“You should not do Agile, You should be Agile”. This is the most used buzzword by agile coaches to promote agile values. After +10 years in the agile world, I think this is a wrong approach too.
Sometimes as an Agile coach, we are trying to sell our service, “We deliver agile coaching service to firms that help them to be Agile”.
Based on my experience, most agile transformation failed because we did not have the right direction. Setting “Doing Agile” or “Being Agile” as a goal is not a good objective for a change program.
This kind of change programs is buzzword centric. Agile mindset helped us to create “Customer-centric” products, but why we define a change program “buzzword-centric”? for example, “We want to implement OKR”, “We want to implement Scrum”, “We want to adopt agile”.
So, you will hire a buzzword-coach, Trainer and she will teach us how to do this. And people will show resistance against the buzzword.
Outcome-centric vs Buzzword-centric
A Customer-centric or Outcome-centric change program, see the change from lens of the customer and not service provider(Like agile coach). Let’s see an example.
Charles Revson, the founder of Revlon, said:
In the factory we make cosmetics; in the drugstore we sell hope.
Maybe as an agile consultant/trainer/coach, I want to sell my service to companies, but a company doesn’t want to be agile, they want to be able to do awesome things. We think agile will help them to reach the right competencies to do awesome things.
A customer-centric change program, will focus on the outcome and not just implementing different frameworks or practices or even values
Factful Agility Framework
I did not want to create another framework, I think we have enough frameworks. But based on my experience we have 2 main issues:
1- Most of the time an alone tool cannot solve our problems and in the real world we need to mix different tools.
2- There are lots of tools out there, and it makes it hard to choose them and mix them.
After working with +15 companies and +100 teams, I tried to create a container for these tools, That makes it easy to use them or choose them. I call this container “Factful Agility Framework”.
We used to dive into the agile frameworks and start to implement one of them and mostly scrum. But in the Factful Agility Framework, we start to explore, “Why our customer need to be agile?”
Start with “How we want things to be”
There are various reasons to be agile. We should help managers to find their own reason.
I created a game to help them to do it faster and easier. I called this game “Change JTBD(Jobs-to-be-done)”
1- Print or write the following cards on sticky notes: (You can add your own cards too)
2- Invite key stakeholders of the change program to a workshop.
3- Ask them to prioritize these cards based on current reality.
You can use dot voting for prioritization. Ask the group to cast their votes by placing a dot next to the items they feel the most strongly about. They may use stickers or markers to do this. As a rule of thumb, giving each participant five votes to cast works well.
Participants cast their votes all at once and they may vote more than once for a single item if they feel strongly about it. Once all the votes are cast, tally them, and if necessary make a list of the items by their new rank.
This prioritized list becomes the subject of discussion and decision making. In some cases, it may be useful to reflect on ideas that didn’t receive votes to verify that they haven’t been left behind without cause.
The result should be something like the below image:
4- Now categorize items by the Agile fluency model. Let’s map this card to agile fluency zones:
5- Explain the agile fluency model to workshop attendees. You can use this video too.
6- Select the right Target
The Important part of this game is selecting the right target. In our example, based on votes, the second zone, Delivering is a suitable target for us.
Similarly, while each zone has value, each zone also brings challenges. Investing in more than you need could incur organizational backlash, and could even poison people’s perception of agile ideas in general.
Think of fluency as a ride on a bus. When you get on a bus, you buy a ticket for the zone that you want to reach. A zone that’s further away isn’t inherently more valuable; it just costs more and takes longer to get to. Sometimes you’ll buy a bus ticket for the suburbs, because you want to go to a big box store. Sometimes you’ll buy a ticket for downtown, because you want to see a play. Neither is inherently better — it all depends on what you need that day.
7- Create a transformation poster
Now ask attendees to draw a poster with the following statements:
1- How things are today
2- Possible Solutions
3- How we want things to be (Use fluency model)
In this example, Agile fluency is a tool that helps you to set the right target.
8- Determine Key metrics
We need some lagging and leading metrics that show our progress against targets. These are quantitative targets.
We can create a dashboard to visualize these metrics during the exploit.
We don’t need tons of metrics, we just need a few ones that make quantitative targets more clear and measurable.
I mapped some of the popular metrics with agile fluency zones that you can use them:
Something like this:
Now we have a shared changed vision and a good reason for the change. It shows the direction.
In the next stories, I will share how to go the next steps, “Understand” and “Explore”.
Please leave a comment for this story as feedback, Is this useful for you or not? Why we should continue if it’s not valuable 🙂
About the Author:
Asad Safari is an Enterprise Lean/Agile Coach. He has worked as an Agile coach for more than 10 years with several enterprises and startups. He has more than 14 years of experience in the IT industry as a Software Developer, Tester, and finally an agile practitioner. You can follow Asad on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Omid is a WealthTech company based on A.I (artificial intelligence) that offers intelligent wealth management solutions to customers(B2B and B2C). When I was invited to join this company, they typically expected me to implement scrum, but based on my experience implementation of scrum should not be a goal. We need to answer this question, really why should we implement Scrum? Actually what problem does it want to solve by implementing Scrum? In many cases, we do all scrum ceremonies but our stakeholders (Managers, Developers, and customers) are not happy with the result!? We can call it Fake Agile.
How did we start the Omid agile transformation journey?
At the Omid, I tried to use the Agile Fluency Model to promote agility. This model describes how to enable your teams to produce the results you need and achieve the success they crave. The Agile Fluency model has three basic steps for agility(The Agile Fluency Improvement Cycle):
1- Discover opportunities
2. Diagnosing(Understand System)
3. Exploit opportunities.
First step: Discover opportunities
Generally, in this step, we tried to understand what the concern of the organization is. The word. What is the challenge facing the organization that thinks it needs a different approach?
About the Omid Company, we tried to discover the opportunity during the first week by talking to technical members, product managers, and senior executives. The important point here is that everybody will tell their story and viewpoint to you. As a coach, you need to understand what the underlying issues are. For example, if daily standups are not held on time, this may not be an underlying issue.
Let’s come back to Omid, Omid had made rapid growth in a short time, and in this growth stage, they developed many components and systems. But systems were so fragile and any changes in the system broke many things in other parts.
This fragility caused a lot of bugs and a high rate of bugs has slowed the development of new features. At the same time, it hurts the trust level to technical members, why it takes too long to develop a small feature? Why our team is so slow? Do we need to hire some experienced developers? This fade of the trust itself had also caused problems in human relations. Even the technical guys looked at each other and their ability with suspicion. (This guy is so slow and I think we need to fire him…)
Even more so, financial profits had reduced due to the lack of proper progress of the projects, and in some cases, bugs had caused many financial losses for the company.
This is a very important point that we find the main challenge and not simply involve in malady symptoms or signs. The manager might say that I must bring a new technical force, Scrum master might say that scrum meetings aren’t held properly and so on. In this case, the main challenge was so hidden for stakeholders. Managers thought their teams were so lazy, and development team members thought they had lots of unplanned issues during sprints and they need a process to handle unplanned works.
The identified opportunity in Omid
Improving the quality of the system to maximize customer satisfaction, stakeholders and especially team members.
While quality was our first challenge, at the same time it could also become an opportunity that led us to soar.
Fluency zone selection based on opportunity/challenge:
The Agile Fluency model is not a maturity model, usually, in a mature model the more is better, but in this model which we have four zones, each zone has its own benefits and costs. Each zone represents a fully-mature choice. Similarly, while each zone has value, each zone also brings challenges. Investing in more than you need could incur organizational backlash, and could even poison people’s perception of agile ideas in general.
Summary of the different fluency zones:
The Focusing zone represents agile fundamentals, and fluent teams provide noticeable benefits to transparency and teamwork. Although Focusing fluency doesn’t include sustainable technology practices, it’s a great way to demonstrate success and create buy-in for further investment. It’s also a good fit for teams, such as some digital agencies, that don’t maintain their software long-term.
For teams that need to modify and enhance their software for more than a few months, Delivering fluency is often a better choice. This zone represents agile sustainability. Delivering teams have low defects, high productivity, and are responsive to business requests. Fluency here is a valuable leap forward for most teams.
Organizations that wish to set the pace of change in their market, or who see the threat of market disruption on the horizon, will benefit from choosing the Optimizing zone. Optimizing represents the promise of agile: innovative business agility. Although it has dramatic payoffs, it also requires disruptive changes to organizational structure. Making those changes is often easiest in small, nimble organizations.
Leaders who want to innovate management theory and practice, particularly in small- to mid-size organizations, may find the Strengthening zone to be the best fit for their teams. This zone is a possible future of agile. Cutting-edge agile practice appears to be moving in that direction. However, be cautioned that this zone requires researching cutting-edge management theory and inventing new ways of working.
Based on the chosen opportunity/challenge for Omid, we targeted the second zone, Delivering, but we also had a look at the Optimizing area that if sustained, could be our future Target, but the main focus of the course was on the Delivering zone.
Why the Delivering zone selected?
The main metric of this area, as defined by the Fluency Agility model, is: “The team can release their latest work, at minimal risk and cost, whenever the business desires.” And the other benefit is “The team has low defect rates, so less time is wasted fixing bugs and more time is invested in making improvements” On the other hand, “Low defect rates and technical debt are beneficial to job satisfaction and morale, improving retention and productivity.”
Well, these items were exactly what we needed for the opportunity we had discovered. So based on this, the second zone was selected. Important point: The Delivering area is based on the Focusing zone. That means you should also be practicing this area along the path. Well in the first week we had discovered the opportunity, and we had chosen our target, now it’s time to conduct the Diagnostic.
Second step: Conduct the Diagnostic
Agile Fluency Diagnostic is a tool for facilitators of the Agile Fluency model. This tool will help you to determine the distance between you and the zone that you targeted or in simpler words, works like a GPS to determine where you are right now and what path to reach the chosen target.
The diagnosing of Omid teams were run in a workshop, and the results were prepared for the team and senior managers in a report. The most important function of this report is that management knows what to do to support the team on the journey, and the team itself knows how to take the path.
Third step: Exploit the opportunity
In the first step we selected our target, in the next step, we realized where we were and now it is time to move on and exploit the opportunities. This is actually the coaching phase for teams and managers.
For the first zone, we asked managers to provide the following things (the First zone was the basis of our original Target):
Create the right environment that focused on high efficiency (Especially team room.).
Make sure that someone with expertise in the business field and familiar with customer values is available and acts as the team’s business representative.
Try to overcome the obstacles of effective teamwork such as competitive rankings, individual rewards.
Train managers to create the right teamwork environment and instead of managing people, seek to manage work systems.
Managers did good cooperation in all cases, for example breaking teams into product teams was one of the things we did, or the product team members sat together at the common table, or the managers instead of tracking work’s progress from individuals, tried to ask the team. Finally, we breakdown our technical department to different 5 product teams.
At the team level, the team also started the scrum and kanban processes, sprint planning meetings, sprint review and retrospectives started. Physical boards and lots of scrum and kanban practices…
This zone was so great but was not enough for us. Unfortunately, many companies are stopping at this point, but this zone was not our targeted zone. The main target was the Delivering zone.
Most of the manager doesn’t have a problem with spending money, but one of the biggest investments the organization will make is time. We were so lucky that we had the support of the CEO, and he was willing to trust and made the investment. This investment meant a decrease in the team’s capacity to execute new futures for several months.
At the team level, a lot of work had to be done. The main thing was that some parts of the system had to be refactored, some parts had to be written from scratch, tests (different types had to be added to the system), but there’s a big trap here, Unlimited refactoring or over-engineering. To prevent this trap, we used a simple technique. We checked out over 100 recent bugs in the Jira. Bugs are usually good things to identify fragile components. Then, based on this evidence, we began to prepare a prioritized list of technical debts.
During sprints and based on priorities, teams started to refactor different parts and add different levels of automatic tests (unit or integration tests). Don’t forget this point, refactoring is not our goal, we should have known that this refactors would reduce bugs rate and increase the quality level? In simple words, if we couldn’t measure something, we couldn’t improve it. In the beginning, we added a bug report widget to our application that users and testers could report bugs, and these bugs were recorded automatically in Jira. The numbers in the first weeks were incredible, 30 to 45 bugs in a week.
The must crucial step in change process is to create a sense of urgency
When the first time development team members saw the above chart, it was unbelievable to them, “We really have so many bugs?” Sometimes you need to bring the real situation to the forefront to create an urgency sense, that’s all. We defined a challenge with the team, who wants to bet? Do you think we can decrease this number under four?
Team Challenge: 40 to four. Participate in this challenge 🙂
The number was visualized on a big TV in front of the teams. Now in each sprint and in any deployment, team looking to reduce that number. That means, the refactor was not because of the refactor or Uncle Bob said to write clean code, but it’s for improving quality and customer satisfaction.
Look at the impact of your work and go ahead with more power.
In this company, we had some internal users, that we called the traders, who use our application to increase the wealth of their customers. One of the interesting things we discovered was that we involved them in our daily standups. At the end of the daily standup meetings, we were calling one of them, and asking them two questions:
1. How many bugs did you record today?
2. In your opinion, the quality of the system is better than yesterday or not?
These questions let us knew our customer/user’s feelings about our application and at the same time it creates a really great empathy for developers. They are looking to make their customers happy with high-quality software, so any refactor or improvement should help us to reach this goal.
The initial list of technical debts was not a fixed list and was changing during sprints. But the result was incredible. In four months, the teams were able to bring this number down to almost below 4, it has also begun working on new features too.
Actually, our technical debts list did not just contain refactoring, but also there were other technical things too, such as adding microservice monitoring, adding health checks services, and documenting important parts of the system, and so on. Or other initiatives like separating the test environment from production or create a beta-customer environment. After observing the results and reducing the bug, human relationships also improved extremely.
What was a significant result?
As I said at the beginning, the problem with the company was not the use of scrum, what the company needed was a high-quality product that would make these:
1) Make adding features easy
2) Led to customer satisfaction
3) Developers are proud of the quality of their work.
Reported bug chart
Tangible results over five months for business:
1) Extremely reduced technical debt and the increase of the ability of the team to handle feature development
2) Increased a tangible level of trust between team members and leaders
3) Increased company profits due to the ability to attract and retain previous customers
Because my main beneficiary in this project was the CEO, I asked him to express their opinion on the outcome of the project in one sentence:
“You dear Asad did it well. A deep understanding of human relationships, rooting for issues rather than dealing with the foliage, continued presence in teams, and tremendous experience and understanding of the problems of teamwork in Iran, made the previous challenges that were in Omid disappeared completely. Thank you very much. “
What is the future of Omid?
Transformation is an endless journey that will have many ups and downs. Especially there is a great distance to the fluency point, so I was at the beginning of this journey with Omid’s guys and I hope this path will continue in the future by guys themselves.
-“How is it possible to better estimate sprint backlog issues?”
-“Why do you need a better estimation?”
-“You know, In the sprint planning meeting, the team fills the sprint with lots of issues, but in the middle or at the end of the sprint we have to remove lots of them from our sprint’s plan.”
-“With better estimations, Why do you think the same thing won’t happen again?”
All over the world, most software development teams are using Scrum. They have accepted it that software development is a complex thing. So something like waterfall not works in the complex domain, and you need a tool or method or practice to solve this complex problem.
Based on my experience, most of these teams are looking for a magical way to have an accurate plan for their sprints.
In this story, I would like to share my own experience with these teams and share Factful planning framework, a tool that helps you to have
better plannings and estimations.
The main problem is that we forgot the “Problem.” At the first level, we need to check some understood assumptions. Scrum (n): A framework within which people can address complex adaptive problems.
In theory, everybody has accepted that: First. Scrum is a framework, Second- A framework to address complex problems. However, in real-world, the people act with Scrum as a project management technique. The big problem with this idea is that they forget uncertainty.
In the complex domain, you need to accept uncertainty as a reality, and you can’t ignore it.
Is it possible to plan and estimate in this uncertain world? I suggest you “Factful planning framework.”
Determine the uncertainty level with uncertainty matrix
The first thing is that the uncertainty level of product backlog items is not the same. Any item has a different level. You can determine this level with uncertainty matrix.
Uncertainty matrix is a simple tool to help you to understand your backlog’s items uncertainty level. This matrix has two dimensions.
1- What: What we should do?
2- How: How we should do it?
Grab one of your product backlog items, and look at this issue, first think about “What” dimension. Answer the following question:
Do you(or your team) know what you should do for this issue?
1- Yes, We are sure about detail, and we need to do it
2- Yes, But we are not sure about the details.
3- No, details are unknown
After, “what” dimension, think about “How” aspect. Let’s answer this question:
Do you(or your team) know how to do it? 1- Yes, We are sure about to do it(We have already experience about it) 2- Yes, But we are not sure. 3- No, we need to test different things.
After that, you can choose uncertainty level for your backlog item, for example, 2–3, it means 2 in what dimension and 3 in How aspect.
Factful planning in the scrum events
Let’s think about this example; you have a high priority item with 3–3 uncertainty level. Because this item is a top priority, you select it as one of the current sprint backlog items in the sprint planning meeting, and you ask the team to estimate it.
How should the team estimate this unknown item with a high level of uncertainty? What is the value of estimation when it is wrong?
So, Uncertainty level will help you think about the main idea of Scrum again, “Address the complex problem.”
Factful sprint planning
The first idea is to do not select items with uncertainty level 3(What or How) to implement it in the current sprint. Try to choose items with uncertainty level of 1 or 2.
What about the third level of uncertainty?
Why should we not select them for current sprint? It’s impossible to estimate this kind of items. When you choose them as committed items to current sprint, our stakeholders will think, you need to finish them in this sprint, and this is part of your commitment.
Strategies for the third level of uncertainty
Answer this question: “What can we do in this sprint to create knowledge to decrease the uncertainty level of this item?”
With remembering the uncertainty, the team, instead of being committed to doing unknown issues, they will try to create knowledge and increase the certainty level.
Practices to increase certainty in “What” dimension:
1- Design Sprint
2- Talk with customer
3- Create MVF (Minimum valuable feature)
4- Take time to break down it and write acceptance criteria(like grooming meeting)
5- Functional Spikes
So, you are trying to increase the certainty level in what dimension. I met some teams that they don’t have any communication with their customers.
In some cases, just small talk with a customer can decrease the uncertainty level. Sometimes you need to create a prototype or some methods like design sprint. Sometimes you don’t have time to break down product backlog’s items or write acceptance criteria for them? Maybe you need grooming or refinement meetings.
Based on Agile Dictionary definition, Spike is a task aimed at answering a question or gathering information, rather than at producing a shippable product.
Sometimes a user story is generated that cannot be well estimated until the development team does some actual work to resolve a technical question or a design problem. The solution is to create a “spike,” which is some work whose purpose is to provide the answer or solution.
Functional Spike, This kind of spikes trying to answer a question in the functional aspect. Ex. “Do we need this button here or not?”. A functional spike can be something like that “Prototyping of asset management console.”
Practices to increase certainty in “How” dimension:
1- Technical Spike
Like functional Spike, This is a very simple program to explore potential solutions. For example, “Which library is good for SNMP scanning.”
This kind of spikes will help us to explore solutions and decrease uncertainty.
“What” vs. “How”
If you have an item with uncertainty level 3–3, What is your priority? Based on my experience, you need to start with “What,” Because “How” really depends on the requirement, and we need to determine our technology based on our requirements.
What about change?
Don’t make wrong; we can’t ignore the change. Uncertainty level can be changed over-time based our knowledge about business and technology. This practice is a simple tool to remind you about reality, “Uncertainty.” Instead of taking lots of time for an accurate plan or estimate, work hard to create knowledge at the right time.
Factful sprint review
One of the other practices of Factful planning is “Demo for.” Like the uncertainty level, you need to add a new property to your backlog’s items, “Demo for.” You need to determine at the end or during the sprint, Who should see the result of this item? Who should provide feedback to us?
In some cases and in real-world, items with uncertainty level 1–1, don’t need any specific feedback from the customer, and this can be accepted or rejected it by our product owner. But other items with higher uncertainty level needs real customer feedback.
You can not write a general thing as a demo for, like “somebody from marketing.” If you are building a feature for the internal inventory system, you need to write something like that “John, head of inventory and Sara inventory software user.”
Why “Demo for” practices?
1- sometimes, we have different items for different segments. With this practice, we know that we should get feedback from the right person.
2- Don’t waste your time to get feedback for some 1–1 item. (They will make our review meeting so dull)
3- You can send an invitation letter to them, to join you and make themselves available for you. They have time for preparation and set the meeting on their calendar.
4- You will not forget to get feedback.
Why do I call these practices Factful planning?
We need to learn to separate fact from fiction when forming our opinions. The organization can be both bad and better. Progress comes bit by bit, But without facts, our minds are occupied by feelings. This practice is part of my factful agility toolbox.
About the Author:
Asad Safari is an Enterprise Lean/Agile Coach. He has worked as an Agile coach for more than 7 years with several enterprises and startups. He has more than 14 years experience in the IT industry as a Software Developer, Tester, and finally an agile practitioner. You can follow Asad on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Asad Safari is an Enterprise Lean/Agile Coach. He works as an Agile coach for more than 7 years with several enterprises and startups. He has more than 14 years experience in the IT industry as a Software Developer, Tester, and finally an agile practitioner. You can follow Asad on Twitter and LinkedIn.
There are many arguments about estimating in an agile community. Do we need to use story points, man/hour, ideal man/day, or even #NoEstimation? Today most agile teams are trying to use the story points as the main unit for estimating.
What is the story point?
Story points are a unit of measure for expressing an estimate of the overall effort that will be required to fully implement a product backlog item or any other piece of work.
When we estimate with story points, we assign a point value to each item. The raw values we assign are unimportant. What matters are the relative values? A story that is assigned a 2 should be twice as much as a story that is assigned a 1. It should also be two-thirds of a story that is estimated as 3 story points.
But the main problem is how to assign a story point to an item? This is 5 story points, but how?
Planning poker is dead, Long live Planning Poker
Based on Mike Cohn’s article, Planning Poker is an agile estimating and planning technique that is consensus-based. Each estimator is holding a deck of Planning Poker cards with values like 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 20, 40 and 100. The values represent the number of story points.
The estimators discuss the feature, asking questions of the product owner as needed. When the feature has been fully discussed, each estimator privately selects one card to represent his or her estimate. All cards are then revealed at the same time.
The problem is exactly here. “Each estimator privately selects one card to represent his or her estimation”, But in the real world, estimators forget the relativity of points. In my experience, when somebody assigned a 2 story points to an item, He didn’t think to “Oh, It should be two-thirds of a story that is estimated as 3 story points”, Most of the time something goes like this “This is 1 hour for me and maybe 1 hour for front-end developer, so it’s 2 story points.”
As I experienced before, Planning Poker is not an effective technique to assign story points on backlog items, because most of the time development team forget the relativity of story points and story points are useless without relativity.
In the same time, planning poker is an effective planning technique because it helps the team to have a conversation about the story and user’s needs. In the conversation about the story, you will find a new idea or even change the story or….
However Planning is over Plans, Estimating is over Estimations.
Estimation board is a practice based on my experiences to improve the relativity problem of planning poker technique.
In this practice, you will just add a board (whiteboard or …) to your planning poker process. After estimating any item, you need to put it on your board. Make it visual and transparent.
Something like the following image:
Try to create columns for each category, like the following image:
Keep continue estimation and planning process and update your board:
After finishing estimation, let finalize estimates based on relativity. Let team members check one column each time. For example, there are 3 items in category 2. “Are they the same size?” If not, you can move items to other columns.
This is a simple visualizing practice, but this practice will help you to improve the relativity problem.
Keep relativity all over the project/product lifecycle
You can’t change your estimation touchstone in each sprint. You need to keep this relatively in all over project’s lifecycle. So, easily you can keep the first row of this board and use it in next sprints too. It will help the team to have balanced estimation during all over the sprints or releases.
Asad Safari is an Enterprise Lean/Agile Coach. He works as an Agile coach for more than 7 years with several enterprises and startups. He has more than 14 years experience in the IT industry as a Software Developer, Tester, and finally agile practitioner. You can follow Asad on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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 phenomenon, impostorism, fraud 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.
You can find my real card bellow without any additional description.
Title: Team don’t finish their committed works at end of the sprint
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.
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
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.
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.