Why do we spend so much time on coaching in the Personal Agility Recognized Practitioner Workshop? After all, isn't this personal agility, that is, about one person? The Personal Agility System is a simple coaching framework to help you spend more time on what really matters and create alignment with yourself and those around you. The heart of Personal Agility can be summed up in Purpose, Celebration, Choice and Emergence. Coaching skills are a key enabler of emergence.
Let's take a step back so I can explain. I looked at this question previously, but the coaches in the room wanted a deeper justification. So let's take a closer look at the relationship between coaching and Personal Agility.
Until today, we called the Personal Agility System, “a simple coaching framework to help you spend more time on things that matter, and less time on things that don't.” If Personal Agility were only about you getting stuff done, then maybe we wouldn't need to talk much about coaching. (In fact, we offer an entry-level recognition called Personal Agility Recognized Enthusiast™ – PARE – which is about being good at getting things done). But this only represents the basics. It turns out, this description is too limiting.
The key influencers of The Personal Agility System were Scrum, Kanban and Powerful Questions. Powerful Questions led to the notion of What Really Matters, and even more fundamentally, Why I am doing Personal Agility?
A shared understanding of what really matters has proven to be extremely effective creating alignment and achieving a greater purpose. Let me share some examples:
In the 1960's, each of the 400'000 people involved in the Apollo program to land a man on the moon knew three things: 1) We are going to the moon. 2) It's not going to fail because of me. 3) If something goes wrong, remember item one!
For at least three decades, every American civil servant knew they could probably earn more money working in private industry. But by working for the government, they could contribute to society and develop their skills in ways that would not be possible in private industry.
Today, each Elon Musk company starts with a change that they would like to achieve in the world. Tesla wants energy to be plentiful and sustainable. SpaceX want to make humanity a multi-planet species. “How does this help us get to Mars” is a question anybody can ask or answer before taking a decision.1
The importance of the coaching attitude started to emerge as soon as people started talking about their experience with the Personal Agility System. “I became kinder, first to myself then to others.” Much later, we started collecting our case studies. In the really transformational cases, like Ben's and Sharon's, coaching played an essential role. Ben even went out of his way to emphasize the importance of coaching.
Why is coaching so important to our successes?
The answer lies in emergence. Since emergence can be one of those big words that people throw around to impress others, let me explain what I mean.
There is an element call hydrogen, and another element called oxygen. Each of these have their own specific properties. Individual hydrogen and water atoms can interact with each other to form a new thing called H2O, otherwise known as water. Water has completely different properties than either hydrogen or oxygen by themselves.1
Individual H and O atoms interact with each other to form a new entity. So water is an emergent entity that is created out of the individual hydrogen and oxygen atoms that are interacting with each other to form a new, bigger whole.
Emergence goes up and down. There are more fundamental particles that make up individual atoms. Water is a big component of the cells that make up our bodies. Our bodies emerge from cells, tissues and bones. People are emergent entities.
Emergence goes beyond individual people. Groups of people come together to form families, communities, clubs or countries. What makes a team a team? The individuals and the interactions between them.
The first value of the Agile Manifesto is about Individuals and Interactions. Agility is about emergence.
“I was the managing director of a business association. My challenge was the that culture coming from the Board was pretty toxic. I couldn't do anything about it. If I had these tools at my disposition, things could have gone much differently!”
What really matters creates the basis of for alignment with your manager, your spouse, among your team or even within your entire organization. Coaching skills, in particular powerful questions, but also tools like the PAS Canvases and Alignment Compass give you the capability to shape those relationships by creating positive interactions between you and your stakeholders.
So Personal Agility is about both the individual and the interactions. Coaching skills are essential for shaping those interactions. And this why we are updating our one sentence description: The Personal Agility System is a simple coaching framework to help you spend more time on what really matters and create alignment with yourself and those around you.
1 To really understanding Elon Musk, check out Tim Urban, The Elon Musk post series. To really understand emergence, check out Tim Urban, The Story of Us, Chapter 2, A Game of Giants. Did I mention Urban's work on procrastination. That is another post.
Edit: Added Links.