Paul van Sonsbeek, Agile Coach at the Volksbank reflects on the recent PO/PM training with trainer Andries Hettema. “Most of us were well-experienced POs, so we were looking for a kind of masterclass. So, Andries cut the entry-level theory and doubled down on storytelling and practical experiences.”
Paul has been an Agile Coach at commercial banking corporation De Volksbank for two years now, he says. “When I joined the Volksbank two years ago, we already had a transformation towards Agile ways of working underway. Gladwell Academy’s sister company BlinkLane Consulting had helped to set up an ART for the value stream Klant Wil Wonen (KWW; loosely translated as ‘Customer Wants a Home’), which is currently already in its 11th Program Increment.
Over the last 2 years I’ve focused on deploying a broad Improvement Program, the ‘KWW Agile Way of Working’, to reach a higher of Agile maturity on all levels. This included training and coaching for our Product Owners – we‘re now at level 4 (‘Continuous Improvement’) on the 5-point scale.”
Four labels included
True to form, the KWW value stream runs all through the Volksbank organization, from the customer facing processes to the underlying IT, including each of its four well-known consumer labels SNS, ASN Bank, RegioBank and BLG Wonen. Paul explains how he came to invite Gladwell Academy to give the course:
“Having followed the Agile Coach training at Gladwell Academy as part of my own formation, I was pleased with the practical relevance and the solid foundations I found in the training. When (as part of the mentioned KWW Agile Way of Working improvement program) SAFe certification of the Product Owners became a theme, I reckoned they would be well served there. I had the whole group sign up for SAFe PO/PM with Andries Hettema.”
“He knows his stuff”
“Who delivers the training makes all the difference, in my view. After all, SAFe is well-developed by Scaled Agile and each course comes with a hefty and rather complete slide deck. Without a competent trainer though, delivery remains dull and theoretical. Especially with the level of experience of our PO’s, this was something we discussed during the Intake.
We decided to customize the course, by going swiftly through the theoretical part, and focus on the practical application and differences between SAFe and our KWW Agile Way of Working. We were counting on Andries to bring the material to life, and we were not disappointed. He’s obviously been there; he knows his stuff – from the financials to the people issues.”
Smooth switch to remote
“We had originally planned this to be a classroom training, as trainings had always been. With the advent of COVID-19, we postponed the training date once and then decided to have it remotely. And so it went, and quite smooth indeed. Lively discussions, frequent short breaks and the use of visual tooling made the hours fly by.
That everyone was enrolled into course and shown in to the virtual classroom at the right time and date also made us feel well-cared for. So, hats off to the people coordinating the course as well – Ingeborg, Geertje and team.”
Aligning with the Volksbank identity
There’s a pride that Paul feels at the Volksbank that goes beyond his job as an Agile Coach, he says. “Our motto is ‘Bankieren met de Menselijke Maat’, roughly translated into ‘banking made human’ over profit, processes and systems. And because you could see the Agile ways of working as a people’s approach to governance, it aligns well with our identity as a banking corporation. It feels good to be advancing this line of thinking at our company.”