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Amongst the family of powerful questions the Why questions have their special spot. They are both extremely powerful, used correctly, and extremely dangerous. In this episode of the Coaching Random Thoughts, Alex Kudinov explores the ups and downs of using the why questions in your coaching and everyday conversations.


Someone asked me a question the other day on the LinkedIn and my first knee jerk reaction was not particularly cool and nice. Good thing I stayed away from the “reply” button at that point.

As I stepped away from the first reaction, took a deep breath and recognized, and analyzed this reaction, it became clear to me that the reaction was not to the content of the question, but to the way it was asked. It started with Why.

Yes, I know, I know the whole mantra where we start with Why. What I also observed that that whole movement does not focus on the Why question, but on the reasons we are doing things – kind of a parallel to the outcome vs solutions conversation.

So what I want to talk about today is the power and dangers that come with that power of the Why questions.

Whys are extremely important for our understanding of anything and everything. We use them extensively in brainstorming, as in 5 why techniques and they work perfectly. However, notice that there, they are primarily turned towards the problems, actions, events, not people and their behaviors.

In coaching we try to avoid coaching the problem and doing our best to dig under the layers and layers and look at the whole, naturally creative, resourceful, and whole person. That’s where the why questions are quite dangerous. And they can be quite magnificent at the same time!

Coaching is about creating new awareness, why questions are rarely about that. Why is about analysis, rationalization, and justification. When you ask those why questions in the coaching conversation they can be an extremely powerful pivot from building awareness to rationalization of a specific aspect of that conversation. And there might just as well be a good and well thought out coaching reason for that.

It reminds me of the 3 things that makes us learn better – testing, spacing, and interleaving. The latter is all about the diversity of activities as we are learning. So switching from awareness building to rationalization to back to awareness building might be a good way to enhance client’s learnings. With that said, coaches need to be highly aware of the potential side effects of the why questions.

First and foremost a potential defensive reaction. Asking a why question we subtly ask the client to rationalize and justify their behaviors and actions. Those, who are quick and good with making lots of assumptions can get to defensiveness before you even finish asking the why question. So it’s important for coaches to work overtime to ensure that the client is open to any form of feedback, especially pointed and very direct.

Second potential downside to asking the why questions is the fact that I mentioned before – they have no way of enhancing awareness. Rationalization and analysis do not go together, it’s the either/or relationship. At the same time rationalization is rarely forward looking. It rarely serves the purpose of propelling the client forward, while they are mired in defending their past actions, rationalizing and explaining them. That goes against the core premise of the coaching.

It’s also the tone of the question, your intonation, your stressing specific words, your pace of speech. As always, a coach wants to stay absolutely 100% curious about client’s ways of thinking, their world, and actions. Asking the why questions with genuine curiosity and care for the client goes a long way to prevent the potential defensiveness and pushback, to allow client the space to consider the depth of the question and decide which way they want to go with it.

You, as a coach, gotta have a lot of rapport with the client to ask why questions. You gotta be willing to sacrifice some of that rapport on the instinctive push-back reactions. You gotta be willing and able to rebuild that rapport quickly and hope that the question and answer to it were worth the sacrifice.

If you are a novice coach, my recommendation for you would be to stay away from the why questions, period. Just don’t do it. There’s more downside in it for you. As you get more comfortable in your skin and with a variety of fledging and growing competencies, you might start playing with the why questions more deliberately .

Good luck on your fascinating coaching journey.

When coaching teams the emerging complexity can be daunting and overwhelming. Have you struggled to plan a coaching strategy to help them? As coaches, we listen intensely. We listen to various team members and stakeholders: all those conflicting views, interdependent influences, a web of emotions, behaviors and miscommunications…can be too much. Sometimes, we just stand in front of all that information and wonder – where do I begin?

What I found immensely helpful when coaching teams in these situations is visualizing these dynamics with causal loop diagrams. Simply put, visualizing helps us deal with information complexity – making it easier to identify a coaching strategy or focus. It can help our teams too – in understanding how they influence each other and make the team function as it does. Or help an individual in understanding how his behavior, beliefs and goals interact with each other and how to break an unwanted behavior to get to the desired outcome.

I would love to share with you what causal loop diagrams are and how to use them in coaching. We will share stories, look at an example, and build causal loop diagrams together. After the session, you will have another tool at your coaching belt that makes creating a coaching strategy a little easier in very complex situations.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

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Meetup Presentation Materials

Milos Zecovic - Coaching Teams with Causal Loops
Download Meetup materials here


Session Transcript is coming soon.

The last article introduced the use of the STORMMES Model © in co-creating the relationship agreement with the client. In this article, we take a closer look at competency 3 Establishes and Maintains Agreements.

The first three competency markers in this section help us to understand what a good relationship agreement contains.

  1. The coach explains what coaching is and is not and describes the process to the client and relevant stakeholders
  2. The coach and client reach an agreement about what is and is not appropriate in the relationship, what is and is not being offered, and the responsibilities of the client and relevant stakeholders
  3. The coach and client reach an agreement about the guidelines and specific parameters of the coaching relationship such as logistics, fees, scheduling, duration, termination, confidentiality and inclusion of others

(These markers are addressed in the T – Timelines, R-Roles, E-Environment portions of the STORMMES Model ©.)

A competent coach will take time prior to starting an engagement to ensure that the client understands the difference between coaching and other disciplines. For coaches who engage in multi-discipline work, it is important to clarify what coaching is and is not. If the work you are doing with a client includes other disciplines like consulting, training, mentoring then it should be clear to both the client and the coach when and how these disciplines will be used throughout the engagement. I have seen a trend in multi-disciplined coaching engagements (such as agile coaching) where coaches have been frustrated because they want to coach but the client wants them to consult. This points to the need to clarify up front in the relationship agreement how the coach intends to interact with the client and how the client expects the coach to interact. If an agreement cannot be made or there is an unresolvable mismatch in the expectations the coach must consider the ethical ramifications of taking on the engagement. Please also note that as a matter of the competencies around ethics the coach should also address how coaching differs from disciplines such as counseling, therapy, other psychotherapy and support professions. Please take note that relevant stakeholders are part of the coaching agreement so for coaches who are working in organizations there may be several layers of the coaching agreement to consider.

As a provider of reflective coach supervision what I have noticed is that much of the challenge coaches have during engagements tie back to a weak relationship agreement. Whether the relationship agreement should be in a written formal contract or verbal agreement is not defined by ICF for competence. These are decisions left to the coach regarding how they manage their coaching practice as internal and external coaches.

Many of the items in marker three are easily handled and agreed upon through the coach’s standard written contract. Some of what is contained in markers one and two could be contained in a written contract and is often contained in a SOW with corporations, however in practice much of this is verbal agreement between coach and client and gets adjusted throughout the engagement. For items relegated to verbal agreement, it is important for the coach to have some process for ensuring that they have the relevant conversations with the client to set the pace of the engagement. I also recommend periodic check in points where the coach and client reflect on their relationship and make any further agreements and clarifications as needed.

“The single biggest failure of leadership is to treat adaptive challenges like technical problems.” -Ron Heifetz

We live and work in an increasingly interconnected and rapidly changing world. New business models are shifting duties to teams instead of individuals, which means people are now working more closely together. It also means leaders at all levels have to begin to adapt their leadership style to guide the intricacies of human dynamics and channel the collective knowledge of the groups they interact with.

In this workshop, we will explore how leaders create environments that navigate the complexity of interpersonal relationships, overcome the human element of barriers to change, and support the growth and engagement of their employees. Attendees will walk out of the room with a clearer idea of their own leadership style and a list of action items they can use (tomorrow!) to move their teams one step closer to higher performance.

Learners will leave:

  1. Knowing the difference between technical solutions and adaptive solutions.
  2. Understanding where the most typical leadership interventions fall on the adaptive/technical map.
  3. With a clearer picture of their own leadership style and a list of action items they can use to move themselves more toward the adaptive realm.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

About The Speakers

Bryan Miles MY BELIEFS: I believe that successful teams rely on peak performing individuals. As a coach my passion is helping people and

Bryan Miles

teams discover and maximize their potential to become the foundation for high performance.
MY SKILLS: My experiences as an ORSC trained coach, agile-lean practitioner, agile coach, facilitator, and educator allow me to seamlessly combine coaching, facilitating, teaching, and mentoring, bringing teams to full empowerment. My skill set enables me to recognize the need for and serve as a catalyst of change in organizations of all types.
SPECIALTIES: Leadership Coaching, Leadership Development, Agile Coaching, Individual Coaching, Team Coaching and Facilitation, Training, Workshop Development, Engagement, Organizational Change.


Brian Miles Sure, thank you so much Cherie. Can you guys see my screen alright?

Cherie Silas Yes.

Brian Miles All right. So we’ll introduce ourselves in just a minute but you’re here for content. So we’d love to like jump right in and just kind of go for it and then we’ll introduce ourselves in just a few minutes if that’s–if that’s okay. Alright, so we’re here to talk about adaptive leadership. And I think, you know, as I was reflecting on this, and kinda get, you know — part of the great things about doing presentations is you get to really dive deep, think about them a lot, and continue to think about them and as you present stuff, revise it, and think about it some more and — so I was–I was just thinking about this, before jumping on the call, I was like, you know, why are we really talking about this and why is it important and–and so, I just wanted to start off by just, you know, covering that just a little bit and talk through that and then we’ll sort of jump in.  I think for us, as we’re, as we,

Darren and I, um, you know, doing our work with client solutions, as we start to look at what’s going on in the world and looking at the companies that we’re working with, you know, what we’re finding is that, you know, leadership is…is absent in a lot of places, or the leaders are addressing the wrong things. They’re addressing what they think they should be addressing and if we take a step back, using this stuff that we’re going to talk about today, what we’re actually finding is that they’re addressing the wrong things for lots of different reasons and so we wanted to present this and throw it out there to the world and start talking about it because, uh, it’s really impactful work and I think it starts to shift a perspective a little bit, and that’s the goal today is; shift your perspective a little bit on what leadership is and what the role of leadership is, and what we should be looking at as leaders, because we’re all leaders no matter what our role is, right, um, and so that’s why we wanted to–we find this work, super interesting and this content valuable for us. So we hope you feel the same. Darren, do you have anything you want to add in there?

Darren Hoevel Yeah, and I think my only piece here is everything what Brian said, but also is, we’re pulling from a lot of different sources, and you know, between Brian ICF Certified Agile Coaching Certifications, Scaled Agile Frameworks, not just SAFe but others, as well, some of the dare to lead work, Brene Brown, and then just other things we’ve picked up along the way. So it’s, it’s sort of a culmination for lack of a better term, a lot of different things coming together. So the language may be a little different in different areas, but your, the, the intent is the same. So I think we’re happy to share it with you.

Brian Miles Okay, as soon as I can figure out how to change slides. Alright, so the first thing we want to start off with is just in the chat, just type, what kind of leader do you want to be? Just put it in the chat and I’ll see if I can open

Darren Hoevel I got the chat Brian.

Brian Miles Okay. What kind of leader do you want to be?

Darren Hoevel Alright, so I’m seeing ‘Transpor–Transformational’, ‘Impactful’, ‘Empowering.’ you know, a couple of ones, and, ‘Servant leader to others’, ‘Inspiring’, ‘Influential’, ‘Courageous’, motivator.

Brian Miles Awesome. Sounds like good things.

Darren Hoevel Intent based leadership.

Brian Miles Very cool. Okay, they sound like all great things and good words and, you know, the question that, you know, a good coaching question after that is, so what does that look like in practice? Right? *laughs* And that’s the hard thing to define is, all these things sound amazing but how do we actually put them into practice? And that’s what we want to talk about a little bit by introducing this concept of adaptive leadership today. We want to talk to you about a way that you can start to think about it differently and sort of put all that stuff into practice in just a little bit of a different way than you might be used to.  So this is a quote from Brene Brown.

As Darren said we’re–we pull from a bunch of different sources, sort of, who our influences are, and-and who we love to learn from, and what we find interesting, and this is her definition of leadership. “A leader is anyone who takes responsible–responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.” So, we’d love to hear from some people just jump on and, you know, what does that mean to you, and, you know, I think this is a little bit different for most people. Um, and so, maybe, just talk about how that lands for you or how it’s different from a traditional notion of leadership that you might have heard from–heard about. Anyone?

Cherie Silas Yeah, I’d say that. Traditionally, I think people may hear ‘leader’ and think it’s the boss — the one in control, the one telling everyone else what to do — where this definition is more of helping others to be upfront rather than you being upfront.

Brian Miles Yeah, sure. The traditional notion of ‘I’m the–I’m carrying the bag–the-the battle flag, right, in front of the troops behind me is sort of different here. Great, thanks. What else?

Geeta Um, this–this is Geeta, um, for my personal experience, traditional leadership is–tends to be on finding fault versus the new way of leadership is more of ‘early failure is a good thing’ and basically, looking for the potential and trusting the human being to learn.

Brian Miles Yeah, awesome. Thanks so much for sharing.

Sri Hey, this is Sri. So what I would like to say is, yeah, traditionally, it’s more like a boss role but I would like to think a little beyond and say leader is, kind of, ‘leader is leading and I’m blindly following’ but from this definition, I would like to really say that a leader is not just who is always in the front and leading the people but always encouraging and motivating people, and letting the potential come out, and let them be a leader as well. Bring the potential out.

Brian Miles Yeah, thanks, Sri.

Darren Hoevel Yeah, and I think — this is Darren — I think one of the things that has sort of resonated me with the Brene Brown work is, it’s–it’s been a lot less, as a business owner, as a coach, and even as a leadership coach, is, it really takes the…you don’t have to worry about trying to fit yourself into a mold. This-this superhero/Superwoman/Superman approach to leadership that you-you got to fit into the tights, and wear the cape, and have a mask, um, is what you know, at least–you know, as I grew up, in my career, thought leadership had to be–you had to be this very, really wicked, smart person, or very inspiring person, and that’s-that’s hard to do if you’re not born with those traits or if you’re in an area in which you’re not the subject matter expert. What this quote is really saying is, you just got to show up and you got to be willing to attack a situation when the outcome is uncertain. 

And so, for me, personally, it is a skill in which I can teach others to show up. I can’t teach you to be inspirational; I can maybe show you the way or-or-or, you know, hone your PowerPoint skills, or your speaking skills, or maybe even your facilitation skills, but, you know, it’s it’s definitely, those are things you can get better at. But to walk in a room like some people can and just inspire hundreds of people, like, you know, there’s very few people that can do that. So if you’re putting yourself on that pedestal, it’s-it-it’s a hard thing to sort of be willing to take a–to take on. However, saying, “I’m willing to see the best of others. I’m willing to walk into a situation and try to figure it out, not because I know the answer but because I believe we all can build a solution to this problem or for this need.” And so for me, that was a huge breath of fresh air. It was a great way to articulate what I had sort of been feeling and thinking, um, and, you know, you bel–it’s also, what doesn’t say here is–what it doesn’t say here is, you know, your-you believe in humanity and those around you that we can figure this out.

Brian Miles So, we want to introduce our concept. Um, it’s from a book, Good to Great, and it’s a concept of windows and mirrors, right? And I think a lot of times what we see leaders doing, and this is the hard work, right, we see leaders looking out the window and saying, “Oh, well, they’re doing everything wrong and it’s my job to fix everything and to solve all the problems for them” and, you know, the new notion of leadership is sort of rather than looking out the window, it’s really looking in the mirror and saying, you know, “What am I doing that’s impacting the people out there?” Right? “How do I need to show up differently, in order to impact my company?” You know, “How do I need to do my work, so that they can do their work?” and…it kind of sucks. *laughs* Like, it’s really–it’s hard, you know, it’s hard to look in the mirror and realize that, ‘man, I got some work to do.’ *laughs* Like, you know? And it’s tough as leaders, it’s easy to look out the window and put the blame out there and it’s, it’s hard to look in the mirror and see that reflection back and know that you have to do something differently in order to show up.

Darren Hoevel And I think the thing that, you know, if you get hired into a company to be a leader of… whatever that is — an Agile transformation, a personal development, some sort of, you know, executive coaching — a lot of times those folks are hiring you to sit there and w–using this window concept, and make observations, and provide guidance based on those observations. Um. If you are internal to that company, a lot of times it means you show up every day, you know, sort of with-with what you want the leader that you want to see within that organization, and you don’t lead that way because you want others to follow, you lead that way, because you want those behaviors to be contagious; and so one of the other Brene Brown quotes is, “Courage is contagious.”  So if you choose, that is what you want this organization to represent, then you have to make the effort or intent to be that way on a very consistent and regular basis, or at least try your your darndest to do so. Um, and so that’s where we have this contrasting of–it’s also a good reflection tool, as you walk into a situation or after a situation to say, “Was I that person saying, ‘You coulda, you shoulda, you woulda'”, um, which aren’t bad reflection tools, um, “or is this a situation in which my intent did not match our impact and I need to sort of reflect on how did I show up in this particular situation?” which leads right into our next–our next slide of one of the key concepts that Brian and I have really, I think globbed on to is, “What is your intent?” and then “What is the impact of your intent on others?” and what I like to talk to people about is, what how big is the gap between the two? 

Because very rarely do we get the chance to have an intent, something we really want to do, you know, servant leadership, a great one, right? Our intent in a scrum team, for those that–I think most of us are in the Agile community, is to have a you know, servant leadership rather at the Agile coaching level or the Scrum Master level. Okay? That’s our intent but how is that showing up in the organization? How are we, rather, modeling that behavior, preaching that behavior, teaching that behavior? And so between what we want to happen and how we’re landing with our audience, you need self-awareness, you need feedback, you need constant communication with the groups to truly understand how close or how wide that gap is.  And-and it’s not to shame you or to feel bad about it, it’s just to show you how much work needs to be done in that area…and-and leadership is a great one, right? We need a good leader. All right.

So our intent is to be a good leader for this organization. However, when we get into situations, and production is down, and we need to get the systems back up and running, do we start shouting, you know, “We need to do this, we need to do that, and we need to do that”, or are we inviting the team to find a solution, rather, on their own or as a group. And the goal from a self reflection tool, going back to that mirror, is to be able to see it in the moment, the better we get at understanding our abilities and our impact. The more we can adjust in the middle of a situation, even a tense situation. The less mature or capable we are in that area, the more we’re going to be using reflective tools after the fact, which is still good, but it doesn’t change what just happened. And that’s where you evol–how you evolve and you’re, you know–I’m s–I hate the word maturity–but just how you evolve as a leader and who you are, how strong is your leadership foundation and your self-awareness as a part of that will be a key factor in making those adjustments. And the more trust you have within your team that you’re working with, the more forgiveness or slack you get when when maybe you missed that mark; and the opposite is true, the less trust you have, the less forgiveness and the more it takes to recover from those chasms between intent and impact.

Brian Miles So for us at Pliant Solutions, you know, as we built out and grew–have grown the company, you know, one of the things that really has stood out to us is, what is our intent? You know, what is our intent as a company? What is our intent, as, you know, people who work for an organization, who form an organization, and, you know, how do we want to show up? And so, you know, we kind of came up with our core values about, you know, what was important to us and I think our values helped define our intent and, you know, in some ways, values are very overused.

And when we hear everyone and every, you know, every company talk about values and what their values are, and, um, you know, and–but if we look at the larger purpose of that, right, the purpose of that is trying to set their intent and, you know, sometimes we, speaking from personal perspective, sometimes I do, you know, really well at this stuff, and then sometimes I just go completely off the rails, and *laughs* I’m really bad at this stuff too, and so–but knowing that it’s there to serve as a guidepost is really is really helpful, because it helps me realize when I go off the rails.

Darren Hoevel Yeah. Yeah and I think the interesting part about this is, you know, as the President of Pliant Solutions, and co-founder with–with my wife, who’s the managing member, like, we had to figure it out between–as a relationship and spouses, uh, what this looked like, and then Brian’s been one of our-our longest tenured e–uh–em–em, uh, employees, but also as part of the leadership team is, you know, you had a married couple, and then, you know, and then Brian, leading this organization, and we realized, like, we had to come up with, what are those guideposts that lead lead us as an organization?

And the bigger you get the, the more complicated it gets because you have differing opinions, styles, educational histories, approaches, etc. and I think it was great, because it forced us to come together, talk about our intense, how did we want to show up, and-and we, you know, as a leadership team, we work together and said, you know, going back to Dan Siegel’s work, you know, if you can–if you can name it, you can tame it, or in this instance, like, how do you visualize what our values are? So we sat down and created–I know, this is just a PowerPoint slide. But for us, it is a, I say a Northstar on how we want to drive this organization in the within it.

Brian Miles So we haven’t really introduced ourselves yet. So we’ll do that now. We call us the goofballs who make all of this happen and it’s really who make all this happen sometimes when we’re at our best *laughs* not all the time, but at least we try. So this is just a little bit about us, and, and you know, our values. You know, we try to bring our whole selves to work, and that phrase is also overused all the time, but, um, you know, if you take the that stuff out of it and just, you know, show up; and that’s what we talked about.

Um I think we’ve tried to create an organization with really diverse backgrounds, and, you know, people who have different skill sets, because we’ve realized that the broader we are, you know, the better we are, and so it’s been really fun to, um, jump into that, and, you know, as we’re hiring, you know, learning about people’s backgrounds, and learning about what makes them tick, and we’re saying, “Oh, w–you know, we don’t have someone who has this background.” Like, it’s really cool to bring them in and hear what they have to say and, you know, they’re coming from a completely different spot. I mean, my background has nothing to do with IT, or Agile, it’s actually in music, you know, and so I love people who can, you know, bring themselves into the organization and-and really create that-that difference in that discussion.

Darren Hoevel Yeah, I’ll just add in one little comment to that is, the more capabilities or the more diverse the folks that you bring in, and, as a leader, I realized that someone who is an expert in social media marketing–social media and marketing, I-I cannot get in the way of that, because they will probably have more knowledge than I. So it definitely sends you–puts you in a, in a position where you have to lead; you can’t manage because they know more than you and for me, that’s been a great situation. You know, Brian leads one of our federal programs. He knows more about it than I do.

So even if I wanted to be an overpowering, micromanaging, you know, person…like, I can’t, because I’ve given him so much ownership and respect for that particular program, at least I hope Brian feels this way, that I don’t get in the way. So the empowerment and trust then enables me to be a better leader, because I don’t really have any other choices. I can’t control something I don’t know about, right? At least not for a very long time, not for Brian to stick around very long. Um–but creating that environment has really helped and I think we’ve tried to do that with each one of our employees to the best of our ability.

Brian Miles So, all of that was a big setup, basically, for talking about this concept of Adaptive Leadership. I think, you know, what’s important to us is just sort of set a little bit of a basis there and set – sort of – the groundwork, and now that you know a little bit about where we’re coming from, and sort of the-the baseline that we’re working with, we can sort of jumped into the weeds a little bit deeper.

So this is a quote from Ron Heifetz. Ron Heifetz teaches a famous leadership class at Harvard and he says this: “The single biggest failure of leadership is to treat adaptive challenges like technical problems.” So of course, you’re like, ‘Well, that sounds awesome but what the heck are adaptive challenges?’ All right. So technical, technical challenges, right? These are things where the solution is already known. Right? It can be solved by an expert or authority, or some tested procedures or norms or systems, right? We have something that’s already known, we know how to solve this problem. It’s not too difficult, right? You have high blood pressure, you take the medication to lower your high blood pressure, done; no problem.

Adaptive challenges are challenges where there’s no known solution, outside the current knowledge and typically, these things can only be addressed through changes in people’s priorities, their beliefs, their habits, and their loyalties. This is the hard stuff. Right? So I talked about high blood pressure, it’s easy to give someone with high blood pressure medication to lower their blood pressure. Right? Not difficult. It’s harder to get them to change their lifestyle to you know, not need blood pressure medication to, you know, lose weight, and cut down, and change their diet and exercise, right? And so the technical solution is giving medication, the adaptive or the technical challenge is solved by giving medication, the adaptive challenge is, how do we motivate this someone to change their lifestyle, their habits, their beliefs, right? That’s much more challenging.

Darren Hoevel Yeah, I just–I-I, without getting political, COVID is a key example of this. You know, I have a 10 year old daughter who wants to go rock climbing in an indoor rock climbing place. It is both a techni–the technical solution is to hand sanitizer, mask up, and, you know, change your clothes before you you leave the rock gym. However, I don’t feel comfortable with that-that simple solution, because it really is the behaviors and habits of others that have to change in order for it to be a safe environment; not just how do you prevent it on yourself? I said it’s a fairly simple but sometimes sensitive area that has, you know, it produces definitely some challenges, but knowing that most most, most problems or challenges are not simply solved by a technical solution.

Brian Miles Right, so we need both and most, most challenges are both technical and adaptive. So we’re going to pause here for a second and we’d like to hear from some of you. Maybe think about a challenge that you’ve had at work, what was the technical part of it and then what is the most adaptive part of it? Because being able to identify this, like this — we call this like the diagnosis step — like, this is the hardest part and this is the key to this work. The diagnosis is the most important part because if you diagnose wrong, right, we’re not going to be able to move the needle and make the organization better. So just throw it out there. What are some technical and adaptive challenges you’ve seen in your work? Or at home or in society?

Darren Hoevel If you’d rather, speak up or type it into the chat. Well, we’ll take either one.

Cherie Silas Yeah, I’ll get us started. I think, technical perspective, it’s a lot of the like the process work in helping organizations adapt to Agile or adopt Agile, and then the adaptive challenge is really that cultural aspect; the way we think about the way we do work, the way we think about how we treat people in the organization, you know, the actual implementation of the principles on a practical level.

Brian Miles Yeah, thanks Cherie. It’s-it’s pretty easy to come in there and say, “I’m going to teach you Scrum. I can teach your Scrum in an hour and then you can go do it.” Right? Most of us know that that is not quite how it works. Great. What else?

Oh, sorry, I wanted to sh–I was going to share but, my bad.

Brian Miles No. Go ahead, go, go, please.

Thanks. So something I wanted, um, to share was, um, actually with my teams adopting, you know, para mob programming, which is a recent thing, and, you know, technically it’s easy to explain, and I can show them the ropes on how the activities are done, but then it’s very difficult for it to become an instilled habit for the team to really lean in and find value in terms of being, you know, developing that self initiative to form pairs and form mobs to attack problems. So that’s-that’s the uphill battle I’m facing. *laughs*

Brian Miles Yeah, right. Teaching them to do mob programming is the easy part, right? That’s the technical part and then changing their attitudes about, you know, maybe working together, or, ‘I’m not an individual anymore. I’m part of a team.’ You know, that’s the that’s the harder piece. Sure. Great, thanks.

Darren Hoevel Yeah, do you think? Sorry go ahead?

Oh, I was gonna say, yeah, it’s–and some of them are enthusiastic to be pairing but they have a hard time starting. They don’t sometimes they feel like they don’t know how to and I’m like, “Just dive right in, you guys. Just take the leap, take the jump.”, and sometimes I have to hold their hands but it’s just teaching them how to do it without me holding their hands.

Darren Hoevel Yeah, I-I equate it to, if anybody has ever, you know, just think of a two by four or piece of lumber that you’re walking across. When it’s on the ground, you don’t think anything above it, excuse me, about it but then just elevate it six inches off the ground and do the same walk across that piece of wood, which is four inches wide, but the fact that you have now a fall associated with walking across this piece of wood, then your brain sort of wraps around the axle and prevents you from wanting to try it. It’s-it’s that-that fall that people fear, the-the failure, or as we’ve talked about, um, I don’t think we’ve talked about it yet, but a lot of times they don’t resist the change, they resist the loss of knowing what to do when things go sideways. Because then–when you’re trying a new process or implementing a new process, they won’t have the same skill sets or experience to adjust in the middle of the moment because they haven’t done it before.

Brian Miles So another example that just came up for me is, uh, my partner’s grandfather, who’s 93 and, you know, is really just not in great health, but he was there a few weeks ago and he told him that he was going to take him and drive him to Florida. My–his grandfather told him this, right, and so and that he was going to drive to CVS to pick up his prescriptions. He can’t get out of bed so he can’t drive, right? So the technical solution is takeaway his key–his car keys, but the adaptive solution is, you know, it’s hard for him as he’s getting older and realizing that his, you know, he’s now has restrictions that he didn’t have before, right? That’s a–that’s more of the adaptive solution and-and working through that with him is-is the–is the harder part, right? Taking the car keys away is the easy, technical. Is this making sense as his landing?

Presentation Participant May I add something?

Brian Miles Please!

Presentation Participant I found that the most difficult thing, especially in the technology area, is when you actually find–found that you need to change the technology that you’re using for a specific product, because all you see was issues and you have understood that with a different technology, things would get better. But in that case, the adaptive methodologies…it-it’s not apparent because you are in the process of actually delivering your product, and you don’t have time to change the technology. So I haven’t found actually a solution on that part, apart from maybe working overtime to actually see what–how the new technology can offer, you know?

Brian Miles Sure, Hang–

Darren Hoevel Yeah.

Brian Miles I was gonna say hang on to that for a little bit. I think that’s a really great inquiry and a great example. We’re going to talk about some more stuff in a little bit that I think might land in that example. And so yeah, I think that’s a great, thanks for bringing that up. I think that’s, that’s really valuable. Go ahead, Darren, sorry.

Darren Hoevel No, I was gonna hit on that but I might not hold my tongue and we’ll get through a couple more of the slides that add to it.

Brian Miles So the next concept we want to present is about this is that shifting notion of leadership, right? Again, we talked about the leader is no longer carrying the flag in front of the troops, you know, to use that analogy. It’s different now. Right? So what we say is the problems lie within people and the solutions lie within people too, and it’s the job of leadership to pull those solutions out, and help people understand that they have the solution, and really, truly use a coaching perspective to, um, to lead them, right; to help them understand that they have the solution within them.

Darren Hoevel Yeah, and I’ll say a piece of this is, one of the hardest things of leadership is letting your teams make the decision, knowing that you are no longer controlling what the outcome looks like. You know what the goal is, you’re expressing that goal to your team, but then you’re relinquishing how you get to that goal by leveraging the brainpower, the capabilities, of the members around you. It’s no longer your job. Can you contribute? Yes, absolutely. Are you there to educate them on the solution? Well, then that’s not leadership. Are you there? They’ll lead them towards a solution or lead with them towards a solution? Absolutely. It’s just being aware of what you’re doing — uh, once again, what is your intent is your intent to lead or manage? If your intent is to lead, then trust that the solutions lie within the people too. It’s-it’s hard *laughs* It’s even hard to say.

Brian Miles So we want to offer this concept of an intervention map, right, and this is just a way of thinking about different inven–interventions we can take as leaders, and, you know, the understanding here, remember, is that all problems are a mix of technical and adaptive but, traditionally, we tend to lean towards the technical. So even if you look at the stuff from a technical, I would think most people are more comfortable. Most leaders are more comfortable in the blue-ish area, rather than the green-ish area. And again, it’s not as cut and dry as it appears on this and there are times where, sure, as a leader you have to manage you have to be completely in the blue; you can’t take everything from a green perspective, right? You has to be in the blue, of course, but as much as possible — and this is sort of our challenge to you is — how can we start moving more towards the green? Right? It’s not a, ‘Do everything in the green’, that’s not the answer, right, but when faced with a problem, how can we start to diagnose the technical and diagnose the adaptive, and then start to move and offer interventions that are more in the realm of the green area.

Darren Hoevel And another way to think about this, just real quick Brian on that slide, is you know, I’m sitting here in Maine doing the whole fall leaf peeping exercise with my family and Google Maps will get me to any destination. So if I plug in an address, it’ll give me exactly where I need to go and tell me exactly how to get there with the possibility of a couple options. However, if I want to know where the best leaves are changing, I have to–I don’t know what that destination looks like. I can make a best guess but once I get there, I need to observe, look around, understand the environment, look at the winds, temperatures, and then, and mostly, just look around at the area and make adjustments to my to my journey, if that is what my goal is. So Google Maps: easy, very succinct, technical solution. However, when you’re going into something with a little more ambiguity, or the outcome is uncertain, that’s where you’re going to leveraging the adaptive challenges, and especially dealing with humans or working with humans, emotions, perspectives, habits and behaviors is much more on–is all adaptive because that is never hardwired, even on those folks that you think you have figured out.

Cherie Silas Hey, I have a question.

Brian Miles Please.

Cherie Silas Um, this may not mean a whole lot, but I’m interested in understanding…with why–the difference between why you have coaching only as perspectives and actions and addressing emotions, I guess, is my big question in ‘therapy’. Is it just a technicality, you needed a word to put there?

Brian Miles Basically. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if we think more of the notion of really like pure traditional therapy, right, it’s–I guess it’s more addressions, emotions, and past, in some ways, and coaching is more like perspectives and-and, you know, I mean, we can talk about the difference of coaching and therapy all day, right, but yeah, it was–it was in an effort to be a little bit more succinct, but I’d love to hear your thoughts, you know, and what would you put differently there?

Cherie Silas I think I would put healing emotions, because addressing emotions is very much coaching but healing emotions is, absolutely, therapy.

Brian Miles Cool. Thanks Cherie!   Yeah.

Darren Hoevel Yeah, and maybe, Cherie, it’s maybe addressing your story and healing emotions, in therapy, right? You know, we tried to do a gradation between, you know, adaptive going in–traditional therapy, into coaching, into facilitation, to show they bleed a little bit. But also, just from professional awareness, like, obviously, knowing when you’re going from coaching into therapy, like we’re not licensed therapist, at least, I would say, 98% of us. So knowing when to know you’re out of your, uh, out of your lane or a realm that you probably should be seeking other help from

Cherie Silas Cool thing

Darren Hoevel Great input.

Brian Miles So this work is tough, right? This work is-is a huge challenge because it’s-it’s a different sort of level. It’s looking at things, right, from a new perspective. It’s trying to change people’s perspectives and their beliefs that they don’t necessarily want to let go of. Right? It’s really easy to be a leader who wants to stand in the front of the room and pull everyone with them and have all the right answers, you know, and the really kind of crappy part is that companies promote people who have all the right answers, right? If we look at most of Corporate America and corporations around the world, when you have all the right answers, and you’re just kicking butt, and you’re solving problems, right, you get promoted. And the issue is that that’s, as we’ve already have seen, that’s not what the world really needs right now, from leaders, we need to move towards that more adaptive realm because we need to upgrade our leadership operating system and-and so, you know, companies don’t promote leaders who are asking questions and who are trying to address, you know, the really hard stuff, and so it’s a challenge and it requires a lot of courage to go in there and say, “Hey, I think I see us, you know, fixing this technical part by implementing a new software solution, but here’s all the stuff that we need to do to change people’s behaviors and work with people on changing their behaviors, and their attitudes, and their beliefs.” It’s much harder work. Go ahead Darren, you want to take this one?

Darren Hoevel Yeah, no, thank you, Brian. Um, so I think the the key to all of this work is-is showing up. So, you know, choosing courage over comfort, because sometimes you’re gonna walk into a situation or a conflict and it’s not going to be easy, and I think the one thing that resonates me with, you know, you making the choice to choose comfort over courage is is, as Brene says, sound defined is the definition of privilege. So we as leaders, need to be able to choose courage over comfort and that’s not always..the–some days suck, right? Some days you have to do some hard work, both with yourself but also with the teams or groups that you’re working with.  So showing up every day, you know, Brian, and I work together with a client and we kept saying is like, “I don’t know what work we’re going to do today but I know just showing up, we get brought into things, we get–people talk to us about things, we get pulled left to right, we get asked to do things, and it really came down to just like, sitting in the chair, not because we’re getting paid to sit in the chair but because that’s how the organization was structured. It was somewhat chaotic, but also emergent, innovative, and, you know, being there, being available, both physically but also emotionally and mentally, and like I said, it’s it’s not always easy, because you know, on a Friday afternoon, or even on a Saturday on, you know, on a holiday weekend, showing up-showing up is hard. There’s there’s a lot of easier other things to do that can distract you. So good leadership, I just want to put an exclamation part-mark on this is-is showing up when it’s–it may not be a great day to show up.

Brian Miles And are sort of analogy for this is going to the gym, right? It’s really easy to say ‘I want to get healthier, I want to make a change’ but you have to show up at the gym. If you want to do that. Of course, there’s lots of other ways to do that. That’s just our simplified analogy, right, but you have to show up if you want to do that. Yeah. So this is another quote, as you can tell, we’re Brene Brown devotees, but we love this quote, it says, “If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fall.”  “Daring is not saying ‘I’m willing to risk failure.’ Daring-daring is saying, ‘I know I will eventually fail and I’m still all in.’ I’ve never met a brave person who hasn’t known disappointment, failure, or even heartbreak.” and what we’re really trying to get through at this point where–is, if you’re addressing these adaptive challenges in your organization, this stuff is going to happen. Right? You’re going to face what we call, and in a second we’ll cover them, the-the challenges, right? There are challenges that crop up when we jump into the realm of the adaptive. Organizations have an immune system, you can think of it that goes into overdrive when we start to address some of these adaptive solutions, right? They fight back because people don’t really give-give this stuff up. It’s hard. All right Darren, go for it.

Darren Hoevel Yep, the illusion of a broken system. So I’m going to read this and then we’re going to sort of pull it apart a little bit because it’s–it-it didn’t sit with me the first time I read it, so. There’s a myth that drives many change initiatives into the ground: that the organization needs to change because it is broken.  The reality is that any social system is that way, because the people in that system want it that way. In that sense, the system is working fine, even though it may appear to be dysfunctional, in some respects to some members and outside observers. There’s no such thing as a dysfunctional organization because every organization is perfectly aligned to achieve the results it currently gets.  So what do we do with this? Do we really believe this? Can you walk into any organization, especially if you’re involved in Agile transformations, and they’re high deep and waterfall bureaucracy and top down approach to leadership or management, and do you believe this? It’s always reminds me of the coaching mantra of, you know, ‘I believe that everyone is doing the best they can with the capabilities and information they have available to them.’ Another hard one to–sometimes hard, depending on who you’re working with. So the only way you’re going to drive — I shouldn’t say the only way — with this approach is to understand why things are set up their way the way they are. So not only are you used to trying to understand everyone else’s story, you’re trying to understand your own story, as a leader, or as a change agent, you’re trying to understand the folks that you’re working with — what their stories are and what motivates them — you’re also trying to understand what motivates the organization and why certain things are in their place because before you showed up, everything was okay until this, you know, I say outsider, or, a different perspective came in to tell them, rather, there’s a better way to do it, or hopefully not, but or they’re doing it the wrong way.  I think this is a–maybe goes back to that-that map or that picture of the man jump–or the person jumping from one side to the other. The intent of the organization is here, the impact is maybe way over here and so how do you address–how do you make visible the gap between the two, and then you can start working on changing pieces of the organization, after you map them to why you want to make the change–or what are the goals or initiatives they’re trying to drive. And just know resistance is going to come from those that like the way the system is currently built. Their rewards, their pay, their promotions, they’ve been there for 20 or 30 years, or 15 or 20 years, and they’ve gotten to their level of success based on this system that they’ve learned how to play.

Brian Miles And that’s a great lead in to this is the key part to this, that people don’t resist change, right, they resist loss. This is the adaptive challenge to change. Right? Someone brought up, you know, switching software, right? Well, the actual switch of software is fine, right, but what do people resist? They resist, you know, losing the knowledge that they have, maybe they’re not familiar with it. So they’re no longer the experts, right; there resisting that loss. You know, they might be able to sit down at their desk and just jump right in and not have to do any research and now that they’re using a new program, they don’t know how to use it, they have to do research, right? That’s a loss and so it’s a loss of time, right; a loss of efficiency. So people don’t resist change, they resist loss and when you are in the realm of the adaptive, this is huge. And again, pulling back to COVID. You know, just think about everything that’s sort of gone on with COVID. Right? It’s been a change but it’s also been a loss, you know; it’s different now. We have to wear masks when we go outside. Social distancing, right? People are resisting the loss of physical touch and the loss of, you know, not having to go outside and remember your mask everywhere you go, right? It’s, it’s different and this is how, you know, you’re hitting on an adaptive problem.  So when you get really deep into adaptive problems, resistance comes up and in some ways, this is a great thing, because it’s-it’s how you know that you’re doing the right work, right, and there are four types of resistance that come up when you’re addressing adaptive challenges. The first one is marginalization, right? I worked in an organization where I was sort of the outsider. I was the outsider Agile Coach that was coming in and they didn’t really want me but they kind of had to have me *laughs* I don’t know if any of you have been in that situation or not. So what did they do? They marginalized me. They said, “You go over and work with that group over there and we’re just going to do what we do over here.” Right? They pushed me off to the side and they gave me work to do because I was challenging some of their status quos. Right? I was challenging some of that adaptive stuff and so their answer was, “We have this great…” you know, “We’re gonna push you off”, right? Or they say, “We have this great new program that’s coming up on board. They are so awesome and we would love you to help out with them.”  Creating a diversion right? Um, attack, right? People will just blatantly attack you and that happens when you’re in the realm of this adaptive, right? And seduction, this is a little bit harder to understand but it’s really about: the people who you are trying to solve the problems for seduce you into thinking how great of a job you’re doing. ‘Well, you’re just an amazing leader, and you’re doing such a great job, you know, and, you know, we just love to have you, and-and you know, everything’s going so well, and we’ve made so many improvements, right?’ It’s really easy to get seduced into thinking, as a leader, like, “Oh, like, man, I am pretty good” *laughs*, and, you know, we want to think we’re doing a good job, and we want to feel like things are changing for the better but it can also help der–it helps derail us from what–the work that we need to do.  So this is based on research by Ron Heifetz and Marty Linsky, who do all this work at Harvard and have researched this — and we can share some of the resources at the end but — these are the four phases of resistance they– that they have found tend to pop up when you are doing the adaptive work. And so I can already hear your gears turning a little bit, some of you online, and you’re thinking to yourselves, ‘Man, like, I remember this time when this happened, and they marginalize me’ or ‘I remember when this happened, and they should be thinking how great I was, and I lost my edge’, right? I’m hearing–I’m hearing your thinking as you’re going through and, again, like, this is not a bad thing if you can recognize what’s happening in the moment. It’s a great thing because it’s actually a sign that you’re doing the right work. It’s a sign you’re hitting that nerve, that needs to be changed; that you’re doing the right thing. But when you–the–but the hardest part is seeing a pop up. In that organization, when I was being marginalized, I didn’t see what was happening until it was too late and everything came crashing down. Right? That’s when I looked back, and I said, “Oh, I see what they were doing” and, you know, and so it’s easy to look back and see what happened, it’s harder to see and recognize it in the moment for me, at least. Alright, I just did lots of talk and go for it, Darren.

Darren Hoevel Sorry, I was answering some chats. Yeah, so three actions for adaptive challenges — let me get these couple of screens out of here — so figuring out what to keep from the past, figuring out what to draw from the past, and inventing new ways to build the best of the past. And-and for any of you who have done training, Agile or otherwise, you always talk about, you know, going to your audience. So understanding where your audience is at — people that you’re working with the organization that you’re working with — it has a story, we talked about that, the system is structured the way the people within the system want it to.  So, seek to understand, uh, curiosity, um, and then if-if you only jump to way–the way things should be, then you’re devaluing everything about their past and their current story, and so how do you have a conversation around, “Hey, I understand,” or, “We, as a group, understand where we are at. That self awareness, from an organizational perspective, we understand what works and what doesn’t work. We want to bring along with us the stuff that works, that we do pretty well. We want to discard, to make space for change, the things that don’t work and that’s how we sort of bridge the chasm between where we are and where we want to be. And then you can start having conversations about where do we want to be? We’ll talk a little bit about how much can you know the-the flame–how much change an organization can handle but really is, what is the foundation in which we’re working off of? Does it need to be rebuilt? What can we pile onto that foundation? Well, depending how big and strong the foundation is, it-it–that could determine how much change is feasible, and I think the other piece really just from a pure human aspect, right?  If you talk too far away from people, too much change too far ahead, you just lose them. So what, you know, and I always use an Agile transformation using inclu–inclusion and diversity is a huge topic right now, within organizations. If you’re speaking of a world that is 18 steps away, big giant leaps away, you’re going to–everyone’s going to get overwhelmed or just think, ‘That’s-that’s way past my time. I’m retiring in five years, and none of this is going to happen before I retire. So why do I care?’ So how do you wind it back to what are next two or three steps that this group, this organization, can feasibly make and implement, now, and then having a little bit of a-a teaser, what happens after that. And all that is based on respecting the past, understanding the past, respecting it, and then having a hard conversation around what’s worth keeping and what’s not. I got ahead of myself *laughs* Go ahead Brian

Brian Miles So, it’s our job, you know, as leaders to, what we call, regulate the heat, right? If you’re in this type of organization, or if you’re in an organization going through change, or even working with a person going through change, right, you have to help them regulate the heat, right? We have to have enough heat so that things cook because if we don’t have enough heat, nothing’s gonna cook. Right? So we have to have enough heat to boil the water to cook the pasta but if we don’t, um–if we have too much heat, right, it boils all over the place, and then you just have a huge mess, right? And so it’s our job, as change agents, as coaches, both in and out of the Agile space, to regulate that heat for our clients, whatever they look like, right; to turn it up when they can handle it and to turn it down and orient them a little bit when they feel like it’s too much heat.  And not only that, but we also have to sort of create the container for that change, right? We need to hold the walls of the container and make sure that the container that we’re operating in is strong enough to hold the pressure — like a pressure cooker — of that heat. Right? I know, that’s sort of an esoteric analogy but working with, you know–finding out how much people can handle; how much pressure they can handle and how much eat they can handle.  You come into an organization that’s done fifteen Agile ‘transformations’, and all of them have failed, they’re not gonna be able to handle my cheat, and there’s not much of a container in tact to be able to do the work. So how can you build that container? How can you work with one or two teams and build that container and build that trust with them to say, you know, what, I’m gonna make sure that things don’t explode but we’re gonna do a little bit of cooking here.

Darren Hoevel And we’re really saying is, things are gonna be hard and uncomfortable but we don’t want to hit the overwhelming is another way to think about it, and I think Brian hits a good point, if-if you’re walking into an organization where whatever change you’re trying to drive has been tried many times before, and, you know, these-these consultants or change agents have been kicked out, just know, you’re gonna you’re gonna have a–that’s baked into their story, this organization. So, you’re gonna have to overcome that, rebuild a container, reappreciate, or appreciate, the story that this organization has gone through and where they’ve come from, and then really spent a lot of time on, what is feasible change. What is the next step of feasible change for this organization? And, you know, not part of this presentation, Brian and I have talked a lot about organizational evolution, which is a whole–a big–a mouthful, but what is the next step of evolution for that organization? And the answer is, it’ll depend on who that organization is and what they’ve been through.

Brian Miles So we want to offer…um…just a little–a few more thoughts around that. You know, a lot of people talk about and use the word transformation, right? This is not–this is not our stuff. This is from like, Marty Linsky. And they say, you know, transformation is rough, because it encourages, you know, this referential, grandiosity, you know? “I have this great vision of how we’re going to transform and I’m going to sell it to you,” right? Or it tends to be a historical, right, we’re just going to transform into this new thing and forget about everything in the past and we talked about that immune reaction, and then emphasizes, you know, “I can do it alone”, and, “We’re just going to do it all at once”, right, and we kn–as we’ve talked about through this, this is sort of a summary. of the things that we’ve talked about…um..i–it just doesn’t it doesn’t work, right? It’s really our job to move the needle, just a little bit every day, both in organizations, in teams and in people, you know; at all levels.

Darren Hoevel I would say that ‘people’ is including yourself,

Brian Miles Which is the hard work *laughs*

Darren Hoevel Yeah *laughs* So speaking of that, another thing, you know, good reminder, what does good leadership look like, and, you know, stealing from Brene Brown’s work, again, is ‘strong back, soft front, wild heart’, you know? Strong back is around understanding your values and sticking to them, even when it’s hard; confronting conflict. Not in a bad way, but not shying away from it. Soft front is, is having that empathy and understanding, both of a situation, of other people’s stories, of organizational stories. And then the wildheart is really wanting to show up as a leader and-and really emphasize or foster the potential and capabilities of others, both people and organizations, and-and as, I would say, as well as yourself. How do we drive this continuous evolution of everyone around us in the direction in which they want to go?

Brian Miles So what does this look like for us at Pliant Solutions and us when we look at clients? It’s everywhere, right? It’s not a work thing. It’s an everything thing, right? There’s, uh, adaptive work we need to do in our company, and we’re not there yet, and we will never be there but we’re still gonna try to do it. There’s adaptive work that we need to do with our clients and our customers, right? And then, there’s a lot of personal work that we have to do en–to enable ourselves to be able to take these perspectives to, uh, you know, realize when, uh, what’s going on, um, and to, you know, be able to show up, uh, differently, um, so that we can help-help our organizations…and our companies and ourselves. It’s–it’s–it’s a lot of work to do. Sometimes it feels overwhelming; I will speak from a personal perspective.  So our challenge to you, right, now you know, it’s our responsibility to ask these tough questions and to pull our organizations into the realm of adaptability, right, and up our own game, and, you know, if we don’t do it, who will? You know, we now know the difference and if you don’t do it, who’s going to do it? So that’s our sort of challenge to you; to move into the realm of the adaptive to use your skill sets, to start to use different interventions, and talk about the hard stuff, and show up with courage, and it sucks. It’s hard. You get beat up *laughs* but it’s good work. It really is. So that’s what we have. We’d love to have, you know, we have some time for questions. I can’t promise answers, but we’ll at least hear your questions. We’ll do our best and if we don’t know something, I’ll say, “I have no idea!” but maybe I can point you in the right direction.

Cherie Silas Awesome. Well, um, yeah. Who has some comments, thoughts, maybe something you learned that you want to share with the group? Definitely any questions that you haven’t asked. We want to know what you have not asked. And feel free to turn your videos on so we can chat for a while.

Geeta This is Geeta. So one of the cha–from personal experiences–experience, one of the challenges I found to face at times even when you try to do the right steps to get you in an organization, to understand them, to see how they are working, and who are the influencers, and you think you’re going on the right path – you can still…step on a mine bomb, accidentally, and that’s kind of, like, the-the difficult part because there is– behind the scenes, there’s so much people talking to people, and a rapport was built beca–before you even came in as a newcomer. So you are like the foreign body who comes in, and what I saw at times with–when you talk to people, and they seem to be on board superficially, but then behind the scenes, closed doors, there are other conversations going on, and then too–basically you get a s–it could get kind of–it could–it gets like a–you get into sticky situations because of that, and that’s–I personally find is a huge challenge. It’s-it’s, you don’t even know what to learn from that. How–what could you do better? It doesn’t happen with every company but it happened to me in one of the companies I worked with, before, where I got into it-in a really sticky situation where I thought we were all on the same page but then I found out that behind the scenes, it was just people in front of me, people were nodding, and then, behind the scenes, people have their closed-door conversations to move things in a different direction. So how would you handle something like that? Maybe there’s something–maybe it’s just a skill I haven’t developed but how would you even…um…tackle something like that?

Brian Miles So I think we’ve all been there. I know, I certainly have, like, many times. Um, you know, there’s, there’s a piece of this, which we didn’t really jump into, but it’s one of the core–we kind of talked about it; tenants of this. Which is what–what they call getting on the balcony and what they mean by that is, being able to take that zoomed out approach and see everything that’s going on, right, and for me, it’s been helpful because when I…so the–sorry, the reference of getting on the balcony is like, if you’re at a music club or you’re at a dance club, which for some of us, it’s been longer than others, but, you know, you’re on the dance floor, and you’re walking around, and you’re like, “Man,” like, “this party is awesome”, right, and then you go up and look at the balcony, and you realize, like, the group that you were dancing with is only this big, but the club is this big. So you were only in this little corner, right, and you have only a limited perspective of what you saw.  So what I’ve done in that situation, because like I said, it’s happened to me more times than I can count, is if I really try to zoom out and take the bigger organizational perspective, and really look at all those relationships, I’m able to sometimes see that stuff in advance and there’s a really great tool from, uh, ORSC (Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching) called con–paper constellations, where you actually draw out, like, these relationship systems, and you draw out the connections, and you draw out all of the pieces, and – in current state, and then future state – and for me, that’s been really valuable just to go through that exercise with myself because sometimes I can draw it out on a piece of paper, and I’m like, “Oh,” like, “I see it now.” It brings another level of perspective. It allows me to stand on the balcony and sort of look at it from a broader perspective and so, I’d be happy to share that with you if you reach out afterwards. You know, we could-we can run through that exercise but that’s just one thought that came up immediately because, like I said, it’s happened to me, and still does, all the time.

Geeta Thank you.

Darren Hoevel Yeah and I just, I’m just gonna add is, you know, Brian hit on this is that constellation exercise is a great way to visualize these things and, you know, I’d go back to Dan Dan Siegel’s work, he’s a neuroscientist. He’s also big in the mindfulness space. But if you can name it, you can tame it. And that’s where he talks about just from a neuroscience and you know, your self talk, so to speak, but it also works great in organizations. So those polic–political things, those, as you said, landmines, if you can somehow visualize that back to the group, what you’re really doing is putting a mirror up in front of those folks to say, what do we see–what do we all see? How do we create a holistic view of the actual system we’re trying to operate within? How politically charged it is, who’s the major, major contributors, who are the major decision makers, and you start just creating a diagram of these things, not you personally, but ‘you’ as a group; you’re a facilitator for this. And sometimes you can play the new card if you are the new person in the organization and say, “Hey, I don’t–I’ve only been here for a little bit. I’d really like to understand the dynamics of how we make decisions. I’d like to use this constellation exercise and you can start letting them build this this constellation, many different ways to use it. I’m in a currently in an organization that’s very political, a lot of super smart people but we’re trying to do Agile and none of them done Agile before. However, if you talk about, you know, CPAs, lawyers, and data scientists, they are wicked smart but, when it comes to Agile transformation, like – not that they’re not smart – they just haven’t done this piece before. So what happens is you have smart people providing opinions about things they don’t know about, because they’re used to providing opinions, because they’re–they’re-they’re a subject matter expert. Anyway, so yeah, I thought that was a great–so that self awareness that Brian talks about this-this visualization can create self awareness for you, for them, and for the group that you’re trying to work with.Also, like to share my heart,  *inaudible* vocalization and being in a *inaudible* position, it’s very hard for a team to accept the changes that I bring into the table. So they have their own preconceived notion and *inauduble* those *inauduble* issues with fear, inauduble* give me the marginal, or you can say seduction on my face and *inaudble* me they plan *inaudible* in a very, very different manner. So what I just decided is, rather than being reactive, I would learn their perspective, as they cannot hold my knowledge, or they cannot hold my growth or learning exposure that I have. Is that perception what they have created for themselves, and *inaudible*  they are wrong. But what I do is, I have stopped reacting, I’ve started learning and focus my energy to bring more acceptability towards the team. Once the team accepts you, things eventually Succeed?

Darren Hoevel Yeah, it’s truly the adaptive challenge here is building that trust; for them willing to be accepting of a new idea, let alone your idea. As long as the conversation is around who’s right and who’s wrong, aka your idea versus their idea, then you–it’s just–it’s just constant conflict. You add a little trust into conflict, there may be a willingness to try at least one of the three things you recommend. “Alright, well, if that works, do you–do commit to trying the next thing?” and maybe it’s not a formal contract between you and the team but as you as you build that relationship, that’s where you can turn up the heat a little bit more, with more trust that because this container is stronger, that you’ve built with that group.

So it’s not more like that be having *inaudble* kind of thing, now team and I had someone *inaudble* contributor, so there is no like clarity or something. So they don’t follow that. Now, the key is that we all contribute towards the success and then each and every aspect, I might be wrong. So what we do is for any session, we consider what are the cost points and what are the negative points for that, and based on that we think of a *inaudible* or we think of any suggestion which has the higher cost points, rather than the negative points?

Brian Miles Thank you for sharing

Darren Hoevel And, Brian, real quick, I just wanted to go back to the example that we put on hold around product delivery and technical refactoring wasn’t quite the way–I think, Alexander…or…

Exactly. That was exactly the case.

Darren Hoevel Yep. So I think thinking of the technical solution, this is an very much direct definition right of a refactoring is usually very technical. Helping the customer–the adaptive challenges is convincing your team, or your tech lead, or your product owner, that taking a step back and changing technology, or taking ultimately what you’re doing as saying, “We want to, instead of building new features, just build the stability or enhance the technology within this product that will then create, rather, a better customer experience, or a more scalable product that we can do more things for our customer in the future.” If you only have a conversation about this technology versus that technology, then I as a product–project manager, a product owner, I’m just going to be looking at how many points does this cost me and how far does that set me back from the milestones that we promised the customer?  So I think Brian talks about going on to the balcony. You know, going onto the balcony for this particular product is saying holistically, you know, going from Oracle to Mongo, or upgrading the network routers, or moving from on prem to a–to a cloud solution are all similar conversations we probably all have been part of, at one point or another. It usually isn’t customer functionality, it’s a bunch of other things that enables us to do. So, that is where you, you know, what is the big picture, how do you articulate that, and what is the cost? It truly comes down to a cost benefit analysis but from a customer’s perspective, not from a pure technology, because it probably makes perfect sense to do the technology switch but having–how to integrate that into the holistic product strategy is, I think, where the conversation needs to be had. If you can convince them at that level, then the technology switch becomes sort of, of course, we’re going to do this.

Okay, it’s understandable.

Darren Hoevel Glad that helps

And I have another question. There are two scenarios that I have been through, which I’m not sure if it’s worth the effort of actually being the coach. Let me tell you two–the two examples. The first example is about being in a–in a team with lots of product owners, half of them say they are coming from traditional, let’s say management, and they are not willing to change, and they’re the other half that they are, also belong–they belong to the traditional, let’s say management, but they’re willing to learn. Unfortunately, the traditional ones, the I mean, the ones that they don’t want the things, they are in a higher rank, let’s say. So they–the stakeholders are more likely to listen to them than the other product owners. So there have been a lot of turbulences on this product and there are a lot–have been a lot of confrontations, especially about Agile about MVP, about the whole purpose. So I have this scenario. And then I’m just wondering if it was worth actually the whole trouble of convincing people to go through it. I’ll tell you afterwards, what was–what happened and I have another scenario as well, I’m not sure if you want me to tell you now or…?

Brian Miles Well, let’s talk about that one first and what I, because I think everyone has been in a probably a situation similar, and so I want to anchor some of the stuff that we talked about today and use it to apply it to this situation. So the first piece is, right, basically, the story is you have people who don’t want to change, right? So why is that? You’re never going to convince them right? Convincing doesn’t work. Contrary to what people on Facebook posts think. Right? Everyone posts their opinion on Facebook and try to change people’s mind in a in a little paragraph. Right? So it’s really about applying the stuff that we talked about today is people don’t resist change, they resist loss, right? So what are they losing by a shift to Agile? Right? It might be a benefit to go through and think about that and, you know, create a, you know, write it down. Like, what are they losing? What do you think that they’re losing? Right? Talk to them. Now, what are you losing by doing this?

Presentation Participant Right, first thing that comes to mind? Sorry to interrupt is that actually it’s their position in hierarchy because suddenly all product owners are in equal level, let’s say

Brian Miles Yeah, right, and so the reason people don’t change is because their loss-to-benefit ratio is off. Right? They’re losing more than they’re gaining. So, it’s our job, and they’re not going to change until we can equalize or tip that scale. Right? And that’s sort of the job and, um, I don’t have an answer for how to do that but I think if we think about it in a different way, and think about it in the adaptive dressing, the realm of the adaptive, you know, how can we address their losses? How can we address their beliefs? And how can we tip that loss-to-benefit scale, in the way where there are more benefits than there are losses because those losses are going to happen. You’re not going to be able to prevent those losses from happening–happening, it’s just a matter of getting the benefits to outweigh the losses, and/or getting them to understand that losing that is going to be okay, and helping them cope, you know, cope with those losses, because those losses are going to be probably, like, we can’t–we can’t fix that. Right? That loss is going to be there. So they either have to be okay with it or they have to realize that the benefits are going to be–outweigh the losses.

Yeah, understandable.

Cherie Silas All right. Thank you, Brian. We’re right at the end of our time now. So Brian and Darren, if you would maybe post your contact information in the chat box that’ll enable people to reach out to you after or your LinkedIn profile address that way people can reach out to you later. This has been a great presentation. I really, really enjoyed a lot of the ideas you have here. I just want to say thank you for joining us today and thank you, everyone else, for joining us. I hope that there’s a lot you’re going to take away to start considering and chewing on a bit more.

Thank you. That was fantastic. I just wanted to express that. Um, and yeah, I’m thinking about it a lot. I was wondering, is there any chance we can get a hold of the slides, because some of it was really interesting and I want to sit on some of the topics a little more

Brock Argue and Erkan Kadir explore the interplay between Waterfall and Agile, and how organizations can manage the resulting dynamics to their benefit. They are introducing a tool called Polarity Management, which can be used to get the most out of any change effort. And lastly, they discuss a new concept called Integrated Agile, which aims to help organizations leverage the upsides of both Waterfall and Agile.

So why is this important? As an industry, we have been transitioning organizations to Agile delivery methods, frameworks and processes for over twenty years now, and we’re not getting any better at it. Failure in Agile transformations is the norm. One of the reasons for this is that organizations operate in a mixed methods environment, where neither Agile nor Waterfall are the solution to the problems that organizations face today. It’s about time we all realize that and embrace the need for both approaches, Agile and Waterfall.

Best Agile Articles is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile. The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume.  You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon. If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

About The Speakers

Brock Argue takes a holistic approach to agility – recognizing that all aspects of the business benefit from the application of agile values and principles. His style of facilitaBrock Argue, CECtion creates an environment in which high-performing organizations can emerge. Brock’s work includes agile transformations at Digital Oilfield, ADP, Benevity and Suncor. As a dedicated volunteer with the Scrum Alliance, Brock seeks to support the ongoing development of coaches as they seek to transform the world of work. Brock is a Certified Enterprise Coach℠ (CEC) and Certified Team Coach℠ (CTC) through the Scrum Alliance and has received professional coach training through ICAgile and CRR Global.

Brock provides coaching, mentoring and certification programs to individuals and organizations as the co-founder and coach at Superheroes Academy

Erkan KadirErkan Kadir is a co-founder of the Superheroes Academy, a coaching organization that’s set out to level up the skills of agile practitioners worldwide. He is a Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC), Certified Team Coach (CTC), Certified Organization and Relationship Systems Coach (ORSCC), and an IC-Agile Certified Coach (IC-ACC).

Other Best Agile Articles 2018 Posts


Brock Argue  Thank you Cherie. It’s good to be here. Thank you everyone for joining us for our session today on integrated Agile. We’re very excited to explore this topic with you and this concept that we have. Our focus today will be exploring the interplay between Waterfall and Agile, and how organizations can manage the resulting dynamics to their benefit. We’re going to introduce you to a tool called Polarity Management, which can be used to get the most out of any change effort. And lastly, we’ll introduce you to a new concept called Integrated Agile, which aims to help organizations leverage the upsides of both Waterfall and Agile. So why is this important? Well, as an industry, we have been transitioning organizations to Agile delivery methods, frameworks and processes for over twenty years now, and we’re not getting any better at it. Failure in Agile transformations is the norm. One of the reasons for this is that organizations operate in a mixed methods environment, where neither Agile nor Waterfall are the solution to the problems that organizations face today. It’s about time we all realize that and embrace the need for both approaches, Agile and Waterfall.

Erkan Kadir  Hey, thanks, Brock and so before we go too far, we’ll just take a little bit to introduce ourselves. So as Cherie mentioned I am Erkan Kadir and with me is Brock Argue, we’re both Certified Enterprise Coaches and Certified Team Coaches through the Scrum Alliance, as well as Relationship Systems Coaches. Our company is the Superheroes Academy. We’re based out of Calgary, Canada, and we’re available globally for leadership development, workshops, Agile coaching, and we offer most Scrum Alliance certifications through online programs. Okay, so let’s dive in. We’re gonna start off by talking about an issue that we believe exists in most organizations that do product development globally. Now, we call it the Agile Warzone and we first wrote about this topic in the article that was published in the 2018 Best Agile Articles publication. Now the Agile Warzone can be demonstrated by looking at how Agile and Waterfall tend to treat the Iron Triangle of project management. In this triangle, you have time, resources, and scope and when planning delivery, you can shoot for all three, and in fact, we usually do, but when things go off track, at least one of the points must be movable. And so on the Agile side, on the left here, we have people who believe that the best products are built by teams with relatively consistent membership and who allow scope to emerge over time through the learning that comes from running experiments. And then on the right here, on the Waterfall side, there exists a completely different perspective. This is where people believe that the best way to mitigate risk is by having experts carefully plan scope in advance, and then being elastic with deadlines and resources if things don’t go as planned. And so there’s a fundamental difference in approach here that can make it very difficult for people who prefer emergence on the Agile side to interact with people who expect certainty and predictability on the Waterfall side. And when there are people on either side of the coin, who believe that their way is the right way, and the other way is the wrong way, then we have the conditions for what we call the Agile Warzone. And this is where ‘either/or’ thinking can lead to misunderstandings, passive-aggressive behavior, and, potentially, all out war. Now, unfortunately, the Agile Warzone seems to exist in most organizations, or at least all the ones that Brock and I have worked in it. And one of the reasons that we believe the Agile Warzone is so prevalent is that the war is not actually winnable by either side. And so what that means is that many of us, certainly myself, you know, as an Agile Coach, for a long time we’ve been we’ve been selling Agile as a solution to problems, oftentimes, that can’t actually be solved. And so you might have read the title of our talk, you know, mix agile and waterfall and, and immediately discounted us as heretics who are promoting Wagile or Watergile. And, you know, our intention here. And, you know, certainly if I had-would have read the talk-the title a couple years ago, that’s what I would have thought, but our intention is merely to shift the conversation to reality that Agile mixed with Waterfall is happening in most of the companies that are out there today and so what we’re going to try to do, in this talk, is we’re going to try to equip you with some knowledge and some-some practical tools that will help you to manage this reality in case this happens to be a situation that you’re in.

Brock Argue  And so one of the ways that we can manage the Warzone is with a tool called Polarity Thinking and this was introduced by Barry Johnson in his book, Polarity Management, Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. Polarity Thinking recognizes that all values come in pairs; that each value in the pair has both an upside and a downside and there are predictable dynamics that define the relationship between the two values. So we’re going to start off here by introducing you to a polarity – um – to Polarity Thinking. Usually one of the dilemmas that Agile companies have to manage: how to support the individual and the team. And I like to use the metaphor of a moving walkway to highlight the dynamics that exist within polarities. See, as an organization favors the individual, the upside that they will receive, for a time, is that of individual initiative, which you see here is characterized by individual creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit, fewer and shorter meetings, freedom and addressing personal needs. Given the polarity dynamics that are at work here and, like I mentioned it’s like a moving walkway, the organization will naturally start to move towards the downside of the individual pole, which is isolation. This is experienced by a lack of common direction, only being rewarded for homeruns; no synergistic effect, no team support, and selfish ‘me’ talk. Now once in the downside of the individual pole, the organization reacts to move back to the upside, this time by favoring the team pole. And this is a common shift that we see in organizations that are transitioning to Agile ways of working, moving from bring the individual pole to favoring the team pole. But in the upside of the team pole, the organization now enjoys the benefit of a cohesive unit, which includes having a common direction, recognition that each job or role is important, that synergistic effect, team support, and personal sacrifice in favor of team success. Remember, Polarity Thinking tells us that we’re still on this moving walkway. And so the organization will eventually start to experience the downside of the team pole, should they favorite long enough, which manifests itself as bland sameness, meetings having too many and for too long, least common denominator, team burden, and neglect of personal needs. In other words, too much conformity. These polarity dynamics, as we’ve just witnessed, are in evitable. So how do you know when you’re dealing with a problem to be solved? Or a polarity to manage? Well, answering ‘yes’ to these questions here tells us that you’re likely dealing with a polarity to manage. Is the difficulty ongoing? Are the alternatives interdependent? Are the upsides of both poles necessary, and will over-focus on one pole undermine the greater purpose? We believe that the challenges we try to solve when we move from Waterfall to Agile are not problems but polarities to manage. So let’s look at each one of these four criterion of problems or polarities in the context of Agile transformations.

Erkan Kadir  Okay, so we’ll start off by evaluating whether Agile and Waterfall is a polarity or a problem by looking at polarity test number one: is the difficulty ongoing? Well, the Agile Manifesto was published almost 20 years ago now and a whole industry has formed around Agile transformations and so I would expect that if this problem was solvable, then we would have many shining examples of companies who have eliminated their Agile Warzones through complete and total Agile transformations. But let me share with you a few items from the 2020 State of Agile report from version one, to demonstrate that this doesn’t seem to be the case. 95% of respondents said that their organizations practice Agile, so Every company in the world almost at least outwardly reports that they’re at least trying to do Agile. But at the same time, a whopping 82% of all those companies indicated that not all of their teams have adopted Agile practices. So logically, then I would take this to mean that we can expect a mixture of Agile and Waterfall in at least 82% of the organizations globally. Now, hold on a second, that also means 18% of the software companies out there are supposedly doing Agile well. So, surely those companies have found a way to completely eradicate Waterfall with a consistent and enterprise wide approach to Agility, right? Well, it looks like even the best among us haven’t yet figured it out. Because the survey then goes on to indicate that Agility in those companies is still only largely confined to Development, IT, and Operations; meaning that the rest of the company is still also using traditional approaches and we can expect to find a warzone in those companies too. And so for all of the Agile coaches like us, transformation approaches and scaling the frameworks that exist. If I was to ask the question, ‘Is the difficulty ongoing?’ I would have to say ‘yes.’ So let’s move on to polarity test number two, are the alternatives between Agile and Waterfall interdependent? Is there a relationship there where they affect one another? Well, if you look at it, we can’t really have Agile without Waterfall. Because we work in an Agile way iteratively and incrementally, we’re really just doing a series of mini waterfalls. “But wait!”, you say, “Aren’t mini waterfalls just a an-Agile anti pattern?” And, you know, maybe and, you know, we’ve read all those blogs and stuff, too. But, but let me use Scrum to demonstrate what I mean because Scrum dominates the industry with 58% of all Agile teams globally using using it. While the next closest method, Scrumban is only being used by 10%. And so in Scrum, each iteration, when we look at it, it’s really just a phased approach where a team first has a requirements gathering phase; that’s the Backlog Refinement. Then they have a plan and design phase; that’s the Sprint Planning Meeting. Then they have an execution phase; that’s the Sprint. And finally, they have a verification phase; which is the Sprint Review. And so the cycle repeats every few weeks but the interdependence actually works the other way around as well; where we can’t have Waterfall without Agile and so every Waterfall project that we’ve seen, has some sort of change management process built into it, so that they can continuously update their plans as more is learned. And while much is made of the high cost of these processes, this is the Waterfall way of leveraging the upsides of Agility. Because without Agility or the ability to learn and adapt to our environment, the purely Waterfall company simply ceases to exist. And so at this point, we want to point out a paradox that we’re going to come back to later on. Agile and Waterfall are mutually inclusive, and interdependent op-opposites. And what we mean by that is not only can we not have Agile without Waterfall but the more we favor one, the less we’re going to have of anoth-another – and again, we’ll come back to that because it might be a lot to think about at first – and so to answer our polarity test question number two here, ‘Are the alternatives interdependent?’ We would say ‘yes.’ Okay. Let’s look at our polarity test number three. Are the upsides of both poles – Agile,  Waterfall – necessary? Again, we believe the answer is yes, and one of the best ways to demonstrate that is simply by looking at the values from the Agile Manifesto, which will populate on the screen here. So on the left, we have values that generally, as Agilists, we want more of, and on the right we have values that generally, as Agilists, we want less of; which are generally more aligned with the values we would see in a traditional or a Waterfall organization. And so, the upsides of the Agile items on the left are obvious because if they weren’t necessary, we wouldn’t have 95% of the software companies globally trying to do Agile but the upsides, uh, of the Waterfall items on the right are also just as important. Because if you think about it, without processes and tools, we wouldn’t actually have Scrum or management systems. Without documentation, we’d simply incur the waste of relearning. Without contracts, we wouldn’t have customer relationships. And without planning, we wouldn’t have any Sprints. And so the Agile Manifesto even has this famous line written on the bottom that says, “While there is value to the items on the right, we value the items on the left more” and so this is one of the confirmations that we can use to show that both sides at least have some degree of necessity. Now, the often-recognized genius of the manifesto is that it acknowledges that all values come in p- *clears throat* – all values come in pairs. But as you’re going to see in the next few slides, favoring one side over the other, as we’re doing in the Agile Manifesto, actually presents a very big problem from the perspective of polarity management.

Brock Argue  Okay, so the last criteria in determining if an organization is dealing with a problem or a polarity is, if overfocus on one pole undermines the greater purpose? And the answer to this in the context of our discussion here today is a resounding, “Yes,” and we’re going to look at a couple of examples here just to kind of see how this works, and what this looks like with respect to Waterfall and Agile and the challenges that organizations face. So here, we’re going to chat about the first of four case studies that we’re going to share with you to highlight the dynamics of polarities. Each case study focuses on one of the four value pairs from the Agile Manifesto and so here in case study number one, we’re going to start off with the ‘Individuals and Interactions’ and ‘Processes and Tools’ polarity, in which this organization favored the individuals and interactions. So this client company profile here, it’s a startup company that had grown to be roughly about 500 employees. They have a product that’s focused on corporate giving and volunteering solutions, and kind of the DNA of this organization: social causes, diversity, and inclusion; very important to who this company is. Now, through the growth that the organization had achieved and the culture that they had, this led to slow decision making, and very expensive meetings. There was a need in this organization to include everyone in discussions and to make decisions by consensus. Leadership of the organization started to call this out as an inefficiency that needed to be addressed. HR put in place meeting guidelines and protocols to ensure that there were clear agendas for meetings and attendance lists that made sense. Every meeting had to have a documented outcome or set of action steps. They even went so far as to provide formal training and meeting facilitation to all employees. So what happened for this organization? Well, favoring the individuals and interactions for most of the company’s history led to slow decision making inexpensive meetings as the organization grew. Leadership and HR tried to counteract this by formalizing meetings through protocols, training, and documented outcomes. This led to reduced ownership in the organization since, “Well, I wasn’t involved in that decision and no one asked me.” As soon as the organization became aware of the reduced ownership and alignment, they quickly refocused on the Individuals and Interactions pole, effectively leaving the organization in the downside of the pole, they had favored the most. So we’ll move on to our second case study and, in this one, we’re going to be referencing the ‘Working Software’ and ‘Comprehensive Documentation’ polarity from the Agile Manifesto. So, this organization is a well established Fortune 500 company in the Canadian Energy Sector. They have a very traditional culture and organizational hierarchy and the work of the organization generally occurred in the context of projects; where they had a definitive start and end date and traditional Project Management throughout. Now, this organization understood the need to take a different approach to some of their work in order to keep up with the innovations of their competitors. The desire to move some segments of their business into taking more of a product-centric approach rather than a project approach, as they had been so far. So they brought in Agile coaches to work with an internal team to design, build, and test this product-centric approach of theirs. So what happened to this organization? Well, due to the traditional history and the inertia that that history created, this organization learned to favoring upfront-lean to favoring upfront learning in an effort to reduce uncertainty. They just created a need in the organization for comprehensive documentation before changes could be made to the system. The vast amount of documentation and approvals required caused a slowdown in the results that the team was able to achieve and, ironically, led to missing out on opportunities for learning. The organization just wasn’t ready to embrace the ‘Working Software’ side of the polarity no matter how hard the Agile coaches pushed them to do so. One reason for this is that as the team started to just build stuff, and learn through experimentation, leadership became very uneasy with decisions that were being made  and the lack of clear governance that they had become used to over the years. This led the organization to move back toward the ‘Comprehensive Documentation’ pole very quickly, causing them to receive the downside of that pole. These first two examples center around favoring one pole, and that by doing so, organizations receive the downside of that pole. It’s important to note that continuing to favor just one pole, and doing so to a large degree, will lead through seeing the downsides of both poles. So what you’ve observed through these first two case studies is what happens when you overfocus on one pole. This is referred to as the One Pole Myth. That myth states that if we focus solely on one pole, we are able to get the upside of that pole without any of the downsides of either poles. But the reality is that by favoring or overfocusing on one pole, we will only get the downside of that pole and as I just mentioned, if we hold on to one pole long enough, we’ll get the downsides of both poles. For example, and as we saw in case study number one, we might stick closely to individuals and interactions, because we fear reduced ownership and decisions. But we stick to that pole so tightly, that we create a culture of consensus decision making, which slows us down in getting anything done, and leads to blame and finger pointing; which is the downside of the ‘Processes and Tools’ pole. So, let’s do a quick recap based on the case studies that we’ve provided so far. Is the difficulty ongoing? So yes, our industry has yet to consistently implement successful Agile transformations in organizations. Are the alternatives interdependent? Yes, Agile frameworks include defined processes within them. Erkan, earlier, he showed us how Agile can’t exist without Waterfall and vice versa. Agile and Waterfall are mutually inclusive and interdependent opposites. Not only can we not have Agile and Waterfall, but the more we favor one, the less we’re going to have of the other are the upsides of both poles and necessary? Yes. Even as described in the Agile Manifesto, there is value in both sides of the polarities that organizations must manage in order to be successful. And lastly, will overfocus on one pole undermine the greater purpose? Yes, our experience and case studies that we have shared tell us that overfocus on one pole leads to the downside of that pole and, eventually, the downside of both poles.

Erkan Kadir  So we just spent the first bit of this presentation making a case for Agile and Waterfall being a polarity to manage not a problem to solve by implementing one side or the other. But because we’re not going to spend-or we’re not going to spend too much time putting Agile and Waterfall up on a polarity map directly, because we believe that it’s actually a meta-polarity that contains many other polarities and we find it more immediately useful, and practical, for organizations that want to explore Agility to manage these polarities individually based on the specific challenges that they’re facing. And so the four values or polarities that are listed in the Agile Manifesto, plus the dozen or so that are listed on this screen are just some of the polarities that are out there and in fact, once we become aware that polarities exist, we start to notice them absolutely everywhere. And, so, we also just want to, um, give a little warning at that point when we say that; that not all polarities are going to be worth the effort to manage consciously, because they’re expensive to do so. And so our suggestion, then, is to look at the business objectives behind each Agile transformation and, first, understand what are the unique polarities that are at play here, so that we can then select the most impactful leverage points to manage consciously. Okay, so here’s a situation that might sound familiar. You’re working in a company that uses a traditional Waterfall approach to build products and the time it takes to deliver new versions of the product keeps increasing and is now measured in years. Certainly, this has happened for many organizations that I have worked with. And so you start losing market share to your competitors and somebody eventually comes up with the idea to solve the problem by doing an Agile transformation and so your company brings in new leadership, they train everybody in Scrum, and then they fire anybody who threatens the new culture. And so there’s lots of excitement around the change an-but at some point, people start to realize that, you know, Agile is actually a lot harder to implement than they thought and, you know, it’s been it’s delivered some benefit but it hasn’t solved all of the problems that we thought it would and in fact, now the company has a whole new set of problems to deal with. And so your company gets fed up waiting for the results that were promised that don’t seem to be happening. And they start to view Agile as maybe just not practical and there’s some grumblings that the transformation was a mistake, or it wasn’t done well and so what do they do? They bring in new leadership again and this time, their job is to fix the problem but they’re going to do a large transformational change effort to fix the problem but they’re going to do it by going all the way back to the first place that they came from. And so this cycle that repeats endlessly, back and forth, like this, is unfortunately very common. Because when big organizational change efforts favor one pole, they end up only in the downside of that pole, due to the One Pole Myth, or at least they spend most of their time than the downside of that pole. And so then another change effort takes place in the opposite direction, favoring the other pole and the cycle just keeps on repeating endlessly and it’s a dynamic that Barry Johnson in his book, Polarity Management, calls the polarity two-step and it’s really unfortunate, because we spend most of our time in the downsides of the poles instead of the upsides. We alienate people unnecessarily – kind of harkening back to the Agile Warzone – and we generate lots of costly resistance. And so the point we want to make here is that by seeing either the upside of either pole, Agile or Waterfall, as a solution, or as more important than the other, is a setup for it to be called a mistake later on, which is exactly what the Agile Manifesto sets us up to and this is a problem because, as Agilists, our industry has been an u-an unbalanced crusade in favor of one pole over the other, in an unwinnable war, for the last 20 years and this is why we say that Agile versus Waterfall is not a problem to solve, but a polarity to manage. Instead, we drop the word versus, and we look at this polarity as Agile and Waterfall. And so here’s the good news, dynamics in polarities are actually highly predictable and when we’re aware of these dynamics, we can manage them in such a way as to spend most of our time in the upsides of the two poles instead of the downsides and that’s what we’re gonna be showing you today.

Brock Argue  Okay, okay, fine. So we can’t have the upside of just one pole, from a polarity because of the One Pole Myth. Well, then, I’ll set up my company and processes in such a way as to get the upside of both poles at the same time. Unfortunately, this too, is not possible. Since the two poles are opposites. It’s not possible to have them both at the same time. This is called the Merged Pole Myth. When we try to get both upsides at the same time, we actually end up getting both downsides instead. For example, given that our greater purpose is breathing, let’s look at the Merged Pole Myth in the context of the polarity, inhale and exhale. If we try to inhale while we’re exhaling, which is aiming for the upside of both poles, we get neither upside. Instead, we accumulate CO2 and use more oxygen than we’re breathing in giving us the downsides of both pools. We see companies doing this all the time. “We’re going to do Agile” they say, “but you have to tell us when it’s going to be done and what we’ll get on the other end.” “We’re going to do Agile” they say, and the team is empowered but managers and architects still have the final say. “We’re going to do Agile” they say, “and learn through experimentation…but you better not fail.” The Merged Pole Myth, or the worst of both worlds, is what we think of when we hear the terms Watergile or Scrumfall. The reality is that when organizations try to get the upside of both Agile and Waterfall at the same time, they end up with the downsides of both poles, missing out on the benefits of Agile, while eroding the clarity and rigor of Waterfall. Our case study on the Merged Pole Myth focuses on the ‘Customer Collaboration’ and ‘Contract Negotiation’ polarity from the Agile Manifesto. So here we have a small boutique consulting firm, it was founded about four years ago, who specializes in Agile coaching and training. Not being new to the industry, and in a quest to achieve some level of income certainty, his organization valued signed contracts with their clients but because they’re an Agile consulting firm, they wanted to walk the talk so they also valued customer collaboration. In doing so, this organization attempted to get the both get both poles at the same time, by having customers sign contracts that focused only on the collaborative relationship between the client and the consultant. So what happened? Well, as you can expect, by trying to get both poles at the same time, what they feared about each pole became true, and they received the downsides of both poles. This led to conversations with potential clients that remained contentious over contract terms and since they hadn’t discussed pricing upfront, the consulting firm didn’t feel like they were being paid fairly.

Erkan Kadir  Okay, so we talked about the One Pole Myth and the Two Pole Myth. So we’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t. So how do we manage polarities well? Well, it starts with being willing to take on multiple perspectives and we’re going to demonstrate that with an example. So take a look at the picture on the left. Notice that without the faces, the goblet can’t exist, and vice versa. Now, maybe we’re the kind of people who value goblets over faces, so we make the goblet bigger,and then we make the faces smaller. But when we value the goblets too much, we lose both the goblets and the faces altogether. And so here we have another paradox, a set of mutually interdependent and inclusive opposites, creating a polarity to manage. Now, you might have seen the faces first or you might have seen the goblet in the middle first but notice that both the goblet and the two faces cannot be perceived at exactly the same time. And in fact, Robert Desimone, from MIT’s McGovern Institute for brain research was able to prove that the brain is capable of only holding one of these perspectives at any one time. So either one stands out and is clear or the other does. However, if we’ve seen them both at least once, we can easily switch between the two by making a conscious intention about which perspective we’re going to take on and so both perspectives are accurate, but only partially. And we like this picture because it can help make the distinction between accuracy and completeness. When we’re able to take on the perspective from only one pole in a polarity, it’s our incompleteness combined with our conviction, that we see the whole picture that is the source of a potential problem and you can see where we’re going with this with the Agile and Waterfall. So if I tell you that you’re wrong, because there’s no goblet, and you tell me that I’m wrong, because there’s no faces, then there’s going to be no end to our argument; one of us is going to need to switch perspectives in order for us to progress in our discussion, but who’s gonna go first? Somebody has to recognize that this is a polarity to manage and say, “Hey, you know, maybe this is not a situation in which we have either a goblet or two faces. Maybe this is a situation in which we should be looking for both the goblet and the faces, maybe we could both be accurate. And so paradoxically, then, opposition is turned into collaboration when the statement, ‘I don’t see what you’re seeing,’ or ‘I can’t see what you’re seeing’ becomes, ‘help me to see what you’re seeing.’ And so the point we want to, um, make here is that ‘either/or’ thinking can be supplanted with ‘both/and’ thinking to manage polarities well. Now, take a look at the picture on the right. Now, this was the individual and the team polarity that we looked at earlier. Notice the parallel between seeing the faces, and seeing the two diagonal quadrants on the polarity map in the right. Just like the first picture, we can only take on one perspective from a polarity map at any one time. And usually, we can only see the upside of our favorite pole. And the downside of the pole we’re trying to move away from or the one that we’re afraid of, while being completely blind to the downside of our favorite pole, or acknowledging that the por-pole we fear even has an upside and that’s what’s represented in these black squares here; what we can’t see. And so the example that we have on the screen, we can see the upside of valuing the individual and the downside of valuing a team but with a little bit of courage, and maybe a lot of courage, we do have the option of intak-intentionally taking on the opposite perspective from our polarity map, as you can see here, um, so that we can see the downside of our favorite pole and the upside of the opposite pole and we can always switch back and forth. But unfortunately, as we saw in the Agile Warzone example, there’s often a very serious and cothly-costly confrontation that takes place because a ‘both/and’ polarity is treated like an ‘either/or’ a problem to solve and people only bother to take on one perspective or the other. When we can take on a polarity perspective ourselves, we also increase the possibility that others will take the time to look at the other perspective because we’re confirming their truth and we’re not contradicting the reality. So…let’s jump out of the theory for a second and get down to a little bit more practical use of: how can we use some of the lessons from the last couple slides to manage polarity as well? And the first thing I just want to say here is that polarities are unavoidable and unsolvable and so the question is not if we’re going to manage them, but how well are we going to manage them? And so here’s five skills that you can use to manage these polarities well.  Number one is simply knowing that we have a polarity to manage, rather than a problem to solve and we can do that by answering the four questions that we walked through at the start of this presentation. Number two, knowing that there’s an upside and a downside to each pole. And you can do that simply by filling out a polarity map, write it down. Number three, maintaining a sensitivity to the downsides as they’re experienced and so here we have to ask ourselves, well, what quadrant of the polarity map are we in right now? Are we enjoying the upside and things are great of a certain pole? Or have we maybe held on to that pole for a little too long;  we-maybe we’ve overfocused it and now we’ve started to slip into the downside. And then number four, this is where the courage is needed, this is where we have a courage and a willingness to shift perspectives and to actually drive up and across into the other pole that maybe has been marginalized. And number five, is knowing how to talk to and mediate between people who take on opposite perspectives. So we’d like to use the analogy of walking a tightrope as one that can help us understand what it’s like to manage polarities well. Now our tightrope walker, in the picture here, you can imagine that he is acutely aware that there is an upside and a downside to each pole that he’s got – both left and right – and so what he’ll do is, he will fully shift his perspective and either lean left or lean right when he’s gone too far to one side or the other. When he’s just learning to walk the tightrope, as you can imagine, his shifts will be extreme, right, as we’re just trying to figure this out from one side to the other and that’s a lot like the polarity two-step that we talked about in organizations. Maybe if they’re just trying to figure out this Agile and Waterfall, they do a big transformation and then they go too far and then they-they try to correct it by going way too far back. But if you think about an expert, tightrope walker, somebody who’s a master at this craft, as they become more skilled, their shifts between perspective becomes smaller and smaller, and eventually they’ll be barely perceptible. Okay? And that’s the analogy we want you to hold as we talk through our fourth case study. This time, it’s a company that was able to manage a polarity well and so this company was able to do that by listening to the early warning signs, that they were slipping into the downside of each pole, and then switched perspectives early enough to spend the majority of their time in the upsides of those two poles. So for this case study, we’re going to be examining the last polarity that we haven’t spoken about yet from the Agile Manifesto, which is ‘Responding to Change’ and ‘Following the Plan’. So this company, was founded about 20 years ago, in the energy sector, and they have a pretty mature Agile implementation, where they’ve been doing Agile for over 15 years. And so our case study starts in the upside of responding to change. Because this organization has Scrum teams that were fully empowered to innovate and work directly with stakeholders and clients, leadership was very comfortable with ambiguity, and they had a high degree of trust in their teams, and, you know, even though they didn’t know what would finally emerge from that customer collaboration, they were seeing value being created, and so they believed that they were doing the right thing and they were content. And so what happened with this organization is, not only was everybody happy, but they were they were doing really well. They had innovative solutions and-and general market leadership in their space. But what happens, as you can imagine, as the moving walkway goes, while their general tact of allowing solutions to emerge was working well, they also noticed that at times, they would need to plan and meet commitments And so one example was the Agile user conference or – not the Agile just a user conference – where customers wanted to know what would be demoed before they were able to confirm attendance. And so when they resisted committing to demo any particular scope by the deadline of the user conference, they received an early warning sign that they had been favoring the responding to change pole at the expense of the following a plan pole, which for them was that sign-ups for their user conference were unacceptably low. And so now this company was smart and they understood that there was a polarity to manage here, and they were hyper aware that they were shifting from the downside of ‘Responding to Change’, and they weren’t as concerned with saying, “Oh, you know, if we-if we switch, we’re not going to be Agile anymore” and-or-or these types of things. And so they were able to switch their perspectives over to the ‘Following a Plan’ pole and they did this by working out the features that were sure to make a splash at their user conference, and then working backwards from the date that they needed to hit, and they ran that particular project, a lot like a traditional Waterfall one, and you know, things were a bit hectic at times, and there was some overtime – closer to the deadline – but they did complete the projects on time, and the conference was a big success. And so here they are enjoying the upsides of ‘Following a Plan’ pole and you can guess what happened after the conference. Leaders kept asking for their team for detailed plans and they kept holding their teams accountable to delivery dates, even though there wasn’t any specific milestones that needed to be hit. The leaders generally got a taste of the certainty that following a plan and managing to it provides and they really liked it. But again, this, uh, this company was aware enough to watch for early warning signs that they were slipping into the downsides of the current pole, which included reduced flexibility, and loss of self organization in their teams, and, of course, less innovation. And so they quickly realized that it was time to switch back to the Agile pole. And so if you look at the polarity map, or I guess the moving walkway that we’ve drawn on top of this case study, you can see that while even the well managed polarity case study spends some time in the downsides of each pole. They’re astute enough, and aware enough, to know when it’s time to switch perspectives so that they spend most of their time in the upsides of these two poles.

Brock Argue  Which leaves us with the challenge facing most organizations in the world today, getting the upsides of both Waterfall and Agile, and what we’re calling Integrated Agile. To get more value out of Agility, we need to be willing to move away from it once in a while. The genius of the Agile Manifesto is that its creators recognize that all values come in pairs and while the current manifesto recognizes that both are important, we’ve learned that you can’t have both at the same time. The manifesto attempts to solve this dilemma by favoring one set of values over the other. This is ‘over/more’ thinking but remember, the One Pole Myth? ‘Over/more’ thinking is simply ‘either/or’ thinking in disguise and ‘either/or’ thinking can only lead us to the downsides of the values on the left. The Agile values are a crusade from the downside of a more traditional approach into the upside of Agility, which is exactly what the software industry needed in 2001. But those values are only half of a dynamic that needs to be managed because all values come in pairs. The other half is the inverse of the Agile Manifesto, where we value processes, documentation, contracts, and plans over the items on the left. By learning to manage both poles, organizations can maximize time spent in the upsides of both poles. That’s why we’re suggesting the Agile Manifesto could use a small upgrade by replacing the word ‘over’ which promotes ‘either/or’ thinking. With the word ‘and’ we’re promoting ‘both/and’ thinking. We recognize these values as polarities to manage, not problems to solve. We call this the Integrated Agile Manifesto because it reintegrates values that have been marginalized for some time. You can find out more information about the Integrated Agile Manifesto at “But wait, that’s blasphemy,” you say, “you can’t change the Agile Manifesto. It’s a perfect unalterable and sacred document.” Well, actually, Agile uprising recently did a podcast series with 14 of the 17 signatories of the original Manifesto. And when they’re asked, “What advice do you have for the next generation of Agilists?” the one message that they had in common was to not take the Agile Manifesto as gospel but instead continue to build upon it. We hope that the Integrated Agile Manifesto honors their work and builds upon it in a way that will help companies manage the practical realities of a mixed methods approach. And so as we wrap up there, we’ve got a few resources, where you can find out some more information here obviously We just also like to thank Beena Sharma from the Vertical Development Academy who introduced us to Polarity Thinking.

Agile teams and ways of working are proliferating in today’s work world. The Agile Manifesto touts “people over process and tools,” and the principles mention, “build projects around motivated individuals, and trust them…” and “the best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.” But how can we hire the right people and best use the people we have? Heidi will discuss the criteria for hiring a great agile team and for growing a more high-performing team; drawing from experience from her extensive background in teamwork and collaboration, and pulling from sources such as the Google Aristotle study, Patrick Lencioni’s Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Stanley McChrystal’s Team of Teams, and others. Attendees will leave with concrete ideas on how to find the right candidates for teams (even distributed teams!) and how to work with existing team members to increase levels of self-organization, collaboration, empathy, and teamwork.

Best Agile Articles is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile. The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume.  You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon. If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Heidi Araya

About The Speaker

Heidi Araya (MBA, PMP, SAFe SPC, CAL, CSP-SM, CSP-PO) works with leaders, managers, and teams to improve product delivery and business operations through Lean-Agile ways of working. Heidi’s expertise includes Lean-Agile Portfolio Management, Agile Transformations, Agile HR, and Business Operations.

Heidi was the Director of Agile Transformation at Tenable, and previously led the Agile transformation at Cofense. As Product Owner for a government contractor, she led the first Scrum teams to deliver a successful product at NASA Kennedy Space Center in 2010. Leveraging over 20 years of experience in process improvement, project & program management, and organization design in a variety of industries, Heidi has led multiple organizations to improved products and better business results. Heidi has been working remotely and with distributed & global teams since 1999.

Heidi lives in Orlando, Florida and is a confirmed serial hobbyist who has dabbled in drawing, ballroom dancing, jiu-jitsu, tennis, reiki, and other hobbies she’s probably forgotten. She speaks at national/ international conferences and meetups on technology, Agile, DevOps, and business topics. Her forthcoming book is “Team Coaching with Open Patterns.” Her articles were included in a book, “Best Agile Articles of 2018.” She received her MBA from Aspen University and her BA from the University of Maryland College Park.

Other Best Agile Articles 2018 Posts


Heidi Araya  So I’m just going to tell you a little bit about why I’m here, um…and that goes to the second slide. We’re hiring for the wrong skills, I discovered that folks are still hiring for technical skills or other skills that…that…that don’t – they’re not as relevant in agile teams, right? So what do we need to hire for? What do we need to start looking for, in-when we’re hiring for a team; and the second thing is, who makes the decision? I had people join my team, that it was like, “Oh, hey, Mary is starting on Tuesday,” like “Oh, who’s Mary? Oh, it would have been nice to meet Mary and interview her and maybe get to know her. She’s going to be working together with me and that’s just really frustrating to me.”

And so that’s why I developed this talk I’ve got over 25 years of experience in technology; been 10 years, agile starting off at product owner at NASA rescuing a failed project. That was really fascinating story but I’ve seen firsthand when hiring goes wrong and what’s really required for teamwork to happen. So I…I’ve researched deeply – like the Richard Hackman stuff, the Google Aristotle study, Patrick Lencioni’s work and other leadership development profile work, Keegan’s work – and put together this talk to try to help us hire better, and understand that. So I told you a little bit about this, like you weren’t even involved in selecting your two new teammates is so frustrating. Um, earlier this year, when I was interviewing, I had two 30-minute phone calls and they were like, “We love you. We want to hire you” and I was like, “Wait, I didn’t…I didn’t get to ask any questions; I didn’t get to meet the team.” They’re like, “No, no, we always make good decisions with two 30-minute interviews.” I was like, “Yeah, y-you do but w-what about me? *chuckles*

So I felt like there was something really, really wrong with this hiring process and why; why do we hire this way? Um, and I-I link it back to this scientific management Industrial Age, where Frederick Taylor was separating the thinkers from the doers, and he was a brilliant person, you know, to think of all this stuff, and he designed experiments to determine optimal performance levels. He experimented with shovel design until he had a design that would allow workers to shovel for several hours straight. While the other side of the coin was, well, it didn’t matter if you were five foot eight or six before you saw the same shovel, and you were still expected to do the same amount, but for first time ever, managers were monitoring workers performance and style and providing instructions and supervision to ensure that they’re doing their most efficient way of working. So the first time ever, there was a separation from the deciders and the thinkers and the doers. Now, you can read about his theories in detail, but he actually knew that what he was doing was reducing engagement. But he was accounting for that by paying more. So the legacy that we’re paying for now is these strict job descriptions that aren’t taking into account our-the whole human being.

My experience is so different than Cherie’s experience is so different than anyone else’s experience. Why are we still expecting to adhere to rigid job descriptions? Um, traditional managers are often used to just telling each individual on the team what to work on. Of course, this is creating a host of problems for Agile teams, as managers try to figure out their new role here. But even now, on LinkedIn, I see recruiters say, you know, “I’m looking for this kind of resource; like a Java programming resource.” We have individual performance that’s rewarded over team dynamics and delivery because team-teaming aspect here is so new and, honestly, no one’s thinking about that over individual performance. The reality is no one single individual can actually be successful at work anymore with the kind of work that we’re doing – especially I know that Agile coaches feel this pain keenly. Of course, then there’s a big conversation happening on LinkedIn about how Agile coaches can can show their value – um, and what does that lead to?

Lack of engagement. If management decides everything, and like you couldn’t imagine the rest of the day, the whole team when it was like, “Hey, Mary, starting on Tuesday.” We were all like, “Oh, who’s Mary? I- I didn’t get to see her resume. What’s her last name? Could we look her up on LinkedIn somehow?” That creates disengagement and disengaged workers cost 34% of their annual salary. There’s lots and lots of decisions, why we want to engage workers in the decisions, and that’s because they’ll stick around if you ask their opinion, and oftentimes make much better decisions. Right? We can’t have individual people making all the decisions anymore. It should be a team hiring decision for many, many different reasons. So we got to start hiring differently.

83% of workers say they now work in teams – for all the people that we work with, I’m sure it’s almost 100% – and that over half of their time is spent actively working together. This is in a study of over 800 companies around the world. And, as you well know, we need teams now to deliver continuously to customers, to sense and respond to market changes, to rapidly innovate, and have a learning culture; and these are such different skills than just saying, “I need a resource that’s a Java programmer.”

So what I found first off in the hiring process is, if you’re in the middle of a hiring process now, is take a-take a pause, clarify the hiring process. Oftentimes, it is not even been made clear to people who are part of the hiring process pipeline. I know for me, when I was interviewing it’d be random selection. Sometimes I’d get called in and I wasn’t…um – a few years ago, we were hiring for a Scrum Master over a few teams, and the VP just said he wanted to sign off on the final decision, just meet her and, you know, it was no big deal. There’s no way he would ever gonna say ‘No’. Well, I’m sure you can predict the end of the story. He interviewed her. He was like, “No, she didn’t answer the one question I wanted her to answer properly. She didn’t have experience and I’m going to call no on this.” After a really lengthy hiring process, where we had her do exercises and everything. We were so, it was actually my-a referral, that-that people were just so upset that happened. So who makes the final decision and who’s involved? And if you haven’t clarified that, I would encourage you to start there, and, by the way, that’s one of the Open patterns for Open Leadership is basically: clarity around these kinds of things. What kind of format is it going to be? Who is-who are all the people going to be involved in and what’s the ty-, you know, I encourage you to map it out on a Kanban board? What does that process look like? Um…I will say, by everyone, I also mean the candidate, we’re here to help the candidate be successful, too. It’s not supposed to be springing some surprise upon them. But-so I always shared the…the process with candidates as well, so they can be prepared and…and just chat with them a little bit about the expectations that we’ll have in the hiring process.

So why are we hiring? Why does this need come up? If you’re hiring for tech skills, right, they rage a-they age rapidly. Or are we hiring for right now? Or is this some need that we’re going to have in the future and how will this person fit into our plan, our strategic plan for the future? What problems is it solving for us to hire right now? But moreover, what behaviors and traits are we looking for in this person? So, resumes – you can look at a bunch of them; I’m sure you have – they don’t reveal the person’s mindset. They don’t reveal what kind of human that person is and that’s where we really have to start digging in and just understand that a resume is not going to tell you everything. So how can we get past just the resume? Here’s what I’ve done. I’ve involved the whole team in candidates. Of course, you would look at some of the candidates, the ones that were just applying to whatever thing, and you can probably eliminate a lot of them, but a lot of them, I just would send onto the team. I had a team of Agile coaches, and we would do a team review, and we would just timebox the time, and we would just chat and decide together. For lots of, of course, Agile coaches and other skills, they may have shared stuff on GitHub and Twitter and LinkedIn, so find a way to bring more of their personality and what kind of person are they? Do they-are they going to align with our thinking? What have they already shared out there? And even give them a quick call. A lot of folks are just really reluctant to…to even start a conversation with someone outside the official hiring pipeline but when I did that, I learned something. The other thing you can do, if it’s not allowed in your company, would be to have a…have the recruiter, if that’s in your pipeline, give that person a call and ask them that question and just just try to understand more about them than just the resume; maybe even before you screen them out when you have questions.

So digging right in, what skills do we need for teamwork? Things like emotional intelligence, trust, ability to learn together, etc. and you can read these things. But in-a Google study actually showed that technical knowledge was not even at the top of the list of helping teams to be great. It was psychological safety. It was emotional intelligence, reliability, navigating roadblocks; it was those kinds of things. So we should be hiring for those things. These are like, of course, you know, lots and lots of double blind studies. What personality traits are we looking for, right? Are they empath-do they have empathy for others.

So what wasn’t important in the Google study? Actually, colocation didn’t end up being important. The kind of decision making even even though we advocate for some kind of good decision making technique, consensus driven decision making, didn’t end up being important. How extroverted or introverted the team members were, that wasn’t important at all, in this study. Um, or individual performance of team members wasn’t uh,was-or even seniority, right? So thinking about these other soft skills that we often forget. So how are we going to, so to speak, test for these when we’re hiring?

So when you got the candidate, imagine that you’ve got the candidate ready and you’re, you’re preparing. So give them an assignment related to their day-to-day work. We had coaches run through a facilitation exercise; some kind of collaborative exercise. Um, and it’s interesting because at the end of one exercise, I paused, and I asked the person if he would like some feedback, and he goes, “No, thanks! I’m all good.” And I was like, “Oh, well, if he’s an Agile coach and he didn’t actually want feedback, well, that, that may tell me a little bit about his mindset. And by the way, if you’re on the interviewing side, if you suddenly ask for feedback, you’ll find out a heck of a lot about the place you’re interviewing. Um, I began to do that about a year or two ago and I just found it really invaluable to ask for feedback when you’re going through the interview process. Look for if they’re transparent with you, if they actually give good feedback, and kind of like, ‘Mmm Hhm,’ you’ll actually learn a lot about the process yourself.

So delve into their thinking process, and I put here a lot of questions, and these are obviously not meant to be prescriptive questions, but more of an idea of how you could delve into their thinking, right? So for each of the slides, don’t take these as prescription but just think about them on your team. Right? Emotionally intelligent candidates are powerful storytellers. They can describe a situation, analyze what happened, describe their mistakes, and even assess the road not traveled. So sometimes I would ask Agile coaches, “Hey, imagine you’re starting on a new team. You’ve been told the team can’t deliver anything at all? And what’s the first thing you would do?” How many questions do they ask, do they dig in and they just provide an answer right away? Or do they…do they ask you a lot more questions? Um, and then asking them to to talk about a real challenge they had. I don’t know who here has heard of the STAR interview format. It’s popular with places like Google and Amazon and such. So the STAR format is useful. It’s basically: Situation Task Action Result. “The situation was we had a production incident. I coordinated with the external supplier because it was something else. Here’s the action I took and here’s the result; the result was production incident was resolved in, you know, an hour and a half, etc, etc, impacted X number of customers.” So that’s a very popular interview format. I think in a complex world if-what if that person has never experienced that scenario? Then they might be prompted to feel that they have to come up with something. So just be aware. It’s…it’s got its uses but it’s not an answer for everything.

When Carol Dweck, if you’ve heard of Carol Dweck, writing about the fixed mindset or genius mindset, it means that someone’s ego is tied to their knowledge, since they get energy from having all the answers. But that’s not really what we need in a complex and changing world. So the leadership development profile calls these people’s having an expert mindset and that’s the research that we’re doing right now at Adaptavist in my new role. But-so talk about their challenges. How do they respond to you? What’s their ideal day? Do they mention working alone? Do they mention working with others on a team? How do they problem solve? Um, do they get input on the things they’re working on and what do they really want to be doing? Why are they entertaining your company and this job at all? So find out what their what their ideal scenario is. And how would they handle specific situations? Right? When you’re stuck on a problem, how do you handle it? Get an example. So don’t just get them to speak theoretically, but get-have them give you an example of maybe when they were stuck on a problem and how did they handle it? Um, and when they’re overloaded with work, how do they manage that? That would probably tell you a lot about whether they were trying to navigate this all on their own and have this expert mindset where, ‘I know everything, and I’m the person who does this Java programming stuff,’ or are they going to share and knowledge share and help others ramp up as well?

Okay. Um…In Agile team, we have to think of distributed leadership as a thing, right? Everyone must be a leader in a self-organizing system. So what did they accomplish? And why are they proud of their accomplishment? Did they overcome challenges somehow or did it come easily to them? If they had to overcome challenges that would tell you something. If it came easily to them, then maybe that would tell you something; that they like this because it came easily to them. Who supported them on their journey? These are all questions that you could delve in and again, it’s not just about the question, but it’s about the deep questions that I know that you know how to ask back when people give that, but what roadblocks did they have to overcome? Pay attention to their communication style? Are they diplomatic? Are they honest? Are they clear? I had someone try to tell me when he was trying to sell an idea, he just kind of, you know, “Well, I knew I-my idea was the best. So like, it was no question. I didn’t, you know – because other people were talking about technology that wasn’t nearly as good – and I just know that I was right.” And he was just so convinced that he was right about that and that told me a lot about his ability to get along with others on that team.

As an Agile coach, especially, we think about mentoring others coaching lifting others up, but we need to do that in teams, no matter their role. So are they coaching and mentoring others on a team you might have people of various experts So, depending on your need, you might want to ask this question, right? Common knowledge is so, so important to a team. Do they hoard hoard knowledge? Do they openly share? How do they share? Do they-do-are they-do they love to write? I had a guy who loved documentation in my previous company and he would take it on himself to document everything. Are they active in communities and online, right? That’s some other things about knowledge sharing.

So for interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence, I believe that culture probably plays into this as well, right? So, so be-be aware of cultural differences, because someone may not be as passionate if they come from a culture as another culture; they may be more reserved but still, they should be willing to share their point of view. What I’ve done sometimes is, say something that I believe is-might be controversial to just put it out there, like, “Hey, I believe you can’t impose upon a team any coaching” and ask them their their opinion and feedback and how you would handle a situation where you were assigned to a team and the team didn’t want to be coached, how they would handle that. Are they open to sharing their opinion? What is their opinion? So try to-try to watch these details in communication. And also, how much are they actually talking? Are you extracting it from them? Or are they actually proactively communicating with you? I had a coach and it was a really great coach but this person was not a great proactive communicator ended up not…just kind of, like, going off on their own and not being involved in any of the team stuff. So, I never knew what they were working on and it ended up not being a great fit for the team overall, because that person didn’t communicate proactively.

We talked about this growth mindset, but how do you actually ask people if they have a growth mindset, right? How do you stay on top of industry changes and tech changes? The ability to learn new things and keep on top of things is going to be more important than what they know today. So I advise to thinking about the future, especially for tech roles, right? Is the person comfortable working outside their comfort zone? When have they had to do that? And then, the best question that someone asked me, a couple years ago was, “Hey, if Agile is all about self improvement, like what are you working on yourself?” I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I got so many things,” and I just rattled off five things that I was thinking about myself and that’s what they were getting really getting at. So that’s a useful technique as well.

So in my previous companies, they actually were in a huge flux, they were growing, they were scaling, their report changes constantly. So I’m used to handling changes at work. What if you’re coming from-a person is coming to your company who hasn’t had to deal with all these changes? What if they find change scary? So, find out what the biggest change they’ve had to deal with and how did they handle it? How did they handle this change in role? I’ve just changed roles in my company suddenly…kind of fell in my lap, and I’ve had to handle lots of those.

I also-this share time, when you try something new and it didn’t go as expected? Well, we all have to try new things. If we’re just keep doing the same thing over and over again, we’re not really learning. So find out where they might have tried something new and it didn’t go as expected. I surely had a workshop where- that I gave that was a new one – and I gotten feedback on it and everybody loved this quadrant idea I had for coaching. And then I went to the workshop and it was like, this didn’t resonate with folks and so that’s a story I’ll never forget for myself, right?

In teams, there will always be conflict, even right before this…um, this talk, I was meeting with someone and he was telling me like, “Yeah, we you know, in hindsight, we-we basically should have decided that someone had this overarching, you know, like, ‘last call’ decision, and not try to get everybody aligned ahead of time.” And I was like, “Oh, well, that’s something that we would want to know.” *chuckles* But it’s not enough to stick a bunch of people together and think that they are immediately able to navigate conflict and understand how to get along with each other; it’s just not. But you also want someone who’s able to navigate this. So what if they had a different opinion about others? I had this, you know, one person thought it was this technical solution, and the other folks on the team wanted this other one. So what if they disagreed? What does it look like when they disagree? How did they end up gaining alignment and how did they solve thatt on their team? By the way, if you’re a coach, it’s a really great skill to teach people about how to help have healthy conflict.

Um…giving and receive feedback. If they haven’t answered this question now or haven’t asked you for feedback now might be the time you want to ask them in, “When, when is the last time you asked for some feedback?” I was doing the recording for the SAFe Summit and I – because the short timelines – I had just a few days to pull the talk together and I started working out in the open and I recorded myself after just a few days and it was really uncomfortable to get it out there. But I got really amazing feedback right away and so is help-it’s helpful to know those things, right? Are they open to feedback, even when they express it, was-they did it even when they were feeling uncomfortable doing it, right?

So if you’re hiring, I’m going to pause and say, well, you have a responsibility in the process too, right? So imagine you’ve got this candidate, and you’re really excited about them. What do you have to do to bring them on? You have-your organization probably has values, or mission and vision and stuff like that. What I do is I share the organizational values via storytelling. So trust from day one, what does that mean at Adaptavist? And then I tell stories, so that the candidate now-now knows the values and now knows how they should be interacting with the values. And, by the way, I’ve had some folks kind of not align-not really resonated with the values, not here, but at a previous company, and so we will go through the organizational values, but…um, also, it’s important for you, to be honest, right?

You can’t sell a position that doesn’t really exist, or a culture that doesn’t really exist, because they will feel like I did when I was sold a job, that the position was a leadership role. But I spent my day sitting in meetings, taking notes, and updating slides, and I had no autonomy at all. The culture was very hierarchical, and I ended up leaving two months later. So tell the truth, be honest about the job itself; the workplace culture, the team structure, the pending changes, the frequency of changes, and expectations, because that person will be much, much better set up for success. And yes, I was *laughs* I was, I was told I, in my, um, previous role that I would get into this job having lots and lots of autonomy but in fact, it was chaos without autonomy. Which was very strange and I ended up working my way into new-a new role that really suits me well. So candidates come to work because they want to be motivated, right? They want to they want to have a reason for getting up in the morning. People want to be self directed, have a say in what they work. This is from Dan Pink’s work drive. If you haven’t seen it, it’s, it’s worth a watch on YouTube. Why do people wake up every day? When I was working in cybersecurity, I had a Scrum Master tell me, “I wake up every day and come to work because we’re catching the bad guys,” and that was very meaningful for her and that’s helpful to know when you’re interviewing candidates and connecting them with their motivations. The urge to get better; a challenge is fun, for most people, they want to keep learning, right? So extrinsic motivators, like money, are not the same. We don’t believe that anymore about people. We-it’s about intrinsic motivations and so that’s where you can go to the next phase here, to discover their motivators. What makes you show up every day for work? Me, I want to I want to have people show up happy at work, and I’m miserable; and folks, when I see folks miserable at work, that’s my driving force. That’s why I show up every day for work.

What do you want to get better at and what’s your most and least favorite thing to do? I actually had an interview earlier this year, where they asked me, “So you told me what job you want to be doing but what job don’t you want?” and I was like, “The kind of job where you have everything figured out and all I have to do is show up and implement what you said that I should do is not the job for me” and they’re like, “Ok, we have a playbook you should follow, so, like, maybe this isn’t the right job for you,” um, but all that kind of stuff is helpful to know.

Bad hires cost a lot more than just time and money. A good hire can change the course of a business and a bad hire can do that. Hiring the wrong person in any team or organization can end up costing the business a significant amount of time, money, and resources. And I had a boss who was a bully; the kind who yelled and cursed up a storm and he was actually harassing folks. He was imposing physically and verbally. Many people complained, and because of him, they left the organization but sadly, he remained in place for years. And I’ll just let you-just with a quick story I’ll tell you the cost. He once made a comment that if the app wasn’t ready, by the end of the year, he would take away the end of the year vacations, everyone’s PTO; he would cancel everybody’s PTO, he made that threat. Although it never came true, two years later, the organization wanted to change to unlimited PTO because then they could get the PTO off the books when folks left; they didn’t have to do pay outs. Which is why most companies do that. The organization rebelled, they were so scared that they would never be able to take their PTO because now it was just, you know, your manager could say whenever you could take it or not. They’re like, “No, I want my three weeks” or “my four weeks,” whatever they had. I would rather know that I have that then take the risk of somebody saying ‘no, I can’t take it’ and take it away from me. And so that org lost millions paying out vacation to le-to those who left because of the lack of unlimited PTO policy. So bad hires cost a lot and, yes, I did have long term stress impacts on that, too.

So where can I find good candidates? Well it’s a little tougher now during COVID but build a pipeline of referrals and candidates from colleagues and friends proactively. Even if you’re not intending to hire right now, wh-why shouldn’t you have a name of top five Agile coaches that you would love to hire if you had the chance to? That way, you’ll-your like, “Oh, gosh, you know, I’ve worked with XYZ person.” So build that pipeline of referrals and candidates…um…and, of course, attend networking events, go to meetups and conferences, just like this. Find people who love learning and then you can host a meetup at your company. Of course, um, I-a lot of companies are now moving to online and I know that my company ha-holds these online events as well. So, just because it’s COVID doesn’t mean that you can’t do these things, although it’s a bit more challenging now. Try to be known as a great place to work that embraces innovation and leads in the market and makes great hires, and that’s going to attract folks to your company.

So I was getting feedback on this talk earlier this year and one of my-one of the engineering managers at my previous company said, “Heidi, why are you trying to cut me out of the process?” She’s like, “I do the screening. I… I do this. This is my job.” And I was like, “I’m not trying to leave you out but instead bring other folks in; find ways of other people contributing to the hiring process. Why shouldn’t they?  They should be learning these skills, too, as they’ll be hiring folks later in their career, it’s good to have a safe place to learn and discuss these things all together.” But we bought into the hire, at that point, because it’s not just everybody pre-screened out by the manager…um, and…I-I had another question during a talk. “Well, well, what about biases and diversity?” Well, the team can learn about biases and diversity when you’re having this team chat around your-around the hi-the candidate, right? It’s valuable for people to think about biased diversity. So empower the team to choose their own teammates and, um, instead of the manager making the final hiring decision, or maybe they just want the official sign off, you could say, “Well, the team will propose the final candidate to the hiring manager, and the minal-the manager will have the final hiring decision, but find a way to the team is more involved. After all, if they’re working on a team, who should rather help them be successful as someone who has actively had a say in throughout the process of buying into this person? And it’s so key, right? If you have a person start that nobody bought in. I actually had that scenario where the team said ‘No’ to a person in the manager said ‘Yes’ to the person and they hired the person. Well, how-it ended up not working out after a few months, obviously, because the team didn’t want to hire that person. So avoid those mistakes, and try to make good decisions by involving teams ahead of time.

By the way, whole group processes, one of those Open Leadership Network patterns. If you want to go to, you’ll see all the patterns there for…they’re useful for all scenarios. One thing I did say previously, and I’ll bring up again, is that the woman that we ended up not hiring because the VP didn’t want to hire her, we actually paused all hiring at that moment and we had a retrospective on those and we said, well, how do we handle the scenario? So we don’t want this to happen, again, where everybody’s gung ho on this person and then, he says ‘No.’ So we actually chatted and we changed our process around a little bit to make sure that that didn’t happen again. So improve your…um, improve your hiring process iteratively-oops, sorry, some…-If people are still reluctant, ask for an experiment, right? To say, “Well, let me get involved from the beginning.” Find ways to get the team involved. Find ways to bring more collective insights. I actually had once, we did this exercise, someone that somebody knew. Well, I would have never known that somebody knew that candidate. And they were like, “Oh, yeah, I know that person.” So bring-find ways to bring more collective insights. That was-that provided lots of value. Um, and then, like I said, the team provides the recommendation back to the hiring manager, even if the hiring manager wants to have the final say; it’s so valuable. So the hiring experience doesn’t just end with an offer. What is-what happens when the person starts? So a good onboarding experience increases engagement. If your employees are not engaged, they’re likely to go off and start working for the competition, taking all their knowledge with them and helping them, and you don’t want that to happen. So highly-engaged workers are less likely-likely to leave and how do you do that? Ask new hires, “How can we can-how we can improve?”

I don’t know how many of you do that but we sit down and we like after 30 days. “Hey, what do you wish you knew before starting? What did we not tell you? What needed to be documented? What did we forget to, uh, to share with you as you started, as you were ramping up?” And they would tell us and then we would improve our documentation or our process. And how could we have improved the hiring experience; the whole candidate experience? And of course, from the candidates perspective, it’s not just us internally talking about but now that they’re inside, they can help us improve our hiring experience for future.

So here are my takeaways. Get everyone involved in the hiring process; don’t let it just be a manager top down. Team should be able to decide their teammates and by the way, when teams decide their teammates, the understanding should be that they, they are now helping their-this particular person be successful. By proposing this hire, they’re now committing to help this person be successful in their job because they’re saying this is a great-they believe this is a great hire. Hire people for the real jobs they’re going to be doing right? We need to think about collective learning, collaborating, inspecting, and adapting. Those are the things that we need to be hiring for now. And then don’t be satisfied with your hiring process the way it is, reflect, learn and improve continually. When I brought this idea to our recruiters, in a previous company, they took the idea of the Kanban board and they ended up being a lot more efficient and effective with the hires that they did do. So, spread the wealth across the organization for these practices so that we could improve. And you can connect with me on Twitter, you can find me on LinkedIn, I mentioned a couple times the Open patterns, Open Leadership Network, so please feel free to navigate those. I’m happy to chat more about that if you want me to. And I’m going to stop sharing so I can… so I can chat with you. If you have any questions. I’d love to hear from you.

Host  Awesome. Thanks, Heidi. That was so great. Um, please feel free to turn on your cameras so that we can take a look at each other face-to-face and I know that some of you will have questions or comments, you’ve learned new things, or Heidi’s made you wonder; so love to hear from you.

Coming up with the right definition of “direct communication” is not a simple task. Here is what I find as a suitable definition, may be not the perfect one :

Direct communication is speech that conveys clear messages …. Direct communication may be used when there is no room for discussion or compromise.“ Source:

Now let’s try to apply this in coaching….

Clearly, having a clear language, using the client’s words and making comments and observations would be helpful. None of this would be possible without the ability of the coach to be an active listener.

Direct Communication in Coaching Sessions

Here are some useful pointers to develop a clear and concise language :

  • Use minimum words and be specific
  • Ask short questions
  • Use understandable language (by the client). If the client is using a jargon or certain type of language, try to mimic this. As we all know, the coach is as a mirror for the client.

Of course the client does most of the talking. As coaches, we should stop looking for our solutions. We are active listeners who are needed mainly because of this quality.

The key to a successful coaching session is keeping focus on the topic. Always keep in mind the goal of the coaching session and the long term goals.

Observe the following :

  • Is the client giving you too many details ?
  • Is the client focused on his goals? Lack of focus – interruptions are allowed if we need to shift to a more valuable topic!

Look for patterns. As coaches we are allowed to make comments and share observations if those are helping the client to move forward. Always keep in mind that a good question is an open-ended question as it allows the client to think further and discover new horizons.

An example for observation might be, “I am noticing that every time you mention your work, you are making a specific gesture.“

When making comments or sharing observations, keep in mind that the coach needs to create a space for the client and let the client do the work.

Try following those simple steps:

  1. Always ask for permission without being attached to you being right.
  2. Drop the information as a data and let the client think further.
  3. Validate with your client what would be his opinion about what you just said.

The past decade of Digital change has been one of disruption. Uncertainty, VUCA, Complexity have emerged as new concepts in business. Leadership had to adapt, notably with agility. But who would have predicted what happened in 2020 and the pandemic? The world seems to have turned upside down in a matter of weeks. Change is inevitable, or businesses shut down. It is also a time to explore new possibilities. This talk will explore how good leadership through the crisis is in fact no more than great Agile leadership: Developing autonomy, promoting alignment, creating strategic clarity and keeping collaboration going by creating remote first working practices.

Best Agile Articles is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

About The Speaker

Philippe has been involved with Digital change from the early days of the Internet (nearly 25 years) and has led the initiation and delivery of significant change initiatives for large corporate clients & Banks. Philippe has founded Henko and is now working as an independent Coach/Consultant, or “Coachulting™”.

Other Best Agile Articles 2018 Posts


Philippe Guenet  When I wrote that article, it made me think-

Host  You’re on mute, somehow it clicked on-

Philippe Guenet  Sorry. Yeah,thanks. Thanks. That brings me back to this article I wrote some time back and today, I’m going to try and bring a twist of COVID on it. Because you know, that’s, that’s highly disruptive and I think it reveals even more when we look at COVID.

So as… hold on let me just…adjust the slide – just a quick introduction. I’ve been a lot of my career in digital and… I don’t quite like to be introduced as an Agile Coach. I’ve been in digital change for a while, and really, Agile is a pseudo name of trying to be competent and performant with digital, it feels like, and-and working with software. And in parallel, I realized that to…you know, through a long cons-consulting career, I realized to really up til now was not so much about delivering solutions for them, but helping them to gain the competencies of being digitally competent. And, and working as teams like this. And that’s why I shifted my career about three years ago, with an effort towards coaching and being a coach and actually being a certified coach, together with Sherry on the same cohort. So that’s how we met. And and since then, I’ve focused on digital leadership as a slightly different term to achieve you know, the performance in digital and what our job is meant to be. And this article was leaders of chaos. Our traditional management perpetuates chaos in digital it. And today I’d like to also visit our is the leadership coping through COVID and the types of leadership coping to COVID. But to make it fun, because it’s quite late here. I also bring a flashback I don’t know if if you’re old enough to remember the adventures of the persuaders. Were a team it was British series, but apparently it made success more in Spain, France and other parts. And it was it had a fantastic start with comparing the two main actors which were Roger Moore and Tony Curtis as log bred sinckler. And then you wild law bread center was really the tradition very British out restro cracy, Army officer gentleman driver, old money and very much entitled. And Danny Wilde was raised in the Bronx, he served in the Navy made his money through oil in Texas. And Wall Street, it was very much a new money and go Gator, and and they were sort of partner together as chalk and cheese. And, you know, to solve crimes of some sorts and and they worked well together. But I chose those as kind of the metaphors of the traditional manager and, and the more sort of new type of manager. And actually, you know, I’m a bit of a petrol head and, and their difference was also visible in their car. For those that know on the on the left hand side here, you’ve got Dino Ferrari, which is not a Ferrari. So you know, with the V six and quite an original first central engine, rear central engine and to the right is the Aston Martin DBS, which logbooks and Claire was was driving much more traditional.

And if we look at log birth centers, the traditional manager, you know, very much suited sleek looking and so on. What does the regular manager cares about? And fundamentally, it’s about projects and big budgets, that that’s how they’ve been, you know, grown. And to a degree, I mean, although he was very slick in a series and very British, they groan about being a bit tough. In a show a leader or manager you have to make tough decisions and you have to, to commit to objective and deliver to the of victims, that’s what a manager does. And for that, when you have to apply some control, you do that by looking at the rock status very often you look at the Reds much more than the amber and greens, and you control costs and risks. And of course you have, you know, some some challenges and some worries about your careers, your perception, you need to look good. And and that’s all the motivators a lot of management out there. That’s what they grown into.

That’s what they used to. That’s what they’re good at. And and what is the unintended consequence of this is very often the watermelon projects. So don’t know, show of hands, maybe who knows the watermelons project? No. So they’re green on the outside in terms of rock stages, but red on the inside. So what happens, they’ll they’ll green, green, green, then for one week, they Ember and then they go red, generally three weeks before the release time. So that’s a very much of unintended consequences, because people are not in a safe environment to actually declare the challenges. And they try and just make the best of them. And and eventually, you know, you can’t avoid it. So that’s what happens. Now, I’d like to explain that through a framework I use quite often the sense making framework God Kennedy, do you know, Kevin? Yes. So just just to summarize it quickly, it’s, it’s, it’s composed of five domains. It’s not a five quadrant, a framework, it’s five domains. And in the middle is confused, which was before that called disorder. And it’s a state of trying to make sense of a situation. And generally, that’s where you start. And then you have the clear, to the right, bottom, right. And basically, the right is what they call the order domain, and the left is an order. And to the right, the clear domain, is relatively simple. It’s things that have been experienced before things that are generally known.

So you sense the situation, you categorize it, you respond, generally, there’s a process of protocol or policy that exists to deal with it. And it’s, it’s regimented, in a way by best practices, and generally rigid constraints, your policy to deal with those things. And then to the top right, is relatively similar, except that those situations are more complicated. In a sense, you need to make sense of them by analyzing or calling up the experts. And again, you can, you know, resolve those challenges. And you apply to good practices, and they obey the space obey by a governing constraints. And it’s the base space where you spend time analysis or a root cause analysis and calling in the experts. To the left is the less, you know, the unordered domain where it’s less clear, what is the root cause, or the causal link between things doesn’t really exist in hindsight. And in that, that complex domain, what you do is you tend to probe first. So you’re going to do experiments, and, and then you send the results of experiments, and then you adapt your response to that. And that’s the space for emergent practices. An examination examination is when you recompose things you already knew or things that you already operate, and you create something new out of that. And it’s a space as well for enabling constraints. So rather than seeing constraints as a limiting things as constraints now become enablers. So you you you put some boundaries, and people sort of recompose and do things differently, to create something new. And that’s the space of complex and display. so chaotic, is a space where there’s a degree of urgencies that is no known answers. And and when it’s like this, well, we tend to act first. You know, you have an outage, you’re going to try and resolve the outage to get yourself out of the situation. And then you will land into another domains and you adapt. So you act first you sense and you respond. But it’s also a great space because when things have broken and so on. There is no constraints anymore. Anything is possible. So it’s also a space that can be extremely creative with novel practices. What happens to those watermelons? How they materializes, there is a view of the world that everything can be analyzed, planned and committed. Anything can be controlled, in essence. And and once it is analyzed and planning committed, then we just have to execute, right? We execute through control with iraq stages to monitor it. And, and inevitably, when things go wrong, it falls into chaos. And that weekly think, at the bottom of the Navy model, this organic sort of limit, or boundary is is indicating a 3d cliff. So what happens is, when when things go wrong, you fall off a cliff, and you have overruns, you tend to try and compensate with deathmatch projects. And of course, you have a trail of tech debt. And it’s very difficult to climb back your way into clear from chaotic. And, you know, the way those those leaders actually operating this day, maybe they didn’t even have to lurking problem for so long.

But here they come along. They both have shoe people around the results on constraints that people couldn’t resolve. And suddenly they save the good, they save the game. And this is very rewarding part, to be able to save the game all the time. So what happens is, they focus on rock status, they get involved when it’s read. And effectively, they are creating chaos in your organization. Because they’re not focusing on green, they’re not focusing on Ember, and not focusing on improvement. And that is, when the CIO says we’re going to be agile on top of this, what happens is nothing changes. There’s an agile beat in the middle, but it doesn’t substantially matter. And worse, is that this is actually a characteristic that perpetuates because those people value heroes, they tap on the shoulders, the people that would work all weekend long to fix an outage. Those are the people are going to get promoted, those people are get the bonus. It’s all based on effort. When it’s an effort that fundamentally is, as its roots and foundation into dysfunction. And we’re creating, you know, a psycho minimi, psychopathic minimes that end up, you know, basically, in the leadership of organizations, were creating chaos. So, what would we like to have happen back to our heroes, and Danny Wilde, the cool new Monet character, the sort of No, that the guy that could make magic happen, we want in the digital magic to happen. We want to have the unicorn of engineering, how many times do I hear we have the wrong people. We need better people, they don’t get it. But generally as a leadership problem when it happens, because Google and so on, are in the same pool. And we need to move at speed, you know, grow and disrupt.

And sometimes, you know, wear t shirts and sandals as well, maybe some people even try to start with this because they think the rest is gonna come. And essentially, what we’re talking about is there is a dynamic in digital between opportunities and innovation and industrialization and excellence. And what we see is in what we don’t see is the relationship between those dynamics, and that’s where we talk about digital value chains. Because those are very much connected. And actually what makes it operate in the middle is the systemic leadership. It says ideas of working with a system of work, and getting the autonomy into the system of work, applying a lot of the systemic coaching techniques into leadership. So if we go back to the Canadian press, work, what essentially happens is those leaders operate into the complex, quite complex domain. And they look at options, experiments discovery, very much generated small experiments, that guide in what may actually materialize. And those small experiment travel to the complicated once we discovered, once we know better once we tried and we see what works, it becomes complicated, we’ve built the expertise to know. And that’s where we look at amplifying, we look at improving, and iterating on that. And once we are actually very useful expert, we truly try and scale things, we try and build things up. We try and get that competency as a standard in your organization. And we you know, it goes back bigger and better, as goes towards the clear. And essentially, what we’re describing is a learning journey to start with. We were simplification, modernization industrialization journey that follows that. And importantly, in digital, we need to recognize that the industrialization allows to free capacity for innovation. So it enables new value through innovation. Because it frees the capacity.

It’s not like it’s valued. It’s not like it’s a chain of production, it’s people. And if we use less people to do the existing, we get more people to do discovery innovation. And that’s what the digital companies do very well is it continuously cycles through this. Also, those those new leaders, they value the people capital, and I’ve heard this term, you know, as opposed to take that, essentially what you got is people capital, and what you’re investing in is people, technology will change solution will become obsolete, people need to grow through that journey, because they are the future. And diversity is also absolutely necessary. Because cognitive diversity, which is very often a result of diversity of people, culture, you know, skin color, religions, diversity is very diverse in itself. Diversity is about the curiosity of others, to actually explore the ideas, you may have to innovate. And diversity is essential in creating new ideas, connected with the people that are your customers, the people that buy from you. And that needs to be reflected in your teams. And, of course, collaboration is all of all of those great people working together. And in those organization, you promote the behaviors, you don’t promote the effort to promote behaviors and skills. And that creates a self sustaining evolution. So what about COVID? You know, that that that has thrown a spanner in the works, and you feel on COVID that has landed everybody right into chaotic. And some people, you know, I’ve remained into confused as a space, and they’ll paralyze, they just don’t know what to do. And what we have is the regular managers, they are trying to recenter on the call, they’re trying to safeguard the business as it is.

They’re trying to reduce the cost to achieve that. You know, they’re trying to get their hands on something concrete, are we going to return to work? Are we going to make that office with Plexiglas between people and other people are pressing live button? I don’t think so. I guess. But should I be really thinking about that? Because the other leaders think about new possibilities. What can we do the business? What made that open as options, new plans, new possibilities? You know, as we said earlier, the chaotic domain is a space of no constraints. Noble practices can emerge. I’ve got a friend of mine who works into a travel company, and he was doing total skunk work because he, he had to commit to long distances trying to figure out how can I get remote work to function. And he was a hero overnight, because he had worked out a solution using zoom before coronavirus, heat and lockdown. So he was ready to roll it out. And that’s really the kind of stuff situation where new possibilities happens. exultation can happen. And actually the people think remote first, they take cues that the working practices as changed probably forever. And rather than focusing on returning to work, especially as more and more lock downs are likely to happen, it is about making the most of the situation and exploring a new potential of the business route. So, are we going to reconfigure manager one zero with some leadership to zero, and reboot the lot. So, there is and that’s the approach I tend to take is this an element of strategy. There’s an element of leadership, an element of excellence, digital excellence, strategy very much about situational awareness and understanding the landscape we’re in to start with most of the time strategy, start with wishful ambitions. Let’s first understand the situation and visualize the digital value chains. Look at exaltation. And the adoptions work out the balance of innovation and industrialization, and very importantly, strategy to the people.

And if we want autonomous teams, it is absolutely essential that they make right decisions. Because if they don’t, the autonomy will be removed from them very, very quickly, we need to give them the element to make good decisions. And that means they need to be part of the strategy, because they will enrich the strategy with the limitations. And at the same time, part of this process strategy will become theirs as well. And they will be able to deploy and executed a lot better.

When we talk about situational awareness, I often look at, you know, enterprises in relation to a fairly linear process of having stable estate. So the stabilization of your state is often a problem when some tech debt is lurking, for some time, and optimization of a lot of the flows. And basically automation, which is the optimization of the business, it’s using technology to automate the business. And and then that enables innovation. And through that journey, if you’re in a stabilization zone, you have very, very little capacity for doing opportunities, exploration and experimentation. And you spend your time fixing problems. And you need to recover on our journey and start deriving a journey, so that you spend more time on the portunities and experimentation. But equally, it’s very important to start this journey. Because if you just say cost, at some point, you got to basically get rid of engineers, and in a digital world, that’s the last thing you want to do. So those are journeys that goes in parallel. And when I talk about value chains, understanding how your value chain of your business deploys on this, and you have tools like wardley maps, that helps a lot to do this. And once you do that, you realize that you manage actually very differently to the right of this or to the left of this and saying no agile one size fits all is completely wrong. And that’s where the leadership needs to understand and coaches as well. You know, that we need to have a situational awareness of the landscape to understand where we’re going to integrate, and we’re going to explore where and where we’re going to industrialize and normalize.

And now all those things all connected and rely on each other.

Now leadership, it is about switching really from task management. And leaders have been built, much most of the management has been built on managing tasks, and projects, managing programs, managing budgets, and portfolios. It is generally around managing tasks. And now they need to manage people in the system of work. And that is very different.

So it’s all about relationships and alignment and connectedness in the network, getting people to connect to each other, understanding their relationship to outcomes, and things I’ve done on an org design recently is asking people do not look at them racy. So the raci is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed and establishing each role, and how each role is actually involved with those things. What I’m asking people to first look at it, how will you in relationship with what are the outcomes of those relationships. And then we can work out the roles of the relationships. But fundamentally, we should design system of work to be in collaboration with each other in relationship with each other. Otherwise, you know, people do their job, but they’re not designed to collaborate. So it’s also about working with the emergence complexity is very much about what is trying to happen in the system of work. And it’s one of the recent sort of refresh Avast is about principles. And one of the principles is the system of work, the system of work is in permanent state of emergence. So how can we make take advantage of that innovation relies on getting that emergence to bubble up understanding weak signals, hearing the voices that are generally quiet, sometimes the other geniuses and getting that to bubble up experimentation, and actually finding its path through the reality or whether the customers buy or not. It’s also adopting a coaching stance in leadership. All the leaders need to really realize that their word, their attitude, their reaction, have an impact. And now Can they make it to positive impact for the people and generating autonomy and stimulation, I’m absolutely convinced that there is a role for leaders in the modern organization, I don’t believe that organizations can be just completely self autonomous.

But the role of the leader is not to get in the way, the role of the leader is to stimulate the organization to find its way and to be better. And that role of stimulation is needed. So if we think in terms of alignment, no, digital is about aligning the company, aligning Business and Technology working together, aligning executives and teams. And that alignment is basically an execution flow that is balanced with an improvement flow. It’s also having a strategy and change flow that is balanced by an emergent flow. And it’s getting those flows to be in balance permanently. Now, excellence, so this is kind of the the things that are more known. It’s about improvements. It’s about Kaizen, it’s about DevOps, you know, agile, in some cases would fit probably here. Spot value streams and flow and resilience is a very interesting thing in digital is that to manage quality, you don’t see what you’re managing, it’s virtual. In a car. If there’s a dent in the door, it doesn’t open properly, if the engine doesn’t stop, you see the lack of quality very quickly and easily. In digital is all invisible managers are blindfolded effectively. And that’s where creating a visibility of the work they know can ban gamba, collaboration, understanding the tech debt and capturing it in a way that we work with it and investing in engineering capital in the people that make the capital. And again, if we visit COVID No, I mean, I picked this up on on the internet. And I really liked it when you think our much money has been invested in transformation programs with big, big senior leaders driving those Transformation Program. And COVID-19 has probably driven more transformation in itself in a few months, and then in a lot of those programs. And when we look at what what does that mean accelerating change in COVID time, it’s almost Maslow’s pyramid.

And you need to first out the tooling and practices at this spare company completely working with Skype at the moment because you can do very little if you want to have effective meetings. You need to design those meetings, like workshops all the time, you get to get people engaged in those meetings. You need to have collaborative documents, you need to design that interaction. So people will get engaged, you need to think about a knock to the meeting, an arc where you may start with a problem, how can we refine that problem statement that it really engages the people, that it doesn’t create a bias for solution. But it actually creates something where people will collectively come to resolve that very often, what I see instead is people saying, well, I call that meeting and we’ll tell you what I think and then you have, you know, you can query it. So I’m going to put a big bias on the table, especially if there were senior, and then you know, everybody has nose Depo and is quiet as to compare contribution. Instead, we should start a meeting with the problem statement. And then allow people to diverge and ally creativity to happen. And it’s about creating that space where we we try and avoid having a reality. Or we can do that, because we can do that. Because No Why not? Let’s try what what would it take to do it without solve and and let the space open. So creativity can happen. And navigating basically, to a deeper level where where we touch the imaginary of the people. And then of course, we need to find in the like, for coaching, where we close with forward action, we need to actually lead people back into action. What are we going to try and what experiment becomes possible. And if we, we dreamed we dreamt, you know far enough in terms of ideas, obviously, those things may not be a slam dunk. So is there a thing we can try that can prove that we could go that way. And that’s why progress as well, progress gets made. But first, if you don’t have the tools, if you don’t develop the practices to do that effectively, remotely, in COVID time, you can’t do anything.

You can barely run the existing business. That’s it.

So working double out, because we’re remote, working double out on creating that engagement. And bringing people together to imagine possibilities is necessary in COVID. This is accelerating change. Looking at the team health, you know, we don’t talk very much about him health. But it’s tough for a lot of people. A lot of people that are alone at work was their social time, almost. I mean, it was part of their social time. And, and some people find it tough, and I think they are funny, tough for some time. And now we seeing more lock downs with winter coming upon us, it’s going to be very difficult for some people. And no large organization as the leaders to be in touch with everybody, and so on. And they can’t they have a business to run and they have so many hours in the day and COVID made it more difficult. So it is time to build a team and resilience, it is time to get the teams to look after each other. It is time to bring that autonomy in the team. And this is about alliances. This is about checkins. It is about the team every so often taking the time to reflect about themselves. It is about also making the effort to have some social time. But all this is also accelerating things we’ve been trying for a long time is becoming a necessity of COVID.

And we see as again, the possibility of accelerating change of teams, creating more autonomy, more independence, more thinking about themselves and being better together. So weirdly enough, you know, by being separated, we can actually be more intentional about the collaboration and and focus on on this even more. So that could be done. And that’s for leadership. Where do we start? Where do we start? There is so much and appreciate it’s extremely difficult in those times for them to also rethink how we’re going to lead. But it is about enabling the system of work organizing for flow. Why do we have to have bottlenecks between silos and every information going up the silos done another one another silo done another one. This connected teams together Start to create those organization where the work flows naturally. And it is time to share the strategy. So the teams can make autonomous decisions, it is time to accelerate those things. And and again, you know, maybe those things would not have been as pressing outside of COVID. It is also time, of course, to look after, how do we rescue the current business, but sometimes it’s about reinventing the business because it’s not really excusable. No, and I live in London, and I’m outside London, but the centre of London, I have not been in the centre of London for six months.

The sandwich shops, you know, have nobody to sell sandwiches to in the city or in Canary Wharf. And those are expensive estates. Why don’t they do a delivery service elsewhere? Why don’t they reinvent their business? They are closing shops. But there is a new demand elsewhere, I’m sure. So they could think about things like this. And I worked with enterprises in startups, as well as large, large clients, and large clients, it’s very difficult to reinvent the business. Whereas startups are naturally more inclined, and more entrepreneurial, to actually do this. And for their survival, they can pivot a lot quicker. And what we’ll see so we Stein is actually that some large businesses are probably going to suffer massively, whilst a lot of startup are going to reinvent something new. So it’s, it’s it’s a really troubled time, but it actually also can be a really novel and creative time. So in summary, we can forgive reconfiguring leadership is really about moving from Meraki to decentralized, moving from cost mindset to growth mindset. You know, moving from planning and control, to actually strategy participation and sharing and involvement of the people. It is about Kirby, many of them are technophobes, and they have to become technophiles. It was authority, it has to become an enablement. It was about control. It’s about serendipity. Now, it was about tasks and projects, it’s about people. And with COVID, it’s also about remote first, at least for the time being.

Thank you very much.

Host  Awesome, thank you. All right. So we’ve got a few minutes for questions, comments, thoughts? Who has something you’d like to bring to the table? Ted?

Ted Wallace  It’s wonderful presentation. I really appreciated it. I especially loved how you use the cabin model to explain the watermelon type of that was those brilliant actually. Kevin is an interesting thing, though, because this is insight my dad had when we were kind of studying it, it’s all perspective. For somebody, it could be a complex problem. For someone else, the same problem could be complicated or even clear, depending upon the viewer. So how do you take that into consideration in some of the way you explain these things, rather than this type of problem is this for this organization, a person or something?

Philippe Guenet  You’re right saying is not universal. But if in your organization, it’s a complex problem, and for somebody else is genuinely a clear problem, your organization is probably a long way behind. And and in that case, rather than trying to solve it yourself, that’s where the use of consultants is actually useful. Training consultants and so on. And you need to focus on upscaling as well as bringing solutions quickly in via externals that have that knowledge. But most of the time, what we got is some people that think they have a complicated problem for analysis, when actually it’s a complex problem. Or sometimes it’s, you know, it’s a compound problem. So, for instance, you know, DevOps isn’t is a fantastic one, a DevOps pipeline. Yeah, we’ve established what Devil’s pipeline is about when we know the tools you tend to need, we know how it should work. But DevOps adoption is another matter. And it’s not because DevOps pipeline is is established, probably complicated, that the adoption is complicated as well. And the adoption and the human elements are always very, very often in the complex domain. Because there’s so many multifaceted elements of them working, or people working in a certain way that it is so contextual to your situation.

And finding solutions to that is not rational, no change is emotional. And that’s where you need to figure some enabling constraints, not just solving limiting constraints. So sometimes, you know, you’re going to say, well, we’re going to deploy every two weeks, every sprint, we deploying them. But it’s going to take too long, yes, it’s going to take long, but we’re going to get better at it. And sometimes, that’s what you do. I mean, I’ve even had the situation where nothing would change. And, and what you saying in systemic coaching is that a system is like an 800 pound gorilla doesn’t want to move, it’s not going to shift.

So in that case, the kind of thing you can do is, is create disruption in the system. And what we did is we stopped everybody to work. Overnight, we said, You know what, this release is not going to happen. We’re going to rescue the beat of it that really matters. And for the rest, you know, what? You self organize, we’re going to make the software better. We need to do things better, what do you suggest we do. And the fact that people stop their work, they actually took notice that we meant about quality. And then the engineers took a voice. And because they took a voice, they also took action. And we could have done anything, that was the best thing to do for the system to realize quality mattered, then there’s a lot of other reason why it’s difficult to make it matter. But suddenly, the system realized that and suddenly a momentum was created to achieve that. So in in here, what we did is there was no crisis, we created a crisis, we created chaos, for normal thinking to happen by removing constraints. Now, when norovirus happens, well, you need to take advantage of that you cannot create chaos on top of chaos, otherwise, it can become a bit dangerous. But you know, when something like a virus happen, you have to actually look at what can be positive out of this. And how do we leverage the situation to, to, to develop the positive out of it?

Ted Wallace  Yeah, deep. I really liked that insight of in the DevOps problem. DevOps itself is complicated. It’s been done thousands of times before by many, but the getting your IT department to change their way of thinking can be incredibly complex. And that’s why coaches and some of these things are helpful because people are used to working on complicated things. Most of the time, a lot of managers not so much in that complex domain.

Philippe Guenet  So the complex is very often about competencies, not necessarily about solutions. And to build the competencies, it’s a mix of training and coaching and all those things. And enabling it. So sometimes the training allows you to build a competency, but enabling it, it’s more about coaching most of the time, so you need to have the different approach deployed there.

Alex Kudinov  So I was really interested to see is the the analogy with Maslow’s pyramid. Mm hmm. And, um, what I know about Maslow’s pyramid is that for a lot of people, it’s actually not a full pyramid. A lot of people just don’t get to the top right. And that’s perfectly fine. Um, but what we teach in Agile is that you can do technical stuff you can do process and tools absolutely fantastic. And without leadership, you don’t get anywhere. So um, I’m curious how you’re thinking about this analogy and whether the bottom part can actually lead without the top part.

Philippe Guenet  The bottom part can live without the top. Don’t think the top can live without the bottom. And that’s the message I wanted to bring. If If you don’t find a way to connect and engage people remotely during this time, you’re not going to get any of the rest realized. And if you try, if you don’t focus on your team health, and not resilience of the teams, you’re not gonna be able to drive change and flow and all those things. So it’s really the bottom elements are needed to be able to, to execute on the IR level. Another Another thing I often say as well is that and in Agile, you know, we tend to say, Oh, we need to be agile, or do agile, be agile. And very often, you realize that you can be, you know, if you don’t do if you don’t have a decent DevOps, if you can put your software alive every so often, you’re going to batch up, if you batch, you may be working in sprint, but you’re not going to be agile.

Alex Kudinov  So you’re not getting any argument from me, they’re absolutely aligned. I think what what’s coming up for me is that your bottom part requires some leadership for its existence, so it’s a little bit little bit disconnect. Because in Maslow’s, I know it goes, it builds up, right. In your example, by an actual requires a piece of off the top, and vice versa.

Philippe Guenet  Yeah, I mean, you can have skunk work and stuff like that. But in large organization, it doesn’t tend to happen. And in banks, I’ve seen emails saying if you if you use zoom, it’s a soccer ball offense. So yes, indeed, it’s, it’s, you know, the skunk work could happen. You know, people could start using zoom. But if if they are prevented at that degree, it’s very difficult to to let that happen.


Why do we say that coaching can be transformational? As coaches, are we transforming the people we work with? What is actually the transformational factor in a coaching session? Asking the right questions ….

Coaching is a partnership between a client and a coach. Focused on the client’s needs, the coach is asking powerful questions to make the coachee find the answers by himself. 

TRUST is the key in this partnership. The coach trusts the client can find the answers they are looking for. The coachee trusts the coach and his ability to help and transform.

People will say–it is easy to be a coach. It is not …. The humans have the tendency to solution when there is a problem. My first occupation was software engineer. What a talented engineer does is finding solutions!

Now I am practicing my coaching skills and it makes me happy. When someone has a problem, the key is to ask questions that are:

  • Direct
  • Open-ended
  • There is no YES or NO answer
  • Starting with the magical letter “W” such as “Who” “Where” “What” “Why”
  • Related to the client context
  • Transformational
Transformational Questions

Direct questions are powerful because they do not let us make assumptions. Assumptions can be true or false, but as coaches we do not want to take that risk. Making assumptions means asking leading questions . This is not helping the coachee, though…..

Open-ended questions help the client think further. The goal of coaching is to help them find the right answer by themselves. Open-ended questions are helpful, not harmful.

Questions need always connect with what the coachee said before and the context of the conversation. Transformational questions help the client transform. Those are not transactional questions .

Transactional questions are like transactions of data between the client and the coach :

  • They help the coach discover more information about the client
  • They do not help the client move further
  • The coach learns more about the client’s situation and he will have the tendency to solution instead of asking powerful questions

When coaching, we can apply to following simple rules:

  • Ask one question at a time
  • Follow client’s pace
  • Add silences
  • No leading questions
  • We should connect every additional question to what the client says

Here are a few examples you SHOULD NOT follow :

  1. What would happen if you ask your manager to help you?

This question has a solution and direction.

  1. Do you want to do that?

This is a “YES” or “NO” question.

Here are a few examples you SHOULD follow:

  1. “Who can help you with this problem?”
  • Open ended
  • Direct
  • No YES or NO answer
  • NO solution or direction
  • Connected to client’s context
  1. “What might help you with this problem?”
  • Open ended
  • Direct
  • No YES or NO answer
  • NO solution or direction
  • Connected to client’s context

The transformational factor in coaching is the simplest thing in the world. Be an active listener and ask powerful questions.

Before the pandemic, for those of us taking part in the “in-person” world, we knew how to conduct practical interviews, but did we know how to conduct agile interviews?   We continue to hear of organizations claiming to be “agile organizations” yet continuing to roll out an antiquated hiring plan.  

Now that many of us have joined the virtual world, we need to figure out ways of standing out as an organization that talented agile people with an agile mindset will want to join.  How do we do this?  Well, there are a few things Human Resources teams can do to stand out as they embrace business agility.

Consider making a promotional video about the company.  There are a few ways to do this, but before you land on which way, it’s important to know who you are hiring for; what is your people strategy?  You’ll want to know some things about the person you want working with your organization; employee personas can help with this task.  Employee empathy maps are also key as they consider the current environment and culture.  Standard employee empathy maps often ask that the following categories of information (including their sub-questions) be identified. In essence, an employee empathy map can help you prepare agile ways of maturing employee engagement.

  • What an employee thinks and feels

  • What do employees see (observations)

  • What do employees say (speaking)

  • Who do employees hear (listening)

  • What do employees do (behaviors)

Once you’ve decided on what type of talent you want to solicit, there are many ways to create a winning video that can draw the viewer in but a winning video is also culture dependent.

Video chat services, like Zoom, can be used to stage and record a mock interview, which can be uploaded  for potential employees to view.  

Another way is to use a canned video service where you can select images and scenes that convey a sense of your company’s agile culture; be sure to make the video available on varying professional networking sites.  

If your completed employee empathy map does not produce positive results and cause you to joyfully exclaim how happy you are to work in this organization, your organization may have some culture work to do.  If that is the case, this isn’t bad news; it’s wonderful that you’ve identified it.  Now you can make a plan to fix it.  However, if you do find yourself truly, joyfully extolling the blessing of being employed where you are, you will have a rich offering for future employees.  

These are just two of the things you’ll learn, but in much more detail, in Tandem’s ICAgile class for Human Resources. 

Tandem’s ICP-AHR certification will teach you: 

  • The Agile Transformation
  • Being an Agile Organization
  • People Development
  • Performance Management
  • Modifying Your Onboarding Experience
  • Business Agility
  • Structural Aspects
  • Value Stream Mapping for all facets of your organization
  • Intrinsic Motivation
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Candidate Experience versus Candidate Fit 

The above is not an exhaustive list and only some of what you will be taught by coaches who have used these techniques in real-world environments. Tandem’s ICP-AHR course is structured to meet all learning styles, even in a virtual world! 

How will you learn how to hire?

Human Resources team members, organizational development consultants, hiring managers, agile coaches, even leadership, will benefit from Tandem’s ICP-AHR course. Keep an eye on Tandem’s Blog Page for our next article: Traditional versus Mosaic – Help your Employees Compose a More Engaging Career Path.

Are you looking for methods to grow as a coach? Are you trying to understand your strengths or weakness in your coaching style? Are you struggling to discover patterns of behavior, attitude or particular ‘voices’ that repeatedly ‘interfere’ during coaching conversations? 

Then self-reflection is your answer. It is a process that helps turn the experience into knowledge. It enables you to grow your understanding of who you are, your values, and why you think and act the way you do. It is a form of personal analysis that allows you to align your coaching stance with what you wish it to be.

Most experienced coaches practice self-reflection after each coaching conversation. To grow as a coach, you may easily follow it by using some simple techniques. Therefore in this session, I will explain:

1) How you can reflect to improve further. Reflection helps in discovering the behavioral patterns that motivate you to take particular actions.

2) How to use the four values of reflection: coaching philosophy, practice, improvement and context. 

3) A high-level overview of some techniques that you can use by yourself or with your mentor? 

4) Deep dive into one technique called Empathy Map for self-reflection. 

Empathy Map is one of the techniques used in human-centered design to understand the customer. I have been using this for quite some time. As users are human, so I thought one day, why don’t I try to use it to understand myself. It turned out to be very powerful. I will share an example from my personal experience with step by step process to practice it.

5) In the end, I will explain the tips for productive self-reflection that will lead you to growth, positivity, and happiness.

The overall purpose would be to enhance the quality of your coaching. 

Target Audience: It is helpful for new as well as experienced coaches. 

The simple techniques and values can be used by yourself to reflect on your recent coaching conversation, which will help you come up with action items for self-growth.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

pdf icon 150x150 - Self Reflection as a Coach Development Tool

Meetup Presentation Materials

Savita Pahuja - Self Reflection as a Coach Development Tool
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Coming Soon

Have you ever felt stuck working with a coaching client? They don’t seem to be moving forward or maybe you’re just not quite sure you are providing the value they need from a coach? Have you ever felt triggered when listening to a client talk and wanted to jump in and tell them what to do? Has that trigger ever made you want to take sides with your client and agree that the people they are dealing with are jerks and they should be frustrated? Has your client ever reminded you of someone that you’ve had a negative encounter with and now you just dread working with them? Have you ever hoped the phone didn’t ring when it was time for your coaching session or that the client didn’t show up on the zoom call?

If any of these situations describe something you’ve experienced with a coaching client, you are not alone! These reasons and many more are examples of cases that coaches can bring to a reflective supervision session to work through them and gain clarity on what’s happening so they can figure out how to best move forward to be the most effective coach they can be for their clients.

Reflective Supervision is a practice joining together in a neutral space with another professional to look at how you are being in your coaching practice with clients. It’s a non-judgmental space for coaches to reflect on what’s happening to and for them in their work with clients. The process of retrospection on the work you are doing with a specific client case can help you discover more about yourself as a coach and how to better serve your clients. Reflective Supervision gives you the opportunity to take a step back and look at your client, your interventions with the client, your relationship with your client, your thoughts and behaviors working with this client, and also they system you and the client are in together.

Cherie Silas, MCC and Enterprise Coach explains how working with a reflective coach supervision practitioner can improve your coaching practice.  She covers

  • The process of reflective supervision
  • The concepts of individual and group supervision
  • The value that reflective supervision brings to making you a more competent and skillful coach for your clients.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

pdf icon 150x150 - Reflective Supervision for Coaches

Meetup Presentation Materials

Cherie Silas - Reflective Supervision - Powerful Tool for Agile Coaches
Download Meetup materials here


Cherie  You all were muted upon entry but feel free to unmute and ask a question if you have one and I will also try to pause a bit and get some interaction from you. I would love to have interaction during this talk so that you’re not just listening to me and I’m talking at you; that can get pretty boring for both of us. So, let’s jump in Reflective Supervision and Reflective Supervision is about bringing more of more awareness to who you are as a coach into the work that you do with your coaching clients. And so I think it’s really, really important to start this talk off by saying what Reflective Supervision isn’t. I usually don’t start in the, kind of, negative space, but I think it’s really important for this one, because when you hear the word Supervision, you might get a picture in your mind. So I I’d like to hear, throw either in chat or maybe turn on your mic, and give me the one or two words that pop into your mind when you hear ‘supervision’. And since most of you haven’t seen Supervision, this is going to be a really, really great experience don’t understand.

So, observation, guidance, listening, part of your training, support; great. Command and control, mentoring, and technical support or personal support. All right. Awesome. So y’all keep on throwing those in there and feel free to keep the chat open so you can read it. And I want to tell you a couple of things. It’s important to understand supervision is not.

Number one, it’s not me as your boss grading you on your coaching. So when you think- when the-when most people hear supervision or supervisor, the first thing they think is of a hierarchical position where you’re the supervisor, I’m the supervisee; kind of like you have in the workplace, right? You’re my boss, I’m under you, you’re higher on the food chain than me, you can actually determine my fate, you probably determined my raise, you judge and tell me whether or not I’m a good coach…none of that is true with Reflective Supervision. So the word supervision in this case doesn’t actually mean to supervise like to stand over someone and look down and make sure they’re doing things correctly. What supervised, in this case, means, and the reason I have the little dash between, it’s really about super-vision. It’s about like meta vision. So it’s coming up higher, looking down at yourself and the work you’re doing from a bigger space and getting a wider view. So, creating a super-sized view of the work you’re doing and in order to do that you need to step outside of what you’re doing in order to look down upon it. And…so that’s the word ‘Supervision’ and ‘Reflective’ is about you actually thinking about what you’re doing and reflecting on it and about how it’s effective and how it’s not effective. And there’s this really big aspect that is important about Supervision and it’s about reflecting on who you are; not on your clients problem but on how you showed up in that coaching and what you were experiencing as a part of that coaching session so that you can learn about yourself and then go back and better serve your clients.

So some of you mentioned that mentoring sounds, like, ‘Supervision’ brings a thought of mentoring and so it can be really confusing because in coaching…um…like in-when you go and learn professional coaching-there’s professional coach training, and so you have a trainer, and then there’s also professional coach mentoring. So you might work with a mentor coach. What a mentor coach does is way different than what a supervisor does. A mentor coach works with you and helps you grow your competency in coaching. So it’s about the ICF Core Coaching Competencies, and are you actually performing those competencies; have you actually gain the competency in your coaching?

And then, ‘Supervision’ is about how you show up in your coaching. So where mentor coaching, there is is a corrective aspect and a um…a growth aspect. In Supervision, you’re actually peers. Mentor is higher in rank than you; they’ve been where you are. They’re, um…telling you how to fix and do things differently and what you’re doing well, Supervisor is a peer. So you’re in a peer space with someone who is just as good as you are, that respects you as a peer, and y’all are working together to see what you can uncover and discover together; much like you would in a coach-client relationship. And so-but-for those of you who are coaches, you know that coach-client, they’re not like “coaches up here” *gestures* and “clients down here” *gestures*, they’re coaching-client or peers and they respect each other and honor each other as peers and the power is in the relationship, not in the hierarchy.

So what is the purpose of Reflective Supervision? Well, it’s to focus on how you’re bei-oops, I hit the button on acciden-it’s focus on how you’re being and what you can learn about yourself, and it’s a non judgmental space. So as-um-if I am a Reflective Supervision practitioner, I am not here to judge you. I am here to be in partnership with you so we can learn together and what’s really cool about Supervision, that’s different than coaching, is that, when you and I engage in Supervision, it’s okay for me to learn in that session. You’re going to learn things about yourself and discover things about yourself and I’m also going to learn and discover things about myself. Just listening to your process and hearing some of the decisions and some of the reflections you had and being a partner with you in that. And so when you’re a coach, you leave yourself out of it, right? I’ve-it’s not my-it’s not for me to bring myself in and tell you what I’m learning and how I’m growing but in supervision, you may actually hear that, because it’s a peer relationship; it’s not a hierarchy. So…*clears throat*…let’s get a little bit deeper into what this might look like. So, the process that we’re reflecting on is to help you discover more about yourself, discover more about your clients, and how you can better serve them and, so, here’s some of the areas that you might focus on. You might focus on-you’ll-you’ll spend some time focusing on your client. Who’s your client, what’s up for them, what’s happening? You’ll focus on the interventions you made with the client and interventions are really just the interactions you’ve had with them. The questions you’ve asked, the opinions you’ve shared, what you-you know-how you set up the contract; things like that.

You’ll also look at your relationship with the client. How are things going between you and your client? How are you being together? We’ll look at you as an individual; you’re the coach. What was going on for you when you were working with that client? What was happening internally? What were your assumptions? What were your thoughts? What were your fears? What were your struggles? And what’s going on for you right now as we reflect on this? And then you’ll also look at larger system impacts. So many of you are coaching in organizations and you know, when you’re coaching in organizations, there is a lot of system all around there and that wider system has big impacts on the work your coach doe-your client does. But that larger system also has some impacts on the work you do and what you’re experiencing with your client. So, we-you take a look at that larger system, in fact, which might be the company…but because the supervisor is also up here and brings himself in, it may be part of your own system. It may be my thoughts on my culture and my way of doing things. Or maybe it’s like ICF or Scrum Alliance, as a larger system actually impacts the work we’re doing in this space. So as you can see, it’s a lot…it’s a bigger space than the coaching space and it may… seem a lot like coaching someone on their coaching. Or, as a supervisee, it may feel a lot like being coached on the coaching you did.

So I want to stop here and just get your-get your thoughts before we jump into like going down a little bit deeper into the process. Who’s got some thoughts or opinions you want to share? Manohar?

Manohar  Yeah, yeah. When you are explaining this initially that I felt like I was, “How is this-is-this is different from professional coaching” but even during professional coaching…your relationship with the client and how you interact with the client, it’s all part of coaching agreement. That’s where-that’s what’s going in my mind, how this is different, but you clarified it.

Cherie Oh, good. I’m glad I clarified it. Awesome. Anything else; any other thoughts? All right, and I’m going to jump into the next slide. If you have a thought and make sure you let us know and so when we’re looking at Supervision, here’s some of the areas we’re looking at. You’ll-you’ll look at your-yourself a lot as a practitioner. “How am I being as a coach?” You’ll also look a bit at your client and the case that you’re bringing for Supervision, the experience that you actually had with that client, and you’ll look at the systems and relationships, right? So it’s kind of a three fold piece that you’ll be bringing in, when you come as a su-as a um-when you come for Supervision. And so this picture I love, it actually came out of a book that I read on Reflective Supervision and I thought it gave a great format for us to be able to talk about, well, what are we actually doing in Supervision? So when we’re looking at what we’re doing in Supervision, it could be multiple things and so this, this is part of the reason-another reason-why it’s way different than coaching.

So, there’s this-in the bottom right hand corner, there’s this respec-reflective place and you’ll see that’s a really big square because that’s where you’re spending most of your time. And um, then in the le-and that’s considered like the observatory room-it’s just-just like rooms in a house; the name of the room doesn’t make much difference, it’s really what you do in there-and if we look over to the left bottom, it’s the second largest space, and this is a restorative space. So the difference between reflective space and restorative space is reflective space, I’m reflecting on the work I’m doing and who I am as a coach. Restorative space could be more about, me, maybe, bringing things in that- celebrations and things I’ve done that were really great, or maybe you are experiencing, like, “I just feel really beat up.” That’s kind of the place that-that could be a place that you’re in. So it helps to restore you and to help motivate you to move up to be able to just jump back in and keep doing what you’re doing. The next space that you’ll often find is the Studio, which is the active space, and in this space you’re actually solving together. Maybe you’re trying to figure out, “What are-what do I need to do with the client? What do I need to do differently? What do I need to understand about what’s happening for them so that I can be more effective?” This space happens but it’s less often the respec-reflective place. And then the other three at the top, they don’t happen as often; they really only happen by necessity or by request. So this evaluative space is a space where I may-you may ask me as a supervision provider to step into a…um, a…kind of an expertise space for a few minutes and give you some feedback on, “This is what I see.”

This comes into place often, like when there are…like, really just questions of, “I don’t know if I handled that correctly; I’m afraid I stepped outside of coaching” and so if I’ve got the expertise to help you with that, then I can step into that space and give you my perspectives. Which of course is way different than regular coaching because regular coaching, I wouldn’t be bringing my expertise to you.

Directive space could come into play when…the client- when the-the person in Supervision, the coach – is stepping into a gray area, and they don’t see it. This often comes up with ethical issues or potential ethical issues that you’re kind of like right along the line there and I am a bit concerned and I want to make sure. So a great example of this could be…um…you’ve got a client who is, you know, they’ve got some of the same experiences you’ve got, and you are getting kind of sucked into their story. Maybe they are in a space where, you know, maybe they’ve lost a loved one and they’re experiencing grief, and you recently lost a loved one and you’re experiencing grief, and maybe some of the conversation you’re bringing to me is about how you’re starting to share your own challenges with them and y’all’re having like, a side-not a coaching conversation anymore-then there might be a space there to say, “Hey, let’s look at this.” I’ve also had this come up when someone said, “I really think that person needed counseling, not coaching, but I didn’t know what to do.” Or they didn’t…they-they didn’t say anything. Um, so then I might take a directive role and say, “Okay, let’s…let’s actually look at this. What’s proper; what is ethical?”

So, like I said, it’s usually just by necessity or by request. And passive space, what passive space is, is you as the coach, the supervisee, you’re sitting in a passive space and I’m teaching you something as the supervisor that you don’t already know. This is one of those spaces…you shouldn’t jump into tons of times, and it should be small, short, “Let me give you the-y-there’s this-there’s a piece of information missing that you don’t know about and you’ve asked me to fill it so I’m going to fill it really quickly, and then we’ll jump back into the reflective space or one of the other spaces.” I’ll go a little bit deeper into these in just a minute. But I’d like to get your kind of thoughts about, how does, just from the surface here, how does this look similar or different from coaching? And some of you have experienced Supervision because I’ve actually supervised with a few of you already. So if you have anything to share here about…like, the way it-what it’s like to be supervised; what it’s like to experience that process of Supervision. I’d love Here’s some thoughts from you that you can share with others as a participant.

Oh, Sherman. Hey, Sherman!

Sherman  Hey, Cherie, how are you?

Cherie Good

Sherman  Yeah,  I’ll share an experience. Now kind of in my early, early coaching days, probably about eight years ago, I was a PMO Director. Yes, I was a PMO Director. Anyway, as a PMO Director, I had people who directly report it to me; so I was their supervisor. But one thing I did even before I really knew a lot about Agile Coaching was when I was having relationships with my staff, we would go for a walk to do one-on-one; kind of the reflective space. Get out, create that safe space, and what I found was kind of an, uh, an amazing experience where my employees, my staff, really opened up to me. I just gave them a comfortable space where they can share what was on their mind and I heard things that I was not expecting to hear I thought it would be more business and specific but they really started to get into their…their personal, you know, their…where they’re stressed, where they’re not, what’s impacting them, and it was kind of a…an awakening moment and really, pretty cool. So I thought I’d share that.

Cherie Awesome. Thank you. Anybody else you’ve maybe done some Supervision you – some of you said you had experienced Supervision before – and so, like, with a trained professional supervisor, who’s been trained in this art just like a professional coach has been trained.

Elena, Elena,

Elena  I can speak up. I do have experience with Supervision with Cherie, a couple of times, and with other coaches, like ICF mentors. What I found extremely helpful for myself, and I’m Agile Coach, It’s slowly brings like, hidden side of me. Like, it’s not definitely about my clients; it’s not about situations. It’s all about hidden side of myself, which I’m how I’m showing up in this coaching engagement. And I had, like blast experience with Cherie, when she really helped me to change. I would say she catalyzed changes as me is who-how I show-showing up in the coaching engagement. It’s been like crucial. It’s not, I would say it’s beyond the feedback. It’s not just feedback. It’s like…how… reflection was very, very careful. I didn’t say mentoring, because I still look at Cherie as a mentor, even in the Supervision sessions, but this reflection, which is pointed on the side of me, which I would never ever guess, and I had a lot of feedback for my coaching, but neither one of the feedbacks provided show this of me, but this is how a reflection and for the Supervision helped me. It’s…it’s really invaluable experience like absolutely.

Cherie Thanks, Elena. Yeah, that points out a lot like the difference between mentoring and Supervision. Mentoring was about how you’re coaching, where the Supervision allowed you to reflect on who you were being so really, really great point and yeah, I think I saw you getting ready to speak.

Yes, you did. I just started recently in my first official coaching position and was in talks with Cherie about supervision and I think the-the biggest thing, that I thought, that’s come out of this interaction with her is, I thought of it as a self-requested audit, if you will, unlike, you know, with the IRS, we don’t want to be audited. We, you talked about me as a-as a coach and…and my approach to it and I think the biggest thing that I’ve come away with is a kind of like a brand or business and I’m providing a service. And I’m starting to think more about how I want that to be, how I want to interact it, how I want to be noticed or known for my services that I provide and having conversations with her has given me a little bit more insight into what I want to do, things that I don’t want to do, how I want to show up with my clients, having deeper conversations of how I want them to show up when we have our interactions, and I’m also stepping back a little bit more and looking at the big-bigger picture and…how I can play a larger part than I normally do as part of my coaching practice. And then, you know, having that space to talk with her about that rest of her space where we’re kind of talking about successes and then some of the anxieties and some of the different struggles that you’re having with working so having that ability to have that Supervision oversight. To even just identify those things and know that they’re things that you should talk about, things you should be aware of, and things that you should discuss, has been really helpful with helping me go through my first experience as an Agile Coach.

Awesome, thank you for that and so one thing I want to say about why I’m doing this Supervision and bringing it into the Agile space is because we do have a lot of people in the Agile space who are-who are coaches. They’re Scrum Masters, or Team Coaches, or they’re Organizational Coaches, and many people don’t have the training and professional coaching that they really need to be able to do that; or do it in a way that’s not consulting. And so one-and-and…also, when you do have professional coach training, sometimes you’re actually in there and you’re doing a whole lot of consulting and telling everybody what to do and solving their problems. So, you have the training but you’re not doing things through a coach’s approach and Supervision can help you start to see, “Oh, I was being a consultant” not “I was doing, I was not doing consulting”, but “I was being, I was thinking, more like a consultant than a coach. And so what I really believe is that even for people who have no clue what coaching is, but they’re Agile coaches, or I should say, has no clue what professional coaching is, I don’t want to insult anybody, I think that they will find that this, kind of, ‘coaching on their coaching’ will open their eyes to, “Oh, maybe I actually need this skill”, and they’ll start to, to go and figure out ways to develop this skill because guaranteed it will make you a better-a better Agile Coach if you know professional coaching. After all, it’s…it’s coaching *chuckles*

Alright, so I’m gonna go ahead and share again. Thank you so much for those of you who shared we’ll have another opportunity in just a second to, um, to share some more. And so I want to dig a little bit deeper into each one of these spaces, just to kind of give you the overview. So the observatory, so that’s this, the observatory is the risk-discovery space, right? This is the one that was reflective…um…and so this is the primary space that you’re in, when you’re in Supervision. So, when I’m working with people in a Supervision capacity, I’m partnering them to take a super high view of their work, primarily, we’re in this space, and I’m going to say 60-70% of the time we’re in this space. It’s where you want to mostly be. And so when I’m in this space, the primary goal for us in this space is to create new awareness for you as the coach about how you’re being with your clients. Just like coaching, the whole purpose of coaching is to create new awareness for our clients and how they’re approaching their world. So that piece is very much the same. And so the role of the supervisor is to be appear and to support your reflection on your work and your process. Your role as the practitioner is to actually be the explorer and to reflect on what you’re doing. This is just like what coaching is, right? So I’m helping you discover more by you reflecting on your work with your clients. Where coaching is, I’m helping you learn more about who you are as a, as a-as an individual; it may have nothing to do with your actual career.

Cherie Silas, Host 

So the next-when we’re in this space, these are some of the lenses you’re going to look through, and this is, um…comes from the Peter Hawkins Seven-Eyed Model of Supervision that can also be used as a coaching tool. So, a place that you can use to coach, especially in organizations, this Seven-Eyed model works great for coaching. So there’s this space of the client, the coach client relationship and the coach interventions and those are kind of focused like on one side of the spectrum. I kind of look at it as, you know, the coach’s internal process. So who you are as a coach is kind of in the middle here and on one side, we’re going to look at you with your client, and then on the other side, we’re going to look at you…um so if I’m the supervisor, I’m-this is where I’m bringing me in. So what’s happening for me and our conversation in that middle speed place. It’s what’s happening for you, the coach, in our interaction, as we talk about your client and then we’re also going to look at, “Well, what’s happening between you and I, in our session, that might be reflective of what’s actually happening between you and your client?”

So for example, you may be bringing a case to Supervision to discuss, and you’re talking about, “I just kept getting sucked into telling my client what to do. I kept getting sucked in. I kept just moving into mentoring or consulting. They were doing things, and I was just like…making suggestions, and I couldn’t stop” and-because that happens, right? And so, in our session as a supervisor, I might be also noticing that I-as I hear you talk about that, I’m wanting to give you advice, and so I’m having this struggle. So I might bring up the fact that you know, I’m noticing that, “I really want to give you advice right now and I’m curious how that might be similar to what’s happening with your client.” It’s- so then I’m bringing what’s happening between you and I right now, to create a wider lens, a more Super-view, for you to look through and see, “Well, what’s happening for us is also parallel with what’s happening with you and your client” and that might have some more information for you and then we’ll also look at the larger system. So what’s happening around you in the client? What’s happening in the client’s world and what’s happening in your own world? That might also be impacting how you show up and how you work with your client. So just one of the pieces or ways that you might look at yourself-at yourself in Supervision. So, and this is often mostly in that reflective space. Some of this may happen-this may happen in all the other spaces- but this will definitely happen when you’re in the resp-reflective space.

So the next space that we talked about is that sitting room, that-this-that restorative place. This is also a primary space for Supervision. So, um, when you’re when you’re preparing to experience Supervision, you want to be thinking, “I want to be in a discovery space”; so that reflective space, “I also want to be maybe in a restorative space where I get to look at some of my celebrations and some of the things I did right.” You don’t always have to bring a client case that’s, “Here’s all the things that were terrible.” Sometimes you want to bring a client case that’s, “I did this and it was great. It was a great session, and I’d really like to debrief it and learn more about how it was a great session because then I will know how to bring this into the rest of my coaching world.” So your primary goal here is to debrief and to celebrate. My role as a supervisor is as a colleague, and I’m going to debrief that with you and celebrate your success. with you because you did an awesome job and you deserve to be acknowledged for that and I want to make sure that I’m-that you actually hear what I’m seeing in you. And your role as a practitioner is to debrief and to celebrate; to see, like, what happened there that made it so awesome, ‘how was I being’, and to really celebrate the fact that you did a great job and you really helped your client.

So some of these, I call this active space – remember, this is the space where we’re solving what you’re going to do; we’re kind of getting there and solving problems – I refer to this more as a secondary space. If you’re in supervision, and we’re always talking about how you’re going to go change and fix what’s happening in your client’s world, um…it’s okay to do that and I think you’re missing out on something that can be much more powerful. And so if I think of this in, kind of like in parallel to coaching, it’s the difference between ‘coaching the problem’ and ‘coaching the person.’ So in coaching, I can focus on your problem, and we can solve that, and come up with action items, but you may not really learn a whole lot, and your mindset may not change because you won’t have gotten new awareness. You just solved the problem; so I gave you a fish, and we’re done. Where-what we want to focus on in coaching is the person because if we can create awareness and the person they will be able to solve this problem and future problems. Same thing with Supervision; if we’re only focusing on the problem, you can solve this problem but you won’t really have enough information to make a permanent change because you haven’t really addressed your thinking and what’s happening for you that’s motivating you in this one little space. So I would want to not just stay in an active space in our Supervision, I would want to be there a little while, but let’s also move over into the reflective space or into the restorative space so that you can actually gain some awareness and now you’re going to make a permanent mindset shift so that you can have a permanent change on the way you’re coaching.

And then, the three spaces that are by request only, or by necessity only. So this lecture space, so by request, when we’re in a supervision session, you might say, “You know what, I just-I don’t-I don’t kno-I don’t know what’s…I don’t know how to do this. I need you to actually teach me this little piece so I can know how to move forward.” And so we might, by request, we might step into that and I’ll do a little bit of teaching, probably not more than two or three minutes, because you’ve got enough inside of yourself to know where to take it from there, you just need to be provoked. So for an Agile Coach, this is a lot of the work you’re doing. Your work-like in your regular coaching-you’re working with your client and you notice, like, “There’s a gap. You don’t know this thing about Agile so you can’t actually make the right decision or do something so I’m going to teach you, then I’m going to step back into the coach spot.” Same thing if we’re in Supervision together, remember I’m a peer-so I’m not here to teach you; I’m not here to mentor you-and I’m a peer who just happens to…maybe know different things than you do. So if you-if I know something you don’t know, you might ask me, and I’ll say, “Okay, I’ll give you a little bit of information”, or “I’ll tell you what I have done in that situation”, or “What could be a way to handle this?” So I’ll step into that advisor role but then I want us to go back to the reflective space, or the celebratory space. I don’t want to stay here; you can take a training class or sign up for mentoring if you need that. In supervision, we want to focus on you. So your role as we step into that spot is to learn and to listen. And my role is to provide some information and some advice.

Then we’ve got these last two spaces, the exam room. So, this is again as requested by the coach, or if found urgent by the supervisor; because as a supervisor, I do have some…some um…I guess, accountability or responsibility to make sure that I’m protecting the profession of coaching also. So there may be things that come up when I’m like, “Oh, let’s-let’s look at that.” So the primary goal in this evaluative space is for you to-to-let’s look at your current performance and I will say, “Yes, I think you did that right” or “Actually, I-I don’t think that your understanding how to do coaching.” So could be by request, sometimes could be by, by prompt of the situation; mostly by request. So my role in that, if we’re working in that space, or if we step momentarily into that space, is to give you a feedback on your actual coaching, much like a mentor coach would do, right? I’m not going to grade your recordings. This is, “You’ve told me this, and I’m going to reflect back on what you told me” Um…and it’s going to be brief. Your role is to be open to feedback. So if you want me to give you my opinion on how you did on what you did, then you actually have to allow me to move into a different role and you accept that opinion. That doesn’t mean you have to say, “Okay, I’m gonna go be obedient and do what you said.” What it means is you have to be open to hear a different perspective and the concerns that I might have, or be open to the fact that, yeah, you did an awesome job quit beating yourself up.

And then this last one here is the directive space. I think this is required by circumstance in most cases, because you often won’t, even-if we need to step into this space, you probably won’t even know that we need to step in there and so I’m going to call a halt and say, “We need to step into this space for just a minute.”-and so the primary goal here is to safeguard the public and to comply with requirements like ICF requirements. Maybe you tell me something about the work you’re doing with your client and their boss came to you and they were wanted to know about what you discussed in your one-on-one coaching session. So you felt obligated because their boss is actually paying your bill to share what y’all discussed in your coaching session? If I hear you say that, I’m probably going to say, “Uhh…can we take a pause…wait for just a minute. Let’s talk about the code of ethics” and so I’m going to pull you into that space and say, “Okay, this is the danger you’re in; you can’t do that” or whatever. Like, of course, it’s up to you what you actually do but I have an obligation to step into that space for a moment and say, “This is what I see and this is why I think it’s dangerous and I think we need to discuss it for a bit.” And so my role there is to…to give directions, provide warning, and your role is to actually listen and-and receive that correction for-might feel like a… not a… good word but if I’m working as your supervisor, we should have a relationship where if I offer correction, you’re open to receive it. And like anything else, you’re also free to do what you want to do once we’re done. I am not your dictator of your life, right?

All right. So I want to take a second here. We talked through this quite a bit and so I want to get some more thoughts, some more feedback. I know we have at least one person in on the call today who is actually a Supervision provider also. So if any of you if you’re a trained supervisor, you’re welcome to give some thoughts that maybe I haven’t given here. And then I’d also like to know if anybody has any questions that you’d like to bring up or comments.

Alex Kudinov  So I’m curious, you know, how in Agile Coaching, we are talking about the meta scale, if we’re looking at the ACI model, and the Agile Coach has to be comfortable moving really smoothly from coaching to facilitation to training to mentoring; I’m curious if for supervisor, the spaces are something similar, and a highly proficient supervisor would use this kind of meta skill of identifying what the client needs more. What do you call that, supervisee?

Cherie Supervisee, or I just call them coach. I’m in the supervisor role-or I’m a Supervision provider, they’re the coach, and then there’s the client. It gets a little confusing.

Alex Kudinov  Right. So I’m wondering if that’s pretty much kind of a similar meta skill a supervisor would bring to the session?

Cherie I really love that and I think for those of us who are Agile Coaches on the call, that probably resonates really well. Like, I need to know when to step into a consulting space, or a teaching space, or mentoring space. And so yes, I would agree, Alex, that’s a really great call-out that I hadn’t kind of connected before. It is a matter of that dance of, “Which space do we need to be in?” And probably a little bit unlike Agile coaching, where, in Agile coaching, you’re probably making the decision about, “Do I need this or this” as you’re shifting spaces. In this space, we really want to be in partnership so that we’re going together into that space and into agreement. Anybody else?

I was going in my line of thought, kind of like where Alex was going, I was thinking about other frameworks and how or usually thinking about that shift I was connecting that with what you were saying at the beginning, Cherie, of similarities with coaching. And I do see the idea of partnership, very strong, right? We’re partnering through this idea of creating awareness, and I see something very similar there, and I hadn’t seen Supervision here. I’ve heard about Supervision in professional coaching but I hadn’t seen it implemented in Agile coaching. I find that incredible powerful, and I believe that we’ve been doing it kind of like on the shades like unofficially, and I see a lot of potential there bringing me to something more formal and training ourselves for that. So I was wondering, yeah, what is what is that-that would be like an ideal development path for developing that skill?

So, I think to develop the skill of Supervision, I’ll give you my personal opinions – and this might be different than than other people’s so you’re welcome to get some other opinions – my opinion is that: Before you step in being a supervisor, or taking Supervision training, my opinion is that you should be at least a PCC coach. You could be an ACC and that’s an ICF accredited, Associate Certified Coach or Professional Certified Coach, you could be an ACC and do Supervision. I personally would not go to a supervisor who’s an ACC, only because I don’t think they’ve had enough experience and enough expertise to be able to really step into some of these other spaces. They could step into the reflective space, fine. That’s, that’s a lot like coaching, but to have the exp-the background of being able to step into the director space or the corrective space, um…they need to-they need to actually have a higher level of skill for that.

So my first recommendation would be learn coaching, if you haven’t already. Get professional coaching training, if you haven’t already, and get certified or credentialed as a coach. And the diff-credentialed as a coach means there’s a test of your experience and your expertise, your ability, that your competency as a coach – so it’s different than just, “I’ve had training as a coach.” Many training programs, you go to the program, you learn a lot of stuff, but you don’t actually learn to become competent in using those skills. This the accredit-the credentialing tells me you’ve become competent. So I would first do that and then if you’ve been practicing as a professional coach, for some in your your, at least 500 hours to be a PCC, then I think the next thing to do would be take some training and supervision. There are a few programs in Supervision that you can join. I…I will probably be creating a program in another year or so. I want to, I want to let things kind of settle and start introducing Supervision to this space before I even start thinking about teaching it. But, you know, in another year or so I’ll probably roll out a program to start teaching Supervision from an Agile perspective but there are other programs that you could join. So hope that was helpful. Anybody else? All right. I’m going to jump into the last couple of slides here because I think you’ll…um…you’ll see some more things you like.

So what is not Supervision and not a space that you ever want to be in in Supervision is, number one, the managerial space. That’s the “I am your supervisor and I rank above you and you will listen to me or you will suffer some consequence.” So, Supervision is not like your supervisor, your boss; it is a peer relationship. And so this is not – we want to make sure that we’re really clear – when I’m in-when I’m getting Supervision, I’m not going to someone who outranks me and they can…they can rule me. And I want to make sure that we understand that that is not what Supervision is at all. So if you are someone supervisor at work, you’re their boss, that does not make you qualified to provide Supervision to a professional coach or to an Agile Coach. Then, we’re also not in the avoidance space. We’re not hiding out under the cellar saying, you know, just coming in and like, “Hey, we’re just chatting, we’re just colleagues, we’re peers but we’re not actually engaging in reflection.” That’s more of just a, let’s go have coffee together. That’s a that’s a friends over dinner. That’s not Supervision.

So…just want to-those are the two spaces, two of the things that really say, “This is not what Supervision is.” And then, so a couple of things just really quick about, “Well, how do I prepare to actually go into a Supervision session?” Much like when you prepare to go into a coaching session, you come into a coaching session thinking about, “What are the goals I have for this time we’re going to talk, how am I going to measure that, and what’s the importance of this; why am I actually bringing this coaching topic today?” For Supervision, it’s the same thing; you need to prepare ahead of time. First thing to really understand about Supervision is confidentiality still holds. So, um, your client remains confidential and so this could provide some challenges for those of you who may be thinking right now, “Well, I’m an Agile Coach, and there’s other Agile Coaches, and I’m in the organization, and I might start supervising others.” It’s going to be really hard for a client to remain confidential if you know what four teams I’m coaching and I’m bringing a case; it’s going to be pretty easy for you to figure out who this client is. That is not confidentiality. So you want to engage in Supervision with someone outside of your realm, so that that client remains confidential. You may come in and just…not use a name. I often because I work with coaches all over the world. I’ll often say my client from Greece, my client from you know, the UK, and then so it’s just a way that I have to bring that into my-when I do-when I go into have a Supervision session, I bring a client and I just refer to them by location because that’s what’s easy for me.

So client remains confidential. What I also do is, I-as I finish coaching sessions, I stop and reflect, and if you’re a professional coach, you should be preparing before going into a session, and then coming out of a session and doing reflection, so that you can kind of check yourself. “What happened there? Did any-was I triggered by anything? Did I step into an odd space? Was there something that was kind of…feeling weird on my insides about that session?” So, I take that and I write up a notable incident. It’s really just like, what’s it-like a couple of sentences on the background so I’ll remember later when I’m looking at it. Um, a coup-maybe a paragraph or two about, “Well, what actually happened that is of concern to me; what’s the what’s the notable thing that happened?” It might be our concern, or it might be of celebration. And then the last piece of that that I write down is, “Why is this actually…what-why is this relevant? What’s important about this that I might want to consider bringing this as a case to Supervision?”

And so I just do a brief write up and then that way when I go and have Supervision sessions with my Supervisor, I have something to bring in, I can go flip through my couple of pages from different clients and say, “Oh, you know what, I never really dealt with this one; let’s talk about this one.” Um, it’s recommended that you have about an hour of supervision for every 35 or 40 hours of coaching that you do. So a few times a year for many people. Maybe monthly for those of you who are coaching a lot and actually, um, doing, you know, 10 or 15 hours of coaching a week. And then lastly, there is a way to do this. So there’s one-on-one Supervision, which is really what I’ve been speaking mostly about. There was a really cool way to experience Supervision and it’s in a group. So when you do Supervision in a group, one person still brings their client,um,  incident, their case, and remember, now we’ve got six of us, five of us, so it’s really important to keep confidentiality. And so you bring that case in, and the rest of the people in the group become thinking partners. And we think through this case together. So you not just have like the one supervisor, but you actually have four-three, four, or five people who can also look at the process with you and ask you some provoking questions and help you to probe a little bit deeper. And so the value they provide is now you don’t just see it from your perspective and my perspective, you actually get to see it from five or six perspectives. So another great thing about group Supervision is it can be a lot more cost effective because, um, the person providing Supervision doesn’t have to just be compen-you know, they don’t have to-they don’t have one person compensating them, they’ve got several people, so it usually brings the cost down. Joining group Supervision can usually be pretty cost effective. And where joining individual Supervision, just like individual coaching, the prices will vary. For me, I, I think that one-on-one Supervision is probably going to cost about the same cost that your clients pay you for an hour of work. Every supervisor will charge you differently. Some of them may charge more, some of them may charge less just like in coaches. It’s totally free for you to decide your own prices. But in general, I… I try to keep it where about what you make an hour is about what I make an hour because then it makes it accessible to you to be able to say, “Well, I can I can pay for an hour of my time to be in Supervision, so.  So yeah, um…let’s close up with any other questions, learnings, takeaways; we’ve got a few minutes here to just be together and love to hear with spinning in your head. Even if it’s, “You’re crazy, Cherie, you’re always bringing crazy stuff to us.”

Alex Kudinov  Okay, I thought it was great stuff and I experienced Supervision. Um, now that I’m thinking about it, I would agree that it would be absolutely cool and great experience to start bringing these to Agile environments and to Agile Coaches. However, the last part that you mentioned, the confidentiality, kind of stopped me in my tracks. So it basically means that the organization cannot have an internal supervisory function.

Cherie Or if they do, how I envisioned this happening is, it’s an external coach, or an external supervisor, who is working with that company. So you don’t need me as a supervisor on staff 40 hours a week, that’s excessive, just like you would need me probably as a coach on staff 40 hours a week. But they, what I would envision is setting up groups where the supervisor comes in and you’ve got eight Agile Coaches. So once a month, we’ll have a group Supervision and we’ll bring a few of those in, or we’ll do individual Supervision. So I think that’s more the structure that it would look like. I’m not saying that so-a company couldn’t train up a supervisor and have an in house supervisor, I would just be concerned about confidentiality, because that will impact every coach’s relationship with their clients. If their client thinks you’re bringing my business into the business into the group and now everybody knows my business, that’s not gonna sit well with your coaching.

Alex Kudinov  Right. I just see organization. So we know that we’re all kind of enamoured these days with what they call ‘Center of Agile Excellence’ or ‘Communities of Practice’ and all that. And I see these branches of organization, an organization would say, “Well, the Community of Practice is the best place for that.” So I’m wondering if, if a clause-kind of- gives the confidentiality clause and gives the sign-off from the client would somehow solve that problem?

Cherie Yeah, I think they would have to figure out how to solve that internally and that-it could be the case and I think the difference between regular, professional coaching and Agile coaching is, a lot of what you do in Agile coaching is public knowledge anyway, it’s not really confidential until you get into those one-on-one spaces, or maybe even in like a retrospective, you might agree what’s confidential and what’s not. So…so, a little bit of leeroom-leeway probably in the Agile coaching space because of that. However, if you’re bringing if you’re coaching someone individually as an Agile Coach and you’re actually doing professional coaching with them, that’s where you need to be really careful because while everybody might know what teams you’re coaching, they don’t know what individuals you’re coaching. What else?

Manohar  And again, when you’re explaining this, right, where you need to have a coach to be experienced if you need to surprise that he/she needs to surpervise you. You mentioned you may not probably go with ICF-ACC right? You, at least recommend PCC or above. This is pretty much the situation we had last year in our organization, where some external consultant coach was brought in, he was asked to work with the employee Scrum Masters to supervise and obviously now I can realize it typically became a hierarchy.

Cherie So that was supervision in the business sense not in the coaching sense.

Manohar  Yeah, and also employees were not secure enough to open it up with a coach. So that it may go as a feedback.

Cherie Yeah, I-the name ‘Supervision’ kind of gives me the heebie jeebies only because it creates that…confusion of, “Oh, I can hire-you’re the supervisor; all these people report to you.” Great…but that’s not coaching *chuckles* and it’s not coaching Supervision. It’s a different kind of supervision.

Manohar  And now it makes me-now I realize what what happened and what is making sense now.

Cherie Right. So I want to give an example of this. So when I when I worked with Cox Automotive, really huge company, I ran the coaching practice there. So I had multiple enterprise coaches who reported up to me and I was their supervisor, I would never have done Supervision reflective practices with them because that – I’m a supervisor, I’m not your peer. I would have referred that to someone else because I had to supervise them, which meant if I had to bring a disciplinary space in, now, their performance review’s in jeopardy from their perspective, right? So we definitely don’t want that. Yeah, Jenny, that’s definitely a conflict of interest. I’m glad you use those words.

Um…Cherie I have a question. Um…do you see there is a theme where there’s a lot of confusion between the expectation of an Agile Coach and professional coaching is another leadership level?  Because you know, to your example that you’ve mentioned, sometimes you’re getting into…the leadership pushes us in… in a consulting way. “Give us advice.” Okay, so what do you suggest? Like, they are looking at the term coach, as someone *chuckles* who is an expert, and who’s there to give them advice and, and so…for myself, and many times, even though I try to step back, but I don’t want to be the person to give them advice, but then kind of help them provoke the thinking, what are the things that they should change at the leadership level? But do you see a theme across in the industry that expectation of an Agile Coach…um…to an-a real good understanding of what professional coaching really means? Did you see that and how do I really set that expectation?

Yep. So I, I know for a fact that, first of all, the first problem is, maybe 50-60% of the Agile Coaches that I have encountered, like, people who put Agile coach on their LinkedIn, have no clue what professional coaching is. So that’s the first problem because now when a client who doesn’t know what an Agile Coach is, and they don’t know what a coach is, hires these people, what they should be calling themselves as Agile Consultants, and then I have no beef with them, no problem there, right? But they call themself a coach and they go into the organization and they teach the organization that a coach is someone who comes and bosses you around and tells you what to do and now, the organization doesn’t understand Agile – so they’re just looking for an expert – they’re looking for a consultant, you comply. Now, we have done nothing for the profession and we’re not doing coaching and we’re just calling it that. So, short answer is, yes. It’s a huge problem. Leaders don’t know what it is and the truth is they shouldn’t have to because, if you are a professional, you should be responsible for making sure they understand what coaching is and if they’re hiring you as a coach, they should understand what you do, and what you don’t do as a coach. And if I’m working with someone who what they want as a consultant, instead of me like, I don’t want to pass up the money. It’s a lot of money. I want to get the contract signed, I’m going to say, That’s not what I do; you need a consultant. And so, I-now as an Agile coach, I will talk through, “There’s some consulting, there’s some of this,” and I’m really clear on where we’re at and so that is your responsibility as a coach. It is not the client responsibility to understand what they want – that’s preferred, that would be awesome –  but you are the one who has an ethical standard to uphold and ethical obligation to make sure your client has purchased the service that they need. Because it would be the equivalent of, I’m going to sell you an airplane when really what you need is a scooter. But I’m not going to tell you you need a scooter, I’m going to sell you an airplane instead because I can make more money off of that. To me, it’s it’s that core, it’s an ethics thing. Anybody else?

Hey, um, so I actually was thinking about that a lot and this is all insightful and thank you for for the great discussion here. I-…the market is so saturated right now, unfortunately, and to your point, you know, everybody’s an agile coach, and sometimes the leaders when they hire these external consultants, they-they want help, right? So they are not ducated, per se, as to what is the difference between, you know, a mentor, a consultant, or a coach. And the expectation is, somebody to come in and fix their problems or identify their problems and provide solutions versus taking the long road sometimes that we know it takes for for teams and and the leadership to realize where the root causes are and to get to their that realization and address their own problems, which we know that they are capable of doing. So…yes, you know, we, the 22 of us here are now talking to each other, right, but there’s so many others out there that are going into organizations and doing the talk and have the decks to sell their services, and the leaders are buying into it right. So I feel like that’s a problem where the leaders, you know, have the budget potentially and they want to have a quick fix.

Yeah, they have mandate from above but the leaders are not educated. So I think it’s also our responsibility, at least the 22 of us here, to also educate our leaders as to what they’re buying into the right and wrong.

Yeah, I agree and because this is a non-regulated field, you will continue to have this because it’s easy money and because it’s a field where the client doesn’t know what they’re doing, the coach…they can, you know, they can sucker anybody. So it’s like, if I was going to go to a doctor, if it wasn’t a regulated field, I mean, I don’t know anything about medical care. I’m just…you said you’re a doctor; I’m going to go to you. Now, God knows what you’re going to do, you know, to my health because you don’t know-or to my mental capacity. There’s a lot of people calling themselves counselors who aren’t counselors, even though that’s a regulated industry, right? So you don’t know. But my charge to you, to this group, who, right now, is under my voice, is that if you are coaching, and you have not actually learned what coaching is, and I mean through an accredited learning organization, then it is your responsibility to do that. And I think it’s dangerous for you to call yourself a coach, unless you have not only gotten some kind of training and reading a book is great. Reading videos are great. I’ve got to set the videos out there that are helping a lot of people but no one has validated that you took knowledge and created competency. So just because you can verbalize to me what a coach is, doesn’t mean you’re coaching and I’ve seen it over and over and over again. So you have a responsibility, that if you’re calling yourself a coach, then you need to get validated competency because you’re doing damage to the industry; the same damage we’re talking about right now. And I know that sounds harsh but it’s what I have experienced in the last 10 years, over and over.

Thank you for that.

You’re welcome. All right, Angie.

Angie  Yeah, I was just gonna kind of add to that, you know, as I went through my journey of getting my professional coaching certification, so for even a little bit after I got it, I still did not feel comfortable calling myself a coach because I hadn’t really embraced it or felt that I was, you know, good enough at it to sell myself as that. So it took a while to even even after having the certification to become comfortable with knowing the difference between what’s a coach, what’s a consultant, and having that conversation. Now, when I go into engagements or do interviews or whatever, I make it a point to say this is the difference between coaching and this is difference between mentoring and in asking questions along those lines of…of saying, you know, “If I were to do this, what would you think,” you know? Or if I didn’t? If I say that I don’t do this, what do you think? And try to educate even just in the interview process to determine what I would even take the gig or not. And hopefully, by having that conversation, I start planting some seeds into leadership for them to do a little bit more investigating so they understand and learn more about, “Well, wow, there is a difference” And the same thing with the question of, “Do you want adoption or do you want transformation?” Because sometimes they they don’t know there is a difference, and they don’t know what the difference is. So I think even within the first, even if you don’t have the job, or you’re still in the process of evaluating where you want to, that’s an opportunity there for us to educate as well.

Cherie Yeah. Awesome. Thank you.

Alex Kudinov  Alright and with that, thank you so much everybody that has spent this hour and a half with us and if you like the session and if you want to experience the power of Professional Coaching Supervision, reach out to us at And Cherie runs the Group Supervision session and she also conducts the Individual Supervision. So, this might be your opportunity to experience the Supervision for yourself and just reminding you that as we were talking through the professional coaching, a lot of us are Agile Coaches. And if you are curious how professional coaching skills can help you in your Agile practice, or how you can actually clean up that professional coaching skills, here are some offerings from Tandem Coaching Academy. We run the…we run the coaching training program, which is accredited with ICF. We also have ICF Coach Mentoring and you can test your skills at taking our quiz in coach knowledge assessment. And with that said, I think we have the poll going on.

Cherie Yeah, just the closing poll, love to just see since many of you didn’t know what Supervision was before the session. What are you thinking now? Oh, what’s pretty amazing is there are no people yet, at least, who have said ‘no interest at all’ but plenty of people were like curious to learn more, and I’ll share these in just a second. Give me some time now.

Manohar  Yeah, Manohar here, Cherie. So, I know I’m going through the training right through Tandem Coaching Academy, and working with Lucia, now I realized that, yeah, maybe end of my journey. Of course, it never ends but at least after ICFs is probably I should sign up for Supervision training. Can I believe in it? It is going to help me to get better.

Cherie Yep. Awesome. Well, I’m glad to see that there’s some curiosity around this topic around and supervision and that was my goal, just to get you curious, of something that many coaches in the U.S. haven’t heard of. So thanks for joining today. It was really great being with y’all. I know we don’t get to speak at these all the time, because I try to bring in as many speakers as I can. So thanks for joining. Don’t forget to tell your friends to join us and we’ll see you in the industry soon.


What is Dojo? 

The term means ‘place of the Way’ in Japanese. The concept has been traditionally applied in martial arts and meditation, and with the constant changes to modern technology, the concept has been increasingly adopted in software development. 

Coding Dojos are a powerful vehicle to speed up the team’s transformation and lead their way to become a stronger product team. As in Dojo for martial arts, the students are instructed by teachers to achieve a skill mastery; the similar is how a coding Dojo is set up! The teams work with Product and Technical coaches for six weeks where they are coached on Lean, Agile, Product Mindset and Software Engineering practices while working on their actual backlogs. Teams develop long lasting skills through repetition and deliberate practice during short, hyper-iterations. 

The quote from Xun Kuang best describes the essence of Immersive Learning: “Tell me and I will forget. Teach me and I will remember. Involve me and I will learn.

Establishing Dojos at my firm has been my goal from past couple years where I served as a Product Coach. In this time, I have coached over 15 teams and have learned about the model in depth. I have also shared our transformational journey at many platforms, including external presentations at conferences like AgileDC 2019

I bring to you this session on Coding Dojos with the goal to share the model concepts and my learnings along the way. During this session, we will explore the Coding Dojo’s in detail, core principles, the flow, some common practices adopted, transformational outcome of our teams and much more! 

Key outcomes of this session: 

  • What is coding Dojo
  • How does it work 
  • What are Hyper-Iterations
  • How did it help transform teams 
  • Does it support today’s needs? Remote Dojo?

About the Organizer:

Tandem Coaching Academy is a collaborative effort of like-minded Agile and Professional coaches, trainers, and educators to bring you the best variety of agile classes and workshops as well as mentoring, and coaching opportunities at prices you can afford.

Our dream is to keep Agile non-denominational. What it means for us is that we don’t convince you to join any certain group of people doing certain things. What we want for you is what is best for you and your clients. We strive to create an Agile world where you can pick the things you need for your learning and your success. And our promise to you is to leave you better than we found you with each encounter.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

Host  All right. So, without any further wait for you, we’re gonna I’m going to introduce Arushi Bhardwaj. And she is a product coach at Fannie Mae. And she’s got 15 years of experience in IT, and government, and financial sector. And she’s got a background in product development, and she is serving as an Agile Coach at Fannie Mae. And I actually had the opportunity to work with her at Fannie Mae, and I think she’s amazing. So I’m really excited to have her speak. And I’ll post her LinkedIn profile in the chat in just a minute. So that way, y’all can connect with her on LinkedIn. And I’m going to hand this over to you Arushi – I know you’ve got a much better introduction of yourself. So I’ll let you do that. And let me know if you need anything. Everyone as they come in is on mute. But feel free to unmute, feel free to turn on your video, and we can collaborate. Thanks.

Arushi Bhardwaj  Thank you, Cherie. I had the biggest opportunity to work with you frankly. I mean, you have turned me around for so much better. I’ve become a better person just because I’ve worked with you. I stayed with you. I chatted with you. So, kudos to you, my guru. I love that. I love, you know, my chat sessions with you. Thank you. Appreciate it.

All right. So with that, I’m going to go ahead and share the excitement that I bring to work every day. Hmm. Yeah, you know, I’m, like always all about Dojo. And you know, I think I’ve bored everybody , you know, talking about this topic, whoever comes in contact, even in the coaching classes. I’m crazy about it. All right.

So, let’s start with me right out. I think Sheree just kind of talked a little bit about me. There’s, you know, there’s not much to tell I am an open book I love you know, I love my job. I’m always very excited about my job about what what I do. And I think, from the years have gained this experience in the Agile community, one thing I’ve learned is you can’t transform anybody, the team has to be ready for transformation in order for an agile coach to actually submit, you know, their learnings to the team for them to grow. So any team that I’ve worked with their readiness has made a huge impact and how I have been able to make any impacts on their progress. That’s my core belief. And with that, I am going to start about dojo.

Okay, so agile transformation journey at my company. It was, it started, say, about five years ago, right? Before then we were waterfall, you know, very laid back. You know, we got to plan everything upfront, then go for, you know, deployment and deployment. So you Once in a once in a year maybe you know if you’re lucky twice a year thing that used to happen about five years ago. Then agile came in, you know the process, the excitement that it brought, I myself was transformed into becoming a scrum master during this transformation time, which was great.

What we learned in these five past five years is we weren’t doing agile. We weren’t really being agile. So what’s the difference, right? For example, we’re talking about I want to do sprinting, I want to I want to do a two week sprint, great, but what does that, you know, if you’re going to take requirements down, if you’re going to do coding on it, if you’re going to deploy it, you know, in sequential fashion, you’re doing agile, you’ve got the process, they’re great. But really, you’re not being agile, you’re not really, you know, learning to work with each other more effectively, really bringing in that vertical slicing into how are you how you are trying to get the feedback from the user and things of that nature. So there’s a lot of handoffs. And as a result of which it we’ve got, we’ve got automation. Again, we’re doing agile, we have automation to make things work. But it’s very clunky. So sometimes it takes, you know, hours, sometimes it takes days for an automation test to run, which is super heavy. And also the code base, which was, again, very clunky, you know, less unit test centric, and therefore, like I said, we were doing agile, we were not being agile.

And so our leadership went to Target and not to shop them, but actually to learn how they have transformed their life. And so what they have done is they about a tip ups. Ha, I can’t I can’t recall the number was I think it was like four odd years ago or something, a target went to their own transformation through dojo. And what they did was they basically hired a bunch of consultants, you know, started this dojo model and Target and really, you know, started to transform their product company into being being a bit more agile being a bit more customer centric, getting that feedback out there getting themselves out there, right. And so this is this is their websites page that I took the screenshot off. One thing that stood out for me was a few of these things here in their mission statement.

What dojo does for them is that deliver on the current work that develop long lasting skills. Now, if you think about that for a minute, right, you’re you’re delivering on the current work while you’re in dojo, that’s one big item, which basically says, “Okay, I’m going to a class, I’m going to learn on amazon shopping cart, how to apply test driven development, but then when I come back to my real world, it’s not amazon shopping cart like simple, right? It’s a little it’s more complicated. It’s difficult. It’s real life. How do I play it?” The neat thing about dojo is you work on your current backlog, right? You bring your backlog into the into the dojo and you really work together and learn together. Another cool thing is developing the long lasting skills. So the way that the dojo model is baseline set up, is it is intended to develop your long lasting skills. Yeah. So repetition, going back and forth, enhancing you know, how you are adapting the new processes and new tools that you’re learning to, to best fit your needs. Those are the those are the very important things that you’ll see when you start to apply dojo or you start to work in this model dojo. Right. Oh, and by the way, I totally missed out. I am going to pause midway through this presentation so I can take questions. That way we can split our presentation into two parts, and also it gives me a breather from not talking too much.

All right. Alright, so I’ve talked a lot about dojo, what the hell does it mean right? In dictionary terms, it means place of the weight, right? And Napoleon diamond, that picture here kind of gives you a little bit of a view of Do you know he’s there, he’s showing some most of the players that are sitting there, right? When my son he is now going to be 13 this is when when we started, he was 11. I told him about dojo he goes, “Oh, so you’re gonna have fun at work, right? You’re gonna do dojos This is fun. This is exciting.” We got so when I explained to him what we do and how it is a little bit different than what you as an 11 year old don’t do in dojo. The thing you said stick with me. He said. “Oh, so it’s a nerd stuff.” That’s like, okay, but not quite. It’s not that nerdy. It is some sort of nerdy so let’s kind of try to unpack what, what that nerdiness is right let’s let’s go with with that. And then let me let me land you to where you know, it is sort of in the in the middle ground.

Okay, so let’s take to take you through the definition of what it means in the world of software development, i.e. the nerdy stuff, too, according to my son. It’s a six week deep dive in which teams set some goals in terms of technical, business, and product goals They identify some success metrics, iterate rapidly, sharing their progress and learnings while all being supported by a dedicated expert. Now, six weeks right, so let’s talk about six weeks. Dojo, a recommendation of a typical dojo can be anywhere between two and 10 weeks, right? The reason I kept six weeks here is that isn’t the most commonly used sort of cadence for a team in dojo.

The reason is, it’s again going back to the repetition, right learning and building your muscle memory. Each week in a dojo is two weeks sprint, I mean two days Sprint’s are so two sprints in a week, right? Therefore, if you if you look at a six week window, you’re getting about 10 to 11 iterations, give or take to do your rinse and repeat and learn and go back and fix what you’re learning and how you’re learning. So you can develop a long lasting skill, right? And you are repeating those, those small iterations as you go, it gets a little uncomfortable, but remember being uncomfortable is a good thing. That means you’re learning something.

So that it basically that six weeks is what we have been using in my firm for the most part. In some cases, we do use a four week dojo, some are two weeks dojo, and it can go anywhere up to 10 weeks. Anything beyond 10 weeks is sort of considered, “Okay, well, you know, let’s, let’s tone it down a little bit because you want to learn something you want to stay a little bit focused.” Okay, so, another thing I call out here is the dedicated experts, so people like me, I’m a Product coach, right. And I was trained by the builder coaches to work in this environment to teach the skills and techniques to the, to the, to the teams. And so each team in dojo is paired with a technical and a product coach. I am a product coach, I come with a technical coach into the dojo so that we can merge the learning of the team from not only taking a chunk of work to start to do a software development on but also to apply the technical skills to make this a reality and help the team to kind of move the work from inception to completion. All right, so with that, I’m going to show you in the real, you know, setting of where, where we work together and how it really looks like. That’s what it looks like. It’s really exactly that. It’s a table you know, people are sitting across each other. This is a thing a picture from Target retook.

The team is kind of covered by boards, there is a big one monitor screen at the very center of the team. They’re all looking at it in this picture. I think there were mobbing in this situation. But um, the idea is to have a dinner table style setting right? Face to face from each other. Let’s let’s go ahead and have that conversation right here learn from each other, and grow together. Right? So it’s the entire team entire scrum team that basically sits and sits in this dojo for six weeks, like I said, as one of the very common examples.

Now you might ask, it’s COVID girl, is it going to happen? Is it going to happen in, you know, the virtual world where it’s crazy? It does happen. We have made it happen. We are very proud of it. And we moved to a tool called mural in our case. This page right here is a snapshot. There’s a lot going on here, and this is after a six weeks work with a team in dojo. There’s a lot going on, right? There’s, there’s, you know, setting the goals to the teams to like, how are they managing their daily work? How are the decomposing the work? What is the technical architecture looking like? What are what are retrospectives? Right. So how are we doing things.

In fact, in this example, it reminds me if you look at that pie chart right in the middle, that’s basically me teaching them how to size the body of work. So anything and everything that we would do in a normal physical world? Well, when we were separated just by a small table, we bring that into this virtual world by a tool like mural. There are other tools out there like Miro, Microsoft whiteboard and things of that nature. But this has worked fabulously for us, allows us to bring all the colors the cards, the the fonts, the the nature of you know, how we want to express things out there available for us now.

Well, now I want to I want to kind of get us into. Okay, great. There’s dojo. We do it for six weeks. You know, we have some coaches here that are actually supporting us through the process. What great, what is the basic fundamental of this model? Is it a methodology? Is it a model? Is it some sort of science? What is it right? So how I would describe dojo is it’s a model, it’s pulled from the best practices from lean, XP, agile, you know, it’s basically taken the best of the worlds and brought into reality of, of how we work together as a team. Therefore, it’s dense on some core principles. And there they are. I’ll read them out and we’ll unpack each principle as you go.

The first one is learning over delivery. Second one, get real. So get through product mindset, high collaboration, team driven metrics, and visual context. And we’ll unpack each of these as we go.

So let’s talk about the very first one learning over delivery. The picture here, I love this picture here it says Turn it up and turn it down, right dial it down. It’s the basic fundamental that we bring the team with when they come into dojo is this exact, this exact line, dial up on learning and dial down on delivery. Right. So let’s unpack this, right, it means it’s easier said than done to begin with, right? We all have release cycles. The team is always doing things. They’re busy. You know, life is crazy. You’ve got meetings, and especially if you come from an organization like mine, we live on Outlook, right? We’ve got tons of meetings and you know, we get pulled in so much in different directions. Well, we put a pause on this, we say all right. You’re here for six weeks, all you’re going to do is focus on learning. Take all those meetings off your calendar, and let’s create an immersive learning environment for you. Where you can actually sit down and say, Alright, what is it as a team that I want to learn? And how am I going to do it? As opposed to I need to go to X meeting and I need to go to Y meeting. It’s you know, highly focused on saying, “This is my six weeks time, I’m going to focus on learning. Yes, I will be continuing to work on my backlog. Yes, it will be a lot of learning and therefore, the delivery is going to have to slow down a little bit.” Right. So a release that you were expecting to, you know, submit or deliver. I don’t know 10 stories that may not be the case your velocity will dip it probably. Sometimes it takes a dip of 50%. Right. And that’s okay. And that’s where you know us as coaches we work with the leadership to clarify and explain the reality there.

The other idea here is, when you’re focused more on learning you’re trying to develop we as coaches are trying to develop your muscle memory. So we’re working with you, you know, every day for the six weeks, consistently focusing on rinsing and repeating the skills that work best in your environment that are catered just for your team.

Okay, let’s get to the next one, the get real one. I love this one, the full backlog. And it’s a quote, “Tell me and I will forget, teach me I will remember, involve me and I will learn.” Right? So soak that up, right. So if I’m doing something with my six, year old, yeah, she’s six years old, my daughter. I keep forgetting how old she is now. Anyway. So if I’m working with her, if I’m teaching her how to do math, she’ll get it. She’ll probably get it. But if I’m doing it with her together, kind of you know involving her and using the hands and using, lately we’ve been using playdough believe me it dries pretty crazily. But if I’m involving her into the into this conversation and I’m doing the numbers with her, you know, and we’re learning from each other, there’s a better chance that you will not forget what eight plus two, although she won’t know what is two plus eight, that’s a different story. But you get the gist, right?

So if I’m working with you hand in hand, if there’s a better chance for me to, to assume that you’ll you’ll read more from me. You’ll learn more from me. And that’s what this is the real backlog. All right. So let’s bring the real stuff into the table. Let’s talk about what what was it that was planned in your backlog? The day before, you know, you come into dojo, let’s talk about that backlog. Let’s go ahead and unpack that. And let’s, you know, let’s make it a little bit real, right.

So it’s not it’s not a amazon shopping cart example. It is your example. It is your backlog, it is your real life problem that we are going to transform and solve together while transforming your team. In these two pictures, I want to show the contrast, right? So in the first one, you see there’s an instructor sitting in front of the screen showing, you know, some things and teaching some things. While it’s great, it’s important. And this is not to discount the fact that a training program does not work. It works. Right. And this is also to say, there are some instances in some cases where you want to, you know, sort of, if you look at the next picture, you’re really working together and making that learning happen for your entire program, entire team. I’m sorry. So that’s real backlog.

Let’s look at the next pillar. Oh, yeah, this is another joke right. So this one is about team velocity. Well, like I said, it does dip it does slow you down, right? That does not mean if you look at the last picture, that does not mean let’s go ahead and get bigger estimates, let’s, let’s use, you know, higher story points. 21 story points. Yeah, no, no, our our goal in dojo is to work with you to create smaller chunks and we’ll we’ll unpack that as well as we go along as the next slides come through. But really, the point I’m trying to highlight here is when you bring in your real backlog, when you are focused more on learning and less on delivery, the velocity does does take a hit. And that’s where you want to include your involve your leadership into conversations with the dojo coaches to explain as to why and what would be the outcome, if they invest in disrupt.

Let’s go to the next core principle product mindset. Another big one. Well, so so I want to take a step back, right. So when we talked about we were doing agile versus being agile, right? Okay, I’ve got a story, I’m putting certain points to it. Awesome. And, um, you know, let me start working on let me start coding this right. What’s important in today’s world and as a as it’s shifting as it’s increasingly, it’s increasing in technology and the creativity that needs to be brought in and, and so much so much changes around us just like that. The other day, I was sitting at work with my coworkers, we were hanging out the very next day we were told to go home, don’t come here. This is crazy time. Let’s go remote. Right?

Things changed for us. Technology came to us, to us to our Savior, right. Similarly, when we talk about our backlogs, and we talk about, you know, what it is that we want to work on, the importance that we miss out is how do we connect that work with who really needs to do who needs this work from us? Who’s going to be the user for my work that I’m producing? Right, what’s the product that I’m building? Versus I have a scope of work? I have a start date and an end date. I’m going to finish it in this time, no matter what. Do you remember project, project timeline, this, the the Gantt charts, the fixed scope, start date, end date, you’ve got to stick to the flow, anything changes, everything has a you know, as a ripple effect, and, you know, it feels to me as a house of cards actually fallen, right? The project plans, the dependencies, right? If you can’t do certain step in a certain timeframe, there’s so many more people that are going to get affected. Yeah. Versus the thing that we teach in dojo is let’s shift that thought process from having a fixed scope to something that is more adaptive, something which is a bit more outcome focused, and is actually helping your user, your end customer who’s actually going to use the solution that you’re building today. Yeah. So this bit this becomes a very basic conversation that we work with the teams day to day, from the very first time we meet with them through the six weeks, is to slowly shifting their mindset towards, you know, developing a product mindset as opposed to saying, Okay, I’ve got a story I need to start working developing on it. I’m going to do testing on it, I’m going to deploy it. Let’s try to understand who am i doing it for? Why am I doing it? Right? So so there are series of conversations, series of questions that we ask to make this mindset shift happen.

Let’s go to the next core principle, high collaboration. Even though we are in remote or when we were in person, we can’t stop talking, You’ve heard me talk. We cannot stop talking. We talk, we converse with each other. It’s funny, we talked about, you know, put yourself on mute for a minute now, in our case, it’s everything’s off mute. Let’s go ahead and have fun. We can hear the kids. People hear my kids all the time, though. They’re quiet right now. Wait, wait, they’ll show up because they know, when we’re working together in dojo all day long, you know, it’s off mute. Let’s talk about things. Let’s try to solve the problem together as a team. Yeah.

Techniques we use for collaborative conversations and development is mobbing, diverge/converge, pair programming, and things of that nature.

All right. Next one, team driven metrics. So team driven metrics is really saying all right, bottoms up, you know, let’s let’s talk to the team as to what is it that they want to learn how they want to grow? Right, what is their goal as such to become a better team? Some examples here in my picture from Mural board, one of the team said, I want to do you know, we want to to develop quality code. Well, then we start to unpack what that really means, right? Do you need to take some actions to make that quality code goal really happen? And then if you are taking those actions, what are some of the measures that you’re going to take to come back and say, “Okay, you know what we use this action. Here’s the metric to show that this, we have made this action happen, that we’ve internalized this, we’ve learned this skill, we’ve actually grown together as a team.” So it’s really a bottoms up approach where the team really sits down and says, “Well, these are some of the things that I need to work on. And there are these are some of the metrics that I’m going to, you know, use to share my progress. And understand that, you know, we’re working in the right direction that you’re using those actions and things of that nature.”

All right. Last one, visual context, I think you’ve seen a lot of visuals that regardless of being remote or In person, there’s quite a bit of that. Here’s another snap from the mural board. This is a story map. And you know, we work with the end user in this case to develop the story map from what they do and how they do things in real life. And we map that into a I love to write story map there, the variances are at the bottom or the vertical steps.

And in this example, blue is the system interaction and gray is the user interaction and things like that. We are very visual about our approach. As you can see, the blue is sort of talking about the system interaction, the grays talking about the manual interaction, and then there are lines that are going through those are basically journeys, MVPs if you have heard them. So, very regardless of like I said, in person, or virtual, it’s all common collaborative, visual representation of how we understand things together.

One of the key things I’d like to highlight is we strongly believe that, you know, one thing is if I said something to you, you may have understood it differently. But if we understood whatever it is that we understood, if you’re able to put that out on the board in front of everybody in front of the team, now that understanding becomes a shared understanding. And that’s the step one to our growth. And therefore, you know, anything and everything that we do, we talk about, we start to write them to the board on the board. And that’s very, I think it’s a very important technique that we utilize in dojo to enhance that six weeks window into the most value delivered set of time that we spend with each other.

All right, and I have talked a lot I’ve talked about all the core goals. I’m going to pause for questions. For now.

Host  Awesome, everyone, you were muted upon entry, but you can unmute yourself if you have any questions.

I actually have some questions. Who would go to a dojo? Is it like for only new teams? Or is it for existing teams? Or does it matter?

Arushi Bhardwaj  That’s a great question. And actually, it doesn’t matter. It could be a new team. Again, remember, so anything that we do with the teams. Anything that we do with the teams?

Right. So it’ll come back to me but um, anything that we do with the teams is teams driven. So they bring their goals if they were a newly formed team that goes could be completely, you know, can you help me understand your story estimate? So how do you really create user stories versus if it was a performing team that has been in this world has come together and been with each other for a while verticals would be something different.

Host  So would you recommend dojo as a, I guess, a method for helping a company to start in Agile transition, transitioning to agile teams?

Arushi Bhardwaj  Yes, I think I think and I took a long pause because I think, I think to transform a enterprise or a bigger body of work, there needs to be a lot more that you need to do, as opposed to just working with the teams. And so what we have, what we have is basically the product development and the technical Implementation of how you use your solution bundled into one. So you can use a product dojo specifically to work with your product teams, or the product managers to transform their journey versus, you know, a technical team, bringing the product and the technical together to transform their journey and so forth.

Host  So, one more question. I’m sorry, I know others probably have questions too. But so you say a product dojo, are there different types of dojos?

Arushi Bhardwaj  Yes, and it’s a great question. Yes. And there are so many out there now and this is exactly why I was inclined towards titling This one is coding dojo. Because majority of the work that we do in this specific dojo is on coding practices development, of course, there’s there’s a bigger piece of product development and, and that basically goes hand in hand. But this is basically a coding dojo. Now, the difference is, if you were to work under the umbrella of a product dojo, what would happen is you would come into a dojo and you’ll rinse and repeat on how you experience a certain body of work that is coming from the end user.

So remember, I showed you the story, map, your drink, and repeat. Those are those different techniques, you’ll learn different katas and you’ll be working day in day just with the, with the product coach. There are DevOps dojos, which are specifically to build your CI/CD pipeline and really start continue to rinse and repeat. And this goes back to I think Gene Kim is a big fan of DevOps dojo. I think those were the starting points also from what I recall, of dojos into into the world of software development. So there are multiple different kinds. Recently, I was reading a book on agile conversations, and I spoke with the author and what came up was conversation dojos. That’s pretty Yeah, and it’s got it’s got like all kinds of different techniques that you can use to, you know, develop your your conversations styles in an agile environment.

Host  Interesting. I wonder if they’re coaching dojos I might need to start one I’m gonna have to..

All right. So what about others? Um, either questions, comments or even experiences that you’ve had in the dojo. Anybody have anything you want to add? All right, it looks like everybody’s all good. We’ll let you continue.

Arushi Bhardwaj  Cool. All right. So I think I’ve talked a lot about six week dojo, right. And I’ve said that it’s it can be anywhere between two and 10 weeks. So what I’m going to show you now is. What really happens in the six week duration as an example, you can shorten this you can expand this into however, however many weeks your dojo is aligned towards, but six weeks is a good way to kind of give you that feeling as to what what we do within dojo, right? And we’ll go step by step.

So we’ll start with the first one is the intake, which is a week before dojo. And this is a unique opportunity where we actually the coaches get to work with the teams on you know, getting to know them, understanding what their life is, right now, onboarding dojo, explaining, you know, what it is talking about the mission statement, setting some of the commitments, right expectations. Remember I talked about, you know, the calendars and, you know, we are so much meeting centric firm. So this is where we kind of, you know, kind of come to like an agreement as to what would our six week look like what’s a core hours going to look like. Developing the product mindset is one of the big things that we do with the team in this intake. And start to understand the context as to where they’re coming from, what is their real life like right now.

Some of the techniques, it’s another snap from Mural. You can tell already, I’m a fan of that tool. And so basically this, these are some different activities that we use to kind of work with the teams getting to understand them, getting them, giving them the opportunity to know us, and vice versa.

And then comes the frame, right. So the day one of their six week challenge is framing. Lots of activities happen in this time. This is where we are setting our goals, our planned forward, how are we going to, you know, work with each other, in terms of visual context is another one.

These are all flip charts, handwritten stuff, that basically this is an example of framing, these pictures here. And what’s happening here is, there’s a lot going on, it’s probably like a two day worth of work on these flip charts. This is to kind of, you know, understand where the team is in terms of their skills, right? Where are they right now? How much do they know? What do they know? What do they need? And, you know, how can we provide that if I don’t have that skill? Who can I go and talk to? To help them upskill that skill, right?

What are their goals? What is it that they want to learn together as a team so that they can grow together? You can tell the middle picture, the very bottom, when we were in person we used to actually take signatures, you’re committing to this, we’re gonna do this together for six weeks, we’re gonna hang out, we’re gonna make you know, make this part of our journey for the six weeks to transform our team together.

So a lot goes on in the framing. Specially i’d like to call it as Setting the foundation for how your six weeks are going to go. Right.

The next is, you know, and the six week starts. I think I talked about the iterations. There’s there’s two iterations per week – super small. And so that process that learning process starts after we have done but after we are completed with the framing. And that’s basically getting us into discovery.

Lots of techniques, nothing new, nothing, you know, crazy new. These are, you know, if you’ve seen all these images, you did reminds you have Jeff Patton, you know, see for I think, you know, if you’re into technical implementation, you’ve seen those, we basically this is just a snapshot of some of the things.

There are many techniques that we use in dojo, whatever fits to the team’s need, what we can bring. And we basically, you know, look at their backlog. We say, “Okay, well if this was your body of work that you’re bringing Let me let me go ahead and go back to your to understanding what are you doing it for, why you’re doing it right. Let’s build a story map. Let’s try to understand what vertical slicing is.” So that’s, you know, my skateboard. Not like the cars. The second picture right here, Henrik Kniberg, came up with this and, and we use this a lot right and let’s go ahead and build a skateboard. Let’s start with a very small, important valuable body of work that can actually provide you enough feedback, enough learning about your work as opposed to saying, “Oh, if it’s not a Mercedes that I’m building, it’s really not, you know, what’s the point?” In real world we say, “Okay, if I were to ask to develop a report, if I don’t have all the 25 columns of the report, there’s no point in going and talking to my end user.” Well, there is right? If you were to build the first very important five columns in that report, if you bring that out to your user for a feedback, you’d probably be amazed with what you learn from those first five columns.

So those are the, you know, as conversations that we have with the team as to you know, teaching the world at least like how to order a slice the stories, how they can build a smaller body of work that will fit in two days. Remember, two days sprints, so two sprints in a week – that’s a that’s a very, very small iteration. And so no joke. We do work with the teams to create stories that will fit in two days that will give them enough learning so that they can continue to build smaller chunks of work as they learn more about the body of work that they’re developing.

See here’s another example. If it’s you know, if it’s an application much like you know, a lot of our applications are like this that don’t have a front end, right. And if I touch anything in the code it’s going to impact so many upstream and downstream. Well, you know, let’s try to understand your architecture. Sure, and so we bring C for like techniques where it’s a, it’s a drill down version of, you know, let me look at your context diagram, then drilling into the components, I’m sorry, the container and then drilling into the component. And then let’s get into the code, you know, where the changes are going to be made, and so forth.

So a lot of techniques that we bring into the discovery phase to make that backlog more real, and you know, asking the questions, attaching our team back to their user, and, you know, continuing to develop their product mindset as they are solutioning. Another lovely example, is example mapping. There’s another one we highly, recommend and use a lot in dojo as well.

All right. Here’s, I think I’ve talked a lot about hyper iterations. But here’s the bulleted version of it right? So 10 challenges, two times a week, very lightweight sprints, and I’ve crossed out the part ceremonies and feedback loops, right? So really the idea of free two days is to go out there and work with your product owner to get the feedback, right. It’s not a ceremony. It’s not saying, well, you asked for a grey color, I gave you grey. Now, if you want a different combination, I don’t know what you want me to do. Let me and what we do is in in this kind of feedbacks is we take the feedback, we take step back, we discuss with the team, we come back with a revised plan, right?

So it’s not it’s not the, it’s not the back and forth. It’s to get the feedback. It’s not to look at what I’ve done, like look at how cool this gray color is. It’s to take your feedback because it is what you are used to seeing. It’s what you need, right? I’m developing a solution for you. And here’s what I have learned so far. So we teach and coach the team through how these feedback loops really should be, you know, designed and worked with their end users, or product owners. Or even in some cases You know the Sprint’s are so small, some cases we just, you know, kind of bring their techniques and say, “Okay, this is what this is what we have so far. What do you think? What’s your feedback? This is what we have learned.” It really depends. Pull and flow based system, sizing over estimation, right, encouraging small and vertical slices.

Host  Can I add something before you switch pages? Is that ten talent challenges over the whole dojo? Or is it 10 challenges a week?

Arushi Bhardwaj  Oh, so 10 times, right. So, so there’s, if you take six weeks, and each week is two sprints to two iterations, right? Initially, when we start the dojo, there’s about framing, there’s some time spent in that sometimes spending and discovery you know, getting to understand the team and really getting that flow going. So you know, if you want to divide six weeks into two You’ll get 12. But you know, we’d normally don’t get to those 12 the first week is a little, you know, little iffy about getting into the sprint challenge. So 10 total iterations.

Host  Okay, I get it. Thanks.

Arushi Bhardwaj  All right. Here’s another picture of how we work on our feature and roadmap. So this is, you know, once we’ve had our discovery, once we’ve had our frame, how are we going to manage our sprints as to how we’re how things are going to go every two days, right? And that’s kind of you know, we use a feature roadmap to help us visualize what’s needed now, what’s going to be needed next, and what’s going to come later. By the way, whatever is in later bucket half the time it changes because what you’re learning from now and potentially from next is going to take the shape of that later. And the other image here is, you know, the Kanban board. You can tell from this Kanban board… This is weird. looking right there, there’s WIP, there’s finally done. There are some, you know, rows to the bottom, what’s happening? What’s happening is it is cater to this particular team’s need. This team’s definition of done says, “if my product owner accepts the story, I want to call it done.” Well, my goal was to take them a little bit step further and say, if it’s done, if you have had a chance to work with your end user, and try to understand to get their feedback, then you’re finally done. So just adding another column and getting that conversation going and slowly nudging them to bring that finally done column into done was my objective. And that is why I took this picture because it’s an interesting one where we would design the dojo for the team’s need, with the intent to go back going, taking us back to those core beliefs that we have in that I laid out in the beginning. Okay, lastly, exit and this is where, you know, I love this. This part of dojo is because, look, you spent six weeks with us, you know, you’ve learned a lot, you probably have hated a few things, you know, yeah, we made you uncomfortable, but it wasn’t fun sometimes, hopefully, sometimes only. But this is where we kind of sit with you and say, “Alright, you’ve learned so much. What is it they that sits well with you as a team? What do you want to take with you? When you go back to the real world? What are those things?” Some teams have said, “You know, I love the two day sprint though it’s not possible in the real world because you know, delivery focus and you know, it gets busy it’ll be too much and all but I don’t think I can sit well in the in a two week iteration either. So maybe I want to do a week iteration.” Some cases teams say, you know, I love the whole mobbing concept, but I’m going to do diverge/converge for the entire time we work together. So we kind of work with you know, what are their team agreements, what what is it that they liked, what do they want to continue to do? And how are they Want to frame the future as they leave dojo? So this is where it ties you back to the work world, right? Like, okay, you came into this, in this immersive learning program, you took a challenge, you work together as a team, you build something you’ve learned something along the way, hopefully a lot. What is it that sits so well with you that you are going to at least focus on, you know, applying when you go back into your regular sprint schedule. And so those, those conversations happen towards the very last day of dojo. And we give them a certificate of achievement, I kind of first got the names of people just to protect them from you know, this is a Fannie Mae certificate, but, you know, to make it official, make it you know, make it more real that, you know, you went through a challenge. You finish that in six weeks, you know, to build that excitement that you’re going to continue to build to take those things that you learned when you go back.

And before I switch to the next slide I want to point out one more thing. Us as dojo coaches, we do continue to work with the teams when they leave. So our doors are open, they can come in, they come in for a session or two, they want to clarify something something’s a little bit more challenging, but you know, I’m doing I’m writing my unit test now. But that test first mindset that you talked about can be can be reinforced that can we make that happen again, we go back for a session, “you know, Arushi, the, you know, the product backlog the story map that you went through, I loved it and I want to use it but I’m having a hard time doing it.” So we go back and you know, we sit with them as a product coach to go through another story map and so forth. So so we do continue to check in with the teams here and there to see how they’re doing are they applying things that they had, you know, so excitedly kind of talked about in their exit isn’t working. What have you

Now let’s talk about the outcome. Right? So took me a while to wait, you know, the teams have graduated what’s happening. So the first image here, but what you see is a cycle time of a specific team. The yellows are the time when this team was in dojo. And the blues after that is when they have exited Dojo. Notice the spikes. Notice how big the cycle time was before and notice how small it is now. In other picture, the story cycle time, averaging days, right? That not as a trend line, right. The idea is to bring their story cycle time down enough so that they have understood the concept of building smaller chunks of work that by the way, these two are different teams, completely different programs. You know, these two have gone through dojo with us, and I’m just, you know, putting an image out here that there was a 25% you know, improvementin cycle time we saw in one of the teams when they when they completed and we saw their life after.

There was actually another metric that was very striking for me. There was a 17% drop in production incidents. The world we live in, in my company, there’s a lot of production issues. And you know you you know you got to go work at it right away, you know, day night, whatever. Having to see a 17% drop in that havoc. Awesome. I thought that was really cool. And I immediately from that number down those very, very proud.

38% improvement in story sizing, 20% improvement in unit test code coverage, right. So a lot of changes that happen not only from the product from the technical side, they’re bringing the team that developing the team as a whole. This experience did that for them. One of the teams that was there, they weren’t graduated and they were leaving dojo in their exit. They said the following, we came into dojo as a team, and we’re leaving as a family. To us, that was a bigger outcome that we were that this experience brought the team together, taught them how to learn from each other, you know, face each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work with them, not just calling them out and using that against each other. So to me, that definitely was a bigger outcome. However, in terms of metrics, here are some.

It does work. It does need a whole lot of support from not only the dojo coaches, but the leadership does the ecosystem altogether around and the next slide is exactly speaking to that the above the key contributors for how you know you want to see those changes, those potential outcome that you’ll see in your team. I kind of categorize them in three buckets. One is leadership, the others team members, and the third one is coaches. Now unpack that, in case of leadership, what’s expected is, don’t put delivery pressure, you’re gonna get a higher quality. What’s expected is protect your team from distractions, right for the meetings and things I talked about, you’ll get as a focus learning as an outcome, support and motivate your team, you will get creativity and innovation as a result. And there are many examples to this. What I’ve seen are leadership, you know, coming in and talking to the team and saying, “Okay, guys, you know, don’t worry about other things. Don’t Don’t worry about delivery. It’s okay.” And what we have seen is how the team has actually internalized that and brought a better product a better quality product out to their customer. Faster, robust and effective. So this is this is my personal experience that you know, having a supportive leadership definitely helps.

Team members, what we expect from you is to prioritize your time. Keep an open mind, try to think outside the box, what you’ll get is complete presence in learning, quality and a break free from the defined mindset. This is one of the bigger ones, right? I tend to see so many aha moments when we are, you know, when we’re progressing through the dojo, because what happens is, if I bring a product, if I bring it big body of work, and I start to, you know, break it down into smaller chunks, and how we kind of do this in dojo, you know, sort of like a bottoms up approach with the teams. You start to see, “Oh, my God, those are the questions I had didn’t think about. I know I was going to ask those questions, but it’s going to come up Later in the game, right?” We bring those out front and you and we get to see so many aha moments. There’s one big story. I remember when I was with a group as a scrum master. We talked about having to apply TDD, for example, the test driven development. And I was like, “Why can’t you guys why can’t we do this? You know, we should totally do a test first, you know, code development. Why are we doing it?” Well, then I learned they had gone through a training exercise, which was fabulous, great feedback. Awesome. But then they said, you know, Arushi, real world is so different from what we learned. It’s just so hard. You’ve got delivery timelines, we’ve got sprint schedule system. It’s just not possible. That same team six months later came in dojo, same mindset. I don’t like, I can’t do this whole test driven development. This is just not gonna work. Six weeks later, their first goal to leave to coming out from dojo was to consistently work through a test first mindset.

So basically this defined mindset of, “I have delivery pressure, I’ve got to do this,” versus “You know what, I know this works, I know this is this is going to give me quality down the line.” Having to go through that experience in the six weeks was an massive experience for me. I was like, “yes, that’s right.” And then when I checked in with them, you know time and again I still do there’s still you know working towards that goal of having a test first mindset, really cool.

Lastly, coaches right so bring your coaching skills, show don’t tell, be outcome focused, have that thought leadership, call it out, call spade a spade, be open and that is exactly where should we I’m gonna say this out loud. That is where my learning From ACC and, you know, getting into your cohorts has really helped me develop that skill, right? Calling it out being being are being direct listening has definitely helped, but expected outcome. You get to deliver results. You have hands on coaching and you ultimately have satisfied customers. There’s nothing better than having your customer come to your dojo exit meeting with all smiles with all… You can totally tell their body language that there’s accomplishment, there’s satisfaction.

With that, I will take questions.

Host  Awesome. I have another question. I am really interested in understanding the more of the How do you see teams run differently, like after they leave, they’ve done all this stuff. What percentage of what they’ve started doing do you think they actually, when they leave the dojo they retain? Is it like 20% 50% 80% and just a wild guess not a calculated number.

Arushi Bhardwaj  You know, what’s exciting, is they go back and they say 90% of the things that I’ve learned, I’m gonna totally do it. They’re so excited. Did they get to apply all of that? Not necessarily, and not really, right? I would say about somewhere upwards of 70% is what I see them applying and the 30% gets somewhere lost in the wind and, you know, brings that opportunity for the teams to come back into dojo and re hone on those on those skills.

Host  Awesome, I really love this Arushi this was a great presentation. Anybody else have questions, comments? Maybe you’ve been at a dojo and you’ve got some just thoughts of, you know what your experience has been?

Guest  Hi. Hi Cherie, hi Arushi. So yeah, I joined late. So I’ve got, I think few questions on this, dojo is just about learning new skills, regarding this timescale of six weeks, how does it fit into obviously we mentioned that leadership don’t progression and delivery. How does he is that six weeks sprints is like continuous working everyday not doing the product work or basically announcing your skills in the dojo.

Arushi Bhardwaj  Now, so it’s, um, in the beginning of the slides that kind of shared that, you know, you bring your backlog. So whatever it is that was assigned to you in the sprint, you bring that into dojo, right? And you continue to develop your skills while you’re working on the real life problems, right. So when we weren’t with them, we don’t work on, you know, and sometimes we use examples but sure, but for the most part, it’s your backlog. It’s your problem. We work with you how to split that into smaller chunks. We use different techniques like C4s or example mapping, story mapping, however, whatever works for that particular body of work to decompose, to create smaller chunks, and then a technical coach will work with you, hand in hand, through that time to improve your skills. So going back to the goals, right, like what is it that you if your goal was quality code, then we’ll bring principles of you know, YAGNI, and other core principles of code, software development, to kind of work with you on on those skills.

Guest  Okay, thank you. And those coaches, technical coaches, could be architects or tech leads within the team, right?

Arushi Bhardwaj  No, sorry. So, when we start dojo, we start with a duet of product and technical coach. They’re trained into providing coaching to the team in this under this model of dojo. So remember the four principles that I’ve talked about, they are trained to kind of use those core principles to, coach the teams and their needs. Right? So I, for example, am a product coach, I will be paired with a technical coach who will then go into the team, start their challenge and work with their body of work.

Guest  Sorry, last question. So, obviously, we do SAFe and we do PI planning. So, we obviously get the objectives and plan upfront for next few months. And then using these if we want to do dojo to we should plan saying, “Okay, that’s the backlog but we’re gonna take 20-30% of the backlog and then do dojo as well. So 50% of time spent on dojo and 50% of the time spent on the product code. No. Oh,

Arushi Bhardwaj  No, let me help you clarify. Right so, I actually so let’s put up. We have worked with a team that was SAFe in dojo and what we did was we went through their backlog. All right, we, right off the bat, we’re very clear that the velocity will drop. It’ll dip, dip and drop, mixed it for me. But it will dip and you know, that’s and of course, that was the conversations, the leadership of course, and so from their PI plan, however many velocity points they had, they shrunk it down to 50%, that brought the body of work that was necessary, and they were with us in dojo for the entire six weeks, so there’s no different time that they’re spending outside of dojo. Just think of dojo as just their day to day life. Right. Four hours from 10am to 4pm, where they are, you know, face to face with the coaches and They work with us. And it’s consistent. It’s no different.

Guest  Okay, so basically do it together but obviously plan ahead in the PI planning thing. Okay, we’re gonna 50% we’re gonna Yeah.

Arushi Bhardwaj  Yeah, and it has to happen.

Guest  So I could see that working while I’m working the moment we because we have efficient teams and they get the basis quiet and and some new commerce they don’t know the scripts like Python how to do automation testing, you know how to do regression testing. Maybe that’s a good idea. Our goal for today was to I can’t do this dojo obviously joined late because it was for me it was coming up at 7pm UK time. So I joined back off in my late initial slides. So that that’s okay, so yeah, I’ve got an idea. Cool. Thank you. Thank Arushi.

Arushi Bhardwaj  Y ou know, like I said it’s it can be applied anywhere in another system in any need. I think the core is the principles that sort of keep the focus on what is it that we’re providing? How are we providing that value to the team?

Guest  And definitely a solid improvement, isn’t it?

Arushi Bhardwaj  Yeah, and like I said, you see so many aha moments, but it’s so easy. You know, I’ve been with this coaching model for it’s gonna be two years pretty soon, I can’t even say a year and a half anymore. And I’m, you know, we learn every day on the job. It’s crazy, is because…

Guest  Yeah, and I can see that like working because people don’t get thing don’t get time to actually improve themselves. Because there’s so much pressure of product. Let’s do this delivery. We need this delivery. If we plan ahead 50% of time is all improvement. So they’ll be better in three months time if after PA the next PA they’ll do better and then we can deliver more Yeah.

Host  You’re welcome. Any other comments? Thoughts?

Arushi Bhardwaj  Gopi’s got his camera on?

Host  Yeah, there he is. I know.

Arushi Bhardwaj  Hi, by the way people.

Host  Are you a technical coach? Are you another product coach?

Guest  A product coach, mainly but with my technical background, it does definitely help me in coaching parts of technical areas. Definitely.

Host  Yeah. Really.

Arushi Bhardwaj  You are a mapping guru.

Host  Yeah. Well, this has been so fabulous. I am. I’m a fan and I’m like, I’m kind of jealous. I wish I could do this. So I’m really really excited about this. So I just appreciate that you have given this presentation and thanks to a couple of people had to drop off because it was, I guess, whatever time but had some comments in the chat box, thanks.  It was a great presentation. So I just appreciate you all coming and looking forward to seeing you in our next meetup.

Transcript: Scrum Alliance A-CSM and CSP-SM virtual programs with Cherie Silas

Tandem Coaching Academy Founder and Head Coach Cherie Silas, MCC, CEC, discusses the newly launched Scrum Alliance A-CSM and CSP-SM online programs.

Q: What can you tell us about the online self-paced Scrum Alliance A-CSM and CSP-SM programs Tandem Coaching Academy just launched.

Cherie Silas: Oh, these are great programs. They’re designed for people who like to dig in and kind of learn on their own.

For people who like to dig in and learn on your own, these are self-paced courses

So they’re self-paced courses where you sign up, you get to login to our online system, and you’re doing coursework. So there’s lessons there, some of its videos, some of it is reading, some of it is go practice this thing that you just learned with your team, and then come back and tell me about it.

Include a variety of activities: readings, videos, practicing what you learnt

So it’s designed for people who have a learning method that is more experiential, so they want to be able to read something or learn something and then go practice it and really build competency with this.

For those who prefer the experiential learning method

And then it’s also designed for people who have busy lifestyles that don’t always mesh up with the rest of the world.

People who have busy lifestyle will find these courses fit their schedule perfectly

And so if they need to learn at 2am, then they can learn at 2am because they have access to the work at that point.

Q: How long does it take to complete these A-CSM and CSP-SM classes and what are some activities that students take to complete it? What are some learning activities students will experience?

Cherie Silas: Some people finish it in a month, and some people actually finish it in three or four months. It’s up to them how long it takes. And what’s important is that as they’re learning, they’re actually implementing those learnings in practice.

You get to practice what you learn right away

But the big thing that I stress with these classes is it’s not about getting a certification. This is not intended to be a certification factory where they you just go in and click a few buttons and, “Yes, I’m an Advanced Certified Scrum Master.”

It is not about the certification you get, it is about the learnings

It’s really about the learning that they take. So in order to enhance that one, people submit their activities and their answers to their tests and stuff like that. And I actually manually grade every single one of them. So that way I’m able to look at them and learn what they’re learning.

All activities results are submitted online and graded manually by the course leader

And by the way, I’m learning a lot from my students. So I get to learn what they’re learning. And if I see things that don’t quite seem like, “maybe they can grasp this,” then I reach out to them and then we either set up a call, or they join one of the weekly mentoring sessions.

Weekly mentoring sessions are valuable opportunities to enhance knowledge

And we make sure that that’s a topic of discussion during that weekly mentoring session, so that they can really get the learning that they need and then go back into their workplace and re implement that and see what they can come up with, and then resubmit that exercise. So that way, we’re both assured that it’s more than just getting knowledge, it’s actually growing some competency along the way.

Q: How do the live mentoring sessions make this program different from other A-CSM or CSP-SM courses?

Cherie Silas: One of the things that makes it special is that the people who are in this class, so there’s this self paced learning. But there’s also the extra piece where I have mentoring sessions that are set up every week.

Live online mentoring sessions are an integral part of the learning process

And the people who are taking the class can join these mentoring sessions. In fact, they’re required to join a certain number of sessions. So they have to attend four sessions live, live virtual, so we get online just like this. And in those sessions, we’ve got a group of people who are all on this same learning journey.

Build a learning backlog with fellow students and learn from each other

And we build a backlog of what are the experiences that you’re having right now that you want to talk about. So some people will bring problems and challenges from their real world and we will discuss how others are handling them.

Solve together real-world problems and have a chance to learn from your mentor

It’s a mentoring session, so I give them my perspective and how I would handle it if I was in that situation. So we learn from one another. In those sessions, we also address any challenges with the learning material itself. And then we practice professional coaching.

Practicing professional coaching skills is the only way to get competency

Because in order to really gain this competency of professional coaching and bring it into the way you work, you really need to experience it and practice those skills. So we make that a part of those weekly sessions.

Q: How are students responding to your Scrum Alliance A-CSM and CSP-SM courses and mentoring sessions?

Cherie Silas: Most of the feedback has been that they were able to learn more in this type of program than they would have learned had they taken in a two-day class.

Learnings are more easily consumed than typical 2-day class

Because when you go to a two-day class, it’s like drinking from a firehose, right? It’s just like swoosh, you throw a bunch of information at people, and they only retain if you’re lucky 10%. So by doing things this way, they get to customize their learning experience to what they want.

Students experience multiple ways of learning

And the course is specifically designed so that people who are visual and audio learners, or there’s, you know, there’s videos and then there’s things to go read. And then there’s also the kinesthetic learning where you are actually practicing. So it hits all of those different learning methods.

Variety of learning methods ensures better understanding and knowledge retention

It teaches over time, so they can stop and digest. And there’s the live mentoring sessions with a CEC or a CTC who is there to guide you along your journey. So those are the big things that they’ve said.

The program provides face to face access to CEC or CTC mentor

The mentoring sessions have been really key part of it, because when else would they be able to sit down with a CEC or a CTC and say, “Hey, this is what I’m going through? Can you help me?” And so they’ve got that live access. And that’s been a really key part of their learning journey.

Q: Who should attend the Scrum Alliance A-CSM and CSP-SM virtual program and what are the prerequisites?

Cherie Silas: A-CSM is for people who have been a scrum master for at least a year, and have their CSM, those are prerequisites.

Scrum Alliance prerequisite requirements for A-CSM and CSP-SM apply

For the CSP Scrum Master, it’s going to be people who have been a Scrum Master for at least two years, and they have their Advanced CSM certification also. So outside of just the requirements of Scrum Alliance, I think people who need to attend this course are people who want a stronger learning journey and who are willing to commit to the work it takes to get that done.

Enroll if you want to have a more powerful learning journey

I’m not sure how else to say it, other than this course is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for people who just want a quick certification, they just want to do more of the, “Yeah, I was there, give me my certificate.” That’s really not going to happen with this program.

Commitment to learnings, grit, and perseverance are required

So if people are not willing to invest the time and learning for themselves, and they just want an easy path to a certification, this is definitely not the course for them. But if they want to learn and they want to dig deeper, then this may be the right course for them.

Q: Why did you create these A-CSM and CSP-SM programs in their current format and why is it important to you personally?

Cherie Silas: When I designed this program, I had a very specific scenario in mind. So I have a lot of compassion for people who have really busy lives. Because I had a really busy life. So men and women who have full time jobs, and many of those people are contractors, right?

I designed these programs for those who have busy lives, as I know what it means

So if they take a day off of work, they don’t get paid. So not only are they paying for their own training, but then they’re losing work. And what I noticed was that many of our advanced learning programs, first of all, there’s not a lot of them available worldwide. So if you if you can find one that you can afford, you have to add on top of it travel to be able to get there.

The program is designed to be accessible and affordable to many

So what I saw and the whole reason I built these courses was I saw that they were expensive. I saw that there was travel involved. I saw that people would have to take days off of work, and that they would have to leave their families in order to better educate themselves so that they could experience success in their career. And while yes, I understand that, that is an investment that needs to be made. I also understand that just because some people can make that investment, it doesn’t mean everyone can.

People should not be forced to choose between their family and their career

And I wanted to provide a way where people who were paying for their own and had busy lives and have families could still be in the running and get the education they needed, without compromising their lifestyle, without having to spend money that went beyond what they could afford, and then their family is then hurting. Or to be or to have to say, “Well, I can’t grow in my career because I can’t give up all these things.” So this program was designed with them in mind, I want them to be able to have something that you can afford.

I want people to be successful without negative impact on their families

I want them to have something that fits into their lifestyle. I want something that they can have that 20 years from now when their children grow up they’re not saying, “My parents cared more about work.” That’s awful that I’m crying. But that’s really important to me. I want people to be successful, but not at the detriment of their families. It’s not fair that we put people in that position.


We are told that it is more effective to coach people rather than direct them. A lot of us are unclear what that means and we often confuse it with mentoring, or let’s face it, sharing our opinion about what people need to do in a really nice way! A big part of what makes coaching useful is the gift of objectivity – seeing that which is invisible to others. And a big part of what makes objectivity so powerful is observation. Here’s the problem – we are so used to jumping from observing immediately to interpreting that what we share as observations are seldom “clean”. And when it is not clean, it causes reaction and defensiveness in others.

In this session our guest speaker, Antoinette Coetzee, will explore

  • how to develop your skills of observation,
  • how to practice it,
  • tips about what to observe in teams and
  • how to share your observations in a neutral way

About the Organizer:

Tandem Coaching Academy is a collaborative effort of like-minded Agile and Professional coaches, trainers, and educators to bring you the best variety of agile classes and workshops as well as mentoring, and coaching opportunities at prices you can afford.

Our dream is to keep Agile non-denominational. What it means for us is that we don’t try to convince you to join any certain group of people doing certain things. What we want for you is what is best for you and your clients. We strive to create an Agile world where you can pick and choose the things you need for your learning and your success. And our promise to you is to leave you better than we found you with each encounter.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

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Meetup Presentation Materials

Antoinette Coetzee - Observation - How To Develop This Secret Superpower
Download Meetup materials here


We often hear about the need to maximize the business value we deliver. However, whether we like it or not, the business value is more ambiguous and complex than we think. It is hard to define it and requires a conversation to gain alignment and agreement on experiments based on outcome hypothesis and key results. Large organizations define their strategy at the top level and plan impact over a number of years but fail to link that strategy to execution in the form of nested business outcomes. As a consequence, we see a disconnect between what the organization’s strategy is and what the delivery teams are actually working on. CEOs typically change faster than they can see their strategy delivered, organizations remain too slow to adapt to fast-changing market conditions, everyone makes themselves busy thinking that this ‘business’ is a good thing and effort is spent on low-value initiatives, not linked to strategy. Another problem is that success is measured in terms of outputs like a number of features released, meeting the budget and scope goals rather than outcomes and impact, such as improving customer retention, increasing business profitability or market share.

Business value at an organizational level can be a lot more meaningful by focusing more on strategy alignment initiatives, favoring fast and frequent experiments in psychologically safe environments, using outcome-based hypothesis with leading and lagging indicators, taking advantage of constant learning, continuous improvement and faster delivery of real strategic business outcomes. We will see the importance of creating a mindset of safe-to-fail experiments and we will have some basic exercises on how to write a business outcome with meaningful key results linked to organizational strategy.

This talk explores different perspectives around the identification of business value, starting with the difference between output, outcome, and impact, leading and lagging indicators, strategy alignment and execution, hypothesis, and key results, together with a list of good metrics to demonstrate outcome flow.

Tandem Coaching Academy was excited to host Paulo Dias in our Coaching Tools and Techniques Meetup. We hope you will enjoy it too.

With the release of its new ICF Core Competencies Model, International Coaching Federation has taken an expanded approach to competency in co-creating the coaching relationship with the client. In the new model, section B focuses on three competencies needed to properly co-create the relationship with the client:

  • 3. Establishes and Maintains Agreements
  • 4. Cultivates Trust and Safety
  • 5. Maintains Presence

In the next several articles, will cover these competencies specifically.

ICF Core Competencies model defines the competency of Establishes and Maintains Agreements as partnering with the client and relevant stakeholders to create clear agreements about the coaching relationship, process, plans and goals. It further expands the competency to include establishing agreements for the overall coaching engagement and those for each coaching session.

This focus on the coaching relationship has been much needed, and I’m encouraged to see ICF moving in this direction as an overall focus of coach competency. My experience has been that coaching schools have not appropriately focused on the entire relationship with the coaching client, including establishing the relationship and closing the relationship.  In my experience as a client I have noticed that when starting a relationship with a new coach I am often surprised to find out that the coach doesn’t start that relationship co-creating the engagement with me.  Schools have focused on creating the coaching agreement in the coaching session, which is extremely important, but have often failed to equip coaches to have strong full engagements with the client by managing the expectations, understanding of coaching, and setting and managing goals and progress with the client.

To support this particular ICF Core Competency I developed a model to help me in my coaching practice called STORMMES©. This model helps the coach develop a strong relationship agreement with the client at the onset of the engage and provides a way for them to schedule regular check-ins to measure progress and adjust overarching goals. STORMMES© is an acronym that stands for the following conversations a coach and client should have when co-creating their relationship.

As with using any model, these may not be discussed in the order presented. Coaches should always be responsive to client’s needs above holding tight to using a model as presented.

  • S – SUBJECT (overall focus of the coaching engagement)
  • T – TIMEFRAMES (engagement length, progress checks, session length, regularity)
  • O – OUTCOMES (desired outcomes of the coaching engagement- goals)
  • R – ROLES (education on what to expect in the coaching process, confidentiality, ethics, responsibility for change, role of coach, role of client, preparation for sessions, reflecting after sessions, work between sessions, how to make engagement most effective, client needs, coach needs, legal terms, ending the engagement, etc.)
  • M – MEASURES (how coach and client will know goals are met, milestones)
  • M – MOTIVATION (why goals are relevant and the value they will bring to the life of the client, why the client is seeking coaching at this point in their life, what will happen if the client doesn’t make changes)
  • E – ENVIRONMENT (what systemic factors promote and prevent success for the client, who are the stakeholders that may impact progress)
  • S – START (priority of goals, where the client wants to focus first, how the client wants to begin the work of coaching)

This model can be a helpful framework to ensure that your work with the client is set up for success. I encourage you to utilize this model and adjust it to develop a stronger method of co-creating your coaching engagements.

This article is a part of the Tandem Coaching Academy Coaching Textbook.

Mastering anything is hard and laborious. Scrum Mastering is no different. The real mastery of Scrum results from constant learning, inspecting, and adapting.

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Ewan O’Leary gave during the workshop “On Scrum Mastering.”

Transcript of the talk is still pending and will be posted as soon as it becomes available. Than you for your patience!

Ewan helps organizations face the challenge of volatile, uncertain, ambiguous and complex times, shifting from conventional thinking, amplifying learning and rehumanizing their work. As a coach, he liberates human potential by recognizing and developing the leader in everyone, at all levels and capabilities, in service of greater meaning and purpose. Using a mix of lean/agile techniques, Ewan has helped people transform their approach to work and life, learning rapidly from failures, creating value and joy through their work. As a compassionate catalyst of disruption, he challenges your organization, helping you develop novel ways of developing and understanding shared purpose, meaning and the work needed to achieve your objectives.

Agile coaching seems to be a required staple these days to grow and nurture winning Agile teams.

Are stakeholders fair-weather fans of your Agile teams? How can you coach Agile teams to grow their skills and score more points with customers? Winning Agile teams deliver high value products in a way that leaves both team members and customers eager for the next deliverable and agile coaching is a necessary component for their success.

In this live session, Allison Pollard will examine the Agile Fluency® Model as a resource for how Agile Coaches can cultivate these winning teams for organizations. Join to find out how you can enable teams to practice and gain the proficiency they need.

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Allison Pollard gave during the workshop “Coaching Winning Agile Teams.”

About The Speaker

Allison Pollard helps organizations create Agility by building trust between business & IT, leaders & teams, and within teams. As Technical Director for Improving, she is a curator of agile frameworks and change methods who coaches leaders and teams to improve work relationships and enable better delivery. Allison is also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Other Best Agile Articles 2018 Posts


Host  We have Allison Pollard, who is going to be doing a presentation for us today on coaching, winning agile teams. Alison and I have known each other a while. I’m really excited to have her with us today. And you’re gonna love this presentation. So Allison, I’ll let you do further introductions of yourself. And I’ll hand it over to you.

Allison Pollard  All right, thank you. Yeah, I think you and I, like got started in the Agile community and like, you know, really contributing back many years ago. And so it’s like, Wow, look at us now.

And I’m excited because obviously, you know, Sheree and I both have, you know, work together, we presented together, but now I get to talk to you all a bit about what I’ve been doing, and thinking about recently and this topic is coaching. Winning agile teams, partly inspired by a blog post I had written previously, comparing agile coaching and sports coaching. So for today’s session, I really want us to kind of talk through what is a coach role with agile teams. Because a lot of times there is the comparison to a sports coach. And there are some things about that metaphor that I think work really well. And there are some other parts of it that might be kind of confusing for folks. And also, if I’ve described, you know, hey, we want to have agile teams that win. What do we mean by that? And so I want for us to be able to explain what winning is for an agile team by the end of the session. And I want to share and an outline of a particular model that I have found really helpful in coaching agile teams. And so by the end of this you’ll have a couple new models to work with and be able to describe things you know, bit more Clearly for the teams that you’re working with.

So a little bit about myself, I am an agile coach, I actually worked for improving a large consulting and training company, and I’m one of the technical directors. So I lead our agile practice across all of our offices. That means I’m working with our internal, you know, practitioners on how they’re better developing themselves and delivering for our clients. But then certainly working at some of our large client organizations and helping their leaders and their teams gain agility. And so I’ve, you know, gone through quite a bit and my own self learning and my self journey around you know, becoming a better agilus becoming a better coach. I’ve gone so far as as you know, going through professional coaching certification. I’m a certified professional co active coach. So I bring a lot of that background into what I do. do when I’m working with people. Now I wanted to find out you know who was in the session with me. And so either unmute yourself or type something into the chat. I’d love to know what is your role in your organization today?

Participant  Mostly Scrum Master

Allison Pollard  Scrum Master. Yeah, I see a couple other Scrum masters in the chat here. We have a coach trainer, another coach, product owner. We got some release train engineers. Couple more senior Scrum Master awesome senior ba so got some business analysis going on. Scrum Master Operations Manager Wow, I am really digging the diversity of this group. We got program management. So a pretty big variety of roles. that are working with teams.

And what I love is that it’s not, It’s not just like one person or one particular title that is responsible for coaching a team. We have someone that’s a Delivery Manager and Scrum Master, we have Scrum Master and POs who wears multiple hats. Regardless of what the title is, I love this. I don’t love calling myself a master. Because if I don’t have the 10,000 hours experience, right, the mastery that comes with that any single one of us are working with teams and we are trying to help them deliver better for their organizations and for their customers. And so it doesn’t matter exactly what your your job title is. It’s how you interact with the team and the things that you can help them to see and what you can help them to do that really make you an influential leader.

So when we think about the sports coach, you know, most The time that sports coaches off on the sidelines, and in a lot of ways that that applies to agile coaching, in the sense that most of us are not hands on embedded within the team, and also delivering the product with them. So we’re not writing the code, most of us are not testing it. You know, we’re not in the really deep architectural, you know, conversations and decisions that are happening.

Now, some of us, you know, are further away from the team than others, you know, people that are more like the scrum master or business analysts, product owner, you’re probably there on a day to day basis, listening and facilitating maybe even guiding the conversations that the team has. And so here, you know, we have the sports coach that is helping the player to like see some things and maybe even like thinking out the next play, and working with the person, you know, in a much more tactical manner and others have us you know if you’re like the release train engineer, Delivery Manager, agile coach, you might be interacting with the team less frequently and possibly looking at some things are more strategic in nature.

Now, when I first wrote the blog post around this it was because I found an old video that inspired me. So John Whitmore, professional coach, he’s written quite a bit in the area of professional coaching on you know, how do I coach someone like through their life? Or how do I coach executives for their presence and how they’re making business decisions? Or how might I coach a leadership team, for example, all these different areas. He had done a demonstration of how a coaching approach could work with someone trying to learn tennis, and they had a comparison of his interaction with a new tennis student, and then showed alongside what a traditional tennis coach was doing.

So the traditional tennis coach and for most of us that have played sports, this might sound familiar. That person is telling us like, how do you hold the racket? And and like, like, what is your swing? Like, and like, how do you need to hold that? And like, follow through on it and like, where do you, you know, feel it in your body and kind of, you know, like, connect with where the ball is. And as you’re like listening to that instructor, you’re thinking, gosh, this is this is so convoluted and like, so hard to follow. You know, it’s like, I have to think about like, where my fingers are on the grip, and like, like, what’s my wrist? Like, you know, like, how far back does my arm go? Like, what’s the angle that I have it at? And now like, I keep all of that in mind as I like, make a motion. Like oh my god, I’m so in my brain. And John Whitmore, instead, ask this student, you know, pick up the racket, and swing. And what did you notice? As you know, swung that racket that tennis racket, and like, Where did you feel it in your body like, like what connected like what felt kind of awkward. And he’s bringing your attention to the experience of doing something. And as they continued on with the sessions, and you know, this demonstration, you realize that the tennis player that John Whitmore is working with like, she’s kind of excited and she feels more ownership, you know, like she’s more actively involved in the process of learning tennis. And she’s like, making sense of it like from from her brain down into her body of what is this like, and and feeling more confident as a tennis player.

Whereas the person working with the traditional tennis coach, still kind of stuck in his head trying like really hard to connect it down to like, how does this play out in real life and probably moving at a bit of a slower pace in comparison And I thought this was really powerful as a metaphor, because how are we as agile coaches, helping teams to connect to the experience of doing software development of actually delivering? You know, more often than not, we don’t have the luxury, nor do I think we have the desire to say, you know what, we’re going to go learn over here, we’re going to run like practice drills. And we’re going to do that for like, a really long period of time. And then you’re going to move into your actual project and try to apply all those skills in the moment.

Instead, I think most of us recognize, like, not only would it be hugely expensive to pull a team aside, and instruct them and like do all this like practice. You know, like there’s an opportunity cost to the actual product that they’re supposed to be working on. There. There’s the idea that you know, is that stuff from like a classroom or like practice setting going to translate into real life and like, how would we know or not That I think we know like we come along the sides, the team where they are in the actual product or in their project that they’re trying to work on. And that’s why we’re asking questions and retrospectives or making sure that there is a retrospective, you know, maybe we’re trying to facilitate planning a little bit differently. We want to draw the team’s attention to certain areas, and have them better connect, what is it that they’re doing and why are they doing it? Because we might get stuck in. This is just the routine. And this is just what we normally do. Now, if we as coaches act as though we’re on site trainers, and we’re telling people what to do at any minute of the day, we’re going to get stuck, that team’s going to get stuck. And I’ve seen this a few times in my career. How many of you have had the experience where you come to a team and they say, well, we do this because that’s the way that the Agile coach told us how to But that agile coach has actually been gone for a while, or the team no longer remembers why they do things, the way that they do things.

I’ve had the experience of, you know, starting to work with a team, and they couldn’t describe to me like, why they followed the process the way that they did. Some of it came from a previous agile coach who had been gone for some time. And they they stopped thinking, and I find this kind of scary, you know, if I, as a coach, I’m too focused on framework execution on how do we have a daily standup or, you know, like, what are all the checkboxes of how to do an iteration planning or sprint planning, the team might disconnect from the experience and they just start going through the motions.

And to me, it’s like taking real human players and turning them into foosball. You know, like little models of you know, players but Someone else’s like cranking those wheels and like turning it and getting them to play. But they’re just following our direction and not really connecting and they don’t have the autonomy of how would I do this on my own? or What does it mean for us to follow this direction? And like, how did they know this was the thing to do? So, in order to keep us in the land of having real players that make decisions, I think we have to remember like there is an element of us always being on the sideline, that I could yell at you from the side and say, Ryan, Ryan, and I kick that ball. But if you see a different opportunity, and you’re the one that has the ball, you have the ultimate say you have the ultimate determination in what the best path is.

And perhaps there’s something about their position on the field that enables them to like recognize an opportunity and go for it that I am not privy to from My position on the side.

And so when I think about what does the team, you know, like, what’s this game that they’re playing? And certainly like, how do they know if they’re winning or not? I found this great quote from Diana Larson, one of the co-creators of the Agile fluency model, and she describes how a high performing team creates high performing products. And this idea that this is a team that is delivering what the customer wants, what they’re willing to accept, and what they’re willing to exchange value for. So that customer is willing to either provide some information or provide you money. And that exchange from the customer is what creates value now for the business.

We’re able to, you know, say that we’re earning more dollars or we’re saving money, maybe there’s more loyalty, more engagement from our customers. That helps us, you know, in our in our business in a meaningful way. And these customers are willing to do this in it like we’re willing to create a product for them that suits the customer’s needs. And so we’ve created a product that’s easily maintainable. It’s supportable after deployment, and we do it in a way that leaves the team members ready and eager to work on the next deliverable. And I’m going to pause right there because I want to hear reactions to that definition of winning.

Host  So everyone, you do have the ability to take yourself off from you. Um, if you want to contribute

Allison Pollard  Any thoughts? There’s a lot in there.

I’ve stunned y’all into silence. Yes.

Participant  My hand into but I’m not sure. Yeah,

Allison Pollard  yeah, Lucy.

Participant  I like that line high performing teams deliver high performing products and have to also include the after sale element of it that it comes back and that is part of the loop. There’s sometimes we’re in a cycle of just delivery, delivery delivery, but this glue back and continue. Mm hmm. I find that I guess one of the struggles I’m having as a scrum master with my team is the number of steps between us and the customer. Mm hmm. clear vision of Are you happy with what we’re, we’re doing right now. So I look forward to hearing more about that.

Allison Pollard  Yeah. Ah, yeah, that’s a very real challenge. I sometimes think in large organizations, especially, you know, I think about, you know, it’s like six degrees to Kevin Bacon, like, how many degrees until I can get to a customer? You know, like, how many layers removed? Are we? Is it six? might we get to Kevin Bacon? Before we get to a real customer? I don’t know. That would be concerning to. And you’re right, like, we want to check for that feedback loop. You know, I, I’m a consultant. So I’m usually brought in when things are not going well. And sometimes the not going well is we’ve been deploying pretty regularly, but our customers are now telling us like, please don’t give us more stuff, you know, or like, hold off on deployment, like we don’t, we don’t want it.

And that often speaks to quality issues that have been, you know, festering for a while that maybe we’re delivering the features but there’s a number of bugs or the the actual deployment process itself. requires like so much downtime and, and causes like new learning, you know, new work processes from the customers themselves, that they say like, I’m not ready for that I don’t have the appetite for the downtime, or I don’t have the appetite to like, retrain all of my people, or for us to have to configure, say, like other reports or other processes that might exist, you know, based on what we’re putting in the hands of them at that point in time.

And so this idea that, you know, I not only want like the development team to be like, eager and ready for the next deliverable. I want the customers to be as well. John has put in the chat, you know, I’m a big fan of identifying a difference between success and performance. And you think this idea connects a bit to this here. And I think you’re right, there’s performance in terms of like, how are we you know, interacting on a day to day basis and and what are we doing and then there Like real big gains and wins, I see another hand in the chat.

Participant  So during my teenage years, I was into swimming and competing. And from that experience, I learned that the definition of when it was to do better than before. Keep on that journey, on and on, always in net never moving backwards.

Allison Pollard  I love that that is definitely going to connect with some things we talked about a little bit here, for sure.

Yeah, so I find, you know, like we said a moment ago, as the team is disconnected from actual users, and being able to interact with them or being able to, like close that feedback loop. In other cases, I feel like teams don’t even have an awareness of like, there are actual people that use the product. I actually have been talking to a group recently. They are, you know, an enterprise data set of teams. And when they talk about their vision or their purpose, they describe and building this amazing data platform like this is going to be the end all be all data catalog that any analyst you know, in the organization can come to this catalog and search through it to find it the exact information that they’re looking for. And it’s been like really fresh, and you know, like really clean data. It’s gonna have all this like historical information as well, that you can pull the reports that you’re looking for, do your analysis and make a decision has a positive impact towards the operations of the organization. So like really big dream, like kind of vision.

But where I find them getting stuck is that they’re so focused on the platform, that there’s a lot lot that goes into the architecture and thinking about the scale of the architecture. And there’s so many different kinds of users and so many different use cases that we already get kind of like weighted down by just like how massive this effort is that when we instead shift to Who are the people, like who are the actual users of this system? And can we have them walk us through what they’re doing today? Because obviously, the organization is making decisions right now. They’re making the best that they can with the information available, you know, we’re wanting to enable them to make better decisions or more timely decisions, perhaps, like more accurate decisions because of the information we’ll have. But how do we connect to like, how do I make your job better by Friday? Not how do I build this amazing platform? Maybe in six months from now? And that’s a really different paradigm for people to connect with on doing something that’s very technology and like product, not for the sake of product oriented, the way that we describe it versus who are the real people and their jobs or their goals. And what does it mean for us to focus on improving that, you know, as quickly as we possibly can?

So one of the models I wanted to share with you in trying to figure out like, Where’s your team today? And like, what might winning mean for them? I like the Agile fluency model, because it acknowledges there’s not one right way to do agile, there’s a variety of ways. And I like that this is in here because as I thought to the sports metaphor, there’s not one way to win at soccer, or baseball or hockey other than you probably need to score more points. But even they’re like they’re scoring more points or being really good at defense. If you can, like do just enough on the offense that you I guess, score like two points, but I’m really strong at defense, I could still win. Or I could be so amazing at scoring, that I just like rack up the scoreboard like this for a really large number, that my defense doesn’t even matter.

You know, in some cases, most teams are going to find there’s a balance, you know, on how they play the game, and that it’s the individuals like connecting as a group and figuring out like, what is our focus, like, what is our purpose collectively? And how do we use one another skills so that we can be effective in the game? That’s that like team shift, right? Like we are now a group then we’re going to work together. And this and the fluency model is like the team culture shift. That takes us into focusing on value.

So now we’re thinking about, like, what is value to our organization or what is value to our customers and we have so level of transparency that we’ve created in our environment most often than not, this means we’re working from some kind of a product backlog. It’s using something like user stories. So it’s in the language of business and not in technical tasks, you know, or like architectural pieces. It’s something that our stakeholders can understand and help prioritize for us. And we’re going to have some regular demonstrations of the fruit like the work that we’ve produced.

So focusing as the first you know, zone where we see some benefits from agile. It’s not the end all be all of what organizations need in most cases. So there are multiple types of success all are valuable. Well, the next state or like the next zone that we think about is where the team skills have developed. So instead of like this is a pickup game of soccer and we just started playing in the street. Like we have been practicing. And we have been working on like, how does how does each person like play a certain position, and maybe like run through some plays together? in software, this might be like we’re learning some of the technical practices and like, how do we test our code together? How would we deploy it into production, that now we’re able to deliver regularly, so delivering? You know, I’d like the release, it will have software. And this provides great benefits.

This is what’s going to get us to sustainability as a software development team that we’ve deployed to production. And we’re still excited and have the energy to talk about the next release after that. This is not the old days that I know I encountered as a project manager. We’ve worked all night we worked all week and we finally did it, it went live. And now we all need a vacation to recover. And there’s some decompression that has to happen. And maybe we’re in like a warranty period. We’ve like staggered, you know, our time off and all that stuff. point, then we kind of get back into, all right, like how like, what’s the next thing? And how do we start working towards it again. So there’s more sustainability that comes in from the delivering value for the team and for the customers.

And this is the zone that a lot of organizations need. There are some that want to go even further. You know, we talked about the promise of agile and it was like, Oh, we could just be agile, then we’re going to be able to like pay attention to the market and our product is going to be like right there alongside if not leap-frogging our competitors, we’re going to be able to make better product decisions. We’re going to reduce the handoffs between like our business and our IT. We’re going to have everyone that’s needed, like really collaborating and working towards the product.

At that point, we’re optimizing. So we’re able to make the best decisions because we have all the people that are needed, whether they’re from sales or marketing or legal You know, any of those areas that tended to be like, you know, three, three degrees away, like we bring them as close as possible. Same with like our operations, you know, folks like they’ve probably started to come alongside us in delivering and they might be even closer to us and optimizing here. But this is going to help us, you know, develop the best product possible for our customers.

And this last stone in the Agile fluency model on strengthening, it’s a little bit it’s a little more radical, and it’s a little bit hypothetical. We’ve seen this like organizational culture shift in some companies that you know, more often than not, they like they were natively created that way. Where you’re, you’re a team member, but you understand like the whole value stream and and like what it is as a company that we’re trying to accomplish that say if your product is no longer the most important thing, you would even like move for yourself to another effort or to a note another product, and being able to have that like radical self organization. Now, I think a number of you might sense that’s probably not the goal of most organizations, because that takes a really big investment, a lot of learning a lot of training, and some really big changes.

But when I think about where most teams are, and what they need, I personally encounter a lot of teams that are focusing and like working towards delivering, maybe they’ve gotten that one figured out, but they’re really trying to, like get really strong at delivering and maybe even move to optimizing. So winning means we can deploy at will, you know, as soon as our product person says, I love what I see, put it in front of customers we go, yep, it’s there. Just like that. You know, there aren’t that many steps involved. I can practically push a button and it just triggers everything automatically. It’s there in the hands of customers, and we can see how it goes.

And in other cases, I have clients that are saying, I’m getting pretty good at deploy and like our quality is there, you know, we’ve brought in a number of these technical practices, but we’re still kind of behind our competitors. Or it feels like we’re not, we’re not seeing like the real revenue growth or the real cost savings. Like there’s a disconnect between, you know, the output from the team and like the outcomes that that we’re seeing as a result of it. And so we’re trying to bring those groups together and help the team have better clarity on what is the real business goal, and how would you measure it, how would you know if you’re achieving that or not? And so those are starting to describe some of the purposes or some of the objectives that that development teams might need.

So when it comes to helping the agile team play to win, right, because we’re not just going to practice, you know, like off on our on our own on the field, and they’re gonna be playing, you know, and trying to deliver a real product. And we want to support them through that effort. You know, we need to talk about like the different skills and capabilities that they need. Well, it seems as though that’s more training and something that could happen outside of their project. And instead, we shift as coaches we say we want to learn on the real thing. And I will introduce some theory or a model or something new as a practice, just in time, and then we’re going to start doing it right away, we’re going to try and like lock that in to our muscles, and and get familiar with it and have the team again, experience it and reflect on that experience. So, you know, if I, as a coach think that test driven development is a practice that we should try, I can introduce it to you and like walk through the steps. I could have someone sit down with you and and mentor alongside you on how we implement it for a couple of our user stories, let’s say, we need to have that reflection afterwards of like, so did that. Did that get us what we thought it was going to? And? And how might we need to improve that practice or change that practice for our teams needs.

So I’m going to put up another model here, and this is the improvement kata. And one of the things that I considered when I was thinking about a sports team, you know, we can we can generally turn on a TV and we can look through old clips or you know, current games and see what does a really good soccer team look like? or What does a really good basketball team look like? And I can make some pattern recognition of what they do. Now in software development, I find or and certainly if you’re using agile outside of software development, like we don’t have as many Visible examples of what really good looks like. And it’s much harder for us to then identify from those examples, like, what are the patterns or like, what are the key practices that we might try.

And this reminded me of the Toyota manufacturing, where, you know, decades ago, Toyota had been really, really strong and how they were manufacturing cars. And they had this amazingly lean process. And they started out producing other car manufacturers. And so folks in the United States, they go and they visit Toyota, and they notice, you know, some different things happening. And they they start trying to bring back you know, some of those tangible or some of those like visible efforts, so, now, I might have a Kaizen event, like we’re gonna have a short workshop and look at how we improve things or we might have a Kanban board and have cards that are like telling us about the inventory. And try to like manage the overall throughput. But as we mimicked some of these practices, we missed the underlying mindset. And the underlying mindset is what is described in the improvement kata. And this was created by Mike Rother who’s written a fantastic book on it and provided some additional resources around it. So at this point, I’ve got this model up here and has a couple words to describe it and some numbers. What do you all think this is is saying?

Host  I want to chime in here one of the things that is really interesting is the the patent the experiment before establishing the next target, which is different, right. Usually people say Here’s the target. Now let’s go experiment. So I realize that different paths.

Allison Pollard  Hmm, yeah, yeah, they’re the numbers here, you know, aren’t going to be helpful. So it actually is that three is the next target condition. So we are going to set that before we start conducting the experiments at step four. But when it comes to that journey, right, like the experiments are extremely focused towards that next target condition. So I’m not just running any old experiments or doing things that I think are kind of helpful. I’m looking at what is going to take me from where I am to that next target condition. And and I’m going to encounter some particular obstacles on that path. And those are the things I’m going to be most concerned about.

Host  Other thoughts?

Allison Pollard  Yeah, what other observations do you have?

Participant  This reminds me when I’m going to drive to place it, it’s like far, but I can. By just knowing the directions, I know where I’m going, I can pack on my mind. But I know how to get from here to the main junction to the road. And then once I’m at the road, I know I need to get to that next city. And once I’m getting to the next city know how to get to the other exit and through steps by knowing what’s my end, destination. I know how to steps get to each one up to this intermediate destinations.

Allison Pollard  Yeah, nice. I like that. Because, you know, from your metaphor there like that, that final destination is what we would call number one on here. So it’s that direction or that challenge, like that’s the that’s the real place I’m trying to get to and obviously at current State, you know, like, my current position is two. So there’s a quite a distance between them. And as you said, like we’re setting some intermediate targets. We’re setting like the next place that I want to be. And I can go a number of paths to get there. And, and it’s funny because as I think about nowadays, like many of us driving like we turn on the GPS, and it just reroutes, you know, we just we just blindly follow it. It’s telling us, you know, how to run the experiment in some ways. And when we’re developing products, there is no GPS that tells us how to run the experiment. It doesn’t do the rerouting for us. We are the ones that have to figure out like, what is the pathway? What is the plan to get there?

So this is a model that I’ve been using with some of my colleagues, a couple of technical coaches, when we’re working with teams, and what’s been really interesting about this is trying to shift away from having the really large roadmap, you know, of feature feature feature feature feature feature feature, right until the end of time. And and you know, then it’s a question of, are we ahead? Or are we behind, and more often that we’re gonna be behind? Because it’s a really big roadmap, and there’s a lot of stuff in it. Instead, we think about not not so much like, what’s the feature that we’re trying to deliver? But like, what’s the goal? You know, like, Who are the people and like, what do they need to be able to do? Or like, what’s the business like revenue that we’re trying to impact your like the cost savings, impact we’re trying to have or, or maybe it’s like a certain number of users that we’re trying to enable with something. So when we can have that kind of perspective on it, it gives the team a lot more autonomy in the experiments that they can run.

And there are some experiments that we’ll do that is all about how the Developers can improve just their working conditions. And some of the like, I’ll say like platform needs, you know, maybe it’s, you know, how do I improve my continuous integration and continuous delivery practices, knowing like I mentioned with the fluency model, that if I can release at will, I’m able to deliver value regularly. That’s gonna be a next step towards being able to focus towards like the business market and business needs. I probably have to have built up that trust in order to like, get my business folks and even some of my my it leadership on board with the team having more visibility and more ownership of the overall product. Because if I have a track record of every deployment comes with issues, and there’s certain fixes that have to happen and like a certain amount of cleanup. You’re not going to want me to do a whole lot of experimentation. You with, you know, how are we going to increase revenue? You’re gonna say, Well, well, well Well, how about you just figure out how to deploy like safely and cleanly. And when you can do that consistently, then we can talk about, you know, having a bigger impact on the work that you do.

So with this, I’m finding that a number of the teams, you know, they don’t have a really clear direction, they don’t have that big challenge that they’re working towards. They got stuck in next target can like current condition and like run an experiment of like, here’s the feature, here’s where I am deliver towards the feature. And then there’s just like, next feature, here’s where I am deliver towards the feature. And we don’t get that big feedback loop of the feature like produce the results it was meant to. Did people adopt it? Are they using it? You know, is it is it helping our business. I think sometimes that information is lagging, you know, not only for the team, but even for other stakeholders. And other times it’s so siloed across the organization, that we tend to think that the most important thing that the development team can do is keep on developing, instead of that pause and working with our users to find out like, Where are the pain points or what wasn’t so intuitive? You know, how can I make this better for you and your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish?

So my colleagues and I get to be kind of creative. You know, we’re out on the sidelines, but we’re getting to paint a different picture of that challenge and of the success and it’s like, you know, getting the team to envision like that trophy, or that like feeling of like you’ve just won the Olympics. Imagine if you could create this kind of win. That is compelling. And that is something that makes it worthwhile for us to go through all those impediments and all those experiments that we’re going to have to do. Because what I find is when we say, Hey, we just need to deliver another feature. And the team goes, Yeah, and we have some technical debt and our deployment process, still got some manual pieces about it. It’s not really clear to anyone, like why would we prioritize addressing that and and like, adding more automation or you know, fixing or updating some of the architecture or you know, working on some of the defects that might be happening today. But when you give them this end state, and get that like emotional impact around it, then it becomes much clearer like what can wait and what cannot wait as a development team.

So one of the things that we do is we create that like Northstar are we like to call it the definition of awesome. We know that we’ve hit on a meaningful definition of awesome when we can put it on the screen in front of a group. And they start to laugh. So this is an example of one of the challenges that we put in front of our release management groups. So release management actually helps with deployments for multiple products. And they were doing it rather well. They were able to deploy effectively, twice a month, pretty stable. And then we said, you know, what, what if? What if we could do a deployment so that when a developer submits a pull request, their code is in production within one hour, and every step of the deployment process is automated.

Can you hear that group laughing at us? Like, do you know how crazy that is like we don’t we don’t have Have the test automation in place, we have all these like approvals. We have all these like dates that we have to go through, you know, like there’s different environments, you know, and stuff that like the code is going to get progressed through and like you. You’ve lost it right? Like you really think that from the time a developer puts in the pull request, and the product owner says I love it, push it, like an hour later. It’s in production and in the hands of real users.

And this is something that we put in front of them. And sure enough, as we as we said, you know, what’s the next target condition. And we’re going to be working on this every week, and we’re going to make small steps towards it. This team made amazing progress, where they could go from deploying once a month to twice a month. They could go from deploying in the evenings to deploying during the business day. They actually deployed during the business day, like while we were in a meeting about this stuff, and I was like Hold on, time out like deploying this becomes such a non event that we can be in a meeting, talking about how we improve. And y’all already have code that’s moving, like right now into a production environment. And like, no one’s worried about that. Like, that’s a cause for celebration.

These were folks that had dedicated themselves to like, you know, one night, a month. And then like one night a week, eventually, like, every evening, they knew they were going to be online deploying code and testing it to they can now do it within the business day, they got their evenings back, like that was massive. And what was really interesting is some of the initial changes and some of the initial improvements had nothing to do with the code. There was no configuration that changed. It was all process. It was all a matter of who did what, at what time, and who needed to be involved or did not need to be involved on that we could change in order to see a really big impact in the deployments.

So that’s one example. Now a second example. Again, if you think about a large organization, they have a really big value stream. And when it comes to putting a new retail product in front of customers, we have to run a program, you know, or we need a whole release train involved. This is a very time consuming effort. Because there are people that are involved in how is it going to be marketed? Like, how is it going to display on say, our .com website or our mobile applications? You know, how do we accept payment for this? Like, what is the back end fulfillment process? And who does that need interact with? Like what systems there might be some changes in, you know, what needs to be displayed on receipts? And like, what kind of information needs to be provided to customers about this new product? And so you’re talking about a very large group of people and a lot of moving pieces, and we said, What if we can deliver a new version retail product in one month.

And once again, they laughed at us, like, What are you talking about? Like there’s no no like that. That’s how really, and this is where like the business folks start to go, oh man, and if you can do that in a month, like here’s what becomes capable, you know, for us as an organization, like we have this massive backlog of products we’ve been wanting to put out there anyway, you know, it takes so long we have to prioritize, like really, really scrutinize like, what is the next most important thing that y’all work on, because we can’t get everything that we want. But if this group if this like release trainer, if this large program could make the changes needed, that they could over time, you get closer to being able to put product products in production in a month.

Their business is so excited, their customers are going to gain a lot more capabilities or a lot more functionality and a lot more benefit as a result of it. And again, this is not that we say like let’s do like one massive improvement project. And we map out all the steps and all the things that need to happen with it. Instead, we had to go back and recognize where are we today, and what’s like the next target like in six weeks from now, what might be achievable, and like let’s work towards that, and and make the small improvements and run the experiments and only worry about the obstacles immediately in our way to get there.

And this last example that I wanted to share with you all, like I mentioned a moment ago working with a large enterprise data group, if they can enable product teams to have end to end visibility into the market and operational performance of their products within minutes of making changes. This would help them leapfrog their competitors because right now, you know, folks are worried about a giant data platform. And how can it serve all of the world’s needs when it comes to data? But we’re missing that step of like, how do we enable actual people right now? Like, what is it we’re doing by Friday, that gets us to better decisions. And there’s a number of groups that do not have the visibility that they lack the access, or they’re having to, like piece together information across multiple systems, that there’s a really long delay in when they’re able to do that analysis and when they’re able to figure out what they need to do next.

So if you can imagine your own product team, putting something into production, and not knowing, you know, for a while, like how many people are using it, you know, like, what, how many people are having problems with it? How many people you know, if you think about like a sales funnel, how many of you, like just bailed out, you know, like partway through, they said, I’m no longer interested in this. How would the team know you know if this is our product, how do we know that that’s happening? That we are able to make changes to our product and try to better address those customer needs. If we don’t have the data right away, we’re going to continue like piling on to like our guesses, and we’re going to think we’re doing the right stuff. And it’s not until much later that we realize, Oh, we’ve kind of missed something here, we might have to go back and do some rework.

So if our goal as the Coach is to help the team explore their experience, and really help them play to win, I’m finding that step one is the step we need to worry about. That steps two, three, and four, often enough, like our teams have gotten that through some kind of Agile practice, whether they’re following Scrum, or SAFe, or even using Kanban. They have the beginnings of a way to recognize like, what is the current state, like where’s the product right now, or where are we right now? With our capabilities, we figured out the next condition, you know, we might think of that as like a release plan, or it’s a particular feature or epics that we’re working towards. And we’re probably running something like an experiment, or at least some kind of a plan on how we’re going to get there.

But this idea of like a bigger direction that we’re working towards something that really takes us beyond in our thinking, and, and also like what we’re willing to live with, I think is the piece that our teams need most from us to inspire them to greater than what they’ve been doing. So to help us with that, I do want to make sure that you know, there are resources, you know, beyond what I’ve described today. So Toyota Kata by Mike Rother and his website also has presentations and videos, a lot of additional information that you can use there on how to run a question. With your teams, and then the Agile fluency model, they have an ebook. It can describe for you what are the particular benefits that your organization might be needing from its team and give you a sense of like, what capabilities that teams should be investing in. And some of the like, go to topics to research further that you as a coach might introduce to them in terms of practices. And if you want to talk about this further, or certainly, like, hear more about how we’ve used it and share ideas, you can contact me, I have my email address up here. I’m available on Twitter, and certainly you can find me at my blog. After all, this is kind of what sparked this whole presentation today. Was this blog post a couple years ago on looking at agile coaching and sports coaching.

Host  Awesome, thank you very much, Alison. This was very interesting and very enlightening. We appreciate your participation today.

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Ajeet Singh gave during the workshop “How Scrum Master Can Enhance Daily Scrum.”

Transcript of the talk is still pending and will be posted as soon as it becomes available. Than you for your patience!

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Zuzana Sochova gave during the workshop “Agile Leadership: How to Change World or Work.”

Transcript of the talk is still pending and will be posted as soon as it becomes available. Than you for your patience!

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Kurt Nielsen gave during the workshop “The Fatal Attraction of Classical Hierarchies.”

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Gene Gendel gave during the workshop on the topic of scaling your Scrum properly and managing dynamic financial forecasting.

Transcript of the talk is still pending and will be posted as soon as it becomes available. Than you for your patience!


Tandem Coaching Academy was excited to host Harris Christopoulos in our Coaching Tools and Techniques Meetup. We had a blast listening and learning about Agile Retrospectives, their importance for the development and growth of agile teams. We hope you will enjoy it too.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

As coaches, we ask a lot of questions. Some are good, some are not so much. Some are open, some are closed. Some are transactional, some a transformational. In this episode of the Coaching Random Thoughts, Alex Kudinov explores the omnipresent “What is Stopping You?” question and discusses some better alternatives.


Tandem Coaching Academy was excited to host Imran Salahuddin in our Coaching Tools and Techniques Meetup. We had a blast listening and learning about Agile budgeting and funding and how to introduce those in our own organizations. We hope you will enjoy it too.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  


Tandem Coaching Academy was excited to host Elena Vassilieva and Heidi Araya in our Coaching Tools and Techniques Meetup. We had a blast listening and learning about the role of HR in an Agile organization and how the world of remote work is changing it even more.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

This piece was co-penned by Alex Kudinov and Erica J Henson.

Shu-Ha-Ri has been a frequent topic within Agile communities for years to capture the essence, the progress of the agile journey we embark on as we grow and learn better ways of working. Many Agile leaders have written about Shu-Ha-Ri, from Martin Fowler to Alistair Cockburn both creators of the Agile Manifesto . But what is it, and why does it matter?

To understand what Shu-Ha-Ri is in Agile, it is essential first to know its origin. The concept of Shu-Ha-Ri originates from the Japanese martial art Aikido. Aikido master End Seishir Shihan explains the idea as follows:

It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of Shu, Ha, and Ri. These stages are explained as follows. In Shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that our bodies absorb the forms that our forebears created. We remain faithful to these forms with no deviation. Next, in the stage of Ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process, the forms may be broken and discarded. Finally, in Ri, we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act following what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws.

Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, leased these concepts to describe the three states of Scrum Mastery and its progression. He rightly identified the same stages a Scrum Masters must pass through to achieve a deeper master of the practice.

Let’s walk through a simple explanation of how it applies to Scrum Masters.


In the Shu state – the beginning stage, the Scrum Master is the master of the process, of the Scrum framework. She is good at going through motions of basic practices: setting up and facilitating events, helping her team achieve a stable state, helping the team find its velocity, and guiding continuous improvement through the process of retrospective. Her agile training finally pays off, however, in this state, the focus is more on how to achieve something without worrying too much about underlying theories of agile practice.


When the Scrum Master and her team achieve the Ha state, they are doing more than executing steps to follow a prescribed way of working. The Scrum Master with a better understanding of the underlying theory and principles feels more confident about her abilities, lets go of the agile techniques mechanistic structure. According to Jeff Sutherland, the team can get software done at the end of the Sprint and has a good Product owner with a ready backlog at the beginning of the Sprint, has data that clearly show at least a doubling of productivity, and has strong management support.


In this ultimate form, a Scrum Master can step back and let the team, a well-functioning and productive organism, perform at their best. The Scrum Master is never in the spotlight and is never a puppeteer. The Scrum Master instinctively and seamlessly adapts to the environment and team needs as frequently as needed. That’s where the whole initiative of the agile transformation might start making sense.

Throughout my career, I have not seen a Scrum Master continuously operate within the team in a Ri state. I suspect there are a few reasons for that. First and foremost, the culprit could be the management. Probably for them, the Ha state is the Holy Grail of productivity. When management sees the teams achieve the Ha state, they could be easily enticed to spread success, and associated agile practices, across the organization. And boy, are they doing it wrong. The usual way the management goes about scaling Scrum in organizations is what we call a Copy/Paste Scrum. A Ha-level successful team gets disbanded to move the best players to different teams ignoring the team dynamics and resulting in the loss of velocity, camaraderie, and cohesiveness. The Scrum Master who helped the team achieve the Ha state goes her merry way, hopefully on to making another team great.

The second reason, I surmise, is that team development is not going in a straight upward only direction. Teams are living organisms. Organisms have good and bad days. They fall sick, and they heal. Teams are no different. They evolve, they improve, they get to the new heights, and they regress. Regression is painful and not tolerated well by a high-functioning team used to its high-performance.

Setbacks for such teams can be challenging to navigate. Ideally, a well-designed and functioning mechanism of inspection and adaptation should serve as a safety net for teams in such situations. When that safety net is present and robust, it catches the team and springs it back up again.

So how does a Scrum Master employ and remain in the elusive Ri state? Alistair Cockburn, in Heart of Agile , says that Ri-level people generally cannot say how they decide on a technique at the moment, because it is so ingrained and immediate. In general knowledge acquisition terms, Ri corresponds to invent and blend techniques. To borrow from Martin Broadwell’s four stages of competence , the Ri state roughly corresponds to unconscious competence.

The main skills a Scrum Master employs in the Ri stage are those of professional coaching.

So how do great Scrum Masters acquire the true mastery of professional coaching skills? How do they hone and develop them? How they keep the momentum going and the continuous improvement chugging along? I would argue that the development of the professional coaching skills by Scrum Masters follows the same steps of Shu-Ha-Ri or the four stages of competence.

The International Coach Federation (ICF) defines coaching as a coach-client partnership in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires clients to maximize their personal and professional potential. Apply that to a Scrum Master, and you will see that it is precisely what great Scrum Masters do. Here are some useful examples. They challenge their teams to greatness. They raise awareness and build accountability. When a new Scrum Master takes her first step from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence (Shu), the sheer amount of knowledge, skills, techniques, and mindset changes are overwhelming. That is where the concept and the mindset of continuous, incremental improvement come really handy. 

The Shu state is not for the faint of heart. It is not for those who are looking for quick wins. It is a hard work of learning, practicing, inspecting, and adapting, it is an ultimate learning process. Unfortunately, coaching skills do not make it to the top of their priority list at this stage, and that is a shame. Here, at the Shu level, Scrum Masters are working just way too hard and step in way too many situations that they should not have. In many occurrences this state is compounded by the fact that a Scrum Master is assigned to a new agile team with merely a nascent teams process. What they do not realize is that solid professional coaching skills appropriately utilized would have made their lives much easier throughout their learning journeys, and most importantly, at this Shu state. The sooner Scrum Masters are introduced to professional coaching skills, the easier their path to real mastery will be.

There is a vast misconception about professional coaching skills. Some people believe that coaching is nothing more than sitting on the couch and asking powerful questions. And that belief has its roots. It stems from the subpar education some coaches have received combined with limited knowledge of tools, techniques, and competencies of professional coaching. There is no argument that asking powerful questions is an excellent tool in the toolset of every coach. But a tool is only a tool. It is not merely enough.

Coaching first and foremost is a mindset, one that genuinely believes that a client is naturally creative, resourceful, and whole and doesn’t need to be fixed. A coach believes that a client has all the resources he needs to achieve his goals.

Coaching mindset is immensely curious. Curiosity is an integral part of the growth mindset the mindset that is characterized by an insatiable drive to learn, to push boundaries, and to improve continuously. That curiosity brings such words into a Scrum Master’s lexicon as: what if, I wonder, I’m curious. Notice that none of these are directive or prescriptive. This mindset allows its owner to be open to possibilities, new opportunities, and enables the belief that the team has all the answers it needs to be great.

The Shu Coach

When a coach enters the Shu state, she is already aware of the necessity to possess and potentially transform her mindset to that of curiosity and wonder. She is aware of some essential competencies a professional coach holds dear. She has some necessary tools in her coaching toolbox. She relentlessly exploits these tools and builds her competences while staying fully aware of the fact that only practice and a lot of it allows for the building of those competencies. She speaks less and listens more. She becomes very comfortable with silence. She starts listening not to respond but to understand. She makes mistakes and a lot of them. And she becomes aware of those mistakes. And she practices, and practices, and practices some more. She joins a group of like-minded Scrum Masters to practice even more.

As time goes by, she finds less and less need to use a directive approach to tell her team what to do as they mature in their practices and grow in their cohesiveness. She finds that her daytime job turns into that earlier elusive partnership where her role is that of support, encouragement, and acknowledgment. The buildup of the coaching competencies allows for the emergence of a well-rounded, albeit still a novice and inexperienced coach.

The Shu state of professional coaching skills roughly corresponds to the ICF ACC accreditation. The latter requires some formal training and education, which makes sense as the ICF is committed to upholding high standards of coaching skills amongst its members. Can a Scrum Master build their professional coaching skill competence to the level of ACC without formal education? Absolutely. This certification, like any other competency-based one, is an acknowledgment and confirmation of the level of the coaching capabilities achieved.

How do coaches transition to the Ha state?

Coaches will transition into Ha by actively learning more, practicing harder, and continuously expanding their toolbox. At this level, active listening to the whole person and coaching a person rather than a problem is mandatory.

If you are a Scrum Master, this is the level where you start digging deeper into the essence of the team. You begin noticing and addressing the interpersonal relations, tensions, conflicts. You realize that the team is capable of solving their problems, and your primary role is to help them uncover and understand their beautiful inner selves.

You recognize that, while skills and experience are essential, the intricacies of the personal relationships and team dynamics are what move them forward on their road to greatness. You, as a coach, are highly skilled at bringing about your teams’ self-awareness and building their accountability. You lovingly support the team while firmly and steadfastly challenging them. You become a master of balancing these two.

You realize that the effort you had to expend to practice all those coaching competencies at the Shu level diminish greatly at Ha level. You become consciously competent: you begin mastering the art of choosing the right tool for the right circumstances and do so seemingly. And you may be thinking of that coveted ICF PCC certification, which reflects the training, practice and experience, and adherence to the highest ethical standards coaching offers.

The Elusive Ri

At the Ri level, you are not beholden to any framework, method, or ideology. You pick what feels right at the moment and use it with seamless mastery. Your skills and experience are well developed and so vast that every situation prompts the right response. Can you still be wrong? Yes, you can. But you inspect, adapt, and fix–never letting the same mistake happen again. You effortlessly incorporate the environment and ecology into your work and coaching practices. They send signals that evaded your attention at both Shu and Ha levels. You coach the team as a living, breathing, whole organism as it is while understanding its complex laws of interactions and behaviors. You master scaling the ladder of environment, behaviors, capabilities, values, beliefs, identity, and spirituality up and down and up again, knowing intuitively on which step of that ladder a current situation belongs. Your learnings never stop. The layers and layers of new knowledge now interact with existing skills, behaviors, and practices, allowing you to create your unique style and way of thinking. You are not bound by any coaching tools or techniques that you learned in the previous two stages. Your skills transcend those and allow you to create the practices that serve you best in your unique environment.

The Ri state is exceptionally coveted. There is no yellow brick road anyone can show you that will lead you to it. Just keep in mind that some things in common for those who have walked the Ri path are hard work, an open mind, and an insatiable curiosity. Your mission is to find your way there, and you must want it.

Are you ready to start your journey?

Cultural awareness in the coach-client relationship is a key to making it a productive and fulfilling one, and as such is one of the key ICF core competencies.

ICF defines the embodiment of a coaching mindset as developing and maintaining a mindset that is open, curious, flexible, and client-centered.

In the first article of this series, we covered the first foundation of embodying a coaching mindset,

  1. Acknowledges that clients are responsible for their own choices.

In the last post we covered the foundation of embodying a coaching mindset item regarding self-development. This article will cover another ICF Core Competency – cultural awareness and its fit in the coach-client relationship. Namely we will talk about the competency,

  1. Remains aware of and open to the influence of context and culture on self and others

This foundational aspect of the coaching mindset will show up in your relationship with the client. As a coach, it is important that we are aware that the context the client is speaking from has an impact on their viewpoints. Our context may be different which can provide additional perspectives and insight for the client if we are careful not to drag them into our own ideas.  But if we depend too much on our own context, it will hinder our ability to listen to the client because we will believe we already understand. Cultural awareness allows us to expand our view, and embrace the variety of cultural backgrounds and underpinnings a client comes to this relationship.

Cultural norms and differences can also show up in our conversations and have an influence on the relationship and conversation both positive and negative ways.  One example of this comes from an experience I had while observing a coaching session recently. During the session, the client said, “I want to trust more that God will help me through this situation.” The coach responded, “What can you do to trust the god more?” How much of the cultural awareness did the coach surface in that question? Not much.

This is an example of what could happen if a coach is not aware of the impact of context and culture. The slight variation in the wording of the coach’s response completely changed the context of the client’s statement. This was a cultural difference between the coach and client where the client held the belief of God as singular and the coach held the belief that there are many gods. The coach meant no harm to the client or opposition to the client’s beliefs by using the phrasing “the god,” he was just unaware of the impact the cultural differences made to the context of the conversation. The slight shift in wording could have derailed the client’s thought process. It had the potential to cause the client to shift from focusing on strengthening his own faith to explaining or justifying his faith to the coach. It also had the ability to impact the coach/client relationship by making the client feel judged or defensive about his own faith which might hinder the client from seeking coaching around topics of faith in the future.

Of course, ICF doesn’t expect coaches to understand everything about every culture and be a pinnacle of cultural awareness, but they do expect that the coach is open and mindful of the impacts that differences in culture may have. When working with clients of a different culture, it behooves the coach to learn more about the cultural differences in order to understand the client more. It is also important for the coach to listen closely and to be careful when using the client’s language that the coach doesn’t put their own spin on it based upon the coach’s context, beliefs, and experiences.


Tandem Coaching Academy was excited to host Christine Thompson in our Coaching Tools and Techniques Meetup. We had a blast listening and learning about NLP Strategies and how those can be used by coaches in their practice. We hope you will enjoy it too.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

This is a full transcript of the House of Scrum – The Framework Overview video I recorded last year.

The House of Scrum is a metaphor for the Scrum Framework I came up with sometime last year. And it turned out to be a helpful way to explain the framework to people who would like to learn more about Scrum. So let’s get started.

Scrum is a framework that people use to address complex adaptive problems, while productively and creatively delivering products of the highest possible value. Scrum is lightweight simple to understand and difficult to master. As Ken Schwaber, the co-creator of Scrum said the framework takes two days to learn in the lifetime to master.

It’s very important to understand that Scrum is not a method, process, or technique. It’s a framework. The framework can use various processes and practices within itself. The House of Scrum is built on a solid foundation of empirical process control or empiricism. Empiricism says that knowledge comes from experience and experimentation and the best decisions are made around what known. So what it means it basically says, try new things, validate your hypothesis, learn new stuff, and then go and make better decisions.

The empiricism has three pillars. These are transparency, inspection, and adaptation. And as we’ll see later, these three pillars lend themselves really well to the Scrum Framework.

Transparency requires that the process is visible to its participants. Two examples of transparency in Scrum Framework are a common language that should be shared by everyone, and the Definition of Done to ensure everyone is on the same page in the understanding of the state of work.

In Scrum, we frequently inspect its artifacts and progress towards a Sprint Goal. How often do we before the inspection? Well frequent enough as not to let the problems fester and accumulate, but not as frequent as for the process to get in the way of work. Inspection is best done at the point of work by those who are most qualified to inspect Scrum artifacts. If the inspection uncovers some variances from the desired outcome they should be fixed, and that’s where adaptation’s coming in. Just in time adaptation is best as it prevents further deviations.

Scrum adds another layer to the foundation. Think about it as a level that raises your house above the floodwater quite a useful concept here in Houston. This level consists of Scrum values and those values are courage, commitment, focus, openness, and respect. If you want an easier way to remember these I use the acronym CCFOR or double-C4

Scrum Team members are courageous to do the right thing to achieve the goal and the work on tough and complex adaptive problems. They are committed to achieving the goals of the Scrum Team. Scrum Team focuses on both the work done in the Sprint and the goal of the team. Stakeholders and Scrum Team, Scrum Team members, agree to be open about the work, open about the process and challenges with those. And last but not least, we expect people to be capable and independent individuals.

I want to dwell a little bit more on this last one. Explaining the value of respect I always like to expand on the Scrum Guide definition. For me respect goes in all directions it goes laterally. We respect our customers; we focus on delivering the right thing with the highest quality. We respect our suppliers, for example, not asking for what we don’t need. Respect goes down to the subordinates, and it goes up to the managers. Respect goes in all directions and it’s absolutely crucial for the smooth functioning of a great Scrum Team.

Now let’s move on to exploring the rest of the Scrum Framework which is also known as a 3-5-3 framework. Scrum Framework has three artifacts, five events, and three roles. Hence 3-5-3 framework. The rules of Scrum, bind artifacts, events, and roles altogether. Artifacts are transparent, events are formal opportunities to inspect and adapt, and roles come with a set of their own accountabilities.

So let’s start with artifacts and there are three of them. These are Product Backlog, Sprint Backlog, and a Done Increment.

Product Backlog is an ordered list of everything that can potentially make its way into the product. Product Backlog items comprise Product Backlog and can be expressed as user stories, defects, features, technical work, learning hypothesis, or everything. Everyone can contribute to the Product Backlog, but the Product Owner is responsible for its ordering. Order is not a priority. The order includes dependencies, cost, risk, value. It is quite more than just priorities.

Product Backlog is never complete as long as the product exists. It is dynamic and emergent. As new information becomes available Product Backlog might be adjusted to reflect it. Product Backlog is detailed through a continuous process of refinement, not an event. And that process takes no more than 10% of the Development Team’s capacity. Product Backlog is transparent to everyone through its ordering and inherent value.

Sprint Backlog, though a backlog as well, is quite different from the Product Backlog. Sprint Backlog contains Scrum Team’s forecast of work they will do in the Sprint and a plan on how they will convert chosen PBI items into the Done Increment. Development Team owns Sprint Backlog and only the Development Team can change that.

Sprint Backlog can, and probably will change. And that goes against the grain of some people’s saying, “Oh, Sprint Backlog never changes after Sprint Planning is done.” It will change. And as the work is being performed, new things are learned and uncovered, and they will be required to achieve the Sprint Goal. Some items might become obsolete and will be removed from the Sprint Backlog. So Sprint Backlog can and will change.

Sprint Backlog is emergent as is Product Backlog. The what might change as the new learnings are obtained, and how might, and probably will change, as the Development Team inspections its progress towards the Sprint Goal at least daily.

Last but not least, Increment or Done Increment, which is the sum of all work done in the current Sprint, and the value of all increments from previous Sprints. Scrum requires Done Increment to be available at least at the end of each Sprint. Done means usable in accordance with a Definition of Done. It doesn’t mean it has to be released but it should be potentially releasable.

This also doesn’t mean that Scrum prevents you from having a Done Increment at any point in time within a Sprint. The Increment emerges as well. You see all the artifacts are emergent artifacts by nature. And it is been added to every time a Product Backlog item is getting done. The Done Increment is transparent and it’s done in accordance with the Definition of Done and inspected by the Scrum Team and stakeholders to determine further development directions.

Now, let’s move on to the right or your left; to the roles was their accountabilities, And there are three of them, Product Owner, the Development Team, and the Scrum Master. Let’s start with the Product Owner.

The role of the Product Owner is hard. She is the chief value maximizer responsible for getting the most valuable pieces in customers’ hands. She is solely responsible for managing and ordering the Product Backlog. The concept is widely misunderstood. The Product Owner can, and probably should delegate the writing of Product Backlog Items and refinement process to others, but she cannot delegate the responsibility of ordering of those Product Backlog Items.

I recently got a question about whether stakeholders can write Product Backlog items and contribute to the Product Backlog and the answer is, “they absolutely can as long as the Product Owner role and its accountabilities remain intact.” So, another important thing to remember that the Product Owner is a single person and not a committee. Hence a single suite, single occupancy suite here, in the House of Scrum. He is the only person who is responsible for ordering the Product Backlog. The entire organization must respect the Product Owner’s decision for this role to be successful.

The Development Team is accountable for delivering potentially releasable Done Increment at least at the end of every Sprint. Development Teams are self-organizing, and it behooves organizations to empower the teams to be self-organizing entities from their formation to getting work done.

Development Teams are cross-functional. And I hear a lot that cross-functionality means that everybody on the team should be able to do everything. That will make the team cross-functional for sure. But that’s not the point. The point of cross-functionality is that the Development Team has to have all skills necessary to get work done with little or no external dependencies.

There are no titles on the Development Team. Every team member is a team member. There are no sub-teams, there are no frontend team, backend team, or any other subteam. Everyone is guided by a single Sprint Goal and doing everything necessary to get the work done.

The size of the Development Team is three to nine team members. If there are less than three members on the Development Team, the team will likely just struggle to get meaningful work done by the end of the Sprint, and they will probably not have all the skills necessary to get the work done. If there are more than nine team members on the Development Team, then the communication will get cumbersome and the complexity will rise which is not desirable.

And last but not least the Scrum Master role. Scrum Master is accountable for promoting and supporting the Scrum Framework. Scrum Master is a servant leader whose success is realized through the success of those she serves. Scrum Master teachers organizations which interactions with Scrum Teams are useful and which are not. Experienced Scrum Master serves the Product Owner, the Development Team, and the organization as a whole.

Now let’s move on to the events which as you remember our form of opportunities to inspect and adapt, and there are five of them: the Sprint, Sprint Planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review, and Sprint Retrospective.

The events are designed to provide cadence and regularity. This ensures that the benefits of these events will happen rain or shine at preset time intervals. The events are time-boxed, meaning they have the maximum duration set. An event usually ends when the time box expires or the goal of the event is achieved. With the exception of Sprint, all it means is that if you got what you need out of your event, get out, end the event.

Sprint is a container for all other events and its time box is one month or less. Some prefer to mention four weeks as it’s more aligned with the way they work. Sprint may be considered a project of one month or less duration. No changes made within a Spring that would endanger Sprint Goal. Quality and quality expectations do not decrease during the Sprint. Therefore it’s a bad idea to change the Definition of Done outside of Sprint Retrospective during a Sprint.

The scope of work within the Sprint can be changed and will be clarified between the Development Team and Product Owner as the new things are learned and as the work is being done.

A couple more things about Sprint. There is no Sprint zero. All work is done within a Sprint and leads to a Done Increment. There are no hardening Sprints, there are no testing Sprints, there are no UX Sprints. Each and every Sprint leads to the achievement of a Sprint Goal and creation of a done, potentially releasable valuable increment.

Sprint can be canceled by the Product Owner, if and only if, the Sprint Goal becomes obsolete. Sprint cancellation is quite a traumatic event for the Scrum Team because the work was done, efforts were wasted, time was wasted, and with Sprint’s being so short, the four weeks or less, there’s rarely a reason to cancel a Sprint.

Let’s move on to Sprint Planning. The goal of Sprint Planning is to plan the work to be executed during the Sprint. It’s timeboxed to eight hours for a one-month long Sprint. For shorter Sprint’s the amount is usually shorter. Just notice that we do not say that is proportionally shorter. It is shorter.

Sprint Planning usually consists of two parts. In the first part the Scrum Team decides what it will be working on and as a result crafts the spring goal. In the second part the Development Team decides how to convert selected PBIs – Product Backlog items into the down increment.

Daily Scrum is the Development Team event. It’s an inspect and adapt event for the Development Team. And this event is time-boxed to 15 minutes or less.

In this event Development Team inspects its progress towards the Sprint Goal and adapts its plan to ensure the goal is still achievable. Remember the Sprint Backlog, the what part and the how part? That’s what’s been inspected here and adapted here in the Daily Scrum.

Daily Scrum is not a status report meeting. And while the Scrum Guide suggests the content for the Daily Scrum, the Development Team should and probably need to figure out the best way to conduct its inspect and adapt event.

What’s the role of Scrum Master there? He or she will ensure that the Development Team has the meeting, the meeting occurs, and preferably at the same time in the same place. Scrum Master teaches the team to keep the event under 15 minutes. And if others are present in the meeting, Scrum Master ensures that they know and respect the fact that Daily Scrum is an internal Development Team event.

Let’s talk about the Sprint review. Sprint review occurs at the end of the Sprint and is an opportunity to inspect the Done Increment and collaborate with the stakeholders on what’s next. While demoing the increment could be a part of the review, it’s not the main point of that event. And the Sprint review is timeboxed to four hours or less for a one-month long Sprint.

All Scrum Team members are present in the event to ensure that sharing of learnings, ideas, and future directions are maximized. This is a great event to bring up budgets, to talk about market directions, to discuss future plans, release plans, to share impediments and problems with work and product.

As a result of the Sprint Review, we will adjust the Product Backlog. The Product Backlog is adapted to reflect possible PBIs – Product Backlog items for the next Sprint.

And the last but not least Sprint Retrospective. You probably remember that at regular intervals the team reflects on how to become more effective, and then tunes and adjusts his behavior accordingly. This is the 12th principle behind the manifesto for Agile software development, and it’s the heart and soul for Sprint Retrospective. The whole Scrum Team participates in the event and the event is timeboxed to three hours or less for a month-long Sprint.

The outcome of the Sprint Retrospective is at least one improvement item that the Development Team agrees to work on in the next Sprint. And in order to be held accountable and in order to make it transparent, it’s put on the Sprint Backlog. Can improvements be identified outside of the retrospective? They absolutely can; remember that all these events, they are formal opportunities to inspect and adapt. You can inspect and adapt much more often than that.

So, you will ask, “what about these concepts of Definition of Done, Sprint Goal, and Product Backlog refinement?” Well, Definition of Done is not an official artifact and neither is Sprint Goal, and Product Backlog refinement is not an event. And I think this one is probably the simplest to explain. Product Backlog refinement is a continuous process and, apparently, Scrum Guide authors didn’t feel the need to introduce a cadence for that process. All they say is that Product Backlog refinement is beneficial, it’s a good process, and should take no more than 10% of Development Teams capacity.

Sprint Goal is mentioned 27 times in the latest iteration of the Scrum Guide, and it’s not an artifact. I personally prefer to think about a Sprint Goal as the third overarching part of the Sprint Backlog. Sprint Goal is crafted in the Sprint Planning. Sprint Backlog most likely is full of activities that support the achievement of Sprint Goal, and Sprint Goals lifespan coincides with that of the Sprint duration and the lifespan of the Sprint Backlog.

Definition of Done is a completely another topic and deserves absolutely separate conversation. All I will say here is that while other artifacts are transparent, the Definition of Done in my mind is what provides that transparency, embodies that transparency as it provides a common understanding of the qualities of the Done Increment, for example.


ICF defines the embodiment of a coaching mindset as developing and maintaining a mindset that is open, curious, flexible, and client-centered.

In the last issue, we covered the first foundation of embodying a coaching mindset,

  1. Acknowledges that clients are responsible for their own choices.

Let’s now take a look at the next two items: 

  1. Engages in ongoing learning and development as a coach
  2. Develops an ongoing reflective practice to enhance one’s coaching

These two items speak to the coaching mindset around self-development and personal growth. A coach should have a learning mindset rather than a fixed mindset, and it is the expectation that credentialed coaches with the ICF are striving to make improvements in themselves as coaches and as humans. This expectation makes continuing education essential. It is not enough to learn about coaching and get a credential. What is also important is that a coach continues on the learning journey to improve their skills and ability to work with others as a coach. If we expect people to embrace coaching as a discipline to help them create new learning and awareness so they can make continual improvements in their own lives, shouldn’t we as coaches expect the same from ourselves?

One thing I have learned through my training others and learning for myself is that we can learn from a variety of experiences. Coaches learn how to become better coaches and develop their coaching mindset by experiencing coaching for themselves, by practicing coaching and getting feedback, and through observing coaching with others. The new information and inputs all of these three perspectives give us are invaluable in our continuous learning and development. This foundational competency around self-development will not manifest itself in your coaching with a specific question you ask a client; however, it will show up in the competency with which you work. Your clients will observe that you are growing and improving as you learn more about your work with them, and as you reflect on things, you might improve.

There are many ways that you can continue to grow and exercise your coaching mindset after you get your ICF credentials. Take continuing education classes and learn a new discipline. Join an organization like and experience peer coaching rounds to practice with other coaches around the world. Join a local online coaching circle where other practicing coaches are gathering to learn from one another and get feedback on the impact of their coaching. Hire a coach to experience the power of working with a professional coach on real-world issues that impact your life and business. Hire a coaching supervisor to help you reflect on the work you are doing with your clients and learn from it. Hire a mentor coach to review recordings of your coaching and give you feedback on how to strengthen your competencies.

The stronger you grow in your experience of coaching, the stronger your coaching mindset, the better coach you will be to serve your clients. This growth mindset will show up in your coaching because you will become more flexible, creative, and relational. Your clients will benefit, and so will you!

Cherie Silas and I discuss the importance of professional coaching skills for Agilists. In short – they are paramountly important. 

If you want to up your coaching game – our next Coaching in Agile Environments  program cohorts are starting in July. Check it out and sign up!


Tandem Coaching Academy was excited to host Suzanne Doyle in our Coaching Tools and Techniques Meetup. We had a blast listening and learning about Curiosity and how it helps Agile Teams to become great. We hope you will enjoy it too.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

As a consultant, I have been constantly worried about staying employed during our global pandemic and how I am going to care for my just-turned-seven-years-old son while his school and daycare are shut down. I’m youngish with too much self-inflation but too distracted to unpack that much past writing a blog sentence or three. These are my thoughts about work, food, and some important things I missed.

So here we are in what is a worldwide slowdown. Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, I’ve been reconsidering my existence and how I (should) interact with the world. I’m an extrovert to boot, so talking too much and in-person is my jam. And I am always doing four or five things in immediate succession or in parallel because of #everydayimhustling. Amidst the chaotic swirling in my head, here are some realities breaking through the zombie-scrolling, exhausted motherhood, and longing-for-naps reality that was my life until we all got sent to our rooms for spreading a virus.


Work actually ramped up, not down. It’s like we were going to be, only now with my son walking in my room + my team being more disconnected than usual. Work is more difficult than it was days ago. And to get a jump on maintaining the professional space I have allocated for my business, I even Amazon Primed a remote-controlled sign for my office french door to make it clear I’m ‘on air’: in a conference call, podcasting, vanity vlogging, legitimately video recording, or some variation of onlinedom. Our team is more disrupted now more than ever. But you know what? I’ve embraced that disruption with my team on-camera because my kid doesn’t stop existing because we’re in a Skype meeting. Work/life balance requires understanding and tolerance enough to keep moving. We are humans who have other humans in our steads. We have to be intentional about what we’re doing, which is a good thing.

I still have a full-time job. I realize I am in a growing minority, and I am fully conscious of the onset of a form of survivor’s guilt I’m starting to feel. I’m grateful AF, but I’m also worried AF about most of the people in my life who own small businesses, sell homes and everything in between. The people I know who aren’t able to literally dial their jobs are at risk. I know of someone headed to New York to work with COVID-19 patients. I still cannot process some of that.

My hour+ commute across town? Not sure how I’m going to resume that. See the first point above — while there are challenges, do we even need to go back to the office now that we’ve been working out our main issues in how we interact? It will be regression if we get to a place where we can work in a distributed format and optimize our time and then revert to the way we used to work. I am praying that observations are being made and we end up landing on a hybrid of in-person vs. remote interactions after we are all no longer grounded. I worry about the impact it’ll have on my son the most, who has quickly acclimated to having me within arms reach, only to ‘lose’ me again to the traffic and location of another place. I’m not processing this future-state as well as I should.


I forgot that I can actually cook and not make too much of a mess (minus sprinkles I dropped, because I was half-asleep making a cake.) I remembered to an overemotional degree I enjoyed cooking before my career took center stage. I’ve been more connected with memories of my late grandmothers and my late father, all of whom loved to cook. Would I have had these memories return to me if I hadn’t reconnected with making bread or beef stew? I don’t think I would have, which has me focused on what I should be sharing with my own child as we’re moving through life at breakneck speed. Heritage is becoming amplified more and more.

And go figure: I really don’t need to buy food someone else prepared for lunch. I can actually make and eat my own lunch and for/with my child. It’s a miracle.

I think I’ve lost weight (?) even though I’m not sure how, because we aren’t starving. I’m not eating less, I don’t think. I just know my clothes aren’t tighter, they’re looser. And speaking of clothing, (omg) I can do laundry and work at the same time. Who knew, right? (Laundry, for the record, still sucks. Even coronavirus can’t change that.) #derp


I am constantly thankful beyond measure to have blazing fast internet, a fully operational web/mic computer ‘studio’, a dedicated office, Zoom Pro, and a bunch of other tooling that allows me to virtually connect professionally and personally. I’m especially grateful for this house in this neighborhood and these neighbors. Long-term memory proves that path has stabilized us up until this moment, which is an altogether another blog/vlog/whatever. Just suffice it to say I am eversothankful to be living in an age where we all still can connect and see each other and talk and share while within the confines of our own isolation.


You don’t realize what you miss until it’s not accessible. No, not toilet paper (although I remain mystified at the hoarding while simultaneously freaking out I don’t have a backup pack.) I’m talking about the weekly gathering of categoried churchfolk — on Sundays and in our small group/home group. (Our church calls them discipleship groups, d-groups for short.)

I love Sundays and rehearsals for Sundays with my entire heart and have deepened that love intentionally as each week passes. Conversely, I must confess that d-group wasn’t really my favorite thing at first. I’m an extrovert, remember? And I sure felt like I was the *only one* in our d-group for a long time…to the point I seriously considered ditching for what felt like the forced interaction we all seemed to squirm in. I stuck it out because it was going to take too much effort to leave, but trust me — I was not all in, like “oooh, let me embrace the awkward silences that await me.” I felt like an outsider, like a bad fit. A little more time passed and a few more folks joined our group, so I decided yeah, I’m good, I’ll stick it out a while longer, this is nice, yay. After all, I serve in church and I’m good with that, you know…whatever.

I was content with what I thought it became.

I wasn’t conscious of the shift that happened until it became obvious I couldn’t see these same people a few weeks ago. Between our church going virtual and grieving the loss of being with people there, and then our d-group going virtual, I have become increasingly agitated and emotional.I have no outlet, nobody in person I can access. And the creeping reality into my consciousness is how my half-ass involvement created this unrest. I am forced to see something I missed.

Our groups didn’t even get online for a week or more, and when I finally did see them in a Zoom meeting, I all but cried. These ‘background’ folks? Somewhere between my apathetic and categorical involvement and today, they have become the backdrop to my ‘friends and family’ reality…the foundational, gentle reminder that people who aren’t like me can still love and appreciate the chaos that I am, my kid, and my partner in crime and I can do the same. I am nearly inconsolable at my inability to be with the teams and my d-group. They are the “thing” I miss the most.

I am strongly confronted with the fact that maybe what I’ve thought about what real love and friendship is all wrongAfter all, I’m used to being the host, the provider, the leader, the doer, the driver, the pioneer of all of these things and interactions. The big revelation: Am I really that self-absorbed? Am I really that shallow? Am I that scared? Have I been so caught up in the idea that doing stuff somehow made me more valuable in my own relationships? Maybe so, but I also realize I don’t have to stay that way. Is it wrong to ask, “Can we stay inside just a little longer?” Isolation in moments like these forces us to confront unfiltered truth.

Even the dog is happier with people actually staying home. My neighbors (well most of them) are practicing distancing + walking + even pranking each other by moving a statue from yard to yard and using a social media group to track it. Kids and neighbors are posting physical signs encouraging each other, drawing messages on sidewalks, putting bears in windows for a ‘social distancing neighborhood walk’ for kids to spot.

Why in TF have we not done this before now?

It begs deep questions of what it really means to be with our families and with each other and what we take for granted. Is it wrong to dread the moment when these shelter restrictions lift because we will all resume our normally scheduled programs and overloaded lives? Don’t get me wrong, I am not wanting to prolong the health and economic crises by which we are held prisoner. I long to go to a movie or have a party. But we all know this moment will fade and we’ll be back to screaming even louder about politicians we hate and forget that this moment showed us something invaluable.

I’m still processing, so I’ll end this for now. I am considering that the greatest gift of social distancing is the reframing of what we consider actual socializing and meaning. I hope with all my heart it doesn’t fade.


Tandem Coaching Academy was excited to host Ted Wallace and Keith Wallace in our Coaching Tools and Techniques Meetup. We had a blast listening and learning about Total Brain Coaching – a holistic system to help people effectively change their habits. We hope you will enjoy it too.

If you would like to listen to the meetup recording you can signup for the soundcast here, or listen to the podcast here.  

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Ellen Grove gave during the workshop on the topic of building alignment through team agreement.

About The Speaker

Ellen Grove is an Interim Managing Director at Agile Alliance. She helps organizations, leaders and teams deliver better results through coaching them to bring about the circumstances in which they can work most productively and create real organizational change. As a business agility coach, she helps teams and leaders in all parts of the enterprise to actively address the organization’s most pervasive problems. She introduces techniques from Scrum, Lean, Kanban, Extreme Programming, and Systems Coaching to promote successful collaborative environments that can adapt to changing business circumstances. She also delivers training and workshops in a variety of experiential formats to build the foundations for an agile mindset and practices, and use coaching and facilitation to solve the tough people problems and overcome obstacles to organization change at the team, managerial and corporate levels.

Other Best Agile Articles 2018 Posts


Ellen Grove  And it’s something that has helped me considerably in my work as a team coach and as a leadership coach with organizations, this practice of making explicit, what of our ex… what are our expectations of each other as we work together? I think this is really important because one of the hallmarks of high performing teams is that everybody brings a different experience and a different perspective to the table. Um…teams that have like minded people where people come in expecting the same routines; expecting the same approach, are possibly, not always, they’re not always the most functional teams or… I don’t want to say they’re dysfunctional… but they’re not necessarily the highest performing teams, and that we tend to get the best results when we’ve got a diversity of thought and experience at the table. And with diversity in thought, Comes different expectations, comes conflict, comes the need to have hard conversations, the need to try new ideas and this is where working agreements can be really useful. Great teams exist in a state of – it’s called productive disequilibrium, right? We’re trying to be productive but we’re always a little bit out of balance because teams are a living system and living systems that are in equilibrium are dead. So, we want to be constantly seeking equilibrium but we’re never going to be fully within balance. But working agreements are a tool that can help us through that; help us manage that constant dynamic tension that high performing teams try to maintain. Um…the reason this background of this slide has a picture of broccoli is because that issue of, How do we use working agreements to manage conflict?

I worked with the team once, at a place that should probably remain nameless, helping to lift off a new team. And one of the things that became really clear in their early conversations was everybody on the team was kind of uncomfortable with the idea of being in conflict with each other. They were a new team; they were trying to put their best foot forward; they wanted to be successful together, but they’re like, “Oh, we don’t really like it when things get rough.” And in the course of the conversation, they identified that maybe this was going to be a problem to – to them being effective. And they decided as a team that what they needed was a team safe word. That when in conversations and meetings and stand-ups, if somebody thought, “ooh, things are – there’s an issue we’re avoiding here,” they needed a word that they could toss out and share to signal, “Hey, I think we need to stop and talk about this.” And the word they happen to pick was broccoli. And this stuck with me because this is the first time in my practice of lifting off teams the team had decided on a safe word that they wanted to use. But it was a practice that worked really well for them. If they all started using it right away, we’d be having a meeting suddenly, somebody would go, “uhhhhhh, broccoli!”  It’s like, oh, okay, we need to stop and talk about that thing that we’re not talking about right now that we’re all dancing around and it was, it was really cool to see that in action.

So there’s a couple of approaches that you might take to building this alignment as a team to get to work together well, and a couple of places where I’ve taken inspiration from and how I use this in practice. One comes from Kent Beck in Extreme Programming Explained, where he talks about the idea of having teams identify their simple guiding principles; overarching ideas that we agree on as a team that are probably informed by our by our values that are a little bit more specific than our values. That helps us make the right choices about what we want to do if we articulate our principles when decisions come up about how do we behave together? How do we react to this situation? We can point to our principles and go, “Oh, okay, if we follow that principle, this is what we want to choose.”  Um…another approach that I often use, as well, is having more behaviorally focused working agreements. Rather than just articulating a set of high level principles, we actually get very specific about the kinds of behaviors so that people are very clear and crisp about, “here are the skills and behaviors we want to develop as a team. Here are the things that we want to work on right now in order to increase our effectiveness.”

You can use either of these approaches as the means to help design our culture together. That’s really what working agreements, what simple guiding principles are for. It’s about how do we co create the culture we want to have together? How do we align on how are we going to be together in order to be a successful team? So just to give a simple example of the difference between a principle and sort of a more behaviorally driven working agreement, a principle might be something like “Be Present.” And this is often what comes out early in conversations. But what what’s important to us how do we want to be, we want people to be present. Okay, well, what does it mean? What would it look like if we have that? A more behavioral approach might be something like not having your electronics on the table during discussions, or not using headphones in the team room. Or… uh… I’m just thinking both of those behaviors aren’t really very relevant in a distributed world where we’re all connecting through electronics, most of us have our headphones on, but they give you an example of the difference between the high level principle versus the nitty gritty, “here’s a thing that we want to do differently.” So, these are also very simple, ver- very simple living documents and I Just wanted to show a couple of examples of what some of the working agreements that I’ve co-created with teams look like in practice, short lists of key ideas, whether they’re principle based ideas or specific behavior based ideas. Clear, easy to understand, co-created by the team, and visible and present as part of our visual management system, so that they’re there when we need to refer to them. Uh…Because that’s another critical element of the success of a working agreement. What gives them their power is for team members to be able to look at them and refer to them when you need to; particularly when you feel somebody isn’t or, and it might be yourself, but, when somebody on the team isn’t living up to what we’ve agreed to, it’s a lot harder. Just go to somebody and go, “You know what, we talked about doing this and I don’t think you’re doing it and it’s making me crazy” versus If you have this front and center, if you have the sort of the rules of the game posted in the team space, sometimes that makes it easier for people to call it out and go, “Hey, you know what? I think we all agreed that we were going to do this. And I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. What do we want to do about that, because I’m going to call broccoli on the team.” So having it simple, very simple, very clear, very visible, and very easy to update as the team matures, those are some of the hallmarks of a really successful working agreement.

So the kinds of things that you might put in a working agreement, often when I start working with teams, a lot of them tend to really focus on the process kind of logistics; when they say, “hey, let m-” when I say “let’s sit down and create a working agreement,” their minds jump to, “Okay, we’ll have our meetings at this time, and we’ll meet here, and we’ll do that.” and they might get into talking about let’s agree that we’re going to talk about things face to face rather than using email.Um… But when I create a working agreement with the team, I want to dive in a little deeper than that. And these are kind of at a high level, these are the sorts of questions that we explore in a conversation about working agreements. First of all, we want to get at, for each person, what’s important to them as a team member? What to them means… what does being a successful team mean to them? We want to create a collective understanding of what ar- what do we value together and how do we show it? The really important ideas are the how do we want to treat each other? How do we want to work together as a team? And what do we want to do when we don’t agree? Because, I think a lot of us go into a new team with an expectation that everybody thinks the same way we do about how a function a high functioning team should work. But when I go back to what I said at the outset about, one of the things that really makes us successful team is having bringing people together with diverse experience and diverse perspectives, it’s not really realistic to expect that we all have the same idea of what makes a great team. And if we spend a little bit of time upfront exploring that, that can really help take us a long way in terms of getting to be a functioning team sooner rather than later.

So, on that note, I want to stop talking at you for a little bit and give you a chance to explore some of these ideas in the breakout rooms. So what I’m going to share is setting up the breakout rooms. The question that I want to ask of you is I want you to think for a moment and we’ll take a couple of seconds to reflect individually on this. I want you to Think back to the teams that you’ve been a part of. And I want you to think back about what was one of your best team experiences? Or conversely, what was one of your worst team experiences? And I want you to think a lot about how did the team members behave in that setting. And that’s the subject of your conversation in breakout rooms. Whether it was the best team or the worst team, you might want to make clear which one it was, how did the team members behave that contributed to the team working that way? So we’re going to break you into groups of about four or five people. And we’ll give you four minutes to share your experiences and your ideas about that in the breakout room.

Host  Okay, I just need to put one person in the room with his telephone. So let me move one person real quick. So that way… he is both in one place. Okay. I’m going to open up the breakout rooms and send you in those. And Ellen, you’re in a room by yourself so you can pop back out if it sucks you in automatically. And I said five minutes right, you’ll get a two minute warning.

Ellen Grove  Yeah, that will be great. 

Host  Okay 

Ellen Grove  Excellent. Excellent. Welcome back. Well, I hope certainly heard that there were interesting conversations going on in a couple of the breakouts. And I hope that gave everybody a chance to hear firsthand, first of all, the kinds of experiences that people have had and how there’s a real range in what we value as team experiences. Or even perhaps you might have found that some people identified, “Awww I had a team member who did this thing and it was the worst thing ever.” And somebody else is thinking, “Wait, I love it when my team members do that.” And this is the purpose of creating a team working agreement is to make some of these assumptions explicit; so that we can decide together, how can we work together to be more successful. We can be aware of what people’s preferences are, what people’s, you know, what people really like, and what are the things that are going to make them crazy as team members? Sorry, let me advance my slide here. So this is about it. Working agreements are about aligning expectations about making sure that everybody is on the same page about, for us, for this group of people, what do we think it means to be a good team? What are the things that we need to focus on as a team in order to be a more more effective team? When you create a working agreement with the team, it helps individuals become more aware of their own behavior. So simply by having the conversation about, “hey, these are the kinds of things that we want to be doing”, you don’t have to have somebody who’s being kind of, you know, the behavior monitor for the team. If the team has talked about and said, “Oh, we want to focus more on communicating this way” or “we want to make sure that we’re doing this”, every individual is more inclined to think about, “Am I doing that?”, “Am I doing enough of that?”, “Am I doing too…” you know, to evaluate their own behavior, and step up to the plate a little bit differently. Having a working agreement gives us a mechanism for establishing mutual accountability. When we have created a working agreement, and ideally, as part of creating the working agreement, we’re going to ask explicitly, “What do we think we should do if these things aren’t happening?” That gives all team members a space to hold each other accountable. Because we’ve already agreed explicitly, hey, as a team, we sat down, we had the conversation, we’re going to do all of these things, and we’ve talked about what we’re going to do if they’re not happening. Even if people aren’t feeling as confident as they might about calling each other out. It gives them a tool that they can use to say, “Hey, we agreed on this, it’s not going on, what do we want to do about it?” So it’s a means of establishing clarity, of being transparent about what our assumptions and what our desired behaviors are, and really creating respect for how other people want to be as part of the team. You know, and if you had to wrap it all up, it’s a tool that allows us to encourage –  we want diversity and thinking because we want people to bring different ideas and different opinions to the table. But having said that, we do want to have some degree of harmony and behavior so that people can work together effectively; you know how the human system works.
So we’ve talked about a couple of these things. But I want to tackle some of the questions that are coming up in chat here. What makes a good working agreement? So good working agreement? First of all, ideally, it’s short. It’s just a list. The team has had a conversation about “what… how do we want to be together?” and as identified a really short list of things, three, maybe five things, that we’re going to focus on. I have to laugh about this because one of the organizations that I was coaching and we went as, as a new coach in the organization, I went to visit a team. And they had a list of working agreements; It was like 40 items long. And I served with a couple of other coaches. So we’re like, wow, wow, that’s that’s an impressive list of items. It must have taken you a long time to come up with that list. And the team told us Oh, no, we just went around and scraped the working agreements from all of the teams around us and put them together. Easy peasy. And I was like, why did you even bother doing that? Because not only was it this whole exhaustive list of behaviors, they had no ownership over it. They had just taken things that matter to other people and use them to create their own list. And that.. I just realized that something that I should have put on this slide. It’s something short and co-created by the people who’s working agreement it is.
And that’s why I just want to talk very briefly about one of the questions that came up in the chat, which is about having, should each team within an organization have their own working agreement? Or would you have an agreement for all teams collectively within an organization? And I think this is that place where that principles versus behaviors comes in really useful? Because I think it’s really important for teams working agreement to be created by the team, because really, it contains a short list of, “what are the things that we as a team want to do together, this group of people with our current state of relationship, our current state of maturity.” Having said that, I think it’s really reasonable at an organizational level, to have identified some of the principles that are around here in our… in our capacity as, as team members of organization XYZed, here at organization XYZed, we believe in these things. And so, it’s up to the individual teams to think about how does that translate into our day to day behavior. But having that organizational guidance makes sense, too. Um… but it has to be something that really translates to behavior. Working agreements have to be short; they have to be actionable. People should be able to read them and understand I know what we mean when we say we want to do these things. I mentioned this before, but we really want to focus on behavior over process. We want to make sure that it’s not just, this is when we have our stand ups, and this is where we’re going to be, and we use slack rather than email. But it’s more about how are people going to be with each other because that’s the stuff. That’s really the difficult stuff, I find. We like to gravitate towards talking about the process, because that’s nice and safe and comfortable. Really, what makes us successful is how individuals interact together to be a successful team and we want to dive right into that. And it needs to be something that’s easy to find when needed. So one of the other questions that came up in the chat was did I have ideas about how to do this with distributed teams, because it’s really easy. If you’ve got a, you know, a physical visual management system, it’s just part of right there next to your task board. Oh, and here’s our working agreements so we can see them every day and we have a reminder that we periodically need to tune them up. I think if you’re using if you’re working as a distributed team, there are still opportunities to bring that front and center. It’s something that you could just bring up. If you’re having a daily standup, maybe that’s the thing that everybody is looking at in their stand up, if that’s what you see in your, you know, share it in your team’s window, or pin it as a note in your Slack channel. Or possibly, depending on the tool that you’re using, you might be able to stick a card at the top of the board that has, “Hey! Here’s our working agreement.” There are lots of ways – it doesn’t have to be omnipresent all the time but – I think there are lots of ways to make it present in the other in sort of the day to day life of a distributed team. So that people… it’s always hovering at the edge of their awareness. You don’t have to have a “Let’s sit down and talk about our working agreement every day” meeting, but you can bring it in, you know, you can make it available as a reminder to people. 

So I talked about really focusing on behaviors rather than process and the questions that I like to use When we’re talking about things that we need to put in a working agreement, there’s these six questions are kind of my go to. Now, when I do this talk in a non-distributed setting, we explore these through Lego serious play. I couldn’t figure out how to share Lego with everybody. So unfortunately, we’re just going to talk about one of them today. But these are the questions that I use to get team members to open up. Let’s talk about our best or worst team member because that gives us a sense of the experience that people have had. And also, what do you like? Like… what… what do you like when other team about how other team members work with you? Or what are the things that people have done with you in the past that might be triggers for, “Oh, don’t talk to me like that!” I like to ask people to reveal what’s the superpower you bring to the table? What’s something about yourself that other team members might not see but it’s going to help the team be successful? What kind of help do I want from my teammates? Because I think this, again, is one of the hallmarks of really high performing team is a sign of a really functional team is when people are ready and able to ask for help as soon as they need it. And that’s something in a lot of professional environments that’s really hard. Because we’re conditioned to be the experts; we’re hired because we’re the best at our job. We have a deep knowledge of skill, you know, we have deep knowledge and skill in this area. And it’s really hard for people to come forward and go, I don’t know, I need help. Please help me. So having that conversation at the outset can be super useful. This is a question that I got from my friend Jake about talking about what happens for me when the going gets tough. If I appear to you to be stressed or overwhelmed. This is the kind of help I would like from my teammates. That’s really useful information for us to have before the going gets stressful because some people want a lot of hands-on support and encouragement. Other people are like, “No, I’ve just got to go figure this out. Leave me alone!” And wouldn’t it be awesome if we knew about that; if we knew what their preferences were before that happens? I think it’s really important as we’re talking about working agreements to talk about conflict. Um.. and I do a really simple exercise. We’re not going to do this one today; we’re going to discuss another question. But the conflict question is, I just get a bunch of different colored pieces of paper or you can use crayons, or marbles, or Skittles; doesn’t matter. Get the group around the table and ask them to pick the color that signifies conflict to them and why and just have a quick roundtable conversation about that. Because you might assume given some of the cultural associations we have with color and emotion, that everybody would pick the same color and they don’t. And you can learn some fascinating and really useful things about how all of the members of your team feel about getting into difficult situations just by doing this really simple exercise. And then the last question, which is, again, a really important one, is talking while we’re putting together our list of these are the things that we should do. What do we want to do if one of us is letting the team down? How do we, in the event that we’re not honoring our working agreement, how do we want to handle that? So everybody knows from the get go, this is how the process works. I know what’s going to happen if we noticed that this isn’t happy that what we’ve agreed to isn’t happening. And these six questions I think, are really, really useful for forming a working agreement. I’d like to send everybody back into the breakout rooms we still have time a five minute break out, Cherie?

Host  Yep, we still have 20 minutes.

Ellen Grove  Awesome. Perfect then, because what I would like to do is send you back into your breakout rooms to explore one of these six questions. I think I phrased a little differently between the slides. But the question that I’d like you to think about right now, I’ll give you a couple of seconds to think about it, and then talk about in your breakout groups, is this question, “What kind of help do you want as a team member? What kind of help do I want from other people on my team in order to be at my best?” So give you a couple of seconds to think about that and then we’ll send you into breakout rooms where you can chat, with the group that you met with before, about what kind of help would you want to be the best team member you could be?

Host  Okay, Welcome back, everybody, everyone is back in. So we’re good to go forward.

Ellen Grove  Excellent. I hope that brief conversation about what kind of help I want to accomplish two things. One, Hopefully you learned about other people in the group, what kind of help would they want to have to be good team members? Because if we were in a situation where we were starting off a new team, this would be fabulous information to have about how can I help my teammates be awesome, understanding and upfront what kind of assistance they want from me, helps me to be more of the kind of team member they’d like to work with. It also helps me as a team member think through, “Well, what what kind of help do I want?” Those of you out there who maybe aren’t… I know, I’m not a very introspective person – and while I know what I don’t want, I don’t think I ever spend much time thinking about, “well, what kind of help really do I want? What is this thing that helps me to be more effective at my job?” So having these conversations helps us clarify expectations, both between team members, but also internally. And I find that really, really valuable. And there’s are these are while everybody was in the breakout room, I was looking at some of the conversation in the chat and there were suggestions about here’s a template you can use. Here’s a great article. Here’s some ideas for how tool that you can use to shape this conversation. And I just want to say there’s lots of ideas out there. I – those six questions that I shared with you in the previous slide, I’ll go back to them. These are generally my go-to questions, because I find, for me, they touch on the important aspects of how do we want to be a team together they start to build, how do we appreciate each other? They dig into the, “What kind of help do I want from other people?”, “What are we going to do when the going gets rough? and especially if we find ourselves in conflict, give me a clue about what other people expect, because some people are very conflict avoidant. For other people. It’s like, Ooh, you know, lots of arm waving and loud voices. That’s how we exchange ideas. It’s really good to know upfront which way the other people in your team are wired. But there are other kinds of questions you might use. You don’t necessarily need to use my six. They’re a great place to start. But there are some other kinds of questions you might talk about. You might have an explicit conversation about values. What are the values that we hold together, what’s important to us, what matters? What kind of space do we want to create together? Real- you might, depending on the team, I’m not sure I would use this with a new team but certainly if you are revisiting your working agreement with the team that had begin to… begun to work together for a while, having an explicit conversation about how do we increase trust? How do we take it to the next level? Um… but I think it’s also the last one here, I think is really important, no matter which questions you ask is, “How will we know if our team agreement is working? What will we see? What will it feel like? What will we observe?” And I think that’s a really important thing to keep in mind when you’re building a team working agreement together. Because often when you sit down and you ask the team, how do we want to be together, you get, I mean, lovely suggestions like: Be present. Let’s treat each other with respect. But it’s really helpful to dig into what does that mean, if we’re treating each other with respect? What does that actually look like in practice? What is the observable behavior that signifies respect? Or if we didn’t have it for each other, what would it look like? Because that really helps a team come together and create a shared expectation of what we’re trying to do. But any set any set of questions, like I said, mine will work for me. But they all they all center around, how do we create the environment, the atmosphere we want as a team, what kind of behaviors will help us create that atmosphere? You might talk about, “How are we going to make decisions together and put that as part of the working agreement?” And and certainly that last bit of it, “How are we going to be in conflict together when it happens?” Because I’ll say the only places I’ve seen where conflict hasn’t surfaced have been some of the most dysfunctional organizations that I’ve ever worked with. “No! No! nothing to see here, move along.” People just aren’t wired that way; my experience.

Ellen Grove  So a simple framework that you might use for thinking about how do I have a working agreement conversation is getting the team together. And just, first of all, setting the context: Why is it important to create an agreement? Why- Why does it make sense for us to invest a little bit of time, aligning on our expectations about how we’re going to be together. Spending a little bit of time investing in some of those exploratory conversations, like the questions that I suggested that really get at: What’s important for me? How would I like to be helped? How can I help other people in the team?” without diving right into the, “What are the behaviors we are going to agree on?” Spend a little bit of time exploring the topic. After that conversation, that’s where you might ask the team members, “Oh, okay, given all of the things that we’ve talked about, and given what we know about each other so far, what do you think if we’re going to create a team working agreement, what do you think the specific behaviors we need to include in this working agreement, at this time, are?” And that’s what those questions about, “What would it look like if we had it?” or “What would it look like if we don’t have that?” that can come in helpful, because sometimes people will still propose a higher level, “be respectful”, “let’s be nice to each other”, “make sure every voice is heard”. And those are all great things. But sometimes those aren’t enough direction to let people know really, this is what it means when we’re making sure every voice is heard. So get the teams to propose team members to propose the specific behaviors they think are important at this time. And then as a team decide on, which are the ones that we want to focus on? Because you don’t want to overwhelm people with a list of here’s the 10 things that we want to do. Here are the two or three or five that are the most important to us right now and that we’re going to pay attention to. And then like any good meeting, let’s make sure that we agree so we’ll do some sort of confirmatory thing to make sure that everybody is bought in and then a checkout of the meeting. And I just included this in the list of the framework because I really like this question and I was-  while I was putting together these slides, I read a blog post from Jimmy Javelin. And the checkout question he suggested was, which one do you think will make the biggest difference? Which one is your favorite? And I love that as a way to get people to really focus on, “what have we decided to do here together? What part of this am I really excited about?” I also think that question might be a little very useful a little bit earlier when you’re trying to select the behaviors. If you can’t decide, which one do you think will make the biggest difference? Let’s focus on that right now. I added this in, this wasn’t part of my original blog posts but it’s something that came across my screen recently, and I just wanted to share to present a little bit of a different viewpoint on this topic of creating working agreements.  Because it’s…could be useful to you, Roger Shwartz, wrote The Skilled Facilitator who’s really he’s an expert facilitator and expert in group process, wrote a really interesting blog post on LinkedIn recently that says, You know what, sometimes you shouldn’t leave this up to the group because the groups actually don’t know enough. If you’ve got a new team, or you’ve got a group that’s only coming together for a short period of time, they might not have enough knowledge and context to be able to propose useful behaviors that will really help the process. And his approach was to present a list to the team based on your experience as a facilitator based on your knowledge of the group process that will help this team, this group, be successful. His suggestion is you propose the working agreement and take it to the team. I’m a much bigger fan of having the team co-create their own working agreement, but I wanted to include this to provide a little bit of balance because I – as a facilitator – I can imagine some situations where I actually might want to see the working agreement of the team, I might want to propose, here’s a starting point that we can use. And I thought this article had some great ideas in it. So you might want to take a look at that and consider that as well.

So, on that note, I’m just going to go to the last slide. I just want to give you some ideas of some places that you can go for more information. Of course, there’s the blog post that I wrote, which is why I’m here today about how do we build team working agreements, what are what’s it revisits a lot of the stuff in this presentation clearly. Why is it important? Here’s some questions we might ask in terms of how to do it. Here’s how we attend to the care and feeding of our working agreement. I was inspired in a lot of this by Ashley and Diana’s book on liftoffs. Because I think working agreements are critical to getting a team off to success. And there’s some additional material in there about some examples of how they’ve done this in a variety of settings. And if you’re looking for inspiration that might be a place that you would go to. The other two places, the article by Jimmy gendlin that I mentioned, which was a great approach on bootstrapping teams with a working agreement, and then just just take a different viewpoint, the article from Roger. I’m going to stop here and just find out if there are any questions that I haven’t haven’t addressed. Any new questions that have come in.

Host  Yeah, we have two or one is, would you suggest having the team craft working agreements as part of a retro or in some other meeting?

Ellen Grove  I try to do it, actually, at the outset. Like rather than waiting to unless you’re having a retr- You might tune your working agreement during a retro, that’s a great place to sort of think about, hey, do we need to adjust our working agreement based on what our current ambitions are based on the improvement ideas that we have in mind. But I think to actually initially create a working agreement, that needs to be part of…of… it’s got to be at the start, rather than at the after the retro is always after we’ve spent some time together. So, I usually do this as part of a team liftoff.

Host Okay. Thank you. And then the next question that we have from Christine is what are some ideas that you’ve seen teams come up with to hold themselves accountable to their working agreements? Hmm.

Ellen Grove  That is a great question. The safe word, the broccoli word, was an interesting… an interesting approach to that but it turned out to be really useful for that team. We had an explicit conversation about, here’s some of the things that we want to do. And they came up with a kind of a fun flag for people to use to signal, “Yeah, I don’t think this is what’s happening right now.” Um… just having those things present and visible has been really helpful to a lot of the teams that I work with. Um…sometimes they might even do – I’m hesitant to recommend this, but I’ve already started down this path, so I’ll say it- Sometimes they might sort of say, hey, Does somebody want to really focus on keeping an eye out for whether this is happening or not happening? And just kind of highlight to us if you notice it, and maybe take turns sharing that responsibility? I’m really care. I want to be really careful about suggesting that because you don’t want to appoint anybody on your team to be the “Behavior Police.” But sometimes it’s useful for, you know, to take turns going, you know, we know we have a problem with this. We need somebody to be paying attention and to at least notice when we’re doing that. But that’s really also very context and personality specific. But those are three of the things that I have seen work in practice.

Host  Awesome. Thank you. And then we have time for one last question. And it is what helps you create psychological safety?

Ellen Grove  Oh, simple question. No problem, I’ll knock that off in 15 seconds. I mean, again, that’s that that’s a whole other thing. In terms of creating working agreements, I think one of the things that’s most important in terms of creating psychological safety is really helping the team understand that this is something that they are – this is a tool they are creating for themselves. This is not something that is for people outside the team to use, or I was going to say even necessarily be aware of although it’s going to be part of your visual management systems, hopefully. But coming into it from the approach, that, as a team, we want to work together, we want to support each other, we want to help this make our team a place where everybody can be the best that they can be. And really letting them drive the discussion of what do we need in order to do that. And that’s where, even though I shared at the end, the idea of possibly bringing a prepared working agreement to the table, I think one of the things you need for to make it as a safer conversation is to really put the control in the hands of the team. It’s not about what I expect of you. It’s about what you expect of yourselves, and do everything you can in order to reinforce that.

Host  Awesome, thank you. Well, everyone, we’re at the end of this session. I’m going to go ahead and relaunch our poll just to give some feedback.

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Elena Vassilieva gave during the workshop on the topic of managing and dealing with the stakeholders.

Transcript of the talk is still pending and will be posted as soon as it becomes available. Than you for your patience!

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Joe Justice gave during the workshop on the topic of executive led agile transformation.

Transcript of the talk is still pending and will be posted as soon as it becomes available. Than you for your patience!

About The Speaker

Joe Justice is COO of Scrum Inc. Japan and works globally as an interim executive for agile organizations, bringing multinational companies twice the work in half the time. His teams have held 4 world records. He is a TEDx speaker, guest lecturer at both MIT and Oxford University in England, featured in Forbes 7 times to date including as owner of a “Company to watch” by Forbes Billionaire Club, cited in more than 5 business paperbacks and hardcovers, the subject of a Discovery Channel mini-documentary for his work creating the discipline Scrum@Hardware while working directly with the co-creator of Scrum, Dr. Jeff Sutherland.

Joe has worked with all of the top 3 military and defense contractors, autonomous and smart road technologies, ultra-lightweight structures, guest lectured at UC Berkeley, MIT, on behalf of Carnegie Melon, CU Denver, The University of Washington, spoken at Google, Microsoft, Zynga, Lockheed Martin, HP Labs, The Royal Bank of Canada, Pictet bank, and others. Joe’s work has been featured in Forbes, Harvard Business Review, CNN Money, the Discovery Channel, and others.

Other Best Agile Articles 2018 Posts


Host   So we’re gonna jump into our last presentation. And this is Joe Justice, who’s going to be presenting on executive-led agile and digital transformation. So thanks, Joe, for joining us. And we’ll hand this over to you. I’m looking forward to hearing your talk.

Joe Justice  Thank you so much. I’m very glad to be here. I’d like to say the first talk of the day that Joanna gave, she shared eight principles for healthy functional distributed teams that can be high performing, and then expanded on it dramatically. Well, I did that on the first break, I rebuilt my day to be better overlap with the attendees of this conference for follow up. So I took a note from SpaceX and Tesla, where they work 12 hour shifts, and they do three one week and for the next week, three one week and for the next week, 12 hour shifts. That way you have maximum time zone coverage. So I set up my Calendly because of Joanna’s advice at this conference, to start at 10am, open for bookings pacific time, and close at 10pm. Open For Bookings Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. That should let me engage with everyone on this call no matter where you are in the world, because it’s a 12 hour day, which is the idea of why Tesla and SpaceX do it and why Joanne recommended it for distributed teams. With that. So thank you so much everyone for making this conference. Awesome. already. I, I’ve gotten a tremendous amount out of it. I’m sorry to be last everyone must be exhausted. I’ll try to get to the point. So folks can get the most out of it. And you can tweet me anytime; almost every slide has my Twitter, it’s @JoeJustice0. So if you want to know more about something, or see more pictures, or more the data, or a video, or ask a question about something, that’s a great public way to do it. If you need to be private for some reason, some companies still require that they’re not quite as open and transparent as others. You can email me old school, email does still work and that’s on every slide as well. It’s at

Joe Justice  Okay, let’s do it. I’m lucky enough to have spent the last six years working with almost exclusively executives, and the board of directors that hires those executives and usually holds them accountable. And in some cases, some countries have something called a board above the board and I’ve been working with those people as well. And those are usually more hands-off investor types. They’re typically retired and they have a high level of stock or passive ownership. they exert an incredibly powerful but slower authority because they meet on a slower rhythm in these non-agile traditional companies that are that are that large, and that’s part of why they’re hungry for this agile transformation. There finding it almost impossible to pivot within the legal structure of being a board and having a board above the board and some of these companies’ cases. Now that said, I’m also the creator of Scrum for Hardware and Extreme Manufacturing the technical practices that go along with that. So most of my clients are manufacturers; Bosch, Toyota, I got to work a little bit with Tesla. I’d like to more; I’ve learned a ton working with them. I learned a lot more from them than they learned from me but I am happy to say I got to share some good things.

Joe Justice  NEC, Hitachi, Fujitsu, 3M, all around the world and finance companies too…what I’ve learned working for executive lead agile transformations is we have to focus on investor return or they’re not going to be able to pay attention and act on it. Otherwise it doesn’t come out of the main budget of the company. The main budget of the company, for almost every company, is mapped exclusively to growing return on capital; for how much money is put into the company, how much money comes out. So if that’s not the end result, and if I don’t have evidence of what I’m saying is going to impact that, I don’t get invited back. If I actually want transformation, what I’ve learned is I’ve got to map everything I’m doing to increase return on capital. Now, here’s the good news for the agilists on this call, on this virtual conference, the ways to return return on capital with the original research I’ve done and then the research I’ve mined, is through implementing the values of the Agile Manifesto, and it’s 12 principles, and the five Scrum values. So it really does come back to openness, transparency, respect for people, if it’s important, make it visible, making a healthy loving and environment. And it comes to tools like excellent process automation and test driven development and the stuff that we as agilists care about. That is what creates increased return on capital. But if I don’t have data sets mapping to that, and if I don’t phrase everything in those terms, the transformation stops. So, so that’s… that’s it, it’s got to map there. I can’t come in as, “Here’s how to have happier staff.” Then, I’m only part of an HR initiative, which is a sub-budget. And you can do cool stuff that way and many people on this call, have and talked about it. But if I want an executive-led agile transformation, it’s got to be what the executives are held accountable to. Now you can see four Forbes articles that are written about my work at the bottom right of this slide. It’s super tiny, but if you google Joe Justice Forbes, you’ll find them and then CNN Money, Fortune, or the Forbes billionaire club said this is how every company should train their staffers and how Harvard Business Review as well; you see that link at the bottom. So we have the ammunition now to keep executives interested to make this happen. Some of you may have seen me from the TEDx video where we built where we designed, built, and tested and sold cars in one week sprints. That’s how I got the attention of executives. That’s how I became known. Then some of you may have seen me on the news, primetime news, building cars in a day we got down to a day, working with Lockheed Martin Space Systems, working with US Air Force, the Australian Department of Defense, etc on these large projects.

Joe Justice  Here’s my bio my contact information. I’m lucky enough to have been on Good Morning America and USA Today and Fox News. In Japan: The Asahi Shimbun and the Nikkei.  I’ve been in Forbes Harvard Business Review CNN Money. I’ve had a chance to do a TEDx talk I’m now Chair of the Agile Business Institute. The purpose of that organization is to bit by bit, evolve a master’s degree for agilus, a Masters of Business agility, I was looking to get my own master’s degree, an MBA, a Master’s of Business Administration. I don’t have one, despite the level of transformation that I’ve been doing for six years. And I couldn’t find a single program that wasn’t still majority waterfall. Now, Harvard’s includes some iterative techniques and some Agile and some Scrum, as does MIT Sloan’s. I know that because I guest lectured at MIT Sloan on this; invited in. However, the majority of the curriculum absolutely doesn’t apply in the current world to an agilist’s mind. And so, there’s no way I’m gonna waste my time on that curriculum. I haven’t been able to get a university to switch full over yet despite the guest lecturing invitations. So, what I’m doing is attempting to build up an organization as its chair to the point it’s credible enough to issue a Master’s of Business Agility. And that’s the purpose of the Agile Business Institute. I still run wikispeed as a non-for-profit to deliver hardware really fast and in – right now we’re in the days of COVID-19 – I’m working with organizations to help them deliver ventilators, new hardware, ventilator projects, masks, personal protective equipment faster. And so I like to think we’re doing work worth doing and earning ourselves non-for-profit status correctly. I landed from Tokyo 10 days ago on my six-year-old’s birthday.

Birthday Recording  “Happy birthday, Senna. It’s Papa! I just arrived in Seattle, in the United States, and I would love to see you and play with you for your birthday. Papa wants to make sure he’s not sick, so he’s going to stay, I think, at Debbie and Uncle G’s house for two weeks above their garage where he’s not so close to anybody, in case he’s sick, to not share germs. I’m making the video right now because I just landed, and right now I feel great, but I’m about to put a mask on, so nobody would even see my face.”

Joe Justice   So this COVID stuff is pretty real to me, right when I landed, I went to a medical clinic in a place in Monroe, Washington in the United States and they divide the clinic into two areas. There’s Red Zone (they suspect you might have COVID) and self-reporting that I just landed from an international flight, I was immediately put in the Red Zone and then there’s the rest of the clinic; the other half. And that already was pretty… pretty freaky. You see a picture of the Red Zone right there below. It was like the movie “Outbreak.” Then they say, “Go get back in your car, so you’re not going to contaminate people and we want you to drive up to the white tent in the parking lot and wait there”, and I did.

Joe Justice  Then the side of the tent opens, they have a heater inside like a sidewalk cafe, and someone in full protective gear, a full face mask, and then a PPE mask underneath that, and blue gloves, blue suit, blue booty covers – I could only see the woman’s eyes – swabbed my nose. It was really deep, it was really uncomfortable, and it was terrifying. The lady that did it was shaking, scared as well because what if I had COVID? And yeah, she’s wearing all that gear, and I could only see her eyes, but she was shaking. I was terrified; she was terrified. That was March 28. So, this was…this was eight days ago. This is super real to me. Because of that. I’m going to take a very different tactic with this presentation than I typically do in the boardroom or at a public conference. I’m going to mind what I promised I do in the abstract, and then do that immediately. Then we’ll see if there’s any time for anything else.

Joe Justice  So, here’s the abstract:  I have worked directly with executives -I’ll move the Zoom icon so I can read it – of many of the wealthiest, fastest growing, and highest-employing companies on the planet. I have also run one of the most famous agile startups of our time. I’m going to share executive strategy for Leaning a company while being respectful to the workforce. Okay, so I’m going to do that next, fast. Outmaneuvering company competition by releasing customer-visible value faster, and with higher perceived quality, without increasing R&D or production expense. Okay, that’s next. How to retain the top and most sought after talent without redefining HR pay grades. Okay, if we get to it, that’ll be number three. And how to increase employee voted manager effectiveness and engagement across multinational offices. This and other learnings all from real companies, and many with audited results, and all resulting in a simple ‘To Do’ list for your executive lead agile and digital transformation. All right, let’s make good time because this COVID stuff’s real, and we need to be being super safe, and we need to be pivoting our companies and helping each other. First, I promised in my abstract that I’m going to share executive strategy for Leaning a company while being respectful to the workforce. I’ll do this with tweets and I’ll expan- expound on it, That way, you can mine my Twitter if you want to read this later, if you want to share it. So if any of this resonates with you, here’s a pointer to pieces of it publicly.

Joe Justice  March 25, I wrote, How to Lay People Off in a Crisis. My answer? You don’t. You fund projects only to the extent responsible and ask the teams to help you distribute the funding across as many staff and suppliers are willing to fully dedicate to said project or goal. Here’s what I mean by this. A lot of times companies are making 10% or less of their revenue from last month. That’s real, and a lot of them are laying a lot of people off really fast. Well, what does that do to morale? It’s bad for everybody. Even the employees that aren’t laid off have low morale and productivity goes to almost zero. So what’s a better strategy? Here’s what I’ve learned:

Joe Justice  What you want to do is keep morale high, and there’s a way to do that while implementing austerity, while cutting revenue while cutting your losses financially, dramatically, and that you say, “Look, we have 10% the money we have last month.” So with that money, with that income, we have a 10% income, which is very real story for a lot of companies right now, everyone’s salary is going to be different. Now, if you’re one of the countries that had a massive government bailout, you might not have to do this because maybe your revenue didn’t drop; maybe the bailout filled in for that. Not every country has that option and even those that do not every company qualifies or knows if they’re going to qualify yet. So if you have 10%, the run rate, you say, “Staff, here’s 10% of money; here’s our three most important projects that are going to help other companies, help our suppliers not have to lay people off, and we’re not going to lay off any of you. But it’s 10% of the total money. This project gets 5% this project gets 3%. This project gets 2%. That’s it. Tell me which one you want to work on and we’re dividing that money across however many people sign up for that; that’s your salary.” This way, no one gets laid off, no one gets fired. morale stays high. people stay engaged, and they’re even more engaged to the high priority project, which might be making ventilators now or making face masks now. This is the way to pivot your company without creating morale. Second, how to cut costs and not destroy morale? Fund projects or goals, not people. So it’s not, “Hey…so-and-so, your salary is 10% of what it was.” That’s not how this works. It’s, “This project is the one important project for our company right now. This is the only supplier that’s still able to fulfill their our orders; this is the only product we can make, whatever the decision is. So this is our one project right now. It only makes this much money. We’re going to divide that across all staff” And this is going to be a two way conversation. “Staff helped me come up with a plan of how we’re going to divide this amount of money this month, across all of you.” With that two way conversation, it’s not, “Oh, my, my salary just got cut 90%” it’s, “We’re doing this important thing so our suppliers don’t go out of business and have to lay people off; and because I’m doing this, I didn’t get laid off.” It completely changes the conversation.

Joe Justice  Now only people who agree to fully dedicate themselves to the project get funding. Then, funding isn’t distributed as normal paycheck style before. If this is severe austerity, if your company needs severe austerity, and many of them do right now, several companies are going out of business right now; like, during this conference. If you’re in severe austerity, then you only release funding to be distributed across everyone who worked on it, when funding tests pass. In traditional management speak, you can call it a milestone, but like every presenter in this conference has talked about very importantly, and well said, is: it’s not a milestone that’s only the plans been made or we’ve built a module. It’s only when a test passes. Think of these each as a Lean startup. We have to have something we can test or something we can use before we can release any funds. In severe austerity, you can only fund outcomes; that’s been said more than once today. Next, if you want to go into more detail, tweet me so we can have a public conversation about it; LinkedIn is also okay. If it has to be private because of company reasons, you can email me but I far prefer to just be open that way everyone can learn together and we can all weigh in; everyone who attended this conference or spoke at it can be part of that conversation if they want to, and the whole rest of the world.

Joe Justice  Next topic. I promised, we’d talk about outmaneuvering competition by releasing customer visible value faster, and with higher perceived quality, without increasing R&D or production expense. Okay, here’s what I’ve learned. First, the public info. I tweeted, “How to respond quickly as an organization in a crisis? Well, that’s the time to go from making a decision to producing a new outcome (maybe a product, say a ventilator). The speed that happens can be called a ‘sprint’. For some businesses, a sprint is ~7 years. To shorten-” Team Wikispeed tweeted, which is also my account, “Our response cannot be faster than our supply chain. If for credit critical supplier takes four months and ideal times and 18 months in emergency times, our volume response cannot be faster than 18 months during a crisis. So practice extreme manufacturing and shorten your hardware sprints.” Note, in most companies, the decision of what supplier we use is ultimately made by procurement where the top incentive is low price and speed rework, risk reduction lose, and the crisis kills the company. This is very normal. This is happening all over the world right now. To solve this, again, this is an executive mandate and continually checked and reestablished. Here’s what I mean. If we’re in a transformation that’s not executive lead, and we have suppliers that, in a crisis are taking 18 months, we can’t fix that without an executive mandate because we need an executive mandate to change the way procurement is incentive on supplier approval. So you can’t fix it without executive intervention and that is why I’ve been working with executive teams almost exclusively the last six mont- six years. Now, a note below for people that want to get a little more hardware specific, this is my specialty. This rules out stamping and molding from design in most cases. Many ways to do both with a new design in one day, like Wikispeed, is proven. Most suppliers in crisis will queue and send you a defect mold, or dye, months late requiring sending back a second or more… more multi-month wait.

Joe Justice  The solution is you bring it in house like Tesla or SpaceX does where you make your own molds or stamps and dyes. Then. you can control the speed and the feedback loop or you prioritize suppliers not strictly only by cost, but by cost and response time, which gives a completely different supplier set. Now, working with suppliers that are far away from you geographically adds to this. If your parts are on a ship for the next four months, that’s part of your supply chain. And if those ships are now in quarantine, because the Conex containers need to be disinfected thoroughly before they’re allowed in by your government, well, you’ve indefinitely sabotaged your supply chain. So if you’re a Ford, and you want to pivot from making trucks to making ventilators and your supply chain is 18 months, you’re you’re going to fully lose all 18 months worth of money that’s already been spent, and you might die as a company. And this is happening right now all around the world with some of the biggest companies in the world. And it’s only massive government intervention that slowing down the death of these companies. So well, we’ll get to the next point the next. So that’s why executives need to be involved to solve this problem. Here are the executive practices; this this talk is on executive lead agile transformation for companies that are flailing. This is the best of what I’ve learned what you need to do, and I’m happy to learn better. Everyone in this conference, please teach me; here’s what I’ve got. Create a rhythm of making new priorities. Now this needs to be a rhythm so it’s not a panic each time. It needs to be collaborative so we don’t lose innovation from the bottom. So change or reconforming isn’t an unexpected stress. A good format is Meta Scrum as written by James Coplien. Then create a rhythm of measuring progress you can fund in a crisis a plan is not yet a solution. So if we give funding just when plans arrive, we can run out of money and not help anybody or ourselves. We need to split our Crisis Response into the smallest chunks we can reasonably ideally day sized deliver. Now this is where a lot of hardware  companies say, “Well that’s impossible! It takes us 10 years to make something like a ventilator. Well, then you need to take my Wikispeed Extreme Manufacturer class, so you can know how to deliver hardware in a day. From design, test, to deliver in a day. I’ve done it, now Tesla’s doing it and it’s public on YouTube; I’ll show that in a minute. In fact, there’s many ventilator companies and COVID test companies that are suddenly delivering in less than a week, even though they all told all their investors, “It takes at least eight years” before as part of a ploy to get more government funding. And now when we’re all in this together, all around the world, suddenly companies can deliver in less than a week in hardware and they always could and they always can. So everyone, please don’t forget that companies are delivering less than a week in hardware. Brand new products with new design, tested, even meeting FDA regulation in less than a week.

Joe Justice  Next, accelerate the solution ask, “What would speed up teams on a rhythm” so the ask is less of a disruption? See The Scrum of Scrums Pattern for this by James Coplien. Establish a leadership coalition that monotasks one of these impediments at a time until they’re fixed; Kaizen training helps here. So, executives that have been through lean training, Scrum Masters who’ve been through lean training, are incredibly valuable, even in a company in crisis under austerity situations in an executive lead agile transformation. Next, this is an impossibly high stress time, an executive activity is to reduce stress. First, that helps us the rhythm. Two: the public, clearly defined goal. These can’t be backroom conversations. These have to be billboards on a wall. These have to be everyone’s desktop backgrounds. These have to be everyone’s phone backgrounds. If they’re going to be in the company doing this in a crisis. It’s got to be complete ubiq- completely ubiquitous what the clear- clearly defined goals are. The funding paychecks need to be directly tied to results; reasonable and just even in a crisis with heavily constrained funding. Progress invisibility due to small, invaluable initiative size. So we need small goals split into small chunks, ideally day-sized, even in hardware. I know, I know, a lot of people don’t believe it but just look at what’s happening now, it happens and I did it with my company, so I’ve seen it too.

Joe Justice  Then staff buying helps reduce the stress. We do this by inviting anyone to lobby for a higher priority against the Meta Scrum pattern by James Coplien. Now this pattern is evolved a lot recently, especially in my work as the rubber is meeting the road right now, so if you want updates on how to run the meta Scrum pattern effectively in a crisis, or we’ve learned what works better in any case, because of the crisis, you can tweet me or Facebook. We can have a call with your executive team or a video chat with your executive team. We do this on a cadence and the justice of staff portioning salary for the project funding budget, knowingly funding distributed only at outcomes. Here’s what I mean by this: kindergarteners have been measured, that they become most disenfranchised, or emotionally upset, when they see an injustice and it looks like it doesn’t go away after kindergarten. It looks like this is built into humans as a species. We really care about what we think is justice. So especially when we’re talking about funding, which has to do with how our kids go to school, what we get to eat, like it affects our lives in a significant way, if we believe this is being done in an unjust way, we completely lose buy in and in a crisis, we go into panic mode where we can. So to prevent against, that to keep morale high, having the financing discussion up front, which is what I talked about in the previous section, is completely important to keep engagement up.

Joe Justice  Next, machines and engineering practices and test practices. This is where the real speed comes in. Everything else I talked about was simply refactoring the company according to an evolved version of Conway’s Law, that…I do now call Justice’s Law, because no one else has said it yet; and you can learn all about that in the full seminars when we have time together. But in any case, it’s the structure of the company that dictates the speed and the executive piece is creating that structure but that doesn’t suddenly make it fast. It allows the technical practices, the engineering practices, and the machines to do their work; to be fast. So the without the executive intervention, this can’t work but only the executive intervention doesn’t change the speed. So if the executive intervention happened, what changes the speed? That’s the machines and the technical engineering practices. It’s the same in software. You can have the best impediment-busting executive teams that had been poor empowered cross functional self organizing teams, but if the teams are still doing doing procedural code, with no end capitalization, no Object Oriented Architecture, no test driven development, no automated compile, and they’re compiling by hand, it’s gonna be slow…and that’s where a lot of hardware is right now. So for these practices, see Paolo Sammicheli’s book, Scrum for Hardware. The second half of the book chronicles exactly how to do this. The first half of the book is the story of my life and Paolo’s life. Yes, I think it’s interesting but it’s not going to make your company faster. We’re in a crisis; skip to the second half of the book. The book is available on Leanpub. The first few sections of the book are free. The second half, which has the most technical practices, it’s not in the free section; you will have to buy it. It’s going to be worth it.

Joe Justice  Simple To-Do’s, engineering practices… note, many engineering leads and design leads/leaders, leaders of these groups, managers, directors, do not have authority or autonomy to mandate the practices I’m about to talk about. And serial, slow, multi-regression stage gate processes result as the default. So these must be executive mandates and checked, reinforced, and reinstated. This is executive agility. So with that said, with me again stressing the executive role, let’s see, ‘What are the engineering practices that work?’ First, this is the first one that people throw up their hands and say, “We couldn’t do that!” and yet it’s exactly what the fast companies are doing right now. You can see what Tesla just did building a ventilator on version two in 18 days, and this is exactly what they did; it’s on YouTube right now. It is only use materials and machines that you can receive completed parts from in less than seven days. I’ll say that again. Only use machines and materials that you can receive completed tested parts from in less than seven days. Companies have built their entire existence around global supply chains with 18 month lead times, and they say, “Well, how can we ever deliver something less than 18 months?” Well with that structure, they can’t. It’s true they cannot but if you take this step, which is a real actionable, profitable step, you can deliver in less than a one week sprint. So, now let me continue. Waterjet cutting, milling, 3D printing, Arduino boards, and similar complete commercial off the shelf boards with standard interfaces, these are going to meet the lead time of less than seven days. No special coatings or processes are allowed. If it cannot, in a crisis, reliably arrive in less than seven days. That’s it. And I get all types of designers saying, “But it’s a better part if we use this coding” and I say, “That coding is only available from one supplier, and in a crisis right now they’re not responding to anyone, you’ve just compromised your entire company and you’re going to get laid off. How do you feel about that? Now…so it’s not being an engineer, as an engineering practice, who says, “But I figured out the best coding”; it’s not that. It’s, “Of the subset that we can get in less than seven days, what’s best?” that’s the agile mindset for hardware. Then we queue suppliers up to the interface of a module; people who are familiar with contract first design, Object Oriented Architecture, test-first development to the unit to the units and its interfaces…this is your world; this is your party. At some point, I will write a book on hardware patterns. I have been saying that for years; somebody please just… write it with me. We’ll do it in a series of video chats because I’ve never prioritized it and I need to; it doesn’t exist. Hardware Patterns, Hardware Interfaces is only in a series of video chats by me around the world and conferences. But it needs to be a book so people can refer to it easily and search it. But we give the suppliers the test to pass and the interface, not a detailed design. This enables their innovation and fastest response time. Next Paolo Sammicheli and you see his Twitter at the bottom, @xdatap1, he wrote twelve executive, mandateable engineering practices designed for modularity so that the organization can execute in a massively parallel fashion; architecture examples and principles are in the book. This has been demonstrated, documented, and audited to be over 1000 times faster than sequential phase gate engineering. This is known it exists but you have to re-architect the company to do that and that requires complete executive buy-in; only a few companies have been brave enough to do that so far.

Joe Justice  So here’s what it looks like. This is designing, building, and testing a car in 27 minutes. If it’s a standard operating procedure, it needs to be a robot that’s doing it. This is the what’s wrong about the E-Myth, which is taught in all businessn schools right now, so the executives that you and I are talking to, they’ve been trained in the E-Myth; all business schools do. And the idea of the E-Myth is build your company so that a 16 year old can do it. Establish standard operating procedures so someone can walk in with no training and do most of what your company does. Well, that kills innovation. It kills the agile mindset and people show up to work dead like cogs, and in a crisis, they all get laid off in the company goes under. And we’re seeing this all around the world right now. So what’s the answer? If it is a standard operating procedure that doesn’t require innovation, a robot should be doing that whether it’s a script or a physical robot depends on the thing you’re doing, but slps are not for humans. This is again, where speed comes from. Groups of humans are for all the stuff that isn’t a standard operating procedure, the design cycle. Now, they’ve got to be at the point of where the work is done and at the point of where the test is done, so they have a fast feedback loop. Virtually? Fine. Make sure they have a camera on the point of production and the point of test. Here’s Bosch; here’s the real client doing this. This is sprint one. For more detail on this take the Scrum for Hardware class so we can save time.

Joe Justice  Let me check myself on time. Okay, we don’t have that much. In Sprint 1, they built this piece of equipment that goes on in front of a train. This is one week. You can see the next four sprints. On the far left is week two. They had poor sensor performance, so they established a wiper to handle inclement weather. In week three, Sprint 3, they refactored the circuit boards inside, the embedded software, and changed the wiper for better sensor performance. In Sprint 4 they tried a 3D printed enclosure and they also got it quite a bit smaller. You can see a seam of where the 3D print line was and in- by Sprint 5 the sensors were good enough – and really it was the software compensation of the sensors that they didn’t need a window and a wiper anymore – and they were ready to go to market. That’s five sprints at market Every single sprint was tested on locomotives, real locomotives asking real customers, “Is this improving your problem or not?” This was not an MBA driven exercise, “What if?” This was going out to train yards and solving a specific problem. Again, the details are in the class when we have time to do it. Which problem is being solved here?

Joe Justice  How to retain the top and most sought after talent without redefining HR pay grades. I’ve been running into this with artificial intelligence labs where these people can basically ask for the salary they want and work anywhere they want in real time, and that’s been going on for six years, even before crisis. But now it’s happening at an even accelerated degree because of the COVID epidemic, pandemic rent. So here’s the simple To-Do’s that I’ve learned that help retain top talent without redefining HR pay grades. First…well, really the parent item is increasing engagement and fun. That’s the principle. How that’s done depends on the people and what they think is engaging as fun. Here are examples that often work. If you’re using Scrum, rotate the product owner Scrum Master and development team member roles each sprint. Everybody gets to play all three roles in turn. This keeps people engaged and excited, regardless of salary. And they say, “Well, we all get to be Product Owner”, which some of them still map as a senior position, these are all on the same level in reality. But it…this sense of equitability and justice keeps people excited. Then, run a happiness retrospective. Any of the many tools for happiness retrospectives. The online tool FunRetro helps us do that in these remote days and these quarantine days. Then, toss out suggestions that are outside the ability to implement next sprint. Now ability can be it was too expensive, or it’s outside what the company uses its norms, or it’s too difficult to implement in a sprint; any of those reasons are valid. Now what’s left are only suggestions that we all agree can be in the next sprint. Take one of those and do it in the next sprint. By doing that every sprint velocity stays high because part of the work that the team does with their same points measured with the same velocity, however you’re running your agility, your agile teams, will process that and keep morale engaged and high.

Joe Justice  How to increase employee-voted manager effectiveness engagement across multinational offices. This came from my work with John Deere. They measured themselves at 8.2 faster, and before the work we did together. So that’s 820% and their managerial effectiveness in this group in the company had previously been 1%, the bottom 1% of the company, and it went to the top 10% of the entire company and here’s what they did.

Joe Justice  Make management backlogs and KPIs and OKRs visible with names on each. So now, the employees know what the top managers are actually measured on to get promoted; if you’re even in a hierarchical company. when I work with companies that are much more flat, like parts of Bosch now or Netflix, it’s simply, “What are the KPIs and OKRs that fund the company, that keeps us getting paychecks” and it doesn’t have to be from senior leadership because they don’t have senior leadership anymore. Not the same way. In John Deere, they definitely did. So there’s a name of a manager; here’s what they’re measured against. That’s public and the KPIs and OKRs are updated as soon as there’s data; whether it’s a quarterly audit, or in some cases in real time, depending on the sensors. Ask teams to self organize around those goals. Now the managers know who their teams really are. Now, this is part of Conway’s Law. It’s not who reports to them. It’s who self organized around their objective. Now you know who your teams are. Instead of commanding they’ve pulled; you’ve created the power of pull, which was well written in the book The Power of Pull, Then run Meta Scrum patterns to refine the management backlog. Otherwise, we only have top down innovation and what we want is innovation from from every part of the company. So we invite the teams to refine the backlog, inviting new ideas from anywhere in the organization. But it’s not anarchy, it’s not everyone does only what they want. We want a very small list of prioritized missions, especially when there’s limited funding like there is now. So it’s only if the people who are making the funding decisions, and whether that’s a group vote across the entire organization, or you actually have something called a manager or whatever the structure of your group, whoever determines – whatever the mechanism for determining funding – has to determine the new idea is more important than the existing proposed ideas. So when I’m running an initiative, I bring my understanding of the highest priority items that we could do as a group, and I post them as Post-it notes on the wall, now I have to do virtually, and I say, “Everyone, if you have a better idea, give me that post it and then try to explain to me why it’s a better idea. We’re going to do the top three only,” and then we have that conversation which is part of the evolved version of the Meta Scrum pattern. I’ll add a bonus piece, how to weather a crisis. You remove all recurring expenses. If you lease buildings, those are the companies that are going out of business first. The restaurants on our lease are going out of business faster right now, all around the world, than the restaurants that owns their space and didn’t have a lease payment. I mean, that’s it. In a crisis, your run rate is how long you can make your recurring payments. So you eliminate your recurring payments. If you can buy out the things you’re renting or leasing, buy them out. If you can’t, you’ve got to get rid of them and simplify. In a crisis, that’s what you do; that’s austerity. Here’s what I did. I started living in my Tesla Model three. I put a mattress from Amazon in the back – for those of you that want to know about that, it’s an extra long twin on Amazon for $69 in the US – I put a cooler in the front seat, and a laptop and my cell phone as Wi Fi. And I drive around the world where I was. I’m in quarantine right now for another eight days; self-quarantine. My COVID test did come back negative but I’m in self-quarantine for 14 days after I got off the flight after I wasat an International Airport. So once I get out of quarantine, I’ll go back into my Tesla. And it works as a mobile office, a mobile hotel room, and before quarantine, I would go to racetracks around – in this case the US, that’s the that’s the area where my Tesla is right now – and I participate in Tesla racing series. So I’d have a crazy amount of fun and it costs nothing. The superchargers, they were free because people bought Tesla’s using my referral link. Now, I’m finally paying but it’s still like one 10th the price of gas or even less. So it’s basically free. Like driving full time…it was…$40 a month? It was…it was ridiculous. So dramatically simplify your life in a crisis.

Joe Justice  I’m Joe Justice that is Executive Led Agile Transformation. To summarize, to keep executive attention, everything we do has to be to the point of increasing return on capital. Otherwise you get laughed out of the building. That’s it. Then the company structure would actually make speed as the tools you use and the engineering practices you use. That’s all written in the book Scrum for Hardware by Paolo Sammicheli. The second half is what you want to be able to do that the structure of the company has to change a lot. And that’s the executive transformation practices that I’ve just enumerated. You can mine them on Twitter, you can see them in the Forbes articles below, and tweet me anytime, folks. Stay safe, stay healthy. This is a really interesting time and I will make a personal plea that I hope we create a new normal. The world is different right now and it will never be quite the same. I’d like us to take this time to think about what’s actually essential, because almost all of us have been deemed non-essential by the world’s governments; and we weren’t. And…so what can we do that’s essential and how can we expand our definition of essential to include things like education; things like time with your family and kids? How do we, how do we refactor that? And how do we take the best parts of what we’re learning with this new online lifestyle, to make a healthy, loving, respectful culture that’s global? And I have no patience for nationalistic response; there’s many people dying in this country, this testing, this ventilator group in this country. What we need is a global mindset period and it might be a good time to rethink currency.

Joe Justice  Here’s a question company that’s growing by innovation. This is pre-crisis. You can see quotes from their leadership team on the right and you can see they’re growing by prioritizing only how fast they can deliver cool stuff to the customer. Everything is about shortening the sprint length. This is Tesla. I’d like to compare that to the growth of a company that’s growing by continuous improvement. It looks like if you want growth, the one goal is shortening the length of your hardware sprint. That’s it, and that’s what Elon Musk says is the one goal of the company. Now what happens if you throw a crisis at it? These are the same two companies now.

Joe Justice  It’s still better. Now, here’s the timeline I’d like to end on because I think this is the serious point that matters. So first, you’ll weather a crisis better if you have shorter hardware sprints and you’ll make more money and grow faster if you have shorter sprints and it completely blows away and makes irrelevant traditional Lean continuous improvement thinking. Now traditional Lean continuous improvement thinking as part of making short sprints, but alone, it does not give growth or survivability in a crisis.

Joe Justice  So, what happens? On March 18, Elon Musk tweeted, saying “SpaceX makes life support systems, which include ventilators, and Tesla makes HVAC systems heating, ventilation and air conditioning and cooling systems that have some components that are like ventilators, maybe we can help.”

Joe Justice  On March 19, they went to the customer they use the Agile practice – this is a full agile hardware company – they went to the customers and these hospitals and said, “What do you really need?” Not, “What can we sell you?”; “What do you really need?”

Joe Justice  On March 21, there’s a discussion with the current believed-to-be best in industry on ventilators, called Medtronic, and the conversation was only, “What is the state-of-the-art. What is the best known about ventilators now?” So let’s not reinvent the wheel, let’s make something better.

Joe Justice  March 22, while other companies were saying, “We’ve reprioritized to deliver only COVID response” but they couldn’t. They had 8-month lead times with their suppliers; they made executive announcements but no impact. Already there are 50,000 masks delivered to where I am now, Washington state in the USA, and PAPR helmets. So this is three days later and there’s already volume relief while other companies are still having board meetings about it. March 23, California governor confirms ventilators are delivered and so the Musk companies bought existing metal ventilators and shipped them already in four days.

Joe Justice  March 25, ventilator in-house design begins. They say well, now we understand the state of the state-of-the-art. We’ve already bought all the existing stock and gotten it to hospitals. Now we’re going to make our own because we’re out of existing stock, we can’t buy them anymore.

Joe Justice  March 26, they started delivering ventilators that they bought while they’re designing new ones. March 27, they committed that all of those are going to be free; they’re not going to charge any money for these things. March 31, New York City hospitals received the ventilators, they bought April 3. Doctors in other areas are saying their ventilators are being received on.

Joe Justice  April 5, this was yesterday, there’s the sprint demo of the second version of their in-house-built functioning ventilator. So that project started March 25. April 5 was the second sprint demo. You see a screen capture of it in the bottom. That is the Tesla in house built ventilator and people saying we can’t have hardware projects that aren’t FDA approved in less than 10 years, 18 years – these are actual numbers I am being told by clients, sometimes 21 years – SpaceX did it, sorry, in this case, Tesla, had the version two in 18 days. How did they do it? It’s exactly what analysts have been saying the whole time. They refuse to work with any material or any machine that can’t give them a tested product in less than seven days. So that means 3D printing, waterjet cutting, commercial off the shelf parts parts they already use – you can see the screen is the touchscreen from a Tesla Model 3 because they’ve got warehouses full of these things and they know how to make them; they know how to get them fast. So it’s not that it’s the best product or the cheapest product. It’s the one that’s fast and it still ended up being cheaper than anyone else’s ventilator because of how fast they did it. You can watch the sprint demo at the link at the bottom right. I’m Joe justice. Thanks for learning about Executive Led Agile Transformation; which also included, in this special edition, COVID in a crisis. Thank you, everybody.

Host  Right. Thank you very much. So we have just two minutes left. So if someone has a question you’d like to ask, go ahead and drop it in the chat box and we’ll take the first question that comes up that way. We can get things in before the end of the session. And thanks, Joe. This was this was a really, really great presentation. A lot of fascinating information and I love that you were able to show us new ways of thinking about hardware. And…. *laughs* How do you receive mail if you live out of your Tesla?

Joe Justice  Yes, there’s a number of services. I finally found one in Japan but the US has had them for a while and I believe they exist in Europe as well. They’re mail scanning and forwarding services. So they have a P.O. Box for you, a registered post office box and  – or they can even make it an office address legally or a residence, in some states, legally. So you can use it for any type of mail that you would a house or an office. What they do is they automatically scan every piece of mail you get, and you get a text message or an email, everything. If it’s a check, they automatically deposit it, you don’t have to worry about it.

Joe Justice  It’s a package, they say, “Which pickup location do you want us to forward this to and on what date?” And you can use the locker services around the world. In some areas, you can have it delivered automatically to the trunk of your Tesla and they’ll put it in your trunk. They get a temporary passcode as the credential carrier. And when you’re back at your car, it’s already in the trunk for packages; I can even get freight that way. Large, you know, like 400 kilogram things. So we’re completely decoupled from traditional addresses now.

Host  Awesome. That’s it. That’s fascinating. Thank you very much. Well, thanks Joe, for presenting. Really appreciate your contributions to today and this concludes our Best Agile Articles of 2018 Conference and don’t forget that we have, in the chat, the feedback for Miro for the presentations, and then I’ll open, one last time, I’ll relaunch our live poll. If you could take that and give us just a quick visual of your thoughts about today’s session. And Joe, we really appreciate you hanging in there with us to be the last presentation of the day. I’m glad that I stuck around because this is fascinating. And to everyone else, thank you very much for attending and we will send out the PDFs and links to the recordings. Once those process give us a few days just because we also have other jobs that got put on hold today that we have to go back and check in on. So we’ll get those out to you as soon as we can in the next few days. And we appreciate your attendance, we’ll be doing another one of these conferences in another quarter. And we, we intend to do one each quarter on by pulling different people who are writing for the book. And we are right now working on best at all articles of 2019 and we expect that to be released somewhere… August-y; somewhere up in there, we don’t have a drop dead date but we are at this moment making selections of the articles that are going to be in that book. So thanks for joining and you all have a great week.

Joe Justice  Thanks, everybody. Take care. Stay healthy.

Host  Thank you

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of the articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Kathryn Maloney gave during the workshop on the topic of managing and dealing with the stakeholders.

About The Speaker

Kathryn Maloney has coached, consulted to, and advised leaders for 20 years, positioning their organizations to compete and thrive amidst the pace, demands, and complexities confronting business, social, and political environments. Her objective has been to enhance the way organizations co-create, leverage progressive structures, embed dynamic processes and practices, update mindsets and thinking, and build systemic resilience. Structure (organizing), behavior (habits and patterns), and mindsets (narratives and cultural norms) inform potential and possibility. Equipping people and teams means braving an environment of making bets and applying continual insights in order to position the system to see ahead and along the periphery and ground modern systems with the tools needed to continually navigate and adapt.

Other Best Agile Articles Conference Posts


Kathryn Maloney  I work with large government agencies, large global enterprises, small boutiques…and…I, sorry, I’m trying to fix the noise in the background…and in many ways, I do the same thing across all sizes of organizations; the scale and objective sometimes is different. But I find it interesting how, at this point in my, in my work that I enjoy large systems because I enjoy the complexity of them. I also enjoy small systems because obviously, there’s things you can get done much faster. But I’m intrigued at this point in my practice and my career and the applications are the same. And that’s been something I’ve been playing with and scrutinizing for the last 15 years. Scale is really the difference but how you apply change doesn’t really change very much. And so I’m always very interested in setting the conditions up for people to lean in to doing change work in a system that says it wants to change. And I continue to sort of research and play around in that space to see what I discover about how change actually works, both from a practitioners standpoint and organizations adopting change, if you will. So I thought I’d do a check in to see who’s in the virtual room here. And I had three different prompts to give you all if you’ll type it in for me, are you a practitioner or something else? I would love to know. What’s a single word describing what you want to learn coming to my session and having maybe read my article?  Um…and it’s a single word articulating where you’re at at this point in the day in these rather dynamic and challenging times. So I’m just watching you guys as you type in; see where everybody is. 

Kathryn Maloney  Agile coach, agile leader,learning about agile and Scrum, product owner, team coach, coach disguised as a project manager learning perspective, Boston cool. Alright, you guys can keep going, I guess. Thanks, I appreciate it. It’s cool. Keep going, then everybody else can- I don’t know if you guys have done this to see who’s in the room, but that’s awesome. Happy to have you.

Kathryn Maloney  Um, so a little bit about where this article came from: It…I…when I write just a little bit about my writing, my writing tends to sort of come out of me at funny times. I don’t exactly write it myself. Something else happens and it’s written out my hand and this… this article came out. We are- We had been developing a methodology for three years and I was in a large organization and I was one year in at that point to a two year, what- what became a two year, project inside of a large consulting company in a function inside a large consulting company… and which is- was a wild environment, because we were a consultant, see consulting to a consulting company. So you have like, you know, lots of force fields with that dynamic. Although, we do a very particular type of work and we were brought in by a function-head to help disrupt his function and help it move into sort of a more progressive organization adopting ways of working that would move them into being more responsive, more agile, more nimble, more dynamic in terms of how they did their work in coordinated and there are large and I was working with a marketing function. So large function dep-

Host  I think she may have gotten disconnected. Let’s see. Yes, I think we did lose her. Um Okay. She jump right back in now, now that she’s officially disconnected.

Host  We’ve been doing pretty good. This is the first time today we’ve had connection issues.

Host  Christine- Oh! All right, there you go. We’ll Hand it over.

Kathryn Maloney  Okay, great. I’m sorry, everybody. I’m working with the finicky internet connection, apparently today. So where I left you was I was telling you the history of where the article came from, in year one of a two year project and in the course of that project, I would get asked a lot of questions about – sort of – “Is this the right change work?”, “What exactly are you all doing?”, “Is it the same as agile?”, “Is it different because we’re doing agile?”, or “I have experienced in this area versus that area.” And it was always so…um- fine questions, but also it became such a large group, a large element of the background chatter of the project that, I found it… just, interesting. And as an organization that does or transformation work, we’re always up against that question that can seem like a really smart question, but behind the smart question is always this disguised resistance or work around to actually doing change. And so after several years of, of being in the space and doing the work, this article about, “Dear Beloved Clients, please start by doing…” came about.

Kathryn Maloney  So just to extract from the article three, there’s a couple different themes going through it, but three of the key ones that I was talking about- and I talk a lot about still in my work. 2018 it’s like 100 years ago, as as was February this year. So I, this is alive and well in my work now also. So, it just happened to be them that I wrote about it- but debate inhibits progress, right? Like if we’re sitting around debating, which change, what type of change, if change, should we change, should we not change, and everybody talks about change all the time. Debate gets us nowhere; debate is just about debate. Doing is progress, right? Change is all about doing; like, we cannot change and stay the same. So we have to actually do something in order to trigger/catalyze/make change actually happen. So debate is inaction; action actually looks like doing particular things and it’s in doing those things that we get into some forward motion, and then we’re in the exercise of change, and we can let it show us what it’s going to show us. And then the other thing in my article that I wrote about a lot inspired by Dave Snowden’s work, because he’s just a go to, for me, I could name a lot of people, but, you know, ideology isn’t a method. So I’m always very uncomfortable as a person who has been in the change business for a long time of anybody proselytizing, or, you know, trying to anchor to anything too tightly because it’s a warning flag, right? Because change doesn’t look like that; systems don’t take to that. And healthy change is never going to be fully realized if we’re trying to follow a step-by-step process. So those are- those are three principles that are very important to me; my practices that were threaded in, in that writing. 

Kathryn Maloney  Too much time and money is spent considering change versus doing change. That is a brilliant way for a lot of people to make money and organizations and particularly large ones- and people do that and it’s frustrating- and I talk about it in sales conversations all the time. Because, you know, if we’re talking about change a lot, or we’re teaching an ideology about change, we’re not doing change, but we’re spending money either way, and then it’s very hard to turn that around, because we actually get somewhat attached as adults to that… “non-doing” because that somehow seems like it’s doing something; it’s a lot easier. It’s a lot easier not to do change than it is to actually do change. In in my work right now, in the readies work we, we use a lot of tools and practices. We teach operating rhythms, we teach a lot of how to do things in small ways to instigate large change. And so leveraging tools, practices and rhythms to route things strategically, we turn around the idea of thinking strategically, because we do not.. um… we do not think about planning as a strategic tool we think about doing as a strategic tool and getting people into rhythms, operating rhythm, meeting rhythms, different ways of communicating, that helps people think strategically. So it’s the doing that then helps thinking, which is a bit counterintuitive. Leveraging tools and practices and routes working dynamically and iteratively. 

Kathryn Maloney  So we anchor to just doing things/starting something and allowing that work and the dynamic nature of being a team or group of people thinking and doing in real time to iteratively show us what we’re discovering. And then we use what we discover to do more and discover more. I know I’m preaching to the choir in a lot of ways here, so bear with me. And then learning constantly, right? So we’re constantly looking at what we’re doing allowing it to inform and teach and give us insights and slivers to see through to then push forward more behavior; more doing to get at more change. So the continuous change process is – and living in organizations today that will never not be and we’re living in one of the most dynamic moments in time right now that illustrates all of this quite poignantly – that change is always upon us, always happening, and it’s how we actually anchor in the work of the day to day that enables us to healthfully work in constant change, enables us to anchor in chaos when chaos erupts, enables us to be responsive and adaptive with the winds of change happening regularly. Again, commoditizing any method or practice as a whole system change ideology, versus a method of intervention will quickly create limitations on the application in complex perpetually changing ecosystems. So again, this is that-that hazard that I find myself up against in talking about frequently, which is, you know, we can-we have to apply words to an intervention method does work *Connection Difficulties* 

Kathryn Maloney  the relationships  *Connection Difficulties* because they are binding and people want things that are much more tangible than most true change processes enable us to execute on. So it’s a bit of a…uh, an interesting paradox there. But again, the commoditization of change is and it’s quite loud nowadays it’s it’s a real hazard and being able to facilitate people in the process of change is more of where the artistry and the mastery lives. Follow our ways in McGann, we can design pretty pictures and talk about things that enable people to begin the change process and those are good and positive and gets people sort of to the door. But selling an end state is… is somewhat snake oil. There are no fixed systems to learn and apply if you’re selling an ideology and an end state. It’s a hardware practice and it’s not really good practice to do. So getting into the work quickly as a principle, rather than talking conceptually as part of the the challenge of doing this work, which I’m sure many of you can appreciate, that…it’s, again, as adults, we are in patterns. We have narratives in our head, we… we are somewhat fixed in our thinking by virtue of age, wisdom, and experience and it’s harder for us to actually step into a new experience for many reasons. The unknown, ambiguity, discomfort, wanting to actually understand what it will be at the end before going through it, which is another anomaly of change process. So it’s disorienting and can be scary and challenging, which then puts a lot of groups and organizations back into where we sit around and we discuss it more than actually doing it. So we let the doing show us what the experience might be. And let us show us-let it show us how it’s actually exciting, and interesting, and fun, and invigorating; which is what I love to put people into because the moment people experience the difference, then you have the hook – healthy hook – to keep going. So again, attributing to the doing. 

Kathryn Maloney  Then there’s the piece about, you know, as I said, I spend a lot of my time teaching, meeting structures, designing meeting structures, designing workshops, designing events, designing planning sessions, designing strategy sessions, teaching decision methodologies, moving people into new technologies to leverage better communication in a system, talking about different ways that groups can come together and team and the structure of that or how an organization is structured and, you know, doing change work in those spaces. And it’s always interesting there too because those things are what we ask people to get into and start doing, to be in the experience of, and so there’s that, that barrier to just getting people into those. And then there’s a secondary barrier, which is you as the recipient of that; the doers of those… people have to actually be willing to give up something and oftentimes a lot of things because we give up what we know in order to step into these new ways of being and doing… um…and that is loss and there’s grief that comes with that, and there’s emotion that comes with that. And so there’s also holding people in that space as we, as we use these processes to move people into the experience of change. I said it’s impossible to change without changing. We, as change practitioners, can show people the structures and the ways of doing new things in new ways. And the reality is, is that’s the first step of just start doing rather than talking. And then it has to be taken by the folks who were – actually it’s their change to do; that they have to take it from there, we can’t do that part for them. And that’s oftentimes something I’m articulating early on with folks to make sure that they understand that both as buyers and – then and I’m in a system, there’s people who aren’t the buyer and they just receive us – but it’s, you know, people have to be willing to take it and do it themselves because I can’t actually deliver the change. The change is owned by the group, or the team, or the organization itself. So then a couple – a couple principles out of the article: experien-experiencing is believing. 

Kathryn Maloney  We’ve seen time and again that the transition from debating and cognating, about change or different methodologies, or, “Is this the right one for us?”, or “Is that the right one for us?”, or “Is it-does it apply to this organization but it doesn’t apply to another organization because we’re special?” Like, we’ve seen it all… and the difference between just moving into experience and seeing what adopting simple principles and practices does is worth so much time, and money, and effort. That it’s just… show don’t tell. Don’t wait for permission. I’m in a lot of systems, whether it’s leaders in a system or teams in a system, everybody’s waiting for someone to give them permission to do change or to be different or to try new things. And the only way to activate change in a system is for someone to start. And that someone can be anywhere in the system. It doesn’t have to be a leader, it often doesn’t need to be a leader and sometimes ought not be. So permission is a big conversation we have in terms of getting the doing going as well. Prepare to lose in order to gain the reality is is doing any kind of change work, whether you’re a coach, whether you’re doing teamwork, whether you’re doing systems work, it comes with loss, and that’s really important and hugely realistic to understand what we hold in terms of bringing people into the change because we have to hold the loss in order People to create the space for people to step into and that that dialectic is always in play. And again, I tend to speak to that directly because that can help minimize whatever anxiety people tend to have around doing change and actually again, being willing to step in.

Kathryn Maloney  “Mind your ego” I had written about because more… it’s the monkey mind, the ego monkey mind that, you know, a lot of the cognate eating and debating comes from the reptilian brain; the monkey mind basically feeling threatened. And the loop becomes like if I, if I just debate it, I avoid you know, I keep it away and then the risk is lower and so that often that coming from a certain part of the brain, the ego, whatever your anybody wants to call it, so mining your ego because there’s always the loop of changed, you know, it’s going to create chaos, it’s too much it’s going to disrupt, it’s going to be too crazy. And, you know, meanwhile, we’ve usually are in conversations where things are crazy. And that’s why we’re in the conversation to begin with. And so risk and the ego and not wanting to actually step in and do or are hugely a part of this scenario, doing work, as experiencial work

Kathryn Maloney  “Stop planning and start doing.” Again, planning is a lot of a cover for delaying action. And we’re very conditioned, you know, change management is rooted in a planning process, it’s rooted in a linear progression, it’s rooted with the beginning and a middle and an end. And so when you come in as change practitioners in 2020, or 2018, probably even 1997. It doesn’t matter. You’re, you’re coming in to do change in this way, you’re-you’re disrupting an entire framework from which people have been deeply conditioned to think what change looks like  Even…like I’m talking to a group of Agile people like if you think you know waterfall to agile and how old that conversation even is… still a very new conversation. So same difference with change management, I really come more from the-the change side of the world than I do from the Agile world. So planning is a big one. What are you guys doing? What is the plan for the change? How are you guys going to take us through the change? What is-what are the steps? What is what are, you know, what outcomes, what deliverables are you delivering? And the always the answer is what you’re going to find that out, you’re going to be the ones showing up to the change and doing the change. And how you show up and do the change is going to be what you deliver to your system about changing it. And so that’s a real that’s a real different type of conversation than what most folks are used to and what most folks are used to in terms of selling and buying change.

Kathryn Maloney  So I’m, I love what I do, I love partnering with them, and have had amazing partners in my professional life for all these years. And to do this work… deeply and in its purest, most authentic form takes being in strong relationships with people and oftentimes they have a bit of depth to them, and they require a lot of courage to show up as human beings to do this work together. So gratitude and presence are just another huge, huge part of doing this work. And what makes it fun and worthwhile in my humble opinion. So, conclusion. I’d love to hear some other voices rather than my own right now. The choice is always about braving learning experiencing oneself differently both as a practitioner and as the people we bring the change work to.

Kathryn Maloney  Sorry. Can you hear me? Did I get as far as the slide?

Host  Yep. You were, you just popped out for just a second.

Kathryn Maloney  Okay, great. It’s, it’s not up to me. It’s up to somebody else when I’m on Zoom and when I’m not here. So yeah, braving learning, experiencing oneself differently, really being in the truth and understanding of how systems work and how change works – and that study in and of itself is highly valuable, which is my, my background is natural systems and the biology of change – and then using tools and practices and methods to enable those things, not the opposite. And then no tool or method as a panacea, most are opportunities to, to with growth and change. And again, that’s a bit of a paradigm shift in terms of how people think about it. Most of the time, it’s holding all of those spaces I just talked about the tools are our helpers and our friends in the process. So that’s some backgrounds. Now that I’ve taken 40 minutes to get cut off of zoom twice and try and talk about what the article was about. I’d love to engage you guys in a conversation with me or with one another, happily with one another as well, to hear sort of what that elicits, in your minds, what kind of questions that brings up what stories you all have to share with one another about delivering change and the ideas of, of doing over… talking? We have, I think, what 10 to 20 minutes sharing to chat if people feel like it.

Host  Yeah, we have about 10 minutes left to chat. So if you have questions, you can put them in the chat box. I did go ahead and give everybody the ability to unmute yourself. So if you’d like to come on and share your answer, that’s fine. I do ask that you take less than one minute to say what you are wanting to share. That way. We have time for multiple

Host  Any questions or thoughts about this question?

Host  Sometimes it takes a minute as people are writing/typing out their questions. So we’ll just get-

Kathryn Maloney   It doesn’t have to be about that question that was just a prompt to help if there’s any questions on anything else. Are

Attendee 1  You were talking about Dave Snowden and his work? Do you use tools like sense maker to make sense of where an organization is before as part of the work that you do? 

Kathryn Maloney  I don’t. I don’t and I don’t – I don’t practice Dave’s methodology either but I love Dave’s talking and his-and his writing. But no, I don’t do sense maker but also I don’t do a lot of that assessment work of a system before I start work. Like I go in, I engage with a particular part of an organization, whether it’s a function or a team, or, you know, I come in in different ways. And I actually have some tools that we use to quickly get people reflecting on what’s in their way. And then get them to sort of self diagnose into trying new things immediately. So as a – my practice and the readies practice, we don’t do a set like… assessment is not a part of what we do. So there is not there’s no judgement about that tool. I just that’s not that’s not part of how we practice.

Attendee 1  Actually, I’m looking forward to reading the ready. So I’ll come back to you offline. Thank you.

Kathryn Maloney  You’re welcome. 

Host  We have two questions. First question he is working with engineers that quickly need to turn around projects. They use hackathon as a paradigm. To do quick iterations. What is your experience in getting quick iterations for change?

Kathryn Maloney  So, we again – funny enough, I’m going to tell you guys about how we practice – so we don’t go in…I mean-I-we could design a workshop, that’s not totally true. We could design a workshop that would like get people into such a thing as a hackathon. If it was a very specific workshop, so I think it’s a wonderful tool to use if you’re trying to teach people how to just think and create and design real fast and ideate to get into iterating on something. I think that’s wonderful. We also go in with large transformation projects and we teach iteration as a way of working. So which is that’s really easy to say and not as easy to do. If you work with engineers, you know that well, so like, it’s getting people to move into that, you know, more agile loop of identifying something, testing it, figuring out what the test and the data is telling you to then move to the next, you know, stage of it is something that we teach teams to do in function as a way of working. So sometimes we’re doing an event type thing, but other times we’re actually embedding to teach over the long term how to move a system to actually thinking and working in an iterative way as a way of working. So, change – quick change is also an anomaly. You know, right? Like, if we all knew how to, like teach people quick change, we would, you know, probably all be billionaires, I always say that I’m like, that’s how I’m gonna become a millionaire. Like there’s always these things. So quick changes, like, I don’t know if there’s such a thing, right. But there are there are six constructs and designs and methods and tools that certainly help people to think in tighter frameworks in tighter timelines, to design and iterate more quickly, to take that data and to put it back in to keep going right to be in that loop of change. So it’s more like where my qualitative researcher brain comes from, of, you know, trying to identify things in extract and then put it back into redesign and do it again and teaching that as a way of working is not… it’s not quick. It takes a lot of it takes a lot of discipline, and it takes a lot of attention, and it takes a lot of commitment from a team and an organization to do that.

Host  Yeah, change is definitely not easy. So we have one last question; we might have time for one more after that. But this question is, “When doing this change work, what do you do when people are actually unable to execute within the framework that you’ve sent out/set up?

Kathryn Maloney  Alejandra, that’s an ind-I’d almost want to know a little more behind your question. Let me try and take it but and then if you want to clarify…

Kathryn Maloney  Here’s my… I might-I might be shooting incorrectly with your question here. So…just hold that lightly. I don’t know if it’s maturity because I-I work with so many different ages and cultures and, you know, genders and ethnicities, and, you know, I work across so many types of humans to include younger ones. And I often think it’s not. If you’re running into people not embracing change, oftentimes the question has to go to the practitioners it has to go to the structures, it has to go to the constructs, because that’s part of the artistry and the dance is figuring out how to find the inroads so that people can make it work for them and sometimes an Agile approach from what I hear, because I’ve never delivered one like in that way, but sometimes an Agile approach can be too rigid in what you’re asking people to do. And that’s where you – people run into because I run into this in every organization I work in, right? Because I’m very close all the time to people doing agile transformation work and systems. And so oftentimes, it’s like, I always-it’s like, “Where can you give breathing space for people to actually find their way because people need to muck about.” It’s one of my favorite expressions. That is, you know, obviously very academic. People need to muck about in change, they have to find a way whether it’s an individual working with a therapist and individual going to the gym and individual that you can think of all sorts of changes individuals, yourself of like, how do you sort of find your way to like the place where you’re in the flow and it can work? You have to do that with groups of people as well. And of course, I like small groups. So because it’s mucking about is a thing and it takes time and you have to allow people to make muck about enough to find which, which of the tools or practices actually resonate? Like is the retrospective working for a team that’s adopting an Agile approach and just focusing on that, letting people get into the rhythm of that so that they feel into that experience and have some success to then add other things.

Host  Aweome. Well, okay, well, thank you very much for taking a few minutes to answer questions. Katherine, this was a great presentation.

Kathryn Maloney  You’re very welcome

Host  Love to hear your, your information and background that you have as a change agent, not necessarily like as just an agile coach, but how do you do change an organization, change is very complex. So definitely appreciate this perspective and appreciate your time here today. 

Kathryn Maloney  Thank you so much

Best Agile Articles 2018 is a collection of articles from a variety of authors published on topics of all things Agile in 2018.

The Best Agile Articles book series collects the best agile articles published during a calendar year into a single volume. 

You can download your free copy of the ebook from our website or buy a paperback copy from Amazon.

On April 6 the authors of the best agile articles published in 2018 came together for a workshop, giving their talk on topics such as Agile Leadership, distributed teams, and others.

If you would like to subscribe to the soundcast of these talks, head to Soundwise.

Today Tandem Coaching Academy publishes the talk Johanna Rothman gave during the workshop providing several suggestions on how to lead distributed Agile teams.

Other Best Agile Articles 2018 Posts


Host All right, well, welcome back everyone, we trust that you are either back or on your way back from break. And we’re going to get started with our next session right on time so that we keep everybody on schedule, and we’re able to fit in as many conversations as possible. Everyone is on mute throughout the presentation, if you have a question, if you could put it in the chat box that will help us to be able to manage questions and be able to get get some interaction with Johanna. And I’m going to introduce her now. We have Johanna Rothman, who is going to be presenting five tips to lead distributed agile teams. And this was one of her articles in the Best Agile Articles of 2018 book. And it is very much relevant today. And this time when the whole world is now suddenly distributed. So we’re really excited to get some new information from you. And Johanna, I will hand this over to you. And welcome.

Johanna Rothman Thank you so much. And by the way, I always have my Twitter handle on my front slide, because that way, if I say anything smart, you can tweet it. If I say anything stupid, you can tweet that too, totally fine. So you folks probably know about the principles that Mark Kilby and I developed for our distributed agile teams book. I’m not going to read them to you. But I think that it’s really important to say, if we have these principles, what kind of a culture needs these principles. And what I find is that when we go from the team, to the leaders, we really need to think differently about what’s going on in the organization. So, we all know that managers create and refine the organizational culture. The reason the managers do that is because the managers hold the purse strings. What you decide to reward is a big, big part of your culture, what you are allowed to talk about another big part of your culture, and how we treat each other, the other, the kind of the three legged stool for culture.

So if I think about leaders and what is necessary for leaders, that we often when we go to an agile approach, we see long standing teams that are self directed. Now, some of you are saying, maybe my team is not yet self directed. That’s a different problem. But we also now are seeing the emergence of self managing and self designing teams. And that’s, at least for me, that’s really exciting. That means that the kind of leadership we need for those teams needs to change. And while we might be in the self directed vertical at this point, I think that more and more of us, especially as we work from home, have to be self managing and have to be self designing. There is no way managers can get their micromanagement fingers in there. So, when I think about agile leadership, especially when they’re distributed, that we have these five tips, which is focusing on the collaboration and the work from maximum throughput, and I’m going to talk about throughput versus efficiency later. How can you visualize a system? How can you encourage experiments, and how can you use resilience, not prediction, as your primary risk management. And the fifth one is collaborating with peer leaders.

So let me talk about collaboration at all levels. If you are currently working in a more traditional organization, and you have a personal plan for the year, and you have personal bonuses, and personal this and personal that, that’s all about resource efficiency. Now, the problem is resource efficiency reinforces silos of understanding. So the developers are silo, and possibly the UI developers and the middleware, and the platform layer, and those silos are separate from testing and separate from all kinds of other documentation or possibly the user experience people. The more resource efficiency we have, the less collaboration we have. That’s because all the managers are trying to focus on, and measure every person’s individual contribution. And that means we have so many delays in the work, because when the work assignment arrives, then you do your work you hand off. And who knows how much delay there is, then you hand off, who knows how much delay, than there you hand off, you might hand off and off and off. So resource efficiency looks efficient, but it’s actually the slowest way to work. So flow efficiency focuses on the team’s throughput and this is outcomes, not outputs. So if you think about resource efficiency, if the UI person has an output, right, then the next person has an output, you don’t actually get an outcome until you finish the total feature. But in flow efficiency, we work together as a team, we collaborate. I like to call this optimizing up for the team. And I needed another word. And if you anybody has a better word for optimizing up at the team level, as opposed to the individual level, I would love to hear it.


So this is where we reduce the need for experts. We increase work through the team. So the more our managers especially our distributed managers, think about collaboration, the easier it is for the team to finish their work. So this is a really interesting dichotomy. Because our managers think that resource efficiency works. They think that we can divide the, work that will help us conquer it, that if people are fully utilize, then people are efficient. They also think that we can tell how a person contributes to a team. And none of that, none of that is true. Right? All of that is fake understanding of how management and teams actually work.

So in flow efficiency, we work together, limiting our WIP, our work in progress, and we all succeed based on our team. This is where, if you read almost any of my literature, any of my writing, I have always said, the teams know who’s doing the work in the team and who’s not. You don’t need a manager to understand that. And throughput is much more important than being busy. So if you need a quick way to think about it resource efficiency is about each person’s output. And flow efficiency is about the team’s throughput of outcomes. So, especially at distance, when managers focus on flow efficiency, they realize that collaboration hours matter that you get better work at distance, and you have a lot more agility in the organization. Now, if you remember, Mark’s and my first principle is establish acceptable hours of overlap. So I’m not sure where all of you are all of you lovely people. You’re all over the world. But some of you who are much farther east than I am are already in your evenings. You would not I suspect choose to work in your evenings, all evening unless, unless you really like it. I am much more of a nine-to-five person in whatever time zone I’m in. So I happen to be in the Eastern Time Zone. I can flex a little bit to work with people on Pacific time. I can flex a little bit to work with people in Europe in Israel. And when I collaborate with people in India, we have trouble finding time to work together. We are in Australia and New Zealand. It’s always their next day and often too early in the morning for them and my later in the afternoon, so I’m not sure either of us is actually awake enough to do really good work for a long period of time. We can still collaborate for short periods of time, because we can both make it work but longer periods of time. That’s why collaboration hours really, really matter.

So let’s talk about the team’s environment. And I’m not gonna ask you, literally to tell me have you seen your team’s environment now. But I will tell you that I really like to visualize the cycle time, the lead time, and the delays. And I often do this with a couple of different charts, including value stream maps. So this is a value. This is this is a chart I made up. I’m sure it has a name. I just don’t know the name of it. This is where if you look at t-zero, times zero, the item gets selected for the organization to work on. And then this is all about management decision time. When does it go on to a team’s backlog? This particular team had a lot of independent work by the UI people in the platform people and notice this product owner decision time. This is a real team that I’m talking about. The product owner had trouble deciding when should people work on this. And then once the UI and the platform people prepared, they handed it off and resource efficiency to the middleware in the backend, and of course, things came back, right? They circled a few times once all the development was done. I put development in quotes, because if you don’t have testing, if you don’t actually know that it works, I’m not sure that you actually have finished development. When they found things, that cycled back to T-3 and oftens cycled back to T-2.

So this is supposed to be an agile team. And that looks a lot like waterfall, because of the resource efficiency. Once everyone was done with it then the product owner can offer feedback. And more often than not, the product owner said yes, this is right. But every so often, the product owner said, “Oh, it’s not quite what I want.” So, what percolated back up, back through the team. So, the cycle time is the time from t2 to t5, and the lead time is the time from T1 to T6. This is the release to consumers and ever so, often, I find that people have a lot of work in progress in the organization, that they have not yet released to the customers. And there are many possible reasons for that. But think about what does this look like for your organization. So when the new manager came in, she said, “well, what do we have for team based delays?” And if you look at this value stream map you can see that there’s a half a day of delay between the UI and the platform, half a day, between middleware and backend, half a day between test and tech pubs. And then the PO, actually took a half a day to review and accept the feature. So the work time was three and a half days, but the total cycle time was five days. So if you are using velocity in your team, to try and estimate what you can do, this is why cycle time is a much better estimate. Because you can count the days that it takes for you to actually get something done, as opposed to try and estimate something that you don’t know. So they said, “Well, let’s create a different kind of value stream.” So the entire team met to review the work and they took about an hour and then they swarmed on the work, that meant that they could keep all of these this one, just a little over two days. And they still had wait time for their product owner. But they could not figure out what was going on. Why did it take so long for the product owner? Well, it turns out that there was a whole lot of multitasking. If you don’t have really good decision making for a management decision time and product owner decision time. So the T1 to T2 time, that took a very long time for the team. So and there was still a delay, there was a different group that needed to release to the consumers. It wasn’t regulated industry and they really did need to know that they were not going to break anything else. But the days and sometimes weeks, week from T4 to T5 – that was a little crazy. So once you understand what’s going on in the team, once you visualize that, now you have a shot of understanding what are the delays outside the team. And remember that a lot of this time actually was so much larger than the team cycle time.

So they changed the team environment, which was to create full feature teams. UI, and testing, and tech pubs no longer were service, they relocated the product owners. Some of the product owners were many, many time zones and very few hours of overlap away from their teams. So they talked to a whole bunch of the product owners and said, Is there a way for us to collaborate better with people where you are? How can we do that? So they managed to have more full teams here, more full teams with a product owner closer together, so their hours of overlap are better. This is something the managers can do. Very few teams have the option to do any of this. And this is I think that this is really a problem.

Now, the next tip is to encourage experiments. I am a huge fan of experiments. And I don’t want failing fast. I don’t know how many of you like to fail fast. I don’t like to fail at all. Oh, Astrid, yes, you like to fail fast. Fine. Okay, so there’s at least one person here. Oh, you don’t like it? Oh, yeah. No, no. Failing is horrible. Learning – good, failing – bad. So I really want to learn early. I that means I need small safe to fail experiments. Yes, that’s connected language. If you don’t know about connection, I strongly suggest that you learn about it. And the way we learn is to have a hypothesis for change. So this is my experimental loop looks just like almost any other experimental loop. We have a reason for the experiment. We suspect that there’s a problem. We want to learn something. We create a hypothesis that includes the data we want to measure. Now we experiment, and we timebox this experiment. I really like small experiments of a day or two, maybe a week. I’m not too big on longer experiments, just because the feedback loops are so long. So I want to have really short feedback loops, and then I want to measure the results and learn from the data, I can go around this loop as often as I want. And even if I create a hypothesis, and I think, “Oh, that didn’t really tell me much, I maybe I need to create a different hypothesis or create different data that I want to measure.” Totally fine. So I really want to think about what the hypothesis is.

So I really want to think about the decision. Do I want to continue change or stop the experiment when I get to learning? So I really want to think about this. The reason this previous organization was ready to move to flow efficiency thinking is because I had them write down their hypothesis. We will get more work done. If everybody is busy. And I said, “What can you measure?” They decided on the number of finished features, I would have preferred the cycle time. But they decided on the number of finish features per a given time box. So they first measured what they had for the number of finished features in the previous time box. And then I said, “Okay, that was two weeks. Now, our hypothesis is you will finish fewer features if you work as a team, if you actually swarm, or mob, or at least pair. And so they had finished three features in the previous two weeks. And when they framed this change as an experiment, they got through four features in the first week. They said, “Do we need to continue this experiment?” I said, “Do you think you have enough data? I mean, what do you want to do? You’ve already learned that you finished more in one Week, do you need another week of experiment? Do you want us to frame a different experiment?” So they decided, we finished that for this one week. Now we will figure out what to do differently for the next week. So they had a different hypothesis about how to work with the product owners in the second week. So they were able to frame their changes, and then, as they had these two experiments, they could use the next two week time box and integrate the experiment.

Mark is asking, “What is my definition of a feature?” Something a customer could use. Right, so something usable, not full. I have a blog post called Minimum Outcomes. I think it’s something about minimum outcomes, where I talk about a minimum viable experiment, a minimum viable product, a minimum marketable feature, a minimum indispensable feature set, a minimum adoptable feature set. I do not use the word epic or theme. I only use the words feature set. Because if you talk about epic or theme, your managers, the people far above you in the organization think it’s one thing. And it’s not. It’s many, many things. So I happen to use the term feature set, and that helps me. So even if it’s a minimum viable experiment that will help us learn something that to me is a feature, not the entire feature set. I hope that that makes sense, Mark.

Okay, so, what I have found is that a lot of organizations really want predictability instead of risk management. When we experiment, we are able to do risk management When we demand predictability, we are saying to people, “We don’t trust you to deliver. We don’t trust you to manage your risks yourselves. We want a real, an accurate estimate,” which accurate and estimate does not actually go together. Those two words are an oxymoron. But we want an accurate estimate and we want a commitment. One of my clients talks about commitments. I don’t know if you can see my hand, right, it is kind of a hammer on the other end of my hand. That’s the way people feel when they want all of this predictability. So, if you are able to think about small safe to fail experiments instead of predictability, then you are learning early and you can still deliver. So I’ve written a lot about balancing feedback loops and innovation and commitment. And I’m happy to share those blog posts for you, you can just look for them on my site. But it’s really important to think about, how often can I get feedback from the stuff I’m doing, so I can commit. Because if you realize you have a feature set of about 30 features, you will be able to deliver several of them early, more than later, and several of them you might not need to do, this is the 80/20 rule. And I really wish most of the software I use on my computer really have to buy the 8020 rule, because most of it, most of the software we use is bloated, has way too much stuff. We don’t need most of it. So if we could do only the stuff that we need, and yes, it’s difficult to figure out what stuff that we really need. But the more we think about it, the better our products will be, and the less pressure we put on the people in the teams.

So now I’m going to talk about using resilience as your primary risk management. So, a lot of people use adaptability and resilience as the same thing. Adaptability is steering the change and responsiveness to change, that you notice that there is a change, you somehow steer the organization. Resilience is your ability to recover from problems or change. Now I made this picture so you might not agree with it, but this is how I think of adaptability and resilience. We notice a change first. And then once we recognize we need adaptability, we can generate options. Then we practice with experiments. And because we took that small step, we feel good about ourselves. And then even if we don’t succeed, even if we just learn, we’re now open to an expect more change, we use our resilience to create more adaptability and capability in the adaptability arena. So for me, adaptability and resilience are two different things. And we need both of them. So if your team is working in resource efficiency, you don’t have the resilience for other people to take over. So all of us are maybe not literally in lockdown. But all of us are working from home now. All of us are are being asked to limit our time and the stores and our flights, all of that stuff. At least I am, because I’m in the US.

So the more adaptable we are, the more able we are to generate possibilities. That’s that generate options thing here. And the more we experiment, the better off we are. So thinking about how we steer the change with adaptability? How do we enhance our ability to recover from problems, if not all of our team members can be with us all day, because they’re taking care of children, they tend to older people, they’re doing something, then what do we need to do as a team? And if you think about adaptability, and resilience, not just for feature teams or technical teams, but also for management teams, and senior management teams, now you’re a lot farther along.

So when I think about leading a distance, I know that I’m going to need adaptability. And one of the things I really like to look at is the cumulative flow. This particular chart is from a real project. I know I have many stories about real projects. This particular product owner really loved his PRD, his product requirements document. So he created a PRD and kept adding to it until the developers in the testers said, “What are you doing? Why are you adding more features as we go?” The team needed to do a little analysis on everything that was in the PRD just in time. So sometimes they would take an entire feature set at a time. Sometimes they would take a couple of small stories, but whatever it is, they often had a bunch of stuff in an analysis, because they were not sure where they were headed. This, the yellow part is not even a unit test. These people sometimes use TDD and sometimes did not, but they often had unit tests. And then this blue is where the testers actually did their testing. So you can see that the testers really kept up pretty well, with the developers. They were not behind. Now, you might be wondering, “Johanna, you’re so focused on flow efficiency. Why are you talking about testers being behind?” Well, when I create anything, I need other people to review it. I am not capable of reviewing the stuff that I create. Well, I mean, I can some amount of review. But I think that I am not that different from all of your developers and all of your testers. We need both development and testing people on a given project. We might not need anything else. And even in resource efficiency, I should say flow efficiency, I am not talking about testers are going to become developers. I’m talking about people who work together, who collaborate on the work on a limited amount of work. So, the nice thing about looking at all this green stuff, all the completed work is that you can see a leader, a manager does not have to ask too many questions. The leader, or the manager can say, “Do you have too much work in progress in this in the ready work and not yet started? What’s going on there? Is there some kind of an impediment that I can help you with?” And with analysis, there’s not that much work in analysis. So the red stuff, the the stuff that It’s supposedly ready and not yet started, that’s the only place I would actually look for areas to discuss with the team.

Now, there are other kinds of project metrics, such as the product backlog, burn up chart and feature chart, which shows you how many features you finished, and how many features you’ve added over time. Those might be useful for a manager, if the team is only self directed. This goes back to the kinds of teams. If the team is self managing, or self organizing, the manager doesn’t need to do that much. The manager kind of needs to remove the impediments in front of the team. So one of the interesting things when I think about more resilience and more adaptability is that I really liked the rule of three. So I got the rule of three from Jerry Weinberg in almost any of his books, read all of them. You should all read all of his books. Okay, fine. I said that. So the rule of three says, “one option is a trap, two options are a dilemma, and three options create the breakthrough thinking and allow you to generate options, maybe four or five and six.” My guideline for me is always to generate three options. So if you read my writing, especially my Pragmatic Manager Emails, you’ll see I often have three tips, or three options, or three of this, or three of that. That’s because my guideline is to always create at least three options. And now, that’s because I am the kind of person who until I knew about the rule of three said, “Oh, first option. Good idea. Let’s do it.” That’s one way of doing work, maybe not optimal. Because I have found that only one option really doesn’t give us enough ideas. And then there are people who are hamsters for lack of a better word, that they just create more, and more, and more, and more ideas. And if you have people like that on your team, keep them close, harness their ideas and say, “How will we start experimenting? Do we have enough ideas now?” And chances are if you’re all tired of generating ideas, yeah, you probably have enough ideas. And if you’re up to idea 25, you probably don’t need any more ideas. It’s time to start experimenting. What is your hypothesis? What data do you want to gather? How long do you want the experiment to run? Then run it and gather the data and keep going through the experimental loop. That will increase your adaptability and offer you enough resilience so you can keep going. Because you might actually have to work through all kinds of ideas.

So many of you are newly remote or new to lots of remote work. Maybe you only worked remote for a day a week before. But if you’re like most of the people I know this is very, very new. So you might need to experiment in many, many different directions. And as long as you are a leader and helping people say, “Do we have enough ideas for now? How, quickly can we go to an experiment that will offer us more data?” So one the problems with people like me, who like that very first option is we take that first option, and then we cut off all the other options. So, leadership, whether you’re in the team or serving a team, is this delicate balance for me of encouraging more options and encouraging how people can do their work, and learn from it, and not cutting off options too prematurely. And I don’t know what that Goldilocks time is, you will have to figure this out yourself.

So, the next tip is to collaborate with peer leaders. When I find is that when I go back to this image, notice that I said that management decision time T0 to T1 (and I wrote this not to scale). So I made this small but the reality is this was actually twice the duration of any of the projects. So, what is going on for miniatures? Why can they not make a decision in a reasonable amount of time? What I have often found is that managers have great intentions for making decisions.