Agile Coaches in Containers

In Agile, we always attribute unsolvable problems with the teams or leadership to a "mindset change." However, the mindset is developed through systematic thinking, collaboration, and a common vision.

Recently I had a chance to attend the Temenos Effect Gathering in Bangalore, India. The Temenos Effect process is used to develop a learning mindset within the organization. Before I discuss the experience at the gathering, let us take a closer look at the definition of Container.

What is the most authentic thing about humans?
Even though we are substantially alike, the things that mold us are highly contrasting. The metiers of life, the hard-learned lessons of discernment, and ingenuity shape the very architecture of our being. These lessons eventually lead us down the distinctive paths that cast our lives into true realism, self-affirmation, and the discovery of a compelling shared goal.

What is a container?

The container is the sum of relationships among individuals in a specific network, group, or system. It means that the individuals are in a context-aware and context-sensitive space, which plays the part of a mediator, to experience one another’s earnestness, ethics, grace, and comfort. In the Temenos language, we name this vision as "container creation" (or Containeering).

The Temenos way to self-discovery

Temenos is a Greek word that means container — the virtual space we create to provide a capacity for self-discovery and personal mastery through an intentional combination of cognitive and emotional intelligence, resulting in a learning organization.

Moreover, you can use an Influence Map as a tool to hold visuals as the key method of facilitating, sharing, and learning in the containers. Astonishingly, before going to the Temenos Gathering, I never knew that visuals could be so powerful for generating a collective keen-sightedness and awareness.

Personal mythology

During the sessions at the Temenos Gathering, Agile coaches were divided into groups of six or seven. We followed a storytelling approach to introspect, visualize, and articulate. We visualized our past journey in terms of containers and sketched the influence points that have shaped us. Coaches narrated their stories from their drawings. Other coaches slipped into the shoes of the storyteller (the coach described his or her story) and asked powerful questions to elicit the intent behind Agile decisions up to that point. These questions proved to be thought provoking for everyone.
Figure-1-Personal-Mythology.jpegFigure 1. Personal mythology

Clean slate

In our next phase of the workshop, we reviewed the same container stories (those we looked at in session 1) and visualized them by using the following questions:
  • How have I failed the container?
  • How has the container failed me?
  • How have I enabled the container?
  • How has the container enabled me?
  • How do I overcome my failures as an Agile coach?

This self-probing activity was a game-changer for everyone, allowing us to go deep into introspection and retrospection (i.e., viewing from different angles), which we hadn't done while making those decisions in the past).
Figure-2-Clean-Slate.jpegFigure 2. Clean slate

Each of us presented our own stories. Other coaches asked challenging questions that gave us new freedom of thought and helped us solve problems. In a few cases, it also helped us remove the long-term denials and the negative behaviors we had deeply nested in our minds.

True personal vision

Finally, the last stage of exercises led us to our own vision for both our personal and professional lives.
Figure-3-Vision.jpegFigure 3. True personal vision

The three days of the gathering gave us the containers (our new groups) with whom we were open, trusting, fearless, and bold enough to share our failures/successes and road maps. And I firmly believe that this newfound Temenos tool is powerful in reshaping our life and vision.

Key takeaways from the gathering

  1. Trust. Trust quickly creates the required safety net within the container, which is essential for sharing personal victories and failures.
  2. Powerful questions. As a coach, asking the right essential questions helps obtain the path/thought process. Agile coaches use this technique often in their daily professional lives.
  3. Compelling vision. Vision is important in driving everything in the right direction.
  4. Storytelling through pictures. Use this powerful technique to represent your journeys and thoughts. When a picture speaks 1,000 words, we're better able to retain it in memory.

I believe this workshop would be important to the journey of any coach, as it helps to define one's own vision and can be a powerful tool to coach leaders and team members about shared vision.


  1. The Temenos Effect Gatherings -
  2. S. Sirajuddin, "A Reliable Vehicle for Organizational Transformation," July 2013 -
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