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Coaching, Coding and Learning By George Evjen
Book Notes from 'Coaching Agile Teams' By Lyssa Adkins


Coaching Product Owners on Running their Business

  • Agile frameworks teach us to harp on business value delivered.
  • We hold business value delivered as the one and only measure of progress and value.
  • Product owners need short term goals to act as a stepping stone toward business value.
  • Business value micro-definitions.
    • Goals on the ground level that determine where the product owner points the team - sprint after sprint
    • Expresses the next critical business objective we must achieve on the way to creating the whole product.
    • When prioritizing the product backlog - the items that support the micro-definition rise to the top of the list.
    • Require product owners to k now the business value micro-definitions at all times.
    • Help them recognize when they are about to make a short-term tradeoff decision that compromises their ability to get what they want in the long term.
    • You don’t have to do the product owners job - you just need to use your impediment resolving responsibility to get them what they need.


Gaming the Business Value System

  • Product owners prioritize the product backlog
  • Weighs many things to figure out the priority - only one of which is business value to the company.
    • Who the product owner promised a feature to
    • Product owners personal performance evaluation
    • Which features the product owner has been attached to
    • Which external groups are ready
    • Which external groups are resistant to working with team
    • Hard dependencies
  • Somewhere lurking at the bottom - is business value.
  • You job is to get business value to the top of the list.
  • Backlog - two passes in prioritization
    • First pass - instruct product owner to order only by business value.
    • Second pass - let impediments in - invite the team to join in.
    • Anything else - falls through into category of 'we'd like to help you but…'


Coaching Product Owners on Being a Good Product Owner for the Team

  • When I am asked to help agile teams figure out what is wrong with them - I often notice that the agile coach and product owner roles are jumbled up..
  • When the agile coach fills the void left by an absent product owner
  • An agile coach cannot make up for an absent or poor product owner by filling in the gaps.
  • If the agile coach remains on the hot seat for a schedule and budget information. - easy trap to fall into.
  • Don’t take the hot seat with you into the agile world.
  • These are not your questions.
    • Why the team will not deliver a certain feature.
    • Whats coming next
    • How and where is money being spent
    • These are product owner questions
  • Everything related to the direction, schedule and budget of the product falls into the product owners job.
    • The product owner makes the business decisions that impact these aspects of the product.
  • A whole host of team problems can be remedied by teaching the roles of the agile coach and the product owner.
  • As an agile coach - make sure the product owner knows how to prioritize the backlog and when to have it done.
  • If you step in to cover the product owner by preparing the backlog - the results will be disastrous
  • No choice but to guess how to prioritize the backlog - and you will be wrong.
  • Teach the role, coach the role, and ask the team to expect the product owner to uphold the role.


Coaching Product Owners on Getting Good at the Role

  • Being a good product owner means more than fulfilling the role definition, grooming the backlog, working with the team and working with everyone else to create a profitable vision of the product.
    • By attention to the way you do these things
  • When pressure rises and expectations become unrealistic, the team must recognize it and raise the situation as an impediment.
  • As the coach - be prepared to clash with a product owner when his stress behavior kicks into gear.
    • Move from schedule-driven to business value driven thinking
      • Most product owners have probably been conditioned to demand dates and features.
      • Transition from schedule driven to business value driven
      • Teach the product owner to slice product features into thin slivers of value
    • Cultivate business value driven thinking in all interactions
      • The business value driven mind set works not just for prioritizing the product backlog and slicing it into profitable releases.
      • Agile framework puts teams under significate pressure to build something of value and quality in a matter of weeks
      • Time feels precious to a healthy agile team.
    • Be of one mind with the sponsor
      • The product owner and product sponsor must be so completely synchronized on the current and future direction of the product
      • When these two get off track with one another, the team and the product often suffer.
    • Ask for more (or less) rather than micromanaging
      • Alarm goes off in your head - when the product owner thinks she needs to get into the details of how the team members are performing the work
      • The product owners best control comes from how much - she asks the team to do, not how they are doing.
      • Stay out of the details in the meantime.
    • Hold the team to their commitments
      • No one ever said a product owner should 'make nice' all the time.
      • When the team members fail to meet commitments they set for the team and the product owner feels disappointed.
    • Leverage critical moments.
      • Having a vision for the product and a well-groomed product backlog helps the product owner convey the direction.
      • Coach the product owner to be with the team to answer questions or make trade-off decisions in the moment.
  • Create no-nonsense communication and prize honest.
  • Be allies in the cause of helping the team create astonishing results.


Coaching Agile Coaches

  • Taking on an agile coach apprentice can be a great opportunity for your own growth.
  • No better way exists to deepen your coaching skills than to teach them to someone else.
  • A useful framework for coaching other coaches - three parts
    • Exploratory
    • Apprentice
    • Coach
  • Three months good time frame for apprenticing a new agile coach to independence.
  • First month:
    • Perform the role and debrief your actions with apprentice
  • Second Month:
    • Start turning over agile events to the apprentice coach
    • By end of the month coach has become the teams primary coach and you are now advisor.
    • Provide helpful tips and insights so that their voice can come through.
    • Comparing notes rather than giving notes.


Coaching Agile Managers

  • Coach agile managers in three fundamental areas to adopt agile mind-sets and behaviors
    • Managing Teams :
      • Intersection between a team's self-organization and the manager's leadership intelligence.
    • Managing Investments:
      • More focused on what is the best investment now..
      • The agile mind-set regarding managing investments is 'what is the best investment now'
    • Managing the environment
      • About helping the organization think 'lean'
      • When agile teams begin operating with newfound speed and agility, the rest of the organization tends to slow them down.
  • How do you coach agile managers
    • Train them to know their role, let them know which behaviors will be useful and hurtful to the team
    • And when their actions will have a positive impact
    • Most managers got where they are because they are good at solving problems,
      • This often means doing things for the team or to the team
    • Agile enacts a natural cycle in which the team plans, works hard, produces a real product
      • Then looks back to improve the way they work.
      • The natural time for problems to come up and get resolved are built in.
    • The wisdom you teach agile managers, because you are learning it yourself, is to take it to the team.
    • Above all - do not let managers 'fix' team problems from the outside.


The Sponsor is a Special Kind of Manager

  • Has the same role as any other agile manager and can be coached just like any other manager.
  • Let the sponsor know that she can get the results she wants by working with the product owner on all things and remaining aligned with the product owner at all times.
  • Coach the sponsor to serve the team.
    • Articulate the vision from their point of view.
      • When the sponsor tells the team why the product is important to the company and the outside world - the magic really gets going.
    • Be Present and attentive in the sprint reviews
      • Hearing this from the 'higher-ups' every once in a while helps them know that their efforts are worth it.
    • Talk about business trade-offs and managing expectations
      • Coach the sponsor to know that almost everything they bring up with the team falls into one of two categories
        • Business trade-offs or managing expectations.
      • Sponsors talk to the team revolves around how he and the product owner - together are managing peoples expectations outside the team.
    • Hold the team accountable.
      • Hold team accountable to what they said they would do.
  • The sponsor learns to support the team, the team produces more and better and the sponsor gets more - everyone wins.


A Refresher

  • Coaching happens at the individual level and the whole team level all the time.
  • Coaching in the agile context = coaching + agile mentoring
    • Interested in peoples whole lives.
  • Start coaching conversations with people immediately.
  • A good product owner makes for a healthy agile team.
    • Coach this person well.
  • Teach someone else how to coach to strengthen your own skills and knowledge
  • Managers impact team performance
  • Sponsors are a special kind of manager and require coaching.
    • Learn how to get more than they imagined they could from self-organizing teams.
Posted on Sunday, July 31, 2016 8:36 AM Agile | Back to top

Comments on this post: Coaching Agile Teams - 6

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Learning the proper ways to coach is very important since, you are giving and sharing your knowledge to other people. - Marla Ahlgrimm
Left by Greg Rutherford on Sep 05, 2016 2:19 AM

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