Meet the Coach: Magnus Kollberg

For our series of interviews, we sat down with Magnus Kollberg, a Mid Sweden University graduate who has recently joined the agile42 Sweden team as an Agile coach. He is a Certified Scrum Professional and a Certified GDQ consultant who has educated hundreds of people in agile methodology and has mentored and coached individuals and teams for several years. Magnus is also the host of the Meet the Coach webinar series aiming to support individuals working in an agile context who wants to grow their understanding of agility and related methods and practices.

What was your path leading you to Agility and to agile42?

After university, where I graduated with an MSc in Computer Engineering I spend some years as a software engineer in the pulp and paper process industry, did a lot of traveling as well as some teaching, all in all very interesting times. I then consulted in the telecom industry for a couple of years before I started at a software developer at a company called Stoneridge Electronics in 2002.

Stoneridge developed embedded systems for the automotive industry and in 2006 I was working as a project manager and developer for a team developing a graphical platform consisting of electronics and software. We come across the book Extreme Programming Explained by Kent Beck and started to apply the practices. This turned out to be very successful, and I was amazed about the productivity this team achieved, as well as the satisfaction of the customer and the team. 

I think what appealed to me was the human-centric approach and the focus to continuously improve which is in line with a growth mindset, that you always can get better on what you do.

I continued working with development of different products at the company, formally as project manager for multi-team projects but acting as a Scrum Master coaching teams, other Scrum Masters and Product Owners. Every assignment added pieces in my learning puzzle, different practices and methods, multi-team setups, team dynamics and how to deal with hard deadlines, all with an agile mindset growing along the way. I spent the last two years coaching a product development unit of 40 software, hardware and production engineers to shift from a waterfall approach to an agile one. The result from this shift was substantial and still serves me as an example of performing teams and a great Product ownership.

Eager to continue to grow and share what I had learned, I joined Swedbank in 2013 as the first Agile coach and over the years we grow into 15 coaches. We supported all levels in the organization through training, coaching, facilitation and mentoring teams and individuals. We developed a training portfolio and over the years I conducted 1200 hours of training for around 700 people. Along with already great colleges, we got support from two coaches from agile42, Martin von Weissenberg and Giuseppe De Simone, and I worked together with the latter for three years which developed me a lot. I started to think of what company that breaded those people and in September 2019 I decided to join agile42.

Have you read or discovered something great recently?

A lot of things and they tend to keep coming more frequent the more I learn, which is pretty interesting in itself. I think one experience is about flow and it started out three years ago when I attended a Professional Coach training and one of the course literature was a book called The inner game of Tennis by Tim Gallwey. Last year I participated in a training where we applied some of the ideas from the book on a tennis court and I suddenly realized the connection between flow and performance and how coaching help achieving this. I got some keys to why my performance, both in sports and profession, sometimes has been good and other times less good even though the preconditions were the same. I found this very useful when coaching individuals and teams, both in my professional life and also as a football coach for children, which I have been doing the last six years.

The agile world is growing and evolving, do you see a clear direction for future years?

For natural reasons, the ability for companies to respond fast to changing market conditions including unexpected events will be more and more important. This will put the spotlight on how to grow this capability as well as the competence needed to help them do so, I am not convinced that the scaling frameworks out there today will help out with this. This is one of the reasons I decided to join agile42 which I think has an approach for guiding organizations to improve this capability through ORGANIC agility.

Do you have a favorite recommendation for the teams you coach?

I would ask them how is it going with the retrospective actions they have decided on. Secondly, I would ask them about their goal, what they are trying to achieve as a team. For the team members to have a shared understanding of their common goal is crucial for their collaboration and ability to be productive. Having a productive team conversation about work-related things, for example, refining an item in the backlog, is difficult if the underlying team dynamic is broken.

What is the main inspiration for what you do?

I would say to make work fun! We spend a lot of our time working and it would be sad if the majority of that time is not enjoyable. Happy people do great stuff which makes this important from an effectiveness point of view as well, workplaces should provide the environment for people to enjoy what they are doing. Leaders have a big responsibility here to nourish such an environment, work with the intrinsic motivators of individuals and help them grow.

Another version of that, a bit more egocentric perhaps, is to improve the workspace of companies so that my children do not have to work at uninspiring places. This goes hand in hand with my eagerness to learn, and get better on what I am doing so that I can help out even better.