“I needed to change basic things fast to save the company.”
— Walter Stulzer

Walter Stulzer is the executive director of Futureworks, a creative consultancy in Zurich, Switzerland. In 2017, his company was no longer profitable. “We had liquidity problems, that is we were close to having no money in the bank account. We were about to run into a wall. Without changing things rapidly, bankruptcy was inevitable. I needed to change basic things fast to save the company.”

“The timeframe I gave the team was a year, but we needed to make the turnaround in 6 months. Our Vision was that we are a company focused on bringing value to our customers. People should know why they come to work every morning. Everything they do should produce value for the customer. Obviously, we also wanted to be profitable again, but profitability is a result, an outcome, not the goal of what we do.”

“We did not go bankrupt. People now know why they come to work, we produce value for our customers, and we are profitable. We did have a loss in the first year, but it was a loss that we could afford, and the following year, we were profitable. I considered profitability to be my challenge, not the company’s. I kept the bad news to myself, so people could focus on the right things and not act like ‘a deer in front of the headlights.’

“People know why they come to work every morning. We had lost 41 people in two years and had hired as many. Since then, we have had 2 exits per year, and even these were ‘good’ separations. No one is talking badly about the company.”

In the second year, we were able to fix the problem of delivering value. Previously, we thought we knew what the customer valued, but the customer didn’t always agree. We were able to address this in the second year.

“Without Personal Agility, I wouldn’t have done this.”

— Walter Stulzer

“We had half a year to avoid bankruptcy. The first year was for people to feel secure that they bring value to the customer. The second year was about bringing actual value to the customer, which improved our profitability.”

The Personal Agility tools that Walter used included the 6 Questions of PAS, the concept of What Really Matters (WRM), the PAS Priorities Map and Breadcrumb Trail, and the PAS Stakeholder Canvas. His company also used Scrum to organize and coordinate the work of the leadership team.

The Personal Agility System helps to prioritize and focus. Walter explains, “In a challenging situation, there are so many things you could do. The trick is to do the right thing, but you don’t know in the forefront what the right thing is. So the system helped me make educated guesses about what to do next. Then you do something, you probe and sense to see what happened. The next step is to learn, that is to inspect and adapt. Even if what you did was the wrong thing, you can learn quickly, and the damage from one misstep step is limited. So you have the possibility to reorder, re-prioritize and make a better guess next time.”

For Walter, the most important thing is to “finish every week with satisfaction and to start each week with confidence. This is number one on my What Really Matters column on my Priorities Map.”

Furthermore, Walter’s company uses the Stakeholder Canvas to understand their customers. “We used this as an analysis tool rather than an interview template. This helped me and my team understand what motivates our customers.”

Since Maria Matarelli and Peter Stevens started sharing the Personal Agility System, real people from all walks of life have been transforming their lives for the better, both personally and professionally.

When we set out to write Chapter 6, “Case Studies,” we had an idea what we would find, but even we were surprised by the powerful stories we uncovered. One early adopter never believed she could run her own business. Thanks to the Personal Agility System, and some help from her coach, she discovered that she could! She is now so happy by the changes she made in her life. She can pursue her dream in a way she never really thought possible. Another, a successful entrepreneur, was able to unblock his leadership team, expand the potential of his company and get his life back. Work-life balance is not either-or, but rather both-and!

With this post, we are starting to share the case studies that will make up Chapter 6. Let’s start with Shweta Jaiswal. Shweta is the owner of her own startup company in Gurgaon, India where she is an agile consultant and coach. Shweta is also passionate about traveling.

In 2018, Shweta quit her job of 15 years to start her firm. “I thought being my own boss would make my life easier. I was confronted with many different activities, product marketing, website creation, accounting, etc… I had too much to do. It was overwhelming and it was impacting my personal life. I didn’t have time for my kids. Everything seemed very important, but I was not able to get closure on things. The company was not growing and I was not getting any return on my investment. I was wondering whether quitting my job was the right decision.”

“I wanted to be more organized and able to prioritize my work. I wanted to strike a better work life balance and bring my level of stress down. I wanted the company to be more successful.”

“I started feeling that my life was getting sorted out. I was feeling organized and structured. My life no longer felt like a messy picture. Learning to prioritize helped me a long way. The Personal Agility approach became my lifestyle. I don’t have to put any extra effort into doing it. It’s just part of the flow. I automatically reflect on whether something is important or not. I became a better decision-maker.”

“The company is going well. In one year, I have established a good client base. My company has opened the world for me. It is not just training and consulting, we are expanding into workshops, one-to-one coaching, and cultural transformations. The more you feel sorted, the more you can start growing into other areas. So I can now hire people to help. People want to work with me because they know they will grow with me.”

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

“The Personal Agility System brought in a new discipline to my life. I used the PAS Priorities Map and Breadcrumb Trail to gain clarity. I don’t miss important things. The Breadcrumb trail helps me with reflection and retrospection, so I can see what I have done and can ask myself what I could do better. It helps me not to miss important work, whether personal or professional. I update it every week and look at it every night to see that I did what I intended to do.”

“On Fridays, I look at my PAS Priorities Map and really feel a sense of accomplishment for what I have done (and it is really motivating). Every two months or so, I reward myself with a short vacation because I have usually accomplished so much more than I thought I could. A sense of achievement gives you happiness.”

When Maria Matarelli and Peter Stevens started to collaborate on Personal Agility, they did market research to find out what people wanted from a better way of organizing work. Especially from companies, they heard “Perform with Precision,” that is, people need to get done what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it. Today’s case examines how The Personal Agility System fulfills that promise.

“The first customer call ruins your plan for the day!”

— Larry Pakieser

Larry Pakieser has been an Independent Contractor based in Denver, Colorado since 2016. Prior to that, he worked over 40 years in commercial service companies, focused on operations. Everything from commercial services and fire system installation to IT Services.

“My current problem is getting things done, and getting them done on time whether for personal, professional or client projects. All my previous attempts were based on managing time. The nature of the services business: you come into the office and the first customer call ruins your plan for the day. As a service provider, you are focused on what matters to other people, not on what matters to you.”

“I don’t like unfinished work. Most of my projects were not finishing or not finished on time. I wanted a system that is simple and robust in guiding me to delivering results ≥ 90% on-time. I wanted to select clients with projects that align to my “what really matters” and with clients who hold values that are compatible with mine.”

I’m in the 75-100% range for timely completions over the last 4 weeks. That’s up from my 2020 First Quarter average of only 24% completion. I’ve already walked away from one potential client because there was no clarity and a huge values mismatch.”

“Equally important, I’ve turned the page and opened up a whole new way to manage myself towards what really matters for me. I have applied various time management techniques since 1993. I’ve tried them all and I have a slew of documents to show how intense and clever I’ve been about trying to get a system in place. Not one of those efforts turned out to be sustainable.”

Since engaging PAS, I have an emerging management system that is better than anything I have encountered. The big difference is I used to manage time, whereas now I manage my work. I can decide which tasks to do now, which to do later, and which not to do at all. With PAS, I am producing completed results at an unprecedented rate and I’m having fun.”

“I started out using the PAS Stakeholder Interview Canvas to qualify projects by talking to the project sponsor and evaluating their clarity. I quickly realized that using the canvas allowed me to go very deep, very quickly—to the point where I could sense their clarity and conviction the more they talked. It allows me to just guide the conversation.”

“The PAS Stakeholder Interview Canvas is adaptable to individuals and their personal or professional initiatives. The magic comes from getting people to think deeply about their challenges. Looking at the transcripts, I can see interconnections that the customer is not aware of.”

“What Really Matters is simply brilliant. It is simple and robust. I get instant clarity when I ask myself the question: If this activity doesn’t add to what really matters for this day, week or month—why am I doing it?”

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