Context specific agile, product, and systems coaching

  • 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…

  • Feedback

    Feedback workshop facilitation guide

    For the past two years I’ve been facilitating and evolving a hands-on feedback workshop for existing teams that I have run with support teams, dev teams, and lead teams with positive results. I’m now sharing it in the hopes that it helps bring people and teams closer together, and improves the collaboration, all across the world*. Feel free to use it as it is, or change it as you see fit. Also please share your experiences with it! :) * With that said, I don’t think it’s wise to run this workshop if you do not have adequate/significant experience from feedback, self-awareness increasing activities such as Johari Window, and facilitation.

  • Coaching Teams,  Product Management

    Here’s how you can help teams improve their planning meetings

    About a year ago I worked with a team that wanted to improve their planning meetings. As I observed this team, I noticed that they used their planning meeting for 5 other things. Technical discussions and designing solutions – about features or requirements not a part of the coming Sprint’s backlog. Grooming the backlog – preparing the backlog for the future. Walking the board – progress review and status updates on stories and milestones. Discussing ways to improve e.g. teamwork, process, etc – reviews of how the team works, their process, and collaboration. Off-topic requests for help – team members asking each other for help with work and features unrelated to the…

  • Coaching Teams

    Experiential book clubs help people grow, and they’re fun too! :)

    In this blog post I go through the differences between conceptual and experiential book clubs. I also share some tips if you’d like to organise an experiential book club for yourself. A few years ago I coached a team that was making a huge effort to reduce their technical debt. I offered to organise a book club around the book Clean code but I was faced with some skepticism. Several team members had participated in book clubs in the past but those had not been valuable. I explained that this book club probably would be different from previous ones they’d attended because this one was going to be experiential. I…

  • Product Management

    Questions I ask in Interviews – How do you prioritise your backlog when there’s too much to do?

    Subjective models are charming but hinder clear thinking but are common and easy to understand due to their quadrant nature. In addit,ion they do not require you to motivate your conclusions which makes them charming to many, but unfortunately, this is also what’s inherently flawed with them. If you’re coaching a team e.g org leads team or dev team that uses any form of subjective prioritization model e.g. MSCW, Risk/Value, Urgency/Importance you can help them make a greater impact by introducing them to objective prioritization models. Objective models encourage conversations and creates alignment Objective prioritization models e.g. Kano, CoD, WSJF help members of organizations understand why decisions are made, and what’s…

  • Feedback

    7 Things To Think About When It Comes To Feedback

    When I worked as an Agile Coach at Spotify, people were surprised to learn that, contrary to popular belief, Spotify was in fact very hierarchical (6 layers from CEO to developer). It was also true that we valued peer feedback and self-management within each of these layers. Effective feedback and feedback training were crucial factors in making sure we stayed lean despite the hierarchy that had accumulated over the years. In one of the feedback workshops I facilitate, participants are asked to discuss “things to think about when considering giving feedback to someone”. The following 7 points are the ones that come up most frequently in these discussions. I’ve long…

  • Leadership and Management

    One-on-one tips

    In my tribe (BITS IT) we are currently experimenting with distributing leadership and amplifying self-management. We are iterating on Spotifys organizational model because it is creating tension for us. I’m going to share more about this experiment later this year. An important part in amplifying self-management is to change how we conduct 1:1s. Just before we started our experiment we read Esther Derbys article about conducting 1:1s with self organizing teams and we then had a conversation about how we should conduct 1:1s. I was asked to share some 1:1 tips and guidelines for people who are new to them, and I thought I’d share them here too. I hope they bring value to you! Stay away from…

  • Leadership and Management

    Questions I ask in interviews – Give me an example of how you’ve helped someone grow

    Every now and then people behave in a way that negatively impacts their environment. Sometimes that’s because they lack a diverse toolbox, and sometimes they’re just repeating a behaviour that was helpful in the past. Whenever someone gets in their own way, we (agile coaches) fill an important role – to help people learn and grow. When I interview agile coach candidates I explore their experience in helping people learn and grow. “Give me an example of how you’ve helped someone grow” This question helps me understand: If the candidate adjusts her style when she works with different people What her default style is How many people she has worked with What tools she uses, and if…

  • Coaching Teams

    Surface Silent Disagreements

    If you’ve ever worked in a team that makes lots of decisions but that struggles with making progress on those decisions, here’s a technique you can use to understand if your team is aligned on decisions or if people are disagreeing in silence. To avoid confusion and potential conflict it’s good to get your teams consent before trying this technique out. Build surfacing silent disagreements into your decision making process[1] Whenever your team has made a decision ask someone to repeat the decision then make the following three statements, one at a time, and ask the team to answer yes or no depending on if they agree or disagree with each statement. Three statements to surface disagreement I agree with this decision. I feel that…

  • Leadership and Management

    Questions I ask in interviews – Doing a good job

    Many developers I have worked with think they are doing a good job as long as they fix many bugs and complete many features. As time passes and aforesaid developers have partaken in both failed and successful projects they realise that they should look at the impact they make to understand if they are doing a good job or not. While this might sound obvious for developers, what should agile coaches do to know if they’re doing a good job? Can you measure if an agile coach is doing a good job? Yes of course! And incidentally this is something I might ask you in an interview. “How do you know if you’re doing a good job as an Agile…

  • Leadership and Management

    Questions I ask in interviews – Failing

    Over the summer I will publish several blogposts containing some of my interview questions that I ask people who apply for the Agile coach positions at Spotify. In each post I’ll also go through what I’m looking for with each question i.e. why I ask those specific questions. “Tell me about a time you failed and what you learned.” This question helps me understand a candidates: ability to admit to and learn from failure ability to connect the environment they exist in with their needs, and also their ability to see how this affects their behaviour comfort with failing ability to connect with me around a difficult topic level of (self) awareness Some candidates bring up “comitting untested code” as their failure and…

  • Product Management

    The Product Owner Framework

    The Product Owner Framework is a tool for Product Owners that allows them to evaluate their skills and identify areas for growth. Originally created by Daisy Pilbrow and Javier Ubillos, and later developed and expanded by Daisy and myself. The framework is in no way perfect. It’s a work in progress. We created it to help new Product Owners develop their toolbox fast and despite the holes and the eventual inconsistencies here and there we still felt that we wanted to share this with the world. Hopefully it can help others too. Read more about the background here and if you are a PO, take the evaluation here.

  • Coaching Organizations

    Things I wish I knew before I became an agile coach

    In late 2014 Daisy Pilbrow and I sent out a survey to the agile community. The survey asked agile coaches what they wish they’d known before they started coaching, what was challenging about the role, and what they’ve learned about themselves and others. With the replies Daisy and I hoped to create a short and inspiring recommendation that we could give to interns and new coaches at Spotify. The survey received 30 replies. We analysed the responses and were able to identify a few patterns that we’d like to share with you. You can find all the responses in their full format here, but we have removed peoples names to…