Michael Mrochern
Michael Mrochern, Chairman Vivior AG

Michael Mrochern is co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Vivior AG, a Swiss digital health start-up. Founded in 2017 by a group of experienced eye care professionals, the company offers a novel wearable device – the Vivior Monitor – to objectively measure visual behavior prior to vision correction interventions.

Michael formulated the problem: “The situation was really frustrating. We were bringing a new type of product to the market in health care. We knew this would be hard, but COVID-19 made our lives very difficult. We tried to position the product in three different markets. We had early successes with each and had secured agreements with major players. Then all these initiatives were put on hold due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.”

“This made it impossible to get additional funding for our projects, which left us in a difficult situation. We were good at raising money from investors, but the money got spent to keep the company afloat at a time we could not develop the product.”

“We were running out of money but our industry partners could not proceed. As a result, we were not meeting our revenue goals and the cash was burning.”

The PAS Stakeholder Canvas played a key role in enabling everyone to understand the positions of each board member and stakeholder as well create a common understanding of what really mattered. Thanks to this alignment, the board was able to agree on the best strategy moving forward, then implement that strategy effectively.

Challenge

“Our market challenges were compounded by our internal challenges. There was a difference of opinion between the founders and management about how to react to this situation. Two opinions became two camps: On the one side, ‘We have a product, we just need to find the right customers.’ On the other side, ‘No, we have customers, but they don’t seem to want the product. We need to adapt the product.’”

“We had focussed on being ready to ramp up, but information did not flow effectively within the company. We had a ‘my kingdom mentality’. We were set up to address the three market segments, but did not have the necessary strength in any of them. We were not able to say no to any markets.”

“The organization seemed frozen on making decisions. We were able to acquire new customers, but they were not using our product and our revenue depended on usage. We had lots of endless discussions that did not lead to useful results. Personality and ego were getting in the way.”

“There was a mismatch between the internal perspective and the investment perspective. Internally, we believed we were doing everything we could, but there wasn’t any progress to show the investors around our key success measures: usage and revenue.”

“We had a roadmap to enter our markets with strategic partners. The roadmap didn’t work any more, because everything was cancelled. The organization was not equipped to respond to the situation. We had three directions we could focus in. There were huge opportunities, all had challenges, and we need to focus on one of them.”

Desired Outcome

“We needed to get the company unstuck and create the willingness to try something new. I knew, if we kept on doing what we were doing, we would fail.”

“I believe successful companies have a good ear to their customers. We didn’t have that. We had a mindset of ‘we know better than the customers’, and we needed to change that into ’we are learning from the customers’. We needed alignment within the organization about the importance of learning. Individual efforts were not sufficient. Individually we heard, but the organization couldn’t react.”

“We wanted progress on revenue. We wanted progress on activations of our product. Things that weren’t happening. Most immediately, we wanted to create clarity on the need to focus and agreement on which market to focus on. We needed to figure out which opportunity was the right one to focus on and get full support from all the stakeholders on the new direction.”

Actual Result

“We got unstuck. We started really listening to each other.”

“We were able to create a common understanding of the opportunities and challenges. We were able to identify the possible routes forward then create a consensus around the best route forward. We were able to move forward with the full support of the board and no significant opposition.”

“We realized we needed to focus, although initially there was no agreement on what to focus on. We realized we had many opportunities. We chose to focus on one market, where we saw the most immediate potential. We were able to refocus without delay.”

“We began adapting the product and the company to the needs of the market and we sharpened our focus on the most promising market.”

Path to Success

“We engaged an outside coach to interview each stakeholder individually then lead us through a workshop together with the goal of deciding what to do next. The coach used the PAS Stakeholder Canvas to guide the conversation and understand each stakeholder’s point of view.”

“The interviews covered the objectives at hand, challenges, fears, frustrations, definition of awesome, and possible next steps. To conclude each interview, the stakeholder confirmed what really mattered from their perspective.”

“The workshop emphasized storytelling and listening. We made small working agreements, such as listening before we talk, asking before we tell, listening for understanding, and asking clarifying questions. Making small agreements in the morning enabled us to have conversations about real issues later in the day with minimal conflict.”

“The facilitation played an important role. One the one hand, people were worried that this would be a “feel-good, sing kumbaya” kind of event that would not produce any results. Having the authority in the room enabled us to make decisions, while having a neutral facilitator ensured constructive discussions.”

“We had identified a champion for each market segment and they spent the afternoon presenting the alternatives we could focus on. Each champion made their best case and we strove to understand their reasoning and the strengths and weaknesses of each one.”

“At the end of the day, everybody voted, which resulted in a clear recommendation. Even one of the other champions voted for the winning approach. The next day, the board ratified this recommendation.”

“The process of interviewing everyone by an outsider gave us a condensed, holistic and honest view of the situation.The process created transparency and alignment. We were able to see outside the system. We got confirmation about what we were thinking and feeling. It became clear what we needed to do.”

Conclusion

Before considering what to do, the board first built alignment on “What Really Matters”. The Stakeholder Canvas provided powerful questions to enable them to identify what they already agreed on. Finding consensus on “What Really Matters” enabled them to agree on the strategy moving forward.

“We were able to get all of our key stakeholders on board and in agreement on the direction for moving forward. We were able to implement the new strategy immediately with no significant resistance.”

“What made this effort successful? Getting all the key stakeholders and decision makers  involved, listening to them and having them in the room (at least virtually) enabled us to decide quickly.”

“Make the vision visible and ask people what they are doing to make it real. The same applies to activities: make them visible to ensure they are in alignment with ‘What Really Matters’”.

“After agreeing on ‘What Really Matters’ to the company, we wrote the topics on cards and put them on the wall where everyone could see them — it became the first column of our task board, just like in Personal Agility!”

This exercise set the stage to apply agility within the leadership team. We applied the basic principles of cadence, ownership, transparency and a focus on producing tangible results, sooner.

“We became responsive as an organization. Previously, individuals would hear things from the customer, but we were unable to respond effectively. Collaboration and talking to each other on a daily basis solved this problem. The company can now respond quickly to any challenges and problems that emerge.”

“If I had to do this again, I would put even more emphasis on taking away the fear. Several people were uncertain and getting them to voice these uncertainties put everything on the table and allowed us to have real, meaningful discussions.”

“I would also spend more time on how we work together. Just because you have spoken to someone doesn’t mean you are aligned. The difference between cooperative and argumentative discussions is huge. A culture based on dialog makes it much easier to surface difficult issues.”

This is how The Personal Agility System scales to any level of an organization. Leveraging tools like the Stakeholder Canvas, constructive dialogue based on Powerful Questions and a shared understanding of “What Really Matters”, a company can focus on the right things and move forward with the support of their stakeholders.

 

© 2021 Peter B. Stevens and Maria Matarelli. Excerpted from Personal Agility: Unlocking Higher Purpose, Alignment, and Performance

 

A Personal Agility System Case Study

Adriana Carrano is an experienced HR Operations and a talented multilingual professional working full-time in a large tech organization. She is the single mother of an 8-year-old boy and has been living in Switzerland for over 10 years.

She discovered the Personal Agility System, through which, she was able to discover her inner power to thrive personally and professionally. Her career and life coach, Adelina Stefan, spoke with her about her journey.

The Challenge

Adelina: What was the challenge you were facing?

Adriana: “I am a people person; my biggest talent gift is my altruistic heart that guides me. I love what I do not only as a working professional, but also as an individual. I always want to make sure that everybody around me has all they need, but that leaves me with no energy or time for myself. 

“Life is full of unexpected situations, distractions that can be fun or full of stress. So much to do, and there you go… none of my well-planned tasks seem to get 100% resolved. All the books that tell me how important I am never get opened. I would finish each day exhausted, yet thinking ‘I haven’t done anything today’”.

“I believe I have a blessed full life. I have an amazing 8-year-old son and a full time job that I absolutely adore. And I have the CHAOS that governs all of this!”

“I felt like I was out of control. So many things were running together! I was losing sight of urgent topics, and I was even putting off joyful things “for later.” I wanted clarity. I wanted to be sure that I got important things done and I wanted to have time for the joyful things in my life.” 

Desired Outcome

Adelina: What did you want to change? And what did you like about the Personal Agility System?

Adriana: “I really like the metaphor of the boat journey on the ocean of life. I wanted to take charge of my life, get to my destinations and manage the distractions and headwinds in my life.”

“I have always admired people that seem to have it all under control, whose work hours are productive and whose families get the time they need.”

“I started the PAS program wanting to have more quality time for myself and my son and to make better use of my work day. I wanted to lose the stress of unfinished emails at 11pm or waking up at 6 in the morning with my head already full of the unfinished tasks that have been taunting me for a few days.”  

Actual result

Adelina: Now that you have been applying PAS to your life, how is your situation different?”

Adriana: “The Personal Agility Systems helped me align my daily activities with my projections in time, so I could dance through all the challenges that come along.”

“The greatest outcome was realizing I can live my love for people, respond to the needs of others, and pursue my own needs. I can balance my full-time job with my family time. 

“I learned to have patience with myself, to celebrate my accomplishments, and to never let a day finish without telling myself ‘you did your best!’  It makes me the happiest when I look behind and I see the changes in my schedule, in my own way of handling different tasks and applying what I learned to prioritize. Small steps and patience are vital and lead us to great results, but it takes time to get there.”

“As I am a visual person, Personal Agility helped me immensely to see everything in front of me. I connect the different colors  to specific areas in my life.”

“My ideal day does not follow a fixed recipe; rather, I need to be flexible to accommodate the needs and schedules of people at home, in the office and in our locations around the world.

“Now I get my most rewarding feelings when I see what I have accomplished at the end of the day. At the end of each week I see that I have found the right balance between work and family. And I have time for myself! I didn’t realize this before,  but doing things that make me happy is really important — the most important! — even with everything I have to do for work and family.”

Path to Success

Adelina: How did you achieve all this? 

Adriana: “I discovered the Personal Agility System while working with you!”

“Initially I was very shy about using the Priorities Map, but after a week it became a habit. It was so helpful to see my tasks aligned daily and to check all my accomplishments at the end of the week. The best thing was to see the different colours on cards and be able to check the balance of work and personal tasks at a glance.”

Taking it to the next level

Adelina: After you achieved your work/life balance, what happened next? 

Adriana: “After using the Priorities Map every day for over two months, and seeing how beneficial this is, I set up a  simplified version for my son. Of course, he got to make his own choices about what really matters.”

Creating the priorities map

Customized Priorities Map

“Although he is only 8 years old, he discovered the importance of planning, and how knowing what really matters can influence his life. He also learned about realistic planning by seeing how many things he can get done by the end of the day. We celebrate and choose daily, and every Sunday we go to the cinema, to reward us both for the work we have done! 😊”

Creating the Priorities Map

I have started talking with other colleagues about The Personal Agility System and they were curious to see my planning board, to learn more about the story behind the colored labels. As I started teaching my son Personal Agility, in a similar way, I’ve started to introduce PAS to few colleagues too. It is most rewarding to see how something I was struggling with for so long can be of great help for others. ☺ 

“With PAS, my vision of life changed: from a frustrated jobless, I became a highly motivated person thirsting for life, eager to uncover new opportunities and willing to change.” – José Albuquerque

Whether it’s about starting a job, moving to a different country or a change in our relationships, change can be hard to accept, and many of us spend a great deal of effort trying to avoid it. Coping with change can be challenging and overwhelming, and although we are used to exit our comfort zone, a sudden job change is jarring. Jose was able to meet both challenges and find a new job that advances his career.

Jose Albuquerque is a Senior Key Account Manager who has worked in a large high-tech organization for over 20 years, and living in France, near the Swiss-French boarder. After a successful career, José found himself out of the labor force during the pandemic. During his time off, he discovered Personal Agility System (PAS) and working with his PAS Coach, he could transform his challenging situation in new opportunities, spend more quality time with his family, and transition to a new job opportunity.

Situation

“I have been working for 21 years in a high-tech company and I’ve grown within it. I started my career as Applications Engineer in France, then I moved to Portugal and finally, I served Swiss customers. I’ve learned a lot and I was enjoying every day this job, assisting outstanding customers and achieving objectives.

This was great… until the company decided to implement a new strategy during the pandemic without me. This was a shock: I have always been active and suddenly, I felt stuck. It was like being on the edge of the mountain, with no more new challenges to take on.”

“I was looking for a new adventure, a personal one. During my introspection, I figured out that I needed a new life balance and at the same time, I was looking for a way to align what I do with what matters to me and my family.”

Desired Outcome

“My objective was to achieve and maintain a new life balance, with an exciting new job, focus on what really matters to me, and satisfaction that my time is spent on what is important. This could also lead to serious change such as moving to Switzerland or relocating closer to my new job. At the same time, I was searching for a way to better organize my personal life and business life. In business, I am an expert at getting things done efficiently. However, I was missing the bridge between the personal and professional life.”

Challenge

“Being a job seeker is always challenging. My special situation as a commuter living in France, looking for a position in Switzerland, made things even more complex. I had to prove that my location would not negatively impact my effectiveness at work. I had to define clearly my added value to an organization and demonstrate my strengths that help me stand out against the competition on the job market. When you are used to working hard, you do not see your achievements immediately – therefore, looking inside out to communicate confidently how I can create value in my target role, was crucial to me.”

Path to Success

“With PAS, I was able to identify and spend time on my true priorities, and I was able to say “no” to the less important ones. Suddenly, I had more time for self-education, interview preparations, and networking. At the same time, I’ve prioritized self-care. I do sports daily, and I’ve engaged in learning German, taking classes twice a week. My habits changed, and now I spend more time reading and share precious time with my family.”

“One of my supportive elements in dealing with the job search challenges was my Coach, Adelina Stefan. She understood rapidly that my agile methodology used at work could also benefit my personal life. In one of our discussions, she introduced me the concept of Personal Agility System. Once I decided to try it out, I found out an amazing way to set up objectives and measure progress weekly in all aspects of my life. To me, having a single page view containing every component of my life, tied to what really matters to me, was amazing: in one view, you get the expected results at work and personally, you get both the objectives you want to attain, and the actions related to those objectives.”

“An important tool of Personal Agility was the weekly Celebrate and Choose, when I reviewed all my achievements of the previous week, picked the most important one and shared my success with friends, colleagues, and family. This was crucial to keep my motivation high and enforce my self-esteem!”

“With PAS, my vision of life changed. From a frustrated jobless, I became a highly motivated person, thirsting for life, eager to uncover new opportunities, and willing to change.”

Other Success Factors

I had the chance to receive 2 books from my very good friends, that were a revelation. The first one, “Who moved my cheese” by Spencer Johnson is basic, simple, yet efficient. It explains an amazing way to deal with change in your work and in your life. This captivated also the attention of my 11 years-old son also, who read it in 1 hour. I highly recommend it to anyone! The second book was “The big five for Life” by John P. Strelecky. What stroke me was the following concept: One’s lifespan is on average 28200 days, which means approximately 4000 weeks. If you measure that in days, you may not see the value of life itself, but counting it in weeks, it is enlightening. At my age, this means 2000 remaining weeks! When you start measuring your progress in life by the actions you have achieved weekly, you get a better grasp on how fast (or how slow) you are attaining your core objectives.”

Taking It To The Next Level

“During my journey, I’ve applied to many positions, and I had numerous interviews. PAS helped me stay focused and keep my motivation high when faced with rejection. Currently, I am preparing to enter a new job: a role directly connected to my skillset and my aspiration, which takes my career to the next level.”

“I have also taught PAS to my 11 years old son. He was overwhelmed by his school homework and complaining about the lack of time to play. With PAS, he stopped procrastinating and understood that the more efficient he was with his homework, the more time he would have to play, and have fun with his friends and family. On top of that, the weekly Celebrate & Choose Event improved his self-confidence and made him feel better about himself.”

Karina Schneider was an experienced Human Resources professional working in a large, global organization and living in Zurich with her young family. After her parental leave, she went back to work, into a new job, excited to make an impact. Roughly 10 months later, in the height of the pandemic, she burned out. During her time off, she discovered the Personal Agility System and, working with her PAS coach, she was able to find energy to meet the challenges of work and motherhood.

Portrait Karina SchneiderWhile it seemed at the time like it came out of nowhere – that I suddenly was physically & mentally unable to go to work from one day to the next – I now see the trail of clues that led to this struggle. Surviving the first COVID-19 lockdown with my husband and I working more than full time, with a 1-year-old at home, with no help, was just the last push before I finally crashed.

Desired Outcome

“Very early on in my recovery process, I knew my life needed a massive re-design. Clearly, whatever worked for me in the past wasn’t going to take me forward anymore. I realized I needed to live a more coherent life – it wasn’t one thing to fix. My days should be to be reflective of what really mattered to me. Everything I do personally and professionally ought to be aligned to my values. I wanted to be able to confidently walk away from the wrong opportunities without feeling guilty or ungrateful. I was carrying around too many responsibilities that were truly not mine to carry — I wanted to let go! All of this, ultimately, meant I would have enough energy to fuel a rich, purposeful life. Not only were all of this defining my desired outcome – but they are also central to my burnout recovery.”

Actual Result

“The most tangible result I’ve experienced is feeling significantly less stressed and overwhelmed, as compared to before. As I write this, I do not know what the next 6 months will look like for me. Burnout has placed many things in question that my family and I are still figuring out together. However, I am most at peace and my life is the richest it’s been today after a very very long time. While still in recovery, I have gained clarity about my goals (and already achieved some of them), I am able to volunteer to causes that are dear to me, I have forged deep relationships with others, and I have energy to entertain an active toddler. I can now make well-guided decisions and focus my actions because I have a functioning compass that helps me navigate the upcoming weeks, months and years.”

Path to Success

“The Personal Agility System keeps me honest and kind to myself everyday. The Celebrate and Choose event every Sunday evening has given me back self-compassion and empowerment. I look at my Priorities Map for the week and I can immediately determine if I’m living in coherence or not. The most important contribution of PAS is where it all starts: answering the question “What really matters?” Everything else flows from there. My experience of stress and overwhelm has dramatically reduced because, no matter how many things need to get done, I get my peace of mind knowing 2 things: if they truly matter, (1) they will get done; and 2) there is more than enough time, space and energy that they don’t need to compete for my attention.”

Tools: PAS Priorities Map, PAS Forces Map, What really matters?, Celebrate & Choose, Kindness

Support

“One of the many supportive elements to my recovery was my coaching engagement with Adelina Stefan. I had a couple of goals in mind linked primarily to career goals. However, in one of our discussions, she introduced me to Personal Agility. I was initially hesitant to get on board. I wasn’t in the right mindset and Adelina was great at acknowledging that. As soon as I was ready, she committed! She walked me through it, encouraged me to try it out, and celebrated with me. I was hooked as soon as I got through week 1!”

What else

“I also had a therapist who helped me to re-frame my recovery: it’s about gaining back what I had lost. Engaging in activities that I used to enjoy, but no longer had the time for, was essential to my recovery. It allowed me to get to know myself again and to get re-acquainted with my values. As I like getting things down to the concrete, tangible and actionable, PAS is able to provide that framework for me to guide my choices everyday.”

Lyssa Adkins is best known as the author of the foundational book Coaching Agile Teams, which connected the Scrum Master role and Professional Coaching to give definition to the profession Agile Coach.

She co-founded the Agile Coaching Institute (ACI), which specialized in coaching agile coaches through their agile transformation. She led the development of the ACI until it was acquired by Accenture.

Challenge

Selling the company gave her a clean slate. “The key challenge I had around that time was how am I going to reorient myself and my business and even my public persona so that I can attract the business I wanted to attract, and so that I can do it in a way that didn’t sacrifice the sustainable pace I had very willingly and arduously crafted in my life?”

Desired Outcome

“I wanted clarity in how I spend my time, and to have more kindness to myself. I often didn’t count the things that were in the category of joy and play and family and community and alone time and recharging as valid or real. And I needed to.”

Result

“I definitely achieved that goal. One of my main categories under what really matters was called ample time. I wanted to have ample time to do everything I’m doing fully and well. I absolutely achieved that. Meanwhile, while the business piece was coming back up and getting reinvented, I found myself at the cusp of launching into new business ideas and new business ventures.”

“I had to constantly bring my attention to know relaxation is part of the job. Rejuvenation is part of the job; you’re actually doing tasks. You’re doing work by attending to your own foundation and the resilience that you will need in the future. This is what was going on in my head.”

“It took a long time to rewire the addiction to work, the addiction to achieving, and the addiction to saying yes to too many things (which meant I had to get them done). Getting past this addiction was a huge benefit. It took me a while to consistently direct my attention to what was really important.

That created a lot more happiness and joy in my own life, or maybe just helped me notice how much happiness and joy was already in my life.”

Tools

“Of all the tools of the Personal Agility System, what really stands out for me is the brilliant naming of the ‘Celebrate and Choose’ event.”

“I was on an addiction-to-work rollercoaster where I was moving from one thing to the next. And yes, I would have moments of recognizing my accomplishments or celebrating, but it was not a weekly ritual of celebrating what actually did happen.”

“Since I was tracking all this in my Priorities Map, I could clearly see what I accomplished.”

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh — I can’t believe I got that much done,’ even though I didn’t feel like I had been pushing myself. This new way of being was both more effective and more relaxed at the same time.”

“Personal Agility reminded me strongly that I do not celebrate enough. I wasn’t noticing enough what I accomplished or the gains I had made. I wasn’t giving myself any breaks or even trying to give myself a break. I had to rewire myself around the ritual of celebrating.”

“The ‘Celebrate and Choose’ event helped me recognize what actually did happen. Good, bad, or indifferent, it represents learning and I know I can choose differently next time. That was huge.”

Path to Success

“I think that the biggest thing about Agility itself is transparency.”

“That’s really it in a nutshell. When I get it all out on the Priorities Map — and I’m working my Priorities Map every single day — I’m seeing what’s going on and I’m seeing what I am not getting done. This allows me to be a more conscious choice maker. When I say I want something, and then notice that I’m making different choices, it’s easier to correct my choices toward what I want.”

“I am so aware that Personal Agility will continue to benefit me because it helps me ensure I have the right things on the calendar. My Priorities Map helps me do things completely and not overbook myself or go crazy with too much work in progress.”

Tips for your Journey

“I love the stories that we have heard from people pulling themselves out of desperate financial situations, to people getting in and out of business partnerships, and just making a lot of very declarative and meaningful changes in their lives.”

“Working with the Personal Agility Institute, I have really loved being involved with the groups that Maria Matarelli and I have led through the process. What I’ve learned is that everyone does it a little bit differently. And I love that. So I think to replicate my success, you just use the tools and follow along the process, and you’re going to do it your own way.”

“You will have different things that matter to you, you will have a different way that you’re charting your course across the ocean of your life, you will have different things that get in your way. My particular ways of getting in my own way will not be your particular ways. But all of this can be revealed and worked with in a really kind way.”

Janani Liyanage is an enterprise agile coach who is passionate about helping people embrace the agile mindset. “I want to support people on the road to their success.” Janani is married with an 8-year-old son and lives in Colombo, Sri Lanka. When she started with the Personal Agility System, she was working toward her certifications as a Scrum Trainer and Enterprise Coach. She wanted to connect her passion more with her profession. How could she feel that she is living her purpose every day?

Challenge

“As a person, I wanted to lead the life of a coach, not just do coaching. I wanted to know which opportunities would help me realize my purpose. I was doing too many things. It looked like many things were helping me achieve my purpose, but I wasn’t actually making any progress. I needed to do some filtering to focus on what really mattered.”

Desired Outcome

“I wanted to be my profession. To me, living the life of a coach means I want to lead an agile life. I want to share my inspiration with more and more people. An agile life for me means I want to do things that are meaningful and not always have to say, ‘I am too busy’. We are living in uncertain and chaotic times. I want to be able to stay calm and evaluate what really matters so I can do the right thing. I want to be open to new ideas and new opportunities. I want to get away from being perpetually busy.”

Result

“Initially, I was not able to accept that there was a problem. I would make excuses for why I wasn’t changing.”

“The first thing I achieved was awareness and acceptance. I became able to take accountability for my actions. I had to do some tough negotiations with various people in my life, like my family and my employer. It became much easier to have these crucial conversations.”

“Before, I was plagued by self-doubt and “inner chatter” that interfered with what I really wanted to achieve. Now I am able to act. I’m not sure if I can ever say that I have achieved an agile life, but I feel I am well on the path.”

Path to Success

Janani used the Celebrate and Choose Event, the PAS Priorities Map and Breadcrumb Trail, and the PAS Stakeholder Canvas.

“The Personal Agility System helped me build awareness and acceptance of myself. I could stop making excuses, face the challenges, and take action on the things that matter to me. Now it helps me to take the steps continuously. The next step is, I want to feel more accountable. The visualization of the PAS Priorities Map with the color codes helps me. Before, I needed someone else to appreciate my efforts. Now, with the Celebrate and Choose event, I realize it is more important to explain things to myself than to others. I can appreciate myself for the things that I did and have accountability for the things that I didn’t.”

Ben Sever is CEO of eRemede, the rapidly growing Health Tech company in Tampa, Florida. Their focus is enterprise level services that are compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Challenge

The goal was to quickly establish the company as a player in a new line of business, despite the complexity and compliance requirements of health care solution. The whole team had already been through Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) training and they were already working more productively thanks to the training.

“My biggest challenge was the inability to let go and delegate large projects and deliverables to others. As a CEO, I was underutilizing my team and taking on too much. I wasn’t effectively delegating to my leadership team which led to me not working at a sustainable pace.”

Desired Outcome

“I hoped that the Personal Agility System would assist our entire company in understanding both ourselves and interactions with each other. I wanted my executive team to thoroughly understand the Agile mindset because they were already receptive to the business application. They knew Scrum, they knew Agile, as a concept, but Personal Agility allowed them to embody, embrace, and live optimally. If achieved, the outcome would be an organic co-creation of self-organizing teams and optimized performance.”

Result

“We reached our desired valuation in half the time.”

— Ben Sever, CEO eRemede

“Our original roadmap was to be worth $35 Million by the end of 3 years. We shortened the timeline to reach our desired valuation in half the time.”

“I gained clarity from stepping back and shifting my focus from doing all the work myself to delegating and shifting to self-organizing teams, so instead of having just a patient engagement platform, we added two other enterprise platforms that allowed us to penetrate any vertical and expand our market reach on a global level.”

Path to Success

Ben took advantage of the full palette of the Personal Agility System, including What Really Matters, the PAS Forces Map, PAS Priorities Map and Breadcrumb Trail, Celebrate and Choose and hearing stories from other Personal Agility Recognized Practitioners.

“The Personal Agility System allowed me to better understand my executive team because we’re empowering each other’s personal lives. It’s helping us all to be able to motivate each other and understand each other.”

“When you actually understand what really matters to each other, by looking at each other’s Priorities Maps you can more effectively hold each other accountable to their goals in their overall life. We had visibility into each other’s Forces Maps where we could see what was important to each other. This process increased the effectiveness of how the leadership team set the tone for the entire organization in getting business results. Celebrating each other’s growth while reflecting on smaller wins allowed for clarity in necessary ongoing steps and actions for continuous improvement.”

“We don’t just use Agile in development and leadership; we truly integrate Agile in a holistic view from business to our personal lives. This accountability helped us achieve our priorities in our personal lives and in business.”

“Overall, the Personal Agility System helped us achieve a culture in which delegation and motivation are appropriately in alignment. At the end of the day, we connected with people’s true motivations which evolved into organic self-organization and increased efficiency. Personal Agility brought transparency to the surface which led to increased trust, which led to more effective delegation. As people felt trusted, they felt empowered and motivated. Personal Agility helped us create trust, empowerment, and alignment, which is the backbone of culture.”

“Coaching had a profound impact and was an essential element of our success. I believe It’s imperative for a leadership team to have a coach. It is a great way to strengthen accountability in the team. Thanks to our coach, people spoke up more authentically. Although we had worked together for years and I thought I knew them, I learned things I never knew about my leadership team and we as a team grew together.”

“Having a coach maximizes the output by keeping the conversation on topic and facilitating true collaboration. There is something in the visualization and simplification that makes complex new projects seem simpler and more doable. We could see that exponential improvement didn’t need exponential effort. The essential service of a coach is to ask the right questions. When the coach has experience with leaders in similar situations, their authenticity and relatability help maximize insights. Our coach ensured that our conversations covered what really mattered and created an environment where deep thinking was possible. We were able to generate new insights and genuine answers.”

And

“The Personal Agility System helped my leadership team and I get visibility into each other’s lives and what was important to us, which helped us become even more connected as a team in all facets of our lives. I thought they were already rock stars, but it gave me the confidence as the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company to begin to effectively delegate so that my team could grow as autonomous leaders and the company could scale. By doing this, it freed me up from doing extensive operational execution so that I could be able to focus more on the vision and strategy with my advisory board. In that step alone, we were able to go from one flagship product offering to three which tripled our total addressable market.”

“As a culture-centric transparent CEO, I would recommend making Personal Agility mandatory as a part of the onboarding and business formation process, so that understanding people is the baseline and foundation of your teams.”

“I do believe that if we had learned Personal Agility sooner at the beginning of our Agile journey, this road toward exit would have been smoother. Personal Agility builds trust beyond what’s tangible so when you have to make tough decisions and innovative pivots, the foundation of trust minimizes disruption and enables self-organization around the change in direction. It enables increased accountability and ownership through delegation. When your culture is connected through shared trust, the roadmap to output will be smoother. We have a track record of operational efficiency, but to be able to pivot and shift seamlessly is where Personal Agility becomes essential.”

“I recommend other CEOs do Personal Agility with their executive team and maximize their insights by working with a coach to create cohesive alignment between personal and professional goals. This approach will ensure that leaders will have ongoing actionable realizations the way our team did that leads to true continuous improvement.”

“As our team grew and our clientele became Enterprise, we realized that it was essential to better understand our people. When leaders take the time to reflect on what really matters and take the time to understand the motivation of the people they work with every day, they are able to optimize the individual connections that lead to increased alignment.”

“When we first started, our success was reliant on the value of our product, however as we began to grow, the value of our people became equally as important to our focus on the value of the product.”

“If you’re asking people to execute critical tasks that affect business and culture, but you’ve only shown them the business application of Agile, you haven’t yet fully holistically empowered the person, you only gave them 50% to do the job. You didn’t hire a business to work in your business, you hired a person to work in your business. Therefore, the strategy I chose to empower every person on my team was through the Personal Agility System.”

“When you choose to go beyond developing a person’s performance in business to include the overall quality of their personal life, it becomes true optimization because a person is at work only one third of their day. You’ve got two thirds of other variables impacting their mood and productivity when they come into work. It’s a leader’s responsibility to enlighten people and show them that their personal wellbeing is a direct catalyst to their professional happiness and growth. It’s imperative to empower both if you want an ideal culture.”

Excerpted from Personal Agility, by Peter Stevens and Maria Matarelli.

In April 2019, Tuhan Sapumanage from Colombo, Sri Lanka was a last-year student at Coventry University (UK), working towards his BSc (Hons) Computing. He was also working as Operations Coordinator at TAC (the largest Social Media Marketing Company in Sri Lanka) and was President-Elect of the Colombo Gavel Club.

He had a lot of plates on his table. There was his degree, his job and his duties with Gavel Club, and a few other things. So he had a high workload and a lot of things to keep track of.

Tuhan explained his goals: “I wanted to systematically allocate my time to each of my duties. Not to give too much time to the wrong aspect. “

“Despite my high workload, I wanted to have time for family, friends and recreation.”

— Tuhan Sapumanage

“I was thrilled by the results. I was able to master my time management problem. Late in 2019, I was appointed Secretary of the All Island Gavel Community. I was able to discover a new passion which is to be an event-host compere (MC) as a hobby.

Cultivating my relationships with friends led to my becoming a recurring guest speaker for a national TV program aimed at giving the youth the opportunity to voice their opinions. And I successfully completed the Bachelors with a first class (with honors) and completed CIMA Mgt Level. Personal Agility also helped me to understand the Agile Module during university.”

The Personal Agility tools that Tuhan used included the 6 Questions of PAS, the concept of What Really Matters (WRM), the Celebrate and Choose Event, the PAS Priorities Map and Breadcrumb Trail, and the PAS Stakeholder Canvas.

Tuhan felt the “Celebrate and Choose” event was the single most important element.

“The Personal Agility System helped me to manage time, or better, helped me to manage myself to use the time available. Rather than get stressed out, I could appreciate what I did. I could take a break without feeling guilty about it. PAS helped me to identify the people who could help me achieve my goals. Asking the right people gave me an inside understanding and support for my future job application. This would not have happened if I hadn’t been using the PAS Stakeholder Canvas.

‘What Really Matters’ helped me establish my personal brand. By knowing WRM, this helped me to avoid chasing distractions.”

Sharon Guerin The Culinary Queen

In these case studies on Personal Agility, you will find the true stories, mostly in the people’s own words, of how The Personal Agility System™ helped them change their lives, their companies or both for the better. These stories form the basis of Chapter 2 in Maria Matarelli and Peter Stevens’ book on Personal Agility (download). When Maria and Peter set out to write this chapter, they had an idea what they would find, but even they were surprised by the powerful stories we uncovered.

For Maria and Peter, perhaps the most inspiring case was Sharon’s. She went from struggling to thriving. When she started working with The Personal Agility System (PAS), financing the food for her catering business was a huge challenge. A missed car payment would cause her car to be repossessed. An unexpected bill could have been a disaster. Two years later, she had put that behind her. She could handle life’s bumps like an SUV, both financially and emotionally.

If the Federal Reserve board is correct, at least 40% of Americans are like Sharon. In 2019, 40% of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency expense and two-thirds could not handle an unexpected $1,000 expense. That’s 100 to 200 million people! Imagine if most people had enough control of their lives and that they could handle unexpected events without sweating. We have seen our first cases… Imagine if we could make this a repeatable pattern!

How Sharon went from Struggling to Thriving with The Personal Agility System

Sharon Guerin was an aspiring private chef in St Petersburg, Florida who had dreams of starting a business but didn’t know where to begin. Most of her life was spent as a single mom, and her grown kids still relied heavily on her. While she was working 5 jobs, she struggled to make ends meet and barely got by. She felt stuck and unable to break the cycle that was keeping her down.

“My roadblocks to success were not just related to business. Years of living in survival mode from challenges in my personal life are what kept me from being successful in business, in my career, and in life. Just working on my business would have not been enough. I needed to make changes in my personal life.”

“I was treading water, could barely make ends meet and any unexpected bills were catastrophic. I wanted to have my dream business, however, I didn’t even know where to begin. Being a single mother, I always put my family first at the sacrifice of my own dreams. I did not believe I had the ability really to be successful. I was surrounded by people who were part of my roadblocks and I did not have the faith in myself to be successful. I was so focused on helping my kids and making everyone else happy that I never really thought about what was important to me and where I wanted to see my life go. I had enough of the toxic relationships. I had dreams but I didn’t have a clear path to get there. I was struggling to make any progress towards starting a successful business.”

“I wanted to start my dream business of being a private chef with a successful catering company and I desired to create stability in my life. However, my bank account kept getting hit with fees for insufficient funds. Usually more money went out than came in. I wanted to stop paying so much money to the banks. I just wanted to get ahead in life.”

“I feel more successful than I’ve ever felt before in my life. I feel alive. I feel loved. I feel happy. My family is extremely proud of me and my growth and my kids are more self-sufficient than ever before. The growth of my business has given me a respected place in my community where I’ve catered charity events and cancer benefits for well-known organizations. I had a mindset shift – I started believing I could do it.”

“I used to have 5 jobs, now I have my dream business that brings in more than 6 figures, debt free, which is more than twice the annual income I have ever earned. In 2020, despite the global pandemic that led to the canceling of all events, I have been able to guarantee that I will earn at least as much this year.”

“I also have clarity about myself and what has happened in my life. It feels very rewarding that people trust me with their most memorable events. I feel trustworthy, confident, reliable, and proud. I feel very successful.”

“Today, I am realizing I want to help other people do what I did. “

There is nothing you cannot change. You just need the desire. It’s that simple.

Sharon Guerin

“I was open to learning and putting in the work and just needed a little guidance and direction from someone who believed in me. Working with a coach, taking on a business partner, and access to small loans gave me just the support I needed.”

“My coach believed in me and was committed to my success. I didn’t give up because I knew there was someone in my court cheering me on. My coach helped me focus and sometimes even remember what really mattered to me to help me stay on track.”

“The loans enabled me to improve my cash flow, so I didn’t have issues with overdraft fees. They were again proof that somebody believed in me! Before, I was losing half a month’s income to bank fees, so I could never get ahead. This helped me to break the cycle.”

“My business partner was a mentor who shared essential know-how about running the business, from marketing and promotions to operations and invoicing along with many other aspects of running a business. I didn’t want to let her down. I always went the extra mile even when I felt like giving up. If she believed in me, I had to believe in myself and I always kept going even when things were challenging.”

“Being able to visualize is essential. I put the three things that really matter on sticky notes and stuck them on the dashboard of my car. Health, finances, business. See it, say it, write it. It becomes ingrained, you remember it, and it just becomes a habit.”

“What really matters is like the source of the tree of life. Once you know that, everything falls into place. When you have those things clearly visible, then you make your priorities and you can just delve in to do the right things that help you achieve your dreams.”

Excerpted from Personal Agility. Get the PAS book

Many of us have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Why do people stay in that situation. Often because they feel trapped. Like many of the people featured in our case studies, Hugo Lourenco discovered how to say no to things that cost time but did not bring value or happiness.

Hugo is an entrepreneur based in Lisbon, Portugal who owns a consultancy and several other businesses. He wanted to kick off a new generation of products and services for his customers.

Portrait of Hugo Lourenco 300x272
Hugo Lourenco, Entrepreneur, Lisbon, Portugal

“I was working for, or rather involved in, seven organizations. I was working like crazy, but not getting a valuable return on the time that I was investing. I was too busy working to achieve my long-term goals. The problem was that I had to recover from a previous business failure, support my family and reinvent the business. I felt a strong need to accept every paying gig I was offered, regardless of whether it was profitable or serving my long-term interests. I couldn’t bring myself to say no.”

“I wanted to concentrate my efforts on things that matter, have more income and have more focus. Ultimately, I wanted to do things that would put our work and Portugal on the map. I knew I had a lot going on and needed better concentration, and to get more control of my life. I was just working, not enjoying things. I really needed to be able to say no, despite the risks involved, so I could be successful.”

“I started saying no, to myself first, then politely getting myself away from those activities that consumed so much time without bringing any joy. I have more perspective and can make better decisions. I am working smarter, not harder.”

Today, in addition to running his businesses, Hugo is the President of the World Agility Forum and the Experience Agile Conference, two of the most prestigious global conferences in Europe.

“‘What really matters’ helped me find my balance.”

— Hugo Lourenco

“What Really Matters (WRM) played a key role. If I know why I am doing it, I can justify it, even if there are risks involved. Today, I use the PAS Priorities Map every day, as does our staff, so that we all stay focused on What Really Matters.”

“I looked at the organizations I was working with, how much time I spent with them and how much I earned. WRM gave me focus on the 7 organizations I was involved with. Some of them were good for me, others less so. I never prioritized myself, never prioritized quality time. It’s kind of normal for me as an ex-military officer. We live to serve others. But in your own life, that approach can be self-destructive. WRM helped me find my balance.”

The next level – Managing Stakeholders

Seven months after starting with the Personal Agility System, Hugo had shed many non-productive activities, and had taken an engagement as an external Agile Coach and Project Leader for a large consulting company.

“I was taking over the leadership of a project that was to deliver a solution to the customers of my client. The situation was challenging, because there was the client, and the client’s clients, each with their own set of stakeholders and potentially conflicting interests. How do you work with stakeholders in such a complex environment?”

“I needed to figure out what the customers were really looking for. I had a client who wanted to use agile practices for a project for their customers, but the situation was very complex. I wanted to build trust and alignment. The idea was to understand the situation, the stakeholders, and the real issues so I could build trust and the stakeholders would understand what we are trying to achieve.”

“I interviewed all my key stakeholders, both at my client and at their customers, using the PAS Stakeholder Canvas to understand the situation.

“During the conversations, the questions of the stakeholder canvas triggered strong feelings of happiness in people. They told me, ‘I have worked on several projects, but no one has ever asked me about success or failure.’ I was alone with the people, I took time with them, which people don’t usually do. People almost had tears in their eyes, because people never seem to care about them or their contribution. No one in the company had done this before.”

“By the content of the answers, I was also able to identify which people belonged in the project, but also who shouldn’t belong in the project. Some people would take an open-ended question and turn it into a closed-ended question. It became clear that some people just didn’t have a clue.”

“I engaged with and energized the people who belong in the project.”

“I was able to build a good relationship with my client. I was also able to identify who would be a good contributor to the project. Most importantly, I could identify the existential risks to the project.”