The Agile Coach's Guide To The Galaxy

  • Case Studies,  Coaching Organizations

    Hands on experience with Hexi Base Kit v.2

    A few weeks ago, I received the Hexi Base Kit V2 from The Cynefin Company. It features 120 Hexis, and contains core Cynefin and SenseMaker methods. Last week, I used it with Johan Axelson, Johan Sjöström, and Christian Fredrikson and I wanted to share our experiences with it. I want to mention, as I think is important, that we are all familiar with the Cynefin frameworks, both in theory and application. We approached the exercise from two perspectives: Participants: We aimed to explore and “solve” public transportation issues. Facilitators: We took pauses to reflect on what we would do as facilitators if we saw groups behave as us. First challenge…

  • Coaching Organizations

    Enhancing Organizational Performance with Ecological Models

    We’re advised to pay attention to interactions at work. It is believed that untapped performance potential lies in altering how people interact with each other, advocating investing in developing more productive workplace interactions. Various research, and philosophies, articulate this sentiment in different ways, and from different angles. There are references to the importance of improving interactions in: Lean with its laser focus on cross-functional collaboration, value stream mapping to reduce handoffs, and dependencies, and Gemba-walks that attempt to optimize for solving creation problems where they exist.  Beyond budgeting that targets decentralized decision making, empowered teams, and dynamic forecasts. Team Topologies with its teams types, and team interactions. The Agile Manifesto…

  • Case Studies,  Coaching Organizations,  Leadership and Management

    Case Study – Overwhelmed Engineering Managers: Causes and Solutions

    The Challenge: Role Complexity and Overwhelm Following a reorganization at one of my clients, various formal and informal leadership roles were consolidated into a new position—the Engineering Manager. This role encompassed a wide range of responsibilities, from recruitment and career development to handling expenses, internal mobility, product and value creation, collaboration and processes, and technology. The large scale of the organization, along with technical interdependencies between teams, exacerbated the situation. Within two years, no two Engineering Managers were executing the role in the same manner. As a result, certain aspects were inevitably neglected, affecting team performance, value creation, or quality.   The Study: A Comprehensive Analysis Instead of running a…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Coaching Teams,  Leadership and Management

    Coaching controversial topics

    Controversial topics are topics that elicit strong emotions, have little or no effort invested into resolution, and unequal participation. Whether you’re a coach or manager, recognizing controversial topics is crucial because dealing with controversial topics is expensive, difficult, and painful to all involved parties. But because controversial topics are an inherent aspect of working in large product and tech companies, where diverse teams and multiple layers of leadership coexist, you need to learn to navigate them and how to enable groups to make controversial topics non-controversial. Why do controversial topics exist? For starters, people have different backgrounds, values, and ideologies which leads to different preferences. In addition, hierarchical structures within…

  • Coaching Organizations

    Grassroots movements at work – How management interventions affect agency

    The best way to kill a grassroots movement at your company is to assign an owner, sponsor, or steering group for it.     Below is a story about ACME, a fictitious software company, and how it responded to a grassroots movement. In the story, I discuss things to be aware of when new grassroots movements form both as a member of the movement and as upper management. I share pitfalls and summarize takeaways so that you can be more mindful of how to let the energy of grassroots movements flourish in your organization.   Grassroots movements have agency. What is agency?  Agency is power of action. It’s the ability…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Coaching Teams

    The Spiderwebs outside my daughters window

    Earlier this fall, I looked out my daughter’s window and saw what must have been close to 100 spiderwebs. I often gaze out her window as it’s my favorite view in the house–a natural, perfectly groomed forest. But I’d never seen even one spiderweb out there before. Unique viewing conditions The spiderwebs had of course always been there. But under normal circumstances, the air outside is dry. And there’s not a lot of angled sunlight, so I couldn’t see the spiderwebs. The spiderwebs are hidden in plain sight, so to speak. But that morning, thanks to the moist, cool temperature, specific light, and low wind, they became visible to me…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Coaching Teams

    Informed Interventions

    I recently held a talk on Agile By Example about the importance of agile coaches making informed interventions when coaching systems and agile, and that many coaches are making dogmatic interventions. I argued, and still do, that more often than not, agile coaches and scrum masters fall short in their intervention process. They intervene when they ought not to, and they skip interventions that could have a significant and positive impact. I want to make some clarifications in this post, mainly to define “Informed interventions” and to offer suggestions on how you can move beyond dogmatic interventions. I also want to repeat here that I think this is not a…

  • Coaching Organizations

    My hideous bushes, the ladybugs, and the daisies

    This is blogpost two in a series of posts originating from the ”Re-Wilding Agile” Masterclass that I took with Dave Snowden. In this post, I look at how we too often destroy symbiotic relationships that have emerged over time and through necessity. And how it is our vanity and ideals about “what workplaces should look like” or “how people ought to collaborate” that is the source of this.  I start this post with a story about my garden and its ladybug and aphids. I then relate my story to the work we do as coaches and managers with agile and organizations. I share examples of how managers and coaches actively…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Leadership and Management

    Restoring Evolution

    When Charles Darwin studied the animals on the Galapagos islands, he found that finches had adapted to their circumstances and developed distinct traits. Some Finches had evolved to eat seeds, some to spear insects, and eat cactus fruit and seeds. They evolved together with their environment over a very long period of time. Their beaks have high utility in their contexts yet if you moved a Ground Finch to an environment where the main source of food were cactus, that finch might starve, or at least struggle with food. Harvard Medical School and Margaret Bowman Re-wilding Agile For the past months, I’ve participated in Dave Snowden’s training “Re-wilding Agile“. It…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Coaching Teams

    The Holistic Observations of Teams Framework: Using Active Observations to Identify Strategic Interventions

    We speak a lot about interventions when nudging teams along their team effectiveness journeys. But what are we really aiming for here? Interventions alone and just for the sake of doing something are not enough. We need our interventions to also be strategically placed at the right leverage points. In other words, we need strategic interventions. The first step towards making strategic interventions is to actively observe your team in a holistic and objective way. This requires structure. Without structure, our observations are more prone to bias and thus less helpful. In this post we introduce our Holistic Observations of Teams Framework that we’ve been using when observing teams. We…

  • Case Studies,  Coaching Organizations

    Case Study – Agile Transformation at Avanza Bank

    Overview Avanza Bank underwent a comprehensive agile transformation to address internal inefficiencies and enhance its market responsiveness. Initiated by a need to overcome inter-team dependencies, increasing lead time to change, decreasing staff motivation, and leadership silos, the transformation sought to implement systemic changes across the organization, aligning with its customer-first culture.   The Challenge Initially, Avanza’s structure comprised component teams that had naturally evolved as the organization scaled. This setup, while beneficial in the early stages, had led to deepened dependencies among teams, slowing down decision-making and product delivery. On average, teams depended on >5 other teams to complete their work.   Visualization of how many teams a standard project…

  • Coaching Organizations

    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…

  • Coaching Organizations

    The Often Missed Team Building Activity – An Organizational Growth Strategy

    There’s lots of great material out there on how to build agile teams. That material focuses on support and improvement at a team level which is of course one crucial component. But in the midst of all this, we seem to have forgotten one of the most important aspects of team building that has a huge impact on team performance: the organizational growth strategy. Don’t get me wrong: helping individual teams become high performing teams is essential (and there are enough pitfalls to avoid there as it is). But if you don’t consider your team growth plan, the way, and frequency with which you choose to grow your teams, you…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Coaching Teams

    Team Talent Management – Setting Individual Goals With The Entire Team

    Setting individual goals together increases performance, engagement, and motivation. This is because the team is better at creating a holistic overview of their current situation i.e. one that contains their collective knowledge gaps, personal interests, their goals, and company direction. With that overview it becomes easier to find ways to contribute to the teams collective capabilities. I call the process of setting individual goals with the entire team “Team Talent Management”. Team Talent Managent makes individual goals more relevant. It also establishes a learning support network within the team that supports itself. At the end of this post I offer an exercise that you can run with your team if…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Coaching Teams

    Help Workshop Groups Collaborate Better, Faster, With The Workshop Collaboration Canvas

    It takes weeks if not months of interactions for a team to really come together and collaborate well. So when we put a group of people who don’t collaborate on a regular basis into a workshop and expect them to solve an important problem in a day or two, that group is unlikely to be operating at their collective best. But since we know this even before going into the workshop, we as facilitators can accelerate the group’s ability to collaborate openly and freely through different exercises. Working Agreements is a popular exercise that helps groups but it alone won’t get the group there because the participants are either not…