Interviewing Mattias Skarin
Q: Who are you?
M: A positive chap from northern Sweden. I got caught by the bug called software 14 years ago (and haven’t regretted it since 🙂 After 9 years as a developer, I decided to find out what it takes to create great software. This has taken me on a journey of Agile, TDD, Scrum and Lean and Kanban. I’m a practical guy, passionate about trying things in real life.
Q: So, what are you good at?
M: Helping organizations turn their Lean & Agile initiatives into engaging, competitive tools.
Q: Why do you get asked to come as a coach?
M: Typically, it is to help the company improve time to market or to get guidance in how best do Lean or Agile transitions.
Q: What’s the difference between Lean and Agile by the way?
M: In short, they share a similar goal. Reduce time to market and light process footprint. The downside of Agile in a larger context is it can be percieved as ”software thing”. Hence other functions such as sales and marketing can subtly distance themselves instead of closing in. Here Lean can help by putting the focus on the customer and the value chain rather than process specific stuff. Secondly Lean brings with it a mindset, based on the values ”Respect People” and ”Continuous improvement (relentless!)”.
Q: What are the problems you encounter in your coaching work?
M: Oh, it is easy to generalize here. But poor understanding of production development economics (cost rather than profit focus..), single dimensional problem solving and too much work in progress is quite common.
Q: What inspires you?
M: Turning around companies from difficult situations and watching people grow.
Q: Who do you coach?
M: The IT organization, from developer to CEO.
M: Well it makes sense if you acknowledge that root causes rarely are isolated to a single function. Therefore you need the combined cooperation on many levels to deal with them.
Q: ..ok.. but with who do you usually spend most of your time?
M: Main part is usually spent together with teams, product managers and first / second line managers.
Q: In your mind, what are the biggest mistakes we repeat?
M: Well, I’d highlight three things,
- An over belief in status quo – we stay too comfortable with what we have
- Misunderstanding of production economics. What drives product development value is our ability to produce innovations outside the norm. Therefore, filtering ideas early to make sure we only keep ’likely’ success cases is will surely cut costs – and also the return! The better option is to reduce the transaction cost of experimentation, encourage set based engineering and let the market pick the winners.
- Overvaluing timeboxes. Timeboxes are great for focusing development efforts, but horrific in deciding if the product is ready for the market.
Q: You do coaching, has it returned any results?
- A game development company with 10 teams reduced their time between release from 6m to 4 weeks. Their IT department of 80 people went from being a perceived trouble maker by business to a transparent partner.
- An ECM company saved a derailing 8 month project (and key client) using Kanban/Kaizen with 8 weeks left to the deadline.
- A product line (sales, product management, development, support) has reduced time between releases from 6 months to 3 weeks and at the same time improved quality and market share
Q: What areas do you specialize in?
- Kanban and Lean
- Implementing continuous improvement (Kaizen).. apart from this I also train in Scrum and TDD.
Q: What about technology?
M: .Net & Windows, that’s my home base. I have cheated in Java, but there are many more skilled Java developers out there than me 🙂
Q: Ok, rounding up. Any last minute advice?
M: I leave you with a quote from the real person Will Smith’s portrayed in ”The Pursuit of Happiness”.
”Always move forward.”