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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Are you a coach or a manager? Most traditional, hierarchical IT organizations use managers to plan, organize and control work. Managers make decisions with greater or lesser collaboration, based on their management style. A coach is a different thing entirely. Coaches exist to assist a team to reach its full potential. In the world of empowered employees and self-managed teams, a coach is an enabler, a guide, and a leader.

A coach enables her team by suggesting areas for self-improvement, ideas for using tools and techniques and facilities improving team. The goal of coaching is to help the team become more effective in delivering value to the organization. The act of coaching requires the ability to interact and facilitate both how individuals and groups work within the team.

When a coach provides guidance, they are using their gravitas to influence the direction of the team. In organizations that rely on control environments, the manager will tell the team the correct direction with the expectation that telling and doing are sequential acts. A coach provides direction and uses her influence to get the team to internalize that direction. The internalized direction may well reflect a synthesis of the team’s knowledge and the coach’s advice.

The ability to enable and guide is a function of being a leader. Kevin Kruse, author of Employee Engagement 2.0, defines leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” The definition does not include the primary tenants of the definition of a manager, control and positional authority, but rather is focused on getting the most from the team through influence.

A coach is a guide and a leader. These attributes are inter-related and self-reinforcing. A coach rarely needs to leverage the techniques of a manager – planning, organizing and directing – rather they rely on influence and team peer-pressure. Are you a manager or a coach? The distinction is stark. Is your role to help the team maximize its value through a process of facilitation? If the answer is yes, then you are a coach.

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This week’s Software Process and Measurement Cast is a magazine feature with three columns. This week we have columns from Gene Hughson – Form Follows Function, completing a three-column arc on microservices. In Jo Ann Sweeney’s new Explaining Change column, Jo Ann tackles the concept of communication channels. The SPaMCAST essay this week is on Agile Coaching. Coaches help teams and projects deliver the most value, however many times organizations eschew coaches or conflate management and coaching.  This week we will have an external coach versus management death match!

Contest

We are having a contest! Anthony has offered a copy of his great new book to a randomly selected SPaMCAST listener, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.  Enter between February 22th and March 7th.  The winner will be announced on March 8th.  If you want a copy of Agile Project Management you have two options: send your name and email address to spamcastinfor@gmail.com (I will act as the broker and notify the winner at which point we can deal with other types of addresses), OR you can buy a copy.  Remember buying a copy through the Software Process and Measurement Cast helps support the podcast.

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Re-Read Saturday News

The Re-Read Saturday focus on Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox’s The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement began on February 21nd. The Goal has been hugely influential because it introduced the Theory of Constraints, which is central to lean thinking. The book is written as a business novel. Visit the Software Process and Measurement Blog and catch up on the re-read.

Note: If you don’t have a copy of the book, buy one.  If you use the link below it will support the Software Process and Measurement blog and podcast.

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Upcoming Events

CMMI Institute Conference EMEA 2015
March 26 -27 London, UK
I will be presenting “Agile Risk Management.”
http://cmmi.unicom.co.uk/

International Conference on Software Quality and Test Management
Washington D.C. May 31 – June 5, 2015
Wednesday June 3, 2015
http://qualitymanagementconference.com/
I will be presenting a new and improved version of “The Impact of Cognitive Biases on Test and Project Teams.”

Next SPaMCast

In the next Software Process and Measurement Cast we will feature our interview with Shirly Ronen-Harel. We began by talking about the book she co-authored (or is co-authoring) The Coaching Booster, which is 80% complete on LeanPub. We branched out into other topics including coaching, lean, Agile and using lean and Agile in startups. This was an incredibly content-rich podcast.  Have your notepad ready when you listen because Shirly provides ideas and advice that can change how you work!

Shameless Ad for my book!

Mastering Software Project Management: Best Practices, Tools and Techniques co-authored by Murali Chematuri and myself and published by J. Ross Publishing. We have received unsolicited reviews like the following: “This book will prove that software projects should not be a tedious process, neither for you or your team.” Support SPaMCAST by buying the book here.

Available in English and Chinese.

The leader is part of the crew.

The leader is part of the crew.

In Mastering Software Project Management (J Ross Publishing 2010), Murali Chemuturi and I define software project management as the activities required to plan and lead software projects.  Historically, IT projects have identified a single person to play this role.  Programs, which are made up multiple projects, include multiple project managers that report to program manager. However, many forms of Agile have eschewed the project manager role and instead distribute the activities associated with project management across the core team, including the product owner, the development team and the Scrum Master. Project management as a role is dead, long live project management, the concept.

The product owner is responsible for managing a number of the activities that the project manager or administrator would have been tasked with in the past.  Primarily, the product owner owns and manages the product backlog. Managing the backlog means prioritizing backlog items and determining the release plan (including scope and date).  Managing the backlog also means that the product owner manages the budget, communicates progress, and interacts with external the stakeholders.  As a secondary role, the product owner acts as a leader, providing the team with a direction.

The development team members also pick up some of the project management tasks.  The development team is responsible for identifying, estimating and managing the tasks needed to deliver the work they have committed to completing. The development team’s roles mix creation and innovation with control and management.

The Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating, leading and motivating the team.  Scrum Masters guide teams so that they learn and use Agile techniques, confront delivery problems as they occur and work together as a well-oiled machine. The Scrum Master also staves off interference from outside the team’s boundaries. The Scrum Master interacts with the team or teams, and then let the team members synthesize and internalize the advice. They are the team’s tactical coach.

In Agile, project management is dead, at least as a single role that leads, directs, controls and administers a project team, because those roles are distributed to the team. I was once asked, “In an Agile project, who is the single person I can put my foot on their throat to motivate?”  In an Agile environment the answer is far less obvious than pointing to a project manager.  The role simply isn’t filled by a single person, but the responsibilities and the tasks are still necessary. Now they are distributed to those that are actually have both the authority and responsibility for executing the project.

 

20130520-220059.jpg

Are you a coach or a manager? Most traditional, hierarchical IT organizations use managers to plan, organize and control work. Managers make decisions with greater or lesser collaboration, based on their management style. A coach is a different thing entirely. Coaches exist to assist a team to reach its full potential. In the world of empowered employees and self-managed teams, a coach is an enabler, a guide, and a leader.

A coach enables her team by suggesting areas for self-improvement, ideas for using tools and techniques and facilities improving team. The goal of coaching is to help the team become more effective in delivering value to the organization. The act of coaching requires the ability to interact and facilitate both how individuals and groups work within the team.

When a coach provides guidance, they are using their gravitas to influence the direction of the team. In organizations that rely on control environments, the manager will tell the team the correct direction with the expectation that telling and doing are sequential acts. A coach provides direction and uses her influence to get the team to internalize that direction. The internalized direction may well reflect a synthesis of the team’s knowledge and the coach’s advice.

The ability to enable and guide is a function of being a leader. Kevin Kruse, author of Employee Engagement 2.0, defines leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” The definition does not include the primary tenants of the definition of a manager, control and positional authority, but rather is focused on getting the most from the team through influence.

A coach is a guide and a leader. These attributes are inter-related and self-reinforcing. A coach rarely needs to leverage the techniques of a manager – planning, organizing and directing – rather they rely on influence and team peer-pressure. Are you a manager or a coach? The distinction is stark. Is your role to help the team maximize its value through a process of facilitation? If the answer is yes, then you are a coach.