Interview with Jonathan Smart

Interview with Jonathan Smart
Q. Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I am leading on better Ways of Working across Barclays, a bank which is 327 years old, with 120,000 employees in 40 countries operating in a highly regulated industry. This includes the application of agile, lean, DevOps, flow, Lean UX, customer at centre, servant leadership, and so on, at scale, in order to deliver ‘Better Value Faster, Safer, Happier’.   Our focus is whole enterprise agility, end to end, not just agile in IT. This includes HR, internal audit, real estate, legal, etc.   We have and are implementing agility at scale across a diverse and complex organisation. One size does not fit all.
I am a practitioner, having been applying agile principles and practices since the early 1990s, before it was called agile, spending the first part of my career as a developer on the trading floor in investment banking. This was a naturally agile environment, co-located with the customers, with ‘flow’: small iterations of work, fast feedback, small teams, all knowing the value stream in depth. Results were seen quickly.
Later in my career, running business line IT departments, I’ve led many agile transformations in order to deliver better business outcomes. It’s awesome to now be servant leader on agility across a large, complex, old, diverse organisation. Lots of learning, which I will share.

Q: What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?

I will start with sharing my top learnings from the organisational transformation to deliver Better Products Faster Safer Happier. Things that I wish I’d known about 3 years ago when we started. I will also share insights as to how we are achieving both Speed (Flow) AND Control.  As a highly regulated industry, there are a lot of mandatory controls that we need to comply with. All firms need to safeguard customer data, payment information, ensure data privacy and information security, as per the recent headlines with Equifax. These controls have to come first and can prevent Flow. We have found a way to have both Speed and Control (Compliance), which I will share.

Q: What do you think could be the main gain for participants in your session?

Learn from our lessons so far around large scale organisational transformation.

Insight as to how to be Agile not Fragile. How to have Speed (Flow) and Control.

Q: Can you give some advice to teams/organisations that are transitioning to agile?

One size does not fit all. Practices = Context + Principles + Feedback loop.

Be clear on the ‘Why’ for your team or department or company.

The goal is better outcomes, not agile for agile’s sake.  Beware of the ‘a’ word. Are you doing an ‘agile transformation’ or are you using a range of values, principles, learning, tools, practices that suit the unique contexts in order to deliver Better Value Faster Safer Happier? Are you seeking ongoing Business Agility with continuous improvement, rather than doing agile?

Q: How do you see the evolution of agile in the future?

It becomes part of the default way of working where unique, complex, unknowable, emergent work is involved. The focus is on end to end business agility, anything less is a local optimisation. It is one tool in the tool box.

Q: You have given many interviews/presentations about agile. Is there a question you wish to have been asked but no one ever asked you?

Yes. The question is, “is there a question you wish to have been asked but no one ever asked you?” 😉

Nikos Batsios