I sometimes question whether I should focus more on coaching the team or changing the environment to unleash the team. Choosing between the two can be a real dilemma for me. However, there are some coaching tools that are useful in both helping the team grow AND creating space to support that growth in the organisation. A “forcing function” is one of those things. The name is bit obscure and like all good ideas in agile coaching, they are used to mean different things to different people at different times, to ensure that any smart curious person can remain confused … Continue reading Forcing functions for good and evil
A while ago now, I was listening to a great presentation by Pat Reed, who is an excellent agile coach. (Editor’s note – if you are interested, you can learn more about Pat by watching this video, which is one of a series of interviews with women who have had a big impact on the agile world). Anyway, back to my story. The presentation was going very well until Pat said “I think one of the greatest challenges for this organization will be to convince our teams to be willing to do less.” People nodded, but Pat paused for effect. … Continue reading I did not say slow down to speed up later
In agile teams, people give each other feedback all the time. Sometimes it is feedback about things that can be done better and often it is about expressing gratitude or pointing out something that was done well. In fact I would say that good feedback is one of the things that drives agile teams forward. Without it, teams can get burnt out, burning through an endless backlog without seeing the progress they have been making. Sometimes though, agile teams can also start suffering from group think, talkfests and unhealthy conversations. This is where a technique called the broken record technique … Continue reading The broken record technique
I was collating my thoughts about feedback recently and I started to think about whether people listen to feedback. I like to think that my keen observations are helping people see things that they had been missing and, equipped with this new knowledge, that they will reflect on it and find improvements in their lives. In short, the world will get better one conversation at a time. Unfortunately I know that my words sometimes fall on deaf ears, which raises the question: Assuming someone asked for feedback and the feedback was potentially useful, why would they not listen? I believe … Continue reading Why don’t people listen to feedback
Here is a conversation that I claim I was once in. I will let you determine whether this is a real thing or just made up. Apprentice coach We keep telling the teams that they should measure and learn from their work so they keep learning. Should we also measure the impact of our coaching? James It is surprising how rarely people ask that question, Grasshopper. Apprentice Coach When you call me grasshopper it makes me feel as though you are getting old and quoting ancient tv shows that don’t even exist anymore. Or are you just evading my question? How … Continue reading How do you measure agile coaching?
When coaching teams, I find that I have a natural bias for teaching them to take charge of the world and apply better techniques to getting their work done. I find, however, that teaching the team is often not enough. As much as they are empowered and keen to improve, they are always part of a larger system. The team members might all want to stop working on pointless features and focus on value, or they might want to get rid of long business cases and piles of unproductive meetings. This would be great if they operated on their own, … Continue reading Quick question – should you coach the team or change the environment?
I came across this sign some time ago, while walking down a street in Queensland, Australia. I thought it was a great ad for a gym or a personal trainer and I also think it is a great motto for an agile coach. Say a team is told to use something like Scrum, but have no motivation for doing so, beyond the fact that management told them to do it. They will never really get started. A team can have a stand-up every day, but if it is inflicted on them they they will simply go through the motions until … Continue reading Motivation gets you started by habit keeps you going
One of the challenges of an agile coach, on the surface, is to get people to behave differently. But why? There are many reasons that getting people to change the way they behave is hard and there are many solutions. In fact one of the reasons I think that coaches like “Shu Ha Ri” is that is gets people to do what they are told and saves a lot of debate. However, getting people to change the way they behave is the wrong starting point. I have been coaching a couple of high performing teams recently and also working with … Continue reading Change the future to change the present
I claim that an agile team is a self-organizing team, which means that everyone in the team is accountable for the successes of the team (and the shortcomings). But is this really true? (hint – yes). But the big book of Scrum says you must have specific accountabilities. In Scrum, there is a saying that the PO is responsible for what the team does and “the team” is responsible for how they do it. However, my opinion is different here to how some Scummers interpret that statement. I do NOT take it to mean that the team mindlessly accept work … Continue reading When everyone is accountable, who really is?
I help teams be “more agile.”
My favourite approach is to help them build a culture of self improvement. I figure that if we get that right, then the team will invent all the agile things that they need.
This should work in theory, but it means the team will be limited to learning based on their own experience. So how will they know if they are learning the right skills?Continue reading “How do I know that is true?”