The Agile Coach's Guide To The Galaxy

  • Agile,  Product Management

    Team Mission Statements: Get The Most Out Of Yours

    Social and Organizational Psychologist Richard Hackman observed that one of the most crucial components necessary for enabling high performance in teams is that they have a compelling mission. Missions become compelling when they’re clear, coherent with the company vision, aligned throughout the company, and appealing to the team members. So if you’re aiming for empowered teams with high product autonomy (level E-I on the picture below), team missions (expressed through team mission statements) are an absolute necessity that will increase engagement, speed, and impact.   Ladder showing different levels of Product Autonomy, as described by John Cutler. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? There’s one catch though: you need to make sure…

  • Agile,  Coaching,  Organization,  Systems Coaching

    agile transformation at Avanza: a case study

    Agile Transformation (capital A and T) and agile transformation. Same words, vastly different concepts. An “Agile Transformation” is a cookie-cutter product that anyone can buy off the shelf. It comes with manuals, guides, predefined role descriptions, and everything else you need to get your organization looking and sounding like an Agile organization. Plug and play! Some call it the starting point and some call it all you’ll need, because it’s better than whatever you have today, right? “Agile Transformations” are a tool on the tactical level, and, while there’s certainly some value in them, I believe there’s more value in lowercase a and t agile transformations. agile transformation is a…

  • Agile,  Personal Development

    6 Free Agile and Management Slack Groups You Don’t Want To Miss Out On

    If you’ve been following my blog over the years, you’ll know that I believe strongly in the importance of effective feedback. And while feedback is invaluable, it’s just one of many ways I try to improve my skills. In addition to feedback, learning from the people around me, whether formally via conferences and lectures or casually through one-off chats, has been a huge help in my own professional development, and many others I speak with feel the same. But when you’re running your own consulting business or are the only coach on a team, the cross-pollination of Agile, Management, and Leadership best practices takes a bit more work. To that…

  • Agile,  Coaching,  Team Dynamics

    The First Question To Ask When Building Teams – Is This Really A Team?

    Written by Stefan Lindbohm and Viktor Cessan. Have you ever wondered why so many organizations fail at building effective and high performing teams despite offering so much support in different ways e.g. by managing people, by managing the environment, and by coaching teams? You’re not alone. This is often something that frustrates teams, coaches, and managers. You’d think that given all the support that teams receive, they would have great chances for becoming high performing. What our experience shows us, and research, is that it’s more uncommon than common for teams to get to a high performing state. While there are many reasons to why this happens, in this article…

  • Agile,  Retrospectives

    Turn Up The Good with the ”The Good, The Great, and The Amazing” Retrospective

    When teams focus on what’s not working in retrospectives, things outside their immediate control often show up. It’s great to help teams illuminate what’s holding them back, but if that’s the only thing your retrospectives are focused on they may become a drag and drain peoples energy. To help teams ”Turn up the good”  i.e. builds upon practices and elements that are good and try to make them even better I’ve created a short retro that’s based on that principle. And I’ve taken inspiration from many but particularly Woody Zuill and Marcus Hammarberg when documenting this format.  The Good, The Great, and The Amazing This retrospective takes 15 – 60 minutes depending…

  • Agile,  Leadership,  Self awareness

    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…

  • Agile,  Interviewing,  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…

  • Agile,  Interviewing,  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…

  • Agile,  Interviewing,  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…

  • Agile,  Team Building,  Team Dynamics

    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…

  • Agile,  Organization

    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…

  • Agile,  Coaching

    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…

  • Agile,  Leadership

    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…

  • Agile,  Systems Coaching

    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…