Fostering team spirit and the best results in an InsurTech company
Today, we would like to introduce Beatrice Dähler, ELEMENT’s resident Agile Coach. Bea works with ELEMENT on fostering a friendly, supportive culture that can help our staff deliver great results.
An agile coach like Beatrice helps a team or individual adopt and improve agile methods and practice. Therefore, Beatrice helps ELEMENT staff to rethink and change the way they go about development.
|Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver projects faster hence to bring more value to their customers with fewer headaches. An agile team works more closely on precisely subdivided tasks and delivers work in small, but consumable increments. Requirements, plans, and results are evaluated continuously so teams have a natural mechanism for responding to change quickly.|
E: Broadly speaking, what do you do as an agile coach at ELEMENT?
As an agile coach, I support ELEMENT in ensuring that its digital insurance solutions are developed through the collaborative effort of self-organizing and cross-functional teams. As such, I work with engineers, product owners – i.e. people responsible for the idea and vision behind a new product –, and stakeholders – i.e. our partner-facing team and partners themselves. Basically, I encourage our teams to regularly show off their work and gather feedback, which in turn helps them to design processes that can ensure quick thinking and adaptability. That way ELEMENT can continue offering the best and most advanced digital insurance technology to our partners.
E: Who at ELEMENT is your primary focus?
I work towards creating a great workplace and the best results for ELEMENT as a company. I, therefore, work across our entire organization but tend to focus on one team at a time.
E: That sounds great! How does that translate into your everyday work?
I can summarize what I do under four broad categories:
1) Mentoring and coaching
I coach people to help them manage themselves in their environment. When we realize that something is not working out as we had expected it to, we will likely have the urge to change it. I help people to be as adaptable and receptive to change as possible so that they can manage these situations efficiently.
I am also the main point of contact for all things agile. I offer my insights whenever there is a question or unclarity about agile processes or practices. In particular, I help product owners to find appropriate tools for their work and to create healthy relationships with stakeholders and developers. I also coach development teams on how to deliver great results and improve themselves continuously. Similarly, I help stakeholders to find their role in the process and to develop effective ways to collaborate with product owners and developers.
I facilitate collaboration formally and informally – during workshops and meetings, but also during smaller conversations. Good facilitation can help people achieve real results. Results can come in many forms: mediation of conflicts, analysis of and solutions to problems, responsibilities are assigned, and formulation of and commitment to next steps.
3) Making things visible
Transparency is crucial to agile development – the more you know, the better you can work. Consequently, part of my job is to draw attention to unseen roadblocks to optimal cooperation – i.e. identify issues, flag defects, and uncover hidden dynamics. To this end, I work with data and measure our progress and the health of our teams..
I also encourage everyone to keep an eye on the big picture. For example, what structures and dynamics are running in the company? What issues keep showing up and remain unaddressed? A good agile coach will be a multiplier for everyone, make these dynamics and structures visible, and facilitate solutions.
4) Advocate for principles
I see myself as a coach and mentor for all things agile and support people in adopting agile processes and methods. I make sure that our company culture is closely aligned with agile values – e.g. courage, commitment, openness, trust, respect and focus. I am an advocate for agile principles and continuous improvement at the team level and throughout the whole company.
E: Ok, that sounds like a lot of work! Do you face any challenges with these tasks?
Well, for one, not everyone is familiar with the term agile coaching! Other times, people have big expectations that their work will improve fast, but, of course, it takes time and patience to find the right balance that can deliver the best results. In addition, I must ensure that everyone regardless of their professional background and previous level of responsibility – e.g. corporate vs. start-up, or managerial vs. non-managerial – can work together harmoniously and efficiently towards a common goal.
Having said that, fortunately, everyone at ELEMENT is very open to feedback and self-improvement methods! Everyone thrives at ELEMENT because we work in a friendly environment that is conducive to good outcomes and results. People want to do their jobs more efficiently and are committed to delivering a better product every day.
E: What would ELEMENT look like without an agile approach?
In a few words, product development would likely take longer and would probably miss the mark sometimes. Incorporating agile methods into our work ensures smoother team communication and cooperation as the product is being developed. That way, we are constantly getting feedback, adding improvements, making small adjustments as the products go down the pipeline. The end result is something that everyone is happy with.
In other words, we are not waiting until a product is 100% done and ready to then get feedback… and find out that our digital insurance solution is not good or adaptable enough! That would basically mean going back several steps, recalibrating our methods, and, essentially, wasting precious time and resources.
E: On that topic, what does work at ELEMENT look like when you do your job well?
In short: things run more smoothly! People are always looking for ways to improve processes, tools, and communication. Work, in general, is more focused and in sync with our mission to offer innovative, customizable digital insurance solutions. Teams are healthier and more productive.