that the market didn’t change. We’re making a lot of assumptions there. The speed of change, the pace of change that’s happening now is directly impactful to your ability to tell the future. When you or I were around a couple of decades ago, you have several years to adapt, there are companies. They’ve been around for 50 to 100 years or maybe even longer, they are still under the impression they have a couple of years, several years to adapt.

0:30:40.9 D Lane: If that were true, then it would not be possible to literally go from a napkin idea to having a business up and running in 48 hours or less and actually taking money and selling something or doing something. If they set their sights on your market and they are listening to their customers, they will beat you every time.

0:31:00.8 M Edwards: I think it’s outstanding, I love that. The common denominator there is people, people, people, people, and your point is have a plan, love the people, be involved with the people, engage the people, provide to the people, and then map across, make sure that you respond to the context of the change. I love that part. One of the things I’d like to know is, do you have any final thoughts for us on how this all comes together in one package, and then what is your favorite kind of meat to grill or… I’m sorry to barbecue.

0:31:34.7 D Lane: I guess the thing I’ve mentioned is, is from my standpoint, we only made it through half of the manifesto, we made it through the four values. The 12 principles are just as important. From my perspective, one of the things I’ve learned about the manifesto, the way I look at it is these are two sides to the same coin. You will not be able to achieve one side without the other side, as far as my favorite thing to put on the smoker, if it’s a short smoke, if you want to go less than four hours or less, it’s hard to beat catfish.

0:32:08.8 M Edwards: Wow, that already sounds amazing.

0:32:10.3 D Lane: A lot of people would never thought about putting… ‘Cause it’s not the kind of thing you get at a lot of restaurants, but the first time I put a… And it doesn’t matter what kind of fish, but here in the South, it’s a little easier to find catfish, and so you put some catfish fillets on there, you don’t need a lot of seasoning, and you make sure that they do not get over the fire as they will burn too quickly

0:32:34.6 M Edwards: I look forward to more of our conversations here after, thank you for taking the time to talk to us about what you see and hear your journey, the barbecue, the manifesto, and we’ll figure out where we’re going from here. Thank you, Derek.

0:32:47.5 D Lane: Oh, thank you, Matthew, it’s been great.

0:32:53.5 M Edwards: In our next episode, we continue talking barbecue, and we tackle how the 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto are really a roadmap to becoming a barbecue pitmaster.


0:33:10.8 S3: The Long Way Around The Ban is brought to you by Trility Consulting, where Mathew serves as the CEO and president. If you need to find a more simple, reliable path to achieve your desired outcomes, visit

0:33:27.0 M Edwards: To my listeners, thank you for staying with us. I hope you were able to take what you’ve heard today and apply it in your context so that you’re able to realize the predictable repeatable outcomes you desire for you, your teams, the company, and clients. Thank you.


Part I: Deconstructing the Agile Manifesto to Make Better Barbecue

Show Highlights

In this episode, you’ll learn how Derek Lane’s journey in technology and study of the Agile Manifesto coincided with his pursuit of barbecue craftsmanship. These two pursuits eventually mapped together for Lane, and he’s sharing how you can apply the Agile Manifesto and its principles to making better barbecue. 

Along his journey, he created the 20-Day Agility Challenge, a free program where participants commit 15-30 minutes a day to focus on improving their agility. He and a group of colleagues also founded a free online community, Unlimited Agility, where people can take the challenge with others and continue to enable, equip, and educate one another.

Read the Transcript

0:00:00.0 Matthew Edwards: In this episode, I pick up my conversation with Derek Lane as he shares his journey in technology, software development, the Agile Manifesto, and best of all, how it all relates to barbecue.

0:00:17.0 Derek Lane: Every weekend I would try to smoke something. It was definitely this pursuit of craftsmanship. I’d start out with something… The idea is you start with something simple, you’re gonna do chicken, you’re gonna do ribs, and that’s the idea. Well, I’m in Texas and Texas brisket is king. I don’t know how many mistakes I made, I’m sure there were many, but I do know that when after probably about 12 to 14 hours, taking a brisket off that none of us could eat it. I learned a very valuable principle at that time, and this is back when you could still buy briskets for 40, 50 cents a pound. I mean, if it’s on sale now, it’s $2.50, $3, and if it’s not, it’s quite a bit more than that. So it’s a very expensive hobby, is my point, for you to make something that you can’t eat. Some of the techniques I learned, some of the principles that I learned were really to try to figure out how do I make that dollar go a little longer?

0:02:12.3 Matthew Edwards: Today, I wanna talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart, and I believe it’s near and dear to your heart, which is not only meat, and today we’ll talk about barbecue, but also then Agile, what is Agile and how might barbecue and Agile have this weird interrelationship that maybe not everybody else cross-maps in their head, but today we’re gonna talk about meat, barbecue in particular. Does that sound reasonable?

0:02:40.3 Derek Lane: Well, barbecue always sounds reasonable to me.

0:02:43.1 Matthew Edwards: Tell us a little bit about where you’ve come from, like just highlights of your journey, general mindsets, where you are today and where you’re heading, and then let’s mold that into one of the things that you use to teach people and guide and coach and mentor, and just generally pair with folks, which is this analogy or this mapping between barbecue and Agile and where we go from there. But first, teach us a little bit about you, please and thank you.

0:03:09.6 Derek Lane: Okay. Well, originally, my career kind of started as what I call hard engineering; architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computer drafting, that type of thing, and this is back when DOS was still the primary PC operating system. As a matter of fact, it was relatively new, so that’ll give everybody… Definitely dating myself there. Did that for several years and was able to learn, I guess, back all the way up through what was considered the best computer engineering and drafting systems at the time, and really felt like I had kind of explored a lot of what I wanted to learn, and felt like, “Hey, this is pretty early in my career, and I feel like I’ve already kind of seen all the landscape, what’s next?” And about that time was kind of the emergence of these new things like Microsoft Windows and Linux and other operating systems that are going out there, and that also led to open source software.

0:04:16.2 Derek Lane: So at some point I decided, “Let me go on the other side of the screen. Let me see what it’s like to actually write a lot of code.” And at some point around the late ’90s, it was ’99, 2000, was working on a project for a startup, and somebody mentioned to me that something I was doing looked extreme, and was it extreme programming? And I thought he was making a joke because XP was used as a lot of other things for a lot of other abbreviations, I guess you’d say, and I thought he was making a joke, looked into it, and this is all really pre-Internet, so you had to call the book store, you had to go down to look in the library. I mean, this is back before you could just look it up on Amazon, and found Kent Beck’s book, “Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change,” and was just fascinated by the style of the book. Every chapter is two to three pages long, the fact that he was communicating in a very abstract way, but was talking about how do you deliver the pragmatic aspects of value. And when I got through all of it, I really felt like, “Hey, I’m doing a lot of this stuff, but I’ve never heard of this extreme programming. Where is it? What is this?”

0:05:38.6 Derek Lane: Now my background kind of… I guess the formal training I’d received was definitely in a waterfall spiral and ultimately unified process, so really big things which were all state-of-the-art at the time, and realizing XP was one of these things now called the lightweight methodology. And so then I learned about feature-driven development and ultimately about Scrum and Crystal and many others, got to try some of those at different points, and eventually realized, “You know what, I’ve written a lot of code, I’ve architectured a lot of systems, I’ve used lots of different technology,” and that’s still interesting and fascinating to me, but the thing that seems to be the hardest thing is the people problem. When I was learning software, my opinion was that technology was about 90% of the problem, that there were so many technologies. Back then you had to decide what kind of database you were gonna use. I mean, there were so many decisions that you had to make from a technical standpoint, and then you had to get all those things to work together. So people was really the small part of the problem. Of course technology became more standardized, but became more variable too, because now you’ve got more technologies, you’ve got more languages, you have lots of new ideas on how to build things, and eventually I moved over to, “Hey, there’s lots of people who can write code.”

0:07:00.1 Derek Lane: Ultimately, once I understood a little more about the Agile mindset and learned about Lean, Lean startup, Lean enterprise, those types of things, just how to manage waste, how to identify and manage all the different kinds of waste that are part of the process, ultimately, I got to this idea of saying, “Okay, that’s the real problem. How do you get people to decide what they want when they really don’t know, how do you get people to work together and actually work together, not in the same room or the same department or meet every once a week? No, actually work together, and being able to see the nuance of the interactions of people and how that resulted in what was delivered, or whether anything was delivered at all.” And so I decided, “Well, let me spend a little more time learning this, this human aspect of delivering products.” And that’s kind of where I think I’ve spent a little more time. So I’ve spent a little less time, but I kinda inverted my formula. I think it’s now probably 90% to 95% is a people problem, and it’s really about 5% to 10% a technology problem. But to be fair, that obviously with things like free Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud and the proliferation of technology that’s available, that’s definitely had an impact as well.

0:08:22.0 Matthew Edwards: So the journey that you’ve been on though is really a journey of realization, and I will amplify right now that this journey of realization, in my opinion, my interpretation or my perception of the things you said is really a by-product of the type of personality who’s constantly wanting to know more, wanting to see more, wanting to understand, asking why. In other words, you don’t just accidentally discover, “Hey, I’m doing things that are like this XP thing, I wonder what that means,” you choose it. All that stuff is done on purpose, so right off the bat, what in my opinion you’ve already illustrated is you have a hunger to learn and become and evolve, you’re always looking out the window saying, “Alright, I’m doing this thing, but am I doing this thing well? Am I doing it usefully?” And you believed everything was 90% tech and 10% people, and then through the years you’ve discovered that, “Dude, it’s 90% people and 10% tech.” That realization could have been prompted to you by reading it in a book, but it really sounds like you’ve discovered it by living.

0:09:26.6 Derek Lane: Yes, it’s a constant learning curve. And as I moved into software, it was the same way. And I’ve had a lot of frustrated folks who say, “Why are you spending time with that? Why aren’t you spending here doing the thing that we’re paying you to do, or this one thing that we’ve already spent time on? Why are you looking at this other thing?” It’s been a… I’ve been chastised more than once for that. So yeah, it wasn’t until probably I would say in the early 2000s that I learned that there was actually a diagnosis for it, that people actually have been classified as a continuous learner. This idea that there’s actually something wrong with me may be true, but they can’t blame it on the fact that I like to learn new stuff and that I’m always working to learn how to get better. They can blame that on something else, but they can’t blame it on that.

0:10:18.6 Matthew Edwards: But if we fast forward then on that journey, this has led you to a current endeavor or activity that you’re working on called Unlimited Agility, or in particular something that you’ve used as like the tip of the spear called the 20-day Agility Challenge. And I believe based on what I’ve studied and learned and discussed and considered as it relates to what you’re doing, the entire focus is on enabling, equipping, and educating people.

0:10:42.1 Derek Lane: Essentially the 20-day Agility Challenge is my attempt to take a lot of the lessons I’ve learned, almost all through mistakes or misunderstandings on my part, and put them in a format that over a period of 20 days an individual can be challenged against the Agile Manifesto, and the unique aspect of this, or what my hope is, obviously it’s difficult to have your hands in the middle of something and not get some of you on it, but my hope is that the person is challenging themself against the Agile Manifesto as I understand it today, not against Derek’s way of doing things, not against Derek’s version of Agile.

0:11:26.6 Derek Lane: My hope is that this is independent of me as much as can be, and I’ve gone through a number of folks that I’ve worked with over the years that I respect a lot to go through and review it, to give me feedback, to tell me how we can improve it, actually applying the principles in the manifesto to building of this particular challenge that the… One of the things about agility is that you have to decide, as you said, are you going to really pursue this or are you just gonna do the minimum that someone says you have to do to check the box and go on down the road? If you’re really going get better, whether that… You don’t have to be a coach or scrum master, if you want to understand agility and how it applies to business, to everyday life, to some organization that you’re involved in, you’re going to have to work at it. So that’s the intent of the 20-day Agility Challenge.

0:12:18.0 Derek Lane: And then with some feedback there, early on, I was like, “Well, this is great, it’s designed for an individual to do it theirself, but everybody’s not the kind of individual who wants to do this by themself. They’d rather go through it with a group. So how can we do that?” So we created an online community that’s free to join called Unlimited Agility, and that’s one of the things… The goal is really to focus and pursue servant leadership, because that’s so abstract, through the means that we’re more familiar with, which it might be Lean or Agile, or growth mindset or human-centered design, DevOps, any of those things fit in there, ’cause that’s the pragmatic, that’s the tangible thing that we see, but servant leadership can still be the underlying set of principles there and be a contributing factor to the outcome of applying Lean or Agile or so forth.

0:13:17.0 Derek Lane: So one of the things that we do in the community is we offer cohorts for folks who want to go through the 20-day Agility Challenge with others. Again, the point is not to go to the cohort and get the answers to the quiz, that defeats the purpose, that’s not the intent at all. It’s really just to say what can we do to help you ask yourself another question so you can really determine why do you believe this about Agile? Why do you think Agile is this? Why do you think Agile is not this? Where did you get that idea? How did it come to be? And a lot of folks just haven’t taken that time. And then the second thing they haven’t done is really dig into the Agile Manifesto. So that’s kind of my first attempt. And I’m working on… We’ve been trying to get a book out that would even explore that a little bit more and add to it for everybody who doesn’t have access to online, or at least a consistent connection, those kind of things. So we’re hoping that that will grow into more, but we’ve got other things there we can talk about maybe next time.

0:14:17.2 Matthew Edwards: I wanna amplify right before we move on from that, it’s a focus on servant leadership, it’s a focus on craftsmanship, which that whole journey, like Pete Breen wrote an excellent book on software craftsmanship quite a while ago, just talking about this was a journey, it’s not something you accomplished. And so you’re really talking about becoming more tomorrow than you were today, and more today than yesterday, but it’s a continual journey. That’s one of the things I wanted to amplify, is the servant leadership, the pursuit of the craftsmanship, and the other interesting thing too that your desire to foster is a psychologically safe judgment-free environment where everyone is valued, is really what you communicated there, and the intent is a safe place to consider and think out loud and get some alternative perspectives or additional or modified perspectives. Tell us about how you’re mapping some of the tenets or behaviors or patterns, the types of things that you see in your love and journey of barbecue, tell us a little about the barbecue journey.

0:15:25.5 Derek Lane: I guess I’d mentioned around 2000, 1999, 2000 is when I came across Kent Beck’s book. And it was a couple years later that I kind of decided, “You know what, I have never learned how to cook.” So I could cook a burger, a hot dog outside, but that was the extent, that and toast, that was about the extent of my cooking ability. So what I decided to do was, back then, you could go down and for 100 bucks, you could easily buy a smoker. Now, the popularity of this has gotten to where they’re hundreds and hundreds or even thousands of dollars for even a kind of a low level or entry level smoker, depending on what you’re looking for. But I got one, I made the brilliant first time person mistake, which is it was un-assembled when I got it, and I assembled it in the den and then it wouldn’t go out through the back door, one of those kind of things, so I had to take a couple of parts off so I could get it on the porch.

0:16:27.2 Derek Lane: And I think ever since then, I was doing… Every weekend I would try to smoke something, it was definitely this pursuit of craftsmanship. I’d start out with something… The idea is you start with something simple, you’re gonna do chicken, you’re gonna do ribs, and that’s the idea. Well, I’m in Texas, and Texas brisket is king, so brisket’s gotta come up on the dial pretty quick. And I think the first time or two I did chicken or sausage or something, and that’s not… Again, this is not grilling, this is smoking, so it’s low and slow, is the phrase that goes with really that type of barbecue, as opposed to turn it up to 900 and try to flame kiss everything. So at some point I got a brisket, I put it on there, read everything I could read, and that… Again, this is pre-internet, so it’s go to Barnes and Nobles or go to wherever, find a couple of books, put your head in them for a couple days, try to figure out what they’re saying, and then we’re gonna go try it. I don’t know how many mistakes I made, I’m sure there were many, but I do know that after probably about 12 to 14 hours, taking a brisket off that none of us could eat it. I learned a very valuable principle at that time, and this is back when you could still buy brisket for 40, 50 cents a pound. If it’s on sale now it’s $2.50, $3, and if it’s not, it’s quite a bit more than that. So it’s a very expensive hobby, is my point, for you to make something that you can’t eat.

0:18:01.3 Derek Lane: And so I had to find more… Some of the techniques I learned, some of the principles that I learned were really to try to figure out how do I make that dollar go a little longer? How do I stretch it out and go from there? And one of the things I did after talking to you was actually, I’ve threatened to do this for years, and I’ve never actually sat down and done it, but was to actually go through the Agile Manifesto, put my barbecue hat on and say, “What really maps to this idea of applying Agile values and principles to creating good barbecue?” And if you’re interested, I thought maybe we could spend a couple minutes going through that.

0:18:42.3 Matthew Edwards: Also, right now we’re recording this podcast in the morning, I am already thinking about lunch and dinner.


0:18:50.2 Matthew Edwards: Eventually we did have to stop for lunch, and we continued to meet and discuss the Agile Manifesto, its 12 principles, and how it very much translates to creating better barbecue. Make sure you don’t miss them. Subscribe to the Long Way Around the Barn.


Podcast: Unlimited Agility

Show Highlights

The Agile Manifesto is often thought of as a historical event or document, but Derek Lane is hoping to redefine how it’s introduced and revisited because the principles are time- and battle-tested in how it brings value to people. As 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of the Agile Manifesto, Lane and fellow colleagues have formed a community, Unlimited Agility, where you won’t find answers, but you will find like-minded individuals to challenge your beliefs and help you grow in your thinking and your work.

Key Takeaways

  • The Agile Manifesto isn’t a one-stop visit, it doesn’t make sense until you continually revisit it and recalibrate your understanding.
  • Parallel concepts exist – Craftsmanship, Servant Leadership, Lean, Scrum, Kanban – and looking at the Agile Manifesto through their lenses help to broaden understanding 
  • Take the 20-Day Agility Challenge and join the community.
The third Unlimited Agility Conference is being planned right now. This conference was created to promote practitioners of servant leadership who are local and regional leaders who work every day, side-by-side with individuals, teams, and organizations. 

Read the Transcript

0:00:00.0 Matthew Edwards: My guest today was around 20 years ago, when the Agile Manifesto was written, and has watched it evolve in the minds of people, teams, companies and cultures through the years since. He is a community builder, author, speaker and Agile coach. The list goes on and even includes a barbecue life coach, in the event that’s interesting to you. Derek Lane visits with me about how the organization, Unlimited Agility, is building a community for people to consider their journey and how it compares to the original intent of the Agile Manifesto.

0:00:37.4 Derek Lane: I guess I had realized I had learned a lot, I felt like I’ve kind of validated that learning and been able to learn better ways to introduce people to it so that they have a better appreciation for it, and they understand this is not a one-time stop, this is not the… I’m gonna go visit the Capitol or Disneyland. It’s one time, that’s all I’m going to go my whole life. No, this is somewhere you need to come on a regular basis. You’re not going to get it all the first time, and some of it’s just not going to make sense. You’re not ready for it. You need to go back if you need to go back, and you need to go back.

0:01:14.2 Matthew Edwards: Welcome to The Long Way Around The Barn, where we discuss many of today’s technology adoption and transformation challenges and explore varied ways to get to your desired outcomes. There’s usually more than one way to achieve your goals. Sometimes the path is simple, sometimes the path is long, expensive, complicated, and/or painful. In this podcast, we explore options and recommended courses of action to get you to where you’re going now.

0:01:45.8 The Long Way Around The Barn is brought to you by Trility Consulting. For those wanting to defend or extend their market share, Trility simplifies, automates and secures your world, your way. Learn how you can experience reliable delivery results at

0:02:06.6 Matthew Edwards: One of the things I’m curious about learning from you, Derek, is Unlimited Agility. Will you teach us a little bit about what you’re intending to explore? What is the motivator? What’s the desired outcome? How did you get here? And where do you wanna go? And then tell us a little bit about the journey.

0:02:23.2 Derek Lane: Sure, okay. I guess this all kind of started in January this year when I… For whatever reason, a random thread was running through my head and I realized from, of course, last year, I knew this, but it wasn’t time yet, that the 20th anniversary of the Agile Manifesto would be happening in February. I’ve gone through a number of different learning curves as we’ve discussed some of those over time, and I’m constantly trying to figure out, “How do I make this better and is this something I should stop doing and do something else?” In recent years, I’ve gone through a reboot of what the Agile Manifesto is and how it should be presented, versus how I’ve been taught and seen other people coach it over time.

0:03:06.5 Derek Lane: I think the difference is, is that most people, when they’re introduced to it, it’s at most, no matter what, it’s a half day, one class, a two-day class, whatever it is, it occupies anywhere from half an hour, to a couple of hours. And the Agile Manifesto is introduced as a historical event, a historical document, and it’s just really watered down and then it’s focused on practices and maybe some concepts, but we move quickly to the checklist, the 12-step program.

0:03:34.7 Derek Lane: This is Agile, Agile is supposed to be this, so this is what it looks like. Well, through the lens of Scrum, it looks one way. Through the lens of XP, it might look different, through the lens of Kanban, it might look significantly different. Through the lens of Safe, it looks radically different. So depending on what your introduction point is to the Agile Manifesto, and agility, has a huge impact on your reference point of what it is and what its importance is, and the ability to achieve or be able to accelerate this idea that we call agile or agility. And then there are parallel concepts and domains out there such as Lean, and we have even more abstract ideas, such as craftsmanship. What is craftsmanship? We have this idea of servant leadership, what does that mean? There’s lots of debate about these things, and when it all kind of zeroes in on the Agile Manifesto, I guess I had realized I had learned a lot, I felt like I’ve validated that learning and been able to learn better ways to introduce people to it so that they have a better appreciation for it, and they understand this is not a one-time stop, this is not the…

0:04:48.8 Derek Lane: I’m gonna go visit the Capitol or Disney Land. It’s one time, that’s all I’m going to go do my whole life. No, this is somewhere you need to come on a regular basis, you’re not going to get it all the first time, and some of it’s just not going to make sense. You’re not ready for it. You need to go back if you need to go back, and you need to go back. I think it’s a missing element in how Agile is often thought of as either a goal or now people are trying to update it as a journey or a destination, but I think we’re still missing this element that I’m now calling regenerative agility, which is this ongoing… Returning to the source to validate what we think we’ve picked up, throw away the stuff that was really junk, build on top of what we have now, pick something up new and then let’s go on again and then let’s come back again. So it’s very inherent, for those who know the Agile Manifesto and familiar with it, to see this idea of both iterative and incremental improvement, because learning is at the center of all of this, this idea of constant growth and improvement.

0:05:48.8 Derek Lane: Again, my idea was, how do I take something I’ve learned and give it back to the community? How do I find a way to honor the work… I talked to a number of folks, a number of former co-workers and colleagues and things, and came up with what now I call the 20-Day Agility Challenge, and the idea is basically a step-by-step period of time, from anywhere from as little as 15 minutes a day to as long as you want to spend.

0:06:20.2 Derek Lane: Typically, it’s not more than 30 minutes to an hour, but the idea is that you… Each individual would challenge their own beliefs on what Agile is, against not what I say, but against what the Agile Manifesto says. So it’s a deep dive inspection into every element of the Agile Manifesto over a period of 20 days. And then at the end, it’s like, “Well, this isn’t all there is. What do we do next? How do we take this and move on?” The 20-Day Agility Challenge is free, it was intended to be available, it’s delivered right now through email, and it’s available for anybody at, so anybody can go out there and sign up. But in the beta testing of this, a lot of feedback came in from some folks saying, “Well gee, Derek, this is good, it’s designed for an individual challenge, but there’s a lot of people who aren’t ready for that, or that’s not really their approach to things, they do a lot better in a group,” and I agree, so while some folks… And we talked about options, will pick some co-workers or somebody and go through this, not everybody has that option, or not everybody is going to be the kind of personality that’s going to go try to round up people to do this.

0:07:34.1 Derek Lane: So we decided to create an online community where we could create regular cohorts where folks could get together from around the world who wanted to go through this and create kind of an accountability group, so everyone would have at least a couple of accountability partners that could go through the challenge themselves, they would have someone to discuss this with, and then we actually have a couple of times a week through that 20-day period where someone who’s already been through the challenge will help facilitate it. So far, it’s been myself and a couple of other folks. Our goal is… There’s no answers here, this is not a matter of… We’re not filling in the blank. This is not quiz time. The goal is for you to challenge your own beliefs against what the Agile Manifesto says, for us to figure out, how can we help you if you get stuck? And we have interesting questions and really good discussions and topics have come up, and some of them are online, just through the chat type situation, and some of them are more through a Zoom type situation, so much more interactive as far as in person.

0:08:35.7 Derek Lane: But that led us to creating a community, and then that led us to a kind of a more foundational realization that there are other concepts that people struggle with besides agility. Lean, for example, which I mentioned, the growth mindset. What does that even mean? Servant leadership, craftsmanship, all of these things. How do I get from here to… Are these things related? Or are they… Is Scrum the same as Agile because someone told me that? And if it is, then what is this Kanban thing and why aren’t we doing that? And so there’s all of this complexity between these concepts, a lot of them are abstract, and then the general interaction that people have more on the day-to-day basis with what we typically refer to as the practices, and so we’ve kind of expanded that a little bit. That led us, interestingly enough, to creating an arena for people to practice, to try out these new skills, to share what they’ve learned besides just an online community, so we’ve created the Unlimited Agility conference and we’ve held two of them so far, we’re running them quarterly. The next one will be in November, and the idea there is to really invite people who aren’t necessarily the big name people. This is not “Come and listen to someone else,” this is “Come and interact with someone else,” this is “Come and share your experiences.”

0:10:00.7 Derek Lane: And so we think we’re pioneering a new approach to virtual conferences, we got to thinking about what are the things that people don’t like, the things that don’t work, the things that are different in a virtual environment, an online environment, then from a physical conference. And I wrote a LinkedIn article to try to enumerate a lot of those, but what we’ve learned so far is that in a physical conference, one of the things people like is the physical interaction. After a speaker gets done with their session, maybe I could go catch them afterwards and ask them questions, or get coffee or get dinner. Well, we can’t do that in a virtual environment. Even if we have breakout rooms, it’s not really the same thing. But what we did is we decided, well, what would happen if the speaker was to sit in the audience with the attendees? You can’t do that in a physical conference, it’s just physically not possible. Newton’s second law, I think, might have something to say about that. So what we decided to do is we have all of our speakers record their sessions, and we’re using a modified TED Talks format, so none of them are more than 20, 25 minutes long.

0:11:05.4 Derek Lane: But the idea is that now because they’ve done that, this doesn’t mean they’re going to record and the speaker is gone, this means now the speaker’s in the audience, and they can interact with the audience. They can say, “Oh, I meant to add this here.” They can say, “Here’s another reference, it wasn’t occurring to me at the time.” But this is the first time that we know of where a speaker gets to actually participate and put theirselves in the role of the attendee for their own session. So we’ve created this new kind of way of thinking about delivering content, and it’s much more communal, it’s less serial, and it allows then, that extended conversation to go on, people can literally ask a question at the moment it occurs to them during the session and get a response from the speaker in more or less realtime. So we’ve kind of combined this idea of the Q&A and the director’s cut with the idea of an interactive session. It’s just interacting in a different way than we think of, if we were physically in the same room and I could raise my hand, and eventually you might call on… Or you might not.

0:12:13.4 Matthew Edwards: Well, let me reiterate so far what I think I’ve heard, which is the motivation here, as I understand it from you, is to give an opportunity for people to reflect upon where they are in their journey in relation to the original intent or communication of The Agile Manifesto, and it was motivated to some extent, in context of the upcoming 20th anniversary. And so out of that, the conversation is, “Hey, how have we evolved? How are we doing?” And so you’re looking to create a type of environment where people are able to come together and say, “Hey, I was thinking through this, this is how I’ve typically understood, this is how I’ve applied it. How are other people doing it?” So it’s kind of like a conference, not really a conference, it’s kind of like cohort, but the assumption is Agile Manifesto, where are we and you in relation to the manifesto? So what do you believe? What do you practice? And why do you believe it? And then how are we doing evolving? It sounds like you’re creating a safe environment for people to evolve together with a single point of origin, which is the manifesto.

0:13:28.5 Derek Lane: Yes, it’s that. I would say that it… However, a slight difference, I would say, is that it started with this idea of focusing on the Agile Manifesto, but it’s now expanded to include Lean principles and what is servant leadership, (Robert) Greenleaf’s work. And so it’s no longer… While the name Unlimited Agility is still, I think, an accurate description, it’s not limited to agility in the sense of the Agile Manifesto. You also have Agility by being a better leader. One of the things we’ve learned from folks like… Was it Adam Grant and Simon Sinek? And those folks, is that they’re talking about leadership, they’re talking about a different kind of leadership than most of us have been exposed to and have been trained that way. They’re talking about leaders where the employees are first, they’re talking about leaders where customers are right, but it’s not a matter of just the customer is always right, it’s a matter of, “Well, the customer is right, but they’re right, why?” Because we need to validate that if what we’re doing isn’t valuable to them, they’re not gonna continue to be our customer. So it’s no longer a technology-centric in the way that, often, Agile is thought of.

0:14:47.2 Derek Lane: Because Agile starts out by saying that this is the Agile Manifesto for software development. There’s nothing wrong with that, but with the change of literally a handful of words, we can abstract the software-specific aspects of this and realize that we don’t have to change 99% of the rest of these values and principles, and they literally apply in almost every context.

0:15:11.7 Matthew Edwards: So what would you say so far in this journey, has been an unexpected surprise? Whether a pleasant surprise or a distasteful surprise where you realized, “My goodness, what was I thinking? I need to make a change.” What type of surprises have you experienced along this journey?

0:15:30.4 Derek Lane: Well, I’ve definitely been through the, “Gee, I thought this was gonna be different or easier, or fewer steps,” a number of times. I think the challenge that has always been there, that it’s not unique to this effort, of helping… Of communicating to people that there is no checklist that’s going to make you agile or lean, or smart, or fast, or profitable, or… Fill in the blank. This is not a 12-step program. Agile is not a 12-step program, and I’ve been saying that for years, and I’ve been saying that about a number of different things besides Agile, but the challenge is that the force, the gravity of a black hole is pulling so many people in business, so many people in technology, to hurry up and get it done, to check the box to do the next thing. It’s all about the task and the project plan and the delivery date, and it’s not about value, it’s not about people, and that’s what the Agile Manifesto starts out by telling us that, this is all about people. Some people seem to already be a bit like Neo in the Matrix, they already have a… They suspect something is not right about the way things are going, but they’re not quite sure what it is, and then there are other people who are well aware that… They don’t know what to do about it.

0:16:53.1 Derek Lane: Nothing they’ve done has worked. And so I think a community like this can really help them because first of all, it’s going to put them in touch with people who have either been or are currently in the same spot that they are, so just the fact that we know now that there are other people that are just like us, that’s a huge psychological benefit, that creates a certain amount of community there. And then we’re hoping to create these other mechanisms for folks to be able to then exercise and practice and learn new ways of doing things that are maybe external or tangential from their normal everyday lives. But then as they learn and meet people from around the world who have had success with something and they get a new idea, and now they’ve got a sounding board and accountability partners, an expert, so-called, that… Someone who’s just a little further down the trail than they are, they can go ask these folks for help and say, “What do you think? What would you do? What could I try?” And I think it gives them a whole new range of options that are very personalized, and… Because they’re creating this new community, and our goal is for it to be a self-sustaining community where the members of the community decide where we need to go next. And we’ve got a long list of potential things on a backlog, but right now, now we’re back to, “We’ve gotta validate those…

0:18:22.1 Derek Lane: The community finds those valuable now,” versus later, versus never. One of the other benefits of our format is that a lot of people who have a lot of experience, and you’ve done this, you’ve been in a room and you’ve heard somebody, they’re just a little timid, they might talk a little softly, but you’re like, “Wow, man, you’ve got some gold there. Why don’t you share this? Why don’t you speak up?” And that’s just not their personality. But with our format, they can record and get a lot of feedback. Through the process of recording, they can record their session, and then they can from a safe distance, because social media has proven… People are perfectly… Feel perfectly safe with the keyboard in front of them, between them and their audience. And be able to then interact with the audience and gain that confidence and be able to still share a lot of the values and experiences that they’ve had. And I think in the last conference, we really had a lot of transparency from some of the speakers who were saying… Explaining, “Here’s some stuff that didn’t work,” and being willing to be vulnerable. I think that’s… It’s becoming a little more acceptable in some arenas, I think, with the help of folks like the TED Talk from Brene Brown and other folks like that, that are encouraging leaders to realize the value of being vulnerable with the folks that you lead, and the value that that gives them to help them be better leaders.

0:19:48.5 Derek Lane: Now we’re getting back into servant leadership, so it’s amazing how all of these things are interconnected, the patterns are repetitive, and they appear to exist in each one of these domains, or in this case, in lots of these different concepts. So if we can maybe… Dismantle is not the right word, maybe if we can reveal enough of the pattern so that people can see the parallels of something they’re more familiar with, then they will gain confidence and they can grow quicker in an area that maybe they’re not as familiar with.

0:20:22.9 Matthew Edwards: So after you have one of these conferences, the types of material that’s reviewed during these conferences, does that continue to be available to the attendees or folks later?

0:20:35.4 Derek Lane: Well, the discussions that happen on the… Essentially the chat boards, the Facebook and Twitter-like features of the community, those are available and open all the time. So because we wanted to make this available to everybody, we created some separate levels of membership. The entry level or the lowest level that’s free as far as charging goes, is available to anybody who wants to just basically go on and create an account, but what we’re doing to try to help… Again, to kinda hopefully make the community self-supporting and self-sustaining, is we have from the day of a conference, which always happens on a Thursday, it’s open to the public, so anybody who basically registered for the conference gets access to all of the materials for the conference, including a speaker’s roundtable that we do at the end where the speakers get to ask each other questions, and a number of other interesting things that we try to come up with. But after that, the idea is that any of the paid level memberships will have access to all of that archive and that material, so yes, it is available and it’s online, but after that kind of window of a week, then it’s available to any of the paid level memberships.

0:21:48.2 Matthew Edwards: So Derek, what do you think you need next in order to evolve it to the next level?

0:21:53.2 Derek Lane: Well, I would say, just to tag on to the previous idea, the conference is free. Again, we have a free level of the membership, the 20-Day Agility Challenge is free, so we’re scheduling to have three or four of what we’re calling either lakeside or fireside chats, depending on what time of year it is. So we’ll have two of each, each year, if we’re fortunate. And that’s really more of the idea of a sit-down interview with someone who is considered more of a leader and expert in some area. That’s something that we’ve already got cued up, and that’s coming in the pipeline. Our goal is to really be able to give 10% of the profit that might come in from running the… To charities that we’ve validated. So we’ve already verified and validated three charities, and we hope to be able to… We’ve got another couple in the pipeline, and we would like to be able to set that up to where that’s just a part of everything we do, so that as people can register for free for the conference, instead of paying for the conference, they could donate to this charity.

0:22:55.6 Derek Lane: We feel like that’s a way to practice this idea of servant leadership and be able to… But in a real physical, tangible way, to any of the charities that they might feel more affinity for. So that’s something that we’re looking to expand on as… We’re really just looking for additional volunteers. As we get more volunteers, we’re able to do more things. We’re looking for folks to help with… We’ve got another set of websites that we’d like to get up and running, that we just haven’t had the bandwidth to get up and running. So those are skills that would be greatly valued and help. We’ve got stuff cued up as far as trying to make workshops available, so we want to have both some free and some, again, some paid content that would help support the community so we can do more things. And those will be in a number of different areas. I think to start with, we’re kind of saying, “Here’s some introductory level things,” but not introductory in the way that, again, that it’s often communicated. We want to be able to do something that we feel like is kind of “We’ve learned more, and here’s maybe a better way to introduce some of these ideas.” But we have a number of additional, like I said, things on the backlog. I think where we’re going is to grow a group of volunteers that are interested in exercising that servant leader or that craftsmanship muscle, and we want to give them a chance to do that.

0:24:31.8 Matthew Edwards: I went out and looked at your sites previously, and looking at them again today, and so for someone who wants to learn, what’s the front door URL you’d like people to go to to get a look into it?

0:24:44.8 Derek Lane: Sure, the 20-day Agility Challenge is 20, it’s the number two zero, they can go there and register for the 20-Day Agility challenge. They’ll basically receive that… It literally is a matter of putting your name and your email in. You can also do this, again, with a cohort, that’s where you can go to the community and join the community, and there’s a separate group that’s just for the 20-day Agility Challenge Cohorts. For the Unlimited Agility community, it’s Their regular triple W website is one of those we’re almost ready to launch, but not quite there yet. So the membership website is up and running, and that’s where you can go and choose a plan. Again, we just encourage folks to choose the free practitioner plan, and that’s all the way at the bottom, as the options that you have for membership. But the landing page there tries to describe what the community is and what we’re trying to do, and it shows the charities that we’re currently supporting right there, and tries to answer any of the typical questions, there’s some FAQ type stuff on there.

0:26:02.6 Matthew Edwards: Right on. That’s outstanding. Derek, we have covered very many topics to a lot of depth and breadth, across our time talking together, and I just want to thank you very much for taking all this time to give us insight into your journey and the types of things you’ve learned and where you are and where you’re heading, and in particular, the work you’re doing with the 20-Day Challenge and the Unlimited Agility. That sounds amazing, and well done. Thank you for your time, good sir.

0:26:32.7 Derek Lane: Hey, thank you. Thanks for your interest, I appreciate it.

0:26:35.5 Matthew Edwards: This is just the beginning of our conversation with Derek Lane. Our next several podcasts deconstruct the Agile Manifesto using the analogy of learning how to barbecue. Now, if you would love to smoke meat or would love to improve your ability to smoke meat and other items I would never have thought possible, and you have a desire to always become more today than yesterday, using the Agile Manifesto as your guide, I encourage you to keep listening. Derek should write a book on this topic, but until then, you’ll have to settle for listening to raw, candid conversation that might also make you hungry along the way.

0:27:16.6 The Long Way Around The Barn is brought to you by Trility consulting where Matthew serves as the CEO and president. If you need to find a more simple, reliable path to achieve your desired outcomes, visit

0:27:33.3 Matthew Edwards: To my listeners, thank you for staying with us. I hope you’re able to take what you heard today and apply it in your context so that you’re able to realize the predictable, repeatable outcomes you desire for you, your teams, company and clients. Thank you.

Product Design & Development

Distill What You See Into Action

On Monday morning, you receive a phone call from a Senior Partner in your company. A client of your company is preparing to go live with a new software system in sixty days. The Senior Partner, knowing you have extensive, successful experience delivering technology systems to the marketplace that meet or exceed functional expectations, are secure-by-design, delight customers, generate revenue, and increase brand value, wants confidence that everything will happen as planned and desired. You can name your price, but it doesn’t change the fact that you have three weeks to learn, assess, refine, and present observations and recommendations. You have no idea how deep the rabbit hole may go. After some back and forth in the conversation, you accept.

You’ve done this before. You know what to do. You have a battle-tested framework for assessing large volumes of data in short periods of time to determine planned versus actual deltas and risk+probability remediation plans. This framework that you’ve developed over the years and myriads of assessment/salvage operations helps you not only identify what, why, and when, but also what not. In other words, while you’ve found success making observations and recommendations, the real magic has been identifying what doesn’t matter, what doesn’t need to be addressed, and/or what can safely be ignored for now, and perhaps forever.

Identifying what does not matter is often harder than identifying what does.

The assessment framework you use for these types of engagements is structured to help you discover project health and corporate risk while eliminating noise. After all, folks pay you to figure out the state and health of their investment in short, thorough engagements. And what they expect is a concise list of observations and recommendations that guide immediate decisions leading to crystallized outcomes.

You know there will be one of three possible outcomes:

  • Outcome One: This project is working well. You may recommend some changes here and there to fine tune the performance, but overall, the effort is heading in a good direction and should render the desired outcomes according to the expected parameters.
  • Outcome Two: This project is not working well, but is correctable. You recommend a number of changes that will bring the project back into expected performance. You additionally recommend some key areas (health indicators) of the project to keep an eye on from today through end of project so they minimize the possibility of ending up here again.
  • Outcome Three: This project is not working well and is not recoverable in a manner that makes financial sense. Your recommendation will likely be to close the project down, perform a retrospective, and use the output to influence project structures and decisions in the future.

From experience, you also know that some projects classified as Outcome Two should really have been classified as Outcome Three. However, after reporting your results to the Senior Leadership team, they were not yet willing to accept the possibility of a sunk cost effort and instead chose to believe doubling down on the effort would pull it back into the green zone. (Where “doubling down” = “get more people, work harder, spend more money”.)

The Assessment Framework

For each category below, research and understand what exists, what doesn’t exist, in what state it exists, and what must, could, should, or will not be done accordingly.

01 Problem Statement

What problem does this organization need solved? Would you categorize this as a business, technical, security, compliance, team member efficacy, or client-driven problem? What is the known/perceived blast radius of this problem statement impact — the industry, your target market, your enterprise, or localized within an enterprise?

02 Desired Outcomes

What change must be realized as a result of this effort (expenditure)? What will this/these change(s) look like to the affected parties? Will they care and why?

03 Definition of Done

How does this effort, team, project, or program know when it is done spending money?

04 Constraints/Attributes

Are there parameters, boundaries, and/or attributes to which this engagement must adhere, meet, or otherwise evidence compliance. Examples: Financial (SOC), Health (HIPAA), Security (NIST), Privacy (CCPA), System Availability (5NINES), budget, time, capacity, risk appetite, traceability, auditability, etc.

05 Dependencies

What dependencies exist that may complicate, inhibit, or otherwise preclude this effort from successful completion? For example, will this solution sell itself into an existing market or do we need to create market demand along with introducing a solution? Are we innovating on existing things or green-field inventing? Do we understand the target market? Are teams skilled correctly?

06 Team

What roles were initially requested to make this effort happen successfully? How has this changed through the course of the effort? What exists today? What should exist? Is the team being simple enough? Are they thinking big enough? How frequently, if at all, is the team being given opportunity to assert, test, learn, and change? Is this an adaptive or inflexible project environment?

07 Work

How is work (deliverable) discovered, defined, prioritized, and realized? Is there more than one backlog? Is there more than one priority? Who are the stakeholders? How are they involved? What is the definition of done? What implementation choices have been made and how will they impact long-term solution viability, cost of ownership, staffing availability, training, and competency?

08 Money

Did there exist an idea of how much money would need to be spent in order to realize the desired value? If there is money awareness, are there planned versus actual details? A known run-rate? Remaining spend projection?

09 Commitment

What was the original delivery commitment? What is currently delivered? Is there a delta? If yes, why? If there is a planned versus actual delta, will this effort require remediation activities now, later, or never?

10 Risks

What are the risks which may impact successful implementation, daily operations, and customer delight? What is the associative probability of each occurring? What is the associative impact of each occurring? Particularly, though not exclusively, what are the elimination, mitigation, and/or remediation options for each?

To be a healthy, useful, value-driven and value-realized investment, projects of any size, in any size organization, all require these above elements in some way, shape, and form.

At the end of this effort, you typically have what you need to ascertain investment to return potential and make your recommendations to the Senior Leadership team.


People Operations Focuses on Bringing Even More Value to Team Members

Who you work alongside matters. This is a core belief shared by the people of Trility Consulting®. This shared value plays a role in ensuring they work as a team in delivering the highest priority outcomes to clients.  

Who you stand beside matters. I am grateful for each and every one of the people who have joined and committed to this journey together.

Matthew D Edwards / CEO

This journey has grown to include more contracts, more clients, and more team members, so Trility leadership realized this small startup was ready for a formal People Operations team and announced the following promotions and hires.

Jennifer Davis promoted to Vice President of People Operations.

As one of the first employees hired in March of 2017, Davis has reliably served Trility as needs arose and exponentially grew. “We worked with Jennifer before Trility as consultants and quickly realized she would always deliver and always with a smile,” said Edwards. “From the start, she has always embodied the spirit of People Operations – caring and serving others and putting people first always. She continues to make Trility a better place for each of us, so she was the natural person to step up and lead People Operations.”

Kori Danner promoted to Talent Delivery Manager.

“Finding new talent is a lifeline for Trility, and Kori has been at the heart of finding people who exemplify what Trility embraces – honor, professionalism, and keeping promises from Day 1,” shared Edwards. “Our ability to scale and not sacrifice how we deliver work is directly related to Kori’s consistency in creating connections and forming reliable processes that earn and increase trust with people considering joining our team.”

Megan Hanna joins the team as Talent Sourcer.

As the newest addition to People Operations, Megan is focused on helping future talent understand Trility’s culture. “Megan has a very natural way of connecting with others and will be integral in helping cultivate Trility’s newest teammates,” Davis shared.

We’re Growing & Hiring

While People Operations is now a formal team at Trility, its directive is not new. These three team members will elevate and scale how to create value for Trility’s existing and future team members.  As one of the Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies, Trility welcomes conversations with people interested in becoming more today than yesterday. View our current openings on LinkedIn or connect with a recruiter.


Creating Value in Relationships is No. 1 Priority for New Role

As a longtime fundraiser in the nonprofit sector, Megan Hanna discovered she had a knack for building solid relationships and creating inclusive communities for donor and volunteer networks. This ability to connect with others and build a culture made her an ideal fit for the recruitment team at Trility Consulting®.

“Non-profit work is very relationship-focused and rewarding, but I realized I desired a position where I could work in a team environment – not just build one,” shared Megan, whose role as a Talent Sourcer is to identify individuals who are interested in delivering solutions with a team instead of being viewed as an “outsourced contractor” to clients.

Megan’s style of learning about others aligns with the values we seek in candidates. For us, it’s more than keyboard skills and expertise. We seek specific attributes that help ensure Trility builds solutions that consistently deliver values and achieve the priorities our clients expect in a predictable, repeatable, and auditable manner.

Kori Danner / Talent Delivery Manager

When it comes to success, Megan knows it’s “95 percent about building that relationship.” Her recipe for doing this is simple: Be transparent by being honest and forthcoming. “I want to know where I stand with others because this helps me grow and learn,” she shared. “So I look to provide the same experience for those who are interested in career opportunities at Trility.”

Along with the team environment Trility offers, Megan was excited about how the culture translates to team members who are geographically distributed around the United States. “I love the opportunity to work remotely but still feel part of a team on a daily basis with the communication tools and resources available.”

Megan’s two dogs, Mason and Kaylee, are also excited to have her working from home. 

Connect with Megan Hanna

Interested in joining the Trility team? Email or connect with Megan Hanna on LinkedIn.  

We’re Growing

Trility Consulting made Inc. 5000 list for fastest growing companies due to achieving 131% financial growth in three years and continues to have career opportunities for people interested in becoming more today than yesterday.


Podcast, Part III: Bridging the Gap Between the Art and Science of Data Analytics

Show Highlights

Science is the iterative testing, results change over time with variables. For data science, what’s true today could dramatically or incrementally change tomorrow based on one variable. The art of it is accepting that there will be exponential opportunities to discover more, learn more, and communicate more to find value and purpose in data.

This final episode with Jacey Heuer provides insights into how individuals can seek opportunities in this field and how organizations can purposefully mature data science and advanced analytics.

Missed the first two episodes? Listen to them both: Part I and Part II.

Read the Transcript

0:00:58.1 ME: In our third session with Jacey Heuer, he helps us bridge the gap between the art and science of data analytics. We discuss what is required of people and organizations to explore, adopt, implement, and evolve today’s data science practices for themselves and their organizations.

0:01:18.2 Jacey Heuer: And so I really look at this as, again, bringing it back to science and art. Science gets you to the insight, the art then is how you tell that story and paint that picture to create comfort with some of that uncertainty that you’re now revealing in your data.

0:01:35.2 ME: So as it relates to individuals and organizations and the adoption of a more formal data behavior, through your experience and your perspective, the study, the work that you’ve done, how do we make this a normal, common daily conversation for people and companies instead of this emerging knowledge area that some people are studying?

0:02:05.9 JH: You’re right, the passion is a key component of this, right? I think passion across anything you’re engaged in is important to be able to find that and it’s a true driver motivators finding your passion. Mine is learning, happens to be with data science, and those kind of come together well for me. Just going a bit deeper into my personality with this too, is data science, as much as there’s science involved in it, there’s a lot of art involved in it. Personally for me, my background, I have an art background as well, in my past. When you think about left brain, right brain, creativity, logical, all that kind of stuff, it’s usually more binary, more definitive, and for whatever reason, I have some bit of a crossover in that. I can find enjoyment in both sides of that and it works well for me with data science, but what I think about from the standpoint of trying to wrap your brain around, what does this mean, how do I gain comfort in sort of the mindset that it takes to deal with and feel okay with ambiguity, uncertainty, right?

0:03:11.9 JH: I think so much and so often in business, which rightly so, it’s, I want to know definitively, 100% accuracy, what’s gonna happen in the future and so on. That’s a fair mindset, and I think there’s a lot of good leaders and people realize that’s not possible, and you make your own decision too. Given the information I have at hand, what’s the best decision I can make, and you go with that. Data science is really taking that human decision process, which you’re already dealing with, uncertainty, whether you’re aware of it or not, and just putting more support to quantify some of that unknown through data. And in that does require a new mindset of, the information I’m taking in may become more broad because I’m getting more data supporting the breadth of my decision-making, but then that also then becomes the realization and vulnerability of really seeing the uncertainty that the decisions I’m making, distilling those in my mind, that uncertainty in a way that I may not be aware of, but now because that data’s present, I’m aware of that uncertainty and becoming more potentially concerned with that uncertainty.

0:04:23.9 JH: And that’s where the side of the data scientist becomes vital and important, it’s a storytelling. And so how do you tell that story and manage the uncertainty that you’re now highlighting to a leadership or an individual that they might not have been aware of before? At least consciously aware of that is maybe the better way to state that. And so I really look at this as, again, bringing it back to science and arts. Science gets you to the insight, the art then is how you tell that story and paint that picture to create comfort with some of that uncertainty that you’re now revealing in your data.

0:04:56.1 ME: That’s similar to just about any career, I imagine, but I know explicitly in the technology side of things where there can be absolutely fabulous software developers who have not yet discovered that they have to also be able to communicate the goal and the journey and the value and manage that message and I wonder if that’s not a learned behavior for any human, but the fact that you’ve articulated the relationship between art and science all as the same collective responsibility, that’s really powerful.

0:05:37.1 JH: Science inherently is journeying into the unknown. Science is meant to constantly test and retest and so on. That’s what good science is, but there’s rigidity, there’s a tool belt that can be applied to that testing. It’s a known set of tools, generally. The art side, the learning there comes through experience, comes through vulnerability, comes through the willingness to test out, does this… From a data science perspective, does this plot with the dots on it mean more than the plot with the lines on it, does the bar chart mean more than the pie chart and so on and so forth, and how do I combine those together to get that message across, and at the same time, beyond the visual, it’s… Your written and verbal communication as well becomes essential ’cause you’re the one creating the confidence in this new idea that you’re bringing to the business.

0:06:37.7 JH: You’re bringing across… A good example I have would be the concept of distribution density plots, so it’s a very statistical term, basically all it is, you think about a normal distribution bell curve, it’s putting some statistics to that bell curve, just for example. How do you convey what that means to someone that has no statistics background? When you say the word density plot, their eyes glaze over. Being able to distill that down to elementary terms, do it in a way that gets your point across and drives the decision that, I think requires just stepping into the arena, finding and seeking out bits of that opportunity to challenge an idea, challenge a mindset with some data-driven visual, some data-driven insight and put it out there and see what happens. Again, science versus art, science, I think you can practice, you can get through history of defined techniques. Art is more, what works, I just have to try it.

0:07:47.4 ME: So I will amplify that to walk into my next question. Your statement was just, “I have to try it.” And part of my curiosity from your perspective is, let’s talk about someone in an organization who’s just now discovering the whole field of data on purpose. Doing data on purpose. So we’re not talking about just your historical typical, “Let’s create a 2D plot in Excel and call it a day.” We’re talking about trying to understand multiple dimensions of many seemingly unrelated things that when put together may actually reveal something that would never have occurred to our minds, we wouldn’t have seen because we weren’t looking for those types of things. For someone that’s just now figuring things out saying, “Hey, I really think that this might be a thing, I want to look into this.” We’re assuming that they’re starting in kindergarten, they’re starting with near zero. Where would they go? How should people get involved, get their feet wet, jump in? What do you see? What do you know? What would you recommend?

0:08:57.0 JH: Luckily, especially within the last decade or so, the learning options online, the open free learning options online have accelerated vastly. Like with a lot of things, a Google search for data science is a good starting point. There’s a number of open free coding academies. Coursera’s a great one, Udacity, things like that, not to market for anything individual, but it’s starting there as just this data science road map. What do I need to learn? What are the foundation skills to kind of build on? And getting a sense of what the scope looks like, I think starting with just that Google search can help define what are some of these terms and areas of this space that pop up and begin to emerge, things like statistics and programming, R and Python and SQL and kind of this whole space, just starting there with that cloud of what’s out there, to me, is always a good way to begin any project. What is my space that I’m living in? Really then what’s probably been most useful to me, it comes down to learning some of the core concepts and technologies, and then seeking out opportunities to practice and apply those, even if you’re stumbling your way through practicing, applying those, start trying to force those into whatever you’re working on right now, and it may not be the solution for your project at hand, but can I take a sliver of it and make it work from a data science lens to build up my skill set?

0:10:34.7 JH: To really give a maybe more concrete answer to things to focus on, I think it’s… Traditional statistics is a great place to start, and again, there’s a number of resources that are great for that, just through a Google search, statistics being what is the difference between mean and mode and what’s your range, min and max, how do I define a distribution? Things like that. Starting there, then moving into probability, probability is a big concept in data science, machine learning, so getting your mind around that space. You don’t have to be an expert in it, but at least becoming familiar with terms of probability. Probability Bayesian inference is another area that’s out there that goes hand-in-hand with probability as well, those three areas, traditional statistics, probability and then Bayesian inference, which has a lot of probability in it, are three sort of core foundational areas of this spaces, stats to be involved in. And then it’s moving into the technology side, so now you’ve learned and got a grasp on some of these statistical ideas, pick up R, Python. I’m an R guy.

0:11:46.3 JH: Python tends to dominate. Depending on your source, Python might be a little bit in front of R, it could go back and forth. Either one, the mindset I have is become an expert in one, but be familiar across both of them. ‘Cause you need to be able to operate on both sides, and either one of them, you can be working in R and you can leverage Python, you can be in Python, you can leverage R and go back and forth. There’s a lot of capability in the libraries and packages that are out there. And then as you develop the skill set of your technology, some of the base statistics, now start venturing into your machine learning, your AI. And depending on your source and your mindset, all of this really comes back around to developing the skill set to be an expert line fitter is what it comes down to. I say that kind of tongue and cheek, but really, anything you’re doing from a modeling perspective, it’s your taking your data set, which may be X number of columns wide, you can re-imagine that as being X dimensions in space, you have one dimension, two dimension, three-dimensional space, which is what we all live in. You can plot three dimensions on a plot relatively easily, but as you go up into higher dimensions, you can’t really plot that.

0:13:06.4 JH: That’s where a lot of the mathematics come into play then it’s how do you navigate a multi-dimensional space of data and be able to, out of that, to kind of, your thoughts earlier math, you distill meaning from something that in this multi-dimensional space, you can’t visualize and there’s no simple way to get your mind around it. That’s where machine learning and AI and stuff comes into play then. It’s those tools are effectively putting a pattern, finding the pattern in that multi-dimensional space that lets you either split it up or pinpoint a data point and so on. So that’s kind of the foundational skill set I think I would focus on, thinking about it. And then from that, there’s subsets and offshoots, you get into TensorFlow and PyTorch and all these other things into the cloud, all that, but that’s the core of where you really started when you’re talking about “What do I need to get into and start learning to go down this path?”

0:14:01.9 ME: So you led with, “Look for opportunities,” and then after that, I believe you said, “You need to go learn some fundamental elements of statistics.” And there were three different areas you were focusing upon. Then, “Go learn about some of the technology.” Then after that, you were talking about how you can start to take the statistics plus the technology and start discovering, seeking or otherwise applying that. So you’re starting to become operational at that point. So the first two steps are really classes of preparation, if you will, classes of data, prepare steps, but you start to become operational after you have those two classes of things under your belt in terms of familiarity, experiential pursuit that type of thing. So really three big steps. What you just communicated is a time-based journey of course, but I think one of the most valuable things you may have said there is, ultimately you have to seek the opportunities, or this was just an academic exercise of reading about this, then reading about this and then tomorrow there’s new subjects.

0:15:11.2 JH: Very true, and really, the reason for that is, space is so broad. I don’t think it’s unique to data science and this discipline, but there’s so many methods, so much research out there, problems are… There’s no standard, typically no standard problem. And so it’s really that process of, “I have a problem, now what are some methods that I can maybe force on that problem?” I tell you, I think the power… And again, I think this is common across many skills and disciplines, but it’s as you add breadth to your knowledge base, really a lot of the power you bring to your role as a… Your emerging role as a data scientist is not necessarily the expertise you have in a particular method or approach, but it’s the knowledge base you contain of what are alternatives to solving this problem. So now I have instead of one tool that I try to force onto this problem, I’ve got a selection of 10 tools that I can explore that space. I may not be an expert in all 10, but at least I know I can try 10 of those and find the one that seems promising and then really dig into that and become a deeper expert to solve that particular problem. That’s where, again as you step further into this career, your breadth of knowledge becomes greater and a lot of that skill set and value comes from, “I’m not a one-trick pony.” For lack of a better term, “I can pull from this tool set and find a better answer, the best answer.”

0:16:47.6 ME: Well, that is consistent with what you said earlier, which is, you’d like to be an expert in at least one, but functional and useful in both or all. To some extent, I can be an expert and a generalist, and that will take me further down the road than, “I have a hammer.”

0:17:05.0 JH: A lot of that, I think is just tied to the availability of information in this space. So I have the tools at my disposal to go and learn, and again, going back to some of the prior comments, having the passion to learn, being driven by some learning, identifying when you have that knowledge gap and then going, seeking out and learning that new tool set that previously you may have just been, kind of aware of, but now I know I might need it to answer the questions, so let’s go dig into that. Capitalizing on that motivation and building that knowledge from there, I think is essential as well.

0:17:44.7 ME: If I’m an individual, regardless of where I am on my career path, I’m new in my career, or I’ve been around for a while, or I’m in the later third of my journey, whatever it is, is really irrelevant. And if I’m an individual and I’m in a company and they’re not asking me, they’re not talking about any type of analytics, they’re not talking about BI, they’re not talking about any of this stuff. And I’m interested in doing this stuff, it’s probably on me to figure out, “Okay, where is my company? Where are they wanting to go? What problems do they want to solve? And how can I apply these things I’m exploring to proactively propose and find and encourage opportunities? And that might actually be a wonderful journey, it could be a wonderfully educational journey, or it could be a tough journey in the event that you stand alone with that appetite to learn like that.

0:18:37.0 JH: That’s the reality. Whether you’re in a role that isn’t defined traditionally as a data scientist or data analyst, and you’re trying to spark your journey into that, and the organization hasn’t adopted yet, or you’re in a role that, you’re a data scientist in a larger data science team and the organization is fully invested in it. I think for many organizations, there’s still an education gap of what really is advanced analytics and data science and what are the questions that we need to leverage them to solve for us? How do we ask that question? When do we bring them in?

0:19:15.5 JH: I think that’s a universal continuous thing, and it requires to solve that, it requires again, the term vulnerability, is the vulnerability and the willingness to push the idea forward as you continue to gain your knowledge, continue to gain insight and learnings, bring those up to those in the organization who are the decision-makers, the project owners, whatever it might be as, “Here’s a new way of thinking about this.” Likely, they may have heard of it, probably haven’t heard of what ML or AI actually means, wouldn’t say imposing, but putting that perspective out there, making them aware of it becomes as much of your role as anything, if you want to bring that… Develop that skill set, and bring that impact to your organization, you really need to drive that thinking and drive the mindset shift that it requires to incorporate advanced analytics data science into an organization.

0:20:11.3 ME: So if I’m a C-Suite leader, and I have all kinds of amazing responsibilities that go with my role in the organization, just like your role in the organization, and I’m feeling the pressure to make my numbers, and manage my market, and address the current economic situation, all of the things. And you’re the aspiring data person, and you come to me and say, “Hey, Matthew, I’ve been looking at this stuff. I’ve been studying some things. I have a couple of thoughts.” How would you approach me? What would you say to me? Not that I’m belligerent and stubborn and cranky, but rather I’m just on the move, and I’m looking for concrete chunks, if you will.

0:20:48.2 JH: It’s a great, great thought exercise and an important one. What’s been powerful for me, it’s showcasing… As you call it, showcasing out of the possible, but doing it in comparison to current state. So being able to… Whatever your question is, just for the example here, showing, here’s the report, the current process, the current output, what it looks like now, and I’m delivering that to you, so I’m maintaining my relationship with you. I’m not falling short or anything like that, but I’m taking some of these new learnings, and it takes a time commitment, but passion should drive that, to now, let’s layer in a slice or two of something new on the side of that. Maybe I’m forecasting for next quarter for you. And traditionally, it’s just been… What happened last year, we’re gonna add some percentage to that year over year, and something very simple.

0:21:43.8 JH: And now I’m gonna go in and at its current state when I’m enhancing it, by putting some confidence intervals on it, and giving better scenario analysis around if you do X, we see Y. And start to tell that story of what’s the next level. And it may not be perfect, but you’re at least creating awareness of the capability that you’re developing, and bringing to the organization. And hopefully, through that beginning to create excitement around “Hey, I’m the leader, the executive. I could see the improvement here, let’s dig into that further.” And you start to get the wheel spinning and that progress rolling from that.

0:22:20.6 ME: That’s very tangible. Here’s what we’re currently doing, here’s what we’re using it for, and what it seems to mean to us. Here’s what we could be doing, and here’s how it may actually add additional dimension or insight or view or value. That’s really good, that’s very concrete.

0:22:37.3 JH: It’s powerful, and I’ll say, what can be scary in that, fearful in that is, you have to put yourself out there again. I go back to this just because I’m not the stereotype, IT mindsets or data science mind… Personality, and things like that. But again, it’s not waiting for the business direction sometimes, but just taking a chance and stating, “I think if we did this, this could be the improvement.” And at least starting that conversation. It’s that awareness, that seed of awareness that becomes powerful and that it might not be right, but at least you’re creating visibility to a capability that either exist in your skillset or it can exist, and now starting that conversation.

0:23:24.6 ME: Well, let’s shift it a little bit then. So these companies that are starting to realize, “Hey, we need to be a little more aggressive, a little more assertive about what data, how data, when data. How can we get to where we really want to go, and how do we make this data thing work for us?” But if I’m a company, and I’m looking for people, where am I going to find people? If I don’t have people saying, “I’ve been thinking about this, I want to do this, and I’m starting brand new.” Where am I going to find these folks? Are there data conventions? And you guys are all hanging out like, “Pass the tea. Let’s talk about this.”


0:24:03.5 JH: Candidly, I don’t know if I have a proper answer for that or a great answer for that, other than I think in the space… Data science as much as… We’ve talked about the hard skills of data science, the art of data science, I think the other piece in there to be aware of it’s the subject matter expertise for that organization that becomes essential. You could think of a diagram of this with those three elements in it. That subject matter knowledge becomes essential to really developing impact out of advanced analytics and data science for the organization. I think often for an organization to define success in this, it’s finding individuals that are again, driven by learning, have curiosity, and motivated to learn, preferably in this space, but having in place mechanisms that allow them to ramp up the business knowledge that they bring, that organizational knowledge. What product are you manufacturing in the nuances of manufacturing that product? How does thes sales team sell that product? That business knowledge and the nuances of that are key to success in data science.

0:25:24.0 JH: Using myself as an example, when I turned into an organization, I tried to focus the first few months on just strictly relationship building. Finding that conduit into who are the people that represent the space in the organization, that can become my source of… My vessel of knowledge that I can tap into. Because when I’m working with data and trying to build a model, there’s endless questions around “Do I pull in column A or column B? Do I combine them? Do I create something entirely new? Does this mean anything?” Because what I think is meaningful in the data may be statistically significant, all this kind of stuff, when it actually goes out to the field, and you get feedback and that expert knowledge on, “Well, we actually don’t operate like that, so your insight is meaningless.” If I can get that knowledge, or at least a representation of that, that’s where a lot of power exists, that my underlying skill sets, technical knowledge, storytelling abilities, all that stuff can come together, and leverage that subject matter knowledge. So I don’t know if I answered your question well Matthew, or not, but I think organizations developing pipelines or… Pipelines isn’t the best word… Environments that are conducive to that transfer of knowledge between the subject matter expert, and the…

0:26:38.3 JH: Data scientist, the advanced analytics, and those using the data. That knowledge sharing, I think is where a lot of that power resides.

0:26:47.2 ME: So that’s a way they can discover the value and use and help grow and foster a culture that grows people, but you didn’t yet tell me if there are conventions where there are data scientists like you all sitting in smoking jackets, having tea, discussing the latest algorithms of the breakfast.

0:27:07.4 JH: So those do exist depending on your space and need and so on, right?

0:27:13.6 ME: Right.

0:27:14.9 JH: The term data science is just over a decade old in formality. If I’m remembering correctly, I think it’s credited with originating at LinkedIn as kind of where it started with formerly, and don’t quote me on that. A lot of the build-up and hype to this sort of where we are now with data science… Let me rephrase, not build-up in hype, but growth in this discipline and the rate of growth in this discipline overtime started with the technology companies latching onto researchers that were presenting on neural nets, artificial intelligence, machine learning at their dedicated conferences. So one of the conferences that has been around for decades, is called NIPS N-I-P-S, it’s now NeurIPS is the new term given to it, but it’s all… What was up until a decade ago, a conference attended by maybe a couple of hundred researchers off in kind of the corner, to now it’s annually attended by thousands of people that come to this. That’s where a lot of the original poaching occurred, these researchers brought from academia into practical application data science going forward now. That’s a extreme example.

0:28:37.8 JH: I think there’s many different organizations out there. I think of TWI is one, IIA, Institute of International Analytics, and so on. There’s all these different organizations that, again, to your point, Matthew, it’s maybe not sitting around in smoking jackets and so on, but gatherings of analytics and analytic mindsets that bring a lot of talent together and a lot of skill sets together that can be sources of experienced skill sets, experienced individuals in these resources. And then to give credit to the universities. Again, over the last decade or so, more universities are offering more programs related to business analytics, data analytics and so on. That pipeline is filling up, becoming more robust, becoming more refined as well, and there’s a quality, new grads beginning to come out of universities as more learnings are applied there.

0:29:35.8 ME: It’s a normal, normal problem. So educational institutions are themselves businesses or else they cease to exist. It’s not a free world here, so these folks have the responsibility and the desire and the goal to enable and equip and educate and all of the types of things. A reality though is the gap between learning these concepts to… Even illustrated by your earlier point, go learn about statistical things, whether it’s statistics in and of themselves, probability base, and all of those things. Then learning the tools that are the Python and anything else that makes sense, and then figuring out how to operationalize that and then starting to get into splinters. That’s a journey that has to be lived. Journeys aren’t ordinarily lived in college or university. Journeys can be enabled. The fact that universities are offering more and more data education is outstanding.

0:30:28.9 ME: But it’s fun to see how this is evolving. It’s fun to see where it’s going. To your point, 10 years, thereabouts, plus or minus, plenty of places to go on the web, many conventions to go to, seeing how it’s evolved from a small subset of researchers to a more populated thousands and thousands of people who are interested now. What a wonderful evolution of an idea that we’re getting to watch, unfold right now. And then as far as what does it mean? Heck, that’s part of the whole challenge. What is it? When is it? What does it mean? How we make use of it? This has been a phenomenal conversation with you, good sir. Thank you very much for taking the time to teach us about so very many, just aspects of the journey of data and your journey with data, and even very much thank you for taking the moment to just give some pointers to people who want to learn how to have a journey like the one you’re having. Thank you.

0:31:28.4 JH: Thank you, Matthew, and I couldn’t agree more with those thoughts that are… Right. It’s a great journey that this whole space and discipline is on, and there’s a lot of runway left in it. And because of the uncertainty, there’s a lot of room for creativity and impact to be had as more people venture out and become skilled in this space, as well. So it’s been a… I’ve enjoyed the conversation and learned more about myself and hopefully be able to share some good thoughts as well along the way, so thank you.


Trility Consulting Joins Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies List

When the founders of Trility realized they needed to form a company instead of individually contracting on extremely tough projects, they knew they’d bring value to clients and provide challenging work to those who joined the team. Little did they realize how quickly the teams and expertise they pulled together would make the Inc. 5000 list in their first year of eligibility.  

“Trility is a team of people always and only working towards one goal: Add the most value to our client experiences possible, moment by moment, each and every engagement. The by-products of that singular goal are revealed as satisfied clients, happy, healthy  teams, and cultural, company, and financial health. It is because of our teammates that we collectively, clients and Trility alike, experience value-based success.”

Matthew D Edwards / CEO

The Inc. 5000 is an annual list that ranks the fastest-growing private companies in America. Trility is eligible as a privately-held U.S.-based company with four years of sales with a minimum of $100,000 revenue in the first year and a minimum of at least $2 million revenue in the most recent year.

Trility opened its doors in 2017 with two Fortune 500 clients and has achieved consistent revenue growth by working with companies of all sizes and across 19 industries. Each of them seeking different solutions but sharing one trait – they view technology as the way to thrive amidst market, economic, regulatory, or competitive headwinds. Despite the challenges of a pandemic, Trility and its clients remained resilient. 

Edwards shared, “We are blessed to have great clients. We are even more blessed to have great people in our company who choose to become more each day than they were the day before. And they repeat this every single day of their journey with our clients and our company. I am proud to stand beside the people at Trility.”

Iowa-Based Companies

Trility joins 31 other Iowa-based companies who also made the Inc. 5000 list: VizyPay, MCI, Higley Industries, The Art of Education University, Pet Parents, Moxie Solar, Trader PhD, English Estates, Eagle Point Solar, Eco Lips, PowerTech, Heritage Group, Itasca Retail Information Systems, Heartland Roofing, Siding and Windows, Spinutech, MedOne, MediRevv, Trility Consulting, Dwolla, Highway Signing, Express Logistics, Schaal Heating and Cooling, Kingland Systems Corporation, JT Logistics, Clickstop, McClure, Peoples Company, Aterra Real Estate, GrapeTree Medical Staffing, Involta, and Ivy Lane Corporation.

Among the 31 Iowa-based companies, the average median three-year growth rate was 140 percent and total revenue reached $823.9 million. Together, this list of companies added more than 7,338 jobs over the past three years and remained competitive within their markets given 2020’s unprecedented challenges. 

About Inc. Media

The world’s most trusted business-media brand, Inc. offers entrepreneurs the knowledge, tools, connections, and community to build great companies. Its Inc. 5000 list, produced every year since 1982, analyzes company data to recognize the fastest-growing privately held businesses in the United States. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at