Working with Systems of People

This post is about some important thoughts on working with organizations that I learned from Michael Spayd, co-founder of the Agile Coaching Institute, some time ago. A key part of my learning is about the value of acting as a mirror to a team or organization when working as a coach, influencer or internal change agent.

Systems are made of People

The infographic below summarizes key elements.

Act as a mirror

Michael expressed the effectiveness of a coach who acts as a mirror to reflect a system back to itself. This can help a system become more aware of itself and act with choice. He gives the example of asking – “Do you want to be a great team?” and noting that the choice is up to them.

A powerful exercise is to ask the team to visualize themselves as if the team were an entity. This can be used to guide the team to a powerful future state.

A final word of caution is not to try and “fix” the team. Any lasting change requires that they heal themselves: it is critical that we see them as resourceful and capable to facilitate this. The alternative is to leave the system in a “better” state, but less capable of learning and growing than when we started.

A variety of differences in perspective can be used to mirror what is happening to drive insights and learning: management perspective vs. staff, present vs. past or future, team vs. group.

Look at the larger system for solutions

The concept of a holon can be used to think about what level of the organizational we are considering: individual, team, group or company. The central idea is that problems can only be solved at the next level up. Wikipedia has this definition: “A holon is a system (or phenomenon) which is an evolving self-organizing dissipative structure, composed of other holons, whose structures exist at a balance point between chaos and order.”


I would like to thank Michael Spayd for increasing my awareness of what is possible and improving my dynamic range as a coach change agent. He has helped start a multi-year journey of learning and growth.

Michael K Sahota guides and teaches leaders how to create high-performance organizations. He is the creator of a proven system for leading change through a practical playbook. His model for Consciously Approaching Agile guides the creation of a cultural and leadership context where Agile creates lasting organizational results. Michael has taught over 1000 leaders worldwide through his highly acclaimed “Agile” Culture & Leadership Training. His company, Agilitrix, delivers “Agile Transformation- Redefined” with an elite team of consultants who specialize in unlocking Culture.

Tagged with:
, , , , , , ,

Find Content

Adoption Agile Agile2009 Agile Failure Agile in the Large Agile Tour Toronto Change Artist Christine Day Coaching Communication Container Craftsmanship Creativity Empathy Facilitation Fear Games and Simulations Hierarchy Kanban Kotter Leadership Lean Management Observing Organizational Change Organizational Culture People Personal Growth Production Product Strategy Project Management Red Pill Safety Scrum Strategic Play Teamwork Technical Practices Training Training from the Back of the Room Transformation Transition Trust VAST Vulnerability XP

Leave a Reply