Thursday, January 31, 2013

Agile Coaches need to put more Focus on the Future, Not the Past

I recently woke up in the morning after thinking most of the night about how to help two new internally appointed Agile Coaches to become more effective in their organization.

The new coaches were unable to cross the "history vs. future barrier".  In other words, they had a habit of  "rewinding the past negatives" instead of crossing the line to "talk about the positive future".  This was caused by years of history where they work.

History vs. Future Barrier

This morning it hit me (quite by accident when reviewing and old post).

The following approach should help:

We should remind them directly that they will be Coaches, and with Coaching comes a certain level of Responsibility.... One of the biggest responsibilities is the one to be Positive and find some light when things look bad.  Of course, sometimes directness and brutal honesty are needed, but let me not get diverted..

Remind the new coaches that "being negative" won't help their team and is inappropriate for them.  Caution! If handled incorrectly, it could appear that you are asking them to be untruthful... this is not the intent.

You could ask them; "Do you think telling the team there is no way they will complete the project on time over and over again is something a coach should be doing?.   How do we know there aren't people on the team who feel differently?  Do you think it's good for morale?"

Personally, I might explain that the Mental Energy for everyone could be put to good use in getting the first Feature out the door.   There is of course (a given)  the need to report important information to the company and be truthful, but that doesn't say anything about the need to be negative.

To me, it's more about negativity.  If the people who are supposed to be motivating others are constantly saying it can't be done, well.. probably, it won't be.  The fact is, we are using an Agile Framework and we BETTER be delivering value after 1 or 2 Cycles or a different discussion needs to happen.

I would explain that.. hey.. the reason external people are so aggressive is that they don't see anything until near the end of the project... change the visibility and tone of information and the aggressiveness will eventually go away.  

Focus on what's important.. Helping their teams deliver value (and quickly) (not as in push them but focus on value delivery).  

At the same time, an improvement in the External communication or information radiators will surely help. If Information Radiators are maintained with care, professionalism and are truthfulness, teams will not NEED to tell anyone they won't make the "complete scope".  The information shown will allow the management to be part of the "solution" and will significantly reduce stress for everyone.

I thought it might just share my thoughts about this for those that are interested.

Agile coaching is a big responsibility.  If you are learning to coach, you must learn to leave the Negative Past behind and focus on the Positive Future.

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile