New Frontiers: Agility in Pakistan

A Q+A with Khurram Bhatti

Kevin Doherty
Feb 14 · 7 min read
The minarets of the Badshahi Masjid; the iconic mosque located in Lahore, Pakistan.
The minarets of the Badshahi Masjid; the iconic mosque located in Lahore, Pakistan.

The agile movement has been building for decades, yet continues to break new boundaries. This year, one such frontier will be broached.

ICAgile Authorized Instructor, Khurram Bhatti, will be the first to deliver accredited agile training in Pakistan with TouchThink’s upcoming Agile Team Facilitation class in Lahore. We asked Khurram a bit more about this achievement, the future of agile in Pakistan, and the ever-evolving craft of Agile Coaching.


How did your agile learning journey begin?

I have two aspects of my agile learning journey, first the work and second the people.

Back in 2005, I was working on a small project for a company and completed it in an iterative and incremental fashion. My interaction with the customer was face to face to understand the product needs, once a month demonstrated the features to receive feedback and further adapted the product in the next round. This approach helped me to collaborate better with the customer, adapt changes, and provide minimum useful documentation with a working system. It wasn’t a big project however the learning was great for me. This mindset later helped me to understand the importance of early feedback with the MVP approach, as we as human beings learn more when we have taken a few steps.

In 2008, my interest grew more into process improvement, teams, and organizational design. I started studying literature on Agile, global software engineering, and communication. I was formally introduced to Agile and Scrum in 2011 when I joined a team at Ericsson AB who used the Scrum framework and started interacting with a few Agile Coaches. I admired the focus on people, team collaboration and inclusion. That’s when my real Agile journey began and I was curious to learn more about individuals, team dynamics, and organization from the viewpoint of teaching, facilitation, mentoring and coaching. Thus, after some pondering, I came to the conclusion that people’s aspect is as important as the work aspect however neglected often at many places.

My Agile learning journey wasn’t smooth at all and yet challenging at different times. It demanded commitment, continuous learning, traveling, away from family, failure-learnings, self-management and yet with a purpose to grow people. To create a better work-life culture bring out the best in your teams and organizations, give a challenge to motivated people with safe space and they can astonish you! Yes, This is possible with an Agile mindset and by “Being” Agile.

ICAgile’s Agile Coaching and Enterprise Coaching tracks and Scrum Alliance courses really helped me to gain knowledge, skills, tools and adapt an Agile mindset to experiment in the real world. During this time I got the inspiration to become a Certified Trainer for “Training from the Back of the Room’’ course, and an Authorized Instructor for the Agile Coaching track to spread the knowledge, skills and enable more people. Further, the ICF accredited professional coaching courses really improved my coaching skills.

This Agile learning journey is making me a better person and an effective Agile Coach.

What is agile coaching?

I consider Agile coaching as a mindset with a focus on the transformation of people plus process, method or a framework. It is about creating a better work-life culture where individuals have psychological safety, experimentation to innovate and deliver.

It is beyond software development and is about growing people at all levels in the organization and challenging people’s thinking. It is about valuing People over Process.

I also see two aspects of an Agile Coach, “Doing” and “Being”.

The Pentagons of Agile Coaching and Agile Coaching Competency Framework have explained what an Agile Coach “Does/Doing” i.e. Teaching, Mentoring, Professional Coaching, Facilitating, Domain Mastery, and an Agile & Lean practitioner. Focusing further on team and multi-team processes, product management, change transformation and consulting skills.

The “Being” of an Agile Coach is a person itself, the influence of presence, modeling the key behaviors and demonstrating the agile values with an impact on individuals and teams in an organization.

What is the difference between an Agile Coach and a Scrum Master?

From my experience, I see an overlap in the roles of an Agile Coach and a Scrum Master in an organization. Both complement each other and appreciate the Agile values, principles, and practices. However, the scope and influence of each role are different.

The Scrum Master is usually assigned to one or a couple of teams and has more personal relationships with a team. The effectiveness will drop if there are more teams to work with. A Scrum Master focuses on behaviors, communication, and collaboration within a Scrum Team and with other stakeholders. A Scrum Master teaches to fill in skill gaps, facilitates Scrum ceremonies and mentors the team about Agile principles and practices on a need basis.

As the purpose of a Scrum Master is to make a team self-organizing. When a team matures the Scrum Master will begin training other teams to build skills and knowledge, working with other Scrum Masters, focusing on external factors and understanding the wider department level. That’s where the role of an Agile Coach comes into play.

The scope of an Agile Coach is set across a number of teams with a wider area. An Agile Coche faces organizational impediments, coaches and mentors other Scrum Masters and Managers, helps management at different levels of organizations to share the benefits of Agile. An Agile Coach uses the same skills as a Scrum Master to improve a team, however, has deeper knowledge and understanding of Agile & Lean practices, with more range of skills in teaching, facilitation, mentoring and professional coaching. The Pentagons of Agile Coaching and Agile Coaching Competency Framework has explained all these skills necessary.

In short, both roles have different influences and scope and bring a range of skills needed for an organization and collaborate to further the organization’s Agile vision.

You’re working with Touch Think to deliver the country’s first accredited course in Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-ATF). What do you hope to achieve by bringing the agile mindset to Pakistan?

I have had several coaching and mentoring sessions with people in the software industry in Pakistan. Many times people mentioned facing challenges to adapt a framework, conduct effective meetings, management buy-in, self-management, understand team dynamics, and struggling to make change happen and sustain.

I hope the Agile mindset brings more openness to welcome uncertainty, embrace challenges, empower individuals and view failures as learning opportunities. An Agile mindset is the transformation of people at all levels and not just following a process, methodology or a framework.

The ICAgile’s Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-ATF) accredited course can help participants to understand the role of Agile team facilitator, self-leadership, self-awareness, and equip with group facilitation tools and techniques for effectively designing meetings and workshops. Through this knowledge, participants build facilitator toolkits, gain experience and can foster collaboration and enable a self-organizing team.

Your upcoming class will, specifically, be the first accredited training of its kind in Pakistan. What does it mean to be accredited, and why does it matter in agile learning?

I’m an authorized instructor of Touch Think’s ICAgile-accredited courses (The Certified Agile Facilitator (ICP-ATF) and The Certified Agile Coach (ICP-ACC)). Touch Think’s courses had to meet all of ICAgile’s Learning Objectives for the Agile Coaching track in order to become an accredited provider.

The Learning Objectives are created by panels of top industry experts (authors, speakers, thought leaders) for each ICAgile track. With the explosion of Agile courses in the world today, it has become critical to choose an accreditation provider that has the backing of industry experts and involves a rigorous accreditation process.

In addition to the course accreditation, each instructor undergoes a rigorous authorization process. This includes demonstrating a deep understanding of the learning objectives, exhibiting an Agile mindset, bringing real Agile experience, showing Agile coaching competencies in action, and exhibiting a growth (learning) mindset in their teaching ability.

How do you predict the agile movement will impact workplaces in Pakistan over the next five years?

There are organizations in Pakistan that are adapting the Agile way of working. Scrum, Kanban, SAFe and Scrum@Scale frameworks and other tools & techniques are used in some form in workplaces. The ICAgile’s Agile Coaching track will further help unleash the brilliance of people and teams to enable self-awareness, collaborative, faster innovation and rapid discovery. That’s the key area to focus on!

As awareness of Agile in Pakistan is increasing day by day, people “Do” Agile at the moment and with Agile movement, I predict workplace culture will lead more towards “Being” Agile in the next five years. People are equipped with an Agile mindset as a foundation and have strengthened this muscle to welcome uncertainty, embrace challenges, empower individuals and view failures as learning opportunities.

Over the next five years, the Agile movement in Pakistan will impact the workplace culture leading to more support from leadership and management teams, investing more in people’s learning, focus on delivering value and ability to change. For people there is increased freedom & autonomy with happiness and job satisfaction. The focus of an organization increases more on the transformation of people to achieve sustainable agility.

Furthermore, the Agile movement impacts the workplace by providing flexibility to teams to blend process, method or framework to invent a new framework to match reality and thus increasing collaboration and boost innovation. Valuing People over process!


TouchThink’s Agile Team Facilitation course will be offered in Lahore, Pakistan on April 11th-12th, 2020. Successful participants will achieve ICAgile’s Learning Outcomes for Agile Team Facilitation, and as such be eligible to become ICAgile Certified Professionals in Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-ATF). To learn more and register, visit http://bit.ly/3bwD31j.

ICAgile

A space for agile thought leadership and learning, curated from the community by ICAgile.

Kevin Doherty

Written by

ICAgile

ICAgile

A space for agile thought leadership and learning, curated from the community by ICAgile.

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