Yesterday (Monday), Liz Sedley and Rachel Davies ran a coaching workshop “What Does an Agile Coach Do?” that helped me spot several things I just never think to pay attention to. From Richard Hackman’s book Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances (which they highly recommend), they provided a number of observations. First, we should recognize that there is distinction between a Leader and a Coach. A Leader is part of the team whereas a Coach shouldn’t be part of the team and must set the stage for the day they leave.
Hackman identifies three types of coaching intervention and three opportunities to use those interventions effectively.
- Educational – improve the teams understanding/knowledge
- Consultative – improve the teams process/actions
- Motivational – improve the teams effort
And then three opportunities to use these interventions most effectively:
- Beginning – Motivational
- Middle – Consultative
- End – Educational
Like Paul King, I found this counterintuitive at first until they suggested that we think of this as the iteration and not the release level. At the start of the iteration, we provide the team with the motivational push to help them get the most done. In the middle of the iteration, we can provide guidance and offer suggestions to improve the flow and progress. At the end of the iteration, we reflect and find ways of learning from what happened. Each table was given a number of problem scenarios, and we were asked what would we do. After describing what we would do, we were asked to classify each intervention as Educational, Consultative, Motivational, or some other label. Again, like Paul, it quickly became obvious that I do very little in the way of motivational intervention. In addition, I spend a lot of my Educational efforts at moments when the team is less receptive, resulting in their being less effective.
In addition, I discovered a few other interesting things:
- Breathe, Pause, Wait—don’t act in the heat of the moment. Instead, relax and assess what tool will suit your needs best.
- Ask questions and understand not just the what but also the why as to how the situation ended up the way it did in the first place. Intervene only when you understand the whole situation, especially the history.
Finally, Liz Sedley told me to not ask why many people will take “why” as an attack and go on the defensive. Instead ask “how” and “what” questions. The exception, of course, is doing root cause analysis (i.e., 5 why’s), and in that case you should explain what you’re doing.
Along with Richard’s book, I’ve also received several recommendations for books on Systems Thinking: Bas Vodde and Craig Larman’s book Scaling Lean & Agile Development, which apparently contains a good chapter on Systems Thinking, and Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization. I’ve often heard of this book but never knew that the Fifth Discipline was Systems Thinking (thanks Declan).
Other blog posts I’ve spotted from Monday include: Giving and Receiving Effective Feedback (my writing on InfoQ), Paul King’s Counter-intuitive Agile Coaching Tips (also from this workshop), Masti, Co-Creator, Pair vs. Review, Agile Games – Agile 2009, Day 1 , FitNesse vs. Robot Framework – Agile Testing Tools , and A conversation with Neal Ford.