Work feels scattered. We have team members working all over the world and around the clock. Building products has become faster than ever thought possible, but at what cost?
Slower sales cycles because customers have no time to learn. Frustrated customers who abandon your product before they give it a real chance. Team members watching the door because they feel like their work isn’t helping.
Extelli helps teams and their customers Know How, Right Now, by making it simple to create, curate, share, and learn from their Best Practices.
We sat down with CAVU, a Birmingham, AL-based venture using Scrum to build a more equitable workforce through adult and professional development, to discuss:
- How all teams have always been distributed
- Why and how to quantum entangle your teams
- Why the Inspect and Adapt loop is a super-tool
- How shared knowledge creates equitable outcomes
- What makes CAVU and Extelli unique
Chris Sims is CAVU’s CEO and founder. As a 2nd time founder (he previously launched Sigao Studios) and Certified Scrum Trainer, Chris knows a lot about how organizations work. And frankly, it’s not great.
CAVU is an upskilling platform rooted in Scrum on a mission to create a more equitable workplace.
A process documentation tool and a socially-inspired upskilling platform may seem worlds apart, but they share a mission: helping your team do their best work by Knowing How, Right Now.
Let’s take flight with CAVU.
All Teams are Distributed
Remote, Co-Located, Hybrid… new terms to describe a reality: all teams have always been Distributed Teams.
“At my first job, Georgia-Pacific, the building was… 45 floors, and there were people on the floor below me who were the next step in my [value] chain who I had never met. I argue that unless a team, and all its customers, and all its partners are sitting in one room, then everyone is a distributed team.”
And when teams are distributed – which all are – communication is required to build inclusive teams. But most teams underestimate the complexity of communication.
“When you separate or you’re not there, you don’t get the shortcuts to communication that we have. So what the quantum entanglement [Scrum] pattern says we need to do is actually follow the patterns we learn from quantum physics. Bring your team together and create a common language, and you entangle them.”
“My wife’s company does that. She’s a designer in Atlanta, but she works from home. Once a quarter, she goes to an All Hands. The whole company’s there. She has a better working relationship with this team than she ever has with anyone because she’s got this mix of ongoing entanglement and space and distance to work, be creative, not be disrupted by all the office stuff.”
Which, according to Scrum, is critical for improving a team’s velocity.
Why and How to Quantum Entangle Teams
It’s not often that business leaders look to theoretical physics for inspiration.
But Chris has.
“Scrum patterns are patterns that we see high performing teams do throughout the world… The term ‘quantum entanglement’ comes from quantum physics and it’s this idea that you can do some sort of magic to two particles and bring those particles together. You entangle them… then you can separate those two particles by inspecting one. You can predict the state of another.”
Quantum entanglement connects two particles even when they’re not co-located. By entangling your distributed team, you can create the same benefits: spontaneous communication, real-time knowledge sharing, and impact across huge barriers.
According to Ethan, entanglement can be the key to connecting functions that typically don’t understand each other.
“People get bound up in each other’s networks and knowledge and capital. So if an Operations person is learning supply chain, supply chain needs to understand why Marketing is how they are.”
How do you create entanglement?
“We came up with these shortcuts for communication. After all, you can work in the same building and teams that are like a hundred feet apart could have very different experiences.”
The two [teams] are creating a kind of dependence and behavior with each other, which for a distributed team is the dream.”
Inspect, Adapt, Thrive
Entanglement is a useful tool but not a goal in itself because it doesn’t necessarily create the outcomes your organization needs. For that to happen, you need to turn entanglement into knowledge and then action.
According to Chris, that exact cycle is the goal of Scrum:
“It’s the inspect and adapt cycle, a kind of the empirical process. Empiricism’s your safety net here. Always be willing to try lots of things and then see and show me what happens.”
“I think Inspect and Adapt is really powerful. It’s so easy for us to say it should just be this way, guys. But then there’s what happens. I think it’s most powerful when that is applied to leadership, and when leadership unflinchingly honors the data.
I think about my past life at Fledging. One of the founders bought these coiled magnetic cables that power your laptop with swappable magnetic tips. I hated the product. It annoyed me… But people loved it… it was a tough moment because I was pretty irritable about it. My Head of Operations pulled me aside and said ‘Ethan, this is the data. People like it.”
Sharing knowledge through an inspect and adapt cycle brings value information like that to light. Often, it’s the business leaders who need to experience reality more than anyone.
But the cycle has a much more important impact than smart business decisions.
Shared Knowledge Creates Equitable Outcomes
Our entire way of learning is based on a 1:1 relationship model that creates unfair outcomes because what you learn becomes dependent on who you know. As society learns more about the conscious and unconscious ways we discriminate against people, this tool becomes more important than evert o build inclusive teams.
“There is an equity component [to knowledge sharing] to it that doesn’t get talked about a lot. The traditional way that work happened was the apprentice model. You’re a blacksmith in a town and you need some help. So you pick a kid and you teach ’em all and there’s a huge value to that. That also starts to make education, knowledge, ‘know how’ more of a personal relationship than fair.
It’s a little too easy for someone to follow their subconscious preferences and completely ignore someone else. If you create a culture of documentation, sharing, and collaboration, then you create a culture of ‘I’m going to teach everyone I can the best way to do things and take feedback from them in that’s documented.’”
We all know by now that conscious bias is bad. But there are many ways that unconscious bias hurts people and keeps your team from knowing the Best Practice.
Chris teaches CAVU internationally and often encounters this challenge.
“We know what pivot means, but we’re the only culture that understands pivot in relation to business. If you go to India, that’s not a term that they use on a regular basis. So even the approach in the words that we use can create an inequitable situation when you’re trying to share information.”
In other words, the “common knowledge” you’re not aware you’re working from can exclude people and ideas just as powerfully as conscious bias. In fact, unconscious bias is even harder to define.
“[This form of bias] becomes the most difficult to fix because it’s the stuff you’re not aware of things like different cultural perspectives, like aggression versus pacifism or goal orientation versus family orientation. I’ve worked with Japanese companies where they tend to value community collaboration to avoid conflict. That’s very different from a western orientation.”
The trick? Document what you know. This exposes best practices to the light of day, democratizes knowledge, and sets the stage for the Inspect and Adapt tool.
What makes CAVU unique
CAVU is a social learning platform designed to build a more equitable workforce through adult and professional development.
“CAVU is an aeronautical term that stands for ‘ceiling and visibility unlimited.’ You can move as fast as possible, as safely as possible. So CAVU exists to help people find their CAVU, to find their ceiling and visibility unlimited there, where they wanna level up.”
CAVU is 100% Scrum. Chris’s status as 1 of less than 20 certified Scrum Trainers in the world, CAVU is uniquely positioned to help organizations thrive using Scrum.
How does Scrum help you win?
“Scrum is a framework. Scrum is meant to be adapted. And while I definitely coach teams to start by focusing on the basics, at some point you need to adapt it to what works with the humans in your company.”
By working with CAVU, your team learns from one of the world’s best, and also how the Scrum framework applies in real-time, real-world situations.
What makes Extelli unique
Extelli helps teams and their customers do their best work by Knowing How, Right Now. Whether it’s closing sales cycles faster, retaining more customers, or eliminating wasted work on your team, Extelli is the tool that helps your team do their best.
For Ethan, that means obsessing with the customer experience:
“Most customers leave software products because of bad customer success experiences, not because of the lack of features, value, or competitive pricing.
Anyone should get to know the right way in a collaborative library. We’re tackling that from three angles. How are you getting that knowledge out of your head? How is the knowledge organized? How do you get the knowledge from me?”
The entire concept was born from a problem statement everyone can understand:
“Harmony Venture Labs just had a problem statement, ‘it’s hard for executives to share what they know.’ Your opportunity costs are through the roof. And the thought of spending two hours typing a guide versus closing a deal or recruiting somebody or fundraising is offensive.”
But communication isn’t a brain dump. What you know has to be documented well and then formatted so that people can learn from it. That’s actually 3 competencies – your expertise, communications, education – not 1. Extelli makes it point-and-click simple.
While working in a distributed team is as old as civilization, we’re facing modern challenges as the world formally shifts to a hybrid environment. By entangling teams, documenting knowledge, and creating Inspect and Adapt loops, you can sell more, waste less, and delight your customers.
CAVU is on a mission to build a more equitable workforce through adult and professional development, rooted in Scrum.
Extelli is on a mission to help teams do their best work by Knowing How, Right Now.
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