You may have heard about agile coaching in companies worldwide: since the Agile Manifesto in 2001, many software development companies have replaced their traditional methods to adopt new agile ways of working. But what does agile exactly mean? And what are the real challenges and evolution of this new working world?
Nadine Haertel, who holds a master´s degree in computer science, is one of the brains working on this topic. After 5 years at Deutsche Telekom AG, in January she took her one year “Agile Unlimited” tour on the road. Lucky for us, here at STYLIGHT Nadine visited our headquarters for one month as a freelance agile coach supporting our current Agile Coaches, Torsten and Manuel, in conducting retrospective meetings and other agile practises. Incorporating the agile way of thinking, Nadine did a little retrospective about freelancing at STYLIGHT for us:
Can you briefly summarize your previous experiences?
I worked as an agile coach for over five years at Deutsche Telekom AG–one of the biggest European telecommunication companies–in the “Products & Innovations” unit. There I had a very big impact on running teams, as well as on the everyday working routine. An interesting turning point happened when I started working with the management about two years ago. As you can imagine, it’s quite complicated and hard, but stimulating at the same time; that’s why I often use this metaphor of a big ship: say you’d really like to change something, yet it proves to be very difficult as the ship is big and there is no way one person can change its entire direction in a second. You really have to value very small steps in order to make that big change.
How and why did you decide to start your “Agile Unlimited” tour?
I was at a point last year where I said: OK, this is not what I want to do now. The world is not black or white, not even magenta, like Telekom. The world is big and I know I’m good at my job which I really love, yet I want to learn, I want to see more. Agile Unlimited is a real journey for me. It’s very refreshing to have one year dedicated to learning: I’m a volunteer now, not taking any money for the job and working solely with companies who want to work with me on a freelance basis. I’m literally just a call away!
What is the typical agile coach working day?
There is no “typical day”. It could be training, a workshop, or a whole day spent improving the processes of teams and managers. It could also involve helping the company to change its mindsets so that they perform better. An agile coach needs to help the development of everyday tasks in a lean way, that means avoiding time wasting or dead ends. As a coach you have to react every day to these challenges and potential blockers.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve experienced in your work as an agile coach?
I think the worst challenge you can experience is when people in a company or team don’t want to grow up together. When you feel that people are demotivated you really need to be a very dedicated agile coach to solve this problem. This can be even worse than disagreements or other internal company issues. You really have to act and react as an empathetic person!
How well-known is agile coaching in German companies?
It’s becoming more and more generally known compared to two or three years ago. People want to enjoy their work and have fun, too. I’d say, “why not?” and get in the help of an agile coach who can smooth daily processes and make work more fun.
What are the differences between doing agile coaching in a start-up compared to doing so in a big company?
Scaling is definitely an important issue for every company. If you’re a start-up you have to scale when you perform; so that’s what you see happening, they grow exponentially and could then run into various problems regarding new employees. On the opposite side, big companies perhaps have long-standing habits which prove to be more challenging to change. An example is when they need to adapt to technology shifts, something that’s not a quick thing when you have so many people working happily the way they already do. Fact is, every company will run into different challenging processes, and having an outsider look into what can be made into a lean process can only be a positive.
What are the main issues for a start-up?
Main impediments are related to being focused: it’s good to not be afraid of experiments, but sometimes we really need to go back to the original focus of our work, meaning customers’ needs, recruiting processes, and team motivation. Every start-up will grow, but so will the team with it. A team needs change and every company has to take it into consideration!
Is agile coaching a perfect model just for tech companies?
The origins of agile come from technology companies, but I suggest to every company that develops something, be it a product or a service, to include an agile process.
How did you find the STYLIGHT experience?
It was very good from day one. I love that you have this atrium as a strategic meeting point. I took part in two teams (Mobile and Magazine) and they both performed very well. I was impressed by their skills and know-how: you have really good people and it’s not so easy to find the same level in big companies! I can feel that they really love to work for a company with the characteristics STYLIGHT has rather than a big enterprise.
Finally, what are the 5 characteristics of a perfect agile coach?
- A bright mind
- Very good method knowledge
- Courage to talk to everybody in the company
- Living in an agile and lean way
|By Ilenia Sarman|