Agile 2.0 – It’s about People and Connections! It’s not about Scaling.

Agile 2.0 – It’s about People and Connections! It’s not about Scaling.

Andrew Carnegie once said,

Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

His observation is spot on, and yet, when discussing Agile Software Development, we find ourselves focused on frameworks instead of people and connections.

Over the past 15 years, Dan Tousignant and Todd Kamens, two Agile thought leaders, have collaborated on numerous projects.  Leveraging Traditional Project Management, Scrum, Lean and Kanban techniques to manage software projects they have now joined to share their thoughts.

Working together on and off over the years, Dan and Todd have discussed many issues with clients’ different implementations of Agile, and with each conversation, a pattern started to emerge.  It wasn’t clear at first, but they started to see how Agile’s success was more about the people and values than the prescribed process and framework.  Dan and Todd started to see how Agile was becoming a practice that was unique to each company and involved people and connections in making it succeed.

Interestingly, when Dan and Todd saw these connections in the workplace, they had both started to practice Mindfulness.  Mindfulness seems to be the new buzzword these days for the stressed out corporate executive, those going through a midlife crisis or those that are just searching for more meaning out of their day.  Though it is a new term, it is not a new concept and has existed for thousands of years.

We are not attempting to teach Mindfulness in this article, however, it is important to understand it at it’s core as defined by Jon Kabat-Zin as follows,

Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present, and non-judgmentally, to the unfolding of the experience moment by moment.

In their conversations about Agile and Mindfulness, the patterns became clear as they started to see how Mindfulness aligned with the core values of Agile.  

AgileMindfulness
Individuals and Interactions over processes and toolsMindfulness teaches us to be open to novelty, sensitive to different contexts and to be aware of multiple perspectives.
Working software over comprehensive documentationMindfulness teaches us to accept change, to appreciate other viewpoints and to be able to focus on the present.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiationMindfulness teaches us an awareness of multiple perspectives and listening to hear versus listening to reply.
Responding to change over following a planMindfulness teaches us to cherish trust, expertise and direct communication.

In summary, Agile 2.0 moves us beyond Frameworks and instead, focuses on people and connections.  We observe how the individual, the team and the organization work together to achieve amazing results.  We pay attention to one another, non-judgmentally, and work together to achieve great value for our customers.

Over the course of several collaborative articles, Dan and Todd will convey their vision of Agile 2.0 and explain how leveraging Mindfulness practices with your Agile software development adoption can create better people, teams and companies capable of achieving greatness.

 

Dan Tousignant, President, Cape Project Management, Inc.

Todd Kamens, President, Guidance Technology, Inc.

 

BE AGILE.®

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Certifications, Integrity, Values: Where do you stand?

Certifications, Integrity, Values: Where do you stand?

Last week I passed the Product Owner Assessment (PSPO 1) from Scrum.org (you can check out my new PSPO 1 mock exam here).  As an Agile Coach and Trainer, I try to stay current with certifications. I don’t believe that these certifications necessarily make someone more effective, but for me, they are a structured way of staying current with industry best practices. As part of my long-term professional development plan, I have been thinking , “What’s next?” I had already achieved what I considered to be the core certifications for a project management consultant; PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM 1, PSPO 1, CSPO, CSP, so I wasn’t sure in which direction should I go? Should I go “big”, like SaFE or DAD (heaven forbid). Should I get certified as an Agile or PMI Trainer and pay thousands in licensing and application fees? As an independent consultant, these types of certifications become cost prohibitive.

The value provided by consultants like me is that we offer services based upon real world experience at a reasonable cost. Not that long ago, I sat in a meeting with an external project management auditor from one of the Big Four. His rate was $475/hour. He was hired to audit my Scrum project to see if it was adhering to project management best practices. He started his initial findings meeting with, “I was reading about this Agile thing last night, and I think I have some recommendations.” Once my blood pressure dropped to reasonable levels, I realized that this interaction only reiterated that I needed to stay committed to my values:

  • Always provide value to my customer.
  • Stay current on best practices.
  • Keep my expenses low so I can offer reasonable rates.
  • Never sacrifice integrity for profitability.

I considered these same values when reviewing the available certifications. Can I meet those values with my current certifications? At this point, my answer is yes. What about you?

If you are interested, at my last count, there are 64 different Agile certifications! (I am sure I missed some). Can you imagine the signature line on my emails?

Agile Certification Institute

  • Accredited Agile Practitioner (AAP)
  • Accredited Scrum Master (ASM)
  • Accredited Product Owner (APO)
  • Accredited Scaled Agile Practitioner (ASAP)
  • Accredited Kanban Practitioner (AKP)
  • Accredited Lean Software Development Practitioner (ALSP)
  • Certified Agile Associate (CAA)
  • Certified Scrum Associate (CSA)

Scrum Alliance

  • Certified Scrum Coach (CSC)
  • Certified Scrum Trainer (CST)
  • Certified Scrum Developer (CSD)
  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM)
  • Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO)
  • Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)

Disciplined Agile Consortium

  • Disciplined Agilist-White Belt
  • Disciplined Agilist-Yellow Belt
  • Disciplined Agilist-Green Belt
  • Disciplined Agilist-Black Belt

DSDM Consortium

  • AgilePM certification
  • DSDM Atern Foundation Certificate
  • DSDM Advanced Practitioner Certificate
  • DSDM Foundation Certification
  • DSDM Consultant
  • DSDM Coach
  • DSDM Trainer
  • DSDM Advanced Practitioner

The International Consortium for Agile

  • ICAgile Certified Professional (ICP)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Business Value Analysis (ICP-BVA)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Portfolio Management (ICP-PFM)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Project Management (ICP-APM)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Adaptive Management (ICP-ADM)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Team Facilitation (ICP-ATF)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Programming (ICP-PRG)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Software Design (ICP-ASD)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Testing (ICP-TST)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Test Automation (ICP-ATA)
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Enterprise Agile Coaching
  • ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Leadership

International Scrum Institute

  • Scrum Master Accredited Certification (SMAC)
  • Scrum Product Owner Accredited Certification (SPOAC)
  • Scrum Team Member Accredited Certification (STMAC)
  • Scrum Certification for Java Developer (SC4JD)
  • Scrum Certification for Web Developer (SC4WD)
  • Scrum Certification for Mobile App Developer (SC4MD)

The LeSS Company

  • Certified LeSS Practitioner
  • Certified LeSS for Executives

Project Management Institute

  • PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)

Scaled Agile Inc.

  • SAFe Agilist (SA)
  • SAFe Practitioner (SP)
  • SAFe Program Consultant (SPC)
  • SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT)
  • SAFe Product Manager/Product Owner (SPMPO)

Scrum.org

  • Professional Scrum Developer (PSD)
  • Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I)
  • Professional Scrum Master II (PSM II)
  • Professional Scrum Product Owner I(PSPO I)
  • Professional Scrum Product Owner II(PSPO II)
  • Scaled Professional Scrum (SPS)

SCRUMStudy.com

  • Scrum Master Certified (SMC)
  • Scrum Developer Certified (SDC)
  • Scrum Product Owner Certified SPOC)
  • Agile Expert Certified (AEC)
  • Scrum Fundamentals Certified (SFC)

People have different reasons for certification. Some do it to advance their careers, others to learn new skills. Yes, there are also those that use certifications to artificially represent their expertise. I don't worry about them because the job will weed out those people. Ultimately, you need to decide, based upon your professional values. Will these certifications allow me to provide more value to my employer or my customer? Once you have that answer, the decision is easy.

Dan Tousignant, PMP, CSP, PMI-ACP, etc., etc., etc.

President, Cape Project Management, Inc.

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Using Kanban to run your start-up aka Stephen Covey was the first Agile Coach

Using Kanban to run your start-up aka Stephen Covey was the first Agile Coach

Honolulu has a thriving startup community. I decided to present on this topic after attending the kickoff of the extremely popular start-up event, Honolulu Startup Weekend. While listening to the pitches, I realized that these potential new companies were ripe for some Agile basics. Many of them were already very familiar with Lean Startup and customer driven business development, but very few were familiar with the Agile techniques designed to manage day-to-day projects or business.

I like to consider Stephen Covey as the first true Agile coach. His 7  Habits of Highly Effective People addressed key  effectiveness techniques that align nicely with Agile. My favorite one is First things First,  "To live a more balanced existence, you have to recognize that not doing everything that comes along is okay. There's no need to overextend yourself. All it takes is realizing that it's all right to say no when necessary and then focus on your highest priorities." This is perfectly aligned with the Agile Manifesto principle, "Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software."

One of the techniques he uses for First Things First is to get people to understand  the difference between urgent versus important work. He wasn't the first to make this distinction, Dwight D. Eisenhower is credited with this quote: "What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important."  What Covey is responsible for is the creation of the following time management matrix to help people distinguish where they are spending their time:

  • Quadrant 1 is for important activities you could not have foreseen, and others that you left until it was almost too late. Plan for these.
  • Quadrant 2 is for important activities that help you achieve your personal and professional goals, and complete important work. Focus here.
  • Quadrant 3 is for time-sensitive distractions. They are not really important, but someone wants it now. Learn to say no.
  • Quadrant 4 is for activities that are just a distraction. Avoid them if possible.

The intent of this matrix is to get people to focus on daily activities and plan their time within Quadrant 2. At the time of publication (1989), the most common technique for managing your time spent on important activities was to capture them in your calendar book. This was before phone apps or even the use of Outlook calendars. They were documented in those heavy DayTimers calendars that people carried everywhere. Covey's training courses suggested that you block time in your calendar to focus on important tasks and limit the time you spend on urgent tasks.

This fits nicely with Agile prioritization approaches and managing WIP. For the purpose of the audience last night, small business owners, I compared this approach of managing your important work in your calendar to the Kanban concept of prioritization using of classes of service and managing work in progress (WIP). I personally use this approach to manage my business every day. I have an online Kanban board (LeanKit) with swim lanes of important activities and I have WIP limit of a minimum of 6 hours of important work each day. I assume that at least 2 hours of my day will be taken up with unplanned urgent activities. I also use the Kanban Board to capture a backlog of ideas that may eventually become actual work. Here is an example of my business-oriented Kanban board:

Kanban

For those of you familiar with Agile techniques, it is easy to see how these techniques can be applied to many different situations other than software project management. I also believe that there are very few new ideas in Agile since these effective management techniques have been around for many decades and are just now being embraced within traditional project management. If Stephen Covey was a software developer, he would have made a great Agile coach.

For more information Kanban, check out my blog post or listen to my Introduction to Kanban self-study training.

References:

About the author, Dan Tousignant

Dan is a lifelong project manager and trainer with extensive experience in managing Agile software development projects. Though the role of the professional project manager is changing dramatically through these approaches, Dan coaches organizations on how to transition teams and organizations to Agile.

Dan has over 20 years of experience providing world class project management for strategic projects, direct P& L experience managing up to 50 million dollar software development project budgets, experience managing multi-million dollar outsourced software development efforts and strong, demonstrated, results-driven leadership skills including ability to communicate a clear vision, build strong teams, and drive necessary change within organizations.

Dan holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is a Certified Project Management Professional, Professional Scrum Master, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and Certified Scrum Professional.

Dan Tousignant, President

Cape Project Management, Inc.

http://CapeProjectManagement.com

https://capeprojectmanagement.learnupon.com/store 

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Do you know where you are going with your Agile implementation?

Do you know where you are going with your Agile implementation?

What every executive needs to know!

Over the past decade, I've been involved in more than 20 Agile projects. Whether as a team member, Product Owner, Scrum Master, or Coach, I've had the opportunity to play a role in many successful projects. These days, however, I’m being brought in (more and more often) to prevent Agile failures. It isn't so much that the projects themselves are failing, but that organizational impediments are preventing success. Why? Version One’s most recent annual State of Agile Survey found that an “inability to change organizational culture” and “general resistance to change” are the most common reasons Agile projects fail.
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I believe the bulk of these failures can be traced back to the initial implementation phases. For instance, were these organizations truly aware of what they were getting into? And did they realize the types of change that Agile requires? In my Scrum Master trainings, I emphasize the need for organizations to truly understand and embrace the change they are about to embark upon. We discuss what type of organizational change is needed for a successful Agile implementation. The three types of organizational change we look at include:
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Developmental

  • Improvements on processes, methods, or performance standards
  • Done in order to stay competitive
  • Causes little stress to employees

Transitional

  • More intrusive because it introduces something completely new
  • Typically a planned change such as a reorganization, merger, acquisition, or implementation of a new technology
  • May cause instability and insecurity

Transformational

  • This leads to an organization that is very different to the organization that existed prior to the change
  • Since the change is radical, the organization and its employees need to drastically change their views, strategies, and assumptions
  • Such change can alter an organization’s culture, ethos, and systems

Most assume that Agile is a developmental change. They see it as a process improvement and treat it as such. I would argue, however, that Agile implementation is actually closer to transformational change. Since most companies don't anticipate this transformation, care isn't taken to manage the impact of the change and the outcome is often failure. Those organizations that do see Agile as transformational are better prepared for the work needed to achieve long-term success.
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What does it take to have a successful Agile implementation?
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At the highest level, organizations need to outline their Agile goals and define expectations:
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1. Is speed to market the main issue? Does the company need to deliver products more frequently?
2. Is the organization inefficient? Does it need to be “leaner” and more efficient with existing resources?
3. Is quality the issue? Does the company need to improve customer satisfaction with the software it delivers?
4. Is the organization new, or is it one that’s trying to reinvent itself and have a more empowered culture?

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It’s critical to answer these questions before embarking on an Agile implementation.
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With these answers, the choices become simple. If, for instance, your organization can answer YES to all four questions above, and if you're willing to do what it takes to implement the Agile approach verbatim, then you should consider implementing Scrum and XP (Extreme Programming). These are transformational approaches which focus on team empowerment and cross functional roles. They therefore require re-organization and a dramatic shift in management and leadership style.
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I recommend using many XP practices when implementing Scrum. At an Agile New England meeting I attended a few months ago, Ken Schwaber, co-author of the Scrum Guide, stated that the merger of Scrum and XP into a single approach was originally intended. The reason for this is that Scrum doesn't dictate any specific engineering practices. XP addresses key development practices such as pair-programming and continuous integration. Its focus is on high-quality code. Technical Debt is minimized when you follow strict engineering practices. Many of the other Agile approaches make major assumptions about engineering practices already being in place. This is one of the major flaws of many current Agile implementations. If you don’t have a solid set of engineering practices and tools in place beforehand, your implementation will only have a short window of success.
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On the other hand, if you answered NO to question number four, you should consider a more prescriptive Agile implementation. Approaches like Kanban, Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) are more conservative and provide a clearer set of requirements and processes that need to be in place for the organization to be successful. I suggest that Kanban can be presented as a developmental change whereas I still consider SAFe and DAD to be transitional changes because they often require a reorganization to align with the approaches. Though I'm thoroughly familiar with Kanban, I only have passing knowledge of enterprise frameworks such as DAD and SAFe. At the enterprise level, my experience is with organizations that create their own Agile/Hybrid methodology, adopting Scrum terms but keeping many of their existing roles and processes in place. This generally creates confusion for the team members who get “certified” in Scrum but aren't actually allowed to implement Scrum as it was intended.
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Here’s a matrix to help you choose your approach:

Goal

Scrum/XP

Kanban

SAFe/DAD

Improve project success
Be more efficient with resources
Increase IT quality
Have a more empowered culture

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If you've read my other blog posts, you know that I’m totally onboard when it comes to adopting a full Agile implementation of Scrum and XP—even though it’s EXTREMELY difficult. The key thing to realize when implementing Agile’s most popular approaches (Scrum, XP, DAD, SAFe, etc.) is that you must embrace the entire approach. If you don’t, you’ll quickly become susceptible to confusion and implementation “fatigue” from team members and stakeholders. The implementation will become a struggle and it will probably fail. In Scott Ambler’s 2013 IT project survey, he finds that 64% of Agile projects are successful while only 49% of traditionally run projects manage to achieve the feat. To me, this isn't an overwhelming improvement given the amount of effort required to implement Agile. It’s hard to decipher whether or not these Agile implementations were well-executed. We only really know that organizations which call themselves Agile are still struggling with 36% of their projects.
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Summary:
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If you're not willing to embrace cultural change, DON’T DO SCRUM OR XP. Go with Kanban, SAFe, DAD, or an internally developed hybrid instead.

If you don't have engineering best practices and support tools, such as automated regression testing and continuous integration, then YOU'RE NOT READY FOR AGILE. Step back and institute these processes first before building a new project management approach on top of a flawed foundation.

Interested in learning more about my approach to selecting a project management approach? Check out my online training Implementing Kanban for Project Management in my Agile Training store: http://buyagile.com/Kanban1
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References:

About the author, Dan Tousignant, PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM I, CSP

Dan is a lifelong project manager and trainer with extensive experience in managing software development projects. Based upon his experience, he has adopted both Agile as the primary method for developing and implementing software. He is passionate about the leadership emerging from self-organizing teams.

Dan has over 20 years of experience providing world class project management for strategic projects, direct P& L experience managing up to 50 million dollar software development project budgets, experience managing multi-million dollar outsourced software development efforts and strong, demonstrated, results-driven leadership skills including ability to communicate a clear vision, build strong teams, and drive necessary change within organizations.

Dan holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is a Certified Project Management Professional, Professional Scrum Master, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and Certified Scrum Professional and is the owner of Cape Project Management, Inc.

Dan Tousignant, President
Cape Project Management, Inc.
Contact: Dan@CapeProjectManagement.com
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Are you implementing Scrum but realize you are better suited for Kanban?

Are you implementing Scrum but realize you are better suited for Kanban?

I have found that very few organizations are starting out with Kanban as their first choice for their Agile implementation. Almost every organization that I have been exposed to through training and coaching began their Agile implementation with Scrum. Unfortunately, many companies have significant organizational impediments to being a true Scrum shop.

Before I go any further, I want to say that I am a Scrum believer. If there is a way to implement “pure” Scrum, I believe you will have the most productive and happy development teams. That being said, I have found that many organizations trying to implement Scrum have significant "Scrum-buts"and their implementations would be better served by stepping back and considering a simple Kanban approach.

There are many different approaches to Kanban for software development, and some are even proprietary. Since everyone else is attempting to trademark their own Agile approach, from this day forward, I am trademarking, “Simple Kanban™.” Just kidding… Anyway, the benefit of Simple Kanban is that it assumes you already understand Scrum and User Stories and can apply what you have learned in Scrum to Kanban. When I train on Kanban, I train one day of Scrum and User Stories and one day of how to apply those practices to a Kanban approach.

I can’t say that I am an expert in Kanban for software development, but early in my career, I did have some great exposure to Kanban in manufacturing. In college, I majored in Industrial Engineering, and my first “real” job was working as a sales engineer for an environmental controls manufacturer. They used the Kanban pull system for inventory control and as part of my onboarding training  I spent three weeks on the shop floor. It was an experience that left a deep impression on me.

While I worked there, they won the Shingo Prize for world-class manufacturing and excellence in productivity and process improvement; quality enhancement; and customer satisfaction. This award is considered one of the “Triple Crown” industrial excellence awards, along with the Baldrige National Quality Award and the Deming Prize.

Kanban was originally a lean manufacturing approach, and it was developed in alignment with these 5 lean principles:
  • Specify what creates value from the customer's perspective
  • Identify all the steps along the process chain
  • Make those processes flow
  • Make only what is pulled by the customer
  • Strive for perfection by continually removing wastes
These lean principles which I saw applied to manufacturing always stayed with me as my career shifted to software development project management. I was never a thought-leader advancing my ideas beyond the needs of my immediate project, but I was able to be “agile” before I even heard the term. I was applying both lean principles and common sense to keep the development teams productive and my customers happy.
Now that I am an Agile Coach, I have formalized my common sense approach so the process is repeatable and so I can train Agile teams. Here is how I implement Simple Kanban:

Keep existing functional teams: Most organizations are struggling with eliminating roles, especially QA. One major reason that this won’t change is because separation of duties is required for many IT shops.

  • Business Analysts perform role of Product Owner and write User Stories. They prioritize these Stories in the Product Backlog for the development team which becomes the work queue for the team to pull from. Ultimately, given the lightweight nature of User Stories, there will be fewer Analysts needed.
  • Software engineers perform high-level design, and identify the development tasks. For complex systems, it may require that an architect or senior software engineer is on the team for this activity.
  • Software engineers continue to develop, write unit tests, and advance Agile engineering practices such as continuous integration. This is the same role they have been playing, but in a “pull” environment they will be much more empowered.
  • Lastly, retain quality assurance team members to perform functional testing. I still suggest that the Business Analyst and/or a true Product Owner role exist to perform ongoing acceptance testing.

Utilize User Stories: Kanban typically uses cycle time to size requirements. It may be heretical for me to propose this, but User Stories can accomplish the same thing, especially if the team members have already been trained on User Stories.

Manage WIP using functional velocity: Each functional team estimates the story points for their work on a story. As with Scrum, over time, each team will know their velocity and can commit to their work in progress (WIP) limits. They can then work towards a stable time-based velocity which can provide the same transparency as cycle time.

Team Size is managed by Story Points: The number of business analysts, software engineers and quality assurance team members is determined by the number of story points in the functional queue and ultimately the release schedule. As with Scrum, multiple small Kanban teams work better than one big one.

Self-Organizing is the same as a Kanban pull system: When a team member is done with a story, they go get more work from the queue.

Keep open spaces: This is just a good idea. Regardless of your Agile approach, one of the keys to success is having everyone in the same room.
It may sound complicated, but as with Scrum, after a few cycles the team begins to work out the kinks. I agree that over time, cycle time is a better approach for Kanban, but if you are moving from a Scrum model, it may be an easier transition to retain the use of Story Points, and I have seen teams be successful with this approach long-term.

Bottom line – keep it simple

Do you want to learn more about our approach to Kanban? We have 2 options:

About the author, Dan Tousignant, PMP, PMI-ACP, PSM I, CSP
Dan is a lifelong project manager and trainer with extensive experience in managing software development projects. Based upon his experience, he has adopted both Agile as the primary method for developing and implementing software. He is passionate about the leadership emerging from self-organizing teams.
Dan has over 20 years of experience providing world class project management for strategic projects, direct P& L experience managing up to 50 million dollar software development project budgets, experience managing multi-million dollar outsourced software development efforts and strong, demonstrated, results-driven leadership skills including ability to communicate a clear vision, build strong teams, and drive necessary change within organizations.
Dan holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is a Certified Project Management Professional, Professional Scrum Master, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and Certified Scrum Professional and is the owner of Cape Project Management, Inc.
Cape Project Management, Inc.

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Does your organization need an Agile Coach?

Does your organization need an Agile Coach?

As we love to say when answering many questions pertaining to Agile, “It depends.” Not the answer you want to hear, but let me elaborate. Extreme Programming (XP) introduced the term coach into the Agile community. The role was intended to both be a mentor on XP practices and a hands-on developer when needed. Scrum created the role of the Scrum Master with similar expectations but without the emphasis of being a hands-on developer.
The term, Agile coach, has become ubiquitous; however, it hasn't been used as XP intended. Quite often, the term refers to an external consultant and very seldom will you see it applied to an internal position.
I have played the role of Agile coach on and off over the last decade, and I didn’t always use the term coach. I was a coach when I was a program manager of a large Agile initiative; I was a coach when I was a functional development manager; and I was an Agile coach consultant hired to serve multiple Scrum teams. What was common for each of those roles was that I was the most experienced person in the room on Agile practices and I had a passion for passing on that knowledge to the teams I was working with.
In the first two instances, though I wasn’t formally named a coach, it was clear based upon my experience and willingness to share, that people felt comfortable approaching me for advice and discussion. Recently as an Agile Coach consultant, the same dynamic was true, but my role was more formal.

Do I need to be called an Agile coach to be an Agile coach?

Anybody with a passion for learning and sharing Agile best practices can be a coach. Becoming a coach is like becoming a leader. As with leaders, coaches can emerge from within a team.

What skills do I need to be an Agile coach?

  • Active listening
  • The ability to influence without authority
  • Experience – with both success and failure
  • Patience
  • The right attitude!

If they don’t work for me, how can I tell them what to do?

Here is a real situation I faced while coaching a Scrum Master. I had just sat through a very painful Sprint Retrospective:

Coach: “How did you feel that Retrospective went?”
Scrum Master: “It went fine, but the team is bored with them so I try to get them over with as quickly as possible.”
Coach: “Are you open to working with me to prepare something more fun and engaging for the next Sprint Retrospective?”
Scrum Master: “Definitely!”

In this situation, I didn't  immediately tell her what I would do differently, I gave her an opportunity to choose whether she wanted help or not.

How can I be an Agile coach for people that work for me?

I find this situation to be the easiest in many ways. My management style is very much in line with a typical coaching style. I work with the individual on their career goals and set a specific Agile maturity path based upon their experience and role. Some of these goals are around Agile best practices and engineering principles, and most often, it is about soft skills like listening, being self-organizing, and peer influencing.

So, back to the original question, does my organization need an Agile coach?

Every organization that is in the beginning or in the midst of implementing Agile needs someone who can be an Agile Coach. The question really should be, “Who should be playing the role of Agile Coach?”
If the Scrum Master is experienced and has the soft skills necessary, then the Scrum Master is often the coach. If there is a development manager or practice lead with the necessary background and desire, then they can be the coach. A team member can emerge as the coach if he or she has the passion and emerges from within the team.
If none of these internal candidates exist, you may need to look outside the organization—at least on a temporary basis—to fill this role. The ultimate goal is for everyone on the team to have a high level knowledge of Agile principles and practices, so that they can self-organize and continue to improve; resolve impediments; be productive; and truly enjoy their jobs. Then . . . there will no longer be the need for one individual to be a coach.

About the author, Dan Tousignant
Dan is a lifelong project manager and trainer with extensive experience in managing software development projects. Based upon this experience, he has adopted both Agile as the primary method for developing and implementing software. He is passionate about the leadership emerging from self-organizing teams.
Dan has over 20 years of experience providing world class project management for strategic projects, direct P&L experience managing up to 50 million dollar software development project budgets, experience managing multi-million dollar outsourced software development efforts and strong, demonstrated, results-driven leadership skills including ability to communicate a clear vision, build strong teams, and drive necessary change within organizations.
Dan holds a Bachelor of Science majoring in Industrial Engineering from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is a Certified Project Management Professional, Professional Scrum Master, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner and Certified Scrum Professional and is the president of Cape Project Management, Inc.

email: dan@capeprojectmanagement.com

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