The Agile Coach's Guide To The Galaxy

  • 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…

  • 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

    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…

  • Case Studies,  Coaching Teams

    Case Study – Optimizing Cycle Time for Data Center Maintenance

    Overview Most teams do not measure lead time and cycle time [1], missing opportunities to improve their system’s value flow. Here’s an example of how a data center team I worked with managed to reduce their cycle time from 32 days to 5 days by starting to measure it.   Initial Setup and Discovery We visualized our work on a physical board and tracked our metrics manually because the available tools (Jira, Trello, LeanKit Kanban) did not meet our specific needs. We did not know what we would discover, but once we measured our metrics, we learned that our cycle time was significantly higher whenever work involved scaling a part…

  • Feedback

    Feedback workshop facilitation guide

    For the past two years I’ve been facilitating and evolving a hands-on feedback workshop for existing teams that I have run with support teams, dev teams, and lead teams with positive results. I’m now sharing it in the hopes that it helps bring people and teams closer together, and improves the collaboration, all across the world*. Feel free to use it as it is, or change it as you see fit. Also please share your experiences with it! :) * With that said, I don’t think it’s wise to run this workshop if you do not have adequate/significant experience from feedback, self-awareness increasing activities such as Johari Window, and facilitation.

  • 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 Teams

    What happens when you send a dev team to a 3 day group development course?

    Are group development courses such as IMGD silver bullets when it comes to helping teams mature? That’s what Martin Wasielewski (also an agile coach at Spotify) and I wanted to find out. In order to find the answer we defined an experiment, and identified a 3 day group development course called S360 encounter that we would send a (willing) development team to. Our hypothesis was that: By increasing people’s self awareness, improving their self esteem, teaching them how to communicate effectively, and raising their understanding of other people’s needs, teams will become high performing. How we would evaluate this experiment Three and six months after our dev team had taken the course we would evaluate the experiment on the following:…

  • 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…