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The Baker’s Dozen of Coaching Leadership

May 11, 2014

1. Be Dedicated – to your client, your team, yourself. Commitment builds trust.
2. Be Curious – about your profession, your client, other fields. Learn continuously. If you think you know it all, you have limited your potential.
3. Be Humble – no matter how successful, smart, or well-known. Arrogance destroys relationships.
4. Be Energetic – Do you bring energy into the room or do you drain the life out of it?
5. Be Engaged – Your client doesn’t value an aloof advisor who provides little value.
6. Be Perceptive – See their gifts. Does your team have cheerleaders (encouragers), pragmatists (guides), jokers (morale builders), dreamers (visionaries)? Leverage these soft abilities as much as hard skills.
7. Be Empathic – See their needs. Be sure to serve their actual needs, not yours.
8. Be Resourceful – When your team has no answer and neither do you, take the initiative to go find a new option or approach for them that may be useful.
9. Be Uplifting – Don’t criticize the doubtful, the non-believers. Encourage and uplift them.
10. Be Persistent – when you hear “we’ve always done it this way”. You are a change agent. You can’t sail the seas when you are tied to the dock.
11. Be Resolute – Reject rejection. Take the high road. Repay your critics with kindness, service, and understanding.
12. Be Fun – Celebrate with your teams whenever they succeed, big or small.
13. Be Caring – Remember, they are not assets or resources. They are real people. With real lives. Just like you.

Come visit http://www.projectpragmatics.com .

 

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Tis the Season

December 19, 2013

As we fly through this Christmas season, give your teams the gift that will mean the most to them – empowerment.  The cost to you – nothing.  What do you get in return?  Speed, productivity, increased commitment and an overall happier team.

But you say your team is not able to self-organize?  Teach them.  Guide them.  If they are willing, lead them by showing why their particular strengths and skills are needed.  Show them why their contribution is important.  Show you are confident that they can self-organize and be successful.

You say it’s easier just to tell them what to do?  Do you really want them to bring every little problem to you for resolution?  (If so, I suggest you and your ego spend some quiet time in self-examination as to why you like that.)

Why would you want to take away from your team the opportunity of becoming the professionals that they truly are?  (Note to HR:  They are professional people, not “resources”.)  Give your team the opportunity.  Give them the freedom to grow.  Give them an assist, not the whip.

And in this way, give yourself the gift of developing into a true servant leader.  After all, this is the season of giving.Image

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The Agile Scorpion

August 16, 2013

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A frog approaches a stream and sees a scorpion by the bank.  The scorpion cannot cross the stream alone, so he asks the frog to carry him across the stream on its back.  The frog is wary of the scorpion and says “You might sting me and I will die.”  The scorpion assures the frog he wouldn’t do that because then they both would die.  The frog agrees.  Then halfway across the stream the scorpion stings the frog.  The frog begins to sink.  Before they both drown the frog asks “Why?”  The scorpion replies: “It’s my nature.”

This Aesop’s fable proclaims a warning for all of those who are on their agile journey.  Agile transformation is difficult enough.  You must also watch out for scorpions.  While change is hard for many people, the scorpions you may find, as in the story, have no intention of changing – but they won’t tell you that.  They could take the form of a team member, a manager, someone from another department that “supports” your team, an external business partner, and so forth.

It is truly unfortunate that the agile change “paralyzes” some people, but it does.  The level of change is significant.  So if you detect a scorpion among those on the agile journey with you, you can’t afford to tolerate their dangerous nature.  You will put your project and your agile transformation at significant risk.  Let them go be productive somewhere else.  You can’t afford to take the chance.

For more visit http://www.ProjectPragmatics.com

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Sitting In A Teamroom Makes You As Agile As Sitting In A Garage Makes You A Chevy

July 8, 2013

You have a task board in your teamroom that you use to track the status of your users stories and tasks. But do you have any idea what is a reasonable number of tasks to have in work at any one time? The burndown chart that your tooling or your scrummaster makes is posted – isn’t it? Do you use it to understand the likelihood that your work for this sprint will be completed as planned? In every planning session you dutifully use Planning Poker for estimation. However, do you understand why using it is important and why this type of estimation actually works?

A professional mechanic understands more than just how to use the tools that are in the garage. The professional mechanic also understands how the tools work and why. It’s great that your team has learned many of the various agile techniques. But if you haven’t learned why those techniques work, you risk using them improperly, putting your success in jeopardy.

There is an old story about a young woman who is preparing her first holiday feast for the whole family, which included making a delicious glazed ham. She remembered, as a young girl, watching her mother cook. She called her mother to ask her why, when she cooked ham, she cut off the end of the ham before cooking. Her mother answered “Because my mother did it that way.” Now more curious, they called the grandmother and asked why she cut of the end of the ham before cooking. Grandmother told them it was because her mother did it that way. They were very fortunate that their Great-Grandmother was still around, so they called her and asked why she cut of the end of the ham before cooking. Great-Grandmother’s answer was simple…her roasting pan was too small.

Do you know “the whys” behind the agile techniques you do?
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Agile Adoption and Transformation

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What Are You Sprinting Toward?

May 7, 2013

They knew all eyes would be watching them. They knew huge crowds would be in attendance. And they knew some of those attending were there to cause trouble. Facing this, the Tampa police had an interesting objective for the week of the Republican National Convention. You might expect an objective like “Keep the peace.” Or “Do what it takes to control the crowds.” Or some other stereotypical statement. But no. Their stated objective was that they did not want to see the police on the nightly news.

Quite an unusual objective than would be expected. It did restrict the police in some ways, but still allowed them to carry out their mission while keeping the department’s overall objective in mind. The results: The convention was peaceful, protesters had their say without violent crowds rampaging in the streets, and you didn’t see the police cast in a bad light on the nightly news, if you saw them at all.

Do your sprints have meaningful objectives? Or do you think that is not important?

Objectives keep the team focused on what is important; what you want to achieve overall vs. just delivering the stories in the sprint. They also help eliminate the unwanted results (e.g. seeing film of police in riot gear hosing down the crowds with water cannons).

Unfortunately, instead of thinking through a good objective for their sprints, many teams just work bottom up. They pick their sprint stories and just use a summary of those as the sprint objective(s). This approach is not effective. It boils down to “Do your job” as an objective. It provides no guidance at all as to “how” or with what considerations the work is to be done. For example, the police could have showed up in full riot gear, with water cannons in visible locations, lined up in high numbers around the protestors, with paddy wagons at the ready. But that would likely have guaranteed high visibility news footage, and not in a good light.

There is also a psychological side to having objectives. To reframe a well-known motivational story, what is more satisfying: “I laid ten rows of brick today” or “I finished a cathedral today”? Just finishing your task list for today is good but it rarely gets you energized for tomorrow. But finishing a customer objective (i.e. the cathedral)…now that is something else.

If you are doing sprints or releases without having meaningful objective(s) you are depriving yourself of a simple technique to keep the team focused on the outcome desired and cheating your team out of well-earned celebration of their achievements.

(Read More at https://www.ProjectPragmatics.com)

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Coin-Operated Agile Coaches

August 14, 2012

You must have seen one.  At a carnival, county fair, or maybe an amusement park. Sitting inside a glass enclosed box.  Bright clothing.  One hand held above a fan of sun-faded playing cards.  A customer approaches the box and drops in a coin.  In the box, the glass encased guru’s arm moves left and right.  Then out drops a slip of paper with a definitive answer to the customer’s most critical question.

You may have also seen this behavior in an agile teamroom.  Teams…are you underutilizing your coaches this way.  Coaches…do you recognize yourself?  This isn’t a question of coaching style.  This is a question of who is driving the change that the customer ostensibly wants to happen. Why else was an agile coach engaged in the first place?

Of course, coaches typically have some limits places on them by the “front office”.  Even great sports coaches like Wooden, Noll, Madden or Cowher had to work within directives from their team’s management.  But you would never see the likes of them sitting on the sidelines waiting for the players to ask them questions.

The best coaches are proactively engaged.  They are leaders.  They guide, they make changes, and they help the players get more from themselves than they realized they had.

Agile team members, don’t put your coach in a box if you want to be effective.  You were provided a coach to help you improve.  Let it happen.  And coaches, you can’t “cower” (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun) under resistance from the team members nor pressure from management.  Ultimately, it’s really up to you coaches.  If you don’t actively engage and lead your teams, you won’t need a coin-operated fortune teller to know your future.

Visit www.projectpragmatics.com .

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ScrumMaster as Shepherd

April 22, 2012

The concept of servant leadership seems to be difficult for some new ScrumMasters (and others) to fully comprehend.  It is so contrary to many corporate cultures.  So let’s take a look at another role that combines both serving and leadership behaviors: the Shepherd.

 

Some herd animals, such as sheep, have a better chance to thrive if they have a shepherd.  In order to help them thrive, a shepherd must understand the flock, just as a ScrumMaster must understand the team he/she is working with.  For example, there are many types of sheep just as there are different people with different skills and different behaviors on an agile team.  They are NOT interchangeable “resources”.

 

Flocks of sheep have certain dynamic behaviors.  Sheep tend to congregate and behave as a group once their group reaches a certain number.  A successful team needs to reach “critical mass” regarding the competencies needed to be a successful agile team.  A ScrumMaster must understand this and promote the proper composition of a team, by working to have the right sheep in the flock (e.g. motivated, highly skilled).  The ScrumMaster must also be understanding as the team goes through the well-known form/storm/perform cycle.

 

Sheep are prey animals.  In toxic corporate cultures, development teams may become prey for overzealous Project Managers or other corporate creatures.  Just as team members are not really “sheep” or “pigs” (even though we use those terms affectionately), a ScrumMaster is not a “sheep dog”.  Sheep dog is a weak analogy.  A ScrumMaster can’t just “bark” back at people in the typical corporate hierarchy – at least not for long, without being sent “out to pasture”.  The ScrumMaster needs to be a shepherd and intelligently navigate the political minefields while not letting the flock fall prey to predators of time or energy.

 

Sheep congregate often (a daily standup?) and do it well.  Sheep are gregarious when congregated.  However, the Shepherd must still work to draw out the quiet people during stand-ups or planning poker sessions.  When you lose a sheep or a team member disengages from the team or otherwise gets lost on the agile journey, the ScrumMaster must seek them out and bring them back to the flock.

 

Even these simple and cursory understandings can help the new ScrumMaster serve and lead their teams.  Serve them well shepherds and you will be on your way to servant leadership, leading your flock to those greener agile pastures.  

(See more at www.ProjectPragmatics.com .)

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