In 2017, Carbon Black started to transition to an Agile approach for product delivery. The goal was to build teams to have multiple functions, increase communication, and improve collaboration. It was quite a year and exciting to see the changes that came from this transformation and how it’s helped our teams.
To help with this transition, Carbon Black invested in on-site, full-time Agile Coaches. Denise Dickenson shares her experience here as a coach and what she’s doing to help improve collaboration and communication in the organization.
What’s Your Role?
I joined Carbon Black as an Agile Coach in July 2017. As a coach, I’m analyzing, experimenting, and working with people to discover things we can do differently in order to meet our goals in this complex and changing environment. We need feedback from people across the organization to help us solve problems because it gives us diversity of perspectives and generates many more potential approaches.
At the same time we are innovating, we need to ensure we’re not impeding communications and that we cater to different communication styles. Open communication is the cornerstone of collaboration and it’s going to be even more important as we open new offices and hire more remote employees. We have to find ways to keep people connected.
How Do You Help Our Teams Collaborate?
We want to promote face-to-face communication as much as possible. In an ideal scenario, people are together in a room, which enables non-verbal communication channels. Since that is not our reality, we look for ways to compensate for distance and foster better connections. We use tools such as WebEx and Meeting Owl to create a sense that people are sitting together. Our Slack channels are active and a great source of information. Increasing connectedness is important for communication flow, especially for those who work remotely or in different offices. Those relationships are essential.
As we grow and build out new locations, such as in Boulder and Portland, building and maintaining these bonds is essential. We need to make it easy to contact colleagues regardless of location. We have a strong foundation and good practices in place in preparation for those new offices and are continuously looking for ways to improve.
What is Big Room Planning?
Big Room Planning (BRP) is a fantastic example of how we bring people together. Not many companies invest in this and I believe it’s something that truly sets us apart. Once a quarter, we bring everyone together to discuss our vision and plan our next 12 weeks. This means we fly in people from all over the world who are part of R&D and Engineering to be involved in the decision-making and planning-phase at a local level. It helps us to stay in sync.
Team building opportunities are another great part of BRP. Meeting someone in person you’ve Skyped with or Slacked with is always a treat and it enhances how we work as a team going forward. Some groups create t-shirts to wear during BRP that identify their team. This creative expression adds another element of fun to the event.
How is Your Experience Different Here?
I’ve worked at a number of companies that didn’t value a culture of collaboration like Carbon Black does. Our company is making investments to make sure people have multiple ways of interacting with their teammates.
Another difference is the way Agile practices have been introduced in R&D and continue to expand. A lot of people have gone through Agile Transformations at other firms and a good portion of the time it’s not a great experience. At Carbon Black “doing Agile” a certain way is not the goal. The last thing we want is a cookie cutter approach that doesn’t fit with the company or teams. We see the Agile values and practices as tools to improve our ability to deliver excellent products to customers.
Another investment Carbon Black has made it to hire full-time Agile Coaches that work here rather than relying on outside consultants. This is exciting to me because we truly have a stake in the success of our teams. It gives us more opportunity to get to know people better and get to work with them more individually than if we were an outside consultant. People share experiences more readily with us because we’re here, we’re in it, and we understand the context. Also, because there are multiple coaches, there are more feedback loops between teams and departments and we have the opportunity to learn from one another.
Any Success Stories?
There are so many success stories to choose from, even in the short time I’ve been here. It differs for each team. However, I do notice people are backing each other up, offering help, less isolation, and even more laughter. Fun is a great leading indicator of success.
Another improvement area is around predictability. The quarterly BRPs and the two-week iterations give us more visibility into what’s coming up, allow us to identify dependencies, and to plan work at a sustainable pace so people don’t burn out. We also allocate space in the plans for the inevitable changes that come along. We’re making improvements each iteration.
What Makes Carbon Black an Exciting Place to Work?
We’re a learning organization. We learn about our sales, tech, and how to adapt to different threats. We have set ourselves up to be able to change when we need to and to discover better approaches for how we accomplish our work. People coming into the organization provide new viewpoints, which is incredibly helpful.
Carbon Black is really investing in making our people great. We’re thoughtful about how we fill positions and make sure we have the right person for the role. We also have seen a ton of internal movement, including bringing in people from different areas of the business. There’s so much possibility here.
Interested in joining our team? Click here to see our open roles.