The value of an Agile Coach – or Football coach.

As I sit here today, three days from Super Bowl LIII, I’m thinking of two things.  First, will the Patriots win the Super Bowl this year? And second, why do companies not understand the value of an agile coach?

It made me think about the Patriot’s coach, Bill Belichick, and his job as coach to, arguably, one of the best all-time football teams.  In comparison, an Agile coach for an organization that is shifting its culture.  What are the parallels? What are the differences?   Why do we call both of them a “coach”?

Bill Belichick doesn’t actually play football.  He’s not on the field, catching passes or blocking the opponent.  But, he’s considered the foremost guide on how the team actually should play on the field. Why?  Is it because he used to play football? Well, he actually did play football, during high school and college, but not professionally.  He just “gets it”, and is able to articulate that into guiding principles that the team can use to win games. 

He doesn’t tell the team what to do, he works with them on plays and strategies, and acknowledges that once they’re on the field, they’re going to have to think for themselves when things go sideways.  He helps them remember the goals, strategies and principles of football so that they can use them as needed in those situations.

How difficult would it be to coach that team if he was also a player?  Why can’t the quarterback, who is the leader/coach during the play do both? I bet none of the NFL would ever consider that. 

Let’s consider the agile coach in the same light.  She’s not on the team.  She doesn’t necessarily know how to code but she’s probably pretty familiar with the strategies that agile teams need to adopt to make their job work better.  She “gets it” and is able to articulate that into guiding principles that the team can use to be successful. 

She doesn’t tell the team what to do, she works with them on strategies and acknowledges that once they’re working, they’re going to have to think for themselves when things go sideways.  She helps them remember the goals, strategies and principles so that they can use them as needed in those situations.

How difficult would it be to coach that team if she was also a coder and busy working instead of seeing the whole of the team and how they work together?  Why can’t the scrum master, who is the leader/coach during the day to day operations of the team do both? 

Hmm.  I just realized that I repeated those two paragraphs, just about word for word, except for the type of coach.

I bet if we were to ask the NFL to quantify the value of their coaches in ROI and dollars, they’d be hard pressed to actually say how much BETTER the team is in comparison to if they had no coach at all.  They’d just say it’s impossible to NOT have a coach, let alone employ one just for the beginning of the season.  Early in the season, the Patriots were only winning 50% of the time.  If you were to measure Belichick’s value 4 games into the season, Robert Kraft would certainly be justified in firing him.  Who wants a coach with a 50% win-loss ratio? They would have fired possibly the coach of the next Super Bowl LIII Champions! (Or at least the second best depending on this weekend’s outcome).

All I know is that if Belichick were pulled from the Patriots right now, three days before the Super Bowl, the Patriots would lose.  So why would you stop paying for agile coaches while your teams are working toward achieving the goals of your organization? Do you still expect to win?  I wouldn’t bet on that game.

Wendy Avery – Enterprise Agile Coach

BAI Presents: Women in Agile 2019

Join us for another edition and conference pairing of Women in Agile, sponsored by Solutions IQ and hosted by the Business Agility Conference. Great leaders come in all forms, and gender should not matter when determining if someone has the individual strengths and characteristics to lead employees. But even though men and women are equally qualified, many barriers still persist and women are still underrepresented in top leadership.

This is about to change: Feminine traits long considered as drawbacks to strong people management are the key strengths of 21st-century leadership. But the new leadership approach is about far more than equality and closing the gender gap. It is about creating workplaces that stand for empowering employees and embracing a diversity of thought while shaping the next generation of leaders, that can successfully guide people in an age of uncertainty and change.

Keynote: Fabiola Eyholzer

Join us for Women in Agile, a half-day conference focused on implementing business agility through agile HR and active mentoring. The keynote speaker will be Fabiola Eyholzer. Fabiola Eyholzer is a pioneer in Lean | Agile People Operations and CEO of Just Leading Solutions LLC, a New York based consultancy for Agile HR. In two decades as Management Consultant and Executive Advisor, Fabiola has worked with numerous key players across various industries and countries. They seek her expertise in Business Agility, Human Resources, Compensation & Performance Management, Operations & Processes, and Strategy. Together with her team, she helps enterprises to accelerate their agile transformation by focusing on their crucial asset: their people.

After the keynote, participants will engage in interactive activities (speed mentoring and presentation karaoke) to discuss and implement what they’ve learned. We look forward to this exciting pre-conference event and hope you will join us for Women in Agile!

Be Bold and Lead with Love!

Be Bold and Lead with Love!

The Women in Agile breakfast at SAFe Summit 2018

By Deema Dajani

We came together at the SAFe Summit in DC, and left with inspiration and new connections.  This event was Women in Agile’s second year at the Summit, and the results did not disappoint. In sharing this experience with you, let us recap what we saw, experienced, and felt.

We saw

Growth!  The event attendance doubled from last year, and sold out a month in advance.  People showed up as early as 6:00am. Even at that hour, the energy level was high.  Since the event, several local groups have launched including Panama City, Toronto, and Boston.  This means Women in Agile local communities broke a barrier by going global!  

We experienced

Energy!  Attendees were engaged and interacting despite the early hour.  One attendee tweeted “Thank you for a lovely and lively event and for reminding me why I came here!”.  

I opened the day with appreciations to the wonderful event team, Scaled Agile for sponsoring, and the Women in Agile board.  Then we shined the light on the wonderful work happening in the local communities that are organically forming around the country, these are groups supported by the Women in Agile organization.  The local group leaders are passionate volunteers, that generously dedicate their time to nurture their local Woman in Agile communities. The key message was to support the local Women in Agile groups near you:  1) join them and attend their gatherings, 2) for notable speakers or authors to volunteer to present at the local meet ups, and 3) for businesses to sponsor their activities, as the #1 request we get from local group leaders is for a couple of hundred dollars to cover refreshments for their meetups.  


Then we introduced the featured speaker Sally Elatta, who gave a most moving talk titled Be Bold, Be Real, and Lead with LOVE.  

Sally opened with her personal journey of overcoming barriers, as a young girl born in Sudan who migrated to the US with her family, and eventually started her business which thrived despite tough economic times. It was also interesting to see Sally’s strong connection to family woven through her presentation, this made her real and relatable to the audience.  

The talk centered around three powerful mantras:  Be bold, be real, and lead with love.

The first mantra is Be Bold.  Sally introduced it with quotes from Mandela and Jennifer Lee, encouraging us to be fearless in pursuit of what sets our soul on fire. Then she shared a personal mantra, “If a young girl from Sudan can come here and be successful, you can’t tell me something can’t be done’”.  That was a message to the audience to be bold with their Agile transformations. Dream big – your big dream could be to lead a very large transformation, your big dream could be to step up in a current role that you have now and show people who you really are. 

Then a surprising observation was shared, with a call to action Many of the enterprise business agility transformations I’m in right now are led by very powerful woman that bring heart and soul everyday to that transformation… so show up, lead the change and show who you really are, don’t be afraid, be bold and show them what ‘different’ looks like.”  This topic was wrapped up with the importance of mentors who encourage you to break through your personal constraints, Sally gave a nod to her mentors who included the late Jean Tabaka.

Be Real was the next matra.  Sally showed vulnerability with a personal story related to ‘imposter syndrome’ and shared a story about a time when her core beliefs were under attack at an executive retreat and how she found her courage to face the situation.  There was not a dry eye in the house at that point!  All of us have something inside our heart that make us feel like imposters, being afraid to speak up or show who we really are, feeling like we don’t belong, but when you find that courage to speak up, you could make a lasting impact on those around you.  Sally’s message was clear, to speak up when we face those moments of fear. The book Radical Candor by Kim Scott was cited for giving candid feedback.

Lead with Love was the final mantra that brought it home.  Sally shared her leadership style for her company Agile Transformation, which is a wholesome inclusive style grounded in shared values.  These values are very visible, Sally flashed the “wall of values” they have posted in the common area of their offices.  The values started with “we do what we say we’ll do”, and ended with “plant seeds” not weeds. You could hear the audience reaction to the painted wall, many felt they can take back to their organizations.  


We felt

Connected!  Attendees shared some emotional moments, moments of inspiration, and a sense of community.  We closed with an excerpt from Sally’s wall of values, a reminder to “lift each other up”.

That’s a wrap

With that, we concluded one event and left with the intent to stay connected through our local communities. See you at the next Women in Agile experience!


Special thanks to the event team: Liza Ridgway, Bria Schecker, Angel Chavez, Laura Powers, Alex Kanaan, Padmini Nidumolu, Kate Casey, Deema Dajani.


Featured speaker Sally Elatta with the Women in Agile Board Natalie Warnert, Eric Willeke, Deema Dajani, and Joanna Vahlsing (not in the picture)

Austin Local group kicks off!

Austin Women in Agile launched with an active meetup last Thursday September 13, 2018.  This vibrant community is off to a great start!

We invite recognized speakers and innovators from around the country to connect with this group, when your travels take you to great city of Austin.

Inspired by a Women in Agile gathering at Keep Austin Agile, Kate Kolchier took the initiative and organized the local Austin Women in Agile group along with Erin Randall, Mindy, and Taylor Frank.  Their first Meetup was last Thursday.  Kate shared how this first event went:

The Meetup went fantastic! As good as we could have hoped! We had about 20-ish people show up. Everyone was engaged and participating in our activities. They all said they can’t wait until next month. We’ve decided on the fourth Thursday monthly, at 6:30pm.

Click here to learn more about Women in Agile local groups.