18 January 2019

Coaching Anti-Pattern #1: Assumptions

No matter how good you are (as a coach), or how much your client is capable in his or her field, make sure you are not assuming anything (or to start many important things).

Always ask yourself (as a coach) what you are referring to is a fact or an assumption. If you don't have a definite Yes to your question, then the easiest thing to do is to ask your client, do not assume!

Assumptions are the trojan horses of a coaching conversation!



14 January 2019

Alternatives to Agile Coach Camp Canada! or My Recommended List of Conferences, Un-conferences, Local Meetups and More!

Agile Coach Camp Canada is very popular this year. The organizers decided to use a lottery style ticketing system. If you have not put your name on it, do it! It reminded me of Google I/O when the tickets were sold out in less than an hour. ACCCA is the Google I/O of Agile, even Agile 20xx is not sold out in that record time!

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If you are like me, i.e. not lucky at all, you probably will be left out this year. It's not the end of the world. Be positive, there are four draws, you will get four chances (as I do). You might get lucky and score a ticket. If not, it's always next year too. If you got lucked out of ACCCA this year, what are your alternative options? These are some of what I know in North America, and recommend!

Agile Coach Retreat - Toronto

A one day retreat for coaches to get together; usually, learn a new thing or two in the morning, and in the afternoon to practice coaching. Sometimes the afternoon becomes a mini-open space too. 

Spark The Change - Toronto

A two-day event focused on many perspectives and aspects of the Change! You won't leave without inspiration, guaranteed! 

Play 4 Agile North America - Cornwall

This is very similar to the Agile Coach Camp, just focused on the gaming aspect more; or not! You have to take part to know! Also, it is one day longer, you get to have fun one more day! 

Agile Open Canada - Vancouver

This used to be called Agile Coach Camp West. They rebranded to Agile Open Canada from the last couple of years. This year it is in beautiful Vancouver. A great excuse to visit the west coast with family.

Agile Coach Camp - U.S.

There is an annual coach camp happening in the US. This is a rotating coach camp, it will give you a chance to visit different cities in the US. 

Local Gatherings 

There are plenty of gathering happening locally where you live, I am sure. These are some that can give you back what you might miss at ACCCA. These are the ones I know and can recommend to you:

East

West

  • Agile Vancouver: Vancouverites around Agile! Almost as big as AgileTO!
  • Calgary Agile: A meetup group for practitioners of agile methods in Calgary

Conferences

Conferences are good alternatives to ACCCA, and in general to attend! These are the ones I would recommend if you are in North America.
Please point out any good ones that you know of! I will add them to the list.

9 January 2019

Canaries of the Intellectual World, Unite & Sing Together!


You are full of hope. You want to make changes. You want to make it stick. You are hopeful to make other people's lives better, more meaningful if you may. You are longing for getting organizations' not only to think about their bottom line but societies'. You aspire to make the flow smoother, to identify bottlenecks and improve upon them. You want to (re)build relationships that last longer. You know what's the potential. You have seen the light. You are advising on some fit for purpose practices. You have seen success because of them in other places. You are specifically selecting them for the new environment you are in. You are not shy of calling out the nonsense happening in the organization, even if it's not in your best interest. In true meaning, you see yourself against a whole lot of challenges and people in front of you.

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You are surrounded by people that do not embrace the new way of working, thinking or even knowing of what it is1. You experienced the worst that could have happened. You had given orders to follow. You were not being consulted, or even being asked for direction. You find out micro-managers are being promoted in your organization. There are politics everywhere, and people are being thrown under the bus right and left. Everyone seems to be for their own. You found out people talk about openness, and being more transparent. However, decisions are being made behind closed doors. Terms like Agile, Kanban, Scrum, etc. become another way to push people's agenda. They just label it Agile and get on where they want.

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You become frustrated. You don't attain that much joy anymore in what you are doing. You find yourself venting out more and more, especially in 1-1 settings. You are thinking of the famous quote, change your organization or change your organization. You are open about the challenges you are facing. You talked to your colleagues about your motivations. You shared with them a vision of how better the organization, and specifically your team, could be. You even opened up to your boss. Nothing changed. It seems that you have backtracked on many fronts, with no win at hand. You have adhered to many things. You have complied to many as well.


You are looking to find fulfillment in your life. It is not about work or life, it's about all of them and more than that. It's a calling that you are answering in this world, not a job. With all this happening in your life, you find yourself to be one of the first people that decide to change your organization. You are hoping to find your true calling, in which you can fulfill your destiny.

Before answering that call, I want to ask you to think once more. I know you have already. Think once more. What else can you do to make a change happen? Is there anything else that you can try? Are there any doors that you have not knocked on yet? There must be something. I am sure you could even come up with three things, and not one, as your options. What are those? You got excited about those new opportunities, you might wait more before making a decision to leave your organization. You still have hope to see changes happen there.

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Are you in a similar situation as described above? Does this reside with you considerably? Congratulations! You are a canary in one of the organizational mines, and you might not know that. A canary in mine is very vital. It sings and cheers up all people in a cold, dark working environment. And most importantly, it will help them survive in case of a gas leak. It does that by dying first of suffocation. Canary's sound will become quiet. Not hearing the sound of a canary, is the ultimate alarm for people to leave. It sacrifices itself for the benefit of the more significant good.

In this mine, people are looking up to canaries (read YOU!). You are cheering them up, you are giving them hope. You are flying in the dark areas of the mine. They are looking up to you for your leadership and guidance. Although you might not receive it or feel it very explicitly. They cherish you being there a lot. You are thinking of abandoning them?

Do you know what might happen if you leave them alone in the mine? Have you ever thought of that? If you are a true Canary of Intellectual World, you know that it is not about you, but about the bigger picture. Leaving them alone, is sending out the signal that this mine is no longer provides essentials for breathing, yet to operate in. Can you guess what is going to happen after you abandon the mine? More people are going to leave and follow you. Then nothing great, even good can happen in that mine ever again. People will try to find their way in the mine, with no guidance and leadership. They have to find their own ways. It won't be easy for them. They might trip over in the dark alleys. They don't even have the insurance of a safe place anymore. The people that followed you most probably will leave as well, they will find another mine in search of a better one. They will find another canary to look up to. And the circle repeats itself!

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Canaries of the Intellectual World:

Find each other, and sing together. Greatness is the inevitable consequence of uniting. You can support each other, listen to each other singing, and taking some of each others' notes to your mine. You can sing for each other, and be canaries for each other. Try even to find other canaries in the same mine, there could be many in yours. The mine usually have dark pathways, try looking there. You might discover even some canaries that don't believe they are a canary, help them realize that!2



1- Some might call it Agile, Lean Improvements, Kanban, Business Agility, Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Lean Change etc. in the IT world)!
2- This post has been inspired by a very insightful leadership simulation as part of the Problem Solving Leadership course, created by Late Jerry Weinberg, Dani Weinberg, Pat Snipp, and Robert Snipp.

2 December 2018

Agile Lunch Community

ٖٖٖ is entering its third year in a week. It has been a very insightful journey. We met every last Friday of the month for the past two years, no exceptions! This couldn't have happened without the help of the innovators, and early adopters. We continued to evolve when the early majority decided to be part of the community. I am grateful for all!
First & foremost, my most sincere gratitude to all of the members of the community. It is because of you that AgileLunch is happening, and strong! Next, I want to thank the innovators and early adaptors and many more. Without your support, there would be no AgileLunch! I also would like to thank our guests who came and talked to us in a not very traditional environment: You elevated us! Thanks! And huge thanks to sponsoring space: from and from . And last but not least the volunteers ! You guys are absolutely amazing! I am not sure how this community will evolve in its third year. However, I am sure that it evolves by its members and to serve its members. Agile Lunch

17 August 2018

An Honorable Person Never Passes Away - In Memory of Jerry!

A legendary man is no longer with us, Gerald M. "Jerry" Weinberg. It's a big loss :-( . And look at, just one of his legacies, PSL workshop. There is a poem (in Persian) from Saadi Shirazi saying "An honorable person never passes away, a person is no longer alive if no one reminds of them and admire them after his passing". And Jerry is truly a person that we will be honoring him, admiring him, and talking about him, his effect, and his work for years and years to come.

سعدیا مرد نکونام نمیرد هرگز
مرده آنست که نامش به نکویی نبرند
In 1974 Jerry and Dani Weinberg designed and conducted the Technical Leadership workshop which later evolved into the Problem Solving Leadership (PSL) workshop that aimed to teach leaders the ability to think and act creatively. Jerry Weinberg worked with many respected consultants and trainers over the years to teach PSL; most recently he collaborated with Esther Derby and Johanna Rothman. With declining health, in 2017 Weinberg and Derby asked Don Gray to step in so PSL could continue. ~ infoQ
I had the pleasure to take part in PSL, and met him in person. It was truly a life-changing event for me. Thanks Jerry!


2 May 2018

Speak Up!

I took a three-day course on transformation, agility, and leadership. It was called Agile Transformational Leader. There were lots that I learned throughout whole three days. It was a great stop on my professional journey, to step back, and be more mindful of where the journey is taking me. I was in the course with some of the greatest thought leaders of Canadian, and even World, Agile World.

One of the highlights of the three days was to be coached by Michael K. Spayd. I was giving him a hard time, and I was transparent in front of 15 people. It was a first for me. I didn't hold anything back regarding the situation I had. It was a true turning point for me. I was uncomfortable thinking about sharing a real-life situation and be coached on the spot on it. However, it is those moments of uncomfortableness if you cherish and push yourself through that you can grow. People helped too. One of the greatest group of people that I saw gathered, which benefited me to navigate through the uncomfortableness.

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The biggest highlight of the three days for me was learning to Speak Up. Throughout the whole three days, I was learning, being encouraged, and was being asked to Speak Up! There were instances that my team encouraged me to speak up. It was moments that I spoke up and observed the reactions. Even if people didn't understand my thought process, it wasn't a very big deal. They asked more. However, the feeling of me contributing to achieving was far more elusive, when realized, to lose it again and again. Even if it ended up diverting conversation in a different direction than intended, it was a greater feeling of accomplishment rather than holding in.

You might think to yourself, why is it a big deal? Could it be? To go on a three-day course and the biggest takeaway is to learn to Speak Up. It was for me, and I tell you why. It was the single most feedback I received throughout my professional career. I have been told several times that I know a lot of things, and I need to speak up for others to know. If I keep it to myself, not many people can figure out based on the chain reactions what led to it, and appreciate my part in it. It took me a personal journey to internalize that and be changed in the moment and amongst the trusted friends.

Put this alongside what I learned at Agile Transformational Leader, Speak Up, with what I learned at Problem Solving Leadership back then, Ask Questions, Please! and it becomes a magical recipe for success.

It is worth mentioning that other people that took the PSL had the same thought and reaction about this course as myself. We were mentioning that this course could have similar effects on our journey even after three days of the in-class training.

15 April 2018

Highlights from the Agile Games 2018, Boston, MA

If you are not in the Agile world, It might sound like a gaming conference and a very fast one! It might be! Depending on what session you attend and your perspective. Agile Games is an annual Agile conference in Boston, Massachusetts; held by Agile New England.

I was invited to the conference as a speaker for two sessions; "User Stories by Collaboration" and "Modern XP Game", the latter one co-delivered with Carlos Oliveria. If you want to learn more about the sessions please visit User Stories by Collaboration and Modern XP Game on my homepage.

This post includes the highlights of the Agile Games 2018 from my perspective. I hope it is valuable to you. 

Tim Ottinger - Opening Keynote - Somewhere Between Frivolity and Dread: Psychologically Safe Training Games

The AgileGames2018 started by Tim Ottinger's keynote. He talked about Games, how we are using them & mainly safety around it. Games are fun, engaging and can easily transmit the message you want to deliver. They even can end up with very unexpecting results.


However, it is very easy to dive into the game and forget the main point. You don't want to facilitate a session using lego on Scrum, and when the team members go back to the work and their boss asks them what they did, reply we played some lego! The games need to have a goal attached to them.


Also, a great point to consider about designing a game or running activities is safety. Don't assume safety. When you are taking a picture, you might be making one person uncomfortable. When you are asking about the worst fear you can imagine in your facilitation, you are doing a very unsafe act. There are many aspects that you want to take into consideration.


You don't know what people have gone through. Tim shared a personal experience of himself, which was very touching. Don't assume safety. It's very hard to design a safe game/simulation. But good ones are out there and you can find them.

Woody Zuil - Coding Dojo

I attended a session with Woody Zuil. Based on the request of the people in the room, Woody has facilitated a coding dojo. We picked converting numeric numbers to roman numbers. We have gone through some discussion about coding, pairing, and mobbing. 


Woody talked about Driver and Observer v.s. Driver and Navigator. A navigator is a person that it thinking and navigating the development. However an Observer is a person that is sitting silent, and mostly thinking in their head, look at this idiot, he/she is not doing it right. I could have done a better job. You don't want to become an Observer. Keep in mind that the driver is just an extension of the keyboard. He/She is an extension, a smart extension, to the input.


We also have gone over the rotation, and how it works. How the next navigator is thinking of solving the problem and how the navigator at the time becomes the driver next time to have some time off. 

Some of the learnings from Woody:
  • Any idiot can learn to program.
  • You learn the rules by doing the game! 
  • Read by refactoring
  • As developers, we tend to develop alone, so much that when it comes to collaboration, we don't have many skills to do so.
  • Excellent idea, do what others are suggesting/doing. 
  • Navigator + Driver is similar to car race drivings. 
  • Navigator: Only one person in pair programming (not Mob). 
  • The Driver is the extension of the computer.
  • Navigator, wait to navigate. 
  • When things get though, take baby steps!
  • Least experienced at the keyboard first! 
  • Reg Green Test, just the system working, the coach doing this the first thing. 
  • This is called programming: copying and pasting. 
  • Coding by Intent. 
  • Before testing call out your intention, are you expecting it to pass or fail? 
  • Why are you programmers if you don't want things too hard? 

Ellen Gottesdiener - The Contracting Two Step: Patterns and Actions for Successful Collaborations 

Ellen talked about contracts and how social contracts in teams work. We started talking about trust, trust interactions and how does that help team. She introduced a canvas for people and teams to use to build social contracts. The canvas introduced was very similar to the skills marketplace introduced by Lyssa Adkins. 

Alex Harms - Cultivating Psychological Safety: the Hard Parts

I didn't take part in Alex's session. However, I learned from it. Through a very clever set of questions that gets into you, it helps you understand the situation better and connect with the conflict that you have at hand. 


Dana Payelava - Closing Keynote - Team Up To Eradicate Fear!

Dana talked about fear and how to deal with it. She introduced to us some tools. One of the tools is the "Fear Resetting Plan". In this plan, you think of the one fear that you want to face, or you can face. Then you think of different aspects of it and find three ways to deal with it. Then you decide on one action. It was very nice seeing Dana delivering her first keynote. I was so excited to see her talk as the keynote speaker. She handled a stressful situation of running out of time, or the assumption of it raied from the volunteers very well. 


She then introduced us to another set of cards on fears. This is a set of cards that can get you toward dealing with fears in your organization, and gives you some suggestions called "Safety Enhancement Cards". It is a nice game to play for and in a safe situation to talk about potential unsafe ones.


The closing keynote, as always when Dana facilitating, included lots of discussion and group activities.


The image above was just one of the rooms for the keynote. This conference would not have happened with the great work of Agile New England and its volunteers. Thanks to them a lot. 

In addition to the people, I mentioned above, It was very nice to meet old and new friends of Johanna Rothman, Paul Boss, April Jefferson, Richard Kasperowski, Carlos Oliveira, Jon Odo, Andrea Chiou and many other great people there.