Scrum.org Community Podcast

Using Agile to Fight Climate Change

October 05, 2023 Scrum.org
Using Agile to Fight Climate Change
Scrum.org Community Podcast
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Scrum.org Community Podcast
Using Agile to Fight Climate Change
Oct 05, 2023
Scrum.org

In this episode of the Scrum.org Community Podcast, Dave West is joined by Marjolein Pilon, a Scrum Master based in the Netherlands to talk about the very important topic of Climate Change. She discusses how we can use Scrum to combat climate change, the importance of sustainability in software development, the concept of a Planet Earth Retrospective and more!

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of the Scrum.org Community Podcast, Dave West is joined by Marjolein Pilon, a Scrum Master based in the Netherlands to talk about the very important topic of Climate Change. She discusses how we can use Scrum to combat climate change, the importance of sustainability in software development, the concept of a Planet Earth Retrospective and more!

Lindsay Velecina:

Welcome to the scrum.org community podcast, a podcast from the home of Scrum. In this podcast we feature professional scrum trainers and other scrum practitioners sharing their stories and experiences to help learn from the experience of others. We hope you enjoy this episode.

Dave West:

Hello, welcome to the scrum.org community podcast. I'm your host, Dave West CEO here@scrum.org. Today's a pretty great podcast, I have to say I've got a fantastic guest. And it's about a topic that I think that everybody is thinking about worrying about and is concerned about. So today's podcast, we're talking, we're talking to Marjolein Pilon an agile coach and Scrum Master from the Netherlands, about how she employed scrum to empower the team she was working with to fight climate change. Climate change, I know a big topic, I actually was introduced to Marjolein via one of our professional scrum trainers. And he said, Oh, gosh, this is a really interesting topic. You can give some amplification to it@scrum.org. And we got talking via email and the like. And we actually produced a blog together that was that actually made me sort of step back from some of the things we were doing@scrum.org and actually ask some questions, which, which is always good. Hey, I'm not necessarily sure we got the right answers. But we're still working on that. But at least it made me think so. Welcome to the podcast, Marjolein.

Marjolein Pilon:

Thank you very much, Dave. And it's great

Dave West:

to have you here. Okay, so before we jump into this absolutely huge topic of climate change, and how we can as Scrum teams, and as agile professionals make an impact every day. Tell me a little bit about yourself where you're speaking to us from?

Marjolein Pilon:

Yeah, so thank you very much for having me on this podcasts. My name is Marjolein Pilon. I'm a Scrum Master from the Netherlands. I live here in the center of the country in a small village with my husband and my two children. My son is five and my daughter, she just turned four. So yeah, really having fun with our small family. I've been a scrum master for about five years now. working mainly in the financial industry. And before that, I have been a business analyst, business engineer and Scrum teams as well. And even before that, I was an account manager and it and maybe a fun fact, I studied cultures and languages of Africa. So that was something like completely different, but then.

Dave West:

Wow, isn't it? And then, like so many of us, we ended up in this in this in this world, which is interesting. And yes, I have a seven and a 10 year old. So I know. I can appreciate the small family vibe at the moment and the chaos and fun that that that creates. So, So climate change is going to be so easy compared to that I get it. Okay, so before we get into the details of exactly how you employ Scrum, to encourage people to think about the climate. Can you tell me why you even started on this journey at all?

Marjolein Pilon:

Yeah, well, I must say that climate change has has been bothering me for the past, like several years. And I did some things we put like solar panels on our roof and stuff like that. But I think that most things that I did, they felt so insignificant compared to the magnitude of climate change. And yeah, that frustrated me. And I was just like, oh, what can I do, but it was also really coming from a place of fear. I don't know if you recognize that. But and I think many people have that you. It's just so big. And it's just, like, also fearful for most people. And then I really had to work through that for myself. And it made me realize that when I come from a place of opportunity, instead of fear that I can do so much more. And that opened up like a creative energy or something. Yeah. So and then I realized, why don't we in our Scrum teams do something about this, and I started this conversation at work. And people really liked the idea. And I read something on the internet about seeing the planet as a stakeholder. I don't know if you know, Yuta Eckstein. She is she's German, she's also doing things with sustainability and on our website, there was something about Sustainability survey. And she also said something about, we should identify the planet as a stakeholder. And that really hit me. And I was like, Yeah, this is what we are going to do. And then I talked about it at work. And people were really like, wow, that's a great idea. So and that made me think maybe we can really do something with this. I started with a planet retrospective with my team. And then we talked about, yeah, the sustainable engineering principles. And we didn't know anything about that, and was really new to the team, and also really far, far away from a bad show. But it opened the discussion. And it also opened a new paradigm. And then the team was like, Yeah, we don't know so much about this, but we really need to do something against climate change. And if we, if we do something, we we may reduce our footprint by maybe a 10%. That was their estimate at a time. And that is actually how it started.

Dave West:

Wow. That is, it is interesting. So from that place of fear and inaction, you felt sort of unable to make an impact, right? You've done some stuff on your home. And then yeah, it then led you to Well hang on a minute, the art of the possible, right, that's what Scrum is all about the art of the possible.

Marjolein Pilon:

But the fun thing is that I also had to do some inner work before I could actually bring it in the world, you know, I really had to go through my own fear myself before I could actually find that creative energy.

Dave West:

That is, that is that is super interesting. And then, when you found that creative energy, you shared it with the team. And I love the idea of the planet as a stakeholder. I think that's a really interesting concept. Often in sprint reviews, we invite, we try to invite some stakeholders, but actually having a proxy for that that very important stakeholder, which is the environment, the planet that your your product is being delivered into, can can help challenge that review that increment the work that you're doing, and actually put you towards, you know, doing other things that you wouldn't necessarily have thought about. What was when you when you took that to your boss, though, when you you know, the team was excited. So I'm sure over bitter ball and there, you talked about how you talked about it with the team? And then you and then they were like, Yeah, that's that's really cool. Let's, let's look at these engineering principles. Let's start thinking about the planet as a stakeholder. What happened when you started talking to your boss or the or the other stakeholders to the to the team?

Marjolein Pilon:

Well, interesting that you asked that it was an actually an other team that I did a retrospective with. They took it to our boss themselves. So they came with a few ideas. And they wanted to decommission a test environment that they no longer used. And they set up a meeting with our IT lead themselves, and the it lead. He really liked the idea. And he also really liked the motivation. He hadn't never thought of that before in a sustainability way. But yeah, and he gave the team to trust that they they can decommission this without any without any problems or with keeping everything going. Yeah. And they decommission it without any problems.

Dave West:

It is. It's funny, just slight aside talking about testing environments. I, I remember, a client I was out many years ago, they had 1000s of test environments all running all the time. And somebody said, do we need old days, because it's much easier to add than to take away. And that's true in computing in general. You know, in software development, it's much easier to add new features to remove old features. Yeah, so the amount of debt as it were, the amount of energy that's being being created, or being used sorry, every time is huge. So it's interesting, you started on that.

Marjolein Pilon:

There is so much waste.

Dave West:

Yeah, and, and obviously waste has an as many impacts. Obviously, the environment is one of them, but it also has other positive, the more or less stuff around the less stuff goes wrong, the less stuff you have to deal with the less stuff that is secure in unsecure, the less stuff so it being being conscious of Mother Nature and having her as a stakeholder also can potentially have impact on other things as well. Absolutely, which is good, okay. So, so we did this planet earth retrospective, you identify these engineering principles. Do they took it to the boss? Great. The boss went, Yeah, let's, let's start doing that stuff. Then what happened? When did you start sort of? You brought this to another team, right?

Marjolein Pilon:

Yeah. So I brought it to another team, and then to another one. And then outside of our department. They were also teams who wanted to do this. So I went through to the whole bank. And then when I announced my leaving last March, April, then I asked on our, our Yammer, our intranet, I asked, would there be any Scrum Masters or any facilitators interested in taking this over for me, because I'm leaving. And then I hope maybe five to 10, Scrum Masters would respond. But then there were over 100, Scrum Masters and facilitators who responded. So that made my last month at the bank quite busy, because I did quite some workshops for for Scrum Masters and other facilitators how to run this workshop. So then they continue it work when I left. And that was really cool, because they also all have like two to three teams. And they were all taking this to their teams as well. So I think really a movement started there.

Dave West:

I mean, building that community, empowering them to, to at least think about this stuff to talk about this stuff to feel like they can make a difference. It's the first step to change, right? Yes,

Marjolein Pilon:

exactly. So what I really did in this workshop was to, to make the teams and to make them aware of the climate impact, because it really, it always starts with awareness, right. And then point them into the direction of sustainable options. And then help them define the first steps, like what you will do in a regular retrospective, just define the first actionable steps that you can take on in the coming sprint. So make it small, like small steps. I mean, climate change is so big, that it is sometimes people just don't know what to do, because it's so big it makes makes them feel powerless, you know, but when you break it in small chunks, and to see what what is the first thing that we can do? What is the first we have idle service running, maybe we can switch some something off? is already good for the climate, you know, and yeah, maybe we can start measuring our footprints. If you run in the cloud, it's, it may be quite easy to start measuring. Well, things like that.

Dave West:

Yeah, I think that the, you know, the message that I got from, you know, working with you on the blog. And, you know, the discussions that we've had, is really that it doesn't have to be big. No, it can be incredibly small. And something as small as, hey, you know, we ran that workshop, and we throw away all that paper at the end. Why did anybody make sure it went to the recycle thing, you know, or, I know that sounds silly, but in our office that actually, we have these trainer face to faces where if you get 30 trainers in the room, you use more post it notes, and those big sticky posting, you know, the ones that filled the wall, you can imagine I literally, you know, it's like, it's like Christmas in our office, the amount of paper that's there, you know, and just one very simple thing was we have, we have a recycle thing. And we have a normal trash thing. And the recycle thing is miles away. It's like the other side of the car park, and you have to walk and if it's raining, you know, it's so easy to put it into the river. And just making sure that somebody puts it in the thing. I know that sounds silly and little, but it's important. It makes a difference. Yes. And it really, really does. So that I think those I think that was an interesting thing. I also think the other thing that we took from it was that we've tried a couple of times and is this retrospective you having an element in your retrospective that brings up you know, that stakeholder that is the planet that is mother nature, you're saying hey, so I think we can do you know and and that's led to some really interesting discussions about we do these face to faces all over the world and offsetting our our flying Yes, you know, having a carbon offset buying trees of buying trees. That's one of my favorite things to do. Because who doesn't like trees? You know, those those sorts of things that stuff. We're only working with suppliers that have something on their website that explicitly says you Yeah, little things that we just, you know, slowly, slowly, as they say, Yes, small steps, small steps. So all right. So now, so we've run, you've now got this active community in the bank doing driving this agenda using the workshop that you try, you build and evolved from that first team. What, what, what's next?

Marjolein Pilon:

Yeah, great question. I don't know yet. What is what is next for me personally, what is next for the teams as two different things, of course. But I really believe that we should build a community of agile teams that are dedicated to reduce the carbon footprint and that are dedicated to find ways to enable life to thrive on this planet. Because isn't that what we really want to enable life to thrive? I mean, that is something that is in danger now. But we still have a choice. Yeah. So what I envision is that we build a community of agile teams that really are committed to enable life to thrive and to reduce the carbon footprints in order to do that.

Dave West:

I'm, I'm in the I've got that's a good place to begin the the What about the cynics?

Marjolein Pilon:

Yeah. What about a cynics?

Dave West:

You know, you go to those. I mean, I don't think there's cynics that believe that the climate isn't changing. I think the cynics that believe that their effort is worth having an impact, you know, that they're like, yeah, that's, that's great. But, you know, I, I mean, obviously, you do get some cynics around the actual issue. But what about the cynics that are just like, it's not that they can't be bothered, they just think this isn't in their wheelhouse. You know, it's like, I mean, it's, it's similar to the same cynics that when you said, Okay, we're gonna bring testers and developers together back in, you know, many years ago, they were like, No, that won't ever work. Why would we do that? That isn't how it, you know, can't we just, it's not going to be very efficient, wouldn't be better if we constantly you know, that's not gonna, that's not why we're being paid. We're being paid to deliver, you know, finance features for the bank, for instance, in your in your city or in your previous situation.

Marjolein Pilon:

Yeah, I would say to the cynics just wait and see. I mean, it's not a problem if they stand on the sidelines and just wait and see if it works. But let's work with the people who really do want this, that are really hopeful about their endeavors, and that they can really make a change. Because when we are together, I mean, we benefit more from 1000 teams that do small things than one team that does something like imperfection. But I would say to the cynics, yeah, take small steps in small steps taking taken together, we will have a massive impact. Yeah, you won't see it immediately. Maybe you won't see it at all, you won't see at all what your what your personal impact is. But this is about something that is bigger than ourselves. And if we believe in something that is bigger than ourselves is really powerful. And if we can believe and, and become hopeful about that we are able to make a better world together. Yeah, who wouldn't want to join that?

Dave West:

Yeah, who wouldn't want to join that? I mean, that it's very compelling. At the end of the day, I, my perspective has always been that hope is a really powerful, believing and hoping and striving are really powerful motivators. And I think if you can, if you can uncork that in a team or in an individual, if you can, you know, align some passion to this, create this world of opportunity, I think amazing things can happen. I also think that ultimately, when I'm talking to cynics about, not just about this, but anything, I tend to just paint a picture of a world where we're all contributing and where we've all got that and, and, and say literally what you just said, Marilyn, the the that wouldn't you want this just Who wouldn't want it? Those? Yes, those famous words. And then, and then just get them this, get them enthusiastic. And obviously beer and biteable helps as well. But

Marjolein Pilon:

and what I would also say is I, I've been there myself as well, you know, I know that this feeling I know the feeling of cynicism that it's not going to work what we do, but I think I wouldn't call myself particularly optimistic about, like the state of affairs at the moment. But I would consider myself hopeful. And that is not the same thing. I mean, hope is something that you that makes you do the right thing, regardless of the outcome.

Dave West:

Yeah, I was listening to a podcast, and much more popular podcasts than this with Bill Gates. And maybe that's why it's so popular, right? They have guests like Bill Gates on it. And he was talking about the all the science, and he was talking about the science, he was talking about all the what they've you know, the temperature increase the, you know, the Himalayan mount all this stuff. And, and the interviewer said, how do you stay so optimistic? And he said, because we can solve any problem if we put our minds to it. Yeah, humanity is amazing. And it all it just is just nice to be focused, and everything can goodness. So what happened? And it's my job to try to focus on people and sprinkle some money into it to make that happen. And I, I was, it made me smile a little bit, because, you know, there's, it's interesting how his perspective considering he has a lot more data than probably we have about the world and a better understanding of it. Cool. So final question. I know times pressing. And we could talk for days about this and about ideas about how you can connect teams, etc. If you had one or two things to say to somebody that's listening to this podcast about how they could start the fire, no pun intended. No, there's all sorts of analogies. But the start the to encourage this change in their own organization to do what you did in the bank, what would you say what's the first or you know, one or two things that they should start with?

Marjolein Pilon:

I think getting started with a low hanging fruit, identify the low hanging fruit in your team really already reduces some small amounts of co2 emissions, which is really good and empowering. Because it makes people feel that they can have an impact. And I think what we really want is to make people feel they can actually do something. So I would say, start the conversation. In your organization, start a conversation, you don't need to be a sustainability expert to start a conversation and to start the planet retrospective. And just create, create the awareness, awareness on what they can do. And define the first steps and get started.

Dave West:

Just start Yeah, the way you climb any mountain, the way you start any, any marathon is one step. Right? And yes, it's gotta get get going. Well, thank you for spending this little bit of time with us today. I really do appreciate it.

Marjolein Pilon:

Thank you very much for having me. Of course,

Dave West:

now, I feel infinitely more guilty about the lack of progress that I'm making on this. So now I'm gonna, I've just instantly we have a team face to face in a few in a few weeks. And I'm now adding an agenda item in my head to that team face to face to run a little planet retrospective with with all the team and see what can come out of that. So thanks for listening today. And thanks for Marjolein in an inspiring podcast. Hopefully, you all took away something from it. I mean, ultimately, you know cabling tackling climate change is not an easy problem to solve. But we have an amazing community of agile professionals for all throughout the world, solving many complex problems. This is just another one that they really can and I think start small. Remember, your contribution is not irrelevant. Every little thing helps. I think Marjolein really taught us that small change has big impact and that Scrum is all about the art of the possible which I you know I'm super excited about. And thanks for listening today. I hope you enjoyed today's podcast. This is the scrum.org community Podcast I'm your host Dave West if you did enjoy today then there's many of the podcasts in our series are all about really empowering individuals to change to change their world to change their situation to change their, their mindset. Thank you stay safe. Remember anything is possible if you focus the right group of people on the right problem and give them the space to do it scrum on everybody. Bye bye