Anton Skornyakov Managing Unpredictability

Business coach Anton Skornyakov has made a career out of helping organizations manage unpredictability. Passionate about Agile methodologies, Anton holds the esteemed Certified Scrum Trainer certification, a distinction shared by only 250 individuals globally, awarded by the Scrum Alliance®.

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About the host:

Bert Martinez is a successful entrepreneur and best-selling author. Bert is fascinated by business, marketing, and entrepreneurship. One of Bert’s favorite hobbies is to transform the complicated into simple-to-understand lessons so you can apply them to your business and life. Bert is also obsessed with exploring the mindset of the high achievers so you can follow their secrets and strategies.

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Bert Martinez:

I think this is gonna be one of my favorite episodes on the show today. We’re gonna be talking about, I think, the most common thing in business and really in life, and that is unpredictability.

Unpredictability is the most constant thing in the universe. You know, as you guys probably remember, not too long ago, life was great. We’re all chugging along, having a great time, and then unpredictably, we were hit with this thing called COVID. COVID. COVID screwed us all, changed everything. This is a constant thing.

We will always have issues, and I think that what’s gonna separate the leaders from the, the followers or the people who make it versus the people who don’t make it is gonna be our guest today, and that is Anton Skornyakov.

Anton Skornyakov has made a career out of helping organizations manage unpredictability. He is a, agile coach and, so just turned on to be digging into this subject matter because unpredictability is really what CEOs, entrepreneurs do for a living. Anton, welcome to the show.

Anton Skornyakov:

Thank you for having me, Bert.

Bert Martinez:

Alright. So before we get into this, just give us a a quick background about who you are because you didn’t start off as a business coach. So give us your background and how you got from from where you were to where you are today.

Anton Skornyakov:

Right. Thank you. So so, actually, my business life started as a as an entrepreneur. So right after graduating physics and maths, I’ve started tried to start several startups. And some of them were successful. Some of them were not that successful as as as the startup life goes. Right. I think it’s like 15, 16 years ago, it started.

And in those days, what I’ve done, I guess, well was listen to one guy whose name is Eric Ries, who was at that time actually just writing his blog, startup lessons learned, and my startups were just following him. And then ater, he wrote the book, The Lean Startup and and so forth. And what what I basically have done was I, after having build or tried to build my own startups, I started to consult or work with people that I knew. Because I was the CEO of those startups that I’ve built, kind of my network was other CEOs.

So, I basically helped them because they found something helpful about the way I  was thinking about their business models. And at some point, I came along other people that, were certified scrum trainers like I am today. And I realized, oh, those things that I’ve been kind of trying to figure out of how to teach people, how to explain all those concepts a couple of years, I realized all of those things, they already exist. They they use a little different language, and they are way more in in in software.

But if I just do that, I will be able to learn and, you know, apply everything that I’m doing there with much more, rigor, with much much better tools. And, yes. And what I’m doing now is kind of coming coming back and and taking all of the stuff that people are using in the software world and have been honing over the last, I think, 30, 40 years. Because in software, people have to deal with unpredictability all the time. And, I think we are dealing with it more and more outside of anything that has to do with software today. And so using those tools and bring them back into to everyone, you could say, is is what I’m doing mostly today.

Bert Martinez:

I you know, again, in in my business career, entrepreneurial career is, to me, unpredictability is really the sometimes the gift. You’ve seen a lot of companies that that will pivot. They will were heading in one direction, and all of a sudden, they’re hit with something, and and that causes a pivot. I am, I’m a big fan of something that, Mike Tyson said, and I think this works for just about everybody.

And that is everybody has, a goal until you get hit in the face. You know, it changes everything. And it’s like, yeah, I’m gonna beat this guy or I’m gonna become, you know, our company is gonna go do this or we have this idea and all of a sudden you get hit in the face and, oh, okay. And so sometimes you can pivot and and and go with that.

And then sometimes you have to rethink and and redeploy and just kind of a give us a quick synopsis synopsis of agile. What is agile? Because I always thought primarily that as you mentioned, agile is has at least the first time I started hearing about it, I had to deal with, Silicon Valley. So, give us your thought. What is agile? If I was to ask you, what does an agile coach do?

Anton Skornyakov:

Well, basically, agile coaches do, are coaches, so they are not consultants. They’re not giving advice on what to do, but they are basically teaching and supporting organizations on, you know, building them themselves the resources to become adaptable. So basically, they’re always always called in in places where there’s some unpredictability there. And I and I would love for for just very short moment to dig a little bit into this unpredictability that you started off with because  it’s a great there there is this other thing that no battle plan ever survives the contact with the with the enemy. Right? There is this this thing. And you you you you started with the COVID. Right? With this big this big thing that changes.

But there is there is unpredictability on so many levels because many maybe you are listening to this and you think, well, how often does something like COVID hit us? Right? I don’t have to be prepared for that every year. Right? I don’t I really hope we don’t have to be prepared for that kind of thing to happen Right. Too often. But to to date, I I’m really, really, I’m really serious about this.

I think you will not have a job if you don’t learn to deal with unpredictability in 5 years at all. Because what you need to understand about the business world right now, what we have been able to do, and I mean humans, what we have been able to do is we have been able to automate everything that is predictable. Whenever something is predict predictable, I can either have a robot do it, if it’s manual work, or I can have a program do it. And today with the AI, we this is this is what is changing right now.

More and more things that are a little bit predictable, they start to be completely automatable using AI. So so the jobs that we are going to be earning money for, humans, are founded in our ability. It’s it’s a very human ability to adapt. This is this is maybe the core ability that we have with our brains. And many ways of how we build our work environments in organizations, they actually prevent us from being adaptable. And understanding that kind of thing is is a little bit at at the core of of the book, and it it also is at the core of those agile coaches. So so they bring to to to finish the answer to your to your question. What what we bring is is basically, an understanding of how differently to structure work.

But then also when you understand how to do this, typically, it’s really hard to just implement that. And that’s something, you know, for example, when you want to be become adaptable, it means that you need to be able to learn, so you need to open up for feedback.

But being open to feedback is a is an emotionally hard thing. So suddenly, you start working and start talking about very tough business objectives and very clear results and money being made, and you immediately come to a place where there is resistance that have to do with emotional emotional resistance. And and that’s that’s what makes this job so interesting because it’s  really dealing with the hard facts and also very soft, very human nature that we we we bring to to work. And to finish the other thought part that I started to give you a little couple of more examples of unpredictability. So those big things like a crisis, like like a war or, an epidemic, those are the big things.

There is smaller things. There is technology being changed all the time, the AI. Right? And there is the big AI, but there is also the little AIs that are being created that are maybe disrupting your particular field of work. But then there is also smaller things like today, for example, when you’re working in a nonprofit or a government organization or a commercial organization, you will you may decide, well, let’s introduce a CRM. Right? Because because we have people, they’re not working as coordinated with each other. So let’s introduce that. Or let’s, increase the quality of our client service, or let’s increase any kind of change any kind of our processes. And when whenever what you’re doing whenever what you’re doing as a result is changing how people behave, how your own people behave, or how your customers behave, this is unpredictable.

Because if you are an entrepreneur, you know, you can offer people something and they will just, you know they would take it and use it differently from what you thought or they will not take it at all.

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Bert Martinez:

Well and and I think you hit, the nail on the head there as far as probably the most unpredictable thing is our employees. That that’s would be the first, you know, cohorts that are you’re dealing with unpredictability. You could have your your right hand person. You rely on them. They’re super trustworthy, and they do something unpredictable. They might leave for a better offer.

They sadly pass away. Maybe they betray you. And so this is constant thing, this unpredictability. And I think to your point, you know, you can either resist it, and and and in most cases, that’s a short road to failure or you learn how to unleash it or you learn how to pivot or or use it to your advantage.

You know, one of my favorite stories in that, you know, that kind of applies to this is the the the the Post it notes, good old Post it notes. And and so the the the the team that was working on Post it notes, they were supposed to create a, super glue, kind of like, gorilla glue or or whatever it’s called, and they failed. Instead, they created this glue that really lasts for a short amount of time, and for years, that failure just, you know was put in the corner.

They didn’t know what to do with that data until eventually somebody put the 2 to 2 together, and now we have post it notes and and everybody uses them. So that to me is an example of not only unpredictability, but also going with what you have versus resisting it and spending more time and energy trying to develop it. And so, so that’s just anyway, that’s kind of one of my examples.

Anton Skornyakov:

That’s a great one. I  could if you wanna have if you wanna get more examples, like, just look at at the history of  Amazon as a company. Like, these guys, they are constantly creating new products, and they are killing them even if they even if they invested a 1,000,000,000 in them. When they see they don’t work, they just divest. They just kill them. And it’s this is one of the hardest things to to learn, especially for people who have a background in engineering or anyhow or have a background in in doing work that is predictable. Because there, if you are an expert, you are you’re successful in 99% of times if you’re, you know, if you’re a professional.

When you do things right, when  you go to a car mechanic and you say, well, my car is kinda broke down. Could you please repair it? You could expect it to be repaired well in 99% of cases. Right? But that’s not the the case when you talk about what you just said, the example of dealing with your own employees. Like, imagine your own employees have a conflict with each other.

They don’t talk about they don’t think along with you. So what can you change about your organization so that they start? Well, guess what? Your percentage of the ideas that you gonna have that will be impactful is less than 20%. And that and that’s tough. So if you are used to be having 99%, everything working out, to go into somewhere where you where you expect that if you are good, you have less than 20% success. That’s a tough thing to feel. Right?

Bert Martinez:

Absolutely. And real quick, you had mentioned your book a couple of times, and so I do wanna take a couple of minutes and share the, the title of the book, and I love the title, by the way, The Art of Slicing Work, How to Navigate unpredictable projects. I just love that the art of slicing work. So, I wanna come back to your book in a second, but be before we move on, I wanna ask about scrum. This is something that I’m not familiar with.

So give us a a quick, overview. What is scrum?

Anton Skornyakov:

So scrum is a framework. It’s it’s, for how to build processes within your organization. And it’s actually pretty simple. It says, if you’re working on unpredictable problems, take a team that is going to be cross function. Do not take experts individually. Take a team of experts and ask them to deliver wholesome things, things that I call slices in my book. And ask these guys to not work on on slices that I’ll that have to to be worked on for more than a month, at most a month. Much better is 1 week or so.

And ensure that once these guys have created a result, that they get feedback for how valuable it was. That these guys are sitting there and they’re getting feedback for, was it worth it, what we’ve done? And to get this feedback not from a manager, but from the people they’ve billed it for. So if you cook a meal, it’s the people who gonna eat it. If you build a house, it’s the people who gonna live in it. Right? And and after that, these guys have learned how valuable it was. They have to consult with each other. Now take, you know, take take all this learning and and and internalize it, and then they try another time. And that’s basically the routine that they have.

They give iterate one result after the other. And he and those principles behind scrum are are actually the principles behind what I’ve what I’ve laid out in my book. In fact, the funny thing is a lot a lot of people think that scrum is something that is is is completely in in software world, but it actually originated, from from hardware products.

It’s originated from 86 paper, written by 2 by a Howard professor, in the Howard Business Review. It’s called the new new product development game, and they they they looked at, at hardware products that were developed in those days and that were successful in the market. And they kind of looked at, well, what were the organizations working like, as compared to some standard approaches, and they realized that this scrum thing I’m not sure that our audience is familiar with the word scrum.

It’s actually from rugby, since That’s scrum is is is a moment when in rugby, the players are trying to figure out which team is gonna get the ball. So they’re kind of pushing both teams are kind of scrummed with each other and they Right. Trying to push the other team away. So that’s that’s basically the picture. That’s the metaphor for them, for for the authors of this original paper. This was the metaphor for how good well a team works. Right? And it was compared to the, to a race where, where only individuals kind of, run their own trek instead of instead of a whole team.

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Bert Martinez:

Okay. So real quick, the book again is, The art of slicing work, how to navigate unpredictable projects. So tell me a little bit about the title. You came up with your own, your own term there, slicing work. How did you come up with this?

Anton Skornyakov:

Actually, it’s not completely on my own. It’s it’s actually quite a quite a standard term within our, within the agile world. However, it’s a skill that is typically it’s kind of assumed. No one really talks about it like it’s the  skill. But from my point of view, it kind of if  you understand this, if you focus on this one part, then it’s the right focus. What we need to understand, if you are an entrepreneur, if you are running a company, there is thousands of things that you could focus on. And if you listen to different consultants, everyone will tell you, you know, focus on this, focus on that, focus on on the other thing.

And if you cannot focus on everything at the same time, especially not if you if if there’s unpredictability coming around. Right? So so the question is, what do I focus on that is that actually matters? And Right. And my the book and my whole all of my experience is telling me what people need to be focused on are actually pragmatic results. But it’s hard for most projects that we’re talking about and the ones that I’ve that that I’ve those examples that I’ve given you, like like introducing a CRM system so that people are more coordinated or like those real business projects, breaking up work isn’t isn’t, the isn’t an intuitive thing. Or put it differently.

We can we can break up work in in different ways, and the way that we would normally do it intuitively is not the one that helps us. So if we understand how to break up work so we can create those wholesome results that I just said when I explained scrum, if we can learn to do that and break up large several years of projects into small bites that can be delivered within a week or two so that small teams can actually deliver and learn from them, that is the skill. And that is the skill that is helping focusing the whole organization.

Because the people who are doing the work need to know, well, what is the result that the manager is expecting from me? And the manager, he doesn’t need to know, well, are these people doing scrum? Are these people doing any kind of agile Kanban? Whatever. What are they trying to getting things get things done or whatever? What I want them to do, I want them to show me results, and I wanna know whether these results actually move the needle for my customers. But most of us, when we, like, when we manage our organization, we go to our experts to break up work.

We ask them, well, how how well, what can you deliver me? When can I see something? And very often, what we what what I see, the projects that I support, is that we have one deliverable. Like like, we we do have many deliverables, but they are all not something that a customer could see, Nothing that a customer could give any valuable feedback to. So if we look at the things that are actually visible to our customers or new or users, we end up having maybe 1 or 2 deliverables within a year. So I don’t know. As as a manager, as a sponsor of such a project, as a person who actually gives gives his money for this.

I very rarely get any feedback. I don’t know where are we at. And that’s a very common problem for sponsors, for people with the money. And so and and the main skill that they need to learn, their organizations need to learn that will allow them to align the the top the very top of their organization with the very people who are doing the work is those slices and the definition of the slices. It’s not actually not the hard skill to learn, but it requires you to kind of it it it kind of moves your head around 90 degrees. You’re like you’re looking at the same thing, but just from a different angle, and suddenly, you see it it all falls, falls into place

Bert Martinez:

One of the things in your book, you talk about transparency, the importance of transparency. And I think that this is such an important thing because I know early on in my career, transparency was unheard of. Right? I mean, everybody was locked down, you you know, and and in some cases, I remember, I had a an assignment for Exxon, and Exxon, this is back I can say this is back 30 plus years ago. Very nontransparent.

I mean, they almost almost they wanted to keep everybody in their own separate department, and information going up and downstream was was nonexistent. So give us your thoughts on transparency.

Anton Skornyakov:

And what you’re just describing, I’ve also experienced this in multiple organizations that I worked for when I was an employee. And the reason for this, it it makes sense. If if you’re working in an environment that is predictable, it does not make sense to be true transparent. Because if I know what I want you to do, I would like to give you only the information that you need. Because why would I over communicate? That would just, you know, invite you to to to to question a lot of things. It would, take some time. It it would reduce our efficiency. Right? So why would I? The question becomes very important of what is the information I wanna share that you need and I will only share this.

But in an organization that deals with unpredictability most of the time, you don’t know where the surprise is gonna hit. You don’t know what kind of thing is not gonna gonna work out. So it so so this thinking kind of breaks down. And the transparency is so so that’s kind of like where it’s culturally coming from, but the transparency can also be abused. Right? So there’s a lot of people say, well, just give me transparency. I wanna know everything that you do. And then people become afraid and they are a little bit afraid of being micromanaged and controlled. Right? Because if I know everything you do, I may have an opinion on everything you do.

Right. And everyone, being in an organization knowing everything everyone else does, well, let’s just let’s just your brain explodes. So the question is, what is it that we need a transparency on? So what are the things that we wanna be really, really honest about? And these are the things that move the needle. Again, the slices. So what I wanna be transparent about, and that’s the hardest thing for organizations to learn is to to actually open themselves up to understanding is what we’ve done in the last 2 weeks. Has this moved the needle? Has this brought us closer to our final goal or not? And and transparency about this is the core thing. And and and this is this is easy to say easier said than done. This Right.

Is easier created than done. And the the the main thing and it now actually, some of the things that we talked already about come together. In order for this to happen, we need to know what what is the little piece of work that we can deliver so customers could tell us something about it. But at the same time, we also need to have those customers close. We need to have talked with them about that. We need to have told them, hey, guys. We’re going to, you know, we’re gonna show you something in 2 weeks and would really love you to be honest about it. And it’s not gonna be the full thing that you expect from us.

You may not be used to this, but we really need to know. Because if you tell us only in 3 months now from now, we will have gone in ways that will be just wasteful for you. So the earlier you tell us your honest feedback, the better. And this conversation is really hard to be had, especially in some industries.

Some of my clients, they’re they’re working in tremendously, competitive industries, and they’re really they they have real serious reasons to to to be afraid that if information gets out, their competitors may use it against them, and and and all hell can break loose. So what they so what these organizations do is they can kind of create kind of pools of people, of organizations that are, working with them that that that signed NDAs and all all that kind of stuff. They kind of create something that I call a feedback infrastructure. So they have to kind of really set something in place so that they can get reliable feedback without compromising their business.

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Bert Martinez:

Yeah. I like that. And I and and you’re right. That to me makes sense that, if it’s a very stable environment, transparency isn’t as necessary. In an unpredictable environment, I think transparent I could see where transparency would be more important. And so when you’re dealing in these unpredictable environments, besides having transparency, creating these feedback loops, what what’s the next important step?

Anton Skornyakov:

Well, once you once you basically well, there’s this picture. Right? So those are the 3 kind of the 3 pillars of scrum you could say. Right? So the the first one is transparency. The second one is, actually using this transparency, so taking time aside to actually inspect and look. And the third one is to when you see that you need to change something, adapt. And and a and a and a nice picture of this or a nice metaphor for this is is something we all know is is driving a car. Because because when you drive a car, the situation on the street is unpredictable. You don’t know who’s going to participate with you in this process of driving a car and what’s going to be the situation on the street.

So no one is ever planning, you know, what lane they’re going to take and what speed they’re gonna run, and just follow this plan no matter what happens on the street. Right? So we look. So so when we drive a car, actually, everything in the car is is created, if if you are in the driver’s seat, is is there to optimize the transparency for you. Right? You have you have windshield. You have you have glass everywhere. You have those mirrors that show you what’s going on behind you. They you have this dashboard that tells you you you you don’t have to do anything. Everything is just transparent all the time.

And then you what you need to do is obviously you need to look at the street, right, not not write an SMS on your on your on your mobile phone. That’s something, you know, not not to do. And if suddenly the person in front of you, you know, breaks, then you also break. Right? So you so you have everything in your control, the the wheel, the the gas pedal, the brake pedal, and so forth, to adapt. Right? And those are the 3 the 3 ingredients, transparency, inspection, and adaption. And those when when you have an organization that is dealing with unpredictability, what very often when you like, look at this from this eagle eye point of view, very often you have an organization that will have no windshield at all or the windshield will be just just it you you can’t look through it. You know? So so there’s nothing to be seen.

Or you have an organization with a windshield, so people are looking through it, but they never they could look through it, but they’re just never looking out. So they they always, you know, inside the car talking with each other. No one is looking and and and and understanding what’s going on outside or the organization is actually doing the 2 the 2 things, but the person understanding what’s going on and seeing that they are right now driving into the car that has that has pushed the brakes in front of them, he he just doesn’t have access to the brakes, and he has to talk to someone else, there’s gonna be a long meeting, and there’s other people, they don’t, you know, they don’t have access to to to the windshield. So so the so as I look at this picture, you can understand easily what what can go wrong in an organization.

Bert Martinez:

Alright. So we have transparency inspection and adaptation. And and so, we talked quite a bit about transparency. What does inspection look like? Am I taking you mentioned it’s a 30 day deliverable. So am I inspecting daily? Am I inspecting weekly? Or is it just on a per project basis?

Anton Skornyakov:

Well, it depends on how fast something changes in your environment. Right? And the faster you can inspect, the faster you can, see actual results, the better it is. Because one thing that we need to really understand, and that’s something that also our our listeners may may recognize, is the slower you learn, the the the longer the time, the less you can actually apply what you’ve learned. So if you imagine, for example, you you try to learn something new, you try to learn to play guitar, and this guitar sound only comes 15 minutes after you strung a chord. Right? How long is it gonna take for you to learn this guitar? It’s it’s gonna be a very painful process. Like, imagine if this if the sound comes 10 seconds later. It’s kind of possible. It’s still gonna be hard.

But in your organization, if  you’re if  what I’ve done today, the decisions that we’ve done that we’ve made today, if we get feedback for them at the end of this month, well, maybe we can still remember what we’ve done there. But if we get the feedback at the end of the year or at the end of 2 years, which is typically what happens with long term projects, like with project lessons learned done once, there is no chance of learning. There’s there’s no way there’s any learning occurring. So to your question, what does inspection look like? Basically, inspection look the main ingredient of inspection is showing what we’ve done to people whom we’ve done it for. Yeah. So if I create a new CRM system, it’s the people who are gonna be using it. I just put it in front of them and I ask them, could you please find a new client? You you should be able to find it within this new system. Can you please do this and try to to to to, you know, draft an email to them? And then find an email your colleague has drafted to them.

And can you do that? Can can and then you just then you’re just quiet and you look at people trying out whatever you you’ve built or you you increase the quality of your process of how you care for elderly, people in your nonprofit and you change something about your processes within this week, well, you need to a way to realize to to find out did this week were we better at at serving our our elderly people this week and so forth. So whatever it is, you need to get this is the the heart of inspection. To to to get this honest feedback, to get this, reality check for whatever you’ve done.

Bert Martinez:

I you know, it reminded me a story of Continental Airlines here in the United States. Continental Airlines, at one point, was one of the worst airlines, if not the worst airlines. The employees didn’t like to work there. They were terrible at delivering customer service. They finally got the CEO. I can’t remember his name, but one of the things that he started doing is he started giving I think it was like a 65 or $75 bonus. This is going back again 25, 30 years ago.

Every month that they had an on time, departure for the entire month. They had a perfect score. Everybody in the company would get this bonus. And you’re talking about, you know, I forgot how many thousands of employees, but imagine Continental Airlines. So they were paying out 2, 3, $4,000,000 every month when they, you know, when they hit those targets. Right? And so the he would they would inspect as to why it was working, and they would also inspect as to why it wasn’t working. And I like your analogy about that 10 second sound delay. If you were trying to learn a guitar.

Every month that they had an on time, departure for the entire month. They had a perfect score. Everybody in the company would get this bonus. And you’re talking about, you know, I forgot how many thousands of employees, but imagine Continental Airlines. So they were paying out 2, 3, $4,000,000 every month when they, you know, when they hit those targets. Right? And so the he would they would inspect as to why it was working, and they would also inspect as to why it wasn’t working. And I and I like your analogy about that 10 second sound delay. If you were trying to learn a guitar. moving, you know, you’re moving just little tiny steps. What’s the hardest thing about adapting?

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Anton Skornyakov:

I think that’s a great question, and it so much fits with what you the example that you just given from this airline. Because this example is is is illustrating one very important thing, and it’s something that that most organizations fail at creating. It’s basically the same incentives for the people. Because very often what we have in our organizations today, what I what I see is basically, if we have a 1,000 people, we will have 1,000 different incentives. So they will have had different people they talk to, and then it will have different yearly goals. And then we have an organization with 1,000 people who every where everyone thinks, well, if if I, you know, can manage that this plane is booked well, then I will get my bonus. And the other person thinks, well, I will get my bonus if this plane is is technically in in a in a best shape. And the other thing, the other person thinks that she’ll get her bonus if every passenger in in the plane is is well fed or something.

Right? And and you will you will have an organization where everyone is looking something different. And this ability to and and and this is something only that can be done only at certain level of hierarchy. That’s why just talking about it with everyone in an organization doesn’t really make make much difference. You need to have a certain level of hierarchy to be able to establish the structure, to to be able to change how the incentive structure is done. And if you are able to create a structure where you say, guys, you are only getting a bonus. You’re we are only saying that we’ve done a good job. We don’t even have to make it a bonus at all. We we it’s it’s just about what do we consider being a good job done.

Right? And if if we if you’re saying you’ve done a good job if we’re all on time, if I don’t know. We we we’ve saved that much kerosene this this this year. This but we altogether, then what you are doing is you know, people maybe get confused. They say, well, but what how can I influence this? Well, guess what?

You have a little influence in this, and every one of us has a little influence on this. And what I want you to do is if you think that you cannot influence this but your colleague can, I want you to talk to them? I don’t want you to think, well, it’s not my job. My job is just little little thingy here. What and this is the hardest part about, adapting. This is the harder the hardest part about organizations creating the you need to create you need to take this, the step of asking people to be responsible for the whole result as a group.

And if you do this step, I assure you you’re gonna have you’re gonna have multiple times the productivity that you had before. But you but you need to you need to do this. If you take this step, you will get there.

Bert Martinez:

Yeah. I love that. I love that. Okay. So when you are taking on a project. And your I I don’t know what your your framework is. What what do you start looking at? Are you looking at at key ways that that this organization is communicating and and or are you looking at are you trying to identify unpredictable areas of a project? When you come into a project, where do you start?

Anton Skornyakov:

I start I always start with what matters most to the people in the organization, and those are the results. And if I’m talking to the people who don’t care for the results, they’re not the right people to talk to. So so to be honest, in the beginning, the this this process of of, assignment clarification, it’s a lot of times asking the same question in different ways of how will you see that your organization is successful if I do my job? Or if someone else does their job well, what does it mean successful in for you to be successful in 3 months or in 6 months? What does it look like? And and and what I focus on are the results that this organization delivers to their clients.

And once we have established that in many organizations, they are very clear that this doesn’t take that much time. So many organizations, especially if you talk to the CEO, if you have especially the hierarchy of the hierarchy you talk to people, when you when you speak to the founders, they they they are typically very concise and very clear on this because they have to, you know, they have to pitch it to stakeholders. They they they cannot, you know, be fluffy about that. But then the second step is then the second step is to ask ourselves. And I can give my own input for that, but I’m rarely an expert in their field.

So I would ask them, what do you think like, imagine you failed. On all possible accounts. What are the different things that failed in 6 months? What are all the different things that you can imagine that have failed? And typically, what we’ll what we’ll collect there is a list of maybe 5, maybe 10 different realistic risks that can actually occur. And all these risks are connected to most of the time, they’re connected to many different, unpredictable factors. And and having that, we kind of already established what are the results that we wanna have.

And the second step is what what are maybe our our kind of impediments, right, or the risks. And the the last step is now is to ask ourselves, so with what intermediary results could we prove to an outside person, not just to us that because because inside we all like our ideas and we all are in love with our ideas. But what what really what what result could really prove to us that the risks that we’ve just said that exist isn’t there? How can we what  result would prove to us that this risk isn’t there? So if it is that we are, you know, changing some processes to to achieve quality, and we think that maybe the new quality processes, no matter how great we think they are, our people just will won’t use them.

You know? We’ll set up if that’s a risk, we can think, well, how about us, you know, trying to, you know, think about the most difficult things for the people to change and implement one change in half a month in in 2 weeks and just see, will anyone, you know, will people go along with it? And if people do, we know that’s not a risk anymore. Right? So and and and suddenly, by creating those results that prove to us that the risk isn’t there anymore, we we start focusing on those slices.

Those are the slices. The those results that actually deliver value diffuse risk or actually show us that we can make concrete steps. Those are, they’re kind of the cornerstones of the new structure. And from there on, we can ask ourselves, so who are the people who could deliver such a result? And then we come up with a with those cross with with a cross functional team. We can ask ourselves how how fast can they do that? What do they need for this? Then we may create the environment. All of those all of those questions, they kind of, again, fall in place once we focus on the real results. And the results, they come from those final results of our organization.

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Bert Martinez:

You know, one of the things I was gonna ask you, and I think you answered it because I was thinking, you know, one of the issues challenges with making changes in any organization is that making the change itself is unpredictable, and it causes anxiety.

And so I was gonna ask you, how do you handle how do you prepare people for those anxieties? Or but it sounds like by making these small steps instead instead of coming in and saying, hey, we’re gonna take change these ten things. Maybe you come in and you do that one change, see how people react. As you said, get them comfortable realizing that they could be successful with this change. That’s gotta be one way of reducing those anxieties.

Anton Skornyakov:

I think that’s a brilliant way of doing it. Yeah. Absolutely. And there is nothing more you know, when I when I when I when I look at the amount of people who resist in the first moments Right. When any change happens, as compared to the amount of people who resisted who resisted changing after they’ve seen some actual results happening. This is incomparable. Like, look, in the beginning, maybe 80% would be resisting, but never more than 10% in the end. Because when you actually see a result, you know, you you you typically, people have worked in an organization for so long and they’ve seen so many change initiatives. They know that they are kind of a lot of them are fake. So when when a new guy comes in and says, well, we’re gonna change something, there was no trust there.

But if you see actually some something changing and and you’d say, well, guys, look at what we’ve done, you know, just a month ago and what we’re doing now. Can you see how it’s better? And even though it was paid full to get here and even though it doesn’t it’s not per complete or perfect, but can you see the difference now? And you you need to actually collect the data to show it.

Now but once people see the differences and once people understand that their the painful process of change has actually led to something useful, the the amount of people who are still making it easier. There are a couple of more strategies actually. The one making it easier. There are a couple of more strategies, actually. The one thing you need to really, really, really do is is you need to start with volunteers.

That’s that’s a really important, very small tool, but but really, really, you need to always start with volunteers because, you know, you need to say, hey, guys. We’re gonna change this and this about our company, and we need this kind of skills for that. Who’d like to join? Right.

And you will always have some people in the company who are fed up with something that that’s not been working for some time and some people who are just comfortable or who have other things in their lives that they wanna, you know, be paying attention to, so they don’t want this change. And that’s fine. But as long as you start with the people who actually want who want to volunteer, that’s that’s very often a game changer.

Bert Martinez:

No. I think that’s one of my biggest takeaway from today’s, show is that, asking for volunteers. If you look at any large successful software company, that’s what they do. They ask for volunteers. They call them beta testers. Who Who wants to volunteer? And they and they set it up for success. Hey. This is gonna be this, and it may be difficult.

And as you mentioned before, it’s not a 100% finished, but we want you to test out this section here or this module or whatever. Give us some feedback. I love this idea, Anton, of asking for volunteers because they’re they’re already open. They want change. They wanna see what this is gonna be about. And I also like your other point about, so many times people attempt to make a change, and now the employees that they’re hearing it for the 5th time or the 10th time or the 100th time, and they just roll their eyes. It says, okay. This is gonna last about 5 minutes or 5 days, and then we can go back to normal.

And so but I love the I love asking for volunteers. I think that’s brilliant. Such a simple thing, but so impactful.  Alright. So let me ask you this. Here you are, again, I I wanna shout out the book real quick. The, the book is The Art of Slicing Work.

I just love that. The Art of Slicing Work, How to Navigate Unpredictable Projects. What was the catalyst? What motivated you to write this book?

Anton Skornyakov:

Oh, it’s just the amount of people from my trainings asking me. So be be be a scrum trainer, I’ve I’ve I’ve you know, for the last 6 years, I’ve been giving trainings a lot people. So half of my time, I’m basically giving trainings. Some of my time, I’m working with different clients.

And you know, every time people come from my trainings, they kind of, Anton, you’re telling all the stories, and they don’t have anything to do with software. They’re also easy to understand. Do you have kind of I wasn’t able to capture all of them. Do you have a book or something? Can you can you point me to some to something? You know,  some some things are are written in my in my blog, but, basically, it took me a couple of years to to put put all of those examples into one framework and into one fitting book so they all kind of work with each other. So this is basic basically, a lot of people asking me.

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Bert Martinez:

That’s great. That’s the best way of that’s that’s a great reason. I mean, you know, there there’s been a lot of great companies, brands that have that have started with the blog, you know, Bulletproof Coffee, Bulletproof. The whole Bulletproof brand started with David Osprey’s blog, and then he wrote a book and then he wrote another book. And, you know, and so several companies start that way. So it’s great that your people love you so much that they say, hey, I want no I wanna know more stories.

Alright. Listen. We’re gonna wrap up here, but I wanted to ask you something completely off topic. Who do people say you look like? What famous person do people say you look like?

Anton Skornyakov:

Oh, there is a there there is a okay. There is a a a Russian poet Vladimir Nabokov. He he he emigrated to I think he’s to US at some point. That’s the person people tell.

Bert Martinez:

I was thinking Daniel Radcliffe. Uh-huh. The actor from Harry Potter.

Anton Skornyakov:

Oh. Oh, yes. Oh my god. Yeah. There was someone telling me that.

Bert Martinez:

Anyway, Anton It’s been fantastic getting to know you. I appreciate you coming on here, sharing some of your insights, and I’m hoping that our people are walking away with some great tips because you dropped some great tips today. One more time, everybody. I’m gonna put a link in the show notes, but please check out Anton’s book, The Art of Slicing Work, How to Navigate Unpredictable Projects. Anton, thank you so much for stopping by.

Anton Skornyakov:

Thank you so much for this conversation. It’s been great.

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