Anna’s agile world
The first wave of the transformation enters the final phase. Any agile greenhorns who still have any questions can now turn to the Agile Coaches. Anna is one of them. We have accompanied her on her way into agility and gained some very personal insights into her training along the way. See for yourself!
With flame-red hair and a mischievous smile; her feet dangling, Anna sits on a bright-green bench surrounded by colourful post-its, exuberant plants and friendly people. The 34-year-old is one of around 40 Agile Coaches who will accompany the ING-DiBa into the agile future. She has come into the Frankfurt offices in order to learn the right attitude and know-how. ”How to create team expertise, exude the start-up spirit, and create enthusiasm for innovative working structures in our co-workers, that’s what we learn here,” says Anna.
The Erlangen native is no rookie coach, however. She is already responsible for the team training at ING-DiBa in Nuremberg. She has worked for the bank since 2008 and completed her training in customer dialogue. ”You could say that IN-DiBA’s DNA has already found its way into my own flesh and blood,” says Anna, who already has a few job and team changes behind her during her time with the bank. Because of this experience and her role as trainer, she is always open to the new. ”Everyone ultimately has a different idea, and it should always be listened to, no matter how absurd it may sound at first or how little time there is,” says the mother of two.
Her passion for the new can be seen clearly in the training taking place in Frankfurt this morning. Anna is one of the first to volunteer when Patricia Bebelaar, one of the Agile Coaches’ trainers, asks for volunteers. In a role-playing exercise, the participants are supposed to act out a scenario taking place in the so-called Obeya – more on this later. As an Agile Coach, Anna is supposed to stand up to a disinterested Product Owner and a cantankerous Tribe Lead, all played by future Agile Coaches. Anna’s strategy: she stays totally calm. She conducts the conflict conversation calmly and objectively, since it threatens to escalate any second. One word leads to another and sparks are already beginning to fly.
Short glossary – Agile Way of Working
The chapters consist of eight to ten Squad members with the same specific expertise or competence. The members all come from the same Tribe.
Each Squad holds a daily stand-up meeting with all members. Over 15-30 minutes, the current status and development of the tasks and activities are examined on the Scrum/Kan-Ban board.
For each Sprint there is a planning meeting where each task that is to be carried out in the next Sprint is recorded in the Sprint Backlog. This determines: How the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) should look. What tasks there are for the next Sprint. Also which themes should be prioritised in the Sprint Backlog.
An important means for continual improvement in agile methods. The work in the previous Sprint is reflected upon, difficulties identified and concrete measures for future improvement derived from this.
On completion of the Sprint, a “Review” is held with the respective Stakeholders where the current status of target attainment is shown and discussed.
A “Sprint” is a work cycle of two weeks. At the end of the “Sprint” is a “Sprint Goal” that determines a particular workload or the solution to a concrete task.
Permanent teams of five to nine employees that form the basis of the organisation. Colleagues with varying backgrounds. Multidisciplinary and End2End responsibility with a customer-focused mission.
A collection of various squads with the same mission, the same purpose or shared focus on the same target group or product. A Tribe makes it easier for the squads to complete their work and supports them in fulfilling their defined purpose.
Mediator and motivator
As a question regarding the meeting’s purpose is thrown like a bomb into the room, Anna steps in. “We should concentrate on the essentials,” she says in a calm voice. She steps forward and reminds the colleagues of their previous and comparatively positive experiences and encourages them to take this path once more – “even if it’s not always easy,” she adds. Tempers calm immediately.
After the role-play, Anna is praised by trainer Patricia, who also works as an Agile Coach at ING in Amsterdam. ”That was perfect. You function as both mediator and motivator,” she says to the group, and gives a definition of what makes an Agile Coach. “In formal terms, an Agile Coach is someone who supports an organisation in becoming adaptable and self-learning.” The Dutchwoman then adds: ”But with us there’s even more to it – for example creating team spirit, resolving conflicts and problems, always being approachable and able to address employees’ concerns.”
This is exactly where Anna sees her mission: “I want to create trust in agile working practices and support my colleagues in recognising the value of their daily work,” she says. She does indeed study hard to make this happen, as training to become an Agile Coach involves not just role-play, but the learning of many hard facts and much that is new. The programme is full, the appointment plan tightly arranged and the input diverse. From basics of agile methods like Kan-ban or Scrum, via questions (How do I start with a Squad? What are a Product Owner’s roles?) and up to classic coaching and didactic training techniques, the participants learn the art of an Agile Coach over a period of six days.
Agility as self-reflection
For Anna, the transformation to One Agile Way of Working (OAWOW) is made immediately tangible. “Every week a new piece of the puzzle is put in place to bring the whole thing further forward,” she says. Anna is most happy that she is able to work with different colleagues. “I want to create a dialogue where I can support each individual so that they can manage their own work in the best way possible,” Anna explains.
„An Agile Coach is someone who supports an organisation in becoming adaptable and self-learning. “
Patricia , Agile Coach with ING in Amsterdam
At the same time, she’s sure that “we are all human, so some juddering and squeaking is also normal and to be expected”. The most important thing is “that we can create something together that is unprecedented”. So it’s for this reason that Anna wants to relieve the colleagues of their fears, “since no one has anything to fear,” she asserts. The great opportunity that OAWOW presents is that everyone must find themselves anew. “I myself find that very exciting,” says Anna.
Nothing to fear is also a possibility in the so-called Obeya. The word “Obeya” is Japanese for “large space”. Patricia explains: ”In Obeya, all threads converge.” Christian, who is also taking part in the training and works in Frankfurt, explains to the room: ”In Obeya, all people involved in the planning of a product come together in order to have the fastest-possible communication and the shortest paths to making decisions.” That includes the respective Product Owner as well as the Tribe Lead. “The classic barriers that have developed over time in departmental thinking fall away,” Christian says, adding: “This is a good example that agility functions in detail, and isn’t just a meaningless trend.”
The necessary heartbeat
For Anna, agility is anything but a fad – rather, it is the opposite: a self-reflection on one’s own work. Christian adds: “This sometimes means concentrating on one thing and being able to say that I’m unable to take on a second task at that moment.” In order to introduce this thinking to the entire ING, Agile Coaches work to set the impulse.
„We are all human, so some juddering and squeaking is also normal and to be expected.“
Anna, Agile Coach
In training, Patricia repeatedly calls this “setting the heartbeat”. How fitting then that Anna’s surname has the meaning in the Nigerian Igbo language of “where the heart is at home”.