Transform the team : Conversation with an Agile coach by Anna Dyngosz,

For the last 8 years, Dominique Popiolek – Ollé, Agile Coach, has been supporting teams in setting up projects: from idea to transformation, at the company level.

Her experience of the reorganization and her very human and emphatic way she talked about it led me to want to share this exchange with you, dear readers.

Dominique talks about her practice of coaching and explains why this activity is inseparable from the principles of Agility, as a base to transform the Team.

Anna :  Hello Dominique! Please introduce yourself and tell us more about what you do.

Dominique :  Hello. I have been a coach for 8 years. I started as a corporate coach in Lean and Agility, then joined a consulting firm where I continued Agile coaching. And recently, I created my own structure.

For me team coaching is extremely important. Beyond the agility generated until becoming obvious, a team coaching instills the desire to the group to transform and become autonomous, and then accompany the reorganization of the company. My work with the team is focused on collective intelligence and is done in the context of the company. My goal is to bring out the product or innovation that the team wants to bring to their work environment.

The human is part of my values. A team that feels good, who wants to work together, who takes pleasure, is a team that fits in the duration and in the overall approach of the company. The energy and motivation present, the team wants the company evolves and that everyone finds its place. The first team transformed becomes an ambassador and will, little by little, initiate a process and encourage the implementation of a form of agility to other teams, with the help of a coach. We can then talk about transformation at the company level.

As much as the coach is very present at the start, since his goal is to bring out the autonomy of the team, as it is further back when the evolution is expanding throughout the company. The coach has to hand over to the internal people who, themselves, designate the agents of change.

Anna : Can you delve deeper into how you implement the principles of agility in your coaching work?

Dominique :  For me, agility is inseparable from coaching. This is what I wanted to convey and deepen when I created my company. It was obvious: each of us can be agile. Hence the name of my company In Imago, which means: in the transformation.

Each of us is able to “put into action”, either personally or for the company. The whole value of the coach is to make people work with each other, with their understanding, their education, in order to bring out a positive confrontation.

The coach accompanies the teams from point A to point B. By a mirror effect, the coach leads a team to visualize all of his ideas, to confront them to get the best out, for his own benefit.The coach is the mirror of everyone’s expressions. It will facilitate, help harmonize and support the emergence of collective intelligence.

And for two different ideas, the richness of coaching and agility will be to break the usual pattern by summing up the ideas and creating the innovation and improvement needed. And it’s not a person who gets into action, but the team! We add up the ideas of each other, we do not subtract, we do not impose. This emergence of the same voice goes through the understanding of each: the passions, the ways of seeing. A time of adaptation is necessary, but in the end, the team is creative and gives the best of itself.

Anna : How do you tie the coaching relationship? Does this also involve individual coaching?

Dominique : Listening is the first tool. The open questioning in person and then in team allows to emerge a common goal. I love the notion of teamwork and I challenge each member to bring out a common definition of the goal. Each member thus becoming the mirror of the other.

But often, para-verbal messages are sent: someone does not speak but we can see that he is closed or upset, another does not listen … and ultimately all these modes of interaction can block innovations.

With my coaching job I bring out the richness of a group. I use a lot of metaphors, accessories – Legos – drawings, newspaper articles, Kaplas, play dough … anything that allows expression and can be used to create prototypes, to get out of context of the company and the daily confrontation of individuals with each other.

The coach being a mirror, he brings this wealth back to the heart of the team thanks to the project built in common, it brings out the dialogue of the team. Thanks to the support created by the team, an individual of the team can defend an idea and confront it in a positive way.

It is sometimes necessary to bring out the little personal magician. In times of transformation, some people feel left out or give up, and no longer find their place. We must therefore take them apart to accompany them in a personal transformation. It may be people who are burnout, or who have already given a lot to the company, or who are at an age when their benchmarks are falling apart, or who no longer find their role, or who feel that the organization is too heavy. Young people may want to leave because they do not find meaning in what they do.

Anna : Can you tell me an example where you were particularly proud of your work?

Dominique : I will name a company, which is at the initiative of me carrying on this path.

My mission was to do a coaching job with the engineering team for which I was asked to introduce the Agile because it allows to “put into action”. And it was precisely the need, to give dynamism to the teams. A number of strategies were poorly understood and people needed air.

It was a magical experience, and a success both personally and for the engineering team. It launched the whole movement and was the author of all the credibility of this approach. I have fond memories of it.

I started my coaching work with the team. At one point, the team manager came to tell me that it was 200 hours and that the 200 hours had already been sprayed. I explained to him that it was the learning curve of the team. She was realizing that everyone had different ideas and did not agree on the essence of the subject. The team was settling its differences.

Once this first step was completed, we focused on Lean: an analysis of the economic model, the value chain, the opportunities, and finally the problem solving. And we continued with the vision of the product to realize a project in Scrum.

The work revealed that this team did not have a client. The sales team considered that this was an engineering problem and not a commercial problem.

Very quickly, I realized that the engineering team and the sales team did not interact. They had never worked together and referred to the problem (lack of client) without ever discussing it or understanding the source of the problem.

So we decided to work in product mode and made prototypes with boxes of corn-flakes and collages, and I invited the sales team. For the first time, engineers and sales people worked together. And the magic happened.

The sales team manager told the engineering team manager when he saw the product’s retro-launch schedule:

If you can do that, I’ll introduce you to 100 clients.

The project had a real commercial dimension.

And when the manager of the engineering team said he did not see how to finance a prototype for 100 people to the extent that he had already barely enough to finance the first prototype¸ the manager of the sales team has answered:

„If you make the basic prototype over three months, I finance you the project over two years”.

The question of funding was resolved.

We went to present the project to the Go & See challenge in Germany. Each year, the operational teams took part in a challenge. The leaders chose the project that won the challenge based on savings or other indicators (customer satisfaction, etc.). Our project was a priori nothing attractive, the savings were ridiculous. But the use of Legos, boxes of cornflakes, made it visible and understandable. Our project caught the attention: the Direction granted the green light and the financial means with.

Anna : To help a team, what do you need to work?

Dominique : The needs are at all levels: the general management, the organization and the team.

From the moment the team goes well together, it is possible to address other topics since trust with the coach is established.

I do not have the knowledge or the understanding of the job. So initially, the team may be trying to challenge me, to tease me about my spelling – which will become a touch of humor – to look for me to see how I react. At the same time, I observe them for three days. And very quickly, the equipment will do the same. I play a lot of games, I take them on playful grounds quite wacky. Little by little, through these games a kind of reset takes place.

I’m not here to question the team, but to showcase their expertise. When the team understands it, I am accepted.

Coaching is then perceived as a breath of fresh air, a recreation and the team is taken to the game.

A coaching lasts 12 days spread over three months. Between what I teach the team and integration, a time frame is needed. It’s a process that happens as you go.

My plus: I require them to submit a product every 15 days. To respect this short time, the team is obliged to use my methods, it is a dynamic of integration. The integration carried out, we move to the scale of the company.

Anna : And when you talk about integration, what is the integration of what compared to what?

Dominique : It’s the integration of knowledge. My principle is to perform some kind of intellectual reset. I teach them to see differently, to cut their project differently, to see big but to achieve in small steps. These are the principles of Agility – short iterations and value-added deliveries.

Often the teams are in the process of carrying out the task, well oiled, where everyone has a specific role, where the internal communication is already in place. I teach them to drop crutches.

Anna : This accompaniment may seem short?

Dominique : Twelve days is a long time especially when you teach someone to revisit their work. A coaching can intervene on several teams. The more teams start at the same time, the more they will be stimulated and the more emulsion and animation you get in the company.

But it is essential to have the confidence of management, and time. A coaching generates a good month of disruptions in the work done daily. Not all teams have the same learning curve or learning, they complement each other.

In my approach, the teams are the agents of change. Each one carries the daily transformation, so the Stop & Go necessary following strategic adaptations, will be less burdensome.

When the team manages to make deliveries every 15 days for a month and a half, that the management has validated the approach, it no longer needs to be accompanied. It still needs workshops to address other topics, including changing the business, but the team is transformed.

Anna : What about the manager, how do you work with him / her? How is he / she going to work with this new team that has unleashed its creativity?

Dominique : This is where the project limit is. The transformation has become necessary, it is validated at the highest level which will delegate to the proximity manager. If the coach maintains a link with the general management, it goes well. In the case of my mission where I was attached to the COMEX, I could ask the departments I needed to deploy the project.

In another mission, the transformation was led by the IT department. When the IT team started to solicit marketing and the end customer, they hit the organization, so the know-how of each other. Not being aware, the other departments considered the approach as a seizure of power.

In this type of situation, there follows a dead time, which can last one year. The team is transformed, it continues to work internally. The proximity manager finds his place, accompanies the well-being of his teams and finds that communication is more natural. He begins to position himself with a broader vision, to meet other departments to build with them. He’s growing, too.

But if the general management does not feel concerned and considers that it is the problem of the teams designated for this transformation, the managers will be in difficulty. They begin to drive a new organization without the mandate.

If a transformation hurts the organization in place, obstacles arise.

Anna : The danger is that they lose speed?

Dominique : Yes. Success passes from the outset by the General Management which must give a mandate to dare to the teams. Management must understand its role and accept that transformation is not just a department but a business. We must manage to set up information-sharing rituals and especially to highlight the demonstrations produced. We are no longer facing a pure hierarchical organization, but facing a voluntary entrepreneurship. Transparent speech and intelligent governance allow the validation of proposals.

When a team brings added value, and welcomes the change, it is essential to know the overall strategy of the company, to see where it is going, what market it will develop tomorrow. This allows team work to be part of a global corporate approach and thus clarifies future needs to be integrated into the life cycle and, to agree between customers and suppliers on the various stages of the product in the making.


About Dominique Popiolek-Ollé

Certified Coach and Scrum Professional, Dominique is a specialist in business transformation.

She assists organizations in the implementation of transformation programs. It adapts serious games, Sprint design and other Lean or Agile methods to the context of the enterprise to deliver context agility to deliver complex projects while leading organizations towards a smooth transition.

Previously Dominique was Agile Coach in the consulting and aerospace industries, among others.

She holds a Master’s degree in Business Consulting and Project Management from ESCP Europe and is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certified.

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