The Agile Coach's Guide To The Galaxy

  • Leadership and Management,  Product Management

    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…

  • 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 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…

  • 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)…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • Leadership and Management

    The agile coaches @ Spotifys MBTI, DISC profiles, and perspective bias

    (The purpose with this blogpost is to share data about the agile coaches at Spotify.) Slightly more than a year ago the majority of the agile coaches at Spotify took an MBTI test (most of us took it online). Back then all coaches were distributed among 5 different types. I found that really interesting and  wondered why that was. Were we biased towards certain type? Or were certain types actually better at coaching agile to teams? Since then we’ve recruited 10 new agile coaches and I’ve been curious about what our current MBTI distribution looks like. Are we still heavy on only a few types? And what about our DISC…

  • Coaching Organizations,  Coaching Teams,  Leadership and Management

    What does an agile coach at Spotify do?

    A common question that I receive from the agile community is “What does an agile coach at Spotify actually do?” and about 2 years ago Joakim Sundén answered this question in his blogpost The agile coach role at Spotify. This blogpost is about my current focus and how it has evolved over the past months. While I won’t go into specifics about the challenges we have had and still have, I will illustrate what reality can look like for an agile coach at Spotify. Four months ago I left the IO-tribe (Infrastructure Operations) to join the six month old BITS-tribe (Business Information Technology Systems). I was the first agile coach to join (btw we’re hiring) :) and the…

  • Coaching Teams,  Leadership and Management

    9 Questions That Help Determine Your Decision Making Style

    I am fascinated by how teams make decisions. Some teams I’ve worked with have wanted all decisions to be made by consensus. Others preferred to have a team lead or unofficial leader have the final say in making their decisions. I’ve also worked with teams that resist any and all decisions coming top-down. This often translates to an inverted top-down decision-making process. In a team like this, managers aren’t allowed to make any decisions or tell anyone what to do. One of the responsibilities that you as a leader have is to create an environment in which all individuals can contribute to solving problems and making decisions. To do so,…

  • Leadership and Management

    What do you need change to be happier at work?

    Some love variation, some love routines. Some love having a lot going on at the same time, others don’t. Some love starting projects, others love finishing projects. Some feel free when there are rules, others feel limited and constrained by rules. If you value routines and work in an environment that changes rapidly it’s likely that you will be exhausted a huge part of your time at work. If you appreciate working on many different projects but can only work on one at a time you could find yourself being demotivated and exhausted. The combination is important, not the style. Which is better? Neither of course! Below are 5 questions that you can ask yourself to discover…

  • Leadership and Management

    Do you know your directs context?

    Whether you are new to 1-on-1s or have been running them for a while, at certain times you and your directs will become misaligned and the topics they bring up might come as a surprise to you. The better understanding you have of your directs context, the better prepared you are, or at least can be, for supporting them. Your support can of course come in many different forms e.g. through feedback, by challenging, partnering, mentoring, and coaching, etc., but understanding their context is the first step. With that said, you are aiming for a delicate balance. While knowing everything and never being surprised might mean that you are spending too much…