22 January 2018

Whatever Agile Is, It's Not Religion!

Everyone has an idea of what Agile is and what it will look like. It depends on their journey, what they knew before introduction to Agile, where they want to go with it, what they like about it, how they are using it and so many more factors. Some people might not even use it correctly.

You must have heard discussions about what Agile is and what it really means a lot. Some people argue it is a Verb. Some might even argue it is even a Gerund. Some even is expanding Agile and making derivatives from it, i.e. Modern Agile. For one, it might be mostly about the Product and not really about development. For some, it might be more about learning from a feedback loop. For others, it might be about technical best practices and DevOps. I am not going to argue which one or ones are the most suited from my perspective. 

What I want to advocate is to keep in mind that Agile is not a Religion. True, some might not even understand Agile correctly and believe they are practicing it and they are expert at it even. However, their interpretations of whatever Agile is is working for them. Let's assume it is a Religion for a second. Even then, unless you build a strong relationship with that person, you can't convince them to convert. 

Photo by Sander van Dijk on Unsplash
Dakhma (Persian: دخمه ; Avestan: lit.  “tower of silence”), also called a Tower of Silence, is a circular, raised structure built by Zoroastrians for excarnation.
I am writing this as it happened to me twice in my career, once as a Scrum Master and once as a Coach. While back, I had transitioned from a developer into a Scrum Master. When facilitating Retrospectives, or having 1-1s with team members, I tend to provide them with solutions, instead of building trusting relationships and then together digging in what could have been done/improved. I preached to them what the best way of performing is, compared it to their problem, showed them what their approach was and where in their thought process was not aligned with Agile (i.e. at that time XP practices). It was very hard to move away from providing solutions and believing on the team to get to their solutions. It was much easier to do the prior. However, if you can do the later it is immensely more powerful.

I have once more caught myself as a Coach to act as a hard extremism. I got into discussions about who shall facilitate the daily stand up; who needs to be in retrospectives; who can be standing at the daily scrum; and what a sprint goal might be. What I lost sight of were the underlying reasons why we are having these conversations. I jumped into my perfectionist mode, tried to provide my audience with reasoning to convince them into my way of Agile. What I should have done, was to listen to them, ask questions, understand where they are coming from, maybe even walk with them in their world of Agile and then suggest very subtly a new way of doing things. 

What I am glad at, is that I was self-aware about my behavior way back then as a Scrum Master and now as a Coach. It is true that in the eye of other observers this might have been a normal conversation. However, the fact that I could see a great potential that I couldn't reach it through the conversation satisfies me that there was a better way. 

To remember it, I will always keep in my mind the following (and I suggest you do too):
  • Agile is Not a Religion. 
  • I won't try to convert people to my way of Agile.
  • I will have a true conversation with them; I will actively listen to them, ask powerful questions, and empathize with them.
  • I will be open-minded & receptive to their definition of Agile. 
  • My definition of Agile is going to change throughout time.

8 January 2018

Better Meetings Canvas V2.1

Better Meetings Canvas is not anything new. It is what every good facilitator knows by heart. However, it is not easy to rely on your heart all the time. Sometimes you want a straightforward structure to follow, or maybe when in doubt to rely on, or use when delegating the facilitation to someone else, or keep a secret recipe of how you run your meetings.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash https://unsplash.com/photos/jhIQlYem7CA

I have introduced the Better Meetings Canvas in "Effective Yet Effortless Meetings". I have been using this model myself facilitate sessions, and also teach other facilitators to become better at what they do. Throughout these, I have come to update the canvas to have a very important part "Feedback Mechanism During". I have also updated the questions and the descriptions below each section.

If this is your first time using the canvas, read it from top to down, left to right, and answer the questions in that order. And always ask yourself the first question "How important is to have a meeting really?".

You can also find a Google Docs version of the Better Meetings Canvas V2.1.