The Agile Coach's Guide To The Galaxy

  • Coaching Teams

    10 Virtual Table Tips That Make Your Remote Meetings More Effective

    For the past six months of working from home, I’ve been experimenting with practices that make remote meetings more effective particularly when it comes to balancing speaking time between participants. Those of you who have facilitated, or even just participated, in in-person meetings and workshops know how difficult it can be to ensure that everyone even gets an opportunity to speak, let alone to achieve equal speaking time between the participants.

  • Coaching Teams

    Temporal Dynamics – Coaching Teams Stuck In Discussion Gridlock

    Those of you who’ve listened to Episode 11 of my podcast, The Law of Raspberry Jam, have heard me talk about temporal dynamics (check out the episode here if you haven’t already). In this post, I’ll elaborate on what temporal dynamics is, why it matters, and how you can help a group that has gotten themselves stuck in a cycle of temporal oscillation (no matter what your job role is). What is temporal dynamics? Back at Spotify, I was a part of a coaching team. We were six coaches spread out across a Tribe (also known as an engineering department), and every week we’d come together to share knowledge, split…

  • Coaching Teams

    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…

  • Coaching Teams

    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…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Coaching Teams

    Set Individual Goals With The Entire Team

    When we gather an entire team in a room and explore their collective knowledge gaps, interests, and their delivery goals or roadmap — setting individual goals together as a team will lead to increased performance and motivation. This is because individual goals become more relevant with the added context and because focus increases when there’s a clear and direct link between challenges, delivery goals, and learning objectives. If you straight up agree and would like to know how you can start setting individual goals a.k.a talent management with entire teams instead of with individuals I’ve created an exercise that you can run with your teams. Skip ahead to the exercise…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…