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.

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.

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.

Following the Energy of Change

Photo by sanpani

Photo by sanpani

Ever been surprised by how quickly and easily a group adopts change? What makes it happen?

I’ve seen a team modify how they plan a sprint on my first day with them, had a team embrace adopting Scrum the third day I worked with them, and watched a group of nearly 75 people self-organize into teams after planting the idea only a few weeks earlier. The “magic” behind those rapid changes comes from two ingredients:

  1. People had time to think about the change. That thinking goes all the back to the moment someone considers bringing an agile coach into the organization. Thoughts of how a coach may help creates hope for change. That hope spreads—others begin thinking and dreaming about what changes may be possible. My arrival is the catalyst for change to become real
  2. People shape and participate in the change. I don’t walk into a new engagement with a change plan clearly mapped out. Change is created through dialogue with the people who will participate in the change. Listening to people’s ideas, treating them as partners, and giving them choice are powerful—people get enrolled in change when they are respected.

If we learn to follow people’s energy and excitement, change can be so much easier. It’s easier to be with them as they try on change, and it’s easier for them to move into something new. While it’s rarely a single leap into the new, saying that organizational change is hard hurts our chances for successful change.

There can be a dance in change—from familiar to emerging. Agile coaching is about being a good “dance partner” to provide safety to those involved in change.

Lyssa Adkins and David Darst explain Edge Theory of 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.

It's Hard to Get Better without Changing

Photo by Jim Cortez

Photo by Jim Cortez

It's hard to get different results if you're doing the same things over and over. And yet it's difficult for organizations to learn and work differently, despite the desire for better results.

A new introductory video about Large Scale Scrum (LeSS) was recently posted, and it's a great overview of the framework. Besides describing how LeSS works, it also has an important message halfway through:

Introduction to the LeSS Frameworks

Yep, change is going to be needed if you want agility. It makes sense, and deep down inside, we all understand that. In the moment though, change might not feel right. Or desirable. I am reminded of a quote from Edgar Schein in an interview:

Anxiety inhibits learning, but anxiety is also necessary if learning is going to happen at all.

Change often involves un-learning what we already know and learning something new. Thinking and behaving our way consistently into a new understanding. While this can sound scary and intimidating, it is possible to have established relationships to help us learn and develop our capabilities together--I've found it helpful to have friends on similar learning paths as me who I can turn to for support. Sometimes the best support is someone willing to listen as we work through the messy, confusing process of 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.

Innovating Agile Transformations

Photo by Roman Boed

Photo by Roman Boed

My mentor once said, "the way to go agile is agile-ly," and it has stuck with me since. In helping organizations with their agile transformations, I notice that agile coaches often suggest the same approach. We're often responding to an executive's ask for higher quality, increased delivery, better business relationships, more customer satisfaction, etc. And our starting point is to provide training and then follow-on with coaching. It's a tried-and-true approach in many ways, and I wondered how else we might help organizations with change--what different and innovative ideas could be tried?

I posed this question at the Agile Coaching Summit in Chicago, and below are the results of our group discussion:

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IMG_0306.JPG

I love how varied the list is, and each of these ideas could work in the right context. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised today in an agile training class when two students named what INVEST stands for because they had seen it on a poster in the break area--sometimes the simplest things can surprise us with their results!

Thinking about change starts the change--it colors our perceptions, thinking, and language from that moment forward. Discussions deepen the change. Behaviors and actions make it real. And while training and coaching can be immensely beneficial in change efforts, it's worth exploring what other options are available.

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.

Growing as a Person -- the Goo

Photo by plancas67

Photo by plancas67

While caterpillars are in a chrysalis transforming into butterflies, they become goo.  Yes--goo.  And this image of metamorphosis is often what I think about when I consider transformations.  Big organizational transformations and individual ones.  My personal transformation of becoming a Co-Active Coach.  Many times I've thought, "ugh, I'm in the goo."  Pleasant thought, right?  Makes you feel like you need a shower.

But I don't think that humans or organizations are like butterflies.  We are constantly undergoing changes, both big and small.  We live in a state of being caterpillar + goo + butterfly all at once.  That's rather amazing to consider.  My coach and a few friends have been challenging me recently to go beyond my comfort zone.  And I am quite fortunate to have such folks supporting me to show me where I am a caterpillar, be with me in goo, and highlight where I am a butterfly.  It makes me a better coach for others.  So I ask you: how might more goo enhance your life?

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.

Being an Agile Leader in the Process of Change

Photo by rick

Photo by rick

In the process of change, have you ever felt like you’ve taken a step backwards?  Seen someone go back to old habits?  Watched teams lose their courage to change and stick with the status quo?

Change is hard.  It’s a process of growth that can be positive or negative. Watching a video of Virginia Satir talk about the process of change, I am reminded that the introduction of a foreign element can bring resistance.  And then the period of chaos.  Limbo.  The opportunity for catastrophic expectations.  That is when we need to breathe and find our place of centeredness.  Find a state of strength.  The old is not reliable, and our anxiety increases—this is essential for change.  If we breathe in this place, then we can find openness and experiment.  Practice and change.

My job is to help people develop their agile instincts.  To help them breathe and find their place of centeredness amidst the chaos of change.  To help them discover their motivation.  From Characteristics of Agile Organizations:

It takes a lot of strength to practice Agile at the individual level during a period in which it is not practiced, and might not even be recognized, at other levels. This kind of strength is the acid test for the Agile leader. Having the courage of their conviction is what ultimately leads to successful organizational transformation. Such success is not guaranteed, more often than not it takes a lot of time, and it might wear down an Agile leader who is forced to struggle for a prolonged time without witnessing immediate results. It is, however, this kind of strength that differentiates the Agile leader from the follower.

As Satir said, “Using my power to help people grow is different than bossing them.” 

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.

Learning and Change Go Hand-in-Hand

Photo by *Psycho Delia*

Photo by *Psycho Delia*

Agile starts with and thrives on learning.  Teams are often introduced to agile frameworks like scrum in training classes, and they adopt practices over time.  The team is learning as a group, and we want to ignite a passion for learning in the individual team members.  Each team member will be going through change at some point in the agile journey—they will probably experience change multiple times rather than as a single occurrence—and a self-motivated interest in learning can facilitate change.  A person going through change is like a trapeze artist: you have to risk letting go of the bar and allow yourself to be suspended in space as you try something new.  And then, with relief and excitement, you find yourself able to grab onto a new bar—you have made the change!  It can be scary to take the leap for change, and a safety net might not always be visible. 

Getting comfortable with change is hard, and as I see it, change and learning go hand in hand.  Change might sound scary while learning seems safer.  An agile team “reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjustsits behavior accordingly.”  The team identifies changes that can be made and tries them; it learns new ways of working, new technologies, new techniques to deliver high quality products… change and learning are continuous.  The team culture includes learning.  When learning ceases, the ability to adapt to change decreases.  Teams become stuck in their ways, conflict increases, and complacency settles in.  Don't let your rituals become ruts.  Agile teams do not arrive at a destination; the goal is not to improve to a point of maturity or high performance and then maintain the status quo.  In the words of Flannery O’Connor:

Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.

As an agile coach and consultant, I am often brought in to organizations to jump-start and facilitate change.  I look for signs of learning in the organization to design the engagement and evaluate success.  If people in the organization are open to learning, then anything is possible.  I can provide training, mentoring, and coaching to incite positive change.  In the end, I hope people realize that success is not in what they know, but in their capacity to learn.

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.