The Agile Coach's Guide To The Galaxy

  • Coaching Teams

    6 Ways People Resist Becoming T-Shaped–And How To Work Past It

    When people doubt or resist the T-shaped philosophy, it’s easy to assume that they just haven’t understood what being T-shaped means and why it’s valuable. More often than not though, I’ve found that a lack of information isn’t what’s holding people back. In my work with organisations and teams, I’ve come across 6 main reasons why people resist the trend towards being T-shaped. I’ve outlined these reasons for you below and have included some remedies that may help you and your teammates get past any hesitation. 1. Their identity is tied to their role Many people identify with their role. They may have worked with something for many years or…

  • Product Management

    Thoughts about hiring Product Owners, Part 3

    This is the third and final part of my series on hiring Product Owners and in this part I go through how to evaluate Product Owner candidates with work samples and through auditions. Part 1 – Are You Recruiting For Potential Or Experience? Part 2 – Questions You Can Ask In Your Interviews Part 3 – Work Samples And Auditions  <- This post. Effort and reward Before you decide how to evaluate your candidates consider the amount of time and energy you’re willing to invest to learn about your candidates. Asking for work samples and evaluating them yourself requires little effort while running auditions require the most time and energy but…

  • Product Management

    Thoughts about hiring Product Owners, Part 2

    Continuing my thoughts on recruiting Product Owners, here are some questions that might help you evaluate candidates level of experience from Product ownership, and questions that might help you discover if they have potential to learn the role. Part 1 – Are You Recruiting For Potential Or Experience? Part 2 – Questions You Can Ask In Your Interviews <- This post. Part 3 – Work Samples And Auditions  Please note that: Treat these questions as inspiration and use the ones you think can be helpful to you. This is not a guide to follow step by step. If a candidate is unable to answer these questions it does not necessarily mean…

  • Product Management

    Thoughts about hiring Product Owners, Part 1

    I’m going to publish three blog posts that I hope will help organizations more effectively recruit Product Owners (POs). In the first one (this one) I share my thoughts on how to decide whether to hire for potential or experience. I also share some thoughts on how to reduce bias in your recruitment. In the next two posts, I’m going to share potential questions that you can ask during your interviews, examples of how to conduct practical tests with POs, and how to work with work samples. Part 1 – Are You Recruiting For Potential Or Experience? <- This post. Part 2 – Questions You Can Ask In Your Interviews Part…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Feedback

    The Importance of Peer Feedback in Self-Managing Organizations

    I’ve written about how to give effective feedback using the EPIQ Feedback Model. That’s an important part of building a strong feedback culture, but there’s more to it than that. In any organization, but especially in a self-managing organization, we must have strong peer feedback loops in place in order for the organization to build a feedback culture. Why exactly is a strong feedback culture so important in self-managing organizations? Well, self-managing organizations distribute leadership and decision-making. Doing so comes with a lot of benefits. But if people are unable to effectively manage themselves and make decisions, a self-managing organization will inevitably fail. Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters can certainly…

  • Coaching Teams

    Spread Tribal Knowledge with History Lines

    To help teams share and document tribal knowledge I run/facilitate an exercise I call History lines[1]. In this exercise teams are asked to visualize how different things have changed over time and at the end of the exercise you’ve helped spread knowledge to everyone in the team, the team has drawn new conclusions about their past, and they’ve documented some parts of their tribal knowledge. I’ve found History lines useful when: Team composition changes e.g. when merging or splitting teams or when onboarding several new members in a short period of time Team members have come to rely on specific people for context Bootstrapping new teams Visualize what makes sense…

  • Coaching Teams,  Leadership and Management

    How to use the Value Cards exercise to help your teams collaborate better

    What do you think would happen if someone who values empathy, love, kindness, respect, and humility were to join the same team as someone who values boldness, success, fame, influence, and reputation? Do you think they would collaborate well from the get-go, making use of each other’s unique perspectives to complement and improve upon their ideas? Or do you think they’d be more likely to struggle, misunderstand each other, and face their share of conflict? You’ve probably seen the latter in action. And, to be fair, it’s a much easier pattern to default to. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If team members can make their own values…

  • Feedback

    The Four Intentions Feedback Model

    Two years ago I worked with a team that struggled with delivering feedback to each other. Team members would try to express something to either raise each others performance levels or to improve working relationships, but somehow something would always seem to go wrong and they ended up triggering each other. This damaged their productivity and morale to an extent that several people left the team. The remaining team members went through feedback training and coaching, and we looked at how the intentions behind feedback are the foundation for constructing constructive feedback. For example, feedback about performance and feedback about working relationships sound very different but the members of this…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Leadership and Management

    First Correct The Environment, Then Coach The Teams

    Some organisations attempt to increase their teams performance by injecting agile coaches or scrum masters into their teams. At the same time the environment is not conducive to coaching which means that coaching will not have any significant effect until the environment has been adjusted. To create an environment that enables autonomy and evokes high performance the following four conditions are necessary: Teams need a (one) compelling mission. Teams need the necessary skill set to deliver value (to customers or internal stakeholders) or at least a good enough match and time to learn more. Teams need to feedback from the customers and organisation. Teams need focus both in terms of…

  • Coaching Organizations

    What we learned from removing all chapter leads (managers) in the IT tribe at Spotify

    Two years ago the Internal IT tribe @ Spotify was greatly understaffed but got approval to scale from 25 to 75 employees. As we started scaling we recognised that Spotifys organisational model added too many formal leadership roles for our taste and we wanted to find an organisational model that allowed us to scale without adding more formal leadership roles. During this time the existance of chapter leads was also being challenged in our tribe by our squad members. To solve both these problems we conducted an experiment where we distributed leadership responsibilities and we removed all the managers (chapter leads). I did a lightening talk about our experiment at Agila…

  • Coaching Teams

    3 Powerful Observation Techniques

    Some agile coaches and managers are uncomfortable with setting expectations, offering feedback, and making decisions on behalf of other people, and they go around asking powerful questions. “Who am I tell people what to do in our autonomous organization?” they sometimes say. However, utilizing powerful questions when there is a specific answer that the team needs to arrive at only allows the situation to continue, can damage your relationships, and can subdivide your team. One alternative to asking powerful questions is making powerful observations and in this blog post I share three different examples of how to make and visualize powerful observations. Making powerful observations helps teams see themselves which makes…

  • Leadership and Management

    The Buckets Exercise

    In order for organisations to become conducive to high performing teams it is crucial that managers have time and mental capacity to engage in complex problem solving. Unfortunately many organisations place an emphasis on starting work which diminishes managements capability of building a high performing organisation. To help managers free up time and mental capacity I’ve run an exercise with them called “Buckets”[1]. In this exercise managers get to visualize and motivate why certain work needs to get done now and specifically by them. The bucket exercise also helps managers discover the work that needs to be delegated first. Here’s how you run it: Ask the manager (or who ever you are running the exercise with)…

  • Coaching Teams

    Questions I ask in interviews – How do you enter new teams?

    Coaches at Spotify are expected to help squads who need help. Sometimes we stay with a squad for a year and sometimes we only stay for a few months. Some reasons to this include organisational changes, that squads split, and new priorities, etc. But how you as a coach enter a teams greatly impacts your effectiveness, the speed of which you’ll gain context, the amount of relationships and strengths of those.  In short if affects the impact you can have on a team. Because it has such an impact, if you’re interviewing with me for an agile coach, product owner, or manager role I might explore how you enter systems…

  • Coaching Teams

    No, Agile Coaching Is Not Cat Herding

    Agile coaches and leaders in agile organisations sometimes refer to parts of their job as herding cats. While said with a smile it has a negative connotation. I’ve done this in the past myself and I think it’s important that we stop talking about our jobs, and people and teams this way for several reasons: Talking about cat herding hides the real problems at hand. What exactly is the team doing that makes them appear as cats? And what should the team improve in order to not be a bunch of cats? It’s disrespectful and as a coach or leader you are likely loose influence. Sure, cats are smart, independant, and resourceful, but what coaches/leaders…

  • Coaching Teams

    Measure Your Lead Time And Cycle Time

    When you measure and analyse lead time[1] and cycle time you learn how value flows through your system. You also discover improvements you can make to deliver value faster. Unfortunately most teams do not measure lead time and cycle time which is a lost opportunity. Here’s an example of how a data center team I worked with reduced their cycle time from 32 days to 5 days, and how it started with us measuring it. Physical board + manual excel ftw We visualised our work on a physical board we and tracked our metrics manually because in different ways the tools that were available to us (jira, trello, leankit kanban) did…