Sarah Rader Urig developed a passion for Agile when she saw the way it transformed how project teams work. When she started applying the principles of Agile to life coaching, a lightbulb went off: she could help ordinary people—not just businesses—change their everyday lives. Read how she helped a top 4 U.S. bank team improve its retail credit risk processes.
Q: You are NTT DATA’s Agile Practice Lead by day and a, shall we say, life coach by night. What made you want to add “life coach” to your skillset?
A: It really started with Agile. I discovered the methodology long ago when the company I was working for switched from Waterfall to Agile to speed up processes, save costs and create more-effective and more-satisfied teams.
Agile is a mindset that offers an alternative to traditional project management methodologies typically applied to software development, but you can apply it to life as well. At its essence, “Agile” is about being open to making changes as new information (or situations) come to you. It gives you the structure to reach your objectives but allows you to be flexible within that structure. I gravitated to it immediately. It fit my personality and I developed a passion for it. I quickly saw that the Agile skills that I was helping my financial services clients and other NTT DATA business consultants develop were the same skills that could help ordinary people in their everyday lives.
People can be easily paralyzed in the face of an overwhelming goal or challenge. As a life coach, I use my Agile training to help clients develop one-week “sprints” to help make progress toward their goals. Reflecting on effectiveness and adjusting behavior are other Agile principles we use.
Q: Can you talk a bit about recent client work you’ve done where your Agile and Life Coaching skills came together and made a difference for a financial services client?
A Top 4 U.S. Bank was facing an environment where they had competing priorities with complex dependencies where they were attempting to transform the way they collected, analyzed and secured data to assess retail credit risk. They had implemented a modified version of Scrum and Kanban. As they doubled the number of their distributed teams, it was increasingly difficult to manage the intricate work. They lacked the structure to deliver effectively. Some people were in the wrong roles and morale was non-existent. They brought me in to do an Agile maturity assessment, identify areas we needed to improve and restructure teams. I applied my coaching skills to work with team members and leaders who were unhappy in their roles to appropriately align people with roles.
The result was like night and day: employees thrived and productivity increased. The clearly defined Agile approach and consistent structure proved to be a huge success. The client was able to increase both the quantity and quality of work they delivered. Team morale was at a high. Work completed per Sprint cycle increased by 10%+ with fewer defects reported by QA.
By applying Agile principles, the client’s development teams were able to reach their goal of introducing an open source software platform that would provide the data management, security and operations functions they needed to understand their customers better, improve their retail credit risk operations, stay ahead of federal data management regulations and strengthen its position in the market.
Q: Do you think NTT DATA values your work as a life coach?
A: Absolutely. One of the great things about NTT DATA is that the company really understands the importance of employee engagement and job satisfaction. Happy employees equal happy clients every time. So, part of my job is to be a career coach to other business consultants at NTT DATA to help them identify what motivates them and figure out how to get to the next stage in their careers.
My life coaching experience has helped me to be able to see how different people think and adjust my approach accordingly, whether it’s with a client or with the employees that I train. I run frequent Agile training sessions and use different tools and games during those training because what might work for one person may not for another.
Q: What is the number-one thing you want clients to know about Agile?
A: If you truly embrace all its principles and values, Agile can transform your business, not just your software, because it transforms people. Agile welcomes change, emphasizes the customer and values people over processes.
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