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/ 26. 9. 2019

Interview with Paolo Sammicheli, Agile and Business Coach

"Agile is a beautiful way of being productive and having fun."

Paolo Sammicheli is an Italian entrepreneur with 25+ years of experience, who works as an Agile Business Coach specialized in Scrum, Kanban, Lean Startup, and Design Thinking. He is helping European companies to uncover better ways of building products. He is the author of the book "Scrum for Hardware" and will deliver Scrum@Scale training during the agile week in Slovenia.

You’ve been a part of the agile world for a while. Why did you fall in love with it?

Paolo: I was able to breathe agility even before knowing what it was during my voluntary participation with notable open-source projects, like the Ubuntu Linux Operating System. In Ubuntu, we used a six-month release cycle, one-quarter of the other projects at that time, small teams, and daily codebase integration. Of the approximately 3,000 contributors active in 2008, fewer than 200 were employees. Words like motivation, involvement, and purpose took a profound meaning in that context. At the same time, my daily job was in a large software company, taking care of significant clients, such as large banks and industries. I was frustrated by the low productivity in my daily job and so much energy wasted on political games and pet projects. When I discovered that a beautiful way of being productive and having fun at the same time was called agile I knew that was what I wanted to do in my life.

You will deliver a 2-day workshop Scrum@Scale. For what type of organizations/teams is this workshop the most appropriate? Is that a good choice also for certified Scrum masters and Product owners?

Paolo: The Scrum@Scale workshop shows how to have multiple teams cohesively working on the same product, forming a Team of Teams. All the magic ingredients of working as a scrum team, such as team spirit, helping each other and pursuing a higher goal are also applied in an organization between teams. The workshop is intended for Senior Managers, Entrepreneurs, C-Level, and any other leadership position. To Scrum Masters and Product Owners the course will give a clear understanding on how the company works outside the Team and how can they interact effectively with the rest of the organization, so it's definitely a natural step towards a complete understanding of the agility.

You’ve been mostly working as a scrum coach and trainer in Italy. What are some common challenges that companies have when they are implementing Scrum?

Paolo: First of all, any kind of organizational change is difficult and implementing Scrum on a large scale is a significant change in terms of behavior and mindset. The common pitfall I observe is when the management decides to move towards that journey without deeply understanding what it means and why are they doing it. There’s an emerging phenomenon I see called “Cosmetic Agile,” sold by consultancy firms that never tried Agile in their own organization, which is very expensive and mostly ineffective.

If you would describe non-agile and agile companies with a metaphor of an animal, what would they be and why?

Paolo: A non-agile, big and bureaucratic company would look like a dinosaur and an agile company would look like a network of microorganisms that evolve, change and adapt very quickly.

What is one main change you’d love to see in our work culture in companies in the next 10 years?

Paolo: I would like to see respect for the workforce, clients, and the environment as the primary value for all the companies. Not just in words, but also in facts.

If any of our participants are flirting with the idea to become agile coaches - what are 3 personal traits you find important for this kind of work?

Paolo: For sure passion. Being an agile coach is a never-ending journey of learning and sharing and without passion, it would be tough to keep up with the pace. Another useful quality is humility because it will make you closer to your coachee and will make you able to learn from anybody. Last but not least, you need to be an excellent communicator and this is something that you can learn.

What is on your bucket list for 2019 that you really want to do?

Paolo: While I’m writing this, I’m about to prepare a new case study about Scrum@Scale with Hardware development. I want to update my book, adding this case study along with the others I presented last year in Ljubljana.

Which (business) book did you read in the last few months that you would recommend and why?

Paolo: I liked “The Age of Agile” by Steve Denning, because it contains interesting case studies.

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