I was teaching a class the other day and folks were very distracted. Even though the class had been scheduled for months and everyone seemed committed to it, the following happened:
People were running in and out of class to attend meetings
Many were checking email on their laptops and phones
Several leaders, who were scheduled to attend, totally bailed out
Several “emergencies” came up that needed immediate attention
Believe it or not, this often happens during my classes. And I’m not that bothered by it. Meaning, I try to ignore the interruptions and focus my attention to those who ARE present. And who do want to add more skills and thinking to their practice of agile leadership.
That being said, I’m not writing this article to complain. But instead to make a very clear point…
It’s a CHOICE!
My colleague and friend, Daniel Mezick, posed the following hypothetical on LinkedIn in September 2019 –
You are an independent Agile coach, visiting a potential client with 1500 employees. It's obvious that the intelligent, well-meaning executive that is interviewing you does not really understand that employee engagement is essential to success in transformation. His org wants to "roll out" imposed Agile practices. They plan to use this big, huge framework. They already decided.
With all the training and everything else, it's looking like about 200K coming your way over the next 8 months if you get this account. But you are 100% sure it's the wrong approach. And if you say so, you figure there is a 60% chance your concerns will be lost in translation. And you know you have no more than 45 minutes with this executive. So, you sit there, intently listening to his story, and pondering what it means to "do the right thing." There are 25 minutes left at this meeting. And you know some other consulting firms who are good at marketing will also be interviewed as service providers for this engagement. You realize it's now or never. And you are not too happy about this...
Link to the post - https://www.linkedin.com/posts/danielmezick_you-are-an-independent-agile-coach-visiting-activity-6577891855055241216-oU7Y
As of September 16th, the post had received +20k views, 158 reactions, and 116 comments. Which is astounding to me.
Clearly, it’s created a buzz and generated reactions, which is probably why Dan posed it in the first place. I’m thinking he wanted to post a hypothetical that was open to interpretation and representative of a common agile coaching dilemma.
I wanted to weigh-in. Not as a way of directly responding to the scenario. And not, to the more than 100 comments. But more so, just from my heart. You see, I think the answer is quite simple.
I sometimes think that I’m the only agile coach who supports “management” and “leaders” in agile contexts. And I’ve written quite a few pieces with that perspective. For example –
So, I was surprised and delighted when I read this piece from Jason Little – Why Executives Don’t Go to Agile Conferences.
Based on the title, I thought Jason would join a long list of agile thought leaders who take a few swipes at executives. But when I got into it, I realized that he showed far more understanding and empathy than I could have imagined. Here are two quotes from the article…
It astonishes me to see so much information about bad leadership, and how executives don’t care because they can’t spare a day at an Agile conference to explore how to run more effective retrospectives. I don’t think many pundits have a clue how much stress these people have on them, and that executives are people too. Sure, some may behave in a more forward way, which is usually perceived as command-and-control, but from my experience, it’s not the case. They’re just busy.
The original post on this topic was one of my more popular posts. As of, August 14th, 2019, it’s received:
On LinkedIn, ~9,500 views, 86 reactions, and 40 comments
On my website, ~2,500 views and 18 comments
What’s particularly noteworthy for me is the number of comments and the overall depth, breadth, and thoughtfulness of them.
Here’s a link to the LinkedIn post - https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6561537228772831232/
And here’s a link to my original blog post - http://rgalen.com/agile-training-news/2019/6/23/the-trap-of-being-an-embedded-agile-coach
As I review the comments and thought about the article and my original intentions, I realized that a follow-up would be helpful.
I want to react to some of the comments, but I also want to clarify some of my intentions in the article. As I think some folks might have misinterpreted them. And this is mostly due to my writing.
That being said, I’m not apologizing for the original article. I think it represented my thinking…and still does. I’d just like to clarify a few things.
I periodically do a coaching circle as a service to our agile community. I invite anyone to it and it’s free. Think of it as a Lean Coffee format discussion with folks looking for coaching advice.
This question came up the other day:
I'd like to hear how your teams handle spikes - do spikes have acceptance criteria - yes/no? Do spikes have story points yes/no?
And it generated quite a nice discussion around the idea of spikes. And it made me think about whether I’ve ever written about them before. I was shocked to realize that I really hadn’t done a deep dive into my thoughts on spiking. Well, here goes nothing…
I engaged a contractor to come over to my home the other day to give me an estimate for doing some external work on my house. I needed some carpentry repairs to my siding, a few windows replaced, and a few repairs to my screened-in porch.
The weather has been challenging lately in NC so the house has taken on some damage. Not too much, but I like to stay ahead of things regarding maintenance.
He gave me an estimate for his time (hours) and costs to repair each item.
I was sort of taken aback by the estimates. They seemed much longer/larger than the ones I had done on my own so I shared them with him.
When I did, he gave me a sideways stare. He said that if I wanted to do the work, then my estimates were valid. But if I wanted him to do the work, then mine were irrelevant. He noted that this is what he did for a living, that he had glowing recommendations (he did!) and that he stood by his estimates as valid.
He also mentioned that, with all due respect, I was biased. I was the customer so I saw things in a different light (easier, quicker, lower cost) then he did. He also mentioned that I had little (recent) experience ;-)
In the end, he said that I either trusted him or not. And he asked – did I want him to do the job?
I quickly apologized for my presumptuousness, and wholeheartedly said YES.
One of the product owner models that I’ve been sharing for many years is the 4-Quadrants of Product Ownership. I write about it in my new Scrum Product Ownership book and I’ve also shared it in this blog post.
But it recently struck me that I missed an important aspect of Product Ownership when I explored the quadrants.
I think there should also be a quadrant that focuses on:
I know and can read your mind.
How in the world could I have “left out” these personal attributes? To be honest, I’m embarrassed. But that being said, it’s not too late to correct this wrong ;-)
I was having dinner the other evening with a few agile coaches after teaching a CAL class all day. I think we all wanted to “trap” each other into either:
Revealing our coaching secrets
Checking to see where out passions lie
Challenging each other on our “agility”
And simply, learning from one another
It was a small group and we engaged in some serious discussion and debate around our agile experiences and how to help our client engagements.