Interview with Lisa Montaño
In the latest of our ongoing series of interviews with Agile experts and trainers, we meet Lisa Montaño, MBA, CSM, CSPO.
Lisa Montaño is based in Southern California and has over 15 years experience in start-up and entrepreneurial companies working as a business analyst and functional lead. Beginning as a Product Owner in 2008, Lisa has continued her Scrum practice as a Scrum Coach and Trainer for Conscires.
Lisa’s passion for Scrum lies in the focus on inspiring teams to deliver exceptional business value and to delight customers through collaboration, trust, and commitment across teams and organizations.
Lisa’s focus and goal at Conscires is to strengthen and enable Scrum teams through coaching and consulting, and to develop and support the South Orange County Scrum community with Pay It Forward forums on Scrum basics, ongoing topical series, and open space events.
Let’s hear what Lisa has to say:
What does ‘being Agile’ mean to you?
In a broad sense, being Agile means constantly learning from your experiences and others, collaborating, and evolving your team, processes, and your products based on your learning. Being Agile means focusing on delivering quality and value to your customer by building strong, self-organizing teams that participate in creating a shared vision of what they will be creating; stakeholders that commit to being engaged in the process; and an organization that prioritizes business needs and supports the teams with appropriate resources, people, and communications.
When and how were you first introduced to Agile and Scrum? What caught your attention?
I was first introduced to Agile and Scrum in 2008 by a consultant who was implementing an electronic invoicing solution for the company I was with at the time. The first phase of the project was small and there weren’t many people involved, so the Scrum processes we used were informal, but at that time we established the groundwork for future projects by using a backlog, prioritizing, and having reviews every week. As the projects became more complex and more people were involved, we had more discrete Sprints, Reviews, Sprint planning, and Retrospectives.
The most compelling aspect of Scrum was the constant collaboration between the team and business throughout the iterations. I had been involved in many projects where a detailed project plan was created up front, but so many things would change over the course of the project, and maintaining the document for changes became a job of its own. Also, I felt that the collaboration between the team and Product Owner (my role at the time) was so much more likely to deliver the value the customer needs, as well as establishing a mutual respect between the team and the business, rather than treating the team like a factory operation, where they have no opportunity to ask questions or be creative.
How do you contribute to spreading awareness about Agile and Scrum?
I give 1-Day ‘Introduction to Scrum’ trainings 2 or 3 times a month in the Western US, as well as a Product Visioning evening workshop once a month at the Conscires, Irvine office. I also partner with Conscires to offer private training and coaching to clients looking to launch Scrum in their organization, or who are looking for support in an ongoing Agile practice.
What are the expectations, in general, of the people who attend your classes? What kind of feedback do you get from them?
As far as Scrum knowledge and experience, there are no requirements of advance preparation—anyone can attend. I teach my classes using an interactive framework that requires participants to interact with others, collaborate, have courage, respect the ideas and contributions of others, and trust that they’ll be given the same. So I expect everyone to come with an open mind and a willingness to learn so that they can have a full experience of Scrum that they can start using immediately.
One of the best parts of introducing people to Scrum using the training methodology we practice is that it involves learning on many dynamic levels including visual, audio, physical, and emotional. There are many people who attend trainings because they have been told to attend by their manager, and their verbal and non-verbal communication demonstrate their resistance to participate actively.
The very best feeling is at the end of the training, when some of these folks have completely changed in their demeanor and attitude toward Scrum, if not only to be open to how they might apply the concepts and principles to their organization, but to the possibility that Scrum is a way to achieve their personal and team potential—that is one of the best feelings I have experienced as a trainer.
Do you see much interest for certified trainings? If yes, why do you think people look for certification?
Yes, I see interest in certified trainings. I believe employers are interested in certification because they would like to have resident experts and leaders in their organizations to help deliver a successful Scrum implementation and practice, and more importantly, capable people on their teams that will ensure they deliver the highest business value to their customers, as well as build self-organizing, inspired teams that are empowered and capable of creating quality, innovative products that will be successful in the marketplace.
Individuals are looking for a certification that will equip them to be the leaders employers are seeking, and that will prepare them to meet the challenges of participating in and carrying out the principles and practices of Scrum, and getting the results the organization and team hopes to achieve through their Scrum practice.
After becoming a CSM or CSPO, what do you see as the next step (in terms of growth) for an individual?
Focus on practicing the learning from the certification classes in their workplace and lives, and get involved in the Scrum community to keep current on Agile and Scrum topics so that your team and organization have the benefit of the knowledge and experience of the Scrum/Agile community at large.
What, in your opinion, are the best things about Agile?
Agile practiced well has the potential to bring out the best in organizations and teams through focusing the business on what is the most important need, and sharing in that vision with teams. By having a shared vision, teams are inspired create innovative, lasting products that have the power to disrupt markets and change the landscape not only of their industry and discipline, but of the world of work.
Are there any drawbacks to Agile, in your perception?
At this phase of Agile adoption across organizations, the main drawback is not so much of Agile itself, but the perception that “Agile” is a silver bullet that can produce results under any circumstances, without doing the hard work of aligning your organization, providing a clear vision, and encouraging collaboration. Agile is not easy to implement, and it is not about placing a band-aid on deep organizational impediments. To me, Agile is about empowering people to do their best work, to fulfill their potential.
Agile is not one-size-fits-all. Organizations need to understand the principles and tools that Agile has to offer, evaluate how best to apply these principles and tools to their situations, and to be honest, persistent, and committed to making real changes in their organizations in order to truly reap the benefits that Agile has to offer.
Do you think it is a good idea to implement Scrum in non-IT teams?
Absolutely! The principles and concepts of Scrum are not dictated for a certain organizational profile. Agile and Scrum are about empowering and developing organizations, and building great products. The teams have the knowledge and wisdom about how to implement the principles for their organizations.
How do you find the experience of working with Conscires, and doing the Pay-it-forward training programs?
Offering something of value, in a way that is accessible to anyone who is interested, regardless of their ability to pay, is a gift to me to participate in, and a pleasure. The gift to me comes in the form of relationships and learning from the participants and their experiences. I have been able to collaborate with a few people who have been in my classes on training and developing ideas for trainings. I have also been invited to do private trainings for some participants in the public classes. These are gifts to me.
Participants offer their experience and knowledge to make the classes an exceptional learning experience for everyone. The workplace is changing so much these days, and people are compelled to keep up with new ways of working and delivering value; all this is required in such difficult (if slowly improving) economic times. I believe that the principles of Scrum and Agile will contribute to a more balanced, value-driven, and quality work environment and marketplace. The idea that we can provide a value to individuals who will be able to add Scrum to their toolbox in their current or future job, as well as build a foundation for higher quality for “work” in general, is very rewarding.
Do tell us what inspires you…
I am very excited about the intersection between business and technology. No longer is technology an inaccessible area separate from other aspects of business, or our personal lives, for that matter. Technology has become integral to so many aspects of business – it has become the enabler of business – and every business these days is a technology business. The reality of technology in our daily lives is driving the integration of technology and business, which is causing a paradigm shift in organizations to depend more on more on collaboration across organizations and teams, self-organization, and strong visions that inspire teams, create meaning for individuals, and result in lasting changes and quality products that delight customers.
I have been inspired by some wonderful authors and thinkers including Max DePree, who wrote “Leadership is an Art”, Jim and Michele McCarthy, who wrote “Software for Your Head” about Visioning, and “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath, about change.
Thank you, Lisa!