Stories Connecting Dots with Markus Andrezak

Stories Connecting Dots by Markus Andrezak tries to discover the many different ways businesses navigate in an environment of change. Stories Connecting Dots versucht die unterschiedlichsten Wege zu entdecken, auf denen Unternehmen erfolgreich mit drastischem Wandel umgehen..
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Stories Connecting Dots with Markus Andrezak






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Now displaying: March, 2018
Mar 30, 2018

Ep. 17: Courtney Hemphill - Psychological Safety at Work

I met Courtney years ago at the Lean UX conference. At the time there was a lot of talk of yet another round of inclusion. Where DevOps was going on in one part of the universe, this was the universe, we were talking and discussing inclusion of UX, User Research, Design and other disciplines into what we called agile. Each inclusion brings its own challenges as it takes us away from the trodden path. And somehow, all of these movements attract Courtney. Courtney is all about inclusion. And what all of these movements have in common is also the need for psychological safety. a safe place to be able to try out how we can better work together - coming from all our nice, little, funny, sometimes highly culturally coded environments and all of a sudden be a team.

Courtney has a coding background but now is managing big efforts at and with clients to build digital products, but much help clients embrace the challenges of the digital change that is before us. at CarbonFive, Courtney currently manages the New York office. It is one of the few times I mention a company of one of my guests, as CarbonFive is special in how they are a great place to work, where Courtney and her colleagues try to self apply what they learn about how people can meaningfully work together.

Courtney is also a climber of crazy skills, devotion, focus, love to the sport and perseverance. Climbing - another space to collect those experiences that can make you understand.

Show Notes

"You need to build the foundations of a good culture and the foundations of good technical solutions. It is going to be very hard to work in a risk free environment when the type of systems you have are breaking all the time: There’s bugs all over the place and you can’t release because you have to through 9 levels of QA."

"(Radical Candor shows you ways) where you’re saying the hard truth to someone, but you’re saying it in a way where you have empathy with the person you are talking to. But also you are being self aware in the way that you are going to communicate. You are giving the person you are giving feedback the possibility to tell _you_ how they have perceived the feedback. Because a lot of times you think you are being candid and caring, and in fact you are being obnoxious."

"The best of us have been there where we had a bad morning, went to a meeting and then were obnoxiously aggressive. But then being able to go back and say “hey, I’m learning from this … I need to work on my emotional intelligence. So let me rephrase that in a way where I am more empathetic"."

"We tend to see teams that are much smaller. Microservices have played a role in this, the whole Conway’s law thing. We can now have teams of 4, but we can have 50 of them across the company. How do we manage that? This has been a driving mechanism for the need of - and I hate the term - soft skills! Emotional intelligence - EQ. So it’s less _lines of code_, now it’s _how can teams collaborate with another_ and can be 10X in value, not in lines of code.“

"The reality is that nothing is going to work in any organisation if it doesn’t feel right"

"Climbing is - oh my god - I almost cry when I think of it, I love it so much. It is this perfect balance to the insanity of urban and work life. It allows you to be in a place where you have to be in a place where you are independent, you have to be self sufficient, you have to make these choices but you can not make them independently. You _need_ a partner."


- "Radical Candor - Be a kick ass boss without losing your humanity" the great book by Kim Scott, mentioned in the interview. It is a great read and you will have all these moments of “oh my, I’ve been there“.
- Product Dartboard: A tool for frequent team self assessment. More info
- Carbon Five, where Courtney works

Mar 4, 2018


I don’t really dare to introduce Roman. He is such a big name in Agile Product Management. Since his beginnings in Scrum, he was totally focused: Scrum it will be, Product it will be - and everything that belongs to it. No more, no less. Clarity.

In the field of Agile Product Management, he is really known for his great Scrum Product Owner courses, but also his books. His latest book is called Strategize and is all about product strategy. Unlike with many other books on strategy, what Roman accomplishes with his book, is to get the topic out of the vague. He gives clear cut advice in an otherwise often blurry topic.

Knowing Roman for many years, it actually took me until this interview to actually decode one of his main qualities: Calm and certainty. Roman, in the best sense, gives you the clarity and certainty you expect from a teacher. While many teachers may bring you to the brink of doubt, Roman in a very calm, distinct and respectful way tells you what he found out to be the core of any topic he writes about. He really helps you to accept this things and go on with them.

While I sometimes struggle and have to tell the world about all the different aspects of a topic, Roman already did all the thinking and came to a conclusion. And that helps. He does not leave out the rest of the truth, he just helps you to focus on the core and makes it easy to take the next step in your journey. I guess, it also has to do with his experience: he seen them all and has been in many contexts. He is running his brand as a business since 2006 and was amongst the first Certified Scrum Trainers in Europe. He really was amongst the pioneers and saw the potential when nothing was yet clear.

He also writes a prominent blog on his website. These days, his focus is on leadership and product portfolio topics. It is also the topic of his newest blog posts on his blog.

The Interview

During the podcast we go through the following topics:

  • What is a product strategy?
  • Ways to work on product strategy in the context of new products
  • Working on existing, mature products
  • How to work with Roadmaps
  • What was the writing process for Srrategize?
  • What’s next from Roman?


Here some citations from the conversation:

  • "The main challenge initially really is to get to a launch": On why focus and a minimal good enough product is needed in the beginning.
  • "What good enough means, what minimal means, depends very much on the innovation we’re dealing with."
  • "There is a correlation between the amount of time we spend on something and the level of attachment that results"On why it is psychologically so hard to change plans, even though we know it is necessary.
  • "Two aspects are important: Do we have the right skills? And: are people empowered to do the product strategy work?" Often times, senior management is doing the product strategy work, which limits the strength and growth of the company. Management should do the business strategy and let the product department do the product strategy.“


Oh, if you like the music in the background, it is my first try at doing the music myself.