Interview with Asia’s leading Agile Coach – Preeth Pandalay

Interview with Asia’s leading Agile Coach – Preeth Pandalay

Hello Preeth. It is so great to ask you questions. You have been working and leading teams as an Agile coach for more than a decade. Also, you are passionate about helping individuals, teams and organizations to bring the best results. Please tell us a little bit more about yourself to our readers.

I have been in the IT industry for more than 20+ years now, playing various individual contributor, team member, management and leadership roles. I have been fortunate to have worked in some amazing organizations in my formative years which has inspired and equipped me to do what I love which is helping individuals and teams live up to their potential. 

I was introduced to an empirical (agile) way of working even without being named that way back in 2002 when working as part of a team that was enhancing an Analytic Engine to measure and improve real-time performance of any business. Scrum was introduced to me sometime in 2007 as part of transformation of the business unit that I was part of. We started with one Powerpoint presentation and a couple of videos, and you can imagine the pain I put my teams through for about 3 to 6 months. Luckily I had a good relationship with my team, and so we learnt a lot of things experimenting and trying to understand the “Why” behind what we were doing as part of scrum. I think I learnt a lot of what not to do during this period and also that what works for one team doesn’t really work for another. I was later given a global role to help the development teams spread across the world to move from the traditional development approach to an empirical development approach. It was during this stint that I learnt about the impact of macro culture on transformation again reiterating my learning of valuing individual team over organizational process standardization.

The last five years has been about using this experience in helping organizations strategize and implement transformations.

First of all, please tell us about the world of Agile. Most of the people are unaware of it. You are an agile coach. How is agile company different from any other company?

Today’s business world is characterized by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity which we call VUCA for short. This change in the market landscape where changes are often and at times drastic has necessitated organization to have a deliberate focus on accommodating the change. The declining life expectancy of S&P 500 companies from 61 years in 1958 to less than 18 today meant that a new approach of viewing changes as opportunities rather than challenges is an absolute requirement.

Building organizational capability to accommodate change by continuous inspection and adaptation is what agile transformation is all about. We use the term transformation in context to agile because it goes way beyond processes. A successful agile organization’s transformation is when it has undergone a transformation at all three levels – Micro (Process & Practices), Macro (Structure & Measurements) and Meta (Culture & Values) and is able to not just sustain but thrive in the VUCA world.

There is no doubt you are doing a great job and your work speaks for itself. Would you please tell us how are you bringing a good change through your work and how are you helping people who are working with you?

My association and my way of working is influenced by my clients. I bring with me my leadership experiences, transformation experiences and my Agile knowledge. I then work with my client to co-create the transformation strategy based on the transformation goal(s) and the current organizational state. These two aspects vary from organization to organization, even from team to team, and therefore the need to craft a strategy that’s focused on the needs. My clients can engage me as a Trainer; I am licensed to teach by organizations like, International Consortium of Agile and Scaled Agile Framework. My clients also engage me as a consultant, who can help them implement their learnings and also create internal change agents who will help sustain and promulgate agility throughout the organization. I also have clients who engage me for leadership coaching to help them lead the organization now propelled by agile and help to continuously evolve it.

Do you think it is tough working in an agile company or is it a myth? Please give your advice to those who are confused about the world of agile and are not able to decide. What is your advice for those who are new to this world and how can they take guidance from you?

No, absolutely not. Working in an agile company is not tough on the contrary it should be lots of fun. Agile is more about people than it is about processes or practices. People are central to any agile transformation. It is unfortunate that many a transformation in the name of agile is just glorified process transition with a goal of framework compliance. Agile is about empowering and enabling people and help them evolve a process for their context using one of the many frameworks. I am more than happy to have a quick chat if you are an individual, or I could do a meetup in your place if you are an organization trying to evaluate agile.

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