Monday, August 10, 2015

One Week Introduction to Agile Culture: A Case Study

Today is Friday, and my first week at a new job is almost over. When I googled “first week at work”, I got numerous posts entitled “how to survive your first week at a new job”. Wow! – I thought, my experience was completely opposite, and here is why.

I joined company that builds software products using Agile framework - I knew that from the beginning. What I came to know is that they take pride in bringing Agile culture in and leaving it with the client when they move on - they refer to this as "high impact". And it shows. On my first day when I came to work, I was not sure where I sit… until I saw multicolored balloons and a welcome card signed by my new colleagues. Each of them wrote words of encouragement and wished me a lot of success in a new job. I felt very welcome.

Actually, I felt welcome much earlier starting with the day of my job interview where everyone was super friendly and sincerely interested in my career aspirations and professional strengths. This does not mean that the interview questions were simple and straightforward; they were very insightful, but it was a conversation where I was able to share my thoughts and skills and learn about the company and the people. Once I got home from the interview, I already felt that I have become part of a great team. There was ongoing communication until the day I showed up in the office and in addition, I had a chance to join everyone for a meetup on Node.js, so it already felt like home.

Today is my fifth day at a new job, and I already feel like part of the InRhythm family. How was it possible in five short days? First, it does not feel like five days. Everything happens fast here. I am in Operations, and our role is to support the teams working on client sites. We need to move fast, make decisions, and respond to the needs of our teams and the clients. We need to be nimble and efficient. We care about the people, the products they develop, and the clients they support. The team is like a family. What happens in a good family if someone needs help and support? The same happens here. Everyone is a leader taking ownership. At the same time, if there is a need, we swarm and get things done fast. One of the company’s values is that we hire and work with only the best, and this is true. Everyone is remarkable individually, and yet we are much stronger as a team.

The other interesting feature is how open minded everyone is. We use Agile to run the business, and when I suggested to try some new ideas, everyone supported this. Coming from the corporate environment, I am used to resistance to change and I was ready to face it. But I did not need to! Everyone was supportive and willing to try, and super encouraging. One my colleagues told me how much she appreciated the small changes that we introduced this week, and she said that while they were small, she felt they were helpful. Other colleague sent me a message that his standup experience has improved to encourage me, and immediately made further helpful suggestions. Everyone was receptive and willing to share their excitement and feedback. Transparency is valued highly here.

I can add that there is ongoing communication in the company where anyone can ask questions, make suggestions, simply support each other, and celebrate successes. Persistent chat and multiple other channels are used to exchange opinions and align on any complex issue. And – most importantly – everyone has a great sense of humor, so there is a lot of fun and jokes.

I learned a lot during my first week here. Most important is the ability to always work on the highest priority item and to be strategic about ow I invest my time. When I joined, I got a notepad where I can list three highest priority items I plan to accomplish each day. If an item does not fit within the three designated cells, do not do it. The way I prioritize my work is by working on high impact items, and never getting distracted with anything else. Working hard on a non-important items is worse than doing no job at all. This is a great approach which I was excited to embrace. It resonated with me, since professional success for me was always about bringing value - to the organization, to its customers, to my colleagues.

I can go on and on, but I think it’s time to pause, because it’s hard to describe the atmosphere of innovation, openness, and the friendly positive attitude everyone in the office brings in. I want to wish everyone who is reading this post to have a chance to experience such a supportive, open minded, and value driven culture in your professional life. No more ”how to survive the first week”, it’s my “best first professional week ever”! This is the impact of a true Agile culture and open minded transparent office environment where the team is swarming to achieve a common goal. I truly believe you do not need to be a startup to build a culture that embraces Agile values.


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