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!
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 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.
Sometimes my clients ask me which are the best organization structures that support a move to agile approaches. There are many ways to characterize their organizational structure and focus, but a common view I use is this:
Are they aligned as a Project-based organization or a Product-based one?
You can move to agile methods with either focus, but I think a Product-based focus makes it much easier. Let’s explore the dynamics of each. This will help you determine where your organization currently resides AND how you might want to shift your focus if you’re thinking about agility.
I might be the first one to complain about bad managers. Heck, throughout my career, I’ve had more than my share of incompetent, self-centered, and poor-intentioned leaders. So, it would be easy for me to jump on the bandwagon in the agile community that lambastes managers on a daily basis.
No, you say. This doesn’t happen. We in the agile world embrace and respect all roles and all people.
Well here’s an example from the Larman & Bodde – Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) book. The reference is from Anton Zotin, an agile coach, and it was published on LinkedIn. And no, I’m not picking on Anton or the LeSS guys. I’m just using this as an example. There are countless others.
I was having an email conversation with an agile coaching colleague the other day. In one of her replies, she said the following:
BTW I really like the way you articulate your concerns about the agile community at large. It’s helpful to share with my leadership and customers as we try to navigate a very messy space of certifications, frameworks, and competing agile voices
The final point she made really struck a chord with me. The notion of competing agile voices.
It made me realize that, YES, there are many, many agile voices today. And one of the real challenges is to figure out who to listen to. Where’s the value and the experience? And how to avoid the “noise” or how to separate the wheat from the chaff?
I want to share some ideas around this challenge. No, I’m not sharing any secret filter or the 1-person to listen to. They don’t exist.
But I do want to share some advice for handling the high voice count and how to become a more discerning listener when it comes to the noise.
And it’s getting worse…
I read an article by Angie Jones the other day entitled - 7 Habits of Highly Effective SDETs. If you know me, you know how enamored I am of Steven Covey and Angie, so I read it with great anticipation.
And indeed, it was a great piece that focused on the evolution of testing and the testers role.
But it also made me think about testers in a different way. A melancholier way. It reminded me of the song, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, by Pete Seeger. It’s a very dated folk song written in 1955. A year before my birth ;-)
Frankly, I’m tired of all of the scaling frameworks. They’re mostly driven by three needs:
Creating revenue for the firms creating them;
From a company or organizational perspective, they’re indicative of lazy, buy agile in-a-box, thinking;
And they feed the “certification happy” nature of our community.
And yes, I too am guilty of falling into the above traps.
I think the introduction of Scrum@Scale has ticked me over the edge and inspired me to write this post. That and reading this article by Neil Perkin, which takes a more reflective view to leveraging useful bits from the various scaling frameworks.
I have a confession to make. I’ve fallen into a trap and I need to get out of it.
Gosh, Bob, what’s wrong? What is it you might ask?
I’ve been saying: “The Scrum Guide says” way too frequently. It’s almost a daily mantra and I suddenly realized that I need to stop it.