Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lyssa Adkins on Coaching

Lyssa Adkins' presentation "What is an Agile Coach" at the Orange County APLN was great. Lyssa is the author of the upcoming book "A Companion for Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches and Project Managers in Transition" from the Mike Cohn Signature Series.

She started off the session with a great exercise of having all the attendees go around and tell other people one thing they loved about agile, one thing they hated. She said this helped with modes of communication and encouraged everyone to get up at work, even in small groups.

Some of the items she brought up were that an agile coach has to learn to be detached from outcomes, take issues to the team, be a mirror, master your face, allow and be okay with silence, model being outrageous (what holds teams back, so be wild to get around what they can accept) and be freed from assumptions.

She also said to be willing to let the team fail. Don't save them from themselves. Some of our best learning comes from failures, and sometimes only from failures.

Be their biggest fan, but don't complement them on the good job they did. The work ebbs and flows. That's far less important than how they are doing on being a good team.

We want those we coach to be unleashed as a human being.

We also want developers to be solid developers. A great slide of hers read "Craftsmanship matters. Period." Software developers' career path can go to Tech Lead (XP is the way) and then to XP Coach, and the people stuff matters.

She also described the roles of Bulldozer, Shepherd, and Servant Leader, noting that "You'll make sure that people leave you better than they arrived", and Guardian of quality and performance.

There are changes to go through, such as switching from:
  • coordinating individual contributions towards coaching the whole team for collaboration
  • being a subject matter experts to a facilitator
  • invested in outcomes to invested in performance
  • knowing answer to asking team for answer
  • directing to letting them find their way
  • stop driving, to start guiding

There are aspects to the coach of being facilitator, teacher, coach-mentor, conflict navigator, collaboration conductor, and problem solver.

Personal retrospectives were noted as being a helpful tool. On that not, she asked the group to reflect personally if in each of several areas they "promoted" or "inhibited":
  • self-organization
  • being consensus driven
  • team success
  • trust
  • owns decisions and commitments
  • team believes they can solve any problem
  • empowerment
  • constructive disagreement
Click to view or download Lyssa Adkins' presentation on agile coaching. Also, more information can be found on her site for 1-on-1 coaching, Scrum training, upcoming speaking events, as well as her blog.

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't there. I didn't hear it. I'm not going to let that stop me from making possibly idiotic comments.

    Willingness to let the team fail? Well, yes, but not before trying awfully hard to get them to succeed. I suspect she means let the team fail enough to learn what hitting the ground feels like, but never walk away unless they kick you out. Abandonment is a sin.

    Be detached from outcomes? Why then bother blowing up obstacles? I suspect this means allow self-managing team to do things your experience would not endorse. You really do have to believe the team will come up with the right answers and should suffer pain when they don't.

    Don't complement the team? Hello? Give away one of the best motivators in the universe, praise? Surely there is more nuance here.

    Learn to keep a straight face? Of course. The team's process of discovery may amuse you, but don't kill it.

    Asking for rather than knowing the answer? The Socratic Method.

    What I hear between the lines is "it's about the team, not about you." "Facilitation is more appropriate than Leadership." "Self-discovery has the highest retention rate." "Thinking you are successful is one way to blind yourself." "The coach does not win the game, the team does."