5 +1 Questions to...Annelies Smetryns

Annelies Smetryns is a Scrum Master, Change Manager, Project Manager but is overall a creative generalist. She works currently for Tobania consulting firm promoting the Agile way of working as community manager.

Annelies founded “Fonkelveer” in 2017, to bring people together and inspire them to bring more color in their lives. Based on the CoreTalents methodology she helps individuals to discover their talents and what gives them energy. Essential information to reach your full potential and to survive in these challenging times.

We met years ago in an online forum but we only met real life during our assignment at BNP Paribas Fortis. As we are both advocates of long-life learning, discovering new frameworks and sharing knowledge it was a no-brainer to invite Annelies for this “5 + 1 Questions to…” series.

More info on Annelies on her website Fonkelveer (http://www.fonkelveer.be/)

1. What is Agile or the Agile Mindset for you? 

Agile for me is a way of thinking. One where people are important, as an individual, even more so as a group and where for me the employees take ownership because they feel that they ‘are’ the organization. It’s a way of thinking focussed on results, relentless learning and working as a team to get there. It’s a way of thinking where the real need of the customer/business) is leading to the actions that are taken and quality comes first. 

 2. What’s your favourite tool or method you use during your coaching? 

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The first thing that comes to mind is the ‘Circle of influence’. It’s a concept from ‘The 7 habits of effective leaders’ from Stephen Covey where, by drawing just two circles, you can let people reflect on what they can do themselves and what is out of their reach (for now). Because it’s all about learning and having an open mind to see what you can change to get different results. Each new step brings us closer to the goal (even if it feels like it doesn’t).

Next to that, I’m also a fan of Liberating structures, Lego Serious Play, creating visuals and facilitation techniques when it comes to group interactions. All too often in meetings people are ‘leaning out’: one or two individuals are dominating the conversation and others are following (at best) and in any case not using their full potential. Using something as simple as the liberating structure 1-2-4-all can change all that. Liberating structures, Lego Serious Play,.. are tools that make sure that everyone is included, engaged and contributing with their full potential to the topic and therefore leading to better results.

 3. What book (or website) would you recommend? 

Scrum Book Jeff Sutherland (Beyond Business Agility)

On the topic of Agile & Scrum, I would say the book of Jeff Sutherland ‘Scrum’, as this talks more about the why of scrum and agile and how it links together. For me, this was the very first book on Scrum that I read and still the one that left the biggest impression.

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On a personal level, I would say ‘The 7 habits of effective leaders’ from Stephen Covey. It’s a book about personal leadership and how a clear vision, taking action, going for the win-win and five other habits bring you closer to yourself and to the people around you.

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On the topic of Change, I would say the penguins of John Kotter (‘Our iceberg is melting’) in combination with his book ‘Leading change’. This combination makes it visual through the story and the book on what’s behind it.

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On the topic of organizations, I’m now reading ‘The fifth element’ from Peter Senge. I haven’t finished, but this seems a promising book on how organizations are a system of different elements that need to be in line to become a learning organization.

 4. What is essential for you during an Agile transformation? 

When you talk about Agile transformation then you are talking about change, and change is in the first place a matter of enough ‘urgency’: knowing why the transformation is needed! Having this crystal clear on all layers of an organization is “sooo” important therefore repeatedly connecting to this ‘why’ is essential when teaching/coaching people on the journey. Doing an agile transformation takes courage, on a management level to let go of old ways/hierarchies, on the floor level to be vulnerable, transparent, change your habits and count on others to work together. So be sure to have qualitative guidance by agile coaches and in my opinion start small, work on mindset first and build up to a format that fits in your organization.

Another element I want to add is: don’t forget to use the experience that you already have. The start of such transformations can be daunting, as everything seems to be changing. But it’s also a matter of identifying what is staying the same, where can you find familiar elements from old ways of working. Talk to those ‘anciens’ who have already seen different ways of working being implemented over the years, learn from what they say, connect new concepts to what they already know from the past. The transition is only complete when every person has made the individual change, as agile is a mindset and therefore it’s the people that are important to make the Agile transformation work.

 5. What is 1 Aspect of coaching Agile teams you like the most? 

What I like most about coaching Agile teams is the drive and energy it creates within the team. Just think about the concept of a Retrospective: It’s a recurring invitation of self-reflection that I have hardly seen in the waterfall projects I have done before. It creates feedback, progress, drive, connectivity within the team which will, in turn, create the necessary business results.

 + 1: How can CoreTalents help to build great teams?

CoreTalents (https://www.coretalents.eu/en) are talents that are there from the moment you are born, they express your potential and identifies what gives you energy (or not).

Think about it: If you are aware of your own talents, what gives you energy and you are able to express & execute these in your job/life, how good would life be then?!

Now imagine a team where each individual is aware of his/her talents (strong or small) and the ones of his/her teammates. This would mean that they know how to divide tasks amongst themselves, how to support each other and build upon each other to getting things done in a way that exceeds common standards. This is the dream team, the one that will create synergy, where the result is bigger than the sum of the individuals.

More info on: http://www.fonkelveer.be/