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The concept of the learning organization is getting more and more popular. Still, most enterprises struggle when trying to establish a learning culture. In this post, I’ll take a look at how “proactivity” prevents us from developing learning organizations.

In his book “The Fifth Element” Peter Senge states that learning organizations continuously increase their ability to invent their future. Following his thoughts, the base for this is real, deep learning. For this kind of learning it is crucial to not only process information but to go through a fundamental change becoming able to look at situations from a different perspective than before. Reading further, Senge describes obstacles that keep us from going into that kind of learning process. One of those is “The Illusion of Control”. He portraits leaders stating that the best thing to do when being confronted with difficult situations is to act proactively, i.e. …

It is widely known that the participation of people in organizational change is very important. But even though most have accepted this to be true, involving others in designing change remains a challenge. Consequences became visible to me when our latest reorganization as agile coaches at idealo started. I will share my experiences with you, point out the importance of organizational structures and personal relationships in change processes, and build up a hypothesis on how values help to overcome resistance and get yourself into the change process.

The process we have gone through has not been easy. The “head-of-group” decided to install a new organizational structure called clusters. A cluster consists of multiple product areas, i.e. units that own responsibility for a part of the user journey. Clusters are supposed to strengthen communication between product areas working on the same user journey. Once the idea was born they also started thinking about how the agile coaches can be allocated to the clusters — especially as agile coaching capacity is limited and some units did not get any support in the past. Ideas went down to a personal level. Single coaches were mapped to clusters. Initially, the agile coaches took no part in these discussions. Some thoughts were shared by the leads of the agile coaches, i.e. communication was indirect and uni-directional. The agile coaches did not feel involved (though nobody explicitly excluded them from the discussion). There was a lack of empowerment to participate in designing the change. Resistance and negative emotions emerged within the agile coach team. The effort had to be made before we were able to move on and add value to the change process. …

Self-organization is one of the big buzzwords lately. People are having a passionate discussion about whether or not self-organization should be implemented in their company. Some like the idea of increasing teams’ autonomy whilst others are convinced that self-organization is harmful and teams have to be managed in a more traditional way. But one thing is overseen frequently: you do not have that choice!

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Let’s start by understanding what the term actually means:

“Self-organization describes how social systems naturally build and sustain structures and practices through autonomous interactions and processes. “ (translated from

Now, what does that imply? Even though science is still discussing if self-organization automatically is part of every social system, odds are that it is in your environment. There are many examples most of us know. Remember the last time your management team (you may exchange this by taskforce, workgroup, …) was working on that confidential topic? They really tried to make sure that no information would be passed to others before they decided to do so. When they finally presented their results, almost everyone knew about their work already. Information was passed through office grapevine and there was no way to prevent that. …

Being an Agile Coach — not bound to distinct teams but rather working with several people within bigger organizational structures — comes with a challenge. There are many topics I could start working on immediately. If I did I would be busy and feel good about doing stuff, but most interventions would not result in meaningful effects. At least this is my experience. Time to change that.

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In 2019 my personal growth goal has been to increase my own focus. I wanted to try out different approaches to do so and reflect on which approaches have been helpful and whether this would have a significant impact on the effectiveness of my work. …

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Today I am sharing the guiding principle of the agile coaches @idealo with you. It helps us a lot to better understand our role and behave accordingly. Maybe it is valuable for others, too. Just mentioning: this is a quick translation from German to English.

We empower people and organizational units to act effectively.

Even though we find it important to act within the organization ourselves, empowerment of others to do so is even more important to us.

In every situation we therefore make a conscious decision whether to focus on empowerment of our coachees or to engage ourselves directly.
Our decisions are based on observations and interpretations regarding the solution space of our coachees.

We always strive for independence between coachee and coach, maximizing the autonomy of our coachees.

Agile Coaches @idealo

Originally published at on November 13, 2019.

Product units and teams started to compete for the support of the agile coaches at idealo quite a while ago. The reason was simple. Even though we are 10 coaches we do not have enough capacity to work closely with more than 35 development teams. Some of the teams do not have agile coaches to work with at all. Others do but cannot be supported on a regular basis. At the same time, teams do not feel comfortable to facilitate basic ‘agile meetings’ without agile coach support. This became evident when retrospectives were canceled if no agile coach was available. …

I started my work as a Scrum Master at idealo in 2014. Nowadays I call myself Agile Coach. It is not only the name of the role that changed. I got a completely different job now. But which one?

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Recently I stopped facilitating most team ceremonies as well as training agility in teams — at the base of the company. Instead, I am now working with a #tandem-partner, a very experienced systemic coach and trainer. Together we are coaching colleagues who are in some kind of organizational leadership role. Most of the time this means helping them to change perspectives. With our guidance, the coachees reveal new options for action. Topics often are related to better communication, clearness of roles, responsibilities, and goals, and dealing with conflict. And with that change agile values and principles seem to have vanished from my daily communication. Although all of these topics are connected to agile values and principles, the relation is not discussed explicitly. …

Change has become the daily business of many organizations. The complexity and ambiguity of many — if not all — industries demand new answers. As a consequence, organizations need to continuously adapt their ways of working. More often than not, this means a change for job-roles as well.

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If you ever had to re-work your own job-role, you know that this is a hard thing to do. Especially if collaboration with others is a central part of it. Typically there will be a lot of resistance to overcome in:

  • changing your own behavior and
  • getting others to accept the changes


Let me provide you with a recent example of how our job as Agile Coaches at idealo changed. Until 2018 we worked very closely with the development teams. We filled an important role in their daily business, e.g. being facilitators of team ceremonies such as Daily Standups, Refinements, Plannings, and Retrospectives. Whenever an Agile Coach could not attend such a ceremony it was likely to be canceled or postponed. Most teams were not able to compensate for the role of the Agile Coach. Other Agile Coaches did not have enough capacity to take over. …


Agile Coach and Systemic Consultant working for idealo internet GmbH most of the time and living in Berlin Germany

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