As the instructor walked us through the exercise, he made it clear that “it depends” was not an acceptable answer. I asked if we could say “I don’t know”. And that was unacceptable as well.
It seemed that his only view of a viable answer to leadership was to provide a historical, trended data forecast. To give them as specific a timeframe as possible and lightly couch the risks associated with the estimate.
His primary driver for this position seemed to be that:
If we didn’t give them a specific forecast, they would go to someone (another team, another organization, offshore firm, nearshore firm, outsourced, etc.) that would make a more specific commitment.
I.e., that because we’re afraid of losing the “bid”, we have to provide something to win their confidence and win the work. No matter the level of confidence or runway we have in our historical “velocity-based” data.
I’ve often held the perspective that there is no real ‘L’eadership roles within agile teams. The entire notion of a self-directed team in some ways confuses the role that leadership plays within agile contexts.
One of the leadership dynamics, at least from my perspective, is at the agile or Scrum team level. I’ve always observed that leadership is one of the central ingredients to a successful agile adoption. In fact, the larger the scale, the more important it becomes.
That being said, the larger the scale, the more incumbent managers and leaders struggle to figure out the new role they need to play in the shift. And quite often the organization really doesn’t support them (coaching, training, funding) in this effort. It’s sort of left as an exercise for the student; which mostly fails.
I get bombarded with different points of view from agile coaching firms all of the time. This one crossed my screen from Mike Cottmeyer just this morning.
and here’s a snippet from Mike’s post, just to give you some flavor:
So… I want to say this one more time for emphasis… either you create the conditions to do agile well… or you do something else. SAFe is that something else.
We can say that SAFe is a cop out… or isn’t really agile… or that it’s the second coming of RUP… but don’t underestimate the complexity, the risk, or the cost of totally refactoring an enterprise to be the kind of organization that can really do agile at any kind of scale. Some organizations simply can’t or won’t invest in this. At the end of the day small batches are better than big batches. Iterative and incremental is better than waterfall, even if it isn’t agile.
I’ve recently been reading about and discovering some agile coaching firms who have different views towards client coaching. To be honest, I’m struggling to understand and accept some of their perspectives. So as is often my practice, I thought I’d write something about it to clarify my thoughts and position on the matter.
But first, let me share a story from a close friend of mine in Southern California:
A Coaching Story
I’m one of the best, most experienced personal trainers on the planet. If you view my website, you’ll see testimonials about my:
- Helping transform the health of large groups by running health camps;
- Assisting incredibly famous actors and actresses increase their physical performance to get ready for challenging physical roles;
- Serving as a lead fitness consultant on The Greatest Loser show;
- There’s even a rumor that the President will be inviting me to serve on the Council for Physical Fitness.
I’ve written several times on the subject of how coaches and trainers in the Scrum and Agile communities often use “management” as a term implying dysfunction and marginalization. Not always as clearly as that might sound, because they’re often paying the bills, but behind closed doors they’re often complaining about them.
If an agile adoption goes awry, we often blame it on the leadership team –
Clearly our training and coaching of the agile teams was complete. The fact that the adoption is failing or dysfunctional isn’t my problem. It’s those pesky leaders. I tried to invite them to the CSM class…and they didn’t have the time. They only had time for a 1-hour leadership overview and half of them were on their cell phones the entire time.
They keep asking me to do more team training, and I’m doing that. But they really need to get their act together for this agile transformation to work. Sadly, I’m at a loss as to what I can do…
One of my favorite movies of all time is A Few Good Men with
Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. I can picture that highly charged confrontation
at the end clearly in my mind. You know the one.
Tom Cruise says—I want
And Jack Nicholson
leans forward, with that classic look, and says—
You Can’t Handle the
What a climax to the film. I get chills every time I watch
I’ve been thinking more and more in my coaching about why
leaders and managers often wait too long to ask for agile coaching help. I
think it’s a general phenomenon in agile (and non-Agile) teams and
organizations, but for the purposes of this article, I want to focus upward—on