Agile coaching tips from my grandmother

I was dispensing advise to some teams on minimising WIP, keeping focused and pacing themselves, when I could almost hear my parents and even my grandmother giving me the same advice.

So here are some of the tips that I heard as a child, that still seem to be good advise in an agile context.

Busy today?

“If you are too busy to do that today, what makes you think you will have more time tomorrow?”

I often find myself wanting to postpone things until “we get through this busy period” only to realise later that the busy period is the rest of our working lives. My grandma’s wisdom is to either:

  • Close the loop on things today so they are off our plates and not still hanging around
  • Be honest about things that won’t happen and make a call now
  • Plan on the basis of being busy and not having enough time, rather than building a great plan to try to create enough time

What did you think was going to happen?

I often talk about “fear of failure” being bad and suggest that we should focus on “learning experiences” rather than mistakes. Sometimes though, I have seen something happen, that I really should have anticipated. I do not believe in catastrophising or ruminating about it, but actually pausing to think “if that was what I expected/kind of expected, then what could I do differently to avoid it next time.

Never trust a skinny cook

If you do not eat the food you cook, should others be nervous about eating what you cook? Maybe.

But more importantly, if you serve something to others you should believe in it yourself. If an agile coach wants to avoid feedback, demand un-shiftable plans, claim there is no way to measure the impact of their work and roll out agile in a fear-based top down approach … do they really believe in what they are asking others to do?

If we want to serve up ideas to others – we should be growing fat on consuming them ourselves. We should love using the techniques, practices and approaches that we suggest to others.

Just because it needs to happen, does not mean that it will happen

I often want to believe that I will be successful and that things will come together – and they often do. But planning on people adopting a practice, delivering on time or doing anything else just because “they have to” is not a good plan. A better approach is to either plan for how to help them do what you need, or anticipate it might not happen.


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