Earlier this year I attended Agile 2022; It was a fantastic conference. One of the undercurrent themes was the use of OKRs (objectives and key results for the uninitiated) to enable agility, align organizations, and cure Covid. There is no such thing as a silver bullet, especially with the wide range of interpretations of what an OKR is and how to apply them. Luis Gonçalves retunes to the podcast to set us straight.  

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This week, Chapter 7 of Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins. While observing and facilitating might be the most prolific coach activities, at times teaching takes front and center. As an experienced coach, I find myself slipping between different roles based on context. Teaching encompasses a wide range of behaviors, but the goal is always the same – to elevate the person or team you are teaching. Teachers are there to help PEOPLE to become better at something. My piano teacher in Waterloo, Iowa existed in my life to make me a better piano player, not a better dog walker or Agile Coach. In my role as coach-teacher, I have had to learn to focus on the immediate goal rather than possible knock-on effects. I recently sat in on conversations between two coaches that had been hired to a team test-driven development (TDD). Their sponsor wanted them to teach the team to have a more agile mindset under the guise of TDD. The goals are conflicting. To paraphrase a quote from Harry Potter, “they need to sort out their priorities.” In all teaching scenarios, clear and transparent priorities are critical to both building trust and success.

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Is the difference merely perspective?

Jeremy Willets and I recently facilitated a workshop titled, Managing Work Entry: How the Mushy Middle is Killing Your Agility (Path to Agility). Work entry is how work gets to an organization or team…not the sexiest topic in agile but it’s impactful. In the run-up to the conference, we previewed a version with a group of trusted colleagues and friends. Amongst the feedback was a comment, “don’t you mean work intake?” The short answer is no yet the path to that simple answer is a bit longer. Understanding why no is the right answer is important to foster understanding for anyone who wants to embrace agile or lean principles.

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Today’s cast is a very short podcast.  Over the past week, I spent an amazing week at Agile 2022. My goal was to be re-radicalized. I reconnected with friends, made new friends, learned a new set of personal pronouns (while not for me, they really work well), picked up a bunch of swag, learned a ton, got re-energized and re-radicalized, and got Covid19. I could have done without the latter. I will get better, but right now it is moving up on my personal least fun thing to do list. I told Jeremy  Berriault (you will hear from him later) that Covid is somewhere between the sixth and seventh least fun thing I’ve ever been involved with. It was a solid #7 yesterday. With luck, things will be back to normal soon.  

All that aside, the money shot presentation (for me) was given by Bethany Andres-Beck, titled “A Radical Culture of Culture Building.” Zie rocked it. The combination of small group influencing techniques combined with anarchist meeting design, community activism from the civil rights era, and the women’s movent was simply brilliant. Better yet, none of it was pie in the sky theory but the relating of an experience report. I need to talk hir into appearing on the podcast. This presentation was worth the price of admission for me.

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Jim Benson has a new book titled, The Collaboration Equation. Jim states that collaboration “is the base of the human condition, we need other people in order to live, but always seem to be at odds with each other.” Jim also states that unless you are striving for improvement, you are unprofessional. I really like talking to Jim; Jim is a force of nature. 

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This week we began our re-read of Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins (SPaMCAST Amazon affiliate line https://amzn.to/38G0ZD3 buy a copy).  The entire title is Coaching Agile Teams; A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition published by Addison-Wesley Signature Series copyright 2010. I am re-reading my Kindle version of the book. The front matter includes Forwards by Mike Cohn, Jim Highsmith, Acknowledgments, Introduction, and a section titled, About the Author. The main body of the book is in three parts comprised of 13 chapters. It is indexed — useful for reference books! I estimate 16 or 17 weeks to complete the re-read depending on my travel. Note: The Kindle edition of the book has not been updated and will not run on the Paperwhite Version 10 models, so we will re-read it on the iPhone and Laptop — I did not have a happy chat with Kindle support on this issue.  Wake up, Addison-Wesley!

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Perpetuating the Metaphor

Flow is one of the most used words in agile and lean (and there are a lot of overused words in the field). Even though the word is used by nearly every practitioner multiple times a day there are very few solid definitions. Instead of definitions, most practitioners have a notional understanding of what the word means in software and software-related disciplines but often revert to metaphors when challenged. If I had a dollar for every reference to a river or traffic I would be able to outbid Elon Musk for Twitter. The term is used as a noun, verb, and adjective (I am sure someone has an example of flow used as an adverb but I have to hear it yet).

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With SPaMCAST 701 we go back to basics. Whether you call that quick meeting to coordinate the day the Daily Scrum, Stand-up, or a huddle is not material. Daily coordination is phenomenally powerful and useful unless it isn’t.  Just making teams meet without benefit is a really bad idea.  What else can be done?

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This week Susan Parente and I had an extraordinary conversation about team leads in agile and leadership. In some cases, the role of a team leader is treated as if it were superfluous to requirements in other cases it is a tool to delegate work to people in an effort to subvert self-organization and when organizations get it right the role is a vehicle to unlocking the capabilities of teams.

Contact Susan at parente.s3@gmail.com or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/susanparente

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This week we talked to Julianna Lamb, co-founder and CTO at Stytch about agile in start-ups, hybrid working, how to keep a product backlog under control, grow a business in the early 2020’s, and more. 

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