We Need A “Coach”?

Here is a comment that I hear so many times as I work with many organizations. The scrum master will say, “I am doing everything that I can, but I still can’t seem to get the team interested in working with scrum. I go through the scrum guide, I set out the rules, and I even try to show them, but to no avail. There just doesn’t seem to be any interest. What can I do?”

Well, the first question I ask is “have you received any training?” And I get the response, “well I have and I’m showing them what I heard and learned to do.” Let me tell you this, this does not work when an organization is moving to agile.

This entire Arena of “Agile” has introduced a new era into our Information Technology world. It is not the same as what we have been used to. In the past, we would send one individual to a course and then they would come back and attempt to explain it to everyone else. This worked sometimes, and sometimes it would not.

However, that concept does not work in this world that we have today in the information technology world. The world of the Agile philosophy does not work that way. Having somebody go off on the course and then come back and explain it to everyone else does not work. The Agile philosophy requires what we like to say is a mind-set shift. It requires a different way of thinking and this way of thinking does not happen with somebody just explaining something to you.

There are some very interesting and amazing breakthroughs that are happening in the Neuroscience Labs of today in regards to how the brain works. Some of the leading work is being done by Dr. Laura Thompson at the University of British Columbia. This work is encapsulated in the term “Neuroplasticity”. And without me going into a lot of detail about it, the equation that comes out of all of this is “Knowledge does NOT equal Understanding”. This “Understanding” is critical in our industry when it comes to the Agile philosophy.

There are so many people, and especially Senior Management, who have a little bit of knowledge about agile but zero understanding. They make decisions that have an absolute negative impact on those in the organization attempting to work with the Agile philosophy.

In May 2018, the Harvard Business Review presented an article about the major positive changes taking place in the corporate arena as many organizations move towards embracing the Agile Philosophy. They did however issue a warning about the lack of “understanding” among many in the C-Suite of these businesses. Here is a quote from that article:

“But a serious impediment exists. When we ask executives what they know about agile, the response is usually an uneasy smile and a quip such as “Just enough to be dangerous.” They may throw around agile-related terms (“sprints,” “time boxes”) and claim that their companies are becoming more and more nimble. But because they haven’t gone through training, they don’t really understand the approach. Consequently, they unwittingly continue to manage in ways that run counter to agile principles and practices, undermining the effectiveness of agile teams in units that report to them.”

So the question is, how do we get understanding?

First of all, there has to be training. And I don’t mean sitting in on a webinar. One of the things that we have learned is there is a sequential set of training steps that are required by the executive, management, and the teams working with Agile that will help them gain an understanding of what they are doing.

For myself, if I am to go into an organization to advise coach or lead a team as a scrum master, I will not accept the contract unless they allow me to go through a series of training steps. This first of all has to start with the executive. They are the top key decision-makers. They need to know what their organization is doing to allow them to get the information they need to make their decisions upon. That is the first step.

Secondly, the management level must have high-level training since their people are involved in the process.

Finally, the teams themselves need an in-depth set of training modules to be able to work successfully with this philosophy in the development of their products. For me, all teams must go through a series of four to six three-hour workshops. At that point, they are now ready to begin acquiring understanding. And this only comes from each team member continually doing what has to be done within the framework of the process that they are using. For example, teams I work with use Scrum.

Finally, what the organization needs to be successful with a framework like Scrum is a COACH. This is a new philosophy that we have not used in earlier times in the information technology arena. But today is required for an organization to be successful. The organization beginning the journey along the Agile “road” needs an experienced and very knowledgeable individual to COACH the teams. This is something that the sporting world found out many centuries ago, but it is only today that our industry which relies so much on teams is discovering that a good team needs a good coach.

So to sum up this blog post that I have here which I will expound upon in future posts is this, for a company to be successful you need to first of all train, train, train. Then you need to coach, coach, coach. I will follow up with more in-depth remarks about this in future posts.

We are agile!

Author: Ed Rubuliak

Web Site: https://theagilemasteryacademy.com

email: ed.the.scrum,professor@gmail.com

Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/Agile-Software-Development-4828742987

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