XP2016 – Katherine Kirk – Herding Cats: Coaching Techs and Execs

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One of the best talks at XP2016 was from Katherine Kirk @kkirk. If you happen to be at a conference where she is speaking make sure you attend!! Katherine was one of the most engaging and entertaining speakers I’ve seen for a long time.

Insight Facilitation


In Katherine’s talk she introduced us to the concept of Insight Facilitation. Katherine talked about the importance of enabling people to figure out their own solutions in complex adaptive situations. Often “Agile Coaching” is about Process Education. This might appear to have some early success but once the big problems happen the teams are unable to adapt to the changing world around them. Through Insight Facilitation we want to empower people to handle these situations on their own.

It isn’t easy

As Coaches we can often fall into dysfunctions which can be damaging for the people within our organisations. Katherine talked about 3 common dysfunctions:

  1. Comforter“Trying to make people happy”
  2. Controller“Being the person who always knows best”
  3. Coercer “Leading the witness to your conclusions rather than their own”

These dysfunctions can lead to the following problems:

The Journey

Taking a Coaching approach can lead to interesting reactions from people. Katherine gave an example of an executive who joined a new company and during the early months people would come to his office asking for advice on how to solve problems, his response: “What do you think you need to do?” The simple act of asking this question was promoting empowerment of the individual and ownership.

This example made me think of a book I’ve been reading recently which is all about asking powerful questions; “The Coaching Habit: Say less , Ask More & Change the way you lead forever“. In particular the  book talks about the‘AWE’ question which is incredibly powerful to help explore other possibilities. AWE = And What Else?

Katherine also shared the different reactions she has seen and the journey people take through Coaching which I thought summed it nicely:

Excellent talk and great learning points about Coaching.

Thank You Katherine!


Some of my other posts from XP2016 are here:


 

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XP2016 – Day 1 – XP at Scale – Elisabeth Hendrickson

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Some notes from the opening Keynote at XP2016 from Elisabeth Hendrickson.

Some Principles at Pivotal:

  • Separate what & how
  • Sustainable Pace
  • Automate
  • Ensure fast feedback
  • Team Own Quality
  • Reflect, Adapt, Experiment

Pairing is really important. Do it as part of your recruitment.

Scaling problems are highlighted in the analogy “Tragedy of the Commons”

“Without intervention work rolls down hill!” Sometimes teams need to help and guidance.

Why isn’t XP practiced widely?

Some more Pivotal Principles…..

  • Use Conyway’s law to your advantage
  • Teams own things
  • Team that owns that thing tests that thing
  • Relentless feedback cycles
  • Increase Empathy
  • Collaborate, reduce Hand Offs

Empathy is our advantage….

“Don’t do it for me, do it WITH me”

If Field engineers encounter problems they are encouraged to pair with the team to get it resolved. Pair all the time with everyone!

Some new techniques Pivotal have applied……

  • Big team standup
  • Cross team retros
  • Allocations/Rotations
  • Cross Team Pairing
  • Regular Exploratory Testing

Some new roles at Pivotal…

  • Engineering Director / Leadership Liaison
  • Product Director
  • Product Manager

Closing comment…

Excellent Keynote!

I will be blogging throughout the conference. You can check out my previous post about Dan North’s workshop here

XP 2016 – Dan North – Software Faster

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Today I attended Dan North’s @tastapod Workshop “Software Faster” at XP2016.

Here are a few things I learnt:

Learning #1

What is the goal of agile? Predictability

Learning #2

5 Steps in an Organisatonal Change journey:

  1. People Break
  2. Tools Break
  3. Governance Breaks
  4. Money Breaks
  5. Organisation Breaks


Typically alot of Agile Transformations focus on stages 1 and 2. They struggle to move to stages 3, 4 & 5. Often there is a conflict between people at each stage. In many cases stages 3, 4 & 5 are controlled by the “Frozen Middle”; Middle Management. Real breakthroughs only occur once issues are tackled at the later stages. Dans tip to change these stages is to “Use the system to change the system”

More: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Agile-Adoption-Patterns-Roadmap-Organizational/dp/0321514521

Learning #3

Marginal Gains will focus on optimising the existing system. For example if we focus on a 10% improvement we won’t rip up the rule book. For example, people might just starting working longer hours or doing over time. However if we focus on a 50% or higher improvement it will often make us think more fundamentally about our currently processes.

Learning #4

The point of Agile is not to create Software, it is a tool to deliver business capability.

Learning #5

The Goal of software is to:

“Minimise lead time to Business Impact.”

Lead time defined as:

“Having a need to having a need met”

It is easy to improve Lead time once or twice in isolation but it’s really hard to increase lead time “Sustainably”

When does the lead time clock start? As soon as you make a commitment to the person who requested it.

Can you measure lead time if you cannot measure business impact? No.

The big challenge is that measuring business impact is hard! Often teams use proxies such as Story Points rather than genuine impact: Number of users, Profit etc.

If you just focus on Lead Time it will lead to local optimisations.

More: https://dannorth.net/2013/07/05/are-we-nearly-there-yet/

Learning #6

Definition of a stakeholder: “People who’s lives you touch”

Learning #7

A good facilitation technique is to use the analogy of travelling between islands to explain the days agenda.

“Today we will start on Organisation Island, the swim across to Legacy Land, then drive to Core City and finish at the Planning Plateau.”

Learning #8

Three Ages Model can be used to explore where an organisation is:

Age 1 = Explore

Age 2 = Stabalise

Age 3 = Commoditisation


Often Organizations will misuse the ages. For example: try to commoditise testing by offshoring when it is an inherently exploratory activity.

More: https://www.slideshare.net/mobile/AdrianTreacy/dan-north-embracinguncertaintyv3

Leaning #9

PARC Model


More: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Modern-Firm-Organizational-Performance-Management/dp/0198293755

Learning #10

Apply “training from the back of the room” Encourage the attendees to teach each other. Example: In the next 3 minutes put together a pitch to explain what the PARC model is. At the end you will present this to another group”

Here is a group teaching each other:


More: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0787996629/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_rshrxbDSR808Y

Learning #11

Value Stream Mapping Tips:

  • It’s easy
  • Get the real people who do the process involved
  • Don’t worry about rounding numbers
  • Make it viable

“Become less efficient to improve flow. Introduce sub optimisation.”

More: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1935401009/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_6HhrxbNF4G6C6

Learning #12

Focus on reduction of Value at Risk(VAR) by working incrementally.

More: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_at_risk

Learning #13

Dan finished the session playing a game called Taboo. Each person had to create a taboo card and then we played the game in groups.

This was an excellent way to reinforce the learning. Also another great example of “Training from the back of the room”

More: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taboo_(game)

Thanks Dan for a great day. Now onto post workshop drinks!