One of the new capabilities of my agile coaching practice is the ability to deliver the Scrum Alliance, Certified Agile Leadership (CAL1) class. It’s a relatively new certification for the Scrum Alliance and it targets the management and leadership levels within organizations who are planning to or who have already adopted agile approaches to software development.

I’ve been coaching agile transformations (organizations, groups, teams) for over 15 years. During that time, I’ve noticed that there are literally 3-tiers to any transformation:

  1. Sr. Leadership Tier
  2. Organizational Leadership & Management Tier
  3. Team Tier

Most organizations only focus the transformation or adoption towards the team level. But in my experience, success is in effectively guiding all three tiers towards agile principles, tactics, and leaner agile mindset.

In fact, I think the critical tier is in the middle.

I’ve sometimes heard it called the “frozen middle” because it’s where true agile transformation lies, but it’s the tier that often gets the least attention.

Enter – Certified Agile Leadership

The CAL is solely focused towards the middle-tier. And finally, we’re engaging leadership folks with training and coaching of their agile transformational skills.

But, let’s address the elephant in the room. My CAL class is 2 ½ days in length. However, there is no way that a traditional leader “becomes agile” after simply taking the class. No matter how good I am at providing journey guidance, it is in fact, a career long and personal journey for each leader.

That being said, it is a wonderful beginning to that journey and it sets the stage for continuous learning, experimentation, and evolution.

The view then is that the CAL jump-starts your agile leadership journey. And we feel that our class is a cut above in accelerating your understanding.

A Recent “Private” Example

In late February 2017, one of my clients, BillTrust, engaged in one of my first private deliveries of the CAL content.

To their immense credit, they sent their entire technology, product, and quality leadership team to the class. There were 14 attendees in all.

Here are a few of the quotes from the class:

The class provided great grounding on the role of leadership in an agile organization. Bob's experience in the technology industry brought real world examples and wisdom to the lively discussions that this course encourages. I highly recommend that you bring your entire leadership team along to this course.

-- John Lee, VP Software Development

Bob led us through an exercise to create a set of elevator pitches on why we are doing Agile, explaining the why to our teams, our wider organization, and our customers. Bob taught us how to be a driving force for the critical conversations needed to coach our team members through change and help mold our scrum teams into the high-performance teams we need to be competitive. Overall, it was a great course and would help any organization that is looking to take their Agile Leadership to the next level.
Highly recommend it. Bob has a wealth of knowledge and experience. He challenges you to think about how you are doing things, and then gently but firmly guides you to consider other proven approaches to Agile Leadership. He is a great coach for Agile Leaders.

-- Kathy Cebulka, VP Quality & Release Engineering

Loved many of the concepts in the class, for example: 1’st team, backlog-driven class focus, and the video’s and discussions. We surfaced an incredible number of Aha Moments from the class that then drove our next-step strategic planning for our agile journey. This may have been the most important part of the class – inspiring us to work as a leadership team and creating a backlog for our go-forward actions.

-- Nicole Dwyer, Sr. VP, Product Strategy

I realized after the class that there are two personas to it. In the public case, you get a more ordered and regulated flow. One that is tailored to share agile leadership principles across a wider variety of attendees. Does it have value? You bet. But it is more focused towards a broader experience.

In the private class, it becomes a much more intimate experience for a group of leaders. It’s incredibly powerful that way. It also becomes more customized to the landscape and the context at the client's’ organization. And, in the case of BillTrust, it helped in emphasizing the notion of a leadership team and on creating a more integrated and cohesive strategy for their go-forward agile execution.

CAL Class Differentiators

First, as you can see in the testimonials, I have deep and broad real-world experience in agile leadership. Both from the outside-in, as a coach and consultant, and from the inside-out, as a senior technology leader and agile champion. I’d dare say, I have more leadership experience than 80% of existing agile coaches and trainers out there. So, the experience, stories, examples, and hard lessons-learned shine through in the workshop.

The second focus is towards self. Understanding your own style and leadership path. Then connecting the dots towards effective agile leadership – the shift if you will. We’ll explore some reflective exercises and models to get you more in touch with yourself, skills, and development planning. We’ll also leverage journaling as a means of ongoing reflection and personal development.

Finally, there is also a strong emphasis on communication – focused towards story-telling from a leadership perspective and proactive coaching of individuals (your managers, team members, etc.) towards effective agile practices and the mindset. This isn’t just downward communication, but more 360 degree focused.

You’ll leave the workshop having plenty of practice in effectively setting the stage for agile in your company AND in how to communicate that outward.

Wrapping Up

When I began to think about becoming a CAL educator I was very excited. I thought I’d finally found a vehicle to unfreeze and activate the “frozen middle”. And the good news is that – it does!

But more than that, it’s a powerful tool in my leadership coaching arsenal. One that I’m looking forward to continuously developing, refining, and learning. And one that truly seems to be a force multiplier with my clients. So, if it’s even possible, I’m super-duper excited about the possibilities.

If you're interested in more information about the CAL Experience, you'll find it here.

Stay agile my friends!