Tending to ACI’s Transformational Impact through Partnership with SolutionsIQ


Tending to ACI’s Transformational Impact through Partnership with SolutionsIQ

What do you call a deeply skilled agile coach and trainer who has also spent
hundreds of hours honing their skills as a professional coach?


We call that a good start.


We are building ACI’s delivery capability. The demand for our industry-leading agile coaching course curriculum has continued to grow. It’s on the rise, in fact. ACI’s mission has always been to develop agile coaches as powerful change agents. To allow that mission to flourish, we need to grow, too.

But not growth at the sacrifice of quality.

That feels unethical to us. You see, when we use words like “transformation” and “immersive” in our course descriptions, that’s not marketing hype. It’s what our students say.

Last year, ACI began a partnership with SolutionsIQ to grow with quality. SolutionsIQ welcomes the rigor and investment required so that “transformational” and “immersive” continue to be accurate descriptors of ACI’s coaching curriculum and mission. Update: In October 2017, ACI was acquired by Accenture and will be led by the same people who lead the Accenture SolutionsIQ team. These are the same people ACI has been working with in successful partnership over this last year.

When Michael Spayd and I, co-founders of ACI, realized that ACI needed a more capable platform to pursue its work in the world, the only people we thought to approach were John and Charlie Rudd, the leaders of SolutionsIQ. We had known John and Charlie for years as colleagues and desirable collaboration partners and knew they would uphold ACI’s exacting quality standards, especially our co-leader teaching model. That model is expensive and looks like a poor business choice from a certain angle, and is absolutely necessary for the kind of impact we want to have on our students. It’s a big reason why ACI’s agile coaching curriculum is reliably transformational.

The ACI curriculum helps agile coaches master the practical tools, but more than that – agile coaches start upgrading their internal “operating system” as a result of our courses. It’s not just a mindset shift that happens, it’s a whole world-view shift that catalyzes a set of significant internal shifts.

What allows those shifts to happen reliably and safely is the professional coaching skill of ACI’s co-leaders. Yes, we are training people in agile coaching tools, models, and skills. Obviously co-leaders have to be deeply knowledgeable in these areas. What might not be so obvious is that we are also creating a deep and authentic learning environment that evokes real change. When people are up to real change, they need the skill of a professional coach to help them safely capture the full force of that change. That’s why an “entrance criteria” for ACI co-leaders includes professional coaching training and skill gained from masters in the coaching profession outside the agile world.

Back to the initial question… If we call a deeply skilled agile coach and trainer who has also spent hundreds of hours developing and honing their skills as a professional coach a good starting point, what’s left to do? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Just as our students go through a “hero’s journey” in our courses, co-leaders-in-development go through their own hero’s journey to be ready to truly lead ACI’s courses. During this time, a set of defined competencies guide us and give the co-leaders-in-development a no nonsense way to know if they are hitting the mark. We have already been active with co-leader development in preparation for ACI’s expansion. Louis Morisset, ACI alumnus and assistant at a recent Agile Coach Bootcamp, saw the process and has this to report:

“I had the chance to see firsthand some of the new trainers working their craft under the vigilant but ever so caring eyes of ACI’s faculty. The effort in preparation and training that these trainers undergo to be allowed to call themselves ACI co-leaders blew me away. As those new trainers become fully-fledged co-leaders, trust me, they will uphold the highest standards of quality that made ACI what it is today. They will be able to go out and inspire others like ACI’s founders inspired me. I have no doubt in my mind.”

That hero’s journey takes about six months of focused attention and practice. It mirrors the tried-and-true methods of creating masters in a craft: First, learn from the master. Then, participate and learn by doing (and failing and learning more). Finally, lead as a peer. Eventually, become a master capable of developing other leaders in the craft.  At each of these steps the learning is immediate and personal. It expands everyone involved. We think of it this way: if we can’t go through the fire to change ourselves, why would you trust us to guide you through it? By the time a co-leader is leading as a peer, they have gone through several such fires.

Now that SolutionsIQ has been acquired by Accenture, I find ACI’s work with SolutionsIQ unchanged. We are still involved with the same people and, if anything, the level of commitment has risen. I am happy to report that the folks I have met from Accenture have been open, curious and collaborative which is a welcome discovery.

ACI courses will continue to be produced by SolutionsIQ and staffed by a mixture of the original ACI faculty and SolutionsIQ faculty. Our partnership remains strong. As a result, ACI is more capable of realizing its purpose: to equip agile coaches to be the change leaders that are so keenly needed.

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