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Book Notes - Coaching Agile Teams  By Lyssa Adkins

Carrying Complaints

  • An agile coach helps the team see that conflict is normal - and useful
  • Conflict seething just below the surface is clearly not constructive
  • One part of the agile coach's job revolves around removing impediments to work.
  • Three step intervention path - ask the complainer the following
    • Have you shared your concerns and feelings about this with?
    • [blank] should know of your concerns. Would it help if I would go with you?
    • May I tell [blank] that you have these concerns?
  • Never carry anonymous complaints. Let the complainer know that you will reveal who has the complaint
  • Healthy agile teams live in a world of courage and respect.
  • If the complainer rejects all three options, the do something very difficult - cease to consider it a problem
  • Sometimes people just want to vent
    • Fully listening while they vent may be all that is needed
  • People try to add you to the gossip chain
    • Someone who wants to gossip doesn’t want to resolve the complaint.
  • They may be complaining to you so they can enlist you in their war.
  • "are you ready to resolve this without blaming?"
    • If there is a 'yeah, but' in there - theres a good chance the person cannot yet resolve the issue without blaming.


When you Become the Subject of the Complaint

  • When someone passes along anonymous complaints about you, ask these questions to bring the conversation to a constructive place
    • May I ask how you feel about this
    • I would welcome a chance to talk with [blank] …
  • As the agile coach - you model the behavior that helps the team get to a high performance.


Unsolvable Conflict

  • Agile Teams Are Intimate
    • 30 year research into what  makes marriages work and fail
      • 69% of issues in marriages are perpetual
        • They do not go away
    • On healthy teams - you hear members talk to one another at an even deeper level of intimacy
    • Business partners, teams, organizations - they all benefit from the coaching perspective that some conflict is simply unsolvable.
    • Rather than focusing on unraveling and resolving the conflict - navigate through it by increasing the positivity in the group.
      • Increasing the positivity means increasing the number of positive interactions among the team members.
    • The way to live successfully with unsolvable conflict is to increase the number of positive interactions between them to help navigate the conflict when it arises.
    • Three to one, and five to one is even better.
    • To boost the positivity/negativity ratio on teams - help them avoid misunderstanding buildup and use a shared vision.


Avoid Misunderstanding Buildup

  • Team members sometimes talk past one another.
  • Pay attention to the quality of the conversations
  • Learn to listen for the quality of the conversation.
  • Consent & Consensus Checks
    • To help avoid misunderstandings - and help positivity in the group
    • Consent
      • Is there anyone in the group who objects to moving the standup to 1pm?
        • Purposely phrased in the negative
        • Gives permission for a team member to voice an objection
    • Consensus
      • Personal facilitator and coach - Jean Tabaka
        • Fist of five method of checking consensus.
        • Hold up a hand showing one of five fingers. Five love the idea - one hate the idea - range from 5 to 1.
        • Level of agreement on a statement.
  • Consent and consensus check are two ways to ensure that team members are invited to speak.


Use Their Shared Vision

  • The dream behind the conflict
  • Reasons why the partnership was a good idea in the first place
  • On agile teams - teams are most often created by managers and announced to the team members.
    • This doesn’t mean the team must remain devoid of a shared dream.
  • A shared dream, or vision gives teams a beacon they can use to light the way back
  • Its about something bigger than that - its about them
  • Expressed as a compelling statement that sums up what the team has set out to be together.
  • When unsolvable conflict arises - try asking these three questions
    • Does this vision of us as a team still apply?
    • What is the meaning of your current conflict in the context of this vision?
    • Having recalled the vision - does this conflict even matter?



  • Resolving their conflict is not your job
  • Pay close attention to the team when in conflict
  • Use the five levels of conflict to more objectively see whats going on
  • Given that much of the conflict that arises on agile teams is unresolvable - off the team ways to live with it.


Coach as Collaboration Conductor

  • Like so many things do, it had me reflecting on the nature of teams.
  • "what would it take for a team to develop abilities like that?"
  • Steps needed to bring collaboration to your team.


Collaboration or Cooperation?

  • We need collaboration to achieve our goals - ill cooperation serve us.
  • Collaboration yields that old adage - 'the whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts"
  • Cooperation yields the sum of the parts
  • Cooperation features the smooth flow of work-in progress from one team member to another and between the team and the wider organization.
  • Cooperation easier to get working and far less emotionally and time intensive - its built into the way agile works.
  • Hallmarks of cooperation
    • Animated interaction
    • Two-way conversation
    • Real understanding
    • Progress
  • Collaboration needs cooperation - but adds the essential ingredient - Emergence
  • When collaborating, team members build on top of one another's ideas.
    • Each person gives away their vision of what it should be so that something better emerges.
    • Courageous sharing - whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.


From Cooperation to Collaboration

  • To start moving toward collaboration, first build cooperation.
  • Your job as agile coach focuses on helping each person learn the skills needed to cooperate.
  • Building individual collaborations.


Build Individual Collaborators.

  • Being able to collaborate and cooperate arise from learning a set of skills.
  • Perhaps you use the adult speak - "take responsibility from your emotional wake"
  • As the guardian of quality and performance.
  • Four things to help them become solid cooperators and collaborators
    • Teach them cooperation skills
      • Each person must start from a place of personal responsibility
      • A set of specific attitudes and behaviors that make teamwork an individual skill
      • Book "Teamwork is an individual skill"
    • Expect them to come prepared
      • First concept to teach : collaboration starts inside the heart and mind of each person on the team.
      • Every team member has a professional obligation to arrive at work ready to collaborate.
      • What would the stand-up be like if the team members were on time with more than their bodies.
    • Encourage their ego
      • To be a good collaborator, one must not subordinate one's individuality.
      • Encourage team members to keep their sense of self-value solid while subordinating the need for social approval.
      • Leave their vanity at home.
    • Establish the collaboration zone.
      • Green zone vs. Red Zone
      • People either support collaboration or undermine it.
      • Set the example for consciously striving to live in the green zone and recovering when you fall into the red zone trap.
      • Once team members become open to collaboration with one another - ideas start to flow.
Posted on Monday, August 15, 2016 4:25 PM Agile | Back to top

Comments on this post: Coaching Agile Teams - 12

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Learning these ideas is very important, since it will be a useful information for my project. - Steven Wyer
Left by Patricia Williams on Aug 29, 2016 4:40 AM

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