One challenge as a coach is deciding where to spend your time – do I help team A or team B or split my time between them? If I had the capacity to give both the attention they need then it’s not a problem but of course there’s never enough time to go round. Like so many things, it comes down to prioritisation… but what goes in the backlog? Personally, I tend to think in terms of experiments, e.g. will smaller stories improve the team’s ability to respond to changes in direction?
(I should add that when I say “team” I’m actually thinking about the people in the dev team, the other people they work with, the stakeholders, and the system which encompasses them.)
But who creates the backlog items? Obviously, there are things which come up in conversations with the team members and stakeholders, but there’s also observations and comparisons between the current system and a potential “next level”. Now, we all know there aren’t actually “levels” but there are things we tend to observe in high performing teams compared to relatively new teams. I’m not going to touch on “assessments” here – I’ll save that for a future post.
In order to share this backlog with the coaching stakeholders (which includes the team) rather than a simple backlog of Stories, something like a POPCORN board can help support the conversations around which experiments to try and what the outcomes were. POPCORN is a backronym for: Problems & observations; Options; Possible experiments; Commitments; Ongoing; Review; Next – you can watch Claudio Perrone, aka Agile Sensei, present POPCORN at Agile Testing Days 2017.
Everyone seems to have posted their tips/tricks/techniques/tools for the new norm with dev teams working from home, so I’m probably not going to post anything groundbreaking (wow, way to convince people to read this post!) but simply what we currently find works for us – it’s just some hands-on experience which might be helpful.
We still have access to our regular tools for kanban boards, wiki (lightweight docs), code repositories, etc. but there are some things which we are just used to doing face-to-face, with sticky notes and whiteboards so these were the tools for which we needed to find alternatives.
Firstly, it was important to let the teams find what works for them – there’s no point in telling everyone to use a particular tool if it doesn’t meet their needs, and who knows better than the teams themselves. Even though we use BlueJeans for video chats and Slack has built-in video calling, when asked how they’ll stay in touch throughout the day they picked Discord – they’re familiar with it (as gamers) and it’s proven to be stable under heavy load.
For retrospectives, we tried a variety of tools; Retrium works well but has a limited set of formats; for more freedom we picked Mural (i.e. it’s just whiteboard) although Google Jamboard or BlueJeans’ built-in whiteboard are great for impromptu discussions as they don’t require us to send out invitations. (Note that when the BlueJeans call ends it just wipes the whiteboard so remember to grab a screenshot!)
One feature we like with large groups is BlueJeans’ facility to set up breakout rooms; using that in conjunction with 1-2-4-All from Liberating Structures.
Obviously, we need to make sure not to put anything confidential or sensitive on these public tools but for ephemeral discussions, they seem to do what we need… at least until we find a newer, shinier alternative 🙂 so what are you finding works well?
Update: The addition of Snap Camera has made video calls more entertaining – it’s owned by SnapChat but it can be used with BlueJeans.
Our coaching team had a retrospective recently and someone introduced the idea of writing a letter to explain (to a friend or family member) what it is we do as coaches; the focus was “How am I making IX (our company) a better place?”
I failed to write anything as cohesive as a letter, but here are the notes I jotted down, with a few details inserted to make them clearer to people outside our team:
- I dislike that the question is phrased using “I” rather than “we” because I couldn’t be as impactful without my fellow coaches
- Supporting people’s desire to grow & improve
- Encouraging people to learn & try new things
- Creating a safe space for people to discuss concerns & try to fix/reduce them
- Helping teams experiment & find better ways to collaborate
- Making the workplace more engaging
- Helping the recently-formed Product Development Units increase their effectiveness
It was a really interesting exercise and brought up some great discussion points – definitely a format that I’ll use with a (different team) retrospective in future.
p.s. If you’re still unclear about what an Agile coach does, check out “Agile Coaching in a Nutshell – This is what Agile Coaches do“.
Overview: coaching multiple software development teams, product management, and related roles.
Continue reading “Agile Coach, Index Exchange, 2019-2022”