ASK Joshua Kerievsky


Each Topic will feature one Agile Thought Leader for one week. Post your questions in advance and come back to be part of the discussion!

Please use this topic thread to post your questions directly to Joshua Kerievsky. Joshua will be answering YOUR questions September 10-14th 2018.


This is going to be fun. Looking forward to it.


What is one of your biggest or most common frustrations when working with clients? How do you work through it?


What are some of your favorite, head smacking, mistakes… and what did you learn from them?


It’s frustrating to see company after company adopting legacy processes (e.g. “Agile/Scrum” as they call it) and then failing to adopt a truly agile mindset or experience the benefits of truly being agile. There’s way too much focus on practices, rituals and certifications than actually learning to be agile. Agile is not Sprints, Standups and Storypoints!

I work through this frustration by helping educate clients on ways to actually address their risks, optimize for success (usually involves removing many handoffs) and get outstanding results by following a principle-driven approach to agility. This work involves discussion, empathy, storytelling and sometimes training/coaching. Modern Agile principles resonate with many people and are helping to get teams and organizations past first generation agile approaches.


One of my biggest and most costly mistakes involved an eLearning product that my company, Industrial Logic, made. The product was popular and we sold it to many organizations. One such organization is a large search engine company. That company bought 1200 box sets (each box set is composed of 5-6 albums). It was a large deal and we were enormously grateful to make all of that money just as the global recession of 2008-10 hit. The rollout of all 1,200 boxsets took a total of 2 years We supported the students perfectly - the company would regularly ask students if Industrial Logic provided great support and we always scored very high on those surveys. We made regular product updates to improve the product, we answered student questions promptly, we had zero-downtime and we even supported continuous deployment, so we could constantly improve our offering without disturbing students. All was good. But then the company had consumed all of their licenses and it was time for them to decide on buying more. This is when they asked us about usage metrics. We looked and the numbers were not pretty! A typical student would acquire a license for 1 box set (6 albums, which is about 5 days worth of content) and then only use about an hour or two of content from 1 album! Usage metrics were horrifying and we had not been looking at them! This was doubly embarrassing because this search engine company is famous for using metrics for all decisions (even what beverages to stock in break rooms). This client did end up buying more licenses but this time it was a much smaller purchase for a 2-album box set, not the big box sets with 5-6 albums. This was an enormously important lesson to me - always pay attention to usage metrics and act early on them if they aren’t what you expect!


How do you handle educating the rest of (non engineering) to get on board with agile practices? It always feels like they smile and nod when you try to educate them but its always a clear inefficiency, when work enters/exits the engineering group.


I love using simulations to help people in a variety of roles learn an agile/lean mindset. I was involved in a group called NASAGA (North American Games And Simulations) for some time and developed numerous games and sims. We use these games and sims and other in the training we provide. Learning via doing is always better than learning via slides and it is far more fun. I think it is imperative to involve more than engineers when shifting to an agile way of working. So the training has to be relevant to many roles. A good agile simulation helps people in a variety of roles really get to feel what it’s like to “be agile” with respect to performing some work. Following the simulation, the group can reflect on how the simulation applies to their “real” work. The experience of the simulation opens the door to many questions and productive discussions.