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Consulting Life Interviews

The Back Story – Interview with Greg Tennant

What is a company except an amazing bunch of humans?

Welcome to our monthly interview with one of the ADAPTOVATE team. Each month we ask one of our team from around the world to answer a few questions. While not in the same league as The Proust Questionnaire – we think it’s a great way to share our stories with you.

This month we sat down with Greg Tennant, a senior consultant in our Singapore office.

Our monthly interview with Greg Tennant for The Backstory
“Couldn’t have survived without my ushanka-hat to keep the ears warm in -14°C conditions, Kazakhstan, Atyrau”, Greg
  1. First up – how long have you worked with us?

Just over 1 year now

2. Why did you join us? Were you in the industry previously, or looking for a new career direction?

In the past 15yrs I’ve helped companies drive innovation and change, not only through new ways of working but also in building innovative products and services, mostly in the digital-tech space. When you’re working in this space doing agile in some way or form almost comes naturally. Many tech driven companies and teams tend to flirt with the idea of Agile; “playing the field” as they explore their options – scrum, crystal, DSDM, SAFe etc.

I realised early on that it takes more than just flirting for a company to be successful. It requires attention, focus and commitment in the right areas to drive real innovation and change. I wanted to help companies along their journey and ADAPTOVATE allowed me to do just that, together with the help of a dynamic global team.

3. How has your previous experience and career helped define where you are now? Would you have done things differently?

Straight out of university; bright eyed and bushy tailed, I was eager to get started on the road to riches. I was wet behind the ears, but I had drive. In the early years of my life and career I conceived of a few ideas that made it to market and ended up succeeding beyond what we had imagined.

Of course there were many bloopers too. I believe it was the passion and drive of our founders that really made these ideas a success. Most of our startups ran on Lean and we were learning as we went. We threw stuff on boards, moved them across the finish line and celebrated with Tequila on a Friday as we stared back at our empty boards.

As a bunch of young guns, we learned from others and borrowed their best practices. We had a few friends that were leading the charge in the startup world, and we were willing and open to trying anything to better how we worked and be more successful.

It wasn’t until my last venture in 2013 when I truly learned the hard way. We had done everything right, or so we thought. We had funding, we setup autonomous teams, adopted Scrum and had clearly laid out roadmaps, but something was ajar, and we fell flat. We lost a ton of cash and had to sell off bits and pieces to salvage our losses.

In retrospect, I now realise that these companies I co-founded and the teams I brought to life were merely flirting with Agile. I didn’t know it back then, but building digital products and services using Scrum, Kanban or any other flavour is not where Agile begins and ends. It’s not just a way to build things, it’s so much more than that.

Had I known back then that in order to have a good enough chance at success our founders (this includes me) needed to commit time and energy toward positively shifting culture, focusing on the customer instead of ego, and being brave enough to destroy “masterpieces” in favour of new and better ideas.

4. How do you balance your work life with your ‘real’ life – Do you have a good balance and how important is it to you?

Balance is very important. My grandfather taught me this principle at a very young age. He also taught me to dive, eat with a knife and fork and play chess. He would often say to me, “anything in excess is dangerous”.

My grandfather was Swiss, so this balanced mentality is ingrained. I suppose I have taken this on in my life and apply this principle, but to no level of perfection. Now days, I balance out with frequent sessions at the gym, rides on my bicycle while listening to audio books, photography and trips overseas as often as I can. I blame Covid-19 for causing more imbalance of late.

5. With so many of our team remote working, we always like to ask how do you have your home office/desk set up? Organised or chaos? Any top tips?

Organised chaos! I have repurposed the dining room table as my office desk, equipped with a monitor, a new succulent pot plant, tons of books and sticky notes.

My top tip – have stickies at the ready and paste motivations, ideas and learnings on the wall anytime you discover something new. This will keep your focused as you try to improve yourself.

6. Do you play music during your Agile workshops with clients? What do you recommend on your latest playlist?

Not really. I’ve dabbled, but to no real success. My music taste is quite eclectic and not everyone’s taste. I think I need help in putting together a playlist.

7. How do you think technology has best helped humanity and do you have any concerns about our future?

I recently finished listening to two fascinating audio books; Sapians and Homo Deus by the author Yuval Noah Harari. In his book Homo Deus, Yuval explores what “tomorrow” may look like. He explores many different concepts and ideas, but he really caught my imagination when he talks about the evolution of the human race.

How humans will evolve through modification and the birth of androids in the quest for eternal longevity of human consciousness.

As a sci-fi buff myself, with a vivid imagination at the best of times, I think he is onto something. I can totally see how we as a human race will evolve to overcome the “technicalities” of death in a few hundred years.

So, to answer the question – technology has most certainly benefited human kind in almost everything we do. The concern I have is more to do with how the creators of technology use its power and benefits in an ethical manner to preserve life and the planet, instead of greed and ego.

8. Strategic Foresight allows companies to detect changes early and ensure action is taken quickly. Which companies have you seen able to change and adapt quickly? (hopefully using Agile methods to do so).

My most recent client for one – a technology driven company that has truly adopted Agile ways of working, and its leadership successfully cultivating this “scrappy” startup culture to drive change and adapt uber quickly.

This year I started investing in the global stock market, and in researching before I buy, I’ve come to learn of several companies that have this same culture, which of course gives them the winning edge to rapidly change and adapt. Companies like Spotify, Adobe, Wix and some of the bigger names such as Zoom and Salesforce.

9. What does success mean to you personally?

It changes every 10 years it seems. For the most of my 20s it was all about building businesses and making them a success. I didn’t think about anything else.

In my 30s I’ve become more well-rounded, focusing on balance. A balance of success in my career, self improvement and family, and of course I now think about financially planning for the future.

In a nut shell, I define success as having my family with me for the ride, living in a cabana by the beach, the freedom to dart around the world travelling for leisure and work, and helping companies make meaningful change.

10. Finally – You’ve time travelled back to your 10-year-old self – What advice would you give?

3 Things:
1. Seek out more advice from successful others.
2. “Measure twice, and then measure once more”, in other words; be more iterative – test, test and test again to get to the right outcome.
3. Be patient.

Special 11th Question – How have you found 2020, and working through life and work during COVID?

Strange, with an almost familiar undertone. Being the sci-fi buff that I am; having read countless books on the topic of past and future human kind and having watched endless movies depicting utopian and dystopian worlds, I was not overly surprised when we found ourselves in this mess.

For the most part, I’ve written it off to learnings and self development. I’ve had to be strong and continue forward; there is not much else one can do. As far as my life is concerned, I believe it’s made me stronger.

I am certainly a lot more patient than I’ve ever been. I’ve found innovative ways to keep in contact with my family and closest friends, explored all the family gaming apps one could find and have focused on developing me.

In terms of work, well this has been tough. Working on-site with clients to build strong working relationships is so much easier than working remotely across multiple time-zones and not having the personal interaction.

But with technology as the enabler, I have found new ways to bring my work to life.

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