On September 17-18, 2019, I attended the Certified Agile Leadership I (CAL I) training in Seattle, Washington. The course was sponsored by Braintrust Consulting Group, and taught by Anu Smalley, who is an experienced Agile coach and a ScrumAlliance Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). The ScrumAlliance Certified Agile Leadership (CAL) program (CAL I and CALL II) is a unique two-part education and practice-based program to develop agile leadership competency and maturity. After successfully completing CAL I, participants must practice the key concepts learned for at least a year before taking the CAL II course.

Start with “Why”

          Anu incorporated the Ted Talk, How Great Leaders Inspire Action, by Simon Sinek. In the presentation, Sinek focuses on the what, how, and when. On the outer circle, he states that all organizations know “what” they produce. This is the product or service that is made available to the customers. The middle circle explains the “how.” Sinek states that some organizations know “how” to differentiate themselves from the competition, or their unique selling proposition (USP). The innermost circle refers to the “why,” and he states that very few organizations know their purpose, cause, or belief. This is a key takeaway from the class because Agile leaders must be keenly aware regarding why change is necessary. When the “why” is known, the “how” and “what” have meaning and are understood by the employees.

Traditional Approach vs. Innovative Approach to Management

         Anu explained that the traditional approach to management focuses on people adding value in the form of outputs, labor is interchangeable, and workers produce units. However, the innovative approach is important for Agile leaders because the emphasis is on a diversified workforce, individuals and interactions, and watching the baton and not the runners. The “watching the baton and not the runners” metaphor is a lean management concept implying that most organizational leaders care mostly about the runners, the people doing the work. Instead, the attention should be on the baton, which is the actual work getting done. A key takeaway here was thinking holistically about how value is created in an organization, while at the same time eliminating waste.

The Metrics that Matter

           Many of the course participants noted that the metrics lesson was valuable, and I was included in this group. Anu explained that metrics must have value, and that Agile leaders must know what is being measured, and how it can help the decision-making process. She stated the following: “Pretend you are on an island, and you are unable to communicate with any of your team members. However, each day a message in a bottle arrives on the island with five metrics regarding the performance of your company. Which metrics should be included in that message?” Once the class was over, I contacted my team leads to discuss the creation of a dashboard that contained key metrics for our organization.


          The CAL I training session conducted by Anu Smalley was terrific. I liked that many of the exercises were collaborative, meaning that we worked with other attendees. Anu ensured that people from the same company sat at different tables, which increased the level of interaction. As a corporate trainer myself, I know the importance of engaging the learners with real examples. Anu’s many years of Agile experience and education created a positive and informative learning experience for the CAL I participants.