Meet The Coach: Sunny Dhillon
For our Meet The Coach series, agile42 coach Sunny Dhillon talks about his background, his agile journey, and insights about Agile adoption.
Q: How did you first start your agile path and end up coaching with agile42?
In 2000, I began my career as a software developer working in investment banking. I wanted to create software that would make a positive impact on people’s lives. However, my frustration grew as I found myself building features that would either be cancelled or not be used because customers no longer saw the value. For a developer, this was extremely demotivating and unrewarding.
Then in 2007, I worked for a financial institution which was practicing Scrum, and to date this was the best experience I ever had as a developer. I felt so motivated and empowered to take responsibility in building the right thing the right way - learning the true meaning of Agile. As I progressed into management positions, I began practicing the Agile values in my leadership.
When I moved to Canada from the UK in 2012, this truly accelerated my learning; the culture was focused more on being a leader over a manager. Many of the organisations I worked for were proactively adopting Agile transformation initiatives, in which this was when I started coaching. In one of the engagements, I met Dave Sharrock, who quickly became my mentor and source of inspiration. Afterall, it was the first time that someone gave me the permission to play with Lego at work! Not only did agile42 website become a go-to resource for me, I knew one day I would call it home.
Q: What is the main inspiration for what you do?
We spend half our lives at work. I strongly believe in the need to have fun and to enjoy what we do. Helping teams and individuals learn and grow is the most rewarding feeling in the world. However, seeing teams motivated, energetic, passionate, and engaged is one of the most difficult things to achieve in organizations; yet it is a challenge I enjoy taking on. I am constantly inspired to help organizations and its leaders transform to a better way of working by living the Agile values.
Q: What are your top 3 tips for Agile Managers?
Having been a manager within agile organizations for many years, my top 3 tips would be the following:
- Trust your team - Create an environment where individuals want to work and bring their energy and passion. Some of the best managers I have worked with are hugely successful at empowering teams because they trust them to make their own decisions and to solve their own problems.
- Coach your team - It is a natural human instinct to jump in with both feet and immediately put out the fire for teams. However, this only impedes the growth of individuals and teams. Instead, teams need to be coached in order to attain sustainable performance. One of my favourite quotes is 'feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish you feed him for life'.
- Recognize learning and not failure - It is okay to make mistakes because mistakes are essential for teams to learn. Create an environment for teams to make as many mistakes as safely and quickly as possible without losing momentum or enthusiasm.
Q: What have you seen lately that is interesting and new in the world of Agile?
When I first began my agile journey, it was all about software projects and how Agile can be applied. Today, business agility is growing, and Agile values need not only apply to the software industry. I have an 11-year-old son with whom I have been practicing Kanban with - to help him visualize his work and limit his Work-In-Progress (WIP). Gradually, I introduced other concepts such as prioritization to help him see real value; for example, the importance of doing homework over playing computer games! How different would the world be if more organizations adopted an agile mindset outside software?
Q: What is your opinion about the adoption of Agile in Canada?
Today many organizations across Canada have either adopted Agile or started to begin their adoption journey with varying degrees of success. One key learning early in my agile journey is that one must take a holistic view to Agile adoption. Adoption is only one part of the equation with transformation being the other other part. For the adoption to succeed, the culture and the organizational structure needs to be transformed towards supporting the values and beliefs of Agile. Otherwise, one is simply left spinning through the motions of change, without realizing the full benefits.