Tag Archives: coaching

Agile Topics card deck

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The other week I got the idea to create simple conversation cards. Each card represents an agile practice, a conversation topic or an abstract theory. Now I’ve drawn 96 cards. I simply couldn’t stop 🙂

Cards

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Facilitating from the Back of the Room at Spotify

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Last week Jimmy Janlén and I held a shortened version of our course Training from the Back of the Room for our former colleagues at Spotify. Actually it is not “our” course, but Sharon Bowmans. It’s based on her books about how create a more engaging learning experience in the class room, especially when training adults.

“I really liked the whole setup of this course – a really well organised and inspiring day. Wow :-)”

Jimmy and I are certified trainers of this course. We use the techniques when we do training. But we have also experienced how useful they are in other coaching and facilitation situations, such as workshops and retrospectives. Almost any meeting can be made more engaging and with longer lasting result with the set of tools TBR provides.

We have chosen to call the shortened training Facilitating from the Back of the Room, since that is what we agile coaches do most. 16 persons from the Spotify Agile Guild showed up this beautiful day in a corner room on the 17:th floor in High Tech building with amazing views over Stockholm city. We have to admit we were a little nervous at first. Would this actually make sense to coaches? It did.

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Role Expectation Mapping

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Role Expectation Mapping is a series of workshop that explores, clarifies and establishes which expectations members of a group, team or project have on each other.

If you suspect that collaboration is undermined because of mismatch of expectations between people, then this exercise could boost the team’s ability to collaborate efficiently together. It is also a powerful way to jump start a new team and give them a structure to relate to.

Questions

People always have certain expectations on each other, behaviors, responsibilities, etc., but if those aren’t made clear and agreed upon among everyone – you are bound to have unconstructive conflicts, colliding agendas, difficulties in collaboration and things that fall between chairs.

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Ett upplägg för en heldags affärsplanering

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Nyligen så hjälpte jag till med att planera och facilitera en affärsplanering hos en kund. Då jag tycker både utfallet och genomförandet var väldigt bra så kommer här en beskrivning av vad vi gjorde och de olika övningar vi hade. Det var en relativt stor grupp som samlats föra att genomföra den årliga affärsplaneringen, vilket syftade till att utifrån företagets övergripande mål finna vad denna avdelning skall göra under året som kommer. Alla som varit med på dessa tillställningar vet att de kan vara rätt tunga och inte alltid kopplade till medarbetarnas vardag. Jag känner dock att detta tillfälle bröt traditionen, mycket på grund av att de aktuella cheferna fokuserade på att jobba kring det positiva och möjligheter i stället för problem och hinder.

Det var en grupp på 30 personer fördelade i två olika linjegrupper, och huvudmålet var att finna förändringsåtgärder för året som kommer. På vägen mot det målet, en väg som var lika viktig som slutmålet i sig, jobbade gruppen kring sin historia, arbetade fram en mission och sedan en framtidsbild om var de vill vara fem år framåt i tiden.

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Lägg ner utvecklingssamtalen – Agil HR i praktiken

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Finns nu i bokform på Leanpub

Detta är den andra posten i en serie om agil HR “from the trenches”.

Del 1: Continuous investment
Del 2: Lägg ner utvecklingssamtalen
Del 3: Lön är rättvis ersättning – inte belöning
Del 4: Släng titlarna
Del 5: Ny kunskap – ett gemensamt ansvar, avsnitt 1
Del 6: Hitta rätt folk – släpp dem lös

Lägg ner utvecklingssamtalen

Första gången jag hörde någon på allvar utmana utvecklingssamtal var på ett seminarie med Jeff Sutherland (Scrums fader). Jag tror det var 2007 eller möjligen 2008. Jag hade då erfarenhet av att sitta i bägge ändarna av utvecklingssamtal.


Som medarbetare kunde jag inte minnas ett enda sådant utvecklingssamtal som verkligen varit meningsfullt. Några hade möjligen varit harmlösa och trevliga samtal, men åtminstone ett par av dem hade varit direkt demotiverande och framförallt minskat mitt förtroende för samtalspartnern: min chef.

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T-shaped people and U-shaped teams

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I guess you have heard about T-shaped people, that is, people with deep skills within one or a few areas combined with some knowledge in many areas.

Now it’s time to introduce U-shaped teams. That is, teams that are balanced and where teammates are helping each other. It’s a team where you might have a bad day and are allowed to fail without causing consequences. It’s where the teammates help you get back to normal and what’s more make you feel comfortably included in the team. Your team becomes your safety net and it’s the place where you can dare to be vulnerable. U-shaped teams are also good for productivity since safety means productivity. *

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Continuous investment – Agil HR i praktiken

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Finns nu i bokform på Leanpub

“Software developers…principal work is human communication to organize the users’ expressions of needs into formal procedure” Tom DeMarco, Peopleware

Detta är den första posten i en serie om agil HR “from the trenches”.

Del 1: Continuous investment
Del 2: Lägg ner utvecklingssamtalen
Del 3: Lön är rättvis ersättning – inte belöning
Del 4: Släng titlarna
Del 5: Ny kunskap – ett gemensamt ansvar, avsnitt 1
Del 6: Hitta rätt folk – släpp dem lös
Del 7: Kontor – låt teamen bestämma
Del 8: Tidredovisning – och andra onödiga system
Del 9: Bortom agile – unmanagement

Continuous investment

Våren 2011 slutade jag med utvecklingssamtal. Jag var då utvecklingschef på ett produktföretag och hade som alla andra chefer i Sverige (och den anglosaxiska världen) ett årligt återkommande samtal med var och en av mina medarbetare där jag – det ingår ju i själva grundidén om utvecklingssamtal – skulle hjälpa dem att utveckla sig i sitt arbete.

Min tanke var att göra som jag så ofta gjort när det handlar om (agil) organisationsförändring: gör ett experiment, mer eller mindre i det tysta, och se hur det går. Nu är just utvecklingssamtal lite svåra att lägga ner i det tysta, och då inte bara för att jag pratade om det på Agila Sverige det året – det var ju inte ett så diskret sätt att göra det på – och inte heller för att det ju blir uppenbart för de som blir av med den enda chansen på året att utvecklas (ironi), men framförallt eftersom det just är en av de ganska få väldefinierade processer som företag normal har. För att lägga ner utvecklingssamtal måste man (oftast) prata åtminstone med HR (och antagligen med ledningsgruppen, så var det i varje fall i mitt fall).

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What questions does your Working Agreement answer?

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All teams have some sense of what is regarded as acceptable or good behavior within the team. Most people know that colleagues don’t appreciate it when you’re late. Perhaps you have a silent agreement regarding how you vote and make decisions. Some teams write down their behavior and collaborative “protocol”  in a Working Agreement.

You might think that common sense covers it and writing it down seems silly, but surprise – common sense is subjective and you will have different opinions about things. Great! Let’s discuss and find our common ground.

The act of discussing it and writing it down is also a strong team building activity and forges relationships between team members. Any new team, or any team for that matter, could benefit greatly from a one-hour workshop. It could be part of a retrospective or a stand-alone meeting.

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Team LiftOff with Market of Skills and Competence Matrix

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Introduction

I got into agile development during the late 90s when I read Kent Beck’s book about extreme programming (XP). It was mostly the technical aspects of XP that attracted me; I liked test driven development and continuous integration and I understood the benefit of continuously reviewing the code by doing pair programming. It took some time for me to turn my attention to what I mainly focus on today, and what I see is a cornerstone of agile, teamwork. Product development is in most cases a complex endeavor where you need a high level of collaboration and teamwork to reach required outcome. To succeed you have to make sure the participants build on each others strength and knowledge, and where they see differences as something valuable and important. But it is not certain that all working groups ends up as a true team. As a team coach you need to pay attention to building the team at the beginning. This post will describe a few tools that I have used in order to form teams.

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Five team principles

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Building a well-functioning software delivery team is complicated. There are many factors to consider. Current team (if any), needed skills, available people, company politics etc.

There are some fundamentals that often (but not always) seem to work.

My fundamental principles for teams

  • Static
  • Cross-functional
  • 5-9 people
  • Co-located
  • Dedicated team members (belong to only one team)

I find these principles to be a useful basis for discussion, when helping managers configure their teams.

The principles are goals, and one must realize that all cannot be achieved all of the time, nor instantly.

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From therapy to continuous improvements

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I had recently a conversation with a business partner of mine, Erik Andrén at Macmann Berg. We were working on the material for the next workshop in a leadership program we have at a client. This time the workshop was about coaching, both in general terms but also from an agile perspective. Erik has a background as a therapist but is nowadays working as an organization and management consultant. At our meeting he described his view about coaching based on a therapy model he had used as a therapist, and we then had  a very interesting discussion about the model and the connection to continuous improvement of teams and organizations. This post discuss this connection since I believe we have a lot to learn from how therapists approaches patients when trying to help them create a better life for themselves.

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Establishing the first common product backlog

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The past few days at my current coaching assignment have been great. We created a new backlog for all work they need to accomplish in the months ahead. The meetings where we laid the foundation for the future were marked by a high degree of collaboration between the participants and energy. It has been really fun to work with them so far.

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Guest blogging at TV4 Digital Media

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I have just, as a guest blogger, posted a new post at the blog owned by the development team at TV4 Digital Media; “Några övningar vi gjort under retrospektiven”. It´s a post, in swedish, describing a few retrospective exercises we have done during the last sprints.

I’m contracted by TV4 Digial Media as an Agile coach to help them improve the collaboration, both in the development team as well as between them and the business side. It is very fun that they let my write a post as a guest blogger 🙂

Journeyman seeking apprentice for coaching

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When I started to work as a freshly graduated computer scientist in the mid-nineties I was immediately assigned to a project programming C++. I certainly did my best to implement the functionality with the best quality I could manage to produce, but when thinking back to it, it is no surprise that the result was not very good, the code was actually quite bad. This was pre-XP and Agile time; pair-programming was not widely used and in the first couple of projects we didn’t even code review our code before delivery. Luckily I read a lot of books and articles and studied code examples written by gurus in the field, and after a while I got a good feeling of how to organize and designing the code in order to make it maintainable. What I really would have liked to have during this time was guidance from an experienced programmer helping me to improve my coding skills. 

I’m a big fan of the software craftsmanship movement; software development is a craft and you need to practice continuously in order to deliver quality software and customer value. I see myself as a journeyman who steadily is gaining new knowledge and experience in how to implement software. I read a lot to get new input and I practice my coding skills as much as possible beside my ordinary programming assignments. So in the spirit of craftsmanship I would like to give an apprentice, someone new in the profession, some guidance that I myself would have loved getting during my first year as a software developer.

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Emo-lines

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If you coach a scrum team but you’re not around to observe them during the sprint, how do you know how they felt about it?

Ask them.

You can interview them individually or as a group. Both approaches have their problems and limitations. Individual interviews take a lot of time, and sometimes you can’t share the results without breaking confidence. If you ask them as a group you usually only get answers from the most outspoken people because:

It’s hard to talk about your feelings among strangers.

One of the teams I coach had mixed feelings about Scrum. Some were healthily skeptical, and some positive. The first sprint went very well, with a good sprint planning, a lot of initial energy and a demo that actually showed customer value. But I felt that some of the team members were not too sure how the others felt about the whole thing. I wanted to help them with that and also get some feedback myself (I admit I was a bit nervous about not being around).

I used Emo-lines.*

Here’s how you do it. First draw a time-line representing the whole sprint and ask everyone to put up notes, marking memorable or unusual events. The team’s looked something like this:

Then you prepare for the Emo-lines, start by drawing a line directly underneath the time-line. The line represents neutral feelings, with feeling good above, and feeling bad below:

Next, have each person draw how they felt during the spring using different colored markers, starting at the sprint planning and ending with the sprint demo. Here’s a simplified version of the team’s chart:

The team members’ feelings varied greatly, you can see from the chart that the sprint demo went well though because everyone felt pretty good at the end.

The next step is to ask each person to comment on his/her line. Here’s what the team said:

Mr Green – a skeptic at first.

Mr Green is a very influential person in the group and the architect, he was the first to go. He said that he was a bit skeptical at first (as everyone had noticed during the scrum training right before the sprint started). He was worried that sitting and working in a team room would interfere too much with his flow and his privacy. As the sprint went on, he came to appreciate how quick and easy communication was with the new setup and realized that it was rather fun working that way. And when the first demo went well, well…

Mr Blue – a scrum advocate who got lonely.

Mr Blue was one of the driving forces in introducing Scrum to the company and the only one who was a certified scrum master. So I was a bit surprised and worried that he had such a dip after the first week. As it turns out, during the second week he had to work from home because his kids were sick, so he felt isolated and unproductive.

Mr Orange – an enthusiast both when skeptical and when not.

Mr Orange was also one of the skeptical-at-first but enthusiastically so. At the beginning of the sprint he felt that it was fun and that it worked for him. The problem was that they actually completed the whole sprint backlog mid-sprint and he thought that was boring and unproductive. As soon that they got some extra work from the product owner he was happy again.

Are Emo-lines useful?

The team thinks so, and they decided to use them at the next retrospective. The second time they got even more out of the chart, each line showed more variation and the explanations were more detailed.

They are also valuable to me as a coach. Even when I am not with the team during the sprint I get detailed feedback about how the team feels at the end of each sprint.

I also noticed more than one surprised look on the other team members’ faces when Mr Green talked about his line, and I think some team building took place.

Here’s a picture of the whiteboard:

*If someone has another name for these, please let me know, I heard about them from my colleague David Barnholdt, and he didn’t have a name either.

Emo, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emo