The difference between mentoring and coaching is slippery.

The coach is a core role in the discussion of adopting agile.  Coaching is important because it can lead it to smoothly functioning organizations, higher productivity, and profits. The perceived value of coaching has caused some practitioners and team members to confuse the concepts of coaching, mentoring and, in some cases, counseling.  Confusion leads to misapplication of techniques, mismatched expectations, and lower value.  Some of the more salient attributes of each role include:

Coaching

  1.     Targets specific behaviors.  For example, a speaking coach works with the person they are coaching on behaviors that revolve around speaking.
  2.     Set duration. Coaches are typically deployed for a specific period of time. For example, the speaking coach noted above might be retained for a specific speech or retained for a period of time. Using a sports example, pitchers typically have a pitching coach that works with the pitching staff during baseball season.  (Note: I am a baseball fan – the Cleveland Indians pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 14; I bet the coaches have been hired and are already planning.)
  3.     Might not have specific experience in the area they are coaching.  For example, many agile coaches might not have specific coding or testing experience.  Coaches have experience in asking the right questions.
  4.     Agendas are defined to address specific job-related goals. Performance of a speaking coach will be evaluated based on the “coachees” performance when speaking, not based on other goals.
  5.     Involve other stakeholders.  Coaches interact with and often involve stakeholders to help the person being coached to improve the behavior they were coached on.

Mentoring:

  1.     Relationship driven. Mentoring is built on the relationship between the mentor and mentee.  Mentors tend to have long, on-going interactions with the person they are helping.
  2.     Broad-based rather than focused.  Mentoring focuses on the person rather than on a specific behavior.
  3.     The mentor has been there and done that. Mentors will have more experience than the person they are mentoring.  My wife’s association assigned her a business coach that had been a successful business owner that was able to provide guidance and direction based on that experience.
  4.     Career and personal development oriented. A mentor’s role is to develop the person, not to address a specific issue. Even though a mentor might provide specific guidance, they need to think about guiding and molding the whole person.  Early in my career, a very young CIO of a bank that I worked for had a mentor from one of the big accounting/consulting companies.  The mentor helped the CIO learn how to shift from being a technician to an executive leader over several years.
  5.     Mentors remove barriers. Mentors get things out of the way so that the person grow.  A coach will help mentees to remove barriers themselves.
  6.     Not based on explicit power.  Mentors derive their power based on their experience and the mentee’s interest.  They can not force the person they are mentoring to take their advice.  Coaches tend to have more positional power. In some cases, the coach can impact whether a person plays or is promoted.   

Counseling

  1.     Focuses on the underlying issue.  Counselors are focused on the underlying issues that drive behaviors.
  2.     Rarely involve other stakeholders.  Counseling focuses on what is driving behaviors.  In a business scenario, it is rare for individuals to share at that level with others in the organization or team.

In a recent interview with the agile coach, Sam Liang (to be published in February), the distinction between mentoring and coaching was illustrated in stark contrast.  Coaches ask questions while mentors provide more specific guidance. When asked how he saw the difference, coach and mentor David Herron said, “I see them as similar, using some of the same skills and practices. However, mentoring is more personal and longer term, a relationship. Coaching may be shorter term, with targeted goals and objectives.”  Coaching, mentoring, and counseling can deliver huge benefits but only if the right technique is used in the right circumstances.

Next:  More on the differences between coaching mentoring

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 477 features our essay on silence.  Silence is a powerful tool to guide conversations and mine information from the stream of consciousness that flows around us. If silence was just a tool to improve our connections with people and to improve listening, it would be worth practicing. But, silence is also a tool to peer deeper into our minds. Silence improves relaxation and helps individuals to focus.  Trust me the podcast is not 30 minutes of silence!

We will also have a column from Kim Pries, the Software Sensi.  Kim brings us part one of his essay, Muddling Through.  The essay is based on the article, “The Science of “Muddling Through” by Charles E. Lindblom.  The article was originally published in 1959 but has an important message that resonates now.

Gene Hughson of Form Follows Function anchors the cast.  He discusses his great article, “What Makes a Monolith Monolithic?” Gene suggests that the problem with the term “monolith” is that, while it’s a powerfully evocative term, it isn’t a simple one to define.   (more…)

A New Copy!

Chapter 10A of Daniel S. Vacanti’s Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction (buy a copy today) is a very short chapter (I should have planned to include this in chapter 10B, but hindsight is 20/20) covering a discussion of histograms but given the time and space we can spend additional time with an example.  The chapter is titled Cycle Time Histograms.   (more…)

User stories tend to follow a hierarchy that follows the decomposition of a business need or idea into granular pieces of functionality.  That decomposition follows a basic workflow that starts when the story is voiced and ends when it is built. Along the way, each user story passes through different states that hopefully end with functionality being delivered and the story marked as done!

All three concepts are important in order to use the concept of user stories in a dynamic environment where agile and lean work is pursued.  An example is helpful to see how a user story hierarchy, flow, and states fit together.    In the following example, we will follow an automotive example to highlight the user story hierarchy, how the item impacts the user story flow, and which user story states apply to the hierarchy.  (more…)

Some states are entrances!

User stories are a way of stating requirements.  Ron Jefferies coined the meme, the Three Cs to describe a user story.  The 3 Cs are:

  1. card,
  2. conversation, and
  3. confirmation.

The idea of a card was to keep the user story short to avoid making the requirement overly complex and to avoid analysis paralysis. Because the card was a short statement of the user story, conversations are required to expose the nuances of the user story (note: nowhere does it say NOT to document your conversations. If someone tells you not to document your conversations, forget them!).  Finally, the third C, confirmation equates to testable statements that allow the team to know when the user story is satisfied. User stories might begin as nebulous statements, however, when groomed, a well-formed story provides strong guidance on the business need to be addressed.

User stories pass through four basic states. (more…)

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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 476 features our interview with Kyle Siemens.  Kyle is CEO at Brightest. We discussed the case for certifications. The whole concept of certifications is a lightning rod for the excesses of agile and the Agile (big A) industry.  Mr. Siemens makes a strong argument for certification when done properly.

Kyle’s Bio

Kyle Siemens is an energetic, loyal and hard-working Canadian from Winnipeg, Manitoba. After completing my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Manitoba in German literature and mathematics, I moved to Berlin in 2006 with a DAAD scholarship and got my Masters in communication and languages. After working several years at various agencies (running campaigns for national and international brands), I stumbled upon an incredible path by chance, which led me to where I am today – Online Marketing Volunteer of the TMMi Foundation and CEO of a global ISTQB exam provider called Brightest: www.brightest.org.

Reach out to Kyle on LinkedIn

Re-Read Saturday News

This week we tackled Chapter 10 of Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction by Daniel S. Vacanti. Today we begin Part 3 with Chapter 10 which is titled, Introduction to Cycle Time Scatterplots. Scatterplots take us beyond the analysis of average cycle time (or even approximate average cycle time).  Scatterplots provide a visual representation of the data so we can begin to use the data to predict the future.  Remember to buy your copy today and read along, and we will be back next week!

Previous Installments

Introduction and Game Plan
Week 2: Flow, Flow Metrics, and Predictability
Week 3: The Basics of Flow Metrics
Week 4: An Introduction to Little’s Law
Week 5: Introduction to CFDs
Week 6: Workflow Metrics and CFDs
Week 7: Flow Metrics and CFSs
Week 8: Conservation of Flow, Part I
Week 9: Conservation of Flow, Part II
Week 10: Flow Debt
Week 11: Introduction to Cycle Time Scatterplots

Support the author (and the blog), buy a copy of Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction by Daniel S. Vacanti (more…)

A New Copy!

We are back!  Today we begin Part 3 of Daniel S. Vacanti’s Actionable Agile Metrics for Predictability: An Introduction (buy a copy today) with Chapter 10 which  is titled, Introduction to Cycle Time Scatterplots. Scatterplots take us beyond the analysis of average cycle time (or even approximate average cycle time).  Scatterplots provide a visual representation of the data so we can begin to use the data to predict the future.
(more…)