Anyone familiar with software development knows agile is the way to go when you are developing new software or a product. But when it comes to career what does it really mean? Well, I didn’t think about it until that moment I was in the middle of a coaching session with a senior technology leader of a fortune 500 company. Let’s call him Peter.
Peter was planning a transition, leaving his corporate VP job and start doing something on his own in about a two-year timeframe. But he was getting frustrated that he didn’t know what it would be and the little time he had he couldn’t make any progress because he didn’t know “it”. It sounded like a chicken and egg problem, or a “deadlock” (those studied Operating Systems in computer science class would be able to relate). He was definitely stuck. I even could sense that stuckness in myself as I was sitting across the table. I took a discrete slow breath to ease that feeling in my body and invited him to do the same. Even though he was clueless, he obliged to my request and reluctantly engaged in a few deep breathing with me. I reminded myself – the client is whole, resourceful, creative and capable. All I needed was to remind him of his own resourcefulness.
I asked him what was he proud of himself in his long career. “The ability to deliver a product, no matter how complex, how new it is”- Peter replied with a deep conviction. “What helps you to deliver”, I asked. “Well, I do in sprints as in the agile development process. We take a small chunk of the problem, we build a prototype and test it. It helps us learn about the system. We then plan the next phase with additional complexity”. His face started to show much more confidence at that time. “What if you treated this next step of your career as a new product” – I asked. He looked at me confused. Then after a few seconds, it seemed a light bulb went off, his face got brightened and his eyes lit up. “Hmm…you mean instead of seeing it as a big monolithic project, I can take the agile approach. Hmm…interesting, never thought that way”!
Peter started seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. He left the session promising to design the first sprint by that weekend. That day this veteran technology leader learned one more time that agile is better than waterfall – in a very personal way.