Agile and agile for members of ICF and IAF

coaching and facilitation in agile
coaching and facilitation in agile

Video :

Slides :


Hi, my name is Wan.  I’m a coach based in Singapore. Today I’m going to share with you “What is Agile” as  a member of International Coaching Federation or member of International Association of Facilitators.   First, I will talk about “What is Agile”, capital “A” Agile  and lower “a” agile.   Why Agile and embracing agility?    Challenges in embracing Agile.  What could you contribute as a professional coach or facilitator?  And what could we do next?   


First, I want to share a bit about myself. I’m ICF Associated Certified Coach, member of ICF since 2018.  And I’m also a member of IAF, since 2021. I was Scrum Master between 2014 and 2019.   


Let’s talk about “What is Agile”, especially capital “A” Agile.  And I want to share with you the Agile Manifesto. Actually four principles.  The first one is individuals and interactions over processes and tools. But does it mean?  In being Agile, we would like to put  emphasis and focus on individuals or team members and interactions among them over tools we may use or the process. Secondly, in being agile, we emphasize on working software, as in IT software.   And over comprehensive documentation. There’s a preference we would like to have a working solution over documents. Third principle is customer collaboration over contract negotiation.  It is not that contract is not important in being agile.  The collaboration between the delivery teams and customers and stakeholders is more important. Lastly but not the least,  responding to change. I’m sure with COVID-19, we really appreciate adaptability.   So, in essence, Agile Manifesto emphasizes connections among team members and humans, collaboration across teams, organizations and stakeholders. Fourth  is responsiveness.  It doesn’t mean that we do not want a good solution.  Responsiveness is emphasized.


What is the small letter “a” agile?  A lot of people use the term “agility”.  In English it means nimbleness, ability to move quickly and easily.  You probably heard agile has been adopted in business. And according to the Business Institute, sorry, Business Agility Institute, business  agility is a capacity and the willingness of an organization to adapt, to create, to leverage change for their customer benefit.  Since the publication of Agile Manifesto more than 20 years ago, agile has been adopted in different departments and functions beyond delivery, like, human resources, marketing and governance. I’m sure you will find more and more professionals adopting agile.  So beyond the Agile Manifesto, which we have just described the four principles,  you may find frameworks at team level and beyond team like departments, and organizations.    On the team level you will have two frameworks or popular frameworks. The first one is ScrumXP means eXtreme Programming. I won’t go into details.  You may follow the link in the presentation if you’re interested in any one of these frameworks.  Beyond team, I just list down three frameworks.  There are more.  LeSS, SAFe and Scrum@Scale.   All of these are popular for us to adopt Scrum beyond team level, e.g. at department and enterprise level.  


A lot of time when people talk about Agile, it actually means different things to different people.   First, I would like to share a concept “Agile Onion”.  At the lowest level, there are tools and processes like Scrum, XP and practices. Above these, there will be principles and values like Agile Manifesto and the mindset.  And since the introduction of Agile, it has been adopted beyond teams which affect the middle level management, senior management and lately even the CEO and board of directors has been promoting and embracing Agile.  So, be very mindful when we talk about Agile.   At which level,  we are talking about Agile.


Let’s talk a bit about why the need or reasons for the popularity of Agile.  There are two background contexts we have.  The first is the COVID-19 endemic.  The urge, in the urgent need for transformation, has been much greater.  And with the urgent need to handle climate change, they also call for us to face this complexity in dealing with climate change. In short, the need for Agile has been increased due to these three drivers that are very popular.  The first is collective sense making.  When we are faced with complexity, we won’t be able to provide a solution unless we understand and agree what does it mean for all these changes? Then we can talk about adaptability.  How quickly could we respond to the change?  And a lot of time, doing the same old thing faster, cheaper, or better, it may not be sufficient.  We may need to adopt a totally different or new solution that calls for innovation.


So far, what are the challenges in adopting agile?  So in the 15th State of Agile, you can imagine this State of Agile is a survey among the practitioners of Agile. One of the segments in the State of Agile is the challenges faced by the Agile practitioners.  The first one is 46% –  inconsistency in process and practice as I shared in previous slides.  Agile could mean different things to different people. So it’s possible at team level, they adopt Agile and not at the management level.  And because of that, there could be clashes of cultural practice and preferences which contribute to the resistance of change at the organization level.  Inconsistencies always contribute to probably lack of support and possibly lack of funding in developing skills and providing supporting environment to develop experience.  Some leaders  may view Agile as something for the teams and  may not be applicable for them.  This could lead to absence of leadership participation.  And one of the obvious consequences is the level of support from management.  These are common challenges from the 15th State of Agile survey.  


So,  because of the properties of Agile and being agile, agility, what could be the professional coaches help?  I won’t go into the details, I want to mention a few obvious areas, professional coaches could help.  For example, customer collaboration.  People will collaborate when they feel safe and being trusted.  They also need to listen to the challenges actively.  And help the participants to be aware where they are.   What they need to develop or build solutions.   In a lot of time, we also can’t respond to change if we are not aware of the situation.   That is where evoking awareness comes into our focus.  A lot of time, there may be desire to change and skills and experience may not be available.  This is where facilitating client growth comes into place.  These are some areas where professional coaches can help in being Agile.  


In my opinion, there is an area coaches could help a lot. That is leadership development.  In the book “Agile Transformation” by Michael Spayd and Michelle, there’s a statement.
“Transformational leaders understand that the most important tool they have for transformation is their own selves. The effort to grow and develop themselves is therefore the central task of a transformation. This is what we mean by ‘upgrading the leadership operating system’.”
So this book proposes that for transformation or Agile transformation to be successful,  leaders would need to upgrade themselves.  And what does it mean update?  


I’m gonna share a model by Robert Kegan, called Stages of Adult Development.  It has  multiple stages.  All individuals are started with a self-sovereign mind.  That means individuals make decisions for their own benefits,  from their own perspectives. Later, when we work in a team or in a company, we develop a socialized mind with others in the team to contribute to the company and society.  But some of them may develop self-authoring mind.  It means that they are driven by principles and their values to respond to changes in the environment.   From a small minority of people with self-authoring mind, they may develop  self-transforming mind; it means that they’re highly aware.   They know their shortcomings and limiting beliefs. And they’re willing to put in the work to transform themselves.  To be a better version of themselves.  If you’d like to know more about Robert Kegan Stages of Adult Development, you may watch this video by Jennifer, called Adult Development Map.  So, what does this Adult Development Map have to do with this Agile transformation?  One area is we need everybody to be in a socialist mind so that they could collaborate with each other.  And  possibly some of them need to be in self-authoring mind to respond to change, because sometimes the change may be so new, there are no known existing examples.  People may be driven by values and principles.  In a more drastic disrupting environment, we need leaders to be self-transforming.  That means they’re willing to, kind of, transform to be different individuals, to respond to change. For example, if you’re in the restaurant and hospitality business, what is the alternative in this COVID-19 endemic?  If you are a leader in the fossil fuel company, what are the alternatives in facing climate change?  And in this short discussion, what could the coaches help in upgrading leadership?  What are the opportunities for coaches to contribute in the Agile space?  One obvious choice for coaches is team coaching. helping teams to maximize their potentials and  also helping leaders to manage complexity.


How about professional facilitators?  And I  would like to share some examples.  What could professional facilitators help?   In customer collaboration,  we need to have appropriate group processes.  In Agile,  when we say that we respond to change, it doesn’t mean that we act haphazardly without planning.  We  do have planning and may decide to shift rather than following a plan.  We also want to have a participatory environment so that we can have more cooperation especially across units and departments or any given company.   We also need the facilitators to help in guiding the group for the outcome that we want.  For example, customer cooperation and responding to change.   And these are some examples how professional facilitators could help in embracing agile.  


Based on my experience, there are a few factors for the professional facilitators to consider in designing Agile related events. The first factor to consider is the audience or the participants of different Agile events.  They could be very different. For example, it could be consist of business  stakeholders and development team.  Or some events are just purely for development team.   Some events could last as short as 15 minutes. So it could be lasting as long as two or three hours. And one of the unique  situations for agile events is some of them are probably repeated highly frequently.  For example, 15 minutes.  This could be a daily event.   For a couple of hours, this could be bi weekly or monthly event.  So take note of that. 


And one area professional facilitators could help is process design.  In most of the frameworks that I mentioned earlier, they only describe the flow, processes and structures, but not the detailed design. So, I would think that professional facilitators could help a lot, especially considering the three factors I mentioned earlier in the process design. And since we all want the Agile practitioners to collaborate, to respond to change, that is much more higher demand to have access to facilitation skills, among the members.   So that’s a huge area for professional facilitators to help in embracing Agile.


What’s next? I believe in embracing Agile and in agility,  calls for more collaboration.  This being agile, it is not just the job for a coach or a facilitator, or Agile practitioner alone.   As I  share, three parties are required to help companies and clients to be more agile, especially when it’s moving from team level to the board level. That means at the company culture level. All right. Thank you for your time and patience.   If you’re interested to learn more, here is my email,  coach at askone dot sg.  Thank you.



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