E103: Allison Pollard – Helping Improve

Allison Pollard, Episode 103

Dr. Dave  00:07

We all have some notion today. What is the importance of belonging? A why do we all need to belong somewhere, it is built into human nature. Learn how the powerful philosophy of Ubuntu helps to deliver a simple roadmap to building positive teams and relationships, improving engagement and performance. Get your copy of belonging and healing, creating awesomeness for yourself and others by Dr. Dave Cornelius on amazon.com

Dr. Dave 

Hello, and welcome to the Dr. Dave. I am document familiar with your hosts. We are continuing the series resiliently you to discover what makes people resilient to build resilient organization and sense belonging and healing. My guest today is Allison Pollard is one a good friend, someone that I enjoy speaking with. And she's on this new journey. And I can't wait wait to learn more. So welcome, Allison.

Allison  01:12

Yeah. Thank you.


Dr. Dave  01:15

Yeah, that's it. Nothing more.


Allison  01:21

I still don't remember exactly when we met. I want to say it was the Agile gathering West. Many years ago. That was probably like the first place that we we came together, but I could be wrong on that.


Dr. Dave  01:35

No, you're completely right. We were at that camp in Southern California. Old Boy Scout camp. Right. And we had this agile. Yeah, yes. That's where we met. Yes, it's been a long time ago.


Allison  01:54

Yeah. Nothing like an open space event with a bunch of analysts at a Boy Scout camp.


Dr. Dave  02:03

Yeah, remember the times we were you know, we would go outside and around the bonfire and marshmallows and s'mores and yeah, yeah. That was us. For sure, for sure. So I want an elevator pitch about your journey as a leader in the Agile community. You know, give me what give us one adult so my people could know who you are. Our people?


Allison  02:30

Yeah, I know, right? Well, I'm Alison Pollard. I'm a coach, consultant, and trainer, working with helping improve. I'm actually their newest business partner. I'm one of three co owners. So I'm very excited about that. My agile journey, I just fell in love with agile, I had come from project management, I love technology, I was always looking at how could I make things better? For our customers? How can I make things better for the developers? How could I make things better for myself, and agile seemed like a way of really being able to live into that, you know, learning about these different practices, you know, learning about Lean after that, and some of the principles there. Just getting exposed to a larger community, I think was such a big impact in my career, of how can I then, like, make use of that and then continue to pay it forward. We're all on a journey. We're all looking at how we can make things better. And I think by being in relationships with one another and sharing ideas and challenging each other, we can come up with ways to make things better than we could individually by ourselves.


Dr. Dave  03:52

Well said, so now you're under a new adventure, you know, after working for many years, but the same company, everyone, you, Alison, because she works for improving, worked for improved in the past. Tell us about this new plan journey.


Allison  04:09

Yeah, yeah, this is. This is yeah, you're right. Like, I'm like, oh, yeah, a long time, like I was with improving for about 11 years. 11 years is unheard of. I think in our industry, no one stays at companies for nearly that long. And it was, it was such an incredible year, you know, way for me to just grow and see the company grow. But this moment now, like I needed to change, I wanted to kind of get back to some of the like, entrepreneurial, smaller startup environment that I had grown up with earlier in my career, and really take more ownership of where I'm going and and how I'm helping others. And so Jake Calabrese and Paul, Tavis. I've known them for about Got a decade, and we kept intersecting and like connecting at different conferences over the years, we've had chat chances to, you know, collaborate at some of those events. And every time that we did it, it was like the like, you get goosebumps, you're like, oh my god, that was like, so amazing. So incredible. I had no idea that was possible. And so now I'm super excited getting to work with them more closely, to continue to provide, you know, training for, you know, agile essentials for teams. They have some accelerator programs for teams and leadership on that I think are really incredible. They launched a new, a new course this year on change management, which has been an area that I've been increasingly paying attention to, it's one that we've often neglected, when we talk about Agile transformations. And then, for next year, we're looking to debut a new course, right now we're calling it leading amazing people, we're still feeling into what all that will entail. But I'm really excited about what it can do for the people, leaders, the coaches, the essential folks in organizations that are really trying to help support other employees as they do their greatest work for their customers.


Dr. Dave  06:19

Sounds wonderful. I can't wait to learn more and hear more about you on this journey, you know, we'll be reaching out to connect with you. But talk to me about your resilience, you know, to become this well known person by other leaders in the Agile community, how did that come about? And tell us more about your resilience in that in that journey?


Allison  06:39

Yeah, yeah, it's so funny. Because I, I am not the typical leader in the sense of like, I'm not always like the front of the room, you know, the, like, loudest person or like the one that gets the most attention. In a, in a gathering. My style of leadership is, you know, a lot of like partnering, like, from the side with someone else. Sometimes it's, I think of it as like leadership in the field of like, how am I listening to like, what the whole like group is, like, wanting, and then I might be the one that gives voice to it. And even like, leading from behind, in some ways, you know, maybe like whispering in the ears of others, that are in important roles in that setting. So a lot of like, my resilience was really just recognizing, like, I have my own set of strengths, and how do I use that? How do I continue to, like, show up with that, and engage in ways that feel healthy to me in ways that I get to continue to stretch and learn. But you know, get to be in relationship with other people that I really do get to, like, form some friendships, or partnerships, you know, collaborations with other people. And so I think some of the resilience, you know, early on came from recognizing some of the open space principles could be applied wherever I was. So the idea of the law of mobility is the one that comes to mind the most, that, you know, if you're in a, in a meeting, or in a setting somewhere, and you find that you're not learning or really like participating as much as you would, like, go somewhere else. And recognizing, like, ah, like, I need to check in with myself, like, what are my needs right now? What's my energy? Like? You know, perhaps I'm in a moment where I need some, like, quiet time, it'd be better for me to like, go and process some things on my own. Maybe that's journaling, you know, maybe that's something else. Or yeah, now, this is a time that I really do feel like it'd be helpful to like, talk things over with colleagues and like, what does that look like? Maybe it's brainstorming, or maybe it's, you know, running a presentation in front of them and like getting their, their critiques of it. So being more in tune with, like my own needs, I think was a little bit scary, a little bit foreign. But like one of those essential ingredients in terms of like, how do you become resilient, it comes not from being so flexible and adaptable that you go along with, like what everyone else wants, but being able to stay connected, stay grounded to what you need, so that you continue to show up as a leader instead of you know, I don't know Gumby.


Dr. Dave  09:35

Ah, yeah. So how do you define resilience in the context of leading, like an organizational transformation that takes a lot of resilience, right?


Allison  09:46

It does, it does. And because again, that's like one of those areas that we know like, we're talking about as organization like lots and lots and lots of people, lots and lots and lots of needs. We're not going to have everything like 100 for percent right at the start, right? Like, it's not like we have the perfect vision. And then everyone just like, aligns with that instantly and we like move forward with a change, there's going to be some adaptation that happens over time. But the resilience is again, like, instead of thinking, Okay, I now need to, like put out the vision and just keep telling them and telling them and pushing and pushing and like working harder at this to make it go. It's that resilience of like, how much can I listen? How much can I step back? I want to find out, you know, like, a lot of a lot of change, I think, is not so much about the tasks, the role, the frameworks, the you know, different pieces of like behavior change that need to happen. It's really like the energy of the humans themselves. And so how do you bring energy to people? How do you let them have the energy to change? And so I think that's why, again, you know, recognizing how am I participating? What are my needs, what might their needs be? Do I need to like, give them some more time to process this and think it over? That needs to be okay, with any kind of large transformation, you certainly might not say, Hey, you can think about it like indefinitely, and like, you know, get on board with it, eventually, there's probably some point in time for your business, where you're like, I need people that are on board here, so that we can move forward. But what I'm hoping for is that it's not I deliver a message about what the change is, and like five minutes later, you need to be ready to go. Because any significant change probably means more than five minutes for someone to get their head around. If they don't understand, you know, where this comes from, or they weren't already prepared for it, or it's going to be threatening to like their identity on some level of like, how they see themselves in their job and in their career.


Dr. Dave  11:58

So we're gonna stay with the same vein of resilience. But let's talk about resilience and its importance to cultivate in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, as we like to say, VUCA you know, what about resilience in that context? That's big, right? That's really big. So what is that? Like?


Allison  12:19

For sure, for sure, well, and I mean, its efforts a world has been at a time to show us like the full impact of VUCA like, the last couple of years, I feel like the headlines, you know, just got to a point of like, who's making this up, like, who is doing this to us, it's, it's as if I'm in like, I think about, like, many, many years ago, playing like SimCity like build up your city. And it's like, all great, you guys like buildings, and people are like driving on the roads. And then at some point, you're like, attack, let all the like natural disasters hit. And like Godzilla is like tearing down the buildings. And somehow that was like, part of the fun, at least as like a kid. But now it feels like we're almost in that game of like, What do you mean? Like, there's this, like, climate change stuff happening? And oh, yeah, yet another shooting, like not to make light of that. But like, this is at such a level that we're inundated with, day in and day in, and day and day in and day and day, then it's like, how do we? How do we show up and function, you know, that, I think part of being resilient right now, at least for me, it was like giving myself a bit more grace, I say a bit, a lot more grace, you know, like working remotely, when that hadn't been my typical workstyle like learning, like, what kind of schedule I need. And you know, now that most work is happening through a screen at my computer, whereas previously I was in person. And a lot of it was conversational with humans in a co located space, like this is more draining. And I had to, like recognize that part of me like, being resilient was recognizing, like, I need to disconnect from this device. Sometimes, that means I need to not then be on this other device. But truly, like be disconnected from some electronics to you know, check my eyesight, looking at something that's more than a foot away from my face, you know, being able to, like go out and like have some fresh air, you know, maybe take a walk around the neighborhood or at least just go get some fresh air out on my back patio. You know, for me, I also just had, you know, somebody who like meetings I had, I would have like back to back meetings certain days and like they were usually about completely different things. You know, it's like certain client meetings, certain leadership meetings, that might mentorship like one on ones that I would have sales meetings, you know, interviews like you name it, like all kinds stuff on my calendar. And I would find that I struggled to show up on time, partly because certain meetings were like running over, or we just hadn't really planned on, like breaks in between meetings. So I felt like I had to get into what I call, like defensive calendaring of like, cool, I know this person tends to run late. So I will, I'll be okay with that, I'll I'll just recognize that is a tendency, it's not a big deal, we might then need to run longer. So let me add a buffer after our meeting, so that I at least have the availability to run long if that's what we choose to do. Or with certain clients, we've actually started scheduling our meeting. And so it'd be like five after the hour, and like end, you know, five or 10 minutes before like the half hour or the hour. So we were like starting to build in breaks in our calendars. Whereas most people might not have like, figured that out, because outlook is not wasn't as great about doing that. You can change your settings to make that more of the default. But in order for us to stay resilient, you know, in this volatility in the uncertainty, the complexity, the ambiguity, it's how do you stay connected to yourself? How do you continue to like, keep your head on straight? Like, what's the agenda here? Like, what's my intention? When I show up here? You know, what's the role that I'm trying to play? What's the work that needs to happen? If you're going through meeting after meeting after meeting, and they're probably not related to one another, it becomes a big messy blur, or at least it did for me. And that's where I like, had to look at, like, take a real big step back, you know, how do I plan my day differently? Can I start to have things that are like more cohesive? Can I, you know, again, give myself some breaks in between. And even on some level, just recognizing things are going to work at a much different pace, probably a slower pace than what I would be comfortable with. But it's, it's more honest with the reality of, you know, this is truly what's going to be feasible for us.


Dr. Dave  17:12

Yeah, and, you know, I'm glad that you brought up the buffering, right of starting five minutes after maybe finishing five minutes sooner. But we've been trying to do this for for decades now. Right, I'm trying to shift that behavior, starting right at the top finishing right of the hour, and there's no time to get to your next meeting. So I am glad that it is forcing us to create space, you know, and things, you know, what we're calling the Lean world a little bit of slack, right? So we get fun, yeah, a lot better.


Allison  17:50

Well, and because honestly, I mean, I could very easily I say this, I could very easily sit in this chair, you know, for hours after hours on end, and really just disconnect from my body, right? And try to be like to see in my brain. And if I can think my way through these, like different things I have to do. And then at some point, you kind of like topple out of your chair, like, and now I need to like go eat, you know, or maybe now it's the end of the day. And that's where I find like, unlike much of like, I then have like zero energy to go and like talk with my husband or figure out what we want to do for dinner. Or, you know, gosh, can you imagine, like wanting to talk to like friends and family in the evening? Like, who who have the energy for that? And I and that's where again, it's like, okay, what are the things that I need. And a lot of it's like, being able to take breaks throughout the day, that might have been more natural if we worked in offices where you had to walk from, like one conference room to another or to your desk, or maybe to go and grab a coffee in the kitchen. But you have these like mini breaks that were required by like the geography and now most of us, if we're working remotely don't have that. That same like queue. And so we have to like plan it for ourselves, we have to make it happen for ourselves.


Dr. Dave  19:17

So true. So let's talk about delivered value. And one of my favorite topics, you know, how do you deliver value through agile coaching and transformation? And in answering that, this question, provide a definition of what it means to you and your organization to deliver value.


Allison  19:37

Yeah, yeah, this is this is one of those spots for like, we use that that term delivering values so often, and we don't unpack it. We're just like, you know, it's so obvious or like it's just so good. Like why would you ask me it's good. But I liked that you you bring that into the forefront. You're like no, seriously like tell What is this thing? Because honestly, when I think about delivering value, it's like I, I want to help the employees, you know, be more productive in their jobs, I also want them to be more satisfied in their jobs. So often when we're like working with teams, like the team happiness might be one of the things that I'm looking for. And I certainly don't want to be like, Oh, great. So the way that we're going to optimize team yet, happiness, I'm going to order them cookies all the time. And if they have cookies, and treats, and all this good stuff, they'll be like, so happy. And like, we have delivered value like no, I don't think any of us believe like, that's what delivering value looks like, like, so team happiness is like one piece, but it's not a whole part of it. So obviously, if I'm looking to have happy employees, it's because I think that's going to help them be more effective in what other like their role is, whatever their function is, how they like are producing something, creating some kind of an experience or delivering a service, maybe like building a product of some kind that, you know, other users, other employees, like other customers are going to be consuming or using themselves. So are we getting better with how we're delivering something, hopefully, that is true. And then for this thing that has been delivered, has that actually like made something better for their users or their customers. So like, there's this whole like system at play of, we can deliver value for the people that are producing the thing, like those employees, or contractors, and that they are able to, in fact, deliver something better. And that sort of thing that they've delivered, did help someone. That lifecycle I think, is how we see that value got delivered? Because I know a lot of times I would start, like earlier in my career thinking about just the, you know, employee like delivery of like, are we delivering more stuff? Are we delivering more frequently? And, and, you know, making them some assumptions like, Ah, well, if we're delivering more backlog items than we used to, we must be better. And it wasn't until a bit later that I started to see oh, wait, we need to actually double check. Like, did the people you know, that our consumers, our customers? Like, did they use it? You know, if they use it to that help them, you know, like, at what point I'm trying to think because there was a product years ago, it's like, awesome, we deliver that feature, wire, the support calls going up to like the Customer Center, like what a second. Take something like, you know, like that for us to go Wait, not every backlog item is inherently value, or maybe it is that sometimes it's negative value. And sometimes it's positive value that we need to like double check, we need to like look at that final bit of the equation and see how did it go? You know, what, what did people make of this? Does it have the intended effect, you know, for the, for the customers and for our business?


Dr. Dave  23:22

Really cool. So what are some tangible benefits gained by organizations? You know, when they apply agile coaching and the transformation?


Allison  23:32

Yeah, yeah. So you know, agile, agile coaching, Agile transformation, you know, we often get focused on like, different practices, different behaviors, maybe frameworks that we're bringing in, but the tangible benefits really are, at least in my experience, you know, do you do you have the ability to like shift direction based on your customer response your customer needs or or maybe like what your competitors have done you know, if your competitors like launch this, like brand new feature that was like, maybe way way off and you're like backlog? That was gonna be like years from now? Do you have the ability to like make that your number one thing if that's what you want to do and actually like shift your team or teams to make that their new direction, when you do that, is that meaning that your teams basically have to like take whatever work they had been focused on and like, discard it? Of like, Well, that was all mid mid slight in progress, and it's nowhere near the light of day and so trash all of it or like put it on the shelf somewhere, or are they working in ways that they are able to deliver like incrementally and like very short cycles that they could actually like deploy something and basically it's it's that like, penciled down moment in like the exams we had in school like right, time's up, pencil down shirt. In in your your tests, turn in your deliverable at this point in time, it should be something, and then we can move on to this next thing. And when you're able to do that, you're able to, as an organization, start to see like larger improvements in like your revenue, your your profitability, maybe your cost savings, because instead of having teams, you know, working in isolation for like, really long cycles, before they could get anything into the hands of a customer, they're able to do it earlier. So you start to get that value thing that we just talked about, much, much sooner than you did in the past. But it also means that like any, like any new feature, product, service, whatever you want to call it, it's gonna have some, like, you know, who there's like, some big hump of value, and then it's going to taper off. And when you're able to see where's it tapering off, you can actually say, like, let's send stop, like, don't, let's not bother to build out the rest of this thing. Let's instead let's look for the next new idea. So we can like, again, have like a bigger curve of value that we're delivering, and just kind of like build on that, you know, cycle after cycle, whatever that means for your organization. So, you know, I see coaching is like, how do we help people talk to one another? How do we help them to see those opportunities? Certainly, how do we help bring in some practices that enable them to deliver in the short cycles and so on? It's just, you know, again, humans. Humans are very complicated, complex, difficult, challenging, awesome, and wonderful and inspiring. And, and, and, and what does it mean to bring the humans together and to help them focus and help them align to help them connect, to do awesome things?


Dr. Dave  26:53

That's so good. That's so good. So let's talk about an experience that you had when, you know, providing agile coaching and transformation that shifted the culture of the organization in an awesome way.


Allison  27:11

Yes, yes. Always, always looking for the awesome wires. Yeah, I am. I remember an organization years ago that I have worked with them for like such a long time. Like, when we first started, you know, they had about 20 teams or so in this, like, one area, and they were competitive with one another was like, Oh, we're better than that team over there. And like, we're better than now. And I was like, like, what? Okay, I don't totally get that, especially as I like, learn more of like, you're in the same codebase that on this, like, you know, competitive vibe. You know, it felt a little bit like high school dramas, to me in some ways, but I was like, I'm cool with that, like, I'm gonna, like, take that judgment and like planted over there, like, don't need that that can get thrown away. Like, y'all got this like way that you interact or like, kind of not interact across all the teams, but you're in the same codebase. And then I also started to see that, you know, they would be very focused on their individual projects, or like their individual, like, product feature sets, you could say. And yet, there would be these areas of dependencies and like intersections between them, even if it wasn't like a clear, hey, I'm on a team and Dave, you're on a team, you need to build a thing for me to consume it. So I can then deliver the such and such, like, that'd be a very obvious kind of dependency, it would be sometimes ones that were a little bit harder to spot or like harder to forecast, like, who you and I are working in, like a similar area of the code base. And we have different designs that we need for the, for the separate features that we're creating. And so we might actually have like a collision that happens in the code base, that like, should prompt us to come together and be like, here's what I'm trying to do. And you go, Ah, I see and here's what I'm trying to do, like I see, we can then figure out how do we help make both of those things happen. So the this idea of like, everyone's like very goal focused, but kind of like siloed about it, and it's like competitive vibe. Another coach and I started to bring the whole group together for you know, agile Lunch and Learns kind of like a like accelerator, you know, type sessions. And as we would work through that, you know, we even brought in like, well, what's, what's not just like a concept of a definition of done, but what is the definition of done for this group for this codebase you know, can you all agree on what that looks like? And like, giving them reasons to collaborate and come together? And, and having some of those like interactive, like learning experiences where they got to know the individuals on the other teams and build up a little bit more trust with them a little bit more relationship. And then certainly working with the leadership, how can we help promote, like, what the whole organization is about? Like, what's the vision? You know, like, what's the what's the business imperative that like, all of these different projects, all these different teams map into, like, what is it that you're trying to create for your customers and for your business, for your organization to be successful? And so like, working through, like, these different ways to start to, like, I think it's like weaving people together, you know, like, they're very, like, separate threads, and like, how do we just start to like, bring it together a bit, they became very, very collaborative. And it was really interesting, you know, like, later on, I really got to see that, like, the new culture of collaboration, and like, supporting people, and like, you know, learning as like a social activities, and sort of taking root when they started to, like, interact with another group. So it was like, now I got to see a culture clash actually happen and this like group, like, trying to promote their own sense of like, collaboration and learning, you know, to this new group that had like, come into their world. And thankfully, they had, you know, a lot of the skills needed to at least be able to describe, here's what we're about, here's how, like, we work together. You know, here's the vision and like, here's how our team is doing things so that they can try to bridge that gap between where they were and that other group


Dr. Dave  31:49

got it love to see I would love to be a fly on the wall watching collaborate a while they're clashing and how they resolve some of those challenges that they may have ran into, you know, though, probably was fun. Yeah.


Allison  32:04

For sure, for sure.


Dr. Dave  32:07

So what words of encouragement would you like to gift the listeners with today?


Allison  32:14

Oh, my goodness it's gonna sound trite. But be you just figure out you and be you. What do you need? What are your strengths? What's your approach? Like get get clear on that get grounded in that and help help bring that into the world? Because that's perhaps the person that we need you to be not someone else or Gumby. mismas of you know all the other people that you know, that you might like look up to but being able to, I think get get clear on like, when do I need your own space and time to reflect? When do I want to engage with others? For some people the time to reflect might be looking like it is engaging with others but like kind of knowing like what what is it that is going to help you you know, feel connected to yourself and feel most human I think is the thing I would encourage people to take some time and go and appreciate that part of yourself to


Dr. Dave  33:36

Allison you know, as usual it's always so much fun to have these exchanges and I was learning so much So continue to do what you're doing and thank you for for giving your time today to just have this podcast conversation means the world to me. And one more thank you is about writing the foreword for my book deliver value that's really important to me so thank you so much for that


Allison  34:06

was such an honor like I am like so appreciative that you asked and that i i You because instantly when I saw that you you know or think he took me for that I was like But it shouldn't be someone else who's like and then I was like No Seriously I think I actually I'm like the right person for this like let me give myself some credit. Right give you great wonderful experience. Yeah.


Dr. Dave  34:33

Well cool. I can't wait to see every time i i like stuck into improving you know name of the company that you work for, but you helping people improve as the name of the new company.


Allison  34:48

helping improve, helping


Dr. Dave  34:50

I love it. I love it. So that's That's beautiful. You're helping improve. I'll remember that. So I'm going to close because this has been like such a great conversation and I can't wait to get this out there to the world. So thank you for listening to the knowledge share with Dr. David podcast. I invite you to come back for more insights and perspectives that may help you with discovering your resiliently you.  This podcast is streamed on Spotify, Apple, audible and Google.

Thank you, Kayanna Brow-Hendrickson for dropping the music for this podcast. She's my niece, a great talent and she has been kind enough to share that talent with this podcast.

This podcast is copyright 2022 by Dr. Dave Cornelius and KnolShare.org.

So thank you for listening and stay tuned for our next episode of The resiliently you series as we continue to share our stories and experiences and again, Allison you know, I just can't wait to see and hear what's next. Yeah, I know something really cool coming soon.


Allison  36:06

we'll definitely be in touch.


Dr. Dave  36:09

So thank you.


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