Invitational agile with Michael Delamaza
Join Murray Robinson and Shane Gibson in a conversation with Michael Delemaza about agile coaching. We discuss invitational coaching, the differences between coaching and mentoring and the challenges faced in transforming traditional organizations into agile ones. We also talk about the importance of clear communication and alignment at the executive level, as well as dealing with politics and resistance within organizations.
Read along you will
Shane: Welcome to the No Nonsense Agile Podcast. I’m Shane Gibson.
Murray: And I’m Murray Robinson.
Michael: I’m Michael delamaza.
Murray: So Michael, would you like to introduce yourself for our audience?
Michael: Sure. So I’m a San Francisco Agile coach. I’ve been an Agile coach for 12 years. I’m also an angel investor, and I’ve invested in four unicorns. I also beat Sam Altman in a five year, a hundred thousand dollar bet on startup valuations. I was previously the CEO founder of Inquirer, which was acquired by Oracle and I have a PhD in computer science from MIT.
Murray: So why did you decide to become an agile coach , Michael?
Michael: Yeah, so about 12 15 years ago, I was a software development manager. And I was bad at my job. So I started reading and I found Scrum. I was living in Boston where Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland live so I took a two day course from Jeff Sutherland and learned about Scrum. And I converted my teams to Scrum. I had no idea what I was doing but it turned out that Clueless Scrum was better than Waterfall. And then I was invited by other heads of business units to go coach Scrum, on their teams. And then I set off on my own in 2009.
Murray: So let’s talk about coaching because your angle to coaching is invitational coaching. So I’m wondering if you could explain what you mean by that.
Michael: Yeah, so this is described in an upcoming book called Enterprise Agile Coaching that I am writing with Sherie Silas and Alex Kudinov. The best way to describe coaching in an invitational manner is to describe what it’s not. I’m going to read a quote from Marsha Reynolds, who was one of the founding members of the International Coaching Federation. And she describes the problems with what she calls hybrid coaching. So here’s the quote. The notion of hybrid coaching dilutes the value of coaching. When you mix mentoring, advice giving, and leading people to what is best for them into what you call coaching, people come to expect the easy way out. They look forward to you telling them what to do. This might be helpful, but if coaching is what they really want or need, they’re mis-experiencing this powerful technology for creating breakthroughs and growth. Invitational Agile Coaching is taking a pure professional coaching approach to Agile transformation efforts.
Murray: What’s the difference between mentoring and coaching
Michael: A mentor is a person who has done the job, and who can teach someone else to do that job or a similar job. So that’s not at all like coaching. Coaching, the person does not have to be a domain expert. In it at all, it does not need to have done the job before. So they’re quite distinct.
Murray: So here, Michael and the international coaching Federation are defining agile coaching as a form of counseling, which has its roots in the life coaching and addiction community. This is a controversial opinion in the agile community, where many experts like Esther Derby feel that an effective agile coach should we like a sports coach or a consultant. And to do that an agile coach needs a lot of experience in agile product and software . Development Keep this in mind. In the rest of the interview.
So how would you coach somebody in this professional coaching manner without, advising them what to do? Could you give us an example?
Michael: Yeah, so a professional coach, it’s completely non directive. You’re constantly on the agenda of the client. And you do what I would call the three A’s awareness, action, and accountability. So you work with the client to increase their awareness of their current state and what they want to do. You work with the client to increase action towards that. And then you work with the client to increase their accountability to their own actions and to their goals. So it’s constantly the case that the client is in the driver’s seat, so to speak. And the Agile coach is not saying, do this, do that.
Murray: So this sounds like individual coaching rather than team or organization coaching.
Michael: Yes, so professional coaching started off, historically, this is way before Agile, as being one on one coaching. But then the technology has expanded and includes group coaching, so the best known approach to group coaching is called ORSC, O R S C, which stands for Organizational, relational, and Systems Coaching.
Murray: Yeah. So how would you use that kind of structure to talk to a group of people? Or would you just do them one at a time, but think about the group?
Michael: No, so you can definitely do group coaching, so ORSC in particular has many practices for working with groups, so one of them is called Deep Democracy, for example. And there are various types of ways of roleplaying the system and showing the system back to itself. And you’re essentially doing what I would call the triple A’s in various ways, shapes, and forms.
But you’re doing it with the group as the whole, so you’re helping the group discover what it wants. You’re helping the group take action towards it, and you’re helping the group increase accountability.
Shane: So I want to drill down on this idea of direction. So I’m not a great fan of agile coaches or scrum coaches who answer every question from the team with it depends.
But I’m also not a great fan of I’ve had a lot of Agile coaches or Scrum coaches who only give one option. You told them that this is the way it works, because my view is the team needs to self organize. So when we’re not there, they keep growing and keep iterating and keep changing the way they work. Yeah, do you see yourself in what you’re talking about as being in the middle there where you are providing some advice, but you’re not being completely directive, but you’re not sitting there going, it depends, it’s up to you and not helping them drive out to a resolution.
Yeah first I want to address your statement that you’re not a big fan. What I care about most is that people be clear about what they’re doing. The problem is not that someone is more directive or less directive.
What concerns me, and what I am scrupulous about in my own work, is being super clear where I am. So what I see is that clients do not clearly understand the differences between coaching, mentoring, training, facilitating, advice giving. That’s something that’s inside baseball. That’s a vocabulary that we use. But in common language, it’s very blurry. But from our perspective, it’s radically different. For example, an XP developer coach might be an expert on certain types of programming techniques and can train those techniques. That’s very different than someone who facilitates meetings with senior executives. But from a client’s perspective, mentoring, facilitating, training, etc. are all the same thing. And it’s not serving the client when we are not super clear. My preference, is to give the client total control for the simple reason that it’s their company not my company and they’re going to be living with the new system.
And I’m not prescriptive at all. The way that I would describe it is that I might help the client create options. Even then, one has to be incredibly careful. Because the options from the Agile Coach tend to come with more authority. One has to be scrupulous to not basically turn the client into a puppet and make the Agile Coach a puppeteer, which is just a huge sort of tragic mistake. At least for the type of work that I do, I don’t go in and create new organizations for companies.
Shane: Yeah, the term agile coach can mean many things. So the way I would talk about it is I tend to coach teams in the data and analytics space and nothing else. That’s my specialty. I find myself coaching senior executive at the board table, I’m in the wrong place. I don’t have the experience and the mana to do that yet. So I like this idea that we are very specific about what we are good at, the way we work, the way we can help. And when we’re out of the space, we’re in a danger area and we should all be aware of that.
Murray: So this is the Agile Coaching Institute model you’re talking about from Lisa Atkins and people like that.
Michael: Yeah, so, Lisa Adkins, of course, published the first book. Michael Spayd who had professional training and professional coaching from places like Coactive Training Institute, came to her and said, actually, you don’t know what coaching is. And then introduced her to professional coaching. And that’s what it started. And this is, in some sense a continuation of that approach of saying that we want to coach in the way that it’s defined by International Coaching Federation. They get to define what coaching means.
Murray: Do they though? Because it strikes me that there’s a very big difference between sports coaching, which is what most people think of as coaching, and professional coaching, the way it’s it’s defined by the Agile Coaching Institute, which sounds much closer to life coaching.
Michael: Yes, so that was originally where it was done. And you’re absolutely right that sports coaching and professional coaching are radically different. And this is one of the ways in which common language blurs the word coaching, which then causes confusion in the mind of the client. A professional coach, at least in the United States, or something like American football, calls the plays, typically. And trains the players, that’s not what an agile coach or a professional coach is doing. And where it was first applied was in life coaching, although executive coaches use essentially the same approach. So like the Marshall Goldsmiths of the world are doing the same thing. And so it came into the corporate world in that way. And then some agile coaches like me, Also take that approach.
Murray: Now I have actually seen some pretty serious criticism of executive coaching from qualified Psychotherapists on YouTube who basically say that life coaching and executive coaching and maybe it’s professional agile coaching as well is delving too much into the personal side of things and the psychology of people without having, any professional qualifications in psychotherapy or clinical treatment of people.
Michael: Yes. That is another very important distinction. When I went to my professional coaching training, there was a whole piece on distinguishing that and the professional ethics of the dividing line. And when that is crossed one stops and if necessary says, this is not an area where I can venture into. If you do want to, I believe a psychotherapist might be able to help you with that.
Shane: Yeah, what I found is when you’re working closely with individuals, you form that relationship and then, you do have personal conversations and then often it moves into areas you’re uncomfortable. Bob Galem shared with me an agile coach code of ethics. It’s a one page statement I give my customers on day one to say, here’s some bullet points on things that I will do, and here’s some bullet points on what I won’t do, and when we get into the area that I won’t do it, I’m going to have an upfront conversation with you. Or if you find I’m going into those areas, then call me out on it. And that was a really useful technique for me because I was getting uncomfortable.
Michael: Yeah, so I think that’s a phenomenal practice, and I think it’s one of the few practices that I would almost consider to be universal. Some of the biggest mistakes that I have made as an Agile coach is to assume that we were in agreement on issues like that, And not go through explicit contracting step by step. and so now I essentially require myself to go through that and then to revisit it on a regular basis. Because that’s exactly one of those things that if you don’t need it, you spent a couple of hours doing it with the client. But if you do need it, it’s life saving, and so paying two hours in order to save relationships and save engagements is well worth it.
Murray: So Michael, when you’re out there working with clients, presumably you see other agile coaches. What are you seeing in the field?
Michael: Yeah, so I will distinguish between the problems that corporations are having and the problems that Agile coaches are having.
And so I think that the big, huge problem that corporations are having is that those that were roughly created before 1970, which I’m going to call industrial age companies, are unable to compete with digital age companies. And disproportionately industrial age companies are the ones who hire hundreds of agile coaches. And to the best of my knowledge, I do not know of a single category leader during the industrial age that has successfully transformed and become a category leader during the digital age.
And so, to a large degree, this is what we’re being hired increasingly to do and we cannot do it. That is the existential problem. Now, we can’t do it, neither can anyone else, as far as I know. But to a very large degree, all we are doing is slowing down the inevitable decline of these industrial age companies. And I’ve been inside some of the fastest growing startups in the world. I’ve been inside two big tech companies. And I can tell you that when I compare them to my industrial age clients, I do not see how to get from point A to point B. The industrial age companies are dead, as far as I can tell, and that’s the problem that we have in the Agile community, which is we can’t actually help the clients that are in most need of help.
Murray: So we should, we just give up on them.
Michael: What I find is that clients themselves don’t actually view this as a threat. I go into a company and I say do you realize that if a startup came after you, you would get incinerated? And people look at me like, no, we wouldn’t. We have market advantage. We have this competitive mode. We have long standing relationships with customers. And I defer to them because they’re experts in their company and in their field, not me.
Shane: Do you think it’s a result of the organizational hierarchies that are in those industrial companies, or do you think it’s the behavior of the leadership team that have been around for a while and can’t change the way they think and can’t change their mindset?
Michael: I think it’s many things. So it’s a complex problem. So it’s going to have, many complex factors.
So one simple one is Let’s call it speed of communication and collaboration. At an industrial age company, we can take middle management, like a VP, for example, and two peer level VPs, that work in the same organization.
If they want to schedule a meeting with each other, one assistant contacts the other assistant, and they deconflict calendar invites, and it takes about a week. In a digital age company, the entire company runs on Slack. And one VP sends a slack to the other one, and they’re talking and making the decision right there.
It’s literally a factor of five times faster. And I’ve seen this with my own eyes. I worked for a junior senior level executive at a Fortune 500 company. And she wanted to roll out something. And all of the VPs had to get together and agree on it, and it took a month to do that. And then just at approximately the same time, I was working at a 500 person startup. Where the entire company was run on Slack, the CEO was on there, and they did major deals on Slack within a few hours. That alone is brutal.
Murray: Michael, what is the psychology of senior executives in these older and more conservative companies, which is preventing them from changing to this more modern and faster way of working?
Michael: Yeah, so I believe that we can only learn things. That we almost know already. And these people, and this is universal, they’ve never been inside of a digital startup. And so they cannot imagine what is going on.
Shane: Yeah, I think it’s almost a literacy problem. As we do work in the data space, we talk about data literacy. If you’re not used to numbers, if you’re not used to data you feel really uncomfortable when somebody presents it to you and you have to believe it’s the truth. I hadn’t thought about collaboration literacy. This idea of things moving so fast, of these, not formal ways of communicating that look like we’re just chatting. But that’s the way we do it. That’s why we talk, that’s why we collaborate, why we get decisions made. So that must be really uncomfortable for somebody who doesn’t have a literacy in that space.
Murray: I think people learn this on the job from the big corporates that they work for that. To get along, you have to fit in. You can’t rub people up the wrong way. So you learn pretty quickly that obedience is critical . Consulting with everybody, getting permission, doing all your documents. People learn that as a young manager, and that’s then what they do for the rest of their careers. And I actually think the source of a lot of this is the big management consulting companies. Because they were the ones who implemented a lot of this stuff at corporates back in the 40s and 50s, and some of those big consulting companies are still implementing command and control, milestone gated program management. That’s my theory.
Michael: Yeah. The traditional management approach is just getting washed away. But it definitely is in the concrete at the places where it currently is.
Murray: The other thing I would say, Michael, is that I don’t think that good leadership is natural. I think it’s quite difficult. And you talked about yourself. You had quite a lot of problems with leadership to begin with. And so did I.
And I think that the state of leadership in management generally is pretty terrible. Very few people I come across know how to do weekly one on ones. Very few managers I know how to give feedback effectively and impersonally. Just real basic stuff like that. People don’t know how to do it, especially when they’re young and especially when they’re in technology. So it’s a skill, plus it’s a emotional maturity that you’ve got to develop, but it’s not something that you can assume that people have just because you put them into a management role.
Michael: I a hundred percent agree with that. The state of management skill of any type not just agile management is absolutely abysmal in IT Software, even CIOs of public companies are regularly just acting as senior project managers. The CEOs know that and so the CIO is one of the most junior people who’s a direct report to the CEO. And they’re treated as a cost center and that in and of itself causes lots of problems. The number of times that I’ve recommended that an IT manager, software manager, just talk to their people, as opposed to getting reports from them is pretty insane.
Murray: Can I ask you then to contrast your approach to coaching with other people doing agile coaching.
Michael: Yeah, so the big three MBB, are teaching agile as an operating model. They all pick some sort of structure, like one of them really likes Spotify, for example, and then they just slam it in, in a completely inelegant way. I know about dozens of these things, and I’ve never heard of one that even remotely worked. Extremely expensive with no value. And in fact, there was an almost comical Harvard Business Review article written by an MBB partner. In which they talked about something like a two or three year Agile transition. And the only data that they cited as evidence that the transition worked is that the senior executives spent more time on strategy instead of low level tactical details. So in this Harvard Business Review article, there was no business value actually generated or actually documented. So that’s the state of management consulting in Agile. And I think it’s just completely disastrous. The invitational approach is partially there to distinguish what we’re doing from what they’re doing.
I think that Agile is essentially kryptonite for management consultants. Management consultants cannot actually share Agile, because it’s a contradiction in terms for them to be doing it. So they have to, either consciously or unconsciously, misinterpret it, and misapply it, and misimplement it, because it’s inconsistent with who they are and how they work. That’s the management consultants.
And then there’s a set of coaches that are, Expert at certain frameworks, and the most common of these is SAFE, Scaled Agile Framework. And it’s very interesting that the SPC, which is. The most common or most go to certification in that space is The C stands for consultant. It doesn’t stand for coach. And so I think that, in SAFe it’s very clear that a consultant comes in and trains the organization on SAFe, helps them implement it, helps them to go from the current state to the new operating model, and they specifically in SAFe say structure comes before culture. And so I think that is something that is being done and has some success in the space, and certainly Scaled Agile has done extremely well.
And then I think that there’s just a whole sea of Agile coaches which are bouncing around in the muck in a very confused state, confusing themselves and confusing clients about how to do this work and that’s one of the things that, we’re working on helping people do better.
Shane: In my part of the world, we get transformation, our organizations are going to be transformed as a result of this agile thing that those consultancies bring in. And it does my nut because for me, we’re changing a mindset, we’re changing a way of working that will take forever. It’s going to always. If we do it right with the organization keeps iterating. So we’re transitioning to something else slowly. The other thing is we often see there is value. The value is the leader in that organization goes on to the next role and talks about how great this transformation was. And they don’t behave like servant leaders. So one of the things I subscribe to is I would like to leave the organization in a better place when I leave, because I’ve helped them add value. As a leader, those people that are funding and bringing these, transitions in, they should leave the organization in a better place. And a lot of the time they don’t. A lot of the time the organization is far worse off. The people working for the organization are a lot more unhappy, a lot less efficient, a lot less effective a lot less clear on what their roles are and how things work yet. The so called leaders are off to their next big payday.
Murray: I think culture is an output of management behavior and management behavior is a result of rewards and punishments, even if they’re frequently unspoken. So I don’t actually think you can change culture directly. I agree with Shane that Agile shouldn’t be a transition. It’s got to be continuous and tailored. Because, it’s all about learning, so management consultants don’t do that. They come in for several million dollars for 12 weeks to do a big set of PowerPoint presentations, and, recommend firing, 20 percent of people. That’s what I’m seeing in the Spotify plus safe implementations. It’s really all about firing people using Agile to strip out bureaucracy. And, Agile does strip out bureaucracy. So there’s some kernel of truth in there.
Michael: Yeah, so on that last point, that’s exactly right. So the reason that management consultants have to fire people, It’s because it’s the only way to make the ROI work. So it just flows to the bottom line, obviously, when you fire a bunch of people. So one problem, in my opinion, or one growth area, in my opinion, in the Agile coaching area, is that people are clearly extremely jealous of the fees that the management consultants charge. And we Agile coaches treat the management consultants with contempt, which is not very consistent with being an Agile coach. And in environments where there are both management consultants and Agile coaches, it’s, incumbent on the Agile coaches to be the bigger people and not engage in an endless fight with the management consultants.
Murray: But, they’ll do it to you though. It’s part of their practice is to undermine all their competitors inside the client side. I’ll do it subtly, but I’ve heard of it quite a few times.
Michael: Oh, absolutely. And our job is, to be the change that we want to see in the world. The other thing I’ll point out is, agile coaches, at least in the United States, are often under very significant financial constraints. And what the management consulting example shows is that there is a level in the organization where the budget is effectively infinite. So, it seems to me that our job as Agile coaches is to continue to grow in stature. So we can access that budget and really help organizations.
Murray: yes. I agree with you. I see a lot of organizations treating agile coaches as a middle management role. It’s the next step above team lead or scrum master. And they don’t tend to give agile coaches a lot of credibility or support, or expect them to be involved in, important business decisions.
Michael: That’s correct. I agree with that.
Murray: Okay. So tell us more about how you would go using this invitational leadership approach as a professional coach working with senior people who want to do Agile.
Michael: So the client decides what it’s going to do to change its organization. And it’s doing this because it wants to accelerate its business goals. And so you work with the client to create that initial idea. And usually that’s a lot of work because the first thing that happens is that the decision makers say, Oh yeah, we’re all in agreement. We’ve been talking about this for months. And in fact, they’re actually not all in agreement. And a very specific example is, what is the trade off between delivery and improvement? And they have radically different views on that. And one manager will think, Oh, I’m spending one day a year on improvement stuff. And another one will think, Oh no, we have to spend one day a week. And getting alignment typically takes a lot of time in an organization. Weeks or months of time
Michael: and then you do that again and again and the organization builds more and more Capability and is able to draw on more and more things and then develops in internal in house Agile expertise and then it keeps shifting until it’s essentially replaced what it was doing with what I would probably call agile management.
Shane: So one of the things I’ve often struggled with, because I tend to go into the data and analytics team. It tends to be a department. It’s never at the top table. And so we start at the bottom and we work with those teams. They find better ways of working and then we always hit the organizational problems. Where the rest of the organization isn’t following this path where the senior leaders don’t understand this change and aren’t on board. And what I think I’m hearing is your approach is start at that top, start by helping them increase their literacy, understanding the value and alignment they need to help the organization make this change. And once you have that, then you can start looking at execution. Is that what I heard?
Michael: Yeah, so it’s not really my choice. It’s their choice. And what’s important is that what they’re doing has a chance of actually achieving their goals. So where the conflict really occurs is when they think that a team level transformation in an organization that has 10 levels of management is going to double their earnings. And so both approaches are completely valid, it’s just that one has to be… honest and real about what’s actually possible with different levels of change in an organization and different levels of buy in.
Murray: So you focus mainly on helping the executive team develop a clear vision and goal and get alignment around what they’re doing with their agile approach. Is that fundamentally it?
Michael: Yeah so, what I like to say is, if the executives have shifted, then everything else is easy. If the executives have not shifted, then everything else is going to be hard. That is the point of maximum leverage in a hierarchical organization, the people at the top have the power. And so that’s the invitation or the opportunity for the organization. The organization regularly says no. It actually creates very serious problems for the organization to go up a level. And so then you have this conversation with them, which is, Okay, if only the CIO and below is involved, And the CIO is considered to be a junior C level executive who doesn’t have a budget and is considered a cost center and is afraid to talk to the business, which is providing all of the requirements. This is what is actually possible. And then they have to decide whether or not that’s what they actually want.
Murray: So Michael, how do you deal with the politics in organizations? Because everywhere I’ve worked and consulted, there’s been intense politics, particularly in the slow growing or declining organizations. But there’s a lot of, spinning the truth, putting a perception on things, hiding things. Awful lot of theater, a lot of, lobbying, sucking up. I’ve seen organizations that were really hostile to things coming out of retrospectives because it was highlighting issues that management had been, trying to hide for quite some time. So this sort of politics seems very common. And in order to get to the top, you need to be quite skilled at it. I’m just wondering how you deal with this?
Michael: So I think first it’s useful to define what politics means. Politics means, to me, self serving behavior. So behavior that’s good for a person, but not good for everyone else, not good for the company. And so that sort of behavior exists all of the time and is yet another reason to enter at the highest level possible, because the manager has two moves. One move is to coach and the other one is to be a manager. And one of the things that you get to do as a manager is to fire people.
And if we imagine an ideal scenario, the senior leader has shifted. And if you want to think of a specific shift, Think of it as a shift from, say, Lelou Orange to Lelou Green. And that senior manager has now made that transition to Lelou Green. And so now they see the orange behavior in their organization. Okay? And so I will use a terminology that I learned from Michael Sahota. Which is, then they identify an orange leader in their organization. And so that orange leader has two choices. One is to grow, and the other one is to go. Grow is the agile coaching approach, and going is the management approach. That’s the ideal situation. What takes an eternity, and in my opinion is something that an Agile coach should seriously think about whether or not they want to be involved with it, is when you’re not doing it from the top, and you’re hoping and praying that this behavior will become visible. And that people will see it and then will somehow transform and take action.
I personally was involved with one of those where the person who was at the head of a 500 person organization inside of a 3, 000 person organization was undercutting Agile in every way possible, acting in this self serving political way that we’ve discussed. And he was eventually fired. It took four years to do it. And so I think a question for an Agile coach is, do you want to spend your life, doing that sort of work?
Murray: How do you deal with resistance and opposition when you’re doing agile coaching. So let’s say you’ve been brought in to help a group and you find That there are other functional silos that people, that this group is dependent on, that are actually quite hostile. And the other one is that the senior person in the group is actually causing the problems that you’ve been brought in to solve. How do you deal with those problems?
Michael: Yeah so the simple answer to that question is that in Invitational Agile Coaching, we don’t have those problems. Because the people have said what they want, and so they don’t resist. So that’s actually one of the key things of Invitational Agile Coaching, which is the best way to deal with resistance is to not create it in the first place. And so I want to just be super, super clear here about what the problem often is.
The problem often is that the Agile coach has an agenda, which is around Agile or success or something like that, which is then inflicted on the organization. And this can occur at, micro and macro. A Scrum coach comes in and somehow says they hired me to do Scrum, so of course they want to do Scrum. And so then they sen he senses resistance. And that causes a problem, so the coach keeps pushing and the organization pushes back which what actually happened there is that person was not in fact hired to do Scrum,
And then at the higher levels, we have that same issue with Agile values. One thing that we say in this Enterprise Agile Coaching book is that Agile coaches always assume that on a scale of 1 to 10 when it comes to Agile values, the customer wants to be at 11. And so the Agile coach gets very frustrated when the client rejects things that are coming out of a retrospective. But that’s not something for the coach to decide. Again, that coach is on their agenda, not on the client’s agenda, so if the coach is actually on the client’s agenda which involves getting out of their own way, and is actually listening to the client, then, , the coach helps them to get into alignment. Then all the coach is doing is saying, this is what you said you wanted, and this is what you said you wanted to do.
Murray: Yeah. I think I’ve got in my own way by thinking, I’ve been asked to come in and help implement good practice with Agile. And then found, people had quite different agendas and it probably would have been quite helpful to let go and just say, Hey I’m here now, how can I help you?
Michael: Yeah, absolutely. And then, one very specific problem that happens there is that people make decisions on the, on behalf of other people. And so you might have heard very clearly the person who hired you said X, but that person said X without consulting with the people on which X is going to be bestowed. And then you go check with those people and they actually don’t want x, and so again, the invitational approach dissolves that problem. But one thing I want to make clear here is that this is not an actual problem. This is a problem that Agile coaches create by our behavior. So we are actually creating the problem. So step number one is to do no harm and actually see what is going on in the system and what the system wants to do.
Shane: We often see people go in to help an organization adopt Agile, and that’s not the goal. We should be going in to help the organization achieve the goals they want, and Agile techniques and patterns may help us get there in a better way. The goal isn’t Agile itself.
Michael: Yeah, so I think that would be the case , almost always. To the degree that Agile is the values and the principles and an Agile coach’s life purpose. is to see more of those values and principles in the world, then what the coach would want to be doing constantly is checking who their client is, checking who they’re working with so that they don’t end up spending 10 years setting up PI planning.
Murray: What if your client says they want you to set up Jira for them
Michael: Yeah, so then you have a decision to make. My key view is that it’s all about awareness. It’s all about awareness. And one thing that I think is key to being an Agile coach, and in my view, a happy and successful human being, is to take total responsibility for everything in your environment. I’m walking down the street and I see a piece of trash. I can, A, complain about the piece of trash and complain that the government is useless or incompetent, or, B, I can pick up the piece of trash, and I can then have a citizens council that picks up trash, and I can run for council, and so the idea of taking total responsibility is great. So I have a choice. Here I’m setting up Jira or not. Okay. I can say the client is a jerk. The client is a moron. The client doesn’t understand what Jira is, and like LinkedIn and social media is full of this immature contempt. The responsible thing to do is just to say, do I want to do this? And if so, what price? And if I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it. So it’s not that the client is inflicting this work on us. It’s that we’re choosing to do this work. To me, this view is just very freeing.
Murray: It’s coming to the end of at times. So we better summarize. So, I find that, resistance and why it happens and how to deal with it as a coach very interesting. You’re just stepping out of the way and using the momentum that’s there. So I like that. I have some doubts about the really hands off model. I prefer a sports coaching model, but I would like to see professional coaching as part of that.
Michael: And one thing I will make clear, Murray, is that you’re qualified to be this professional sports coach. Because you are a person who has had very senior experience as a manager versus most Agile coaches. So you can actually be a sports coach. Most Agile coaches don’t have MBAs and don’t have that senior management experience. So they can’t be it, but they think they can, and they act in that role. Even though, in my opinion, they would be much better off adopting a different role.
Murray: I’m also really bothered by the coaches, Agile coaches we’re seeing now who really have very little experience whatsoever in software development. Very minimal technical experience or even business experience. I understand professional coaching is a technique that anybody can use, but it worries me if that’s all that people have and they’re doing agile coaching. So there’s some powerful tools in there, , which I really like but I guess I’d still have a couple of reservations. Shane, where are you at?
Shane: I’m definitely gonna read the book when it comes out, so look forward to December. I’ve got quite a few takeaways from this, so one is around shared language. This idea of mentoring, coaching, teaching, facilitating. Where do you sit in that quantum? Where’s your experience? Where’s your expertise?
And if you’re advising, you’re a consultant, you’re not a coach. So for me, I believe I’m strong around the menting, teaching, facilitating, and the data domain. But I’m still pretty weak in the true professional coaching. It’s not my background. It’s not something I’ve invested in.
Love the classification of organizations based on industrial versus digital versus web 3. 0. When you engage with some of these older companies , are they really able to change and therefore is it worth spending five years of your life trying to help them when they’re not actually wanting it? It’s just lip service. It’s for the leadership team to get the next job.
I think you should always try and bring in somebody at a really high level of expertise as a Agile coach at the beginning to see whether you can get top down permission because it does make life so much easier. You got more chance of success.
I loved grow or go. And I think the final one for me really was be the change you want to see. We have to behave the way we would like everybody else to behave in this space. And all of us are sometimes guilty of, not being that person. I’m going to try better on that.
Murray: And let’s remind people of your upcoming book, Michael. What’s it called?
Michael: It’s called Enterprise Agile Coaching, and it’ll be out by December 2021. And my co authors are Sherie Silas and Alex Kudinov.
Murray: All right. Excellent. Is there anything else you want to say before we wrap up?
Michael: All for one, and one for all.
Murray: Awesome. Thanks for that.
Shane: right, we’ll catch you later.
Subscribe to the AgileData Podcast
We will email when we publish a new episode, no spam, pinky promise