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Coaching, Coding and Learning By George Evjen

Book Notes from 'Coaching Agile Teams' By Lyssa Adkins

Agile Coach Failure, Recovery, and Success Modes

  • I have categorized common failures and successes as ways of operating or Modes.
    • Failure and success modes.
  • As I fell into traps less and less, the teams I coached got 'inexplicable' better results.


Agile Coach Failure Modes

  • The Spy : spends just enough time observing the team to pick up on topics.
  • The Seagull : swoops in at stand-ups, poops all over the team.
  • The Opinionator : expresses opinions often - gets attached to them
  • The Admin : undermines team ownership by becoming an unnecessary middle man
  • The Hub : acts as the center of the universe for communication between team members.
  • The Butterfly : flits around from team to team, landing just long enough to impart a pearl of wisdom.
  • The Expert : gets so involved in the details of the teams work
  • The Nag : helpfully 'reminds' the team to start stand-up, update the storyboard, complete the tasks they committed to.
  • We all act out these modes or ones similar to them.
  • None of these failure modes yields devastating consequences when done infrequently, but when done consistently, they can sap the teams ability to self-organize - this is devastating.
  • The center of anything is the wrong places for a coach to be.


Where Do Failure Modes Come From?

  • Failure modes arise when a coach's ego or continuous partial attention are in play.
  • When I thinking runs unchecked, it easily turns into I centeredness.
  • Behind all this I thinking lurks fear: fear that the team really wont know the right way to go and fear that they will fail or not be good enough.


Recover from Failure Modes

  • A way to avoid or at least recover from the failure modes is simple and difficult: replace fear with trust.
  • Put trust in the people on the team.
  • To make more room for trust, pay attention to what's actually happening on the team and what's trying to happen.
    • Trust + attention = good coaching (or at least the foundation that makes good coaching possible)
  • Here are a few things you might try to take steps in that direction
    • Cultivate Mindfulness
      • Anything to help you cultivate mindfulness helps avoid failure modes.
      • Learn to be fully present with teams.
      • Presence and self-awareness let you notice when a failure mode has taken hold
      • Tune in to what the team needs rather than what's going on inside of you.
    • Get Curious
      • While observing the team as it works - get curious about what is going on.
      • With trust and attention back on board and curiosity bringing you a clear picture of what's going on with team - failure mode doesn’t stand a chance
    • Get a Broader View
      • Come back to the teams shared vision - what they said they want to be together.
      • Get a broader view is a standard coaching skill called - meta-view
    • Pair with Others
      • We teach team members to pair with one another because 'two heads is better than one'
    • Practice Success
      • The things you notice improve the teams ability to self-organize and get work done.
      • Pay attention to other coaches, and shamelessly steal their success modes.


Agile Coach Success Modes

  • The Magician : asks questions and voila!
  • The Child : genuinely wonders why?
  • The Ear : hears everything but gives people room to grow
  • The Heckler : keeps it fun and light.
  • The Wise Fool : asks the dumb questions
  • The Creeping Vine : makes small moves that pull them back to the core of agile
  • The Dreamer : bravely gives voice to possible futures waiting to be created.
  • The Megaphone : makes sure all voices are heard.


Practice, Practice

  • Getting good at agile coaching means practicing - and failing.
  • Maybe noticing the failure modes in you coaching is enough to change for you right now.
  • Remember that bad habits and attitudes are contagious.


A Refresher

  • Failure modes arise but need not consume your coaching.
  • To combat failure modes - increase trust and attention.
  • Notice and name success modes in yourself and others.
  • Know where you are and take the next step. There is only practice.
Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2016 8:57 PM Agile | Back to top

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