Compassion

Lately, I’ve been thinking a good deal about how Agile teams are able to deliver value.  I believe that a common trait shared by teams who skillfully deliver value is a shared vision centered around compassion for their users.

Teams who consistently can design, implement and test to deliver frequent and highly valuable products to their customers are connected to their users. Not just in the sense that they are able to interact and communicate with them, but in the sense that they clearly understand the user’s problems.

Understanding their problems means that everyone on the team…

…can clearly articulate the problem their work is attempting to solve. The whole team understands the rationale behind the solution they are implementing.
…understands the value of solving this problem. They understand why they are solving one problem over another.
…can identify with this problem and is empowered to do something about it. The team has a “two brains are better than one” approach to problem solving in general.

These compassionate teams understand that everyone on the team is working hard to solve these important problems for their users. It is this shared compassion that gives their work a sense of purpose and urgency. It is the fuel that keeps them focused every day.

True Leaders of Change

“Who’s the more foolish, the fool or the fool who follows him?” – Obi-Wan

One of the strengths of any Agile team is how easily the team can collectively embrace change. Conversely, this can be also our biggest challenge to remaining Agile.

In order to truly collectively embrace change, the whole team needs to opt-in.  This can be a rather daunting task for Agile leaders out there to facilitate. But there is something delightfully simple that I would like for us to consider.  For this, I’d like to invite you to watch this brief talk from Derek Sivers ( https://sivers.org ):

https://sivers.org/ff

Agile coaches out there will no doubt identify with being the “lone nut”. I certainly do. But until I had seen Derek’s talk, I don’t think that I had truly appreciated the importance of that “first follower”. These early adopters are the people who..

…acknowledge when you are making sense. They are engaged listeners.

…raise concerns when you aren’t making sense. They are competent thinkers and have the respect and courage to speak up when they feel it will add value.

…try your ideas and add to them. They are true collaborators.

As Derek points out in the video, these first followers make room for change and transformation in others. They make change possible for the rest of the team. Sadly, as Agile leaders it’s all too easy for us to focus on those who won’t join in the movement… in fact, we can spend a lot of energy trying to support and help those who may never “get up and dance”. So much so, that we risk taking for granted those first followers who do have the courage to meaningfully lead change on the team.

After all, it’s worthwhile remembering, Obi-Wan wasn’t the real hero of the story.

Standup Is About Commitment, Not About “Giving Status” – The Story Continues…

In honour of Coaching Agile Teams (@CoachAgileTeams) generous cross post of my tiny blog, I thought that it would be worth putting together a follow-up to the original post Standup Is About Commitment, Not About “Giving Status”.

As you can well imagine, the story for my team didn’t end with reformulating the Standup as a commitment based meeting.  Here’s a sampling of some of some changes we’ve made to this meeting that have helped to keep us accountable…

1. We renamed “Standup” to “Team Commitment Checkpoint”.  Which sounds trivial, but it helped us to reconnect with the idea of commitment on a daily basis.

2. We mixed up the order of “who speaks next” and even allowed for “anyone to speak first”.  Previously, we would stand in a circle and take turns. Starting with the person next to the “highest ranking leader” and ending with this “highest ranking leader”. We used different techniques for this… from tossing a ball around to clapping and pointing to calling out the next person’s name. At first the team felt a bit self conscious and silly doing this but something interesting emerged from this simple self-organizing technique. It helped to create a shift in focus. One day, people stopped “talking to the leader” and started “talking to each other”.

3. We challenged our engaged listening skills with an exercise. First we would go through each person’s commitment(s) for the day, then we would go through the whole process again; in the same order, only this time we would verbalize the commitment of the person who spoke before us. Initially this created some stress on the team but, as we worked through the exercise together, we learned to relax and work together to remember what everyone committed to for the day.

4. We are currently in the process of connecting with what makes a “good commitment” and are aiming to develop a few protocol checks to ensure that we are all making “good commitments” on a daily basis. Maybe there’s a future blog post in that… stay tuned.

One more thing…  every day during Team Commitment Checkpoint (or TCC as we have come to call it), I make a point of sharing an “Agile Moment” with the team.  Often these are small quotes or “aha-moments” that I have had as I connect with the Agile community around the world on a daily basis.

Initially I was pleasantly surprised to note that the team seemed to appreciate these small gifts from the world of Agile… getting a few nods and the odd: “Nice”.  As time went on, I even got a few questions and the occasional: “I’d like to talk about that some more after this meeting”. Then, one day, I received the biggest gift of all from a team mate: “You know, I’m trying to put the Agile Moment you gave yesterday into practice…”

And so in turn, to the Agile community out there around the world and to my wonderful fellow team mates…   thank you for being such a source of inspiration and for helping to put these Agile moments into practice 🙂