Interview: Jeroen Molenaar, Epic Agility On Entrepreneurship, ING And Agile Transformation
The following is an interview with Jeroen Molenaar.
Hi Jeroen, thanks for taking the time to do an interview. We recently met at the global scrum gathering in Singapore and got inspired by the stories you shared. In Singapore, you became a Certified Scrum Trainer of Scrum Alliance, a long path which takes many years. Tell us a bit about your path, background, story?
I am an eager and results driven Agile organizational coach/change agent with a background in IT and evolved in marketing (scrum). I have built a broad experience as a Scrum Master / Agile coach and have experienced the up’s and down’s that every project faces in management as well as in hands-on roles. That has gained me extensive knowledge and experience in the Scrum framework and Agile mindset and has taught me to be a pragmatic, hands-on, yet creative problem solver.
In the agile coaching role I try to motivate the organization (management as well as teams) – enabling everyone to excel in their own specific discipline or speciality. This enables me to quickly determine, select, solve and master issues on new projects. I am a very pragmatically focused Agile (management) coach, achieving results in accordance with your needs.
The last 3 years I have been experimenting with agile and scrum outside of IT. I have coached marketing teams and departments, but also teams who make cars like the world champion solar race car, all by using scrum and agile to make their product the best quality and to deliver faster.
I love to get organizations into a vibe where we can create small agile speedboats from the big oil-tankers; getting entrepreneurial skills and behaviour back to the enterprise. Creating and measuring proper value, and creating a learning/improving/innovating organization.
Because it’s an interesting case, I first want to ask you a few things about the ING transformation. Even in Indonesia, some companies got inspired by that case. You started at ING in 2007. When did the agile transformation really start?
The first team were started in 2010
See this timeline for more details
What were some of the largest hurdles you faced and how did ING solve them?
The Product Owner role was positioned pretty small in time and effort. This was an underestimated bet. The Product Owner is a very important role and requires the right seniority to succeed.
The ScrumMaster role was cut out because it should enhance the interaction in the team. This was based on the fact that a lot of old middle managers were put into the ScM role. From there they started to ‘manage’ the team. What happened is that we ‘cut off the whole hand because the fingers were infecting, instead of investigating what caused the infection, as a metaphor.
Autonomy does not happen overnight and it can’t be given. This takes time dedication (from Agile coaches) and trial and error. Autonomy is the most important thing to create the desired intrapreneurship we were setting up for.
Today, we hear a lot about the Spotify model. Many companies try to copy that with mixed results. ING looked at Spotify but I think they made an ‘ING variant’?. Can you tell a bit more about that?
That’s true. There is no such thing as a Spotify model first of all. Spotify has a grown agile culture. At ING we were changing an existing company into agile. This required a new set way of working and many agile coaches. New offices etc. The reason why it is working in ING is that we did NOT implement anything but crafted a custom way of working as we went and that there was the own orange code as a culture compass. So yes we got inspired by Spotify as of many companies but the only real thing that stayed was the names like squad tribe chapter.
One of the things close to my heart is entrepreneurship. What I like in your story is that you’re saying ‘I am bringing (back) the entrepreneurial story’. That goes beyond ‘adopting agile’ in my view. In your profile, you write ‘I love to get organizations into a vibe where we can create small agile speedboats from the big oil-tankers; getting entrepreneurial skills and behaviour back to the enterprise. Creating and measuring proper value, and creating a learning/improving/innovating organization.’ Tell us a bit more how you see this; how do we create speedboats, how do we get the entrepreneurial spirit in traditional organizations?
Bring the authority where the information is; a squad can decide to ship the code; yes. A marketing team can order 10000 magazine ads without permission? Yes!
We started with the mantra of ‘act first and apologize later’. Too many companies create an ask for permission and punishment culture to their employees.
Why did we hire these people? Because they are going to do valuable work and make a contribution? Or because we expect them to do wrong and demolish the company? If the first is true why do we treat them the latter?
This creates an employee culture of avoidance, idleness, steering towards a standstill.
Intrapreneurship in a big corporate is not something that happens overnight. But when you bring back the authority (mandates) back to where the information is then we are off to a good start.
In the agile community, I see that some people try to push agility beyond the borders of IT. You have been experimenting with scrum for marketing teams and even in car manufacturing. What are some of the differences you see in ‘creating’ agile teams in IT versus non IT?
As we know, Scrum is a good framework for IT / software development projects to learn, adapt to change and deliver great software of value, faster. We have even seen it being used in a manufacturing context (wiki speed). Similar principles are applied if the product is not software. It has lot similarities, though it has differences. We have implemented scrum in two large companies marketing departments; Dutch AAA and ING Bank. Now they are implementing scrum in their different sectors. Please read my research paper from a couple of years ago for more detail.
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