Being an Agile Warrior

Photo by Ty Crockett

Photo by Ty Crockett

A few years ago, I heard a manager talking about the interview he went through for his current role. In it, the interviewer asked how he felt about agile. He replied that he’s an “agile warrior.”

As I listened to him, this silly image of a samurai-like warrior appeared in my head. Agile warrior? Not quite.

To be a warrior means to be your true self in the face of difficulty and for the sake of something bigger than personal ego. A person who knows that the world is a hunting ground and everyone is an ally. A person who lives in “lions roar” knowing that there is a wisdom aspect to all and everything.
— CRR Global glossary

Eventually I decided to start a coaching circle at Improving, and I wanted to name the group. The word “warrior” kept popping up in different contexts for me. A fellow coach and CTI student suggested that I read The Four-Fold Way. The description of the warrior archetype shifted my understanding. An agile warrior has a strong ability to show up, be visible, and empower others through example and intention. Our coaching circle was named the Agile Warriors, and we explored topics that would make us stronger agilists and developed skills that made us better warriors.

Not long after, Vic Bonacci asked me to contribute a topic to his Agile Coaching Cards kickstarter. My friend Ty recently came across my card during a visit to St. Paul, Minnesota and sent me the photo. What would it mean for you to become an agile warrior rather than a worrier?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

The Importance of Vision Statements

Photo by Phil

Photo by Phil

There’s lots of advice out there about creating vision statements or defining a purpose—at least five articles appeared in my blog feed on the topic in the last 2 months. A strong vision statement resonates with people, aligning them in creating a future that would not otherwise exist. Vision statements start with the goal of inspiring others. They create a sense of purpose for people to rally around.

Personally, I like vision statements that capture the aspirational sense of what could be possible. There’s a dream-like quality to the vision, and sharing it with people evokes a response; an energetic bond is formed through the vision. The visionary inspires the vision-runner to make it a reality. A shared purpose or goal is established.

The best thing a Product Owner can do to truly take ownership and inspire others is to establish and communicate a clear vision for the Product. Why are we building it? Whose lives will be improved by it?
— Don McGreal

One source suggested then making the vision concrete. Elaborating more details about what reality would be like if the vision is achieved. While I appreciate making the vision more vivid, I’ve found that shorter is better when it comes to documenting it—an elevator statement is easy for people to remember and expand upon. A few go on to add measurable goals to the vision—to make it more real. In my experience, people can get tripped up on the measurements and struggle to remember the vision itself with such specifics defined. And the other elements of the vision—the captivating essence and the dream of what can be—may be lost.

Connecting the vision with the audience is key. I’ve witnessed leaders communicate their vision and listeners become confused or lose interest right away. Using language that people understand—putting the vision in real words rather than lingo or jargon—can make it more attractive. It’s the storytelling of a vision that ultimately matters most.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Be a Little Bolder Today

Photo by DAT Space

Photo by DAT Space

What would you do if you could not fail?

Your answer may reveal something about your purpose, your strengths, and your wildest hopes. Yet too often we let fear drive our actions. After all, the status quo is hard to change. Most organizational change efforts fail--articles and presentations remind us of this continually. The odds are against us.

And yet we persist.

Dreamers, futurists, believers, builders--people who see an alternative to the current reality--continue to shift the world by connecting to their purpose, using their strengths, and sharing their wildest hopes. What would you like to do today?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Noticing Appreciation Languages at Work

Photo by brian.abeling

Photo by brian.abeling

“Thank you for indulging my recognition.”

I laughed when I saw that text pop-up on my phone. After all, how often does someone recognize and then acknowledge that they expressed appreciation in a way that doesn’t match how you like to receive it? Let’s look at the complicated chain of events happening there:

  1. You did something (because you’re awesome like that)
  2. Person saw what you did and wanted to show appreciation (because they’re a great leader like that)
  3. Person expressed appreciation in the way that felt most genuine to them (+1 for authenticity!)
  4. You realized what they were doing and knew it was an appreciative act even though it didn’t resonate with you (+1 for appreciation awareness)
  5. Person remembered that you prefer a different form of appreciation and sent a message (+1 for relationship awareness)

Many employees feel underappreciated at work. That means step 1 takes place and the other steps might not happen. Actually, it’s possible that steps 2 and 3 occur but due to the appreciation language mismatch, you didn’t realize you were being appreciated. Oh no!

Gifts, words, physical touch, acts of service, quality time—what types of appreciation do you see in your workplace?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Making Dreams Come True

Photo by Allison Pollard

Photo by Allison Pollard

Montreal. I knew I’d have only one day to visit this year as I continued my journey to Cornwall for Agile Coach Camp Canada. After researching things to do and see, I moved on to looking for places to eat. And came across a description of a patisserie that sounded amazing. Intrigued, I looked at their website and fell in love when I read their history page:

MAISON CHRISTIAN FAURE FIRMLY BELIEVES IN THIS QUOTE FROM ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY:
MAKE LIFE A DREAM, AND THIS DREAM, A REALITY.

My intention for 2018 is to dream bigger, so I knew immediately that I had to check this place out in person.

I walked the streets of Old Montreal and found the patisserie. It was almost closing time. I was the only customer. Six macarons to go. I walked outside, sat down near the Pointe-à-Callière Museum, admired the view of the St. Lawrence River, and took a bite of the praline macaron. It was incredible. The only thing in that moment was me enjoying a macaron in the lovely June weather. It was so good that I wanted to share the experience with someone, and I came very close to ordering macarons online and having them shipped to a friend in Texas.

I put down my phone and took another bite of macaron. The texture was perfection in the calm breeze. I smiled. I snapped a photo and tried to text it to a friend before heading off towards my hotel. A patisserie and a quote from Saint-Exupery – what a match!

Any coworkers reading this are probably laughing now because they are well-aware that I am a gift giver. Of course I would be tempted to ship desserts to Texas from Canada because I enjoyed a bite of one! Many a sweet treat has arrived in our office (and a few in our other offices), courtesy of me. It’s my way of prompting mini-celebrations to happen. I think of it as one of my superpowers: the ability to have an amazing thing delivered that sparks happiness throughout a team. A superpower that people really love.

There’s a great ice cream place in Plano—Henry’s Ice Cream—and a coworker mentioned that he thought it would be fun to have them cater an event in our office. He’d shared this idea in the past with others but nothing ever happened. When I heard it, I shared the wisdom of my superpower. And a nudge to do it. He made it come true and surprised the office with the ice cream party he’d been imagining for so long. Another person with the superpower to deliver amazing things that spark happiness!

Imagine if you set a goal just for one day to make life a dream for your team or organization. Envision the bliss across everyone’s faces. See their joy in knowing someone thought of them and their delight as all other concerns cease. Feel the smiles radiating outward as they savor the moment.

You can have that effect on people.

An unexpected kindness. A token of appreciation. An experience to be enjoyed.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Game to Try - Change!

Photo by David Holt

Photo by David Holt

I used a game that I learned from Don McGreal in my lightning talk at Agile Dev West, and I wanted to share it. It’s simple to run and can be done in 5 minutes, which was precisely why I chose it.

This game can be used with groups of any size and is best used when people have been sitting comfortably in their chairs as participants will be asked to change where they are sitting.

Facilitator instructions:

  • Ask group to notice who is sitting to their left and right.  They cannot sit next to those individuals.
  • People must move at least 2 seats/1 row/1 table (choose based on your setup) away from where they are currently

Possible discussion questions:

  • What was it like to change seats?
  • Who did not change seats? Why not?
  • What made it easy to change?
  • What would make it better if we were going to do this activity again later?

Moving to a different seat is a simple change, and yet this activity helps provide insights from the experience into the feelings and emotions of change. The beauty of this game to me is that the debrief can be taken in different directions by the facilitator to highlight the needs of individuals for change, share ideas for group change efforts, and reinforce the change capability of a group.

Try it with your teams and let me know how it goes in the comments.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

The Hidden Truth about DISC

Image by Jessica Wilson

Image by Jessica Wilson

DISC is a simple model that describes four behavior traits: dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance. The simplicity makes it easy to introduce and use in short workshops, which is why Barry and I incorporated it into our Brewing Great Agile Team Dynamics presentation.

We found ourselves answering questions and talking more about DISC after our Keep Austin Agile 2018 session, and we were going deeper into what the model reveals. Barry reminded me of a core concept: every one of us has all four behavior styles within us. A certain one may be favored or applied more often, but we have the capacity for all of them.

So that coworker whose behavior challenges and downright frustrates you? It's revealing something about you. We like to think other people's behaviors is about them, and yet our reactions are clearly about us! Our coworkers, bosses, friends, and partners help us learn about ourselves. They can be mirrors to help us see inside ourselves more clearly. That quality or characteristic that makes it hard to be around them lives in us too. It might show up differently, but it's the same thing. What's the usefulness to it? Discovering the answer makes it easier to choose how to be in relationship when that quality is present--and it will certainly come up because we've already seen it in others and now in ourselves.

Looking at a model like DISC to understand how we can adapt to others' behavior and communication needs starts creating a path for us to more consciously choose how we show up and engage in those relationships. Thanks, Barry, for reminding me why such a simple concept can be incredibly powerful!

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

What if agile organizations need more chaos?

Image by ChrisA1995

Image by ChrisA1995

When was the last time you gave someone a set of detailed instructions and succeeded in having them follow them exactly? And yet in organizations we often expect people to step into new roles, adopt new practices, and follow new processes according to frameworks and playbooks that have been outlined.

Humans have a natural tendency to learn and change, and using nature as our teacher can help us with organizational transformations. Change is an “inherent capacity” of living systems. What would it mean to tap into that capacity?

It might mean starting with more freedom rather than more prescription. Self-organization—spontaneous order—arises in a chaotic system. Tapping into the inherent change capacity of living systems means we might stop expecting positional leaders to have the answers. We might trust that people are willing to contribute and invite them to do so. We might look at how relationships in the organization can be supported and developed.

What do we need to let go of and stop controlling in order to allow transformations to change?

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Bringing Backbone and Heart to Work

Image by deanna.f

Image by deanna.f

I started my career as a project manager, and I often found myself enforcing contracts—defined scope and budget—and having to say no to change requests unless an addendum was signed. My pre-agile days. I brought backbone to work, engaging in those conversations. Sometimes I was secretly miserable.

During that time, I typically went dancing once a week. One evening I would meet friends somewhere in Dallas where a live band would play, and we would dance swing and blues. I got to know the musicians over time. With them, I was friendly and happy. It gave me joy to know that there existed a group of people who only knew the kind and generous me.

That’s how I balanced my life early in my career.

This past weekend I attended the ORSC Path class—the fourth course in CRRGlobal’s Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching series. As I was leaving class on Sunday, I discovered that the Agile for Humans podcast I’d recorded with Ryan Ripley had been published. How amazing that a conversation on professional coaching was published as I’d just passed another milestone in my professional coaching journey!

I shared that amazingness on Facebook, and sure enough, my friends started responding to it. Family members, current and former colleagues, other coaches, and even friends from my dancing days saw it and liked it. Seeing one of the musicians reply, “GO Allison!” made me realize how far I’ve come in bringing backbone AND heart to work. Coaching enabled that for me.

In the podcast, I referenced a number of places to learn about coaching, and here they are:

There are also some great books on coaching available:

Getting work done can be difficult, but it is possible to address challenges head-on and care about people in the process. I've come to realize that relationships underscore everything in work (and in life). Thankfully I've found a way to navigate relationships better--coaching others, coaching myself, and receiving coaching.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Exploring Agility

Photo by Lisandro M. Enrique

Photo by Lisandro M. Enrique

Have you noticed that “agile” and “agility” seem to be everywhere?

First I saw articles about “agile teams”—teams that could be assembled and disbanded quickly. A different perspective than the long-lived, stable teams commonly promoted in agile software development. I heard Heidi Helfand’s case report on Dynamic Reteaming, and it made sense to me. Now I’m reading Amy Edmondson’s Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy to explore it further.

Beyond that, I’ve been learning about relationships as systems. Noticing roles that are occupied and not occupied within relationship. Recognizing when there is clear alignment and when there is not. Increasing the amount of positivity in order to strengthen a relationship. Relationships can enable, hinder, withstand, and resist change; they can be seen as a building block of agility.

Then there’s emotional agility. Acknowledging your emotions and working with them rather than against them. Our emotions shape our lives.

Psychologist Susan David shares how the way we deal with our emotions shapes everything that matters: our actions, careers, relationships, health and happiness. In this deeply moving, humorous and potentially life-changing talk, she challenges a culture that prizes positivity over emotional truth and discusses the powerful strategies of emotional agility.

Similarly, I’ve been reading Anese Cavanaugh’s Contagious Culture, which delves into your personal presence and how to reboot yourself. It’s energetic agility to better achieve your intentions.

Also in the realm of personal agility is the application of design thinking to your future. Creating a meaningful and joyful life through brainstorming and prototypes. Check out Designing Your Life to figure out how.

Of course, as an agile coach, I can’t help but continue to learn about agile in software development too. The Agile Fluency project is deepening my understanding of agility. I’m paying more attention to practices and putting a softer focus on frameworks. How much agility is needed by an organization, and what’s the investment to achieve it?

With “agile” appearing everywhere, it would be easy to say that it has lost its meaning. I’m hoping to discover its core instead.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.