The Agile Coach's Guide To The Galaxy

  • 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 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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

    Solve problems with experiments

    Lately I’ve been exploring tools that can help teams more successfully solve problems. This article is about how you can use experiments to help you solve problems more effectively. Your convictions are more likely assumptions In product development we are finally starting to acknowledge that the convictions we have about our product actually are assumptions (that often also turn out to be wrong). The realisation of this is one of the reasons to why we adopt lean startup or create impact maps. We want to find out if our convictions are wrong early because we want to discover what our users or customers actually want faster i.e. profit faster. That’s…

  • Coaching Teams

    Why are only some improvements successful?

    That’s what a team that I have been coaching for 1 year and I wanted to answer. We were curious about the answer because I was leaving to coach another team. We thought that the answer to this question would allow the team to improve more effectively. Call it waste reduction in improving if you will. While we weren’t able to identify “one magic ingredient”  that made improvements successful we did gain some insights that we think are valuable to others. The format of our retrospective We drew a timeline ranging from July 2013 to October 2014 and we filled it with two different types of data: “Non product related” events, and “Product related” events. Examples of…

  • Coaching Teams,  Product Management

    An Epic discovery workshop (and a guide to facilitate it)

    At some point in time most development teams run out of potential epics to do next for a variety of reasons. Alternatively they can find themselves at a road crossing uncertain about which Epic to implement next. If you ever find yourself in either of these situations here’s a 2-hour workshop that you can run with your team. The workshop can also help create alignment in the team which can be useful in case your your team is having difficulties agreeing over what to do next. The questions and examples in this article come from when I facilitated this workshop with one of the teams that I coach, the Network…