07 27 18

ExO Ecosystem, ExO Sprint

How ExO Sprints Foster Diversity and Inclusion

Written By

Emilie Sydney-Smith

2 min read

While running the second Sprint for a major US-based financial services organization, I noticed something quite exciting. While I had been impressed by every participant in both Sprints, the absolute standouts were predominantly women.


While preparing feedback for our client on the performance of team members at the second Sprint, where I am the head coach, I had a surprising realization: I was about to rave predominantly about female participants.

I’ve been impressed by every participant in both ExO Sprints. The men have consistently done an excellent job and surprised me with hidden talents, but the absolute standouts were predominantly women.

By way of example, one lady is spearheading the development of an initiative that I think could be world-changing. Her idea involves an extremely complex and technical area that was completely new to her seven weeks ago. I listened to her navigate a call with an industry expert recently with nuanced and sophisticated knowledge of the topic and awe-inspiring clarity.

To watch her and many others soar during the Sprint makes my job one of the best in the world.

So, what is behind this gender difference in Sprints?

My guess is that the act of creating teams from staff of many different seniority levels, but stipulating a flat structure within the Sprint team, frees women from their usual reticence to appear too assertive and tendency to defer to men in a group setting. This particular financial services organization appears to do much better than most companies at promoting talented females, but most females in any company still restrain themselves from conduct that is normal for men and suffer from 'imposter complex.'

Secondly, during the Sprints, we inspire the teams to try to change the world for the better, and leverage the resources and talents of their $35 billion company to implement their initiatives. This removes them from the everyday work that usually confines inspiration, trust and autonomy.

Once unshackled from normal routine, these ladies' pent-up talent seems to flood out. Stoke the early flames, and the linear learning path I expect to see from the ladies proves wrong. This holds true both for white and non-white team members. Perhaps an ExO Sprint is one of the best diversity and inclusion programs available.

We have had one team that has found it harder to settle on initiatives and flesh them out. It is comprised of one lady and five guys, all of whom have individual strengths. I can’t help but wonder whether more gender balance would have provided this team with the glue needed to steer the ideation toward concrete concepts that can be tested with customers, then pivot toward more customer-centric ideas more deftly.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on whether you're seeing similar things in other ExO Sprints, and how we can best showcase the diversity and inclusion benefits in the business development process.

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