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Episode Overview

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the Agile Manifesto, and we decided to bring you a series of interviews with the people behind Voyager’s own Agile journey.

This episode I speak with Daniel Stastny. Daniel is an Agile coach with years of experience in both Agile as well as traditional project management.

We discuss all things Agile, its values, the benefit for companies to embrace it for themselves, and we even talk about the time Daniel spent in the Mt Eden Prison.

Transcript

Christian Espinoza:
Let me take you back in time. A time when Atomic Kitten and Limp Bizkit played on the radio and people walked around with flip phones, wearing True Religion jeans and flashy belts. We tuned in to shows like Will and Grace and Survivor, and hooked onto the NET using our dial up modems. Then just like that, on February 11th, 2001, at The Lodge at the Snowbird ski resort in the Wasatch mountains of Utah, seventeen people met over 2 days to talk, ski, relax, and try to find common ground—and of course, to eat. What emerged from that fateful gathering was to become known as the Agile Manifesto. This year marks the 20th anniversary of that historic milestone, and we’ve decided to bring you a series of interviews with the people behind Voyager’s own Agile journey. Today I speak with Daniel Stastny. Daniel is an Agile coach with years of experience in both Agile as well as traditional project management. We discuss all things Agile, its values, the benefit for companies to embrace it for themselves, and we even talk about the time Daniel spent in the Mt Eden Prison.

Christian Espinoza:
Daniel, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. You and I we've, we've been having these fortnightly agile kind of catchups over coffee, which I, I just have found so invaluable. And I really appreciate you being here today.

Daniel Stastny:
Oh, thank you. I really appreciate being here as well. Cuz I mean, if we had those two weekly or these fortnightly catchups and I get as much out of them as you do. So that's the beauty of coaching

Christian Espinoza:
I wanna start with, with a question here. I actually stole the idea from Wired. They do this series, "Explain in five levels", but could you explain agile as if you are explaining it to a ten year old?

Daniel Stastny:
Okay. So I mean probably a 10 year old wouldn't have heard agile a lot, but if you, if you are in, in, in business nowadays, agile is just kind of all around you cuz the thing is it, it has become kind of the norm. So it would be, would be yeah, the standard to, to work in, in, in agile, in some fashion. And that's, that's just a, the first thing that I think is, is such a beauty of agile. Agile is, is not just a framework, but it's a, it's a way of thinking. It's a way of working and it's it's agile. Agile is something that you are, it's not something that you do. You don't, you don't do agile. It's not like you have a, a, a 10 list at 10 box checklist. It's like, okay, I have to do 1, 2, 3 check check, check, and then I'm agile.

Daniel Stastny:
And then you get like a, a certification then you're certified agile. That's that's, that's not how it works. And because it's that kind of mindset, there's something in it for everyone, cuz it is, it is what you, what you make it. Agile is a mindset of, of how to solve problems, how to work with each other, what to focus on. So it's, it's rather than, yeah, it's not, not a, a, a framework per se. There are things like scrum, which is a framework that gives you certain tools and techniques that you can use from that. But it's like cherry picking, it's whatever, whatever works for you, whatever industry, well there's certain industries that lean more towards those those tools or techniques there's certain teams or maturity levels within, within your organization, depends on how, how fast the market change changes around you. There are some industries that are more more stable.

Daniel Stastny:
There are other industries, like for example, IT which, where stuff changes all the time. And, and it's, that's what I like about agile, but what is, what is agile? Agile is a way of way of working and it's, it's ultimately trying to focus on the customer. So there's, there's a few, there's a few things. So we talk about customer collaboration versus negotiation. For example, cuz we wanna work with customers. We don't wanna be okay, customer sits on the other side of the table and we have constant negotiation. So we, we fight over things. If you are familiar with project management, there is the waterfall technique. And in, in waterfall you have you're planning in the beginning of the project, you plan with your, with your customer, you kind of sort the requirements. Then you go away, develop whatever it is that the customer wants you, the website or a program or a product, then you go back to the customer, then you show it to the customer. Then the thing that's called all the change requests start to coming. Then this is a product that using the customer, want it. And then the customer says, no, I want this feature. And then it's like, but that's not part of the initial requirement. So you have to have a change change request. And then who pays for that change request? Is that part of the initial payment? Do we have to? So it's, it's all that. So

Christian Espinoza:
That, and that's quite common. That's a very common in traditional project management.

Daniel Stastny:
That's, that's how it, that's how it used to be. And it's always, and then a lot of energy and effort goes into, into that, that negotiation. Because on one side as a business, you wanna place the customer, but he paid for that. Then you put the work in so additional work, he would have to pay for it, but you don't wanna lose that relationship. So it's always that back and forth. Can I do I who's who, who swallows the cost? Do I just do the work and don't get paid for that or do I can't deliver that value to him without him being paid? Someone, someone loses in that relationship? There's no, there's no, win-win exactly. There's always a winner and the loser. With, with, with agile, you're trying to get the customer in as soon as possible to work with you and show him what you got on in a regular basis.

Daniel Stastny:
So not at the end of your, of your project. So it's incremental, it's incrementally. So incremental stages. You show him what you got. So that's another fundamental, fundamental thing. Cuz we talked about those increments in, in agile, after each increment, you're supposed to have tangible value. Value that you can give to your customer. Customer doesn't have to be an outside customer can be an inside customer as well. So after each increment you have something to show for. I mean agile stems from software development, it's often element that's, that's kind of easy to have something in, in, in, in two week increment, but as agile, agile developed, cuz agile is not a new thing. It's been around for 20, 30 years, depending on which framework and, and, and where you look at. But even, even nowadays there's car manufacturers that manufacture custom cars, they do that in a week to meet with a customer. And after the week they have exactly what the customer wants.

Christian Espinoza:
So I just wanna take you back. You said something that I found really interesting which is agile is, is not a framework or is not just a framework. It's actually a mindset. And so which, which really, if you, if you think about traditional project management, unless you are, you know, I'm sure you're very passionate about project. Well, people are very passionate about that. It's not really a mindset, it's a tool or it's a way to get things done in traditional way. You build a bridge, you use a traditional method and that's typically a, a waterfall type method or something like similar. Is agile something that would replace that? Or, you know, does it have its does it have its place as you said in software or things in tech, in technology rollout?

Daniel Stastny:
So I think waterfall still has a place in some areas it's getting less and less, but the thing is so what, I've, what I've been told in, in, in cuz I studied project management as well. I got a masters in project management and organization. So I've, I've seen both sides like traditional and, and I've, I've worked in a traditional way of project management as well.

Christian Espinoza:
You started that way?

Daniel Stastny:
I technically no, I started with, with agile and then I moved to, to traditional and then I moved back to agile again.

Christian Espinoza:
Okay, so what made you move from agile to traditional?

Daniel Stastny:
So that was just, just necessity of, of, of finding a job. So I worked for a small startup that yeah, grew too fast and then didn't have the clients anymore. So they had to let half of their staff go and then out of, out of necessity, I just yeah. Chose the, the next interesting job. And that was for more traditional side of things. It was never where my heart was, where my passion was. So I, I wrote my master's thesis about agile project management. And I kind of learned, so coming, coming back to the, to the question question at hand project management to me is the formalization of common sense.

Christian Espinoza:
Exactly right!

Daniel Stastny:
If you look, if you look at it that way, so that's, that's what we've been, what we've been taught and project management. So depends on what you do there. There's like there's certain frameworks. If you wanna do Prince2, if you wanna do, a PMA, if you do PMI, there's certain certain frameworks or organizations that help you with that, you know, they're very, okay. You have to have a project, has to have a project handbook has to have a project. PMP have to have all those things, environmental analysis.

Christian Espinoza:
And then there gates and...

Daniel Stastny:
Yup, that phase gate driven develop. So it's called waterfall. And because for, for those who are not familiar with that, it's called waterfall because you have one phase of the project. Once you completed that phase, you go to the next phase and then you go to the next phase. So the first phase is normally always planning. You plan with the, then you do the, the doing, then you do the testing and then you do the, the rollout. The, the problem with that is the, you can always, or you can only go back one, one phase. So if you, if you're in the testing phase, you can only go back to the, to doing phase and then you can go to the planning phase. But as we all know, just life doesn't work that way. And with, with project handbooks and project plans the best late plans are only good once the, by actually hits the road. So that was something that I've, that I've learned in cuz my, my job title was master scheduler before

Christian Espinoza:
Master Scheduler?

Daniel Stastny:
Master scheduler. So we were building trains and I had gantt charts with 4,000 activities in them.

Christian Espinoza:
So a gantt chart is again that waterfall type?

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah it's it waterfall, So you have, you have, you do activity A once activity A is done. You start with activity B right. Then you start with activity C. So we're building trains. So yeah, from, from commissioning to actually getting to the customer and because those are multi hundred million dollar projects, it's warranted that there's someone just looks at the, at the time components, but the Futility that I've learned is the time it takes you to update the plan. Life changes around you. And once you're done with the plan, life has changed and you have to update the plan again. So it's a never ending circle. So you, you actually never create any value cuz every time you get a new piece of information, you change something. And then yeah, you go back, change that in your, in your program or your plan and they come back, but then life has changed. So actually never produce any value cuz it's just that catching up

Christian Espinoza:
And traditionally that's how it's being done. Yes. Especially for big infrastructure?

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. That has been, has been done, has been developed in the, and, and that's the thing it has been developed in the 1930s by the Americans to build submarines.

Christian Espinoza:
Is that right?

Daniel Stastny:
They wanted to find a way to faster build submarine to, to cope up with the, with the, with the war effort and just, and it works really well when you have a standardized product, it is always the same. You can plan exactly. You know, exactly how every works that takes. And the thing is that was developed in the thirties and we still do it today. And the technique hasn't really changed that much.

Christian Espinoza:
But the world's changed.

Daniel Stastny:
The world has so much because the products that we have nowadays are completely different. Just look at car manufacturing in the 1930s, you could change if you have your model T in, in, in, in red or in blue, that's,uthat's how much customization you can have if you buy a new car now and it comes with like tens of thousands of customization options.

Christian Espinoza:
You have all the flavors.

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. All the flavors, all the colors you want leather inside, you want vegan leather, like all, all, all kinds.

Christian Espinoza:
Sustainably resourced.

Daniel Stastny:
Sustainably resourced. You want, whatever it is you want have more indicators, less indicators. So comes with all, all kinds of flavor. So that means that model doesn't suit to that very well anymore. So we, as, as this, as the world has evolved, we evolved because what we do now at work is mostly problem solving. We don't do, we don't we don't do heavy manual labor or not, not a lot of us do and not of repetitive stuff cuz with the, with the advent of, of technology, all that repetitive work or most of it can be automated. So what, what we do at work is work with each other and solve complex problems. We, we don't do the, the manual data entry or we, we try to do as little of it as possible. So we, we try to solve problems. We work with customers.

Christian Espinoza:
So give me an example then Daniel, if we're working, you know, we're agile is working with teams and you mentioned scrum. Yep. Give me an an example. I guess, if you could, of how a scrum team would work together to produce, you know, a product or an outcome for a customer's needs.

Daniel Stastny:
Yep so just because you, you mentioned teams, so in agile highly functional cross-functional teams are the heart of every, of agile in every business and it's just multiple teams working with each other, but that those teams that you mentioned. So first of all we wanna break down traditional way of, of how the hierarchy of an organization works, cuz it used to be, you have your accounting department, you have your software development department. What we try with agile is get everyone involved. So what we, what we are trying to do is we, we bring the work to the team, not the team to the, to the work. If you're looking at traditional project management, you, you would form a project management team, gets with everyone that's involved. Then you, you have that project because a project by default is something that is unique and has never been done before. So if you look up the definition, it's one of the definitions. So you, they come together they deliver that project and then they go back into the, into the organization. With agile teams, we try to build one highly functioning team. And then the work comes through that team.

Christian Espinoza:
Right. And that team doesn't change?

Daniel Stastny:
That team doesn't change because teams take some time to learn to work with each other. There's there's the four that's the four, four stages there's norming storming norming forming, storming, performing. So like a team goes through four stages. Every team that you, that you build goes for four stages. So first they, they get to know each other, then you kind of look at internal hierarchies, what everyone can do, then they form.

Christian Espinoza:
So, so you're going from norming as in they're they're coming together. They're figuring out what they can do And where their specialties lie?

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. I'm I'm, I'm not too sure. So it's, it's that the last one is performing. I, I might have mixed, mixed those up, but it's those, it's those four stages. And you just go through that. You have to have some storming cuz there's some, some headbutting going on like every team, sometimes it's more, it's more visual. Sometimes it's just an internal, but everyone, everyone is different style of working. Especially in New Zealand, we have a very diverse work culture. We have a lot of, of cultures different cultures handle conflict, different handle, how they, how they operate in meetings different. And it's just, that's something that you learn. If you work with a team, you figure those things out. You talk, you, you see, okay, if you work with someone and then you, you become that high performing team and those high performing teams are cross-functional. That is very important. Cuz you wanna, because as you bring the work to the team, like for example, here, here at Voyager, we do it or it's very common to align teams to value streams, value streams, or products.

Christian Espinoza:
So explain a value stream to me.

Daniel Stastny:
So value stream is, is as a business that's that's your bread and butter. That's, that's the value that you provide through a product to the, to the organization. I mean here, here at Voyager we're internet provider, so connectivity or networks or in basically internet is one would be one of our, our value streams. If you, if you work in an insurance, you would have life insurances, for example would be, or

Christian Espinoza:
I see

Daniel Stastny:
Health insurance would be one value dream. That's one, one value that you, that you provide to the business. I mean that would, would be granular. If you have, if you would be a power provider, then power would be one and infrastructure would be the other, it, it just depends on, on the organization, but it's, that's what you, what your, your prime be or what, what you provide value to your customers.

Christian Espinoza:
Right.

Daniel Stastny:
So, and cuz you have those values for teams and then you need to get, give those teams, all the tools and people to do the job that they need to do. So because what normally happens, if you hand something over to another team that handover takes time, you lose knowledge. Sometimes that other team has different priorities than you. So that work you. Yeah, it doesn't get the priority that you think it should. But if you have one team and that one team is one priority because you all work in that one value stream. So you all work towards the same goal. Then you have multiple people working together and it started out as just technology people. But that's something that I like about agile as well. It's constantly developing. It's been been around for 20 years. It's been several iterations and new new tools and new techniques.

Daniel Stastny:
What you need to do is you get more and more people from the business in insights, basically all the subject matter expertise that you need is in that team. And it's not just there for a short while. And then it goes back, it's in that team for the, for the entire time. So if you, if you rollout a product, you will have someone from, from, from marketing in there, you have some, some, if you, if you work on accounting, if you, for example, develop software for accountants, you would have an accountant in the team for

Christian Espinoza:
Right. Because they would be the subject matter expert Because their the person using it.

Daniel Stastny:
Yes. Because you, you can only you never know what that person know because we have, we all have our, all of our roles and we all have our strengths. So software developer wouldn't would not have the in depth knowledge of an, of an accountant, for example, or so everyone gets, bring something to the table and you combine those, those knowledge and expertise to deliver the best possible product for the customer.

Christian Espinoza:
Right? So touching on the customer who has, I mean, the customer is not outside of this necessarily, but we have value streams, as you said, who is the voice of that customer? I mean, is everyone the voice? Do we have a, a head customer rep? I mean, how does that work?

Daniel Stastny:
So, so ultimately everyone should think of the customer. That's, that's the thing that's it's customer first. So traditionally there is one role who represents the customer, cuz someone has to make the, the final decision. So that would be the, the product owner, but it's within everyone within the team to have that customer first, cuz everyone brings a different perspective to the team team and everyone yeah, different perspectives, different mindset, different, different knowledge and that mindset. And that's why they're in that team. So we want to hear that, that perspective

Christian Espinoza:
And it's welcomed input?

Daniel Stastny:
Yes it's, it's, it's, it's welcomed input because that's where that, that that team comes, comes together. If you have a team where you know, all your team members, it's easier for you cuz you know, you're in a safe space, you know everyone, it's not that you're in this big meeting with, with 15 other people and you don't know who those people are. It's, it's harder for you to speak up, Potentially.

Christian Espinoza:
We'll be back in a minute. If you like this interview and want to hear others, just subscribe to us on your podcast. App. We talk to the people behind the technology to uncover their stories and find out what drives them to do what they do because as technology grows, so do we more with Daniel after the break.

Christian Espinoza:
So how do you go towards creating a safe space for the team?

Daniel Stastny:
So there's, that's that's where, where agile or that's where your agile coaches, scrum masters, agile team facilitators. So depending on, on what your organization is, they have have different names, but they kind of all have, have the same, the same functionality. So they, they help the team becoming that, that high functioning team help the team to work better with each other. I mean, there are certain techniques that you can do, you can do, there are social contracts, for example, where you, you as a team define how you wanna work together with, with each other. There's certain. Yeah, just, just by regular a meeting with each other, then you there's retrospectives. There's something that after every increment you come together and look how the last increment went And you can, you can improve or something. This went, well, this didn't go too well, just in comparison, just coming back to, to waterfall this, this, because that's such an important thing in waterfall, you would only do that at the end of a project.

Christian Espinoza:
You would do a lesson learned?

Daniel Stastny:
You would do a lessons learned workshop at the end of the project. But that, that work would go in a yep. Go on a piece of paper. They would go on a cabinet.

Christian Espinoza:
And then filed away...

Daniel Stastny:
Filed away because everyone would go back into the, into their organization and that learning wouldn't be kept. And wouldn't be part of the team.

Christian Espinoza:
Touch on the social contract for me. So how is this formed and who, who comes up with the social contract?

Daniel Stastny:
So the, the social contract is formed by the team and the team created themselves. So the social contract is, is a contract that the team agrees on how they work with each other. So there's certain ways of, of doing it so that there's some someone who facilitates the session, cuz you want everyone who is part of that session to have equal voice who would've someone facilitating so everyone can, can voice whatever they whatever's important to them. And you, you put it on, there's certain techniques on how to do it. You can put on a piece of paper, you can put 'em on post its and then everyone votes or indicates what is most important to them. And then after after discussion or as in voting, you kind of pick out what is most important to everyone. So here at Voyager, we structured it in, in, in working meeting and communication.

Daniel Stastny:
So what is important for you when it comes to working. Me? Just for example, me of from Austria. So time is very, is being punctual is very important. So if you, so normally you start, if you a minute late to a meeting you're really late. Whereas other cultures, if you're five minutes late, if you're 15 minutes late, that's perfectly acceptable. So for me it was very important that people are in time. So I wrote that down as a, as a be on time to meetings and other people from, from my team found that important as well. So they voted for that idea. So that idea made it into the, the social contract.

Christian Espinoza:
Right. Okay. So voting for an idea.

Daniel Stastny:
Yes, so

Christian Espinoza:
The way the consensus.

Daniel Stastny:
The, the way it works is everyone you put, put up, the idea is what you want to have a total contract. Then everyone gets a limited number of votes. So we did it with just like blue dots. Everyone gets blue dots and you can put them on however many ideas and can put all three dots on one idea, if that's really important for you or if it has other ideas that you want to put it on. And then once everyone has cast their vote, depending on how, how big your team is, you just say, okay, everything that has more than two or more than three votes that gets into the social contract. And it's, it's, it's very easy because that, that means that this particular item is more important is important to more than one person or it's so important that one person that he spends all his points on it.

Daniel Stastny:
And it's that gives everyone an equal voice it's kind of anonymous. So you don't have to, ah, why did you vote for this? Not for this. Everyone just kind of puts it on. So there's no social pressure and I have to vote for this, but actually I would like to vote for this. Because depending on what, what culture, cuz it it's in, in, in lot of Asian cultures, it's that, that hierarchy, the hierarchy is, is quite strong. And if, if your supervisor would vote for this, then all the others would have to vote for this as well. Cuz the hierarchy is quite strong.

Christian Espinoza:
Do you find that with just by the, by its its own nature, agile lends itself to multicultural groups and organisations that may be bringing in, you know, people from different different cultural backgrounds.

Daniel Stastny:
I mean ultimately agile was developed in the, in the Western world. So it, it came, it came from the United States and now being exposed to more cultures and, and looking more at the more, from a cultural level, I think it leans more towards towards Western cultures. But one of the big things is why what needs to be said here. One of the key values of agile is transparency. So something, you just talk about that. So if, if it, if it's more comfortable to the Western Western societies or Western cultures, by speaking about it more traditional cultures could voice that concern and you can, you can come to consensus. That's what those social contract sections are for. Cuz that is, might be something that you're not even aware of, but that that's your, because that's your culture that you grew up with to you, that would be perfectly normal.

Daniel Stastny:
But someone growing up in a different culture or experience that in the work life, that would be something that would be a complete no-go. But because you don't talk about it or it's not transparent, you will never come to those, to those things. And that's why those social contracts and that transparency is such a good thing because that's where you talk about it or retrospectives you talk about I actually, yeah, we talked about, or we have this behavior I'm, I'm not sure why we do that. And then person from from different culture can explain, well, that's, that's perfect normal here for us. And for me coming, coming from Austria, New Zealand was a steep learning curve here as well because Austrians and Germans very direct.

Daniel Stastny:
So the first thing that I in my first job here in New Zealand is like Daniel, you're so direct. And it's like, and almost like almost like offensive.

Christian Espinoza:
Yeah. Well, you know, I, I went to Germany about three years ago. Just for a business trip. And the first thing I noticed in the airport, I went to a cafe, got a sandwich. I said, hi, how are you? The lady looked at me like I was a complete nutcase. Like, "yes, what do you want?" And okay, that said the tone.

Daniel Stastny:
I, I, I struggled with that phrase for a long time. Cause if you.

Christian Espinoza:
"Hi, How are you?"

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. Hi. How are you? Because the thing is if you ask that question in, in German or Austria, you have genuine interest in and you, you really want have them answer Yeah. How are you? What you wanna, so it's, it's, it's, it's a, it's a term of endearment. You, it's not

Christian Espinoza:
Just small talk.

Daniel Stastny:
It's not just small talk. You would, you would ask that to someone the, at your close, you wouldn't ask like, like a random person on the street and that I struggle, and now I do them because I know it's, it's the cultural norm, but in the beginning it was like, why do you wanna know? You're not interested in if just yeah, fine. Even if my day was absolute, hell, I will give you the answer of, yeah, it's fine. How are you? So that's that's or I just didn't even reply to it. Cuz I was like, what's the point of that? Because it's, it's against that efficiency. It's like, why do I have to, Why do I have to start that?

Christian Espinoza:
Yeah. It's the, it's the antithesis of efficiency. Like I am here to serve you. What do you want?

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. And it's the, the same

Christian Espinoza:
"Don't talk to me about my day"

Daniel Stastny:
Same goes in, in business culture here, here in New Zealand, you start every email with hi, how's it going? How's your weekend?

Christian Espinoza:
"Hope You're well?"

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. Hope. Hope you well, that kind of stuff.

Christian Espinoza:
"Nice Long weekend?"

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. In, in, in Austria, if I would send you an email, I need you to do this by then. Thank you. That'll be perfectly fine. Here will like, oh my God, what is, what have I done? What have I done wrong? Or

Christian Espinoza:
I I've angered this man.

Daniel Stastny:
So it's just, but that's, that's just different, different cultures and you, you have to experience enough to talk about it. If I wouldn't have got that feedback, people told me like, I, you so direct. I mean, I'm still for New Zealand standards I'm still quite direct, but I feel like I've toned it down quite a lot to, just to cuz that's the, the culture that, that we're in. But it's all about that communication. If people wouldn't have told me that or given me the feedback, I would know that I'm direct. Cuz to me that was just how people, people work with each other,

Christian Espinoza:
Something you said at the beginning where traditional project management is really just a, a condensing of common sense or, you know, agile to me is the modern version of common sense. It is really it sounds to me like it's, you know, you're creating a safe environment for people to be a transparent, without the fear of being chastised or berated because they did something wrong and then they're afraid to do it again because you know yeah. They'll they'll fail or they'll get in trouble.

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. Traditional project management leans more towards that command and control structure. Like as a project manager, you assign tasks to people like you do this by that time...

Christian Espinoza:
A task master.

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. You're a task master. And whereas, whereas agile, you work as that servant leader. So you, you are all aligned towards one goal and you just, you just enable people and then people solve problems for you. So it's, it's, it's leading more towards a modern work culture cuz it's, it's, it's more about that. Collaboration it's aligning towards, towards goals rather than you cuz now we, we, we wanna see work as, as fulfilling or something that we, because we spend so much more time at work that we, that we used to because the, with technology, the line of, of working...

Christian Espinoza:
It's blurred.

Daniel Stastny:
It's blurred caused, we all have our phones.

Daniel Stastny:
We kind of check, I mean...

Christian Espinoza:
We're always on.

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah, we always on. So, so work work is not just something you nine to five and then you go home and that that's it like it used to back in the day, I mean, some professions are still like that, but it's, it's more and more. So you are looking at work to be, to have to be more fulfilling. And because of the, the work that we do, we are looking at more solving problems rather than data entry. We're not just going in, typing in data all, all day long and then going home, we are looking at more fulfilling work. So that agile or in general, obviously there's, there's still there's, I can't can't speak for all, all, all roles or all jobs, but that's something that we as society kind of developed towards, or that's what we pay more focus on.

Christian Espinoza:
Do you think that in light of COVID 19 and the lockdowns that we've, you know, endured working in this mindset of agile has lent itself to to the "new way of working", where people are remote they're in the office they're ever everywhere. They're anywhere at any one time, not just connected, but you know through disparate locations, how has agile, or has it helped? And, and if so, how?

Daniel Stastny:
I think, I think agile played a or helped, helped a lot because the thing is agile enables you to have shorter planning cycles and be adaptive to what the market is doing. If you, for example, if you're running your, your, your business in a traditional style, you have your first three months, you look at your budget for the next year. So the first three months you look at your budget or you plan out what the year looks like. So if you think, if you think back 2020, 1st three months kind of looked okay, and then in, in March lockdown happened. So basically you all three months of that year and all the planning, all the things that you wanted to achieve that year was for nothing. Cuz you had to throw all that away. If you, if you want to keep in the rhythm, that means for the next three months you plan the rest of the year again and then half year is gone and you haven't delivered any value cuz you just planned, planned it out. From an agile perspective where you plan things in any increments.

Daniel Stastny:
If they're one week or they can be one week to a month, the most common one is two weeks. If you plan those increments in, in two weeks or as an organization, you you're generally planning in, in quarters. So I try to plan that then you're way more adaptive. Obviosuly The bigger the company, the, the hard it is to turn around cuz it's a, it's a big ship. So think about as the ship, if you're, if you're a small sailing boat, it's very easy to, to turn around. If you're a massive tanker, like the, like the, like the, the most recent one. Yeah.

Christian Espinoza:
Evergreen?

Daniel Stastny:
Evergiven.

Christian Espinoza:
My gosh.

Daniel Stastny:
Then it's very difficult for you for you to turn around. So that's why we try to organize people, those small teams, because those small teams are very agile. You can, you can turn them around there. They can maneuver around those things. If you, if you ice, if you have yeah. Icebergs, for example, the Titanic. Yeah. She was very difficult. You couldn't avoid them. If you have a small boat, a small boat can easily sail around them, but that's why you try to organize people in smaller teams. That's why I said small teams are so crucial and it's the, the heart of every agile and gel organizations because those small teams can react to, can react to change and can deliver that value to the customer. Because what we thought in the beginning of last year, what we thought is value to the customer changed dramatically because the customers wanted new things, working from home, working from home. Yeah. Life changed completely. So their, their needs and their problems changed significantly as well. So that's we where every business had to adapt and the ones with the more agile mindset and more agile practices in place were faster to adopting to those than very rigid at businesses that are yeah. More old school way of thinking.

Christian Espinoza:
What do you feel is the future of agile?

Daniel Stastny:
I think the future of that's that's a very good question. I don't know what the future will look like. I think the, the traditional or the values that it has will, will kind of stay the same, cuz they're so broad or so integral. So

Christian Espinoza:
The collaboration, inclusiveness...?

Daniel Stastny:
Their collaboration, their transparency that working on, on, on a goal.

Christian Espinoza:
Customer first?

Daniel Stastny:
Customer first, I think they will. It will, it will work like that. I mean you have to look at what the whole working from home, what the COVID, what, what the aftermath of that will be. But I think it will, it will continue with the needs of the, of the business. That's why, why I like agile, cause it is, has changed or it has evolved and that's, that's why like it so much, cuz I love, I love learning. I love learning new things and just agile, just things change and even you as a business can, can transfer what, what agile means. Like we, we VO we use part of the tribal model that was developed by Spotify. They just, they just needed a, they just needed a way of How they can, how can I deal with business? You have Genesis, which is just, just down the road here. They're making their own own version of agile and that's, that's the beauty of it. You just pick whatever works for you. And then you just make that work. You adapt on those things, you work with those. So

Christian Espinoza:
Almost like a, it's not too prescriptive, but it's modular and you can take from it. What you, what will work for you?

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. It's not, it's not a framework. Like you have to be this to be I till certified or whatever. It's just, you do whatever, whatever works for you and you, you try it out. You have that experimental mindset. You just try something out. No it doesn't work or will try something else. Cuz there's that, that massive tool set that you can use scrum is just one. You have, you have Lean, you have, you have

Christian Espinoza:
XP?

Daniel Stastny:
XP. So there's multiple tools and techniques that lean towards agile, but it's, if you have that agile mindset of what that transparency, that experimentation, the customer collaboration, you'll, you'll find new ways of, of doing things.

Christian Espinoza:
What would you say is I, I just want to maybe wrap up here, but what would you say is the worst advice that you've ever been given?

Daniel Stastny:
So I think the, the worst advice or not, not really advice, but prior to coming to New Zealand, I was, I was like talking about the, the job of master scheduler. Mm. I was really well paid job and I told people that I'm unhappy and I want to leave. And it was like, why would you leave that job? It pays so well. And you, you got a cozy life there, so that's yeah. And it was just, just unhappy. So that's, I think that's that's that was a good,

Christian Espinoza:
Yeah. Equating money or financial success with happiness.

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah. It's just it's it's just, it was just basically it was blood money. It was like, I mean, sounds sounds very harsh, but I, I felt, I felt very unhappy. I didn't feel didn't feel fulfilled or anything. I was getting, getting well paid, but, and that payment would allow me to go on, on lavish vacation.

Christian Espinoza:
Which I are Temporary

Daniel Stastny:
And that thing I would, I would have 50 weeks of unhappiness to have four weeks of, of happiness. And it was like, that's not how it's supposed to work. So it's, I mean, I was on a, on a beach in Thailand and I was just came back from a snorkeling trip and like, why do I have to go to Thailand to feel that happy? Why can't I just, why can't I just be my, my base level of happiness, so It's like, yeah. I mean, yes, yes. It's it is, it is difficult sometimes. And there's, there's some struggles, but that's what makes it worthwhile.

Christian Espinoza:
So what would you, okay, given that, what then would be your best advice that you would give to anyone who maybe is just starting out, you know, within an agile organization or wants to get into one?

Daniel Stastny:
Don't underestimate yourself. A lot of people have very, very low self-esteem like, no, I can't do that. And I need to have a degree for that. Or I, I don't know anything about that. We live in the age of, of, of technology of the internet. Everything is available online and it might not be available for free, but there's there's podcast, there's books, there's all sorts of information. So if you, if you're generally interested in a topic, you don't have to pay thousands of dollars to get a degree in that topic. You can, you can educate yourself, there's meet up groups. There's there's like-minded individuals who are into that topic. Go educate yourself. It's it's yeah, you can do it. Everyone started somewhere. So don't be, don't be like, nah, I can't do that. Or I don't have any skills or anything. If you have the right mindset, if you have that, that learning mindset, everything is, everything is possible. I so just, just don't underestimate yourself.

Christian Espinoza:
Daniel. Lastly, is there anything about you that we may be surprised to find out? Maybe we don't know?

Daniel Stastny:
I mean, that's, that's a tricky thing because as you know me, I'm very open and I like to, I like to tell people about myself is probably one of my downsides, but maybe something that not everyone knows is I've been to Mount Eden prison and worked as a, as a translator there for

Christian Espinoza:
Okay okay.

Daniel Stastny:
Yeah, that was, I went to prison once. Yeah. Oh,

Christian Espinoza:
Wow, just as I'm ending the interview here starts another one.

Daniel Stastny:
I had been approached by a.

Christian Espinoza:
You're a Translator?

Daniel Stastny:
Not really, but I had been approached by a New Zealand company that there was an Austria in prison and he just needed some help with translation for his, for his yeah. For his legal counsel. So I've been, I've been sent in there to, to translate for him. And the thing is that that was one of the worst experiences of my life. Cuz you, you go into the prison and you go through 15 doors. You it's like airport security. You have to. So you go through a few doors and then you in this interview room, which is basically, yeah, there's a room with like three, three buttons that you can press in case something happens. And then the, the guards storm in. But it was, it was so it was me and the, and the client and the, the talk went oh, well.

Daniel Stastny:
And then the, the lawyer said, okay, yeah, you're free to go now cuz I have other clients here find your, your own way out. So it was guarded in by a, by a guard, but it's like, yeah, you find your own way out and it's just busy. You walk up to a door, you look up and then you press a button. And yeah, I followed the same way, but then one of the doors that I walked through wasn't open or didn't open. So I do is like, do I go left or right? So I went right. Where should supposed to go left though! I went through the door, the door opened, went to the next door and I was like, didn't know where I was anymore. And I was in this prison. There was no one around, I ended up in the, in the guards changing room.

Christian Espinoza:
Okay...

Daniel Stastny:
I mean they all looked at me as like, what the hell are you doing here? It was like, I know I just want to get out. And just that, that five minutes of being in prison, I was like not being able to get out. Was quite needed. Like a, needed a drink after that. That was like, no, not, not for me. Thank you very much. Right. But I finally made my way out and everyone looked at me like, what are you doing here? Like, yes. I just want to get out. I mean, luckily I had my, my, my badge that said visitor. But yeah, that was quite, I, it was quite an experience getting, getting into prison.

Christian Espinoza:
Would you do it again?

Daniel Stastny:
Probably not because I'm not a certified, I'm not a certified translator. So I would, I wouldn't recommend myself as, as, as a translator, but it was definitely an experience and it makes for a good story. So,

Christian Espinoza:
Oh, it sure does! Daniel, thank you so much for being on the podcast. I really appreciate that and I wish you the absolute very best for you and your future.

Daniel Stastny:
Thank you very much. Thank you. Really appreciate it. Being here.

Christian Espinoza:
That’s it for this week’s episode. My name is Christian Espinoza, and you’ve been listening to the Growth Podcast, a production from Voyager Internet. That was our 1st interview from our Agile 20th Anniversary series. Make sure to tune on for our next one. The show was produced, edited and mixed by me. Special thanks to our guest, Daniel Stastny. If you liked this episode and would like to hear more, simply subscribe to us from your podcast app. And if you find yourself stuck inside the Mt Eden prison and end up in the guard’s changing room, just flash your visitor’s badge, it worked for Daniel! Until next time, Peace.