Improve your communication with NVC

Improve your communication with NVC

At Agile 2011, I was very fortunate to attend David Chilcott’s session on NonViolent Commuication (NVC) for Agile Coaches. NVC is a very powerful communication toolkit that has already helped me. I wonder how I ever managed without it. At it’s very simplest form it is about explicitly considering your (and other’s) feelings and needs. The following diagram outlines the key elements of NVC for coaches. Observing Observing is an important skill for an Agile Coach. In NVC, the goal is to observe without evaluation, judgement or analysis. The idea here is that when we focus on observable data (I see, hear, etc.), we can operate and reason about what is actually happening rather than the filtered, distorted version that our brains typically serve up to us.  In the workshop we practiced distinguishing observations from evaluations and practiced removing the evaluation to focus on observable properties. Of course, you can also practice observing with my fun Coaching Skills Dojo. Feeling People’s feelings shape the conversation. They can uplift and energize or take you down a rabbit-hole. Here is an inventory of feelings that you can use to understand what’s going on with people. Needs Needs are the place where feelings come from. Positive feelings come from needs that are met. Negative feelings come from unfulfilled needs. Here is an inventory of needs that can help you identify what’s going on. Know thyself! As a coach, it behooves us know where we are so we can help others. First, get an understanding of your feelings and needs in a particular situation. This will allow you to more effectively communicate and manage your internal state. Second,... Continue reading »

How to Incubate Transformational Leadership

Jon Stahl had an enlightening talk at Agile 2011 where he walked through his process for incubating transformational leadership to achieve an Agile mindset. Confused about adoption vs. transformation?  Check out ways to make progress with Culture Gaps. Agile Mindset – Do you want it? Jon shows the following short video of IDEO design group to illustrate the Agile mindset and the type of servant leadership needed to support it. After watching the video with executives who want Agile, he checks in with them: “Is this what you really want?” “Are you prepared to change your own behaviour to support this?” “Are you ready to go first?” The approach outlined here is to go big or go home. Go big means to help transform an organization or division. Go home, means that rather than help adopt a few Agile practices that may disrupt the organization, to stop work and looks for clients who really want Agile. Leaders Go First! The remainder of the presentation is about how leaders can go first by adopting Agile principles as a management team. Jon summarizes this as: Live the values Lead by example Be as transparent as the teams they lead Here are some example activities for the management team: Public display of values Visualize projects and plans Visual management of key information: people, technology, etc Daily stand-up meeting in public place Check out the groundbreaking slides for more details: Agile From the Top Down: Executives & Leadership Living Agile by Jon Stahl View more presentations from LeanDog Thank you Jon, for sharing this at Agile... Continue reading »
Agile 2011 Preview – Innovation Games and Strategic Play with Lego

Agile 2011 Preview – Innovation Games and Strategic Play with Lego

I am heading off to Agile 2011 and I wanted to share why I am really excited to be attending.  It’s really all about the power of play. Understanding Flow through Games I was fortunate to be accepted to the Agile Bootcamp track to present Lean Fundementals: Understanding Flow through games. I am thrilled since this touches on two passions of mine – Lean/Flow thinking and using games for learning. Strategic Play® with Lego® for Solving Serious Problems I am going to run two open jam sessions (each with a maximum of 14 participants) to use  Strategic Play® with Lego®  to solve some serious problems or build a shared vision. I will announce the times via twitter (follow-me) and also using the open jam board. One of these will be focussed on generating leadership ideas for the Scrum Alliance. Some example acceptance tests for leadership are: There is a clear compelling vision of the Scrum Alliance that is supported by 70% of the membership. Satisfaction with leadership in Scrum Alliance is high. (e..g more than 4 out of 5 on survey). Public perception of the Scrum Alliance is positive. Members feel like their voice is heard regarding key decisions.   Innovation Games® T-Shirt Contest You probably already know that Innovation Games® are amazingly powerful for supporting Product Owner/Manager communication and discovery with customers and stakeholders. What you may not know is that there is a game at Agile 2011 for promoting awareness about Innovation Games® using a photo contest. Get your picture with me and other trained facilitators to win cold hard cash. I am very excited to participate... Continue reading »

Benjamin Zander on the Art of Possibility

I wanted to share this inspiring video on the art of possibility and how our stance in the world can change everything. Stance is very important for coaching. This video is pretty long, but the best bits for me were in the first 12 minutes. Some great parts: Letter using Remember the Future for remembering why the student will have been wildly successful (3:43) You can give an “A” grade to anyone – to transform the relationship (4:25) “How Fascinating!” as a celebration of errors to maintain an available state (10:53) Also, Benjamin Zander has a book with this title (haven’t read it... Continue reading »
Exploring Agile Community Challenges through StrategicPlay® with Lego®

Exploring Agile Community Challenges through StrategicPlay® with Lego®

  Last weekend, a group of local Agilistas got together for BBQ, drink, and to play with Lego. Well, not just play, but StrategicPlay® – with a purpose. And wow, what a result! The outcome was some deep insights into the Agile community that we’d like to share with you. Setting the Stage After a brief introduction and practice with StrategicPlay® model building and sharing, everyone proposed a topic for the session by building a model and explaining it. After voting (with little wee Lego coins), the group decided on the model/topic show to the left: it contrasts the low level of connection within the Agile community and outside with other communities with the ideal/future state where there is a very powerful coherent tower of strength in the community. Individual Visions of Agile Community Challenges Now that the topic was establish, everyone built their own model of it and took turns explaining them. Below, for example, is an individual model. Even though it was by the same participant who created the topic, the process of listening and sharing resulted in a dramatically different model. It tells the story of seemingly growing success of Agile as a movement, but coupled with a disconnect in making a difference with much of the corporate world. The possible elephant in the room is that perhaps Agile is and always has been about innovators and early adopters. Here is another one – showing factions arguing with each other in order to produce commercial success while the great challenge of waterfall waste is left largely unchallenged.  A Shared Vision of Agile Community Challenges The next challenge... Continue reading »
Agile – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Agile – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

  This is your chance to hear about the Ugly harsh realities, the Bad news and the Good opportunities for Agile. In many ways this concludes the past months series on Agile Culture. Stop reading now if you want to take the blue pill and ignore the harsh realities of the Agile industry. Along with a menagerie of problems, the vast majority of so-called “Agile Coaches” are unconsciously incompetent with respect to adopting and transitioning to Agile and a wider toolkit is called for in many situations. But there’s hope for us all: we can stop the madness by changing our outlook and learn the tools at hand to turn this industry around. The Ugly: Harsh Reality Failure is now commonplace There is a lot of failure and no shortage of lesson’s learned. Check out Google for top 10 lists on failure.  And then of course there is Ken Schwaber’s infamous quote: “75% of those organizations using Scrum will not succeed in getting the benefits that they hope for from it.” (I am in fact misquoting him but will do so anyway since he understates the problem). Of course there is my own informal study. Agile is an idea, not a product Many of us in the community have misunderstood that Agile is largely an idea disguised as a process (See Doing Agile isn’t the same as being Agile). Transforming companies to a new mindset is much much harder than adopting a process. Real success requires more than an accidental approach to adoption. Post-Chasm Most Companies want a quick fix Agile is post chasm and it’s painful (See Post-Chasm Agile Blues). Rare and far-between... Continue reading »
Agile Culture, Adoption, & Transformation Reading Guide

Agile Culture, Adoption, & Transformation Reading Guide

NEW. For updated information on this post, please see An Agile Adoption and Transformation Survival Guide. This is a reading guide to the series that explores corporate culture and how that has a direct impact (sometimes very negative) on efforts towards Agile adoption and transformation. It is a must-read for every Agile Change Agent. The role of Kanban is quite distinct and is discussed throughout. Below is a quick synopsis of each post in the series on Organizational Culture, Adoption and Transformation so you it’s easy to find the most relevant content for you and start with what interests you most. Best Summary 1 Hour Video explanation (and slides) of Culture; adoption/transformation meta-framework – If you really want to understand, I encourage you to watch the video. Don’t have time – just scan the presentation slides. Agile New England, Dec. 2011 How to Make Your Culture Work with Agile, Kanban & Software Craftsmanship – Method and Tools Article, Dec. 2011 eBook – In progress. Drop me a note if you want to be a reviewer. Juicy Conclusions Read about why it matters to you: Agile Fits Better in Some Company Cultures than Others – Agile is a great way of thinking about software development but that doesn’t mean it fits in with all company cultures. Ditto for Kanban. Agile – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Links cultural issues central to challenges faced with Agile Adoption and Transition. What you need to know as a change agent. Change Agent’s Toolkit Read this to expand your toolkit: A Tour of Agile Adoption and Transformation Models – Review of Agile Adoption... Continue reading »
Ways to Make Progress with Culture Gaps

Ways to Make Progress with Culture Gaps

In an earlier post, I talked about how Agile Fits Better in Some Company Cultures than Others. In this post, we’ll review some common strategies for handling cultural mismatches. The Big Pitcure I almost posted this blog without a summary picture and I am glad I stopped myself. Once I made the drawing below, I saw there are two main strategies (adoption and transformation) and sub-strategies within them. This post will walk you through the options and when to use them. Work with your Culture This is the recommendation from Schneider’s book – How to make your Culture work: work with your culture; don’t fight it. I’ll outline some ways below. #1 Build on Your Current Culture The idea here is pick an approach that is compatible with the current culture of the organization. One way I interpret the diagram on the right (see related article) is a prescription of what aspects of Agile/Lean to focus on based on company culture: Control Culture? –> Lead with Kanban Competence Culture –> Lead with Craftsmanship Collaboration or Cultivation Culture –> Lead with aspects of Agile that align with the organizations culture. e.g. Vision and Retrospectives for Cultivation Culture. Kanban? But it’s not Agile! Some really smart Agile folks think than Kanban is a sell-out: That it is a watered down, inferior form of Agile that doesn’t measure up. (I mostly disagree with this sentiment). This reminds me of a story Craig Larman shared at a local user group meeting: “My favourite process is Unified Process. I do it in a very Agile way. But, I never recommend it to my clients since it... Continue reading »
Coaching Skills Dojo

Coaching Skills Dojo

Although Agile coaching requires many skills, we get back to basics by revisiting three fundamental coaching skills: observing, listening and questioning. As you put these three key skills into practice, you will get feedback on your performance and have the opportunity to try out improvement ideas in a safe, open and friendly environment. Learning Objectives Practice listening without judgment Gather information more effectively Ask different kinds of questions to understand the real problem Gain fresh insights into a problem you face at work Recipe Number of participants: 6 to 20 (could go to 30 with a bit of deterioration) Team size: work in groups of 3. Duration: 90 minutes (can be made shorter or longer) Materials: Flip chart paper and marker for each group. Setup: Chairs for sitting, walls for flipchart paper. Credits: This game was created by Michael Sahota and Portia Tung. It can be considered a variant of The Yellow Brick Road – Agile Adoption Through Peer Coaching (see below). Process/Mechanics Below is the core part of the Dojo – practicing skills. We will use flipcharts and posters to support a highly interactive workshop where most of the work will be done in small groups. (2 min ) Introduction – session objectives, activities (2 min) Three key coaching skills (http://www.agilitrix.com/2009/08/agile-coaching-roles-notes-from-agile-2…) – tell participants that we will only focus on these three. (5 min) Human bubblesort: participants order themselves by listening, observing and questioning skills (low to high) (1 min) Form Triads (groups of three) with neighbours (9 min) Build Skills poster for listening, observing and questioning (5 min) Each triad creates a poster to define the three skills. (Need poster,... Continue reading »
A Tour of Agile Adoption and Transformation Models

A Tour of Agile Adoption and Transformation Models

In light of Agile adoption failures and awareness of cultural challenges, the purpose of this post is to review current models that are applied to adopting Agile and transforming with Agile at organizations. Worthy background reading is Mike Cottmeyer’s post on Untangling Adoption and Transformation. It is worth noting that there is no widespread agreement about how to undertake agile adoption. A Tour of Adoption and Transformation Models Below a number of models for Agile adoption and organizational transformation are shown. The horizontal scale shows on the one hand techniques aimed at adopting practices while at the other we have wholesale organizational change or transformation. I am increasingly thinking that for many situations, adoption is not sufficient and transformation is required but not wanted. Models above the line are not specific to Agile, while those below the line come from an Agile context. What follows is a short overview of each model or approach. Becoming Agile in an Imperfect World Smith and Sidky’s book – Becoming Agile in an Imperfect World – provides a lot of practical advice on adopting Agile. They begin with the premise that many companies are not ready for Agile along a variety of dimensions: Tools, Culture, Project Management, Software Process and Physical Environment. They advocate becoming as Agile as possible given the current environmental limitations and most important needs. Although they recognize that Agile represents a shift in thinking, they support an incremental practices-oriented adoption. Some might characterize this as Doing Agile rather than Being Agile. Containers, Differences and Exchanges The CDE (Containers, Differences, Exchanges) model provides a way to understand the context of a... Continue reading »
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