I have some coaching acquaintances who’ve joined a relatively large firm. They’re tasked with being the internal agile coaches and leading the organization’s agile transformation.
Several times members of the organization’s leadership team have reached out to me to come in and discuss various aspects of high-performance agility. Topics like culture, scaling, and leadership agility was of heavy interest. I think they were simply looking to get an outside, experienced coach to come in and provide insights. Not undermine the internal coaches.
But each time the internal coaching team squashed the inquiry and insisted that they do the session. In fact, in other cases of invitation, they wanted to go over my “talking points” to ensure that I wouldn’t say something that differed with their guidance or perspective. Given that level of scrutiny, I respectfully withdrew any interest.
This is an actual example. But I’ve seen and heard it repeated many times in my own agile journey.
I wrote a coaching article a while ago that illustrated an agile coaching anti-pattern. It was quite well-read and I received quite a bit of feedback on it.
One of the folks who responded was Mick Maguire.
A great article by Bob Galen, he shines a light on an all too common pattern, especially among the late adopter market that we are in these days... My advice... If you are about to engage agile coaching, and you don't want to waste (a very big pile of) your money, make sure the first conversations are "what does success look like?" and "How will we know if we are getting there?...”
I’m not focusing on the coaching part of his reply, but more so reacting to this entry level statement:
“Especially among the late adopter market that we are in these days…”
Mick’s comment has stuck with me since I read his reply. Making me think about Geoffrey Moore’s, Crossing the Chasm and where the agile (movement, methods, frameworks, etc.) might be on that scale.
I’ve been teaching and coaching Scrum for nearly 20 years. During that time, I’ve always tried to stay true to the basic Scrum guidance and the Scrum Guide. But I’ve also shared my own practical experience.
One of the things that I’ve been consistent about in my guidance is that the ScrumMaster is NOT a manager or HR role. That is, they should not be “mucking around” with personnel performance issues. At least not directly.
For example, they should not be writing/executing Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) or removing folks from teams or firing folks.
So, you can imagine my shock & chagrin when I saw an article by Barry Overeem that seemed to be saying the opposite. Now I’ve followed Barry for many years and I normally align with his recommendations. Or at least I see the soundness in his perspective. And often he simply makes me think about things in new ways. Which I appreciate.
But in this case, I think this is a very dangerous point of view and flat out wrong. So, let me share my thoughts…
I came across a video the other day that had this catchy title – Radical Candor. I watched it and was intrigued by the talk AND its implication to agile teams, organizational transformations, and sustainable cultures.
Kim Scott was the presenter in the video and she was sharing lessons she’d learned in her leadership journey at Apple and Google. In a nutshell, she was advocating radical candor for leaders in communicating with their direct reports.
The stories she told made me think about my own career and leadership journey. A couple of which I’d like to share with you.
Quite a few years ago, while I was working at iContact, a fellow agile coach approached me with a free offer.
It seemed that he had developed an agile maturity assessment (framework, tool, approach, strategy, etc.) and wanted to try it out somewhere. I’d known him for quite some time and he had some solid agile coaching experience under his belt.
I politely told him “thank you” and that I would “think about it” and quickly closed down the discussion. To be honest, I was initially close-minded to the idea. Here I was an internal technical leader and agile coach in my company. And, to be honest, we were kicking-ass when it came to agile performance and delivery.
But the more I thought about it, the more I started to convince myself that it would be a good idea. Regardless of our performance, we could always get better…couldn’t we?
I was chatting with some colleagues the other day and the topic of agile maturity came up. Particularly for Technology Leaders who are inquiring about agile approaches.
These could be leaders who are new to agile and want to start the transformation OR leaders who are currently engaged in a transformation and looking for assistance.
The questions were around, how to tell IF:
- Do they truly “get” or understand agility?
- Are they really “ready” for it?
- Are they serious about it?
- Are they a good candidate for a coaching engagement?
- And, are they properly aligned with the principles of the coaching/consulting firm?
Some of the questions focused towards money. In fact, quite a few of them. Questions here were around budgets, the contractual/approval process, and payment terms.
I was almost embarrassed to admit that these are not forefront in my mind when I’m engaging clients. My feeling is that they sort of take care of themselves. What I care more about is how I perceive the Inspection Report - February 2017 client’s answers to the first set of questions AND how do they align with my own principles.
For several years, I was heavily involved in running Scrum Alliance Coaching Retreats. I probably attended 5-6 of them over time. And they filled a necessary niche where folks who were in agile coaching roles could gather together and share ideas and challenges.
But the format of the events was focused towards running small projects as Scrum teams. You can read more about that here.
Well, last week I attended my first Agile Coach Camp – US in New York City. It ran from Friday evening to mid-day on Sunday. And it was held at the Spotify offices. It was run as an Open Space.
I was writing another blog post about the lack of an agile engagement having a cohesive coaching team and it dawned on me that I’ve never shared what an agile coaching team might look like.
Given that inspiration, I thought I’d spend a few minutes discussing aspects of creating (finding, forming, and building) a great team of coaches for a larger-scale, agile transformation initiative.
I honestly don’t know where the quote comes from, but I’ve heard that in order for you to become a great leader, you need first to become a great follower. That by following, and putting on the mindset of service, you better understand leadership.