Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders with Scott Allen

Ken Accardi - Agile

December 28, 2020 Scott J. Allen Season 1 Episode 42
Ken Accardi - Agile
Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders with Scott Allen
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Phronesis: Practical Wisdom for Leaders with Scott Allen
Ken Accardi - Agile
Dec 28, 2020 Season 1 Episode 42
Scott J. Allen

Ken Accardi is the CEO of Ankota. He's a technology executive with a broad experience base. Ken has served as CEO, CTO, CIO, VP of Business Solutions, Director of R&D, and VP of Process/Quality. He teaches at Babson College and has several specialties, including healthcare (specifically avoiding preventable hospitalizations for elderly at-risk populations), new product introduction, software engineering management, value innovation, product management, lean Six Sigma, quality management, strategic planning and execution, software pre-sales, professional services, technology training, and acquisition integration. 

Quotes from This Episode

  • "Because when you do try to plan, let's say, six months of work all on day one, it's really impossible to know all the things that you need. And you've likely thought of things that you could live without. And so having this agile methodology lets you solve all those problems."
  • (regarding Agile) - "There are a lot of points for celebration. Every two weeks, you have something new out and something to be proud of as a team."
  • (regarding Agile) - "There are people who are going to write code, there are people who are going to make sure that the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) or to the customer's expectation, there are people who are going to test the code, and you want them all working together, sort of like a jazz group - they all seem to be jiving together. And everybody's contributing and doing their part. And in the end, you get something really beautiful out of it."
  • "My definition of culture is what people do when nobody's telling them what to do." 

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Other Episodes Mentioned In This Episode

Show Notes Transcript

Ken Accardi is the CEO of Ankota. He's a technology executive with a broad experience base. Ken has served as CEO, CTO, CIO, VP of Business Solutions, Director of R&D, and VP of Process/Quality. He teaches at Babson College and has several specialties, including healthcare (specifically avoiding preventable hospitalizations for elderly at-risk populations), new product introduction, software engineering management, value innovation, product management, lean Six Sigma, quality management, strategic planning and execution, software pre-sales, professional services, technology training, and acquisition integration. 

Quotes from This Episode

  • "Because when you do try to plan, let's say, six months of work all on day one, it's really impossible to know all the things that you need. And you've likely thought of things that you could live without. And so having this agile methodology lets you solve all those problems."
  • (regarding Agile) - "There are a lot of points for celebration. Every two weeks, you have something new out and something to be proud of as a team."
  • (regarding Agile) - "There are people who are going to write code, there are people who are going to make sure that the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) or to the customer's expectation, there are people who are going to test the code, and you want them all working together, sort of like a jazz group - they all seem to be jiving together. And everybody's contributing and doing their part. And in the end, you get something really beautiful out of it."
  • "My definition of culture is what people do when nobody's telling them what to do." 

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Other Episodes Mentioned In This Episode

Note: Voice to text transcriptions are about 90% accurate.

Scott Allen  0:01  
I was just saying to Ken Accardi that we have, we've angered the tech gods in a previous life. This is our second attempt at this podcast, can I really appreciate your flexibility, your willingness to hop back on and have this conversation? You know what? You are you a CEO, you are a technologist. You are a professor at Babson, you have so much going on. And I'm looking forward to this conversation. Because I think not only last time, did we talk about agile, which I'd like to get back to. But we kind of went into some other nooks and crannies around this topic of leadership, which was a lot of fun. So Ken, why don't you tell our guests a little bit about you?

Ken Accardi  0:46  
Yeah, fantastic. Well, thank you for welcoming me back to the podcast. I hope we work out well today and that we haven't overly angered the internet technology gods. But yeah, just, I run a software company called Ankota. And we make software actually, for elderly care. The easiest way to explain it is by keeping our grandparents out of the nursing home so they could stay in their own homes and get some care.

Scott Allen  1:12  
And that's a great mission, isn't it?

Ken Accardi  1:15  
It is, yeah, it's great you know, it's you get to do well by doing good. And that's a wonderful thing. And I do teach at Babson College, just as an adjunct professor, I teach Information Technology, I have degrees in engineering, which was focused on computer engineering and a master's in computer science and an MBA. So I am not a leadership educator. But I do lead a company. And I thought I might be able to share some practical wisdom. And it seems like this is the right place.

Scott Allen  1:47  
Well, I love that because we do have we have a lot of scholars, as guests, and the scholars are wonderful. I mean, I think my perspective on this whole topic is looking at it from so many different angles and bringing people's different experiences and voices into this tent, I think is a wonderful thing. So the fact that you have a foot in academia, and a foot in actual practice, leading the company, I think is an invaluable perspective. Absolutely. So tell us a little bit more about you. How did you get into technology? How did you get into founding your company? What was that path? 

Ken Accardi  
Well, I grew up in my career at GE, and having graduated from college with an engineering degree. And I would say that I was sort of in the technical track of, of the company. And I was growing as a technology leader and things like that. I went from GE, which at the time was $150 billion company to a small is really a consulting company that wanted to put an office in Boston. So it was a very big jump from a huge company to a small company. And what I did see jumping into this small startup entrepreneurial world is that the quality of the leadership wasn't quite as strong as what I had experienced with Jack Welch at the time when I was with GE, toward the end of the 1990s. And I then really said, Hey, I noticed that the people with the Cs their titles, you know, the CTOs and the CEOs and the CEOs, that they had a business degree. And I don't, I didn't really understand business. So that compelled me to go after having an undergraduate technical degree and a master's in computer science to go back and get an MBA at Babson where I teach, which is actually a school focused on entrepreneurship.

Scott Allen
it's number one in entrepreneurship.

Ken Accardi  3:49  
Yeah, it is really a very awesome place for trying to teach people how to start businesses and take over family businesses. And yeah, so it's really fun. And I drank the Kool-Aid. And yeah, and then I finally got the confidence to say, "Hey, I, I think I could maybe make a run at this on my own." And that's, that's how I transformed from being a techie guy to CEO of a tech company.

Scott Allen  4:15  
Tell me about it again, great mission, incredible mission. I'm sure there are really fascinating statistics about the elderly actually being able to be home versus being in a facility is there. Is there interesting research and data on those statistics?

Ken Accardi  4:33  
I'd say there's a great deal of data on quality of life. And I've read a lot of articles that say that elderly people have a greater fear of being in institutional care like a nursing home, than in a lot of cases than they do of dying, which kind of speaks volumes. So yeah, the kind of home care that we support. You know, we're not a home care company. We provide the software to run a homecare company is the ongoing kind that helps to keep the elderly and the disabled living in their home. So caregivers come and they help them with what we call "activities of daily living." So they're helping them with dressing, grooming, hygiene, nutrition, and things like that. And it is a great industry that really increases the quality of life and actually in, it's also a pretty well socially isolated sort of way of doing things. So as COVID first broke, the nursing homes were places where people were really hard to hit. And in general, in home care, there's maybe a one to one or two to one ratio between caregivers and the people who are receiving the care. So it is pretty well socially isolated, and actually, the industry has, has done pretty well, despite COVID.

Scott Allen  5:52  
Yeah. When is your building the company, I know that you are in a wonderful perspective that you're going to bring different pieces is your love of agile, agile management, would you share a little bit about agile and why for you as a leader as a CEO, it's been transformational. It's been incredibly productive. It's been helpful. What is it about that process in that way of thinking that you found beneficial?

Ken Accardi  6:21  
Yeah, a few thoughts. So first of all, when I was in college, the way that they taught project management was all about the waterfall method, or the Gantt chart type of an approach where you kind of map out all the steps of your project. And that's all I really knew. And then this idea of working in an agile way, came up sort of mid-career for me. And the idea is that instead of trying to plan everything out front, that what you do is you break the project into small pieces, and you say, Hey, we want to deliver every in my company's case every two weeks. 

Scott Allen  6:59  

Ken Accardi  6:59  
And we make this big list of all the things that we want, we say, Well, you know, which ones do we want the most in? And then we go through a process to say, what can we knock out in the next two weeks? And we choose to do that. And we have a release every two weeks. So it's, it's a very empowering sort of way of doing projects, for a lot of reasons. One is that the improvements are coming much more quickly, as opposed to waiting for a big release. And since you're only building a little bit at a time, you only have to test a little bit. So you don't have that chance of breaking something when you make a lot of big changes. And, and also just from a positive perspective, there's a lot of points for celebration. And so every two weeks, you have something new out and something to be proud of as a team. And you have new little gifts of functionality for your customers. So so that's what it's all about. And it's a very simple thing, but it's very, very empowering. From my perspective.

Scott Allen  8:04  
Well, and you said something really important there, you have something to celebrate every couple of weeks, we can celebrate what it is we've accomplished. It's very finite. I love that. And then how often is it that you go in thinking, well, these are going to be the priorities, but then you get two weeks later, and those priorities have shifted? Does that happen? A lot? I imagine it does.

Ken Accardi  8:25  
Well, it's kind of I'd say in a typical two-week cycle, which we call "sprints." We say we're going to release a sprint every few weeks. And I, if I looked in our system for tracking that now I have earmarked what will start to be developed. So our next release is January 7, and the one after that will be January 21. And I have a reasonable idea of what will be in the January 21 release. But as we're recording this on December the 22nd, I have around eight or nine days to make those final decisions. And there's a good chance that I'd say that two-thirds of what's in there now stay and that that last third will be a little bit variable. And a lot of it could be because hey, we just closed a new customer in the state of Idaho, and they need us to do something special for them, or, or that type of thing. So it really does give you the ability to have plan, but not hard and fast plan and to roll with the punches as you said,

Scott Allen  9:30  
Think of all of the time I imagine earlier in your career all of the time that was wasted on rework. Once we spent months working on something, getting it to the customer rolling it out, and then understanding that maybe that wasn't what they wanted. It didn't have the functionalities is that one part of this as well?

Ken Accardi  9:48  
That's a very, very big part is to try to avoid rework. And also where I thought you were going to go is that we used to spend lots and lots of time planning. I mean, we'd spend months or weeks, you know, and just saying, "well, we think this is four hours of work, and this is 12 hours of work." And we'd make these huge plans, and spend a lot of time on that. And really, in the Agile world, you spend a lot less time making a detailed plan. And the actual planning process is much easier. Because when somebody comes up with an idea, say, "Hey, we should have this in our code," we put it on the list. And that takes just a short amount of time. And then when we meet every two weeks in the middle of the sprint, we say, "okay, what's important for us to come next?" Well, maybe that one idea doesn't make it for three or four Sprint's, but somebody remembers it. And sometimes even somebody brings up an idea, and it never comes back. And we do something every once in a while, we say, "Hey, you know, that was an interesting idea. But we did it a different way. Or maybe we don't really need that." And that's, that's a great thing. That doesn't happen in the traditional planning approach. Because when you do try to plan, let's say, six months of work all on day one, it's really impossible to know all the things that you need. And it's very likely that you've thought of things that you could live without. And so having this agile methodology lets you solve all those problems.

Scott Allen  11:22  
I think I mentioned to you in our last conversation that a colleague of actually a friend of mine from high school, we're actually in the process of starting a company. And he's been leading me through somewhat of a similar process, we get together every Friday, and we talk about our list. And sometimes things will get shifted, sometimes things will get reprioritized. And then that's the next batch that we're going to work on. And then that goes up to a server that only Justin can see. And he's playing around with it. And then it's released. But I didn't realize I was going through this process myself.

Ken Accardi  11:58  
Yeah, you were part of an agile development process, and you didn't even realize it, because it's really becoming the way that people do their projects and develop. And it started, I'd say, mostly in software, there were a couple of guys who got together guys and women, and they wrote this thing called the Agile Manifesto, hey, these are some things that are important to us. And of course, you know, agile is a verb. But we're, I guess, you know, I'd say as well sorry, is an adjective. And, and now it's become a noun. So you know, well, people do agile, or they have, you know, an agile methodology. So that would be putting it back in the context of an adjective. But it is, it really just kind of started that way. And then, of course, as people began to build more specific methodologies around this, they turned it into a noun and made it something that you could train on and teach on and things like that. But you know, just to go on a little tangent when people say, Hey, you know, I learned so much in college about, you know, how to do my craft, you know, how to write software, how to do marketing, but I never really learned much about how teams collaborate. Yeah, and things like that, I recommend that they Google this, there's a video that's called Spotify Culture, you know, Spotify, the music player, yes. And you can just google Spotify culture, part one, it's around a 12-minute video. And it's actually was put out as a recruiting video by Spotify, when they were in a really big growth phase, to talk about their agile culture and, and really try to war developers to come to them and say, hey, look at this, you know, we work in these small teams, and we're empowered to drive our own schedules and prioritize what comes out. And they've come up with some clever ways of making the various parts of the music player work independently of one another. And it really, I think, speaks to the hearts and minds of people who have been stuck in these big old school waterfall projects. And also, the reason I recommend it a lot is that as an undergraduate, you probably don't get enough learning on, you know, how things really go in the workplace. And this puts it in perspective. So I say, hey, go watch that video. And whatever terminology you hear that you don't know, go Google that terminology. And you know, look up those words and, and then go watch it again. And then when you go in that interview, and they start walking, talking about "well, we're going to have you you know, work on a team and you're going to deliver these Sprint's every two weeks and you know, this team is if you're on support, it's going to be more of a Kanban model. And these guys are going to follow something called the scrum methodology." Then you'll have heard of those various different pieces and but all in all, it gives you an idea of how people collaborate in the workplace. And it's really really important as somebody entering the workplace to have that perspective.

Scott Allen  14:53  
When I love that practical tip, and so as a CEO, I know you've listened to some episodes that are nice I know that what either I'm gonna ask this two ways. What do you think maybe have we not? I mean, I love this, this whole agile, bringing that piece of it into the conversation. Are there other pieces of the conversation that you think haven't been introduced yet? anything missing as someone who's doing the work day in day out? We can also frame that as lessons. What have you learned along the way that agile being one of them...Are there other tools, ways of thinking resources that just really help guide your way, as you're building the company?

Ken Accardi  15:34  
Well, you've asked a lot of things in that question and a lot of thoughts here, but the very first Well, the very first episode of furnaces was sort of built around the concept of, you know, "Houston, We Have a Problem." And, and it was, you know, hey, we put these people through this awesome leadership, education. And then we've kind of measured the results. And we haven't really seen so many of the results that we hoped and that's what we're trying to do with this podcast, and with so many other things. And I remember specifically listening to one of the podcasts with Dr. Diane Dixon. And in that, it actually wasn't brought up by Dr. Dixon, but by you was that there's a methodology, which says it's called the 70/20/10 Rule (Center for Creative Leadership), which is that you know, kind of 10% comes from the classroom. 20% comes from relationship building, and the other remaining 70% really comes from doing. And so I kind of said, Well, I'm not a leadership educator, but maybe I had something to contribute. And, and then, you know, one of the, you know, sometimes I think you guys really do try to be practical, but sometimes you do get into the academic side. And one person just because they've been in so much research was Dr. Ron Riggio. And he's, you know, you really covered a lot of topics, and Hey, what's the latest thinking in this area of leadership, education, and so on, and so forth. But one thing that he said was, he said, Well, we study the leaders a lot, but we don't really study the followers a lot. And that's something we need to do more. And I guess that kind of struck me as a little bit, you know, I've never worked with anybody who said, "Well, I'm, I'm a follower in my company," you know, I don't really feel like I'm, you know, a, somebody who is a follower, you know, I think everybody is, you know, maybe a team member, bringing their own things. And I think that the great thing about agile is it really empowers all the people to, let's say, be on the same level because you want to get this release out in two weeks. And there are people who are going to write code, there are people who are going to make sure that the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) or to the customer's expectation, there are people who are going to test the code, and you really want them all working together, sort of like, you know, a jazz group, they just all seem to just be jiving together. And everybody's contributing and doing their part. And in the end, you get something really beautiful out of it. And so you really want everybody practicing at the best of their ability, as opposed to, you know, sort of being hierarchical, you know, told what to do, and that sort of thing. And this really empowers, and I guess, um, you know, we've talked a lot in the context of software development and things like that. But another way this has changed me personally, is that I remember, as a young manager, or maybe, as a young employee and being managed, there was a lot of questions of, you know, well, what's your plan? You know, how are you going to get this? How are you going to get this done? And I remember that being a hard question early in my career when I hadn't maybe even done those pieces of the equation of the puzzle before. And so what I ask people now is I say, "Well, you know, what are the first couple things that you think you might want to, you know, do to make some progress?" And I always listen for what is 80% of the time the right answer, it's like, well, what if I could build the login screen first, and then I could get them to test that out. And then I could make sure that the, that the fingerprint login and the face ID is working, that that would be a great next step. And that sort of thing. That's what I want to hear. What I don't want to hear is them to say, "Well, I think I should sit down and do some planning. And then I should do some, you know, kind of design, and then I should do some thinking about..." it's like, it's like, I know, you're gonna do all those things. But what I really want is you to break it down into, you know, what are the pieces of work that you could show to somebody, you could say, "Hey, Mom, look what I developed," and have those be done. And if people could break those into that, and they could come up with a list of, let's say, 10 things that need to be done on that project - say, "Well, great, now that you've broken the project into 10 things you've probably covered all of it, or maybe most of it, you know, which two or three or four things that you think you should try to knock out between now and when we meet next week?" And so right there, even on an individual level, you're teaching people to be You know, agile among themselves and just kind of break the work down into smaller pieces or there's the expression, you know, "eat the elephant one bite at a time." Yep. And that's what you're doing. And you can do it on an individual level as well as, as on a team level.

Scott Allen  20:15  
Well, it's, it's an interesting conversation can and let's go there for a moment. So yes, I was I was surprised when Ron said, I think the quote was, "of course, leaders don't do leadership. Leadership is co-created with followers." So that was kind of an interesting statement, I'd never heard it framed that way. And then I had a conversation with Sharna Fabiano, who comes out of the world of Tango, wherein that episode was called Connect, Collaborate, Create. And her...the way she thinks about it is that you know, you have to have each player in the tango has to have a very clear understanding of their roles, very clear. And if we are really clear on that, then we can collaborate with one another. And we can do the work and but we have to be really each of us skilled at our part. And then she gets to the point where really the couple moves into a state of flow. And they literally are creating, they're creating "new," and they don't even have to think about the mechanics any longer. It's just happening. And I had a really fun conversation it released. I've released way too many episodes in the last two. So people have to feel a little bit of a backlog again. But I had a great conversation with a gentleman named Aldo Boitano. He was on the first it was in the mid-90s. It was a Chilean team to climb K2. So of course, a quarter of the people who leave to climb k two I believe that statistic that's just that's the statistics still do not return. Very dangerous. They trained for three years. They trained with a psychologist they scenario planned every possibility. So that when something did happen, they again, similar to a Sharna Fabiano, knew their role what to do. And in fact, although had to save someone's life at high altitude, which meant that he didn't summit, that's that was the automaticity that they'd gotten to because it just happened. So I think followership even in this agile context, and I'm literally just thinking off the top of my head is that the people's roles are so clear, and then we get so good at communicating and working with one another, that in some ways the leader/follower thing falls away. People have their roles. And if we do it, well, then we just each have a role, we're going to fulfill that role, we're going to troubleshoot that role. And leader/follower almost doesn't become something any that makes sense anymore in the traditional way of thinking about it. How does that statement hit you?

Ken Accardi  22:56  
It hits me very well, I am running a pretty small company with 15 people. So we don't need layers of management in the company. And in a lot of perspectives. I'm not the leader, the follower, hey, I am working on a project where Sharon is the project manager and she needs to have some software development done. And one of the roles I wear in the company is more of the product management side. So I am subcontracted to her to figure out what she needs and to impart that over to Carmen's team who develops the software, and things like that. So really, I think that small companies and we try to be a little bit more like a bigger company, small companies are all relationships and things like that. And then you get into having processes and people understanding their roles in the process. And then it really does jive and people don't need if I took two weeks off from the company, everything's gonna keep going because we have these processes in place, the software is going to be developed, and people are going to step in and, and make the decisions. And so yeah, I think that really understanding your role in the team having the processes in place. This is another conversation for the day, but having a culture, yes, I think that, you know, culture trumps everything, right? And so and by the way, my definition of culture is, is what people do when nobody's telling them what to do. It's like, you know, the culture of your company is like, Okay, well, nobody's here to tell me what to do. But this is the way we do things here. Yeah. And so you know, so I really think that having processes and culture and everybody really feeling empowered to do you know, their role and play there. You know, if they're in that, let's go back to the jazz band analogy, if they're the bass player, they know what they're supposed to be doing and the drummer knows what they're supposed to be doing and they're supposed to be right on the beat. And that allows the soloist to be a little bit behind the beat and allows the, you know, keyboard player to decide You know, what up restructures delay over that standard chord, you know, set of chord changes and, and things like that. So people know what their role is, you know, where they have to fill in the music and where they can use their artistic license and where they really have to stay in line. And that's, you know, it's all a beautiful thing.

Scott Allen  25:21  
Well, and of course, we're oversimplifying the difficulty that it takes to get to that point, I have, I've got a book in my head and an idea for a book can maybe we'll write it together someday. But it's called the three-month rule. And basically, it's as a leader, as a CEO, could you leave your organization for three months and have it hum along? Because I know a lot of people, especially in your position, we have 15/30/45 people, and they feel they're on the hamster wheel, they are just they have to be there they have to be doing..and I've said to some of these leaders, do you think you could leave for two weeks and ever? "Oh, no, no, no, no, I couldn't." Well, are you actually building? Are you building then? Or are you just gonna stay on the hamster wheel for four decades? Right? Until and so it's an interesting conversation, the three-month rule, just let that ruminate for a little while.

Ken Accardi  26:14  
That sounds good. Yeah, actually, I was very, I received an early Christmas gift from one of my employees. And it was a quote, I won't have it perfect, from Gandhi, but it said, you know, leaders are not measured by the number of people they lead is by the number of leaders they create. And it really, you know, resonated and that was somebody who, when I was really early in the company, I was doing pretty much all the jobs in the company, I brought this young woman who had an art history major, but some experience in homecare into this company to be a junior project manager to lead some projects. And now she's the chief operating officer of the company. And she just has these awesome leadership skills. And she actually just completed her certification, the PMP certification, so the project management professional, which covers both, you know, agile and traditional methods of project management, and, and this type of thing. So I think that I would say that, that there have been times in my company started in 2014, there have been times along the way where I really did feel like I couldn't take any time off. And now I do feel like I could take time off. But having said that, I have always shifted to different things. So I don't have to do the implementation and the support leadership anymore, because Sarah's team does most of that. and Carmen's team does most of the software development. And I'm spending more of my time on marketing and the brand. And, you know, in product management, so So my role changes, but yeah, it is I think it is really important to empower people and you know, help grow them and not have to do everything yourself, otherwise you limit the potential of your company if you're the bottleneck and a lot of different things.

Scott Allen  28:09  
When we spoke last, you mentioned self-led and self-governed? Would you talk a little bit about that?

Ken Accardi  28:16  
Yeah, absolutely. So part of the way that agile works are that there's this, it's really unclear who's the leader in an agile team. So there is somebody who's called the "scrum master." And they, they lead a daily meeting, which is supposed to be a stand-up meeting and supposed to take 15 minutes or less. And they basically, you know, now, of course, it's all virtual over Zoom, or what have you. But they get the whole team together. And they say, Hey, you know, we committed to getting all of this done in the next few weeks. How are we doing? And somebody will say, you know, I ran into a roadblock, I didn't realize that this part didn't work. And I have to fix that as well. And somebody will say, Well, you know, I actually found that I thought I had to build this whole piece of code that wasn't there. But I actually found I could reuse something else. So why don't I jump onto your task to help you? And, and that kind of thing. So in a sense, I mean, they're facilitating this 15 minute, meeting on a daily basis to make sure everybody's on track and there, and they're escalating and trying to, you know, keep the deliverable on track. But it's not like they're leading hierarchically, everybody. And then there's this other role called the product owner. And this is somebody who is really taking that backlog of work that wants to get done, and from the customer and the business perspective, prioritizing it, and making sure that there's enough understanding of the requirements. And by the way, these days, we don't really write requirements specs, we, we write what we call stories, okay, and we make sure that the stories are, are well enough understood that the developer can get their task and know what To do so, so there I mean, those two people have played their leadership roles, but nobody's really, you know, sitting in the corner office and, you know, hierarchically leading the team. And in general, the product owner has a lot of work doing, you know, understanding the requirements and writing the stories and maybe doing some testing. And in my case, my, my lead developer, actually, my Chief Technology Officer, Carmen will do those leadership roles. And she's in charge of the deployment and things like that, but she also does a great amount of software development herself. So it's really, you know, self-empowered and self-led teams are, are very, very important. And it's really how things work. And, you know, going on a quick little tangent, if it's okay, I, I've come to learn recently about something in the Netherlands, the company Buurtzorg they, they had this idea of, you know, how can we provide health care in the community, and they said, well, let's, let's put a team in, like each of these little villages. And they started in a couple of villages. And they said, "all right, we're gonna put your three or four or five nurses together in this village, and just let them figure out what are the health needs of the village." And there's no management or just a self-led team, and they go, and they find out the needs and, you know, long story short, I mean, this is like, turned out to be a movement that has grown across the Netherlands and into other countries. And what it's done is it prevents a lot of hospitalizations, and it has, you know, significantly I mean, measurably in terms of billions of dollars reduce the cost of health care in the Netherlands and, and things like that. And it really, I mean, the foundation of it, from the guy who started it, his name is Jos de Blok is really just Hey, it's just all about, you know, taking people who were trained as a nurse, and letting them do nursing in a team where it's needed. And, and that's as simple as the idea is, and by taking out all of this bureaucracy and hierarchy and things like that, they've saved their country, billions of dollars per year, and resulted in you know, better health outcomes as well. 

You know, the Netherlands, I, I released a podcast today with a gentleman from the Netherlands. And it's a fascinating conversation if you get a chance. But, you know, they are the second-largest exporter of food, the Netherlands! How large Are you know, if we, if we compare that to the States, what are it's the size of Illinois and Ohio combined? I don't know. But the second-largest exporter of food in the world, the innovation and the I just, I love the Dutch, I love the Dutch. I love it. I love it, the creativity and the innovation and the ingenuity. It's so fun. It's so fun. I know, I know, you are a lover of quotes. So do you have a couple of quotes that come to mind when you think about this topic. And then we'll also discuss a little bit about what resources you found valuable that you'd like to share with listeners and anything else that you're consuming, that you find incredibly helpful. I know, we've got the Freakonomics radio, we'll put that in the show notes for sure. But how about some quotes that that help you frame leadership, and then maybe some resources that stand out for you?

Well, early in my career, I worked in GE under the leadership of Jack Welch. And one thing that he said a lot, I won't, I won't say it's an exact quote, but he said that our job as leaders is to provide resources and get out of the way. So even at somebody who was leading at the time, $150 billion-dollar company, he understood that, that if you can provide resources and let people do their things on their own, that that's a really good thing. And then, you know, just to put it in the context of, agile, so I know that this is a quote that's been attributed to a number of people, but I think it actually came from Dwight Eisenhower, he said that "plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." So you know, and I guess he was probably, you know, taking troops into battle and things like that. So if you, you know, have the training and you have the ability to work as teams and you have a general idea of your plan. That's going to be more valuable than saying, "Okay, well, we're gonna go here, we're gonna, we're gonna we're gonna cut this off" and, and that sort of thing. So those would be a couple of quotes and then moving in other directions. On podcasts, I really do like Freakonomics. I'd say that one of my little pet peeves, just as an educator, is I think that our high school students are learning the wrong math. Right. So I think that you know, like the things you learn algebra, trigonometry, calculus, geometry, you don't use those a whole lot in your life these days. And I think they have actually heard another podcast about this, but they were put in place by institutions like Harvard and Yale to try to see well who you know, has the academic capacity to perform at institutions of higher learning and that type of thing. And I really think that what they should be replaced with, is, you know, learning more about making decisions with data because this is where things are. And Freakonomics actually started out as a book, and I think it was a sequel. But the idea is, you know, like, let's look at data and figure out how to make decisions from data. So it's really interesting from that perspective, and I love it. Another podcast I love a lot is this one that's called The Moth Radio Hour. And so the moth is all about storytelling and the whole and they actually have these conferences and things like that, where people just go, and they just tell stories. And so I'd say as this person who you know, transformed from someone with a technical degree to someone who became a CEO, that if storytelling is a really, really important part of things, so those would be a couple of podcasts I'd recommend would be Freakonomics and the Moth Radio Hour. And yeah, so I guess those are, those are a couple I'll pass your way.

Scott Allen  36:27  
the president of northeastern, which is in your neck of the woods, I don't know if he had a book out called Robot-Proof. Also put that in the show notes if you've seen that book for any reason,

Ken Accardi  36:38  
I have not.

Scott Allen  36:39  
So Robot Proof, a very interesting book, his perspective on the future of education and exactly in alignment with really what you just said that a third of it has to be your traditional liberal arts, and especially the teaming working together and communicating that dimension. And then there's the dimension of data literacy. And then there's the dimension, I believe, of the technologist. And so I think he's very much in alignment with where you're headed. I read somewhere recently that high school students in China are taking courses in artificial intelligence. And that's, that's a very interesting thought. I mean, it just is because I believe that's probably the future. Scott Galloway, who has an interesting podcast and an interesting weekly newsletter, wrote a pretty famous if you haven't looked at this, look up the article, USS University. And this was written in the summertime. And basically, he was kind of positing he's a marketing professor at NYU, he was positing on who was going to survive which institutions of higher education were going to survive the COVID crisis and come out, still intact. And it was interesting because he also has been pretty critical about what we're teaching how we're teaching, he made a statement that calculus is an $8 billion industry. I'd never thought of it that way. But if you think about these textbooks, and if you think about everything, the complex that's built around the SAT, and the ACT, and just all of that. Wow.

Ken Accardi  38:21  
Yeah. Putting some perspective on both of those things. So Northeastern is one of the things that distinguishes that school is it's very much you go there and you take your classes, but then you go and you Co-Op. Yep. So everybody at Northeastern does Co-Op experiences. And, interestingly, I'm glad that you brought up artificial intelligence in China, because really, you know, most of the artificial intelligence we see today is what I call machine learning. And machine learning is really mostly Applied Statistics. And so when we do things like, you know, you're typing in your Gmail, and Google recommends how you finish your sentence, and it does a really good job of it. Yeah, that's, that's machine learning. And it's, you know, there's a lot of data and it does that or when even you know, at a simpler level, when you're on Amazon, you just, you know, bought something for your wife, and they recommend something to go with it. That's machine learning, or when you're on Netflix, and they recommend what you watch next. A lot of this is really just applying statistics into machine learning. And that is that if you understand the data and the statistics and how to make decisions from data, that's really where I think most of the jobs in the next quarter-century are going to come from.

Scott Allen  39:37  
Yes, yes. That right. I mean, it's that's the future. That's the future. Ken, go eat some cookies. Have some holiday cheer. It's midday, are you off yet? For the week? Are you still going?

Ken Accardi  39:57  
Yeah, still going. You know, we support homecare, which is a 365 day of the year business. So we'll be working and but yeah, taking some nice time on between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and pretty slow between Christmas and New Years.

Scott Allen  40:25  
Thanks for helping our listeners better understand agile and some of your perspectives as a practicing CEO doing the work. Always an incredible perspective to like I said bring under the tent. So thank you, sir. Be well and I wish you all the best in 2021

Ken Accardi  40:42  
Thank you so much. Have a great day.

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