MARIO LUCERO is an Agile coach and experienced Scrum Master based in Santiago, Chile; he works with remote teams in Argentina, Peru, and the United States. He stresses the importance of good equipment, communication, interaction, and generosity. He also believes it’s the little things that can drive the biggest changes.
His tips for working remotely:
- Improve your work environment in small ways every day.
- Take initiative to improve yourself as a professional.
- As a manager, create an environment where your team can focus.
- Be intentional about creating an atmosphere of togetherness. Take time to take care of your team. Take time to celebrate success.
Podcast production by Podcast Monster
Graphic design by Alfred Boland
Lisette: Welcome everybody. My name is Lisette and interviewing people and companies who are doing great things remotely. And today we have with us Mario Lucero. And Mario you’re from Chile, is that right?
Mario: I am originally from Argentina but I have been living here for the last 7 years. I moved to Chile first of all for working. And then I stayed here for long. My partner is from Chile, so this is my best option now.
Lisette: Great. Tell me, how did you get involved with Agile, to begin with. Where did this start?
Mario: I started using Agile on a small startup, a small Chilean startup. They have an account for development process and we started using Kanban with Link It as a virtual [1:05] but Kanban was good enough for us, we moved to Scrum and started using Pivotal Tracker. That is another tool that is well known. And from this moment until now, I became a Scrum master and now I’m an Agile coach. I help companies to do a smooth transition from waterfall to Agile. And most of the time, I have to work with remote teams. That is a huge challenge.
Lisette: Interesting, because I know you have some strong feelings about remote and distributed Agile, but it turns out you have to work with mostly remote teams. Is that what you said, most?
Mario: Yes. I used to work with an Indian company that has a huge client in California, in San Francisco. Because of that, we have a local team here with me as Scrum master, and we have another development team and tester as well in San Francisco with another Scrum master, with product manager, and at that time it was so good to work with remote teams because each team has their own Scrum master. But, nowadays, I am working with a couple of developers located in Argentina, and another couple of developers located in Peru. And it’s a different situation. Why? Because they don’t have any product owner and they don’t have any Scrum master located there.
Lisette: So is this a separate team for a separate company?
Mario: It’s the same company, but we have branches on Argentina, Peru, Brazil, in the US.
Lisette: But they’re doing Agile different than you’re doing Agile, it sounds like, if they don’t a product owner or Scrum master.
Mario: Yes. This the huge challenge for every multinational company. Work with remote teams is good for economic reasons. Why? Because maybe you can do the testing in India and you can do the development in South America. But the product owner that know the business are located in the US or in Europe but it’s a huge challenge to organize a standard meeting, organize every ceremony and coordinate the different time scale for India, Europe, the US, South America.
Lisette: So how do you do it? I’ll say that. We’ll go into the details later. Or do you think it’s even possible? I think I’ve read in one of your blog post that you think if you have to do remote Agile, you just can’t do it.
Mario: I’ve got into Tobias Mayer, he’s a clever guy than me. He’s a really controversial Agile guy but he has many reasons to not be in favor of remote teams. Why? Because on Agile the main thing is the communication and the communication is face to face. Imagine that I have a product owner that is located in Buenos Aires, in Argentina. But he is not full time product owner. He has to do other things. So for one week, this product owner missed all the meetings. What happened with my Scrum team? He says “Mario, what happened with our product owner?” Well guys I’m so sorry but the product owner is not full time product owner. He has to help another project. He has to help another stakeholder, and because of that, sometimes he will miss our meetings. And the problem is when they need to figure out some problem or when they have stand out and they have to wait until the product owner is online or available for them. This is the problem with remote teams. Remote teams, there is no problem. You have the product owner and the Scrum master in one development team located in Argentina. But this team is working alone without the necessity to communicate with Chile, Peru, Uruguay, or Columbia. And this is a big difference because if you do the testing in India, tester has to communicate the facts to the developers. And the developers are far away from India, in the US, and they have 6 hours or 8 hours. It’s very difficult to communicate or to organize a meeting to discuss about the facts.
Lisette: And it sounds like there’s different levels of difficulty. If you have two complete teams in different places, that’s a pretty moderate level of difficulty. But if you have entire teams where the product owner is different, the team is different, everybody is in different places, then that’s an additional level. And then also on top of that, which is something I haven’t thought of actually, is that many people are freelancers and they’re not doing this work full time. Their time is scattered, because as remote workers we often have to take many clients to make our world more stable. That’s true. You’re just adding complexity at every step, it sounds like.
Mario: Yes, because imagine that for many US companies, they prefer to work with South America or with Middle East developers or testers. Why? Because we are cheaper. Imagine that my salary is maybe 30% of the same salary as an Agile coach in the US, 30%.
Lisette: Right, it’s huge.
Mario: Yes, it’s a huge difference. And my salary you can compare with Europe, because maybe for me to work in Europe, that I am planning to work there if I have the chance to work my projects.
Lisette: Great! Tell me when you come over.
Mario: Well I need to get a sponsor first because I don’t have any European passport, unfortunately. But for me, it’s better to get the knowledge, to get a professional background, to work in Europe for a couple of months and to return here. Why? Because with the salary, with the European salary I can stay here for months, five months, without working.
Lisette: Yeah that’s really big. Clearly we have to make remote teams works because economically, people are choosing to work remote. On the other hand, there is also a good side to that for the workers, which is a lot of workers in these countries that don’t normally get to be exposed to some of these great projects, they now have global work and great projects and new teammates and they can really spread themselves out. For instance, I work with a programmer in Romania who wasn’t allowed to stay in the United States. They said we need tech workers now in Romania, so they made him go back to Romania, but with remote work he could still work for us but just within Romania. So there’s an immigration argument going on with people saying there’s all this new opportunities for people. So that’s the good side. But if we have to make remote teams work, which it seems like we do, and Agile seems to be the right way to work, clearly, especially for software development teams. It just seems like it’s one form or another, it’s a great way to work. Then what can we do? What are the things that we need to do to make it work? What are the most important things do you think?
Mario: One idea that we used to do with American clients is that American clients request that every team member have to travel to the US and stay there at least 1 sprint, at least.
Lisette: So meeting face to face.
Mario: Yes. And the idea is when you, Lisette, you work together with someone, you have a better communication and you can improve the quality of your work. Why? Because you know the person. It’s different to say well Mario’s there. I will answer his email when I have time. After you know me, after we share a lunch or a cup of coffee, you say “no, I know Mario. He needs urgently my answer. I have to answer now.” Why? Because we have a previous knowledge about our personality. This, in Agile, one of the main issues is the interaction between people. It’s not to say well we have a standard meeting and after that I don’t know anything about you until next standard. And if I have some problem, well you can figure it out or wait for me until next day. No. This is a good idea to move people for at least 1 sprint or 2 sprint, to stay with the client, to stay with the product owner. I have a story here that once the product owner from Argentina has to stay here in Chile for one week. During this week, the Scrum team produced more than 1 month than when he was in Argentina.
Mario: In 1 week! And you can see, this is the big difference. When I talk with my manager, he told me “what’s your suggestion, Mario? Because I know that you have some problem with the product owner. The product owner never deliver user story for you and you always complain and I think that you are right but you know that I have a product owner there because he’s the only guy that know Argentinean business.” Well you have this problem. Why? Spend money and travel, bring this guy to me at least 1 week per month or 2 weeks. He said “well you have a strong argument and I realize that of course your Scrum team produced more than a month.”
Lisette: You have the metrics to prove it.
Mario: Yes. He says “yes, I will spend more money, follow with your recommendation because I agree with you that it’s totally necessary that the product owner has to communicate with the team.” And in 1 week, Lisette, you can see great results. But this is the problem that, of course the travel or the expense from Argentina to Chile, nothing. You compare that maybe having to travel to London and to stay there 2 or 3 weeks doing Agile coach for your company and say “yes, but when Mario is here, he can give many tips per day or maybe 2 or 3 tips, good tips for improving our progress in 1 hour.” Yes, because when I was there, I will be there, I know your situation and we can talk and discuss during a cup of coffee, during a lunch, during after office is different. Communication I think is a great deal for all multinational company that want to work with remote teams for economic reasons.
Lisette: So then communication is what really gets in the way.
Lisette: It’s funny as you say this, often in interviews there’s this quote that comes up, which is you better spend money on transportation in the beginning so that your team meets face to face because you’ll spend that money in the end if you don’t do it because you’ll have so many delays. The money will just go to pay for those things. I can’t remember the quote exactly but you’re saying the exact same thing. Something else that you bring up here is that communication is very important on Agile teams and the interaction is very important on Agile teams. And I’m wondering what do co-located Agile teams do in particular around communication and interaction that’s so important? I’m not an Agile expert, that’s why I’m asking. I’m wanting to understand Agile a little more.
Mario: The idea is imagine that you have a requirement in your company and your developers are located in Manchester, but you are beside them. You sit down beside them. They can ask questions in a minute, in seconds. And you point out a good point. For this American company, we moved there for 3 weeks to do the first part of the project, that is called inception, there. We have the whole team together for 3 weeks and everybody was on the same page. Everybody understand all, first at least, requirements for the first month. After that, we have to move 2 or 3 or 4 guys from California. When they return, we have to send another guy from California. And I realized that when we went there, we produce more. Without any metrics, the client say “Mario, if you stay here for a month, we will produce the better product.” I say yes, but the problem is you have to pay all our ticket, the hotel.
Lisette: I think it’s hard to argue that being face to face is going to be less efficient than being remote. That doesn’t seem to me to be where the argument is. For me it’s more interesting when we look at okay, what if we have to work remote? Clearly in this situation, you have to go home at some point, and then we have to work remote. Then what? What if we still want to be an Agile team? We still want to work together. We like together. We’ve met face to face, but now we have to be remote. What can we do as a team to keep the communication flowing? There’s a number of answers to that but I’m curious what you’ve done to keep your information flowing.
Mario: If you want to work with remote teams, you have to understand that you have to invest on a stream line. You have to invest on Skype. You have to invest on allowing Google Hangout. There is one excellent tool, it’s called WebEx. With WebEx you can share your screen, you can share files, you can share communication with 2, 3, or 4 guys with different location, but you have to pay. It’s not free.
Lisette: Yes. That’s a great tool.
Mario: Yes. At least you have to pay something in order to create an atmosphere that everybody is working together. With a streamline, you can put some cameras with a screen and in the US or in Europe they are looking that I am sitting, that I’m working. And they say well I need to chat with Mario. No problem, Skype, and Mario’s there.
Lisette: So you actually do have the webcams in different offices?
Mario: Yes, in the back.
Lisette: Cool. I think that’s a great idea.
Mario: I used to do well with that. Nowadays, I have a more different situation. It’s hard for me because Skype is not allowed in my current company. Google Hangout is not allowed. I don’t know why. It might be because of requisition or whatever. And sometimes I can’t organize a meeting because I don’t have a room. Why? Because when you have to do some meeting with another country, you need to stay in a quiet room. And if you don’t have enough rooms, imagine that there are some other people here beside me and you have to listen to their noises, their breakfast, or people passing behind me. No. This is the other thing. If you work with remote teams, the remote teams have to take at least 1 or 2 rooms, private rooms, without any noises, with camera, with webcam. Other thing that maybe in Europe is not a problem, or at least in the US, is many companies here they prefer to use their old PC, their old computer set.
Lisette: Oh my.
Mario: Because they keep their old, traditional way of thinking.
Lisette: Sure, but you’re bringing up real issues, which are you don’t have a quiet space in which you can have a remote meeting; because you’re right you do need it. If you have background noise, it’s impossible sometimes. Every little thing degrades the quality of the meeting. I think that’s good. And of course old equipment; that’s not just that company that has old equipment. All of us have something that we’re hanging on to, probably.
Mario: For me the best option is to work with a laptop. For instance in my current company the laptops are only for managers. For my position, I have one, because I have to move from one room to another room or I have to organize a meeting or I have to communicate something. But many of my developers complain and say “Mario, why?” You miss the standard because you will be on vacation that will happen on the next 2 weeks. They don’t have any laptop. And they have to communicate with a microphone to Argentina, but they have to say “hey guys, please go away” because they are in the same office, in the same room. That is another problem. If you work with different remote teams, each remote team, the better solution is to stay on a private room. Why? Because they can organize their meetings without saying “sorry, can you shut up please” or “sorry, can you move for 30 minutes because we have to communicate with the US” then the US complain that the office is too noisy.
Lisette: Yeah, fair enough. It really is distracting in an online meeting. Those are important things.
Mario: Yes. Maybe you can cut your budget, maybe you can reduce the money that you can afford for your project, but at least you have to consider. Provide laptops, provide webcam, a good internet connection, Skype, Google Hangout, to have a big screen in order to show the physical board. The physical board had to do the same and have to be updated for the remote teams and for the local teams and for the product owner and for the product manager. There are many things that you have to keep in mind in order to work with remote teams.
Lisette: Invest in the right equipment.
Lisette: I just sat in on a webinar and Logitech was showing off some of their new conference room equipments built especially for remote participants. They have a webcam that zooms in on the boards. You can really see what’s on the board and they’ve built special speakers for conference rooms for remote workers, things like that. I think if you’re really going to do this right, I think you’re exactly right in that you really need to invest in the tools that is going to make communication easy and not so frustrating.
Mario: Yes. The last time that my manager want to communicate from here to Peru and Argentina, he want to communicate the new solution of the Scrum team, he had to spend 30 minutes in order to figure it out, the equipment, with the webcam, with the screen, with the communication with Argentina. Why? Because we don’t have Skype. We don’t have Google Hangout. Peruvian people are working in their home and their home has a lower internet connection, so sometimes they have problems with internet connection. “Sorry, I can’t hear you.” No problem, after that I’ll send you an email with a summary of the meeting.
Lisette: Yeah but that’s not great, not great.
Mario: No, it’s not great. Sometimes you lose the trust of the people because they say “well nobody pays attention to me. If we can’t communicate they say ‘no problem, it’s okay. I can send you an email with the new solution, whatever.’” In Agile, the most important is the team. The product owner is a great role as a Scrum master, but the most important is the team. And the team has to trust on the company and on themselves. But if you demonstrate that you don’t have at least a good office for them, at least a good equipment for them, you are not giving the right tools, after that they’ll complain about their jobs.
Lisette: Right. As a team I can imagine you feel like you’re not being taken care off. In order to do something, you need to be doing. I worked in an office once where the office manager always forgot to order coffee when the coffee ran out. He just would constantly let the coffee run out. It’s such a small detail but actually it was such a bummer for the team when they came in the morning to go get a cup of coffee and there’s no coffee available and there’s no café nearby. I don’t know, it’s just one of those little things that I just thought I just didn’t cared for.
Mario: In the US, the client asked me one day “what do you like, Mario, to eat in the middle of the day or the morning?” Well some cereal bar, sometimes maybe chocolate or some candies. “Well you have to write me a list what your Scrum team likes and you and at least when you are here, we will buy for you.”
Mario: Imagine one bit of chocolate is nothing. You are not investing $100,000. It’s a detail, it’s a minor detail that can make you happy, you feel more commitment with the company and of course you have to invest more time than your normal time, you do it. You’ll do it. Why? Because the client demonstrated that you have a value for them.
Lisette: Yeah. You’ll go a long way just because you can tell that they care and they’re trying. Agreed. Trust of course is one of the main issues on remote teams because it’s so easy to lose the trust. We don’t have those opportunities for the small, generous moments when we’re distributed. At least we don’t have them physically. We can’t buy a chocolate for each other pretty easily. We have to do things that are online for each other, and it’s harder. You could send somebody an article but that’s not the same as giving them a bar of chocolate or making sure they have coffee in the afternoon.
Mario: The client told me “Mario, you have to write the list and as soon as you return to Chile, you have to buy coffee, candies” and I say no, because my company doesn’t give me any money to that. Why? Well I don’t know, but we have to buy our cup of coffee. We have to buy our soda. We have to buy everything. The company only provide the office and our salary. We don’t have any bonus. Even more, when we finish the project, the client was so happy and say “well Mario, we are celebrating here the end of the project and we are going to the pub to celebrate because the project was so successful. What about you?” No, we have to start with another project. “But what about the time for celebration?” No, we don’t have any time because our company don’t say anything. They say “well we have another project. You have to work harder because maybe if you work harder you will receive another project.”
Lisette: Somehow that’s not motivating.
Mario: Yes. Well the client finally said “well Mario, tell me how much do you need to go to a pub in Chile and take 1 hour of happy hour and we’ll send you the money.” Really? “Yes, no problem. Why? Because you have to understand Mario, that you work harder, you travel to the US, you meet your family, and you deserve at least 1 hour of happiness. Maybe your company doesn’t take it into account but for our side, yes you deserve that.”
Lisette: Wow! That’s interesting because when I listen to this, the big things are fixable, it seems like. If we work on, we can experiment on the communication techniques with the webcam and the screen sharing. But it seems like it’s the little things, the saying thank you and taking each other out for drinks and rewarding each other, making sure the coffee is there. It’s all these little things that really matter on teams.
Mario: You can offer a free breakfast. How much does a breakfast cost for 10 people? Imagine, a cup of coffee, a muffin, or a juice. That’s all. How much? You say free breakfast every Friday to reward the team, to say thank you for being punctual to reach the office. You have to stimulate people. It’s not to say well you have your salary, you are a professional, you have to say thank you because we are providing project for you. No.
Mario: It’s not so simple.
Lisette: It’s just taking care of your team.
Mario: Yes. Motivation is a great part of Agile teams. And many companies think that Scrum or Agile is the silver bullet. No. I’m so sorry. Agile is not a silver bullet. If you have problem or you have lack of motivation in your company, I suggest you fix this lack of motivation and then adopt Agile.
Sorry, I have to say goodbye to my wife.
Lisette: Super important actually. And what I should mention for people that are going to be watching this later is that because you weren’t able to do a Skype or Hangout or this Zoom, which I’m using now, in your company, you got up early so that we could talk before you went to work.
Lisette: It’s another challenge. I’ve heard a lot of companies where Hangout and Skype and these things don’t work. It’s a huge challenge because we weren’t able to talk at a time which maybe would’ve been more convenient for you.
Mario: Yes. For me it’s a challenge to have this interview that I love to have but I have to do before my office. Why? Because in my office I don’t have Skype, I don’t have Google Hangout, Zoom is not allowed, WebEx we don’t have any lights so we can’t use it. And this is for my job, because part of my role as Agile coach is to improve my professional background. This is a way that I share my Agile experience with you and I’m improving my professional background. But if a company can’t provide at least 1 private room to discuss with you and Andrea or other person that can be interested on my work, what can I do? Well I have to reach the office later, one hour later. Why? Because my company couldn’t provide any equipment, any location that I can use for my professional role. And this is the other thing that it’s quite difficult to motivate people to say you have to watch period, you have to read blogs, you have to buy books. They say “yes Mario, because you have a good salary. You can buy great books from Amazon.” But many people say, I don’t agree with that, but the company has to provide the professional training. The company has to buy professional books. I don’t agree because I think that every professional has to improve by themselves.
Lisette: Right. I agree that it’s our own responsibilities to move ourselves in the directions that we want to go. That’s one thing that I do like about remote working, is that it seems to make people more entrepreneurial, because we’re working, we usually have a number of different clients and we’re usually hustling for work here and there, which means that we’re constantly improving ourselves and learning new things so that we can keep up with the market. In a way it’s really challenging but in a way it’s also very motivating because you’re always learning new things and you’re getting more and more involved yourself and you’re pointing yourself in your own direction, instead of having a company try and steer you on something. There seems to be a benefit of that but I think a lot of people shy away from doing that, taking responsibility for themselves.
Mario: I have some communication every Friday with Rotterdam. I have a Scrum master located there that he works in the same company as me but many of my Scrum team members are wondering why I always talk with Rotterdam because he’s not working with me. I say well I can learn from this guy, I can share my Agile experience with this guy, and also because I love practicing my English skills. Why? Because I need to improve my English skill. Why? You’re almost bilingual. I’m almost bilingual but because I spend time watching CNN, BBC, I listen to the radio from my apartment to my office, radio from the US, from Canada. Why? Because you have to improve every day. It’s not that I finish the Scrum master training, that’s all. I won’t read any more books. No, I’m so sorry. You need the first step. Now, you have to work around the Scrum and Agile and Lean practices. But here, at least, it’s very difficult to encourage people and to demonstrate that you have to read more, you have to study every day. Even my partner sometimes say “why are you watching CNN 1 hour, 2 hours? You know more about American news than Chilean news.” Yes, because it’s English and I need to communicate in English with Europe, with Brazil, with the US. I need to use English.
Lisette: Well it also seems very Agile of you, continuous improvement, continuous feedback. So it doesn’t just have to be at work. It’s also for ourselves. We need continuous improvement and continuous feedback.
Mario: Yes. And it’s the same for your personal life. If I have obesity or I have some problem, I have to figure it out. I don’t like to say well we have a problem. What can we do? Fix it. This is the idea. The idea is not thinking on the problem, think on the solution. If you have a problem, of course there are 1, 2, or 3 different approach that you can use to fix or to figure it out at least. But sometimes it’s too hard. I think that all of this is related about Agile mindset. If you have a company that never got the Agile mindset, well I feel sorry for this company but it’s better for them not to spend more money in Agile practices, keep doing the things as the old traditional way until they realize that they have to change.
Lisette: Right, so if you don’t have everybody on board, everybody in the same mindset, then it’s going to be just impossible.
Mario: Yes, because I think that it’s impossible to change people. People have to decide it when is the time for them to change.
Lisette: And as a coach, do you see this happening? You come into these companies and you’re trying to help them understand the Agile mindset? I’m very curious. Who struggles with it the most? Is there a group of people that struggles the most or is it random in every company?
Mario: I think in every company it’s the same – top directors.
Lisette: Oh wow!
Mario: Imagine Lisette, you are an Agile consultant like me, every manager that recruit my services, they never think they need to coach them. They only think we have the team that you have to coach, not me because I’m the director. I know everything. Not my manager because my manager are the clever guys, no problem. The problem is with my professionals. They escape from Agile practices and say “no, the problem…” I had a lunch 2 days ago with an advertising agency and 2 managers told me the same – “what can we do to improve our professional team?” Well first of all you have to understand. You, you are the owner, you have to understand Agile. And then we have to improve your professionals. They say “yes, you are right.”
Lisette: They have to sit in on these Agile coaching sessions. They need to be there with the team when you’re creating your boards and your plans and things.
Mario: I had a funny thing that one guy from New Jersey came to Chile to provide a product owner training for 2 days. He organized and say “Mario, you have to stay with us.” Yes, no problem but I am not a product owner. “No, it’s okay, no problem, because maybe after that you are the only guy that manage our [38:44]. We need your help.” Okay. When the training was finished, I talked with my manager and say yes, the course was so great. But the problem, your managers they keep their thinking in the old traditional way. So they don’t realize, they don’t change, they haven’t change their mindset and they’re still thinking about the new release of the product but they don’t think that they have to request the opinion of the Scrum team, because you can send to Romania, you have to release a new product in London next month, and maybe in Romania, part of the team will be on vacation. They say “no Lisette, it’s impossible.” No, I put the deadline with the client. They say “yes. You talk with the client but we do the work. We develop the product; not you, not the client. Why don’t you request our opinion? Why not wonder is it possible to release all of these features, all of these requirements on February for our client or we need more time or we can do a release of least requirement?” Well managers say “no, all of this is mandatory. I do a commitment with my client.” You do the commitment with your client and you never wonder, never talk with your team? This is the old traditional way. This is not Agile.
Lisette: Right. So the development team can be working Agile but if they’re disconnected from the marketing and the sales and the directors and the managers, then the managers can be promising all they want but there’s never going to be any smoothness. I’ve worked for a company where exactly this happens. I can feel the pain when you’re saying this. I saw the disconnect. There’s nothing. What do you do as a coach? Have you ever given up on a company and said “listen, your leadership, they’re never going to get there. I can’t go any further.” Have you ever done that?
Mario: Well one of my first experience that I feel so frustrated because the owner enter in the room and said “I have a new idea. It’s a great idea that we can sell after 2 days.” No, you know that. And this idea has another company that is our rival. “No. Stop the development of this part and we are thinking about new.” But what happened with the 3 days that we invest developing this great idea? “Throw it away.” This is the problem with the owners and stake holders and managers and top directors – never communicate with the team, never request their technical opinion and say “this is impossible. It’s impossible to do.” And you know that there are other companies that have this features, so we are not the first, we are not the second. The market is not expecting that. They’re expecting other things. And because of that, many companies use Lean approach, Lean approach that you can validate your products, you minimum viable products. You can validate with a landing page. You can validate your product with posting something in Twitter and say “what do you think about a new feature for an application on a Smartphone?” Maybe many clients said “no Lisette, I love to work with your product on the web. Please don’t screw up developing this software for a Smartphone because you know that we need to see the big picture and in a Smartphone, we lost that. So don’t invest time on it.” I’ll send you. [43:12].
Lisette: Tons of time and money.
Mario: Yes. Because of that, nowadays it’s very important to use the Lean approach, apart from Agile, apart from Scrum or Kanban or whatever the Agile practice that you want to adapt. You have to validate your product before saying “I have a great idea. With this, our company can skyrocket.” No. Validate first your idea.
Lisette: And tons of CEOs are very extroverted. They’re ideas guys and they’re marketing people. They’re ideas people so they’re like “I just went out running and I have this fabulous idea and I think we should try it” and the team’s like “wait a second, we have plans. We have this roadmap that we’re going on. What do you mean?” I can see how that would be really disruptive.
Mario: Yes, because this great idea they never validate, because most of the time they don’t know anything about how to validate this idea in 1 day or 2 days or in 1 week. The great example for that is Google. Google has Google Glasses. They only deliver a few of this great Google glasses in the US. Why? Because before they invest a lot of money to produce 100,000 Google Glasses, they want to validate their idea, because these Google Glasses will be very expensive, so they need to be sure and double check about what are the chance that Google Glasses will be on the market, not in the US market, on the global market, because this is another idea that a CEO sometimes don’t understand. You have to validate your product. In a local market, you only think on your local market. It’s okay. But when you want to escalate or you want to improve your sales around the world, well you have to validate in the US, in South America, in Europe and Middle East. Why? Because maybe if your product is so good in China, you don’t have any problem. With all the population in China, you will be rich.
Lisette: Right. So then why focus elsewhere in the beginning? I think the key is focus. We need to focus better.
Mario: Yes. This is another thing. A Scrum team has to be focused and to be focused, you don’t have to interrupt them. You don’t have to distract them with this new great idea, this new amazing idea that maybe after a week, “no, I’m so sorry guys, but no. One of my clients said that this idea is a total waste of time.”
Lisette: Yeah. I know we’re reaching the top of the hour and I want to be conscious of that because you said you have to go into the office today. I just have one more question. I could go on forever. We’ll have to continue this some time, but I have one more question. If people want to reach you and find more information, clearly I saw your LinkedIn, you’re extremely active on LinkedIn, Agile is a subject that you’re very passionate about and I bet a lot of people would love to be able to pick your brain or get in contact with you. What’s the best way to do that? You’re on LinkedIn, I can link to your LinkedIn account, but how do you prefer to be contacted?
Mario: Well I can be contacted on Twitter. That is METLUCERO.
Mario: I think we have connected on Twitter.
Lisette: Yes we have.
Mario: My Twitter is one of the best way to reach me. By email is firstname.lastname@example.org or by Skype. I don’t have any problem to keep in touch and to Agile and to discuss or to help companies on remote way. Nowadays I am planning to travel and work in Europe for a short period of time, as soon as I get any sponsor for my professional background, because I like to get more knowledge and I’m pretty sure that in Europe there are more chances to attend Agile conferences, to stay in touch with Agile guys, at least for 1 month and go to Europe and return here because my partner is from Chile and she can manage in English as well.
Lisette: Sure. Well maybe somebody watching the video will say “that’s the guy! We need him at our company. I want to bring him over.” We’ll see. Let me know what happens.
Mario: Yes. I am fully available for working in Europe. If some of your people that’s watching this video, well I am…
Lisette: Well I think it’s important to have a cross-cultural Agile coach who is an expert in this field. I mean that would be, I think, very handy for a number of European companies who are working with a number of different cultures. It’s always a place to improve, especially with your experience. Clearly you’re an expert here in the Agile coaching field.
Mario: Thank you very much. I think that small tips every day that can contribute to improve the company performance. When I was in an open space, in my last open space, one guy form a publicity agency told me that they have some problem to coordinate their efforts during the day. Why? Because they have 4 teams and first of all they coordinate the management, and then they communicate all of the team. I suggest to reverse, to reverse the order. First of all, every team has to see what are the problems that they have to face. And after that, one of the member represent each team can organize a meeting and say “well, we have to do this job, but we need some help. Is there someone that has time for helping us?” Yes, me. With this small change, they told me that they improved their management so quickly. And it was only in a suggestion in an open space. It was a minor detail that you can change many things. But what’s the problem is you are working with Romania, you have all day long with the same issues. If someone appears from outside and say “Lisette, why don’t you change the meetings 1 hour earlier because maybe Romania will be more at work [59:46].” Maybe this small detail, this minor detail can improve the meetings or I don’t know. In my case, I like to work about the meetings with music. Just say “stand up and shout” and everybody say “oh it’s a standup meeting.” That is a funny thing and you will then say hey guys, let’s go to a meeting. That is formal way, that is more disruptive, because maybe there are some guys that are having breakfast and say “with music it’s different.” You are amusing.
Lisette: Make it human. We’re human and we need to be there and we like to have fun and playfulness is I think a good part of the workplace. Weird ideas come from being crazy and playful and just doing weird things sometimes. You just never know. It’s a good part. It’s part of innovation, I think. It’s the evolution of thinking.
Mario: Yes. You have to improve and innovate every day the staff or send a congratulation to your team for every achievement that they got. This is the idea, to motivate people. Motivate with words, motivate with a free breakfast, motivate with free lunch, motivate with candies, with a cup of coffee, or to say you are awesome. You did a good job. Well done. Because all small things are so important for human beings and I think sometimes company forget and say “well you receive a good salary, what else can you…”
Lisette: Isn’t that enough? Well if you want my input to just be mediocre, you can say…well you can also say as an employee “isn’t this enough? I’m here every day.” It’s boring. It puts you in a rut. It’s not inspiring or motivating or exciting in any way, those kinds of behaviors. I agree.
Mario: Well I feel so happy when I got the call last Monday from one guy that was fired by the company and he request my opinion for one Kanban software, free Kanban software. I say well you can use Kanbanize. “Ah, thank you Mario. And you know, in my new company I started thinking about your works and you were right about many things that you taught about me, about Kanban, about Agile. And nowadays I am using your ideas about Kanban and it was excellent for me.”
Lisette: I bet you felt awesome.
Mario: Yes. I say maybe you have to move to other company to realize that adopting Agile practices is excellent. Why? Because you can compare the Agile company with not Agile company and say “hey guys, you know that I know a guy that’s always pushing me with Agile practices and I think that he’s right. If we can put a physical board with all our requirements and we have to track the progress everyday and everybody has the information radar in front of us, it will be an excellent idea.” Oh cool, you are so innovated. No, I copy the idea of this…
Lisette: That’s the whole point of innovation, is you take somebody else’s idea and then you improve on it to match your own needs and your own situations. That’s what it should be. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. That would be horrible. Let’s steal from each other, or better put maybe let’s be generous with each other and our information. There’s so much that we can do in the world. There’s no need to be keeping it all to ourselves.
Mario: For me the one phrase is you have to give in order to receive, but first of all you have to give. It’s not to say I need something, someone come help me. No. First of all, you have to start your day saying today, I want to give something to someone. It doesn’t matter if it’s my co-worker, my neighbor, the guy that’s beside me on the gym. These are my idea. They’re not for Agile. It’s for my personal life.
Lisette: It’s for everything. I agree with you. The more generous we are, I think the better communities we build, wherever we are. That seems to come up in a number of interviews as being generous. John Stepper calls it Working Out Loud where we’re generously helping each other and making our work observable to each other. It’s the little things, which I think is the theme for this interview. There’s so many little things that we can be doing that can make big improvements. And also I like be generous. I wrote both down – it’s the little things and be generous. I think that’s the two huge things that I got from this interview today.
Mario: Yes. You’re making a huge improvement with a small step. Maybe I would say thank you or I would say so kind with people, respect them. You are doing a better personal day for many people, only waiting for saying hello, good morning.
Lisette: Yeah exactly. Well I will let you get to work. I really appreciate you took the time to get up extra early for me today. Thanks. I’ll post this interview so that you can see it.
Mario: Okay, thank you.