Takeaways: Confessions of a Change Agent by Henrik Kniberg

In engaging and refreshing talk “Confessions of a Change Agent” Henrik Kniberg shares his lessons and stories of working as a change agent (agile coach). I decided to take some notes and share it with you.

#1 Change agent is not a role it’s an attitude

Change agent is someone who is addicted to constant changes and improvements. I’m not a pure change agent, but it’s a huge part of my nature. I always look for the ways to improve my work and life.

#2 Kill your Ego

Being a change agent makes it hard to know if you add any value. When some change happens (bad or good) is it because of you? Henrik gave up on trying to know if it was his contribution or not. Because in most cases it’s a team game and a lot of other people (and events) make their contribution to result. If people want to work with you it means that cooperation is valuable. I would still have some checkpoints to be sure in it.

#3 Focus

As a change agent you will always have more things to improve than you physically can. List what you want to improve, prioritize (vote) and pick top 3 items to work on. When your item improved enough so it’s not in a top 3 anymore then it’s time to stop working on it (definition of done).

#4 Ask good (stupid) questions

As outsider or a newcomer you may see situation differently. You may find people following some rituals that are already irrelevant. Or they may discuss a topic without common ground and so on. Asking questions (sometimes essential) without the fear to look awkward may be beneficial. Here is the feedback on me asking questions:

  • you help to look at things from the different angles we have not thought about
  • you ask challenging questions
  • you ask questions that force us to review made decisions and work done

Some people and cultures prefer to keep status quo and they do not appreciate someone who asks questions…

#5 Sell problems not solutions

Many times I find myself trying to offer solutions to the problems because I know how it should be done (agile, scrum, containers, tdd, etc.). Instead what you have to do is to help to find basic problem and ask team to offer solutions. In such case there will be no resistance to solution as it’s the result of a team work.

#6 Slow down to speed up

Improvement needs some thought. Stop keeping teams busy with adding new features all the time. Make some space so people can reflect and experiment. If your team has no capacity then you may take a look at Will Larson’s framework to move your team into a state where they can innovate and maintain enough slack for improvements and innovation.

Finally, the best learning is…

The Law of 2 Feet

If you not learning, contributing or having fun where you stand right now then use your feet and go somewhere else to learn, contribute and have some fun. Life is too short to help people that don’t need or want your help. Find a place where your help will be appreciated.

Be brave. Be humble. Stay curious.