One concept that is integral to BERTEIG’s vision is for the company to grow organically through systematic capacity-building of its team. This is one reason why I attended Coach’s Camp in Cornwall, Ontario last June. However, I discovered that my understanding of coaching in an Agile environment was totally out to lunch, a universe away from my previous experiences of being an acting and voice coach.
Doing a simulation exercise in a workshop at Coach’s Camp, I took the role of coach and humiliated myself by suggesting lines of action to a beleaguered Scrum Master. I was offering advice and trying to solve his problems – which is, I learned, a big no-no. But I couldn’t quite grasp, then, what a coach actually does.
Despite that less-than-stellar attempt, I was curious to sign up for Scrum Alliance’s webinar called “First Virtual Coaching Clinic,” September 13, 2016. They had gathered a panel of three Certified Enterprise Coaches (CEC’s): Michael de la Maza, Bob Galen, and Jim York.
The panel’s focus was on two particular themes: 1) how to define and measure coaching impact, and, 2) how to deal with command and control in an organization.
The following are some of the ideas I absorbed, which gave me a clearer understanding of the Agile coaching role.
Often, a client is asking a coach for a prescription, i.e. “Just tell me/ us what to do!” All three panel members spoke about the need for a coach to avoid being prescriptive and instead be situationally aware. A coach must help a customer identify his/her own difficulties and outcomes correctly, and work with them to see that achieved. It’s helpful to share stories with the client that may contain two or three options. Be as broad as possible about what you’ve seen in the past. A team should ultimately come up with their own solutions.
However, if a team is heading for a cliff, it may be necessary to be prescriptive.
Often people want boundaries because Agile practices are so broad. Menlo’s innovations (http://menloinnovations.com/our-method/) was suggested as a way to help leaders and teams play. Providing people with new experiences can lead to answers. What ultimately matters is that teams use inspection and adaptation to find practices that work for them.
A good coach, then, helps a client or team find answers to their own situation. It is essential that a coach not create unhealthy dependencies on herself.
It follows that coaching impact can be measured by the degree of empowerment and courage that a team develops – which should put the coach out of a job. An example mentioned was a case study in 2007 out of Yahoo which suggested metrics such as ROI, as well as asking, “Does the organization have the ability to coach itself?”
Other indicators that can be used for successful coaching have to do with psychological safety, for example: a) on this team it is easy to admit mistakes, and, b) on this team, it is easy to speak about interpersonal issues.
When it comes to ‘command and control’ (often practiced by organizational leaders, but sometimes by a team member), the coaches offered several approaches. Many individuals are not aware of their own behaviors. A coach needs to be a partner to that client, and go where the ‘commander’ is to help him/her identify where they want to get to. Learn with them. Share your own journeys with clients and self-organizing teams.
A coach needs to realize that change is a journey, and there are steps in between one point and another. Avoid binary thinking: be without judgement, without a definition of what is right and wrong.
The idea of Shu Ha Ri was suggested, which is a Japanese martial arts term for the stages of learning to mastery, a way of thinking about how you learn a technique. You can find a full explanation of it on Wikipedia.
Coaching is a delicate process requiring awareness of an entire organization’s ecosystem. It requires patience and time, and its outcome ultimately means independence from the coach.
Have I built capacity as a potential Agile coach? Not in a tactical sense; I won’t be hanging out a shingle anytime soon. But at least I‘ve developed the capacity to recognize some do’s and don’t’s...
That’s right: capacity-building IS about taking those steps…
Watch Mishkin Berteig’s video series Real Agility for Managers.
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