This is a transcript of episode 152 of the Troubleshooting Agile podcast with Jeffrey Fredrick and Douglas Squirrel.

After last week’s episode on ahas in 2020, we describe what we’re planning to do to help people do the work, move faster, and be productive

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Listen to this section at 00:14

Squirrel: Welcome back to Troubleshooting Agile. Hi there, Jeffrey.

Jeffrey: Hi Squirrel.

Squirrel: Welcome to the New Year.

Jeffrey: Yeah, 2021. It finally came and hopefully it’ll be a better year for all of us than 2020.

Squirrel: It would be hard not to be, I make this daring prediction that 2021 will be a lot different and goodness, I hope a lot better than 2020.

Jeffrey: Yeah. And I’m so, so excited to hear, to figure out, to learn and see what comes in 2021. There’s been this big question of whether things will be “back to normal” or whether there’ll be a new normal. And I think that’s part of what we’re here to talk about is what our new normal what is it we’re going to do in 2021. What are our intentions and how are we applying the lessons of 2020?

Squirrel: Because we were commenting last week on how much we learnt from 2020, despite the fact that it was such a painful year for so many people. There was tremendous learning and both of us had learnt very interesting things. And what we’d said last week which we will deliver on this week is that we were going to think about and share with our listeners what things we were doing differently and what they might do differently in order to benefit, to capitalise on what we learnt in 2020. Seems strange to think that in such a difficult time you could learn things and apply them but that’s actually what we found and what we were sharing last week. So do you want to go first, Jeffrey? Would you like to say what are you going to be doing to apply and what was your lesson for listeners who might not have heard it? We’ll put a link in the show notes to last week’s episode. But for those who are enjoying eggnog or champagne, what was your learning and what are you planning to do differently this year?

Jeffrey’s 2020 Insights

Listen to this section at 01:52

Jeffrey: Well, the one I focussed on for last year and was my biggest a-ha was how effective the group practise sessions, the conversational dojos were with people. And this was twofold. One part was that came about from when people who had read the book a lot times hadn’t actually applied, then done the exercises they had thought about.

Squirrel: I would ask, “hey, did you get out a piece of paper and write on the left hand side, and the right hand side?” And they’d say, “Oh, well, no.”

Jeffrey: Yeah, exactly.

Jeffrey: And I remember one of the things we talked about last year, you had a client who said that when they talked about this, it was like they had taken a lecture on kitesurfing but they hadn’t gotten wet. And that’s that’s kind of what my feeling was of people who had read the book had sort of had the lecture on kitesurfing and that the board was right there, the water was there. They had a chance to try it out, but they were like, “no, maybe later. I don’t really feel like getting wet right now.” And to contrast that my experience with conversational dojos. And sometimes it was people who had read the book and other times it was people who had not read the book and they would just show up and we’d be like, “right, let’s get started. Let’s go ahead. And we’d take them to the 4 R’s, record a conversation where you were frustrated and not a lot of time on theory, not that same immersion in learning all the lessons and all the theory, but rather just actually practising. Let’s start practising now. And the fact that that was so effective was really eye opening for me. How much people who had never heard of conversational analysis, had never heard of our podcast, didn’t have any context, but would show up and hear the principles and how to reflect on their conversations and learn from them. And they time after time after time, had real insights into how moments that was my learning from 2020.

Jeffrey’s Intentions

Listen to this section at 03:43

Jeffrey: So the natural intention for me and I’m going to be sneaky because I have two I’m going to do one now based on my learning, but I’m going to do one after you. I’m going to come back and talk about other intentions based on your lesson. But I will start with the idea that one of my intentions, major intentions, is to do more public conversational dojos. And I want to do them in more time zones because I’d like to get more listeners and more participants from around the world really spread this idea and help develop other communities of practises so that more people could be regularly meeting to practise these skills. That’s my intention for 2021.

Squirrel: Ok, and I guess what listeners could do is to come along to conversational dojos or download the conversational dojo kit that our publisher IT revolution has up that we wrote and go and have their own dojo so they don’t have to wait for you.

Jeffrey: That’s right.

Squirrel: They’re certainly welcome to come and join the London Organisational Learning Meet Up and come to a dojo that you lead. I’m hoping to do that sometime in 2021, I’m terrible at actually getting to yours. That sounds like a great way to apply the lesson of practical learning, practically applying the practise of making your difficult conversations better.

Squirrel’s Insights

Listen to this section at 05:08

Squirrel: So what the learning was, of course, was that the organisational change can be much, much faster than people think. And I’m reminded of an organisation. I’m just so pleased to be working with, that, believe it or not, is in the travel industry. So who’s going to be trying to make major organisational change when you’re in the middle of trying to hang on by your toenails in the travel industry? But they are. And by coaching a small group to adopt the principles and techniques that we talk about and Agile Conversations, they were able to confront some of the very difficult, deep seated divisions in their organisation and make some really substantial changes, which are amazing to see in just a couple of months in what is for me, a relatively large organisation, up to 1000 people in the organisation. That may seem small to some of our listeners, but it’s pretty big for my Start-Up background. So it was fun to work with them and to see how fast they could change in a kind of Start-Up attitude with a Start-Up approach. So that was wonderful to see by applying these techniques again.

Squirrel’s Intentions

Listen to this section at 06:15

Squirrel: And so the thing I’m going to be working toward is holding more activities that are even faster. So it’s been the main way you got me to work with you and you too Jeffrey was that you’d get us to come and do a consulting or coaching or engage with your team. And that’s still very possible and that’s what lots of people do. But another way to do that is to come to some form of workshop. And I’m trying to work out exactly what those going look like. I’m going to probably try a bunch of different experiments to see, what could you learn in half a day? What could you learn in a day? What could be transformational if you can make a major change in your organisation in a couple of months, well, why not in a day? And of course, I’m inspired there by you, Jeffrey, because you’re always saying things like, well, if it’s hard to get it done in three months, why not do it next week? So I’m trying to apply the same principle. So not sure what those workshops are going to look like. They’re going to be on topics that people find interesting, like how to handle impossible deadlines or, where to look for opportunities to reduce fear in your organisation, those sorts of things. But not sure what it’s going to look like. But that’s going to be my focus for 2021. Let’s see how it works out. It may be as surprising as 2020 and something’s very different, but I’m certainly going to be exploring and trying to run more of those workshops and I hope you’ll be part of some of them Jeffrey.

Jeffrey: That would be very exciting.

Jeffrey: I love that. And I like the idea of helping people understand how they can make changes faster is something that I think the idea of getting more change in the world more quickly really meets my need to have people suffer less. So I’m quite excited about that idea that people can address the problems that are causing them difficulty rapidly. So getting more of that out in the world is very exciting.

Jeffrey’s Intention for Personal Growth

Listen to this section at 08:06

Squirrel: Absolutely, but you said you had another one, Jeffrey, so now I’m desperate because I knew about mine and yours, but I didn’t know there was another one, so tell me about that one.

Jeffrey: Well, this is this is going to be very personal. This is not something that any of our listeners will be able to see directly. But you and I were talking earlier today, actually, and I was saying, I had some concerns about my own organisational methodologies. And so I think inspired by your client’s ability to change their practises rapidly, I’m going to put out there that my intention is to come up with a different way of organising my own work and my own time. And I’m going to try to have something that I can feel pretty good about by the end of January. And I will start this week, the first week of January. I will begin to try making changes to put a new system in place and I will try iterating over it over the weeks of January. So this is something you can come and ask me about by February you should say “so Jeff, were you able to rapidly change the way you were organising yourself in your time?”

Jeffrey: And my intention is to be able to say, “yes.” If Squirrel’s clients can can make such rapid changes, then I should be able to do it myself as well.

Squirrel: Excellent. I should model a little live coaching here then. I didn’t know this is what Jeffrey was going to mention. But I will make a suggestion to Jeffrey, which if you’re also turning over the new leaf doing the New Year’s resolution to be more organised, get more done. You might want to ask yourself this question as well. What’s your leading indicator Jeffrey? How are you going to know that you are getting better? If I come back to you in February and ask you know me, I probably will. What metric will you use? And I’ll give listeners an example of that. I lost three stone, which is about thirty eight pounds. I’m doing my maths wrong, but forty two pounds, something like that. So I lost a lot of weight because I was worried about covid and other things. And my main metric that I used there, the leading indicator that I could use every day to determine ‘am I on track for losing another pound this week’ was am I hungry? So it could just determine immediately. Am hungry now. Yes, I’m hungry or I’ve been hungry in the last couple of hours. Good. OK, so that means I’m on track. Means my body is using more calories than I’m putting in. That means I’m probably going to be successful in the longer term at the end of this week in losing a pound at the end of this quarter, at losing a stone and so on. So Jeffrey, what’s your leading indicator? I hope it’s not being hungry because that’s probably not going to help you with your productivity. I’ve found that’s not the best way to improve productivity is to be hungry. What would be your leading indicator?

Jeffrey: Well, that’s a great question and actually I think I have kind of a meta answer. So the problem in particular I’m looking to address deals with intentions that I have that don’t have a hard deadline. So I think that would be writing blog articles, sending out newsletters, I have this these ideas for content and I sort of have the intention, yes, I will get around to writing that article, I should write that down. But it’s that “should” word in there which I try to avoid.

Squirrel: And getting around to it.

Jeffrey: Getting around. Exactly.

Squirrel: There’s somebody who sells ‘round to its’ which are like little rings and they say, I’m going to get around to it. Maybe we need to send you one of those.

Jeffrey: Yep, I have one of those actually. I think.

Squirrel: Oh great.

Jeffrey: I think I might have one from James Shore if I remember correctly, as I hope I haven’t misremembered. Which early days Agile consultant had a supply of wooden round to its that they were handing out.

Jeffrey: So I think the it’s kind of meta that I will say that I have a metric that unlike this year where you could have said, “well you know what’s your metric?” I would say, “I don’t know, I don’t have one, I just have this intention.”

Jeffrey: My intention is in part to make myself more accountable by having a clear target that I can point at and say, “yep, I’m on track or not.” I think that’s exactly what I’ve lacked is a self accountability metric for these things. And so that’s my intention. I’m not sure what form it’s going to take yet. And I’m not part of the cadence. I don’t think it will be anything longer than a quarter. I think I need to have a shorter feedback cycle. I’d like to be able to say week on week, am I on track? So that’s the intention.

Squirrel’s Book Suggestion

Listen to this section at 12:42

Squirrel: I’ll make a suggestion here. I’m still doing live coaching Jeffrey may or may not find this useful. I don’t know or listeners may or may not, but there’s this book that somebody wrote, and one of the great things about this book is that it helps me remember things that I’m supposed to remember because it was it’s our book, Agile Conversations, and it has a whole chapter on accountability. And so the suggestion I might make is that Jeffrey might look for some way to give somebody a briefing on what you’re what you’re going to be doing and maybe to give yourself a back briefing. So what would what would you be saying about what the plans are? So if you if you’ve held some back briefings for yourself, maybe that would be the method and the back briefing would explain how you were going to make progress and how you would know you were making that progress and what approach you were going to use.

Squirrel: Don’t know if that would be useful for personal productivity as well, but I do recommend this Agile Conversations book, it is helpful on a lot of those points.

Jeffrey: It’s nice to have someone refer to it and say, you know, this is described well, here we can talk about it now or I can let you read it and then we can we can talk about it afterwards.

Squirrel: It’s very handy that it makes such a difference for coaching to be able to say, “yeah, I don’t remember exactly how to do this, but I did write it down once. So go look in Chapter seven.”

Squirrel: Excellent. All right. So we’ve got some ideas there for listeners. So if you’re putting in place a personal productivity method, we’d sure like to hear about it? And what are you using? Are you giving yourself briefings and back briefings? Is that helpful? Is that a silly idea? I just came up with here? Don’t know.

Squirrel: Are you interested in workshops or conversational dojos? Those are things that you could put on or that you could do or you could do more of and rapid organisational change and improving your difficult conversations are things you don’t have to wait for us for. If you’re interested in hearing more about those things, the ones that we’re doing, you can look us up on or They both go to the same place and you can join a mailing list there. You get a free video when you do that as well. And then you definitely get on for the newsletters that Jeffrey is going to write more of in the new year. I heard it here first that he’s definitely going to do that and I’m going to help him, so don’t worry. And those would contain information about those opportunities if you’re interested in pursuing those. So head on over to for that. And of course, we like it when you come back again next week because we only missed one last year. We went and checked and we missed one week last year. So we had fifty one episodes. But almost every week with with almost unerring accuracy, there’s a troubleshooting Agile podcast episode for you to listen to. And if you hit the subscribe button on whatever you’re listening to us in then you’ll get to hear us again next Wednesday. Until then, Jeffrey, thanks.

Jeffrey: Thanks Squirrel.