5 + 1 Questions to Asad Safari

Asad Safari is a Factfull Agile/Lean coach, working for the Iran Scrum Institute, a training and Coaching agile mindset company in Iran. He has +14 years of experience in IT and software Industry and +10 years in Agile software development. He has worked with more than 20 companies in agile transformation. Huge organizations to small startups. He has worked in a variety of industries and has gained a wealth of agile transformation experience.

He’s also the author of “Factful Agility Framework”. FactfulAgility is a collection of practical tools and practices that will help you to be factful in your agility transformation.

He believes in factfulness philosophy: “We need to learn to separate fact from fiction when forming our opinions. The organization can be both bad and better. Progress comes bit by bit, But without facts, our minds are occupied by feelings.”

1.What is Agile or the Agile Mindset for you?

I divide Agile into three different eras. The first era was the emergence of frameworks and practices such as Scrum, XP,…, later known as the ”Do Agile” era. In this era, more emphasis was placed on following practices or frameworks. Some complaints like “Dark Scrum”, “Too often, at least in software, Scrum seems to oppress people. Too often, Scrum does not deliver as rapidly, as reliably, as steadily as it should. As a result, everyone suffers. Most often, the developers suffer more than anyone” started a new era and a new discussion.

A new big movement was started by agile experts called “Be Agile”. Let’s think again about Agile Values and Principles. I myself was a supporter of this movement. But after a while, two major problems plagued the organization. The first is the endless philosophical debate among agile professionals. The second is Agile itself became a goal. It was as if we had forgotten that the purpose of a business is to provide continuous value to its customer.

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(Source: https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6682894567504662528/)

Teams are created for a purpose. We huddle together to get something done, and the team’s survival depends on the degree to which it accomplishes its purpose.

Agile is not a good goal for a team or a company, every company should define a specific vision based on its market, competition and customers. Values and principles of Agile will guide us, how to behave and interact, How to work together in order to achieve that vision.

After more than 20 years of Agile movement, many organizations have not yet achieved the agile promises. Why? Because many agile practitioners have sought to implement different frameworks, or They were engaged in endless philosophical discussions about “Do Agile vs Be Agile”.

I call the third era of Agile “the promise of Agile” or outcome-oriented Agility. Where organizations can really focus on their customer and constantly create value for them. 

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” Buckminster Fuller
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Factful Agility is a set of practical tools based on Agile Mindset and Factfulness philosophy that will help companies on their agile transformation journey.

Along with Agile I believe in factfulness philosophy too. We need to learn to separate fact from fiction when forming our opinions. The organization can be both bad and better. Progress comes bit by bit, But without facts, our minds are occupied by feelings.

2. What’s your favorite tool or method you use during your coaching?

I created my own coaching tool that I call it: “Coaching Canvas”. This is my favourite one. But Why?

 “I have no idea what I’m doing?” Have you experienced this feeling? As an Agile coach or Scrum master, you think that you are not valuable to your client/organization, and you don’t have a good feeling about your accomplishment. We call it “Imposter syndrome.”

Early on, I thought it was just me, but I saw some tweets in the agile community, and this idea came to my mind that most of us have a common feeling. This tool helped me to get rid of imposter syndrome and transformed my coaching stance. You can find my other created tools here too.

3. What book or website would you recommend?

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1.Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think, Book by Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Hans Rosling, and Ola Rosling

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2. The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management: Reinventing the Workplace for the 21st Century, Book by Steve Denning

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3. The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization, Book by Peter Senge

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4. Leading Change: An Action Plan from the World’s Foremost Expert on Business Leadership, Book by John Kotter

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5. Organizational Culture and Leadership, Book by Edgar Schein and Peter A Schein

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6. Rules for Positive, Productive Change: Micro Shifts, Macro ResultsBook by Esther Derby

4. What is essential for you during an Agile transformation?

These are my principles during Agile transformation :

  1. Outcome over Buzzword: We adopt agile frameworks in order to reach outcomes. Outcomes that have impact on business income, Customer’s satisfaction, employee engagement. 
  2. Honor the Past, Present, and People: Organizational change assumes that what is being offered is better than what is. Sometimes people like what they have. They are maybe skeptical, sometimes with good reason. Helping people see the context behind the change effort demonstrates basic respect for their adulthood and intelligence. Acknowledging what still works and is worth saving is important as knowing what to change. 
  3. Experiment over big and detailed change plans: Little changes, done as experiments, foster learning and allow people to put their own touches on a change. Little change involves the people tasked with shaping and owning change. 
  4. Allow for variation: One size will not fit all. In knowledge and creative work, it is not possible to anticipate all the variations. A better strategy is to let local groups figure out how best to respond in their situations. Grant freedom to evolve solutions, but also set boundaries for an acceptable degree of adjustment. 
  5. People play differently when they are keeping score. Visualizing the score and progress, and letting people see and keep it, will lead us to stick to the change

5. What is 1 Aspect of coaching Agile teams you like the most?

Help people to be awesome by unlocking their potentials. 

+1. What was the trigger to create the “Factfull Agility Framework”?

I didn’t want to create another framework, like scrum or even reinvent the wheel. I think we have enough frameworks, models, …. So why did I create a new framework? 

Based on my experience we have several main issues with existing tools: 

  1. Most frameworks are good but in the real world just one tool cannot help us to solve our problems and we need a mix of different tools. 
  2. There are lots of tools out there, and it makes it hard to choose and mix them. 
  3. Many of the creators of these frameworks have been in the trenches. But once the tools are introduced, they become more involved in spreading or selling their tools. And that makes them no longer in the trenches and their tools no longer aligned with a rapidly changing world. 

After working with +15 companies and +100 teams, I tried to create a container for these tools that makes it easy to use them or choose them. I call this container “Factful Agility Framework”. Some tools like, “Toyota Kata”, “Agile Fluency Model”, “Agenda Shift”, “Comparative Agility”, “Evidence-Based Management Guide”, and my own tools like “Change JTBD”, “Coaching Canvas Card”. This framework is just a container to use different tools together for a practical agile transformation that you will reach meaningful outcomes.