Giving back to Agile – An experiment

Giving Back to Agile Mentoring Program

Have you noticed that some people “get” Agile more quickly than others?

This doesn’t seem to have much to do with seniority, tech/non-tech background, or the type of industry someone works in. 

At Integral Agile, we’ve been noticing — and acting on — this for years. We’ve recognized that certain individuals possess an innate agility – a blend of servant leadership, systemic thinking, empathy, accountability, playfulness, and a genuine desire to foster growth in others. 

Our vision: Developing Agile potential

These qualities are the essential ingredients that enable people to become outstanding Scrum Masters and Coaches. They are hard, if not impossible, to teach. For the past fourteen years, we have been seeking out people who already have these qualities and teaching them Agile principles in small groups, at our houses, in bars, and in structured classroom settings. 

The results have been outstanding — our instinct that it is easier to teach Agile to someone who has these qualities than to instill them in someone who has Agile experience was spot on. Without exception, each person we worked with was able to obtain work as a scrum master, and after a brief on-the-job mentorship period, was able to rapidly demonstrate mastery of Agile at a level equal to or superior to peers who had 5-10 years of traditional Agile experience. Many of them remain in our organization and are now leading engagements at the multi-team and enterprise level. 

What intrigued us even more was the fact that these individuals were able to thrive in Agile leadership roles, even without a background in technology or business. We’ve trained and mentored people in fields ranging from media production and hospitality to video engineering and web design, and the results were the same: the essential qualities for success were more important than the specific background.

The journey: Scaling Agile excellence

Last year, we decided to try this at scale, offering a free 6-month mentorship program to anyone not currently working in Agile who wanted to build an Agile career. We selected 45 candidates who had demonstrated the essential qualities for Agility and kicked off the program in October 2022.

Our mentorship program wasn’t just about theory; it was a transformative expedition spanning six months. We interwove comprehensive training in Agile and Integral Theory with hands-on mentorship, creating an immersive environment where participants could not only understand Agile principles but also apply them in real-world scenarios. This approach is critical for preparing participants to emerge as Agile leaders capable of driving impactful transformations.

As participants completed the program, we facilitated an evaluation process. Experienced coaches from our team assessed their growth, pinpointing areas where further development was needed. This evaluation was a crucial step in our participants’ journey, setting them up for the subsequent placement phase. Of the 40 initial participants, 14 were able to complete the journey and demonstrate proficiency with all we had taught.

Help us give back to Agile! 

Many of our graduates are now available to bring fresh energy to Agile teams.  

If you or anyone you know is in need of this kind of Agile leadership, we would encourage you to reach out to us. We have a 100% success rate with our graduates on their first assignment, defined as being able to fulfill the responsibilities of a Scrum master at the same level as those with 3-5 years of Agile experience. We continue to mentor them throughout their first assignment, just in case there are any curveballs. (What? Curveballs in Agile? Never!). 

We will also be initiating a new mentorship cohort shortly, so if you know anyone who possesses these qualities and is interested in a career in Agile, please let us know

Building a community of change-makers

Our experiment extends beyond the initial mentorship program. We don’t just want to produce graduates; we aim to provide careers for a community of new Agile change-makers. Through our mentorship, we sought to cultivate a mutual interest in working together, with the hope of expanding our Integral Agile team. This was not just about numbers; it was about creating a collective of like-minded individuals driven by a shared mission.

Renewing Agile’s heart: Our purpose

Agile was born from the belief that people matter more than processes. It championed values like relationships, trust, and shared goals. However, as Agile has gained traction, these qualities have begun to wane beneath the weight of rules, frameworks, and process compliance. Our initiative was born out of the desire to rekindle this essence.

We chose to offer our mentorship program for free to nurture the foundational values of Agile. By bringing in new leaders from other industries and immersing them in the original underpinnings of Agile, we can provide a counterbalance and inject fresh energy into the industry while creating new careers for people who want to impact people’s lives. 

The impact of our program isn’t measured in certificates; it’s reflected in the transformation of individuals who now champion Agile values. Our initiative is an ongoing commitment, a testament to our dedication to change and progress. We firmly believe that by nurturing Agile Leaders who prioritize relationships and humanity, we are contributing to a brighter future for teams and organizations worldwide. Our journey continues, and we invite you to join us in shaping the path forward for Agile transformation.

This is an Agile Alliance community blog post. Opinions represented are personal and belong solely to the author. They may not represent the opinion or policy of Agile Alliance.

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David Hersey

David Hersey

David Hersey’s Agile career began in the late 1990s when as a member of the Smalltalk developer community he began experimenting with technical practices such as test-driven development and continuous integration. He was an early advocate of XP and Scrum and has been coaching teams and organizations in Agile practices for 20+ years. David has seen that scaling Agile frequently results in a larger process, but does not always enable organizations to tap into the…

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