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Q&A with Sandy Mamoli

Exclusive Trusted Magazine Q&A with SandyMamoli, Agile Coach & co-CEO, Agile Coach & co-CEO.

How could you describe your career path in a few words? 

I started my work life as a professional athlete playing handball. In addition to playing in the European leagues, I also represented my home country of Austria at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.  

After my highly successful sporting career, I realized I would eventually need to pivot, so I got my master's degree in Natural Language Processing and went on to a technical role at Sony Ericsson. With a focus on sysadmin and telco, I honed an Agile, team-based approach to work as early as 2003, all while zooming around Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Amsterdam.  

My third career as an Agile Coach began after moving to New Zealand in 2007 when I co-founded Nomad8 and started working with companies to introduce and support Agile.  I have coached and consulted for a range of impressive companies like Trade Me, Snapper, and Southern Cross Health. My repertoire includes coaching technical teams, executive teams, and whole organizations. In addition to the various and evolving flavors of Agile, I have coached teams and companies on Holacracy, high performance teams, and Business Agility. 

I have been a keynote speaker at some of the biggest Agile (and non-Agile!) conferences in the world. I have delivered the keynote address at Agile Montreal, Agile Brazil and am a constant feature at Agile Australia and the Agile Alliance conferences in the US.   

In 2015 I authored my first book 'Creating Great Teams', co-authored with my Nomad8 colleague David Mole on the subject of high performing Agile teams and self-selection.  

Since 2023, I have been serving as a Director on the international Agile Alliance board.  

How do you think agile practices have transformed companies over the past two years?  

Reflecting on the last two years, the impact of agile practices on companies has been, frankly, inconsistent.   

When implemented effectively, agile methodologies have led to remarkable outcomes: heightened performance, enhanced collaboration, increased efficiency, and a general sense of satisfaction among team members. More importantly, it has prepared people and organizations for uncertainty, giving them the confidence and adaptability to handle change.   

On the flip side, a poorly executed agile transformation can breed fear and uncertainty, stripping away the joy from work. An approach that focuses solely on process, without a deep understanding of agile's essence, turns it into an empty shell. The success of agile transformation hinges on why and how an organization embarks on this journey, who drives and supports it, and the company's real appetite for change.  

What successful cases of agile transformations have you had the opportunity to observe that have particularly stood out to you?  

Two instances particularly resonate with me. The first involves an innovation partnership between a private hospital and a vendor. This collaboration focused on developing an electronic patient record system. Forming a mixed team from both organizations, they worked in a space adjacent to the hospital, facilitating daily interactions with nurses – the end users. This hands-on approach allowed for real-time feedback and agile adaptation.   

The second is a company-wide transformation in an e-commerce company. Here, the adoption of agile led to the formation of productive, contented teams that continually deliver business value. A notable aspect was their approach to team formation, allowing members to self-select their teams, fostering a sense of autonomy and alignment with personal and professional goals.  

Absolutely, agile practices will continue to garner interest, primarily because, when done right, they yield phenomenal results. They make work not just rewarding but also enjoyable. In our current climate, marked by rapid technological shifts, global pandemics, wars, and economic fluctuations, agility is more crucial than ever. It equips organizations to adapt swiftly and effectively.  

Evan Leybourn of the Business Agility Institute aptly remarked, "Agile has won." This is evident as most companies now operate using some form of agile methodology or are actively aspiring to do so. However, this popularity brings its own set of challenges. A significant issue is the misinterpretation of agile practices. Many have witnessed 'bad agile' and mistakenly believe that's the entirety of it. Others overestimate their progress in agile adoption, leading to complacency and a halt in further improvement and experimentation in their work processes.  

Another challenge lies in underestimating the magnitude of change required for true agile transformation. It's not just about new processes; it's a comprehensive shift in mindset and operational structure that many organizations are yet to fully grasp and embrace.

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