Personal Agility, work on the “Individual” to increase the “Interactions”

Getting intrigued about PA

When Peter Stevens launched the Personal Initiative a couple of years ago, I was intrigued. I checked. I wasn’t convinced by what I saw. It looked like another version of Personal Kanban. But, because there is almost a but, I know Peter for over a decade and I consider him as a very smart person, I decided to look deeper in it.

Another blocker for me was the “Agile Profile” program from Jerome Barrand. This program relays a lot on the French-speaking ICF networks and I was annoyed when people without any clue on Agile tried to convince me. My good friend and colleague Virginia Anderson love this tool. It makes me in an uncomfortable situation because I trust Virginia. At the first glance, Personal Agility looked for me like another “Agile Profile” agilish thing.

The journey didn’t start well for me and PA but, as usual, I’m curious about the work of people I appreciate.

Personal Agility is a tool to help you to manage your life. It is the mirror to face your daily life and start to improve it towards the goals you set up.

What’s the difference between Personal Kanban or Getting things done?

Atthe first look, these three are similar and you might dig at little deeper into it. GTD is a kind of task manager. Personal Kanban is more about visualizing your own flow. And Personal Agility is, in my perception, an evolution of Personal Kanban allowing the emergence of hidden patterns.

It helps you to better understand who you really are, what you really want and, align your “high dreams” with your reality.

From a “nerdy” perspective, Personal Kanban is systemic, Personal Agility tends to be sensemaking like Agile as an evolution of Lean.

Why do I feel it matters to me?

They are a couple of factors pushing me to Personal Agility. I tried hard to work on my Personal Kanban and after a while, I’ve been pulled away for any good reasons (complex projects, multiple assignments, etc…) and my goodwill melted like snow in summer.

Eight years ago, on a project, I noticed that one of the stress factors for team members in transformation projects is that they are overwhelmed by demands, initiatives and plenty of other stuff that are not giving them enough freedom to think properly on their commitments. In an “I guess this might help you” manner, I handed over a Personal Kanban canvas and got a lot of “thank you” and smiles a couple of days later. Visualizing work helps.

Because it worked there, I used that approach in the coaching program. Instead of giving homework, I create a Board on Trello to continuously and coherently work with my coachees. The same process, same results, same “Wow”. But, I wasn’t satisfied. The feeling that you are only looking at performance didn’t satisfy my western European soul. I’m missing a dimension. We are human, not robots. And, performance is relative. And for some people, performance is not resonating at all.

Last year, I co-organized the Requisite Agility conference. The conference focused on three points: Organizational Agility, Team Agility and Personal Agility. I was OK for the first two parts but have serious doubts regarding the last one. Like I explained in my book, Agile is a system allowing the interaction of people in that system. The very nature of the people is diversity. It means that you can or cannot be an agile person in an Agile System. With this belief in my mind, I didn’t find the topic accurate but the rest of the team did. So we did.

While working on Agile4HR and Disciplined Agile, I was able to link the dots in my mind with what I do with Personal Kanban, with my coaching and a missed piece in Agile coaching. In a conversation with Peter Stevens, he invited me to join the training and I said yes. And, since then, I do believe, I found my piece and the picture looks awesome for me by now.

What kind of PAS is my PAS?

MyPersonal Agility works for me to balance better work and life. Discipline me towards a better life-balance is my personal challenge.

It is also a way to visualize emerging patterns that define my life and those I missed to work enough on. It is my mirror to switch or persevere on the “better life” I’ve been looking for.

When my PAS is working at its best, it’s working like what?

My PAS is my personal assistant which I’m happy to meet a couple of times a day. It is a fun manner to organize work, time and family events.

Celebrating our weekly achievements becomes our new family ceremony. Understanding what matters for the people I love helps me to better understand them and nurtures the soil of our great relationship.

And what kind of problems I want to solve?

Sitting in front of a mirror and looking at your face isn’t a comfortable situation. Taking a small distance to analyze “your life” helps to kindly notice:

  • How you spend your time on multiple time frames
  • That you are not doing enough for health
  • not enough for happiness
  • not enough for family and friends
  • too much for work.

In the end, even you read all the books, attend all the conferences and training in the universe, you are not efficient after all

Change starts by noticing that something’s wrong. You have two options whipping and crying, or just start where you are.

How I use PA?

My PAS contents work on my life balance.

Mylife is running crazy and I’m not caring enough for myself, just working. My last holidays were three years ago. COVID times activated my survivor mode and I focused only to get new projects and accepting all options crossing my road. I asked myself if this is the kind of life I expect for my daughters? What example of life shall they become from her father?

I asked myself in the middle of 2020: what really matters to me and I started my personal triage.

What really matters to me:

1 — my daughters and family: keep the relationship strong, help and support

2 — working in my area of expertise: large transformations

3 — strengthen my Agile Coaching Program

4 — build a strong Agile4HR community

Stop doing:

  • conferences for free
  • Attending conferences, meetings that makes no sense or where I waste my time and energy
  • Leave groups where my voice doesn’t count

Indeed, a lot of these points are still in progress but it leads me to accept to work again as an employee for Cognizant Digital Solutions in Zürich and SwissRe. It fixes my point Nr 2 of my list and doesn’t harm the three other points.

This is my true list. And that list is way longer with sub details like “call mom” or “be in France April the 14th to get P. a ride at the hospital”. This sounds bizarre but I’m the guy driving 700 km just to chat with a friend for two hours. I can’t change deeply who I am.

Like I wrote earlier, I use in the past Personal Kanban in coaching and supervision but I missed parts:

  • How I use it in large transformations
  • Allowing daily triage
  • Manage distractions

In large transformation, fear and distractions are the two “mogwais” that you should never feed after midnight. The Agile Transformation Strategy is to design the environment to allow the interactions of people in that system. That behaviour is called Agile. After a couple of years working to create Fearless Fall-safe experiments, there was almost one common denominator: too much on the plate. That strong belief in multitasking was always a core component of the “gremlins” in the system.

I choose to work with individuals on their agendas as I do with the teams and their sprint backlogs. Once the coachee got more space in its agenda, he/she calm down and his/her behaviour changed completely for the good of the group.

Using PAS to design training

Inthe transformation I support, we are in the early stages. You know the stages where you can’t really see results and where all the coaches are concentrating their efforts on awareness and knowledge instead of ability and reinforcement. It is like it is.

I came with the idea to automatise most of the “genuine training” like what’s agile? scrum fundamentals and our kind of agile. This automatization will help to cover the demand of training rapidly, it will give freedom and time to the agile coaches to do their job, and it will reduce fear.

It is the “what really matters” question applied at the system level.

What’s coming next?

I am convinced that Personal Agility System will be a great tool in my works, for my personal life and, most of all, it will be a great tool in coaching.

In Agile4HR (the platform for AO and Agile Coaching), I will introduce a monthly coaching circle (like the U Lab) based on PAS. In this circle, you will find a friend willing to coach you on your own PAS and, we will make celebration days to enforce self-esteem.

In conclusion, I do believe that the procrastination part is the most interesting one. I will conduct sessions on procrastination in the agilePRAXIS meetup group. We will analyze the kind of procrastination you are facing because it is not always idleness, it can be a moment of great creativity too.

from Zurich, XO

PierrePierre Neis

On my business card, I wrote Agile Coach. My Agile coaching is an evolution of systemic coaching putting myself in the system and not as an outstanding observer


Published by PierreENeis

Certified Agile Coach & Trainer, Organization Developer & Advisor Author of AO

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