People dislike change. It disrupts our routines and we need to invest to adapt. We only go along if we understand why change is needed and how we benefit from it.
The key to intrinsic motivation is to experience the benefits of the change yourself, rather than having someone else explain it to you.

Agility is almost an acronym for change. It is critical to let people experience the benefits of Agility before asking them to buy into this new way of working. This post explains how to create a great Agile experience in a fun, simple, cost efficient and highly effective way. BEing agile, before BEcoming agile!

The concept of a “Company Innovation Day”

Have you seen this clip about Dan Pinks’ Drive? According to him, the key factors for more motivation and better performance are: autonomy, mastery and purpose.
If you have some scrum experience this might sound familiar, right? That is because these 3 things really tie in nicely with agile and scrum, for example:

Autonomy = being able to self-direct;
• Let the team plan their own work
• Let the team decide how to best solve problems

Mastery = learning, applying and mastering new skills and abilities, a.k.a. "get better at stuff";
• Retrospect and improve
• Learn, apply and master new skills to get achieve goals as a team.

Purpose = understanding necessity and being as effective as possible;
• Write user stories that add value
• Define sprint goals that tie in to product- and business goals.

In the clip, the company "Atlassian" is mentioned. This is the company that makes "JIRA", one of the most popular Agile support tools. Atlassian tries to facilitate autonomy, mastery and purpose by organizing one day per quarter of “management free” innovation. They call it a “ship it day”.

Now this is cool! According to Dan, their people had fun (most important), fixed a whole array of bugs and delivered new product ideas as well. They have to ship all this in one day, again showing similarities with the time boxed scrum approach. When I first saw this, I realized that this kind of fast delivery of value is pretty much something you would like to achieve with Agile Scrum too! Doing Scrum right would feel like a continuous series of ship it days.

My own experience with innovation days

Recently I organized an innovation day with a client (for tips see on how to organize yours, click here). We invited the whole department to volunteer. If you didn’t feel like it, you could just skip it and focus on sprint work. Next we promoted the day and this resulted in a growing list of ideas coming in.
Except for the framing of the day, the formation of ideas and teams was totally self-organized and also result driven as we asked for the expected result. Ultimately we had 20 initiatives to be completed in one day.
On the day itself, almost everyone joined in and people worked hard to achieve results at the end of the day.
The day ended in presenting the results and having pizzas. Only some ideas just missed the deadline, but most were finished including usable and fresh new stuff with direct business value. When looking at the photos of that day it struck me that 9 out of ten photos showed smiling faces. Sweet!

The first innovation day was concluded with an evaluation. In my opinion evaluation is essential, because this is the perfect moment discuss deeper lessons and insights. Questions like; “how can we create the innovation day energy levels during sprints”, and “how can we utilize self-organizing abilities more” are invaluable as they could lead to new insights, inspiration and experiments for day-to-day operations.

The value of an innovation day as a starting point for Agile

All in all, I think an innovation day is the perfect way to get people experiencing the power of Agile.
Doing the innovation day on “day one” offers huge benefits when added to standard stuff like training and games. This is because the context is real. You have a real goal, a real timebox and you need to self-organize to achieve the desired result.
People doing the work get to experience their potential and the power of doing stuff within a simplified context. Managers get to experience unleashing the human potential when they focus only on the context and environment for that day.
I can only imagine the amazement and renewed joy when people experience the possibilities coming from a strong waterfall setting. All that good stuff from just a one-day investment!

Conclusion

It would be great if you would start out an Agile change initiative with an innovation day. Get people enthusiastic and inspired (e.g. motivated for change) first and then tell them why it works and how we are going to apply the same principles in day-to-day operations. This will result in less friction and resistance and give people a better sense for where they are heading.

Do you want to start doing innovation days or do you want to share your experience, feel free to leave a comment below.