Friday, October 26, 2018

What Does an Agile Coach Do All Day Part 2

In my experience, there is no end of things for an Agile Coach to do. At times, the needs and requests will just pour in. And at other times, you’ll need to be more proactive. Let’s talk about what to do when things are slow. It may be that you are new to a team and they aren’t sure what to make of you yet, so they aren’t bringing you any requests. Or it may be that it seems like everything is humming along just fine. There’s no single way to discover the work that needs doing. Everybody has or will develop their own techniques. That said, there are only so many ways to discover the work. Here is a list of ideas to try. And remember, you don’t need to do this on your own. Consider finding co-conspirators that can help you look for potential problems and opportunities.

  • Go to a standup or any other ceremony and try to use “new eyes.” That is, ignore the exact stories or issues being discussed. Look for boredom, agitation, rote patterns. Pretend you are attending the meeting for the first time.
  • Schedule short 1-1s with folks to see what is on their minds. Don’t force the conversation, just see where it leads. Think of it as an informal session. Talk over coffee, perhaps at the local coffee shop.
  • Spend some time with people outside of the team. What are customers saying? What about support, sales, marketing, or folks on other teams? Bring anything you find back to the team and get their thoughts. 
  • Put together a special workshop for a team as a whole. Think of some interesting or unusual activities that will get people thinking out of the box. 
  • Organize an open space event
  • Think of a topic that may get people excited and put together a lunch and learn or book club. You don’t have to be the speaker. Perhaps there is somebody in the company that you could invite, or perhaps somebody from another company. Get people thinking in new directions. Hopefully, it will spark comments like “perhaps we could do something like that!”
  • Spend some time going to meetups, reading blogs, or joining an Agile Coaching Circle
  • Offer office hours 
  • Create some mechanism for people to send you requests. For instance, set up a Trello board that people can add requests to at any time.  
  • When you see somebody in need, offer to help. As a coach, you should be focused on helping people get to the point where they don’t need your Agile skills. But you may find opportunities to mentor people. For instance, if a Product Owner is feeling swamped and you offer to help write some stories, that may give you the opening you were looking for to introduce them to some new story splitting techniques. 
  • Assess where your teams are on their Agile Journey. Doing it with them is the most effective approach. But if they are too busy or uninterested, you can always do it on your own as you look for new paths to take.
Do you have other ideas? Please share in the comments!

Next: People Do What They Desire To Do - ADKAR

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

What Does an Agile Coach Do All Day? Part 1

Understanding active listening, emotional intelligence, facilitation and a host of other coaching skills is great, but what does an Agile Coach actually do on a day to day basis? How do they create value? One can imagine a coach wandering around, making observations, dropping pearls of wisdom here and there, and being approached for advice. Or perhaps they are like a lucky charm; just great to have around, imparting greater levels of Agility through proximity.

Part of the difficulty of being an Agile Coach is that you are only successful when others are successful. You work is "indirect." Compounding this is the fact that if everybody were already experienced Agilists, you wouldn’t need to explain the value of Agile or how to become Agile. Agile is very different from traditional ways of working. As a result, it can easily end up in people’s “blindspot.” That is, when you explain parts of Agile, they can sound like exactly the wrong thing to do. For example, phrases like “consider working on fewer projects at the same time” and “produce new end-to-end functionality from scratch every two weeks” make many people shake their heads, even in supposedly Agile environments.

As a result, there are many different views of what “Agile” really is. When you show up at a client or a new team, it is likely that the true value that you can provide is not fully understood and that people will have certain pre-conceived notions of who you are, what you believe in, and how you will provide value to the organization, teams, and individuals. To counteract these difficulties, one thing you can do is create and publicize a catalog of service offerings. This gives people a tangible list of things that you can do for them that they may not have even thought of asking for.

Here is my catalog. It is in word format and I invite you to use any and all of the text that will help you create your own service offering catalog.

This idea came from Gillian Lee as she was looking to provide new ways to make Agile Coaching even more approachable and self-serve for her teams.

In Part 2 of this series I discuss ways to discover the potential needs of your teams.

Agile Games!

Over the past couple of years, and even more so lately, Gillian and I have been creating lots of Agile games, including user story games and games that teach Agile Coaching. You can download the full trove here.

Upcoming Events

I've got a number of events coming up! Tonight I'll be at the Kendal Square Agilists doing a talk/large game on "Scaling Agile Organically." You can learn more and register at their meetup page.

This Thursday, and every Thursday, I'll be doing an Agile Coaching webinar. Sign up for this week's webinar here.

And if you are interested in getting your ICAgile Agile Coaching certification (ICP-ACC), I've got three opportunities coming up in Boston and Dallas. Dates and details are on my eventbrite page. Use coupon code ICPACC1 to get $300 off!

Hope to meet you in person soon. What can we learn from each other?

Friday, October 12, 2018

Switching Focus to Agile Coaching

After a long hiatus on this blog, I'll be switching the focus from DIY to Agile Coaching. That said, the essence of providing information for the Agile DIY'er will remain, it is just a change of focus. So, what do I mean by "Agile Coaching?" Topics related to coaching within an Agile environment. Topics like powerful questions, presence, listening, and remaining neutral. These are all things that come from coaching and are independent of any particular domain area. But as an Agilist, you are often working to catalyze change which requires good coaching skills. So, I'll be talking about coaching, but within an Agile context.

One awesome thing about the Agile community is that we have so many tools that are great coaching tools. For instance, part of coaching is identifying what the issue is that needs coaching. Powerful questions are great for that. And what are speedboat and open space if not powerful non-leading open-ended questions? So I'll be talking about great tools like that within a coaching context. Let me know what topics you'd like me to cover and ask me whatever you'd like. I look forward to your participation!