Our CEO and founder has written Change. A practitioners guide to Enterprise Agile Coaching.
Change. is now available to buy, so we grabbed the chance to talk to Simon about what motivated him to write the book and how he hopes it can change the world for the better…
What inspired you to write the book?
Well, I’ve been training and coaching Enterprise Coaching and Agility for over 10 years. There’s so much to this topic. It’s such a huge, complex subject that has so many facets to making it work and be successful. So it just felt that, in order to give organisations the best chance possible, many many people need to have this information. Not everybody can come on our training, not everybody gets the benefit of working with AWA. So therefore, putting as much information as I could, into a book seemed to be a good way to get out this sort of vital combination of items to as many people as possible, to try to affect the world of work in as wide a space that we could.
So the inspiration really, was to get the information out to as many people as possible, so that more people have a chance of success. We hope, of course, that the book inspires people to come and learn deeper things on our courses. And of course to invite AWA to come and help. We know that not everybody will take that opportunity. And so hopefully they can use the book as a platform to design the way in which they approach enterprise agility and organisational change. So I guess the inspiration was to help as many people as possible as a stepping stone to get to a better place of work.
The inspiration really, was to get the information out to as many people as possible, so that more people have a chance of success.Simon Powers
Tell us about your experience with Enterprise Agile Coaching and organisational change.
I’ve been working on helping organisations be better places to work since the beginning of my career, which was in the late 90s. And I started doing that by helping with IT. So I was working to help with better code, better principles and practices in code. I moved into architecture, so that their digital landscapes were more effective, better quality, and more fit for purpose. And through that experience of growing organisations’ digital capacity, I found that we hit a limit of what could be possible. And that limit was people’s mindset, how people saw their organisations, their relationships in their organisations and their relationships to the work.
No matter how much digital or technical expertise you have, if the right mindset isn’t there, then you hit a limit. And so my career naturally developed into growing people, to help them see better ways of working, to make the most of not only the digital and technical aspects of their organisation, but every aspect of their organisation and their relationships with their clients, customers, and the wider industries in which they work in.
Have you had a revolutionary moment while working in the world of enterprise change?
The biggest revelation of all, is that people make an organisation, not the processes and technology. And so working with people, using techniques such as coaching, enterprise agility, and processes, which enable people to adapt those processes as they see fit, by giving them autonomy is a much faster and more effective way to get to a better working environment than only focusing on technology and processes on their own. Yet I’m still seeing in the world of work, and even people who are adopting agility, that there’s a tendency to focus still on the technical tools, and ways of working processes, and not develop people, as the primary way of improving an organisation.
The biggest revelation of all, is that people make an organisation, not the processes and technology.Simon Powers
And so this really is the focus of the book, and on our courses. The biggest revelation that I think everybody who is focusing on making their organisations better needs to have, is that people come first. That isn’t a woolly, fluffy, kind of intangible. It’s very much a practical necessity, with very clear tools and steps to enable their organisations to be better by putting people first. My experiences led to that and my experience has led to figuring out ways to actually make that work. That’s really the message that’s coming across throughout the book, how do you deal with complexity by putting people first?
Who should read the book and why?
Anybody who is working in an organisation and has any interest whatsoever in making that organisation a better place to work, or a more effective place to work – this book is for them.
They could be:
- Agile Coaches
- Scrum Masters
- Enterprise Coaches
- HR staff, who are working to make their organisations better
- Consultants who are working with organisations is their clients
- Anyone who even has a passing interest in changing the way that we work, so that you can bring your whole self to work
If you want to remove that horrible feeling on a Sunday evening, that thought of “Oh, my God, it’s work again, tomorrow!“, then this is the book for you. Because that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re we’re trying to take away that concept of work/life balance, because we want people to enjoy their work so much, that we don’t need to think about that, because it just all flows naturally from one to the other.
Can anyone read Change. or do they need to have to have some prior knowledge or experience of agility?
I think anyone could read this book, as long as they have a passing interest in making organisations better. I think that’s probably the only prerequisite – that there’s some interest in that. Because that’s obviously the subject of the book. If you have a knowledge of agility, you may find that you’ll get more out of some sections. But if you don’t have any knowledge of agility, I imagine that it will pique your interest in those areas and probably excite you to learn more.
Certainly anyone could read it. It doesn’t go over the basics of agility at all. But you don’t necessarily need that to understand the concepts of how to make organisations better. And the reason for that is because we’re all people. And it’s based, really, around the power of people.
What did you learn when writing this book?
Well, it’s funny, because the amount of research that one has to do to make sure that the things that you’re writing are actually true (rather than the assumptions that one has gained over time), is quite amazing, really. You have to challenge yourself on everything that you’re writing, and then do some research to make sure that it’s actually true. This obviously, deepens one’s knowledge hugely in the areas that you’re writing about.
Now, I did actually find that many of the things were true, luckily. But also, I found many facts around those things, which then deepened my understanding, and of course, being a natural learner and being excited about this topic, there’s lots of little trailheads, which I got interested in. Then I researched loads, because I found pockets of information, which were just really exciting. So I think I’ve learned a huge amount, especially about the history over the last sort of 500 years and what’s led to this.
Interesting… Anything else?
I’ve learned about philosophy – about what makes us believe the things that we believe about the world and the impact that has. Certainly I’ve learned a lot about complexity, and different ways of dealing with complexity and thriving in the world of complexity. Systems coaching, obviously. We brought out the systems coaching course recently. So I had to do a lot of research for that as well. And some of that has also gone into the book. So there’s a lot more about systems coaching, specifically systems coaching in complexity rather than in predictable situations.
I also developed my fractal model of organisational change a lot more for the final chapter of the book, which was a half created idea at the beginning. I really wanted to include it in the book. So it’s the reason it’s the last chapter of this, because some of it is still very much theoretical. It’s really where I think we might be going in the future. So I’ve fleshed that idea out a lot more too.
And finally, I think probably leadership. I’ve done so much work on leadership in the last 10-15 years. Really solidifying that work and building it into something which can be written down in a linear way, has helped me solidify all that learning.
I think that it’s been an incredible learning experience, writing the book.
What surprised you when writing the book?
Well, I think probably the amount of effort that it actually takes to write a book is always more than I think any author expects. And when you finished writing the book, the amount of extra stuff that you have to do to actually get the book from where you’ve finished it, to publishing is almost two thirds as much as writing the book. I mean, it’s just incredible how much work there is, the things that you don’t know that you have to do when you write your first book. So that certainly surprised me.
I learned a lot about how to write a book. First of all I just started writing, writing, writing. And then I was very fortunate to have Tony Richards, coach me, on the first four or five chapters. We did a coaching session and recorded that, then transcribed it. And then I used that as the basis for the chapters that worked very nicely. So that was a good learning, and also, surprisingly, a better way to write the book.
Do you work in an agile way as an author?
This field of work changes so rapidly, and there’s so much more to learn. There’s always advancements going on, so I initially wrote the book very quickly, in iterative steps, in an agile way. Otherwise I can’t see how one would ever finish the book before it was out of date. So writing it, using agility, using online to publish each chapter, get feedback, tidy the feedback up, go on to the next chapter, literally, using an agile way of working, was incredibly useful.
I’m not a big batch person, so I’m not sure how else I would build it all, and then release it. So doing the Agile way of working really, really worked. And I got a lot of feedback and a lot of amendments throughout the process. Having 200 people review my book on an incremental basis was really, really helpful.
Are you planning to write a follow up?
[Simon chuckles] Not anytime soon. I’ve certainly got things which I didn’t put in the book. There’s a lot of things in the training and coaching that we do, which aren’t in there, purely because it would just never be never ending. You could never finish it. So you have to kind of draw the line somewhere. Maybe one day that will go into another book. But I’m planning on spending time now building AWA and spending time growing us as a company, building our clients and looking at our coaching capability and growing that as my primary focus for the next probably couple of years, before I write another book.
But you never know! Always learning, always more stuff to put in…
Finally, tell us about the book title. Change. It’s a bit unusual.
Well, it’s Change. (full stop). Most books don’t have a full stop in the title and the reason why the word Change. has a full stop, is because the word change can be an instruction. It can be an ask, it can be a question. It can really be many things. Just the word change, depending on the tone of voice, the context, it can mean lots of things.
There is an urgency for us to change. Organisations are not coping with the changing pace of the world. We have an urgency to change the way our societies run, based on things like climate change, terrorism, the economy, pandemics. All of these things create a sense of urgency and rapid change in the way that we live. And I believe that this book answers all of those by giving us a new way of seeing ourselves and our relationships and our connection to work, so that we’ll be better equipped for the future. The word change means different things to different people, and the book answers all of those things.
The word change means different things to different people, and the book answers all of those things.Simon Powers
The book does take everyone on a journey. A multiple century journey, in some cases, but also a journey inside to really look at ourselves, our limitations, our prejudices, our biases, all the things which block us from being open to new ways of work, and accepting what could be an incredibly bright and exciting future. If only we can open our eyes wide enough to embrace that. And that’s what I hope the book does. It takes us on an outer journey, but also an inner journey that equips us all with a better understanding of how we can make our organisations and indeed our societies and our lives better.