Agile Mentors Podcast

Agile Mentors Podcast

Practical advice for making agile work in the real world

The Agile Mentors podcast is for agilists of all levels. Whether you’re new to agile and Scrum or have years of experience, listen in to find answers to your questions and new ways to succeed with agile.

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#44: Transformations Take People with Anu Smalley

April 19, 2023     33 minutes

In this episode of the “Agile Mentors” podcast, Brian and Anu Smalley share their perspectives on the relationship between culture and Agile transformation and why people are key.


Coaching an Agile transformation requires more than just knowing how to run a daily Scrum. Finding the right people for the job is critical to success.

In this episode of the "Agile Mentors" podcast, Brian and Anu Smalley chat about the importance of diversity in Agile teams.

Listen in as Brian and Anu explore how culture impacts an organization's ability to adopt Agile practices, the role of leaders in creating an inclusive culture, and the power of sharing stories in building a strong community.

Listen Now to Discover:

[01:17] - Brian introduces us to the guest, Anu Smalley, who has a lot of experience in Agile coaching and consulting. She’s also been instrumental in increasing diversity in the Agile community. She has a CST mentoring group for people who don't have the same background as the majority of people in the Scrum Alliance. Her company is Capala Consulting Group.
[03:34] - Metrics and methodologies are important in organizational transformation, but people are at the heart of it. Organizations cannot successfully transform without the right people.
[04:02] - Anu talks about how the Agile Manifesto emphasizes individuals and interactions as the key to success in transformation. She emphasizes the importance of having the right people in an organization to ensure a successful transformation.
[05:07] - Coaching an Agile transformation requires more than just knowing how to run a daily Scrum. Finding the right people for the job is critical to success.
[05:55] - Brian notes that some businesses see their employees as replaceable parts in a machine. A diversity of perspectives is essential; having only one perspective limits the team's potential.
[06:52] - Each person is unique and cannot be replaced like a part in a machine. Anu stresses the importance of recognizing the human aspect of transformation to succeed and that metrics alone will not suffice.
[07:48] - Brian discusses the comparison between Agile software development and research and development. Having the right people for the job is critical. [08:30] - Agile transformation requires a focus on people and coaching, and the framework will fall into place once that focus is in place.
[09:14] - Anu highlights the importance of understanding what being Agile truly means rather than just knowing the techniques.
[09:59] - Brian notes that while many attendees may attend Agile training classes solely for certification, trainers can use this opportunity to teach attendees a deeper understanding of Agile and transform their approach to work.
[10:46] - Anu notes that there is a significant difference between implementing Scrum and transforming an organization—one can be learned in a two-day class, while the other requires a deeper understanding of what being Agile truly means.
[12:02] - Focusing on people is the key to success in Agile transformation; without it, organizations will not get very far.
[14:17] - Brian emphasizes the uniqueness of organizations and how Scrum is designed to be adjusted and custom fit for each group that uses it.
[14:49] - Anu highlights the importance of role clarity for individuals and teams to minimize conflicts.
[15:53] - The virtual world has made role clarity even more important. Anu shares an example of a client whose main focus for 2023 is to achieve role clarity amongst their teams, explaining what is essential to achieving this goal.
[16:19] - Clarity is achieved by bringing people together, resolving conflicts, and working towards common goals.
[16:19] - Anu emphasizes that coaching and resolving conflicts are key to achieving role clarity and smooth functioning among teams in an organization.
[16:37] - Brian compares learning the basics of baseball to attending a class on Scrum—a class can teach you the basics—a coach is necessary to grow and improve.
[17:50] - Anu shares that a coach is essential, even for the best sports people on the planet.
[16:19] - Anu emphasizes the importance of role clarity and resolving conflicts in an organization to ensure everyone understands their role and works together effectively.
[18:39] - Anu explains that the best players in any sport have personal coaches to keep them in the "being mode," focusing on the individual's growth to impact the company's growth.
[19:33] - Brian highlights that even the best athletes in the world have coaches, and we should always keep growing and never stand still.
[19:51] - Agile transformations are about the people we have—Anu reiterates the importance of focusing on individuals' growth to impact the company's growth.
[20:12] - Leaders need to ensure they have the right people and are continuously teaching, coaching, and helping them move forward.
[20:35] - Brian introduces the sponsor of the podcast, Mountain Goat Software's Certified ScrumMaster Class, and highlights its benefits for those interested in understanding Scrum.
[23:34] - Anu shares examples of clients who have decided to combine roles or accountabilities due to budget cuts and how it impacts the Agile journey.
[24:40] - Anu advises against continuing the Agile journey until it can be done properly.
[25:43] - Leaders often make the mistake of not understanding the importance of ScrumMasters, but ScrumMasters do, in fact, provide value (a little sarcasm here).
[26:00] - Without capable ScrumMasters, the transformation will stall or fail.
[26:39] - Brian notes that even with capable ScrumMasters, leaders must trust and empower them to drive the transformation forward.
[27:02] - Culture is all about people; if you don't have a culture supporting Agile transformation, it won't go anywhere.
[27:55] - Talking about trust issues between leadership and teams.
[28:55] - Anu explains that some leaders may have talented staff, but they are too scared to trust them with an Agile transformation because they are worried about the culture and power structure changes.
[29:35] - Brian suggests an innovation initiative, to which Anu sarcastically proposes an innovation sprint as a solution.
[29:47] - Brian encourages listeners to contact Anu through LinkedIn or through the website of her company, Capala Consulting Group.
[30:52] - Anu invites listeners to share their Agile transformation stories with her and promotes the importance of building a community through shared experiences.
[32:58] - The value of learning from different cultural perspectives.
[33:17] - Brian invites you to share your ideas for the show or feedback. Email Brian.

References and resources mentioned in the show:

Capala Consulting Group
Mountain Goat Software's Certified ScrumMaster Class
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule
Join the Agile Mentors Community
Agile Manifesto​​
Scrum Alliance
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts

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This episode’s presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He’s passionate about making a difference in people’s day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Anu Smalley is the President and Founder of Capala Consulting Group, where she specializes in Executive Coaching and Agile Transformations. She is a Certified Enterprise Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer®. She’s an active member of the larger Scrum and Agile community and enjoys giving back via volunteering at various conferences.