5 Steps to avoid Imposter syndrome for Agile Coaches

“I have no idea what I’m doing?”

Have you experienced this feeling? As an Agile coach or Scrum master, you think that you are not valuable to your client/organization, and you don’t have a good feeling about your accomplishment. We call it “Imposter syndrome.”

I saw some tweets in the agile community, and this idea came to my mind that most of us have a common sense and we should talk about it.

Based on Wikipedia:

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenonimpostorismfraud syndrome or the impostor experience) is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. Individuals with impostorism incorrectly attribute their success to luck, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent than they perceive themselves to be.

Yes, It happened, It has happened to all of us. I’ve experienced it many times in my career.

When it comes to your mind, it makes you sad. Something like that “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

In this story I don’t want to explain imposter syndrome, I want to share my personal experience and some tested practices to solve this problem.

Several years ago, I started my journey as an agile coach in a big company. They hired me to make them agile. They had more than five development teams. We began our journey with observation and assessment phase. After that, we did training and different workshops for teams. Everything looked good for several months; you do training, guys come to you and ask about questions and recommendations, you have a good feeling, you do tangible things that are appreciated for everybody…

After some time, teams are doing their business as usual. You need to follow them, and you ask them to do some practices, but most of the time they are busy with their affairs. I fell to thinking the question that am I helpful here anymore.

Why did it happen?

It’s about factfulness. We are helping the organization, but we don’t have enough facts to show ourselves. Organizations always have some new problems, and it triggers the feeling that the organization’s performance is worse than the past.

I recommend to read the book “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think” book by Hans Rosling. In this book, Rosling suggests the vast majority of human beings are wrong about the state of the world. We need to learn to separate fact from fiction when forming our opinions.

The world can be both bad and better. Progress comes bit by bit, But without facts, our minds are occupied by feelings.

So, as an agile coach we need to be factfulness about our work and organization, but how?

Practical Factfulness for Agile Coaches

1- Focus on one or two teams

Don’t try to make all over of the organization be agile in the first try. As an agile coach, you have capacity. For larger organizations, we may need to have more than one coach.

In my case, I have focused just on two teams at the same time. Some guys said it’s a kind of sub-optimizing, and don’t do that, but it’s about focus..

2- Find three main issues or problems

Before any act or recommendation of any solution, try to find their main concerns. Why are they looking for a new way? What are they looking for agility? What has stopped them from doing a great job?

In my case, one of teams has several significant problems, but their main problem was that “The team don’t finish and deliver their committed works at the end of the sprint,” and it made their managers worried and created a cultural mistrust and … .

3- Create a coaching card

I got this idea from agile42 and I have designed a coaching canvas. It can help you to frame the problem and try to be factful.

Don’t be worry, be factful 🙂

Coaching Canvas

Download Coaching Canvas File.

You can find my real card bellow without any additional description.

Title: Team don’t finish their committed works at end of the sprint

Context:

At the end of the sprint, most items are not complete, and QA doesn’t have enough time to test everything, because most things are done in the last days of the sprint.

While a lot of work remains, some team members cannot do anything.

Hypotheses:

We think we can solve this problem with the following:

1- Decreasing team size to 5 people

2- Better user story breakdown -> Small user stories

3- Better planning meetings and Effective daily standups

4- Visualize release count per sprint on team’s board

Goal:

The goal is to make the team able to publish multiple releases during a sprint and complete the most committed issues at the end of the sprint.

Metrics:

1- More than two releases to production in each sprint

2- Completing ~70% of committed issues

3- Not changing the length of the sprint

Metrics are so important here because they will assist us with factfulness. The recommendation is to set the metrics immediately after we have agreed on a goal, not after defining the steps. We need to make metrics clear and actionable. To say that “progress has been updated regularly” is a good beginning, but in itself, it’s not enough.

You can create this cards yourself or create it by the team. But please put indicators where the team can see it every day.

4- Share and create an agreement on coaching card with your main stakeholder

It’s a secret sauce. Somebody in the organization has hired you. Maybe she is a CTO, CPO, and CEO or…. most of them are busy guys, and after a while, they will forget what you are doing there, and they will say, why are not we agile yet?

In my case, she was CPO. She was a busy person, and I’ve needed to follow her up for finding free time.

You need to create an agreement with them on your coaching cards. Share coaching cards with them, ask them to check cards and metrics. Will they be happy if the team achieves these results? Get their idea and create an agreement with them.

5- Review results with stakeholders and teams

In each period, maybe monthly or quarterly, review results with primary stakeholders and team members. You can do it in a retrospective meeting or any other meeting.

This will help you to see your work’s results and maybe get appreciation from your stakeholders. As an agile coach, we need this kind of acknowledgments.

Link on medium

By: Asad Safari 🙂

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