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Scrum Alliance Hires an Agile Coach

by Bonnie Nicholls

Scrum Alliance®, an organization dedicated to transforming the world of work, has taken its own advice and hired an Agile coach.

And, in true collaborative fashion, it turned to its own community to find the person who would be the best fit. After interviewing different coaches to see who would be the best match in terms of coaching style and applicable experience, they chose John Miller of Agile Classrooms and Right Shifter.

Miller was selected for two reasons, according to Scrum Alliance CEO Manny Gonzalez. One is Miller's expertise in coaching educational organizations; this aligns well with Scrum Alliance and its focus on training and certifications.

"The second thing for me is he is a beautiful human being," says Gonzalez, who uses the term "motivating wave" to describe Miller. "He's deep, he's spiritual. Love is what drives him, which is at the core of our values. We couldn't have done better than with John."

Gonzalez realizes that some may see the irony in Scrum Alliance hiring a coach, but he's quick to explain. Since he joined the organization as its first CEO in April 2015, he has visited 75 corporations, many of whom were going through their own transformations.

"One of the pieces of advice I would give them from what I've learned in the marketplace and from those who have been more successful in starting their transformations is coaching," says Gonzales. "Coaching is critical in this process. If that's the advice I'm giving others, it's important that I listen to my own advice."

Change and Growth

Scrum Alliance has experienced significant change over the last few years. It has grown by 30 percent year over year for the past three years. The number of staff has also increased, from 12 employees when Gonzalez joined to 32 today. And those employees now work in an office, rather than working remotely.

"As part of that environment, bringing people out of their houses and into an office, where they have to live with each other during the day, a lot of change was about to happen," he says. "That's exactly when you need to start asking the questions, 'Are you following the Agile principles? Do we have Agile values?'"

"One of biggest challenges when you start going through change," Gonzalez explains, "is you have the original team that has been leading the organization. Then you bring in a lot of new blood, a lot of new people with different thoughts and ideas, a lot more diversity. When that happens, there's a natural clash and a natural chaotic environment."

Measuring Success

Miller began coaching in June and has held one-on-ones with each staff member and facilitated appreciative inquiry interviews. These interviews are organized by the staff, who interview each other across departments to forge understanding and focus on what the team is doing right. Staff members are discovering they have common ground and are beginning to align.

"What John's been able to do is smooth out that chaos by aligning individuals a lot more with one common goal," Gonzalez says. "So he's helping us come closer together to become one."

Becoming one is true alignment, Gonzalez explains. It means creating an environment where people feel comfortable bringing up new ideas or disagreeing with existing ideas, all in a respectful way. Despite disagreements, at the end of the day, they will support the same mission, a mission they have all agreed to. For Scrum Alliance, that mission is creating great work environments, where companies can be successful and sustainable.

Gonzalez admits that the organization's Agile transformation is a journey, not a sprint.

"This is not a one-year deal, this is not a two- or three-year deal,” he maintains. “We may need to continue forever with a certain amount of coaching. Eventually, as we grow, we may have internal coaches. It's always important to have that coaching mechanism to make sure we smooth out the edges of the journey."

Gonzalez has already seen signs of success. "My goals are simple," he says. "I told the team when I started, 'My goal is to become one.' That, to me, is success. Everything else will come naturally after that. We'll be creating a great working environment. We'll be creating good products for the consumer. And we'll be doing it in a fiduciary way. Everything just clicks after that."

Meet John Miller, the coach who is leading Scrum Alliance through its Agile transformation.

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