A successful digital transformation must start with a conversational transformation.
Today, software organizations are transforming the way work gets done through practices like Agile, Lean, and DevOps. But as commonly implemented as these methods are, many transformations still fail, largely because the organization misses a critical step: transforming their culture and the way people communicate.
Agile Conversations is a practical, step-by-step guide to using the human power of conversation to achieve truly Agile results. Douglas Squirrel and Jeffrey Fredrick, software leaders and executive consultants, show readers how to have the Five Conversations to help teams build trust, alleviate fear, build a compelling “why,” make commitments, and be accountable. These five conversations give teams everything they need to reach peak performance, and they are exactly what’s missing from too many teams today.
Stop following meaningless rituals that don’t deliver results. Instead, unleash the unique human power of conversation to build effective, high-performing teams.
ISBNs: 9781942788669, 9781942788676, 9781942788683
Transform Your Conversations, Transform Your Culture
Coming May 2020
Agile Conversations is a practical, step-by-step guide to using the human power of conversation to achieve truly Agile results. Stop following meaningless rituals that don’t deliver results. Instead, unleash the unique human power of conversation to build effective, high-performing teams.
Praise for Agile Conversations
“This is an important book. I am glad that Jeffrey and Squirrel have written it, and I look forward to having a stack to ‘lend’ (read: give) out.”
—Alistair Cockburn, Co-Author of the Agile Manifesto and Creator of the Heart of Agile
“I think of this highly practical and immediately applicable book as the lost instruction manual to the most powerful and effective Agile tool we don’t even realize we have: Conversations. If you want to be successful with Agile, RTFM: Read This Fabulous Manual.”
—Alberto Savoia, Google’s first Director of Engineering and Author of The Right It
“Agile Conversations provides much needed guidance on how to have the key discussions that form the foundation for strong and resilient working relationships, as well as a toolbox full of techniques for troubleshooting when conversations go awry. Full of practical, real-world examples, this book is a must read for anyone who has ever been frustrated or puzzled by interactions at work.”
—Elisabeth Hendrickson, Technology Executive and Author of Explore It!
“The number of conversations at a party doesn’t make it a better party; the quality of the conversations does. Many books have been written about improving process and product in companies. I’m so glad this book finally addresses the people aspect: Learn to ask the hard questions, leave your bias at the door, and improve your own communication with this practical guide. If it’s hard, do it more often!”
—Patrick Debois, Founder of DevOpsDays
“This book provides an engineer’s approach to monitoring, troubleshooting and debugging conversations. Squirrel and Jeffrey always come across as incredibly mindful listeners and thoughtful discussion partners, and now I know why. Heuristics such as the Question Fraction are amazing—at the same time simple and memorable and incredibly insightful. Read this book to turn your communication skills into superpowers.”
—Gojko Adzic, Partner at Neuri Consulting
“If you’re looking for a practical framework and techniques that will help fix broken team communication and dysfunctional culture, then you should read Agile Conversations. Going beyond simple diagnosis, this handbook walks you through the Five Conversations you need to embrace in order to transform a broken culture into one that’s healthy and high-performing.”
—Paul Joyce, Founder and CEO, Geckoboard
“Squirrel and Jeffrey’s keen writing and battle-tested techniques make this book a must-read for modern engineering leaders looking to thrive amid the explosion of complexity that we all face.”
—Chris Clearfield, Co-Author of Meltdown: What Plane Crashes, Oil Spills, and Dumb Business Decisions Can Teach Us About How to Succeed at Work and at Home
“This is a very wise and yet readable book. The authors have hit the nail on the head by focusing on better conversations as the way to translate theory into organizational improvement. Their conversational examples really bring their prescriptions to life. They are clearly practitioners, but with a thorough grounding in theory as well.”
—Rich Koppel, Co-Founder and CEO of TIM Group
“It’s one of the industry’s dirty little secrets that most of our ‘technology’ problems are actually people problems. In Agile Conversations, Jeffrey and Squirrel assert that solving these problems is made possible by having better conversations, presenting their advice in a manner which fellow technologists will find reassuringly structured and categorized.”
—Jon Topper, Founder & CEO, The Scale Factory
“In Agile Conversations, Jeffrey and Squirrel pinpoint one of the key tenets of the Agile mindset, which is that constructive, structured, and in-depth communication is the key to creating a productive, happy work environment. Not only do they help expose this truth, they also hand you a suite of tools and processes to tangibly improve the conversations you have. Vital reading for anyone in a leadership role or interested in improving their work culture in general.”
—Andy Skipper, Chief Coach at CTO Craft
“The biggest challenges to effectively scaling startups is poor alignment and communication. Jeffrey and Squirrel have written a hands-on and practical manual for addressing issues of trust, fear, and commitment to tackle these problems head-on—I cannot recommend this book enough—read it and get your team on track today.”
—Jon Bradford, Partner, Dynamo Ventures
“It takes conviction and skill to change company culture. Agile Conversations provides the road map to summon your courage and avoid the hazards on your path to success!A masterpiece for any CEO wanting to build a collaborative, cooperative organization!”
—Brent Delehey, Turnaround Specialist, CEO
“Organizations want us to be proficient in teamwork and communication, but we are often expected to develop these complex skills on our own, through trial and error, with all the potential minefields. This book is an extremely helpful and practical guide on how to read between your own lines, and make it safe for others to reveal the fears between theirs.”
—Rebecca Williams, Software Engineer at QA Chef
“While coaching high-performance teams to become more effective, I often focus on alignment of purpose. Squirrel and Frederick’s book gives me names for the tools that I knew and introduces some that I didn’t. It also offers me a quantitative way to measure and improve my own effectiveness.”
—Antony Marcano, RiverGlide Co-Founder, Leadership/Team Transformation Coach
“Conversation is a skill that we learn before we’re consciously aware of what learning is. As a result, we may assume that we’re competent at communicating based on successful outcomes. Squirrel and Frederick’s book outlines actionable ways that we can measure our competence and improve our skill. This is a must-read for any manager, and beneficial for everyone working in a software environment.”
—Andy Palmer, RiverGlide Co-Founder, Consultant CTO
“For people from the technical walk of life, soft skills can sometimes be frustratingly ephemeral. The practical exercises in this book give a solid base to explore the development of empathy and understanding as a concrete work and life skill.”
—Wouter Lagerweij, Agile/Continuous Delivery Coach, tide.co
“I have come to the determination that the first and foremost rule in successfully transforming a group of people of any ilk—corporation or social group—is by helping the individuals each see and understand the change as it pertains to them and help them align with the reasons for the change. Both of these aspects are more easily said than done. Agile Conversations is an indispensable tool to help parties make and accept change. Think of it as your new change management textbook for change big (Kotter sized) or small (a single process within a value stream).”
—Matt Gelbawks, Agile Transformation Leader
“I’ve spent much of my career trying to establish a system for improving collaboration within and across software teams and yet always achieved mixed results. Agile Conversations is the book I wish I had read many years ago! Jeffrey and Squirrel have brought together their many years of experience to create this accessible and practical guide. It’s a must read for executives, technical managers, and technical staff who want their teams to be more productive, and better at responding to change.”
—Mark Coleman, Developer Relations at Packet Inc. & Marketing Chairperson at Cloud Native Computing Foundation
“Agile Conversations is a must-read for anyone willing to bring [their] organization to a higher level. Improved conversations allow for curiosity and transparency, which enables collaboration and learning, which in turn brings the right culture for high performance. Jeffrey and Squirrel take you on this fantastic journey of improving the conversations you have on a daily basis, both inside and outside the organization.”
—Thierry de Pauw, Continuous Delivery Consultant
“This book provides practical patterns on how to take on difficult conversations in a very deliberate way, making it just as actionable as an engineering guide. It contains plenty of recognizable stories and valuable references. It is one big invitation to start practicing and get better at working with the least predictable but most powerful element of your organization: your people.”
—Tom Jans, Agile Coach, SFPD, Belgium
“This book’s techniques will make you better at conversations, both in and out of the workplace.”
—Jake McCrary, Lead Software Engineer, Gemini
“Jeffrey and Squirrel have developed a framework that enables me to upgrade communication in my teams. Their book, while acknowledging how demanding it can be to take on the task of improving culture within your company, gives clear and empathetic guidelines for making real progress. An engineer’s guide to hacking conversations! When Agile seems like just another process to follow, read this book.”
—Remmelt Pit, Independent Tech Leader and NVC Practitioner
“Over many years, I saw Squirrel and Jeffrey upgrade their company from a culture where some people wouldn’t talk to each other, to a model of open communication. Now they’ve written this book which describes part of that journey. Buy a copy to learn about their approach and encourage them to write up the rest.”
—Steve Freeman, Zuhlke Engineering UK, and independent consultant.