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The Software Process and Measurement Cast 613 features our essay on directive and non-directive coaching. DIrective coaches, akin to many athletic coaches, are a hard sell at the team level. Non-directive coaches, akin to mentors, are not always viewed as effective by senior leaders. In reality, it is not cut and dry.

Essays in the Directive – Non-directive Series

Agile Coaching Techniques: Styles of Coaches –https://bit.ly/2EwFh4X

Directive or Non-directive Coaching – https://bit.ly/2Pb364r 

Directive or Non-directive Coaching: Why Everyone Needs To Know –https://bit.ly/3hmLf75 

In the second spot this week, Jeremy Berriault brings his QA Corner to the cast.  We discuss coaching testers. Indirectly we have a discussion about the use of directive and non-directive coaching styles.  You can reach Jeremy at https://berriaultandassociates.com/ (more…)

Move you head this way!

The word coach is used so indiscriminately that the meaning is hard to discern. Saying you are a coach still sends a signal, but the signal is at the mercy of the person that hears the term and it might not be what you’ve intended. In Agile Coaching Techniques: Styles of Coaches we used two different coaching approaches to define a continuum: directive and non-directive.  We used athletic coaches to mark the directive end of the spectrum and life coaches to mark the non-directive end. Each style has a very different approach to involvement.

To get a sense of how the market is leaning on the coaching involvement level scale, I grabbed a handful of job postings from LinkedIn from the US (some from the East Coast, Central Plains, and West Coast). I pulled out the job requirements and sorted them into categories. These categories could then be interpreted as directive or non-directive based on the verb they used.  For example, if the requirement used the active verb “manage” I put the requirement in the directive column. Verbs like advise and mentor I put in the non-directive category. I threw out things like projects and activities to be assigned as needed.

Coaching styles, as noted earlier, can be separated into two macro styles: directive and non-directive.  The basic approach of a directive coach is to “tell, show, do.”  The coach will teach the coachee (individual or team) how to perform a behavior or ceremony, then demonstrate, and then oversee the coachee performing the activity. The train-the-trainer approach used for transferring the knowledge to teach classes is a form of directive coaching. In directive situations, the coach needs to have deep levels of knowledge about the subject matter. For example, if you were coaching a team on behavior-driven development (BDD) you need an understanding of not only the theory but the practical knowledge of how to write and execute BDD tests.  

Directive job requirements included action verbs such as: 

  • Enforce,
  • Implement,
  • Lead,
  • Manage,
  • Methodologist,
  • Participate,
  • Improve (process), and
  • Measure.

The basic approach of non-directive coaches works by helping the person or people they are coaching to discover and apply their personnel experience to solve their problems.  Alyssa Adkins, the author of Coaching Agile Teams, uses the phrase, “ask the team” which is reflective of non-directive coaching. This style is very popular in agile circles.  

Job requirements whose action verbs include one or more of the following were judged as non-directive:

  • Facilitate,
  • Mentor,
  • Coach (this feels like defining a word with the word being defined), and
  • Train.

Even though the non-directive style of coaching is more popular in the agile community, the small sample of job descriptions include substantially more directive type responsibilities (about a 60/40 split). Styles are just styles; I have used directive and non-directive techniques. The context and my agreements with the people involved provide a way to navigate between the two camps.  

August 4:  Why understanding style matters

August 6:  I am an agile guide

Mt Kilamajaro

It you don’t walk you won’t see the world.

 

I was recently asked if agile coaches needed to exhibit flexibility. Unfortunately, the answer which should be ‘of course’ had to be, “it depends” because the word coach in agile circles is used indiscriminately. Organizations have many roles that have coaching somewhere on their job description or work order. The goal of the act of coach is straightforward, to MAKE A DIFFERENCE in someone’s or some group’s life. The broadness of the goal means that anyone using any set of techniques can jot coach down on their resume in good conscious. The problem is that the expectations of the approach will differ.

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Sometimes art is a metaphor and sometimes it is something else.

 

Clean Language’s pedigree is from psychotherapy and has found a home in coaching. It is also a valuable tool for discovering information about work products. As product managers, product owners, and stakeholders interact with the world and then describe a set of wants and needs they use metaphors. Metaphors are communication shortcuts that need to be explored. For example, product visions are often metaphor magnets. Most vision statements are considered internal and proprietary, therefore, they are hard to find (NDAs keep me from sharing the ones from companies I work with). Apple’s vision statement, according to Mission Statement Academy, is “We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products and that’s not changing.” If that statement was an input for building a product backlog there are several metaphors that would need to be explored so they can be converted into features and user stories. Clean Language is a way to get people to realize and describe what they know, what they think, how they feel while reducing bias in the results. Using clean language to identify and record requirements and needs follows the standard format for asking clean language questions with a few twists. (more…)

What happens next?

Clean Language is a  tool to explore the metaphors used during discussions and conversations.  The term metaphor is being used in a broad sense to include similes and other subcategories.  Clean Language was originally developed by David Grove, a psychotherapist, in his practice working with trauma survivors. While many of us have been involved with death march projects over the years, a psychotherapy technique feels like overkill, especially since it takes a lot of effort to learn Clean Language Questions. However, the payback is worth the effort. I recently was sitting in the airport listening to a conversation between two colleagues. In a five-minute slice of the discussion, I counted 42 separate metaphors. Perhaps all the metaphors were understood, or perhaps they were participating in mutual mystification. A few well-placed Clean Language Questions would have been useful to ensure the conversation was synchronized. There are several categorizations of clean questions.  For example ‘Metaphors in Mind’ by James Lawley and Penny Tompkins group questions into nine categories. Other schemes range from four to nine.  The number of categories is less important than the idea that different questions will elicit different responses. Clean Language Questions seek to get the person answering the questions to recognize: (more…)

In a land far far away, I overheard a conversation between a team member and a coach.  The dialog is a reflection of my memory and a bit of poetic license. I was present, waiting for a meeting with another team to kick-off and was not part of the conversation. I bit my tongue to keep for jumping in.  (more…)

Answering Questions

The Socratic Method and Socratic Questions trace their lineage to the Greek teacher Socrates. Over the years much academic work has evaluated and categorized Socratic questions. The most prevalent categorization of Socratic Questions are six categories defined by Dr. R.W. Paul. The six categories are: (more…)

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SPaMCAST 519 features our essay on a code of ethics for agile coaches. A code of ethics is a compilation of ethical principles brought together into a framework. Most professions have a code of ethics that guide their behaviors, typically guided by an association that provides credentials. I think it is time to discuss a code of ethics for agile coaches.

We also have a visit from Susan Parente, with her Not A Scrumdamentalist column.  Susan discusses how to become an agilist. It is not as easy as learning any individual set of methods and techniques. One of the places to find Susan is at S3 Technologies, LLC.

I know I promised a visit from Jon M. Quigley, but I had a minor problem with the drive and did not get the column into production soon enough to make the deadline.  

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Re-Read Saturday News
This week we take a slight detour in our journey through Bad Blood, Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2018 – Buy a copy and read along!) As we have noted before, the book is at heart a cautionary tale; however, it is easy to pass the shenanigans (in private I might use stronger language) as confined to the boardroom, and therefore not something that can happen inside the boundaries of an agile team or in a department.  Ahhhh, think again. To establish the basis for this brief respite we published a review of some of the common attributes of toxic organizations and toxic leaders. It would be easy to go through both of the lists and a find points in the first six chapters and tick the attributes off almost like you were watching a slow(ish)-motion train wreck.


Week 1 – Approach and Introductionhttps://bit.ly/2J1pY2t   

Week 2 — A Purposeful Life and Gluebothttps://bit.ly/2RZANGh

Week 3 — Apple Envy, Goodbye East Paly and Childhood Neighborshttps://bit.ly/2zbOTeO

Week 4 — A Reflectionhttps://bit.ly/2RA6AfT (more…)

Eating ice cream

Consensus for ice cream!

Consensus decisions are the output of a process in which a team or group finds a solution that everyone can either actively support or live with. Getting from the need to create a decision to the decision is where the magic (or at least the hard work) happens. The steps a facilitator takes in generating a consensus decision include:

  1. Identifying what the team will decide. Develop a clear outline to help a team or group to frame the scope of the decision. State the need for everyone to understand by pinpointing the priorities.
  2. Visualize what a positive outcome looks like. Visualization provides a mental model of what a successful consensus looks like and how it impacts the team. Use the process of visualization to mentally role-play getting to a consensus in your mind. This is a critical step not only for the facilitator but the whole team. Facilitators use mental models to guide, and team members use mental models to create a goal. Questions are a tool to generate a mental model. Two questions I have found useful are:
    1. What is the ideal or best outcome possible?
    2. What does the path to attaining that outcome look like?

(more…)

 

Standard poodle on yoga mat

Jax voted to take over my yoga mat!

One of the primary decision-making techniques used in teams is consensus decision making. The power of consensus decision making is that it yields decisions that are the output of a process in which a team or group finds a solution that everyone can either actively support or live with.  The process of getting to a decision or solution that the whole team can at least live will make sure that every that everyone on the team has a seat at the table and that team builds both majority and minority views into the deliberation process. Generating a consensus requires a number of skills that teams and team members need to learn.  These skills include the ability to:

  •       Communicate options and ideas
  •       Synthesize options and ideas
  •       Listen to team members effectively
  •       Discuss and identify similarities and differences
  •       Compromise
  •       Recognize the needs of others.

Diverse teams rarely have a single monolithic thought process. That means that consensus decisions are a synthesis of ideas in which no one got exactly what they wanted but the result is that the team broadly agrees on the specific issues and the overall direction.  When a team has generated a consensus everyone accepts the decision, will support the decision and understands the reason for making it. A consensus decision represents a team’s collective acceptance of the responsibility for enacting the decision and following through.

Despite the crisp definition of consensus, every team operationalizes the concept of consensus decision making differently.  Some bad consensus decision making processes include:

  • Voting –Teams often feel that they have achieved consensus when they have achieved a unanimous vote.  Voting per se is not bad in certain circumstances. Voting can be a way to test the broad position of a team and identify groups that hold different positions but rarely is it a tool to generate a synthesis or to expose nuances in position.  Voting is most often used to force a majority decision.
  • Majority or minority rule – By definition, consensus decisions represent a synthesis of ideas and concepts to generate support from the whole team.  Majority or minority rule scenarios by definition do not reflect a synthesis.
  • One-person rule – Decisions generated and enforced by a single leader do not represent a consensus decision – duh.
  • Bargaining – Bargaining shifts consensus decision making into a process where the participants agree on what each side gives or receives as payment to support the ideas or concepts of others.  Reducing decision making to a legalistic transaction reduces the need to create a synthesis of ideas.

None of the activities that aren’t good for consensus decision making are bad when used in different situations.  I have bargained with my family when deciding on a restaurant. Many a time have I negotiated visiting a place with good chicken wings one night and the vegan salad place the next (we are complicated).  One-person rule decision making can be very effective in an emergency. Captain Sully Sullenberger, who landed a crippled airliner in the Hudson River, did not use consensus decision making. Combining bad practices with consensus decision making is a problem.

Next:

Techniques for Consensus Decision Making

Techniques for Testing Consensus Decisions