Overview And Material From The Agile People Sweden Conference 2018

Brief Overview

The Agile People Sweden Conference 2018 (http://agilepeoplesweden.com) is getting held for the sixth year in a row. It attracted 250 participants this year from 22 different countries. We heard very positive feedback/impression from everyone we had the chance to mingle with at the conference.

Talk Summaries

These summaries are for the pressed for time and would like to pick up key takeaways.

Dave Snowden

  • Agile has become the modern equivalent of religious wars
  • You have to keep wild if you want agility and not Agile
  • Everything that is not the law of nature is a shared belief
  • We only see what we are meant to see
  • Abstraction allows the brain to make novel connections
  • Nurture the system instead of designing it; use scaffolding
  • How people interact is more important than who they are and what they do
  • There are major differences between causal and dispositional systems. Lumping them together under “Systems Thinking” creates confusion (and disasters)
  • A generalist is typically a good navigator of a complex adaptive system

Doug Kirkpatrick

  • We live in a VUCA world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. How to cope? How to adapt?
  • In coping in this VUCA world, organizations may help us or hinder us
  • Can we create organizations where everyone has a voice, where women don’t need to lean in, and where complexity is managed with simplicity?


  • People should not use force or coercion against other people
  • People should keep commitments they make to each other
  • People are good managers in their own personal lives
  • People make gigantic life-altering decisions without a boss


  • Organizations are concepts, only human beings are the ultimate reality in making decisions and taking actions
  • Eliminate or reduce the financial burden that is associated with management tax
  • Management tax; managers are always paid more than the people they manage
  • Management is not rocket science. Management is planning, organizing, controlling, selecting, and coordinating (everyone does that already!)
  • Amplify the management skills of the workers and reduce the number of bosses and the bosses of those bosses


  • An organization that figures out how to slash the management tax has a better chance of growth than other organizations that struggle with it
  • Management tax is a moral question, not just economic or bureaucratic
  • The American economy is likely to save three trillion dollars a year by slashing the management tax


  • Zero command authority means zero; it means no one has the authority to walk up to others and tell them what to do
  • It’s not about democracy or majority vote, it’s about protecting the voices of each individual in the ecosystem


  • Command authority create weaker leaders
  • Self-management is beyond empowerment. Self-management is power itself, a power that cannot be repossessed by managers

Evan Leybourn

  • The modern economy is characterized by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (regardless of what your balanced scorecard tells you!)
  • Only high-performing and adaptable (agile) organizations can leverage in this unpredictable market


  • Trust is a key factor in organizations wishing to be adaptable with their customers
  • Trust is practiced at different levels of the organization and its business (think of a pyramid structure)
  • If contracting is the source of trust, then you’re not agile at the core but just around the edges
  • Agility thrives with partnership; the highest level of trust


  • Business agility doesn’t seem to have a clear definition which is actually a good thing! A definition may lock down the concept!
  • Think of business agility as a common thread that binds and guides rather than directs into an uncertain future


  • An organization can only be as agile as its least agile division
  • The most recent constraining factors of business agility are not in IT, but in PMOs, finances, and HR (call these support functions)
  • I don’t care if you release change every 11.6 seconds if it takes your HR department 3 months to hire somebody!


  • Business agility has 9 domains grouped under 3 dimensions that are centered around the customer
  • Each domain in each of the dimensions is equal, necessary, and interrelated
  • Business agility emerges when an organization can be agile across all of these domains
  • In all organizational aspects, change the question from “How much will it cost?” to “How much is it worth?”. That’s pretty much how business agility exists

Shane Hastie

  • Culture has different facets; vision, values, respect, practices, narrative, spaces, leadership, and trust
  • What is right in a certain cultural might be distasteful in another culture


  • Align a team’s autonomy around intents rather than orders and directions
  • “Figure it out!!” is a powerful way for getting teams to align around objectives
  • Deliberately design your organizational culture by planning its initiatives


  • Culture is an elastic band around your organization. It surrounds the people, processes, structure, strategy, and leadership dimensions. Any change that is stretched along only one dimension will be snapped back by the culture band!

Erik Schön

  • Strategy gives an idea about direction and choice in order to sustainably thrive in a world with a high rate of change
  • Strategy is not about predicting the future. It’s about shaping and adapting to events and looking at future scenarios
  • Strategy emerges from experiments towards a goal. These experiments are carried out collaboratively by people in all parts of the organization


  • Sport is a good metaphor of strategy; people relate easily to sport
  • Go through small iterative choices; winning proposition, where to play, how to win, available capabilities, and enabling structures
  • Visualize your strategic value offerings through images and simple graphs; visualizations trigger conversations internally and with customers


  • In making strategy happen, both alignment (what and why) and autonomy (how) can be met (hint: recall aligning with corporate strategies in program management)
  • Alignment around (possibly co-created) intents enables maximum autonomy to take independent actions everywhere in the organization
  • Conduct regular strategy retrospectives, every sprint not just every quarter. In these retrospectives, look at your indicators, challenges, and business situation

Frida Mangen

  • People are five times more sensitive to threats than rewards
  • No one would like to be perceived as incompetent!
  • By way of conformity to social norms, we adapt to fit in with a group. By way of that, we sacrifice our liberty, and we become less capable of observing novel patterns


  • Safety junkies emerge due to an obsession with safety in families, societies, and organizations (think helicopter parents, community, or corporation!)
  • The result is too much advice on how to look after children, citizen-welfare mania, and piles of policies and processes at various organizations


  • Negative implications of strong risk aversion in Sweden: an increase in anxiety, academic fear of starting businesses, and unmotivated working expats
  • Stop treating people as children, and allow them to claim responsibilities and make mistakes


  • The 70:20:10 model for learning and development tells that experience and mistakes is the source of 70% of people learning
  • Organizations, therefore, need to establish grounds for people to learn by themselves


  • To HR in charge:
    • You don’t need to have all the answers
    • You don’t need to fear to make mistakes
    • You need to put the oxygen mask on yourself first!

Natalija Hellesø

  • Factors that need to be considered while promoting learning in an organization: length of career is 60 to 70 years, average tenure in a job is 4.5 years, the half-life of a learned skill is 5 years
  • Six trumps that make learning stick: movement trumps sitting, talking trumps listening, images trump words, writing trumps reading, shorter trumps longer, different trumps same
  • Good next read for better training results “Training From the Back of the Room!: 65 Ways to Step Aside and Let Them Learn”
  • Learning is still about acquiring knowledge, working hard to achieve something in a certain area, degrees, and certifications, or about an expert standing in front of you telling you what is best!
  • The world of work is about putting things into practice, sharing knowledge with others to achieve results, it’s about getting things done
  • As long as you keep learning and working separate, continuous learning will not improve in the organization

Fabiola Eyholzer

  • We live in interesting times of more openness for innovation and creativity than ever before; a chance for human resources to reinvent themselves and rethink their interaction with people


  • The fourth digital revolution is changing the social fabric. Example, putting a value to human life when building a self-driving car
  • In the first three revolutions (mechanical, electrical, and internet), HR was there to empower corporations (the process police!)
  • The HR shift is now towards empowering people, tapping into their passion and intrinsic motivations, and enabling the diversity of thought
  • - Design thinking and lean and agile aspects, although around for quite a while, are actually new for HR


  • Redefine the term “talent”; everyone is a talent and we only need to create more right places for these talents
  • Hire for potential over experience. Signs of high potential are motivation, curiosity, agility, insight, empathy, and determination


  • Talent mobility is important for scaling culture in an organization
  • Talent mobility should be balanced with talent and team stability (advocated by Agile)
  • The biggest barrier to talent mobility is the compensation model (would I lose compensation if I move from team A to team B?)


  • Best practices are maybe best somewhere else or maybe hindrance of innovation in HR
  • No HR ever got fired for doing performance management, i.e., no one ever got fired for doing something that everyone else in the industry is doing!
  • It would be courageous of HR to realize that high-performing teams are not created by performance management or annual appraisals!
  • HR playbook: think holistically, apply design thinking, instill cultural anchors, iterate and co-create, and gamify HR

Andrea Darabos

  • We live in interesting times of more openness for innovation and creativity than ever before; a chance for human resources to reinvent themselves and rethink their interaction with people


  • The fourth digital revolution is changing the social fabric. Example, putting a value to human life when building a self-driving car
  • In the first three revolutions (mechanical, electrical, and internet), HR was there to empower corporations (the process police!)
  • The HR shift is now towards empowering people, tapping into their passion and intrinsic motivations, and enabling the diversity of thought
  • - Design thinking and lean and agile aspects, although around for quite a while, are actually new for HR


  • Redefine the term “talent”; everyone is a talent and we only need to create more right places for these talents
  • Hire for potential over experience. Signs of high potential are motivation, curiosity, agility, insight, empathy, and determination


  • Talent mobility is important for scaling culture in an organization
  • Talent mobility should be balanced with talent and team stability (advocated by Agile)
  • The biggest barrier to talent mobility is the compensation model (would I lose compensation if I move from team A to team B?)


  • Best practices are maybe best somewhere else or maybe hindrance of innovation in HR
  • No HR ever got fired for doing performance management, i.e., no one ever got fired for doing something that everyone else in the industry is doing!
  • It would be courageous of HR to realize that high-performing teams are not created by performance management or annual appraisals!
  • HR playbook: think holistically, apply design thinking, instill cultural anchors, iterate and co-create, and gamify HR

Talk Recordings

The talk recordings can be found at http://tiny.cc/b8mt0y.

Resources on Agile HR

Agile HR was a big topic at the conference. In-depth resources on this subject can be found at http://tiny.cc/48mt0y.

Photos from the Conference

Have a look at some photos from the conference at http://tiny.cc/j9mt0y.

Meetup Groups

You may join the Agile People meetup group in:

If you wish to start a meetup group in your town, please write to info@greenbullet.se for help with Meetup setup fee.

Continued Discussion

For a continued discussion on Agile-related topics, join the social media channels:

Upcoming Training Opportunities

Participate in the State of Agile-HR Survey

The conference committee is collecting stories from anyone impacted by HR in Agile transformations, not only from HR personnel. Share your story here http://tiny.cc/zdnt0y. All participants will get a copy of our study-report and the book “Agile People, A Radical Approach for HR & Managers” for free (Kindle version).