Saturday, June 29, 2013

Thought around a new society

Two notes of caution before I start:
1.      This post has nothing to do with Scrum, It does, however, have a lot to do with agile coaching. (well… more on the coaching part of it)
2.      All notes here are purely subjective, and are meant mainly as reminders to my future self, your experience may prove the exact opposite :)

This post is written in the train, getting back from an awesome coach retreat in Nantes, while listening to John Cale and trying to record what I learnt, click…

At the end of the day, Irene posed me back a question I asked her the day before – what do you take from today and start applying tomorrow?
-        The answer became clear just when I started answering, and it is even clearer now when John Cale’s “music for a new society” fills my ears and heart:

Note #1 - Check in and take an emotional step back, don’t mix between acute listening (with strong empathy) and emotional involvement.

The event consisted of four (fictional) coaching sessions, each with one person (call her the customer) having a problem (always the same problem) in her agile implementation, two coaches, and three to four observers, and we practiced four different ‘techniques’. I played a coach twice, an observer once and a customer once.

Note #2 – As an observer, you see very clearly the coach-customer relationship and dynamics, as a customer, you see quite clearly the problem (at least part of it), but as a coach you are in total darkness, and along with it comes the responsibility to arrive to a result in a small interval, hence to let the customer leave in a better position that she started with (be it a clearer vision, an action-plan, or a decision (this is why note #1 is so important))

Note #3 – the power of silence: I wrote about it already, but I received feedback on this today, and my (current) conclusion is that it is extremely powerful. when the customer says something strong, states a powerful insight, your natural tendency is to affirm it, say “great!”, restate it, explain it, but saying nothing and absorbing the discomfort of you two (three in today’s case) proved to be extremely effective (as a feedback from both observers and customer). HOWEVER, since it puts the customer in a strong state of discomfort, use it only if the customer trusts you!! otherwise the discomfort will be used to sabotage the relationship.

While I played the customer, during the improvisation of the scenario, I started feeling the stress of my (fictional) situation very clearly.
 my coach did not propose any solution, but ‘just’ walked me thru a clear vision of the project, and suddenly I saw in a flash all of the project’s situation like an epiphany, (the problems of unclear requirements given to dev by the PO, of mistrust by dev, of disappointment by the PO, they are all due to mistrust, to the inability to accept imperfection in the other side, which is caused by a strong pressure from top management, and the solution is to take the dev and product team, and share this insight, so they understand what I (the fictional I) see. )
If the solution I came up with was proposed by the coach, I would have treated it as a shallow one from someone who doesn't know the complexity of the situation.
Coming from me, it seemed extremely powerful, hence

Note #4 – it is waaay better to give way to the customer to see the problem than to propose a solution.

I'm sure there is more, but this alone was well worth it for me!

Many thanks to everyone involved! Was a delight!