Friday, June 21, 2013

How to improve your retrospective

Marc Löffler did a session about "How to improve your retrospective" past weekend at agile coach camp 2013. Result was a list of possibilites what you can do to improve your retrospective and maybe sometimes vary the usual format as described in "Agile Retrospectives".

Since the results speak for themselves, I will just post the photos of the results here:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Coaching Dojo

You probably already know Coding Dojos (I'm not going to go into detail here, so if you don't know Coding Dojos yet you can get all the information at At agile coach camp 2013 (accde13) I heard for the first time that there is something similar for coaching called Coaching Dojo.

The goal of a coaching dojo is improving your skills by practice and by being exposed to various coaching styles. In Martins session at accde13 about Coaching Dojos we used the following setup:

Coaching Dojo setup

Split up into groups of 4-6 people. One person in the group will be your seeker. This should be someone who has a real-life problem/question he needs solved or answered. Nevertheless keep in mind that the goal of the coaching dojo is NOT to find a solution for the seeker but to train your coaching skills (although it might occur that the seeker's problem is solved). Next you need 2 people from the group that are the first to coach the seeker.

Do the coaching in timeboxes (we used 10 minutes). During this time the spectators watch and take notes (and most important: do not take part in the coaching!). When time is up, give feedback to the coaches. Usually most of the feedback will come from the spectators, as they are the ones watching from the outside. Then rotate the coaches and continue coaching, meaning the seeker will stay the same. Usually you do 4 rounds of coaching.

I thought it was exhausting talking a few times about my problem (in our group I was the seeker), so you can consider switching the seeker after a while (and with it the topic). I would leave this decision to the group.

Additional reading:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sprint Burndown Chart: Yes or no?

I don't believe in sprint burndown charts. So far, in every team I've been Scrum Master for, not one developer really wanted to update the burndown by himself, meaning I was either the burndown-monkey or I found myself asking the team to update the burndown regularly. And since I don't get the real advantages of burndown charts, I struggle to explain the team why it's important to maintain the burndown chart. I guess that's what you call a chicken/egg-problem.

The burndown chart is supposed to show the current status of the team and indicates whether the team is likely to successfully get everything done in the sprint. But: In my opinion you don't need a burndown for that because all the information can be read from the sprintboard. Nowadays sprints are mostly 2 weeks long (I haven't heard from anyone using longer sprints than that in a long time), so it's relatively easy to overlook this time. While I think that a burndown is useful with 4 week long sprints, in sprints up to 2 weeks length it's basically just maintaining an information that is already on the sprintboard.

I've been trying to solve this dilemma for quite some time now but haven't found a real solution yet. First I tried to find the reasons for a burndown chart. Having found none that did satisfy me, I thought: Well, maybe there's another good, intuitive way to visualize the current status. One that would maybe integrate directly into the sprintboard. So far, I haven't found one.

Being on agile coach camp 2013 past weekend, I took the chance and conducted a session called "Burndown Chart 2.0" hoping to find this intuitive, sprintboard-integrated way.

Although we haven't found one, the session has helped me a lot to remind myself what the burndown chart is about, whom it is for and whether it is useful or not. First of all the burndown chart is a tool by the team for the team and no one else, no manager, no stakeholder, no one else. Second its main purpose is transparency: Transparency where we are, transparency what has happened.

Deriving from the fact that it's a tool by the team for the team, the burndown chart should be used when the team wants to use it. If you feel that a burndown chart could help you in your current situation, then use it, otherwise there's probably no real reason to use it. Using a burndown chart is not essential.
Apart from that it doesn't always have to be a chart. Depending on what you want to visualize it can also be a traffic light (visualizing if the team thinks the sprint will be successfull) or any other visualization you can think of.

Monday, June 17, 2013

How to praise your devs

There was a quite controversial but very fruitful and inspiring conversation about "How to praise your devs" from the viewpoint of a Scrum Master. Here are the few notes I took for myself:

  • Sentences like "Thank you that you brought up that topic, it really helped the team move forward" basically are another way of saying "You did well"
  • "You did well" sentences are a judgement of the work the developer does and are almost always seen violent. Least of all is a Scrum Master the one who is to judge the work of the developer
  • When appreciating someone tell them how you feel (NVC) instead of judging the work they did
  • Try to use appreciation instead of praise
  • Base your feedback on your relationship with the other person
  • Align your appreciation with the purpose of the team. If the team does not have a purpose or doesn't know its purpose give the team exactly that
  • Developers do communicate and they communicate a lot. But they do it in their own ways and other people are sometimes seen as intruders

Solution Focus

Past weekend I attended the agile coach camp 2013 and one of the sessions I've been to was by Klaus Schenck about "Solution Focus".

Solution Focus is a coaching technique (and in more general a mindset) where you set your focus on solutions and solving problems when coaching and talking to people.

Solution Focus Matrix

One of the tools helpful to understand Solution Focus is the SF Matrix. The vertical axis represents the degree of happyness, the horizontal axis time.

Solution Focus Matrix

This leads to 4 quadrants:
  • On the upper left are things from the past that we're feeling happy about
  • On the lower left are things from the past that we're feeling sad or angry about
  • On the upper right are things in the future that we're looking forward to full of expectation
  • On the lower right are things in the future that we're worried about
The goal of Solution Focus is to reach the upper right quadrant, we wanna be optimistic about the future. In order to do that we first need to identify in what quadrant sentences said lie. Some examples:
Before Scrum we had no problems. Now everything is bad!
The way management talked to us a few years back was absolutely horrible.
Hey, we want to start with Kanban. Could you help us please? 
As you may have realized while reading the examples the real world isn't always as easy as a model and words and sentences can easily fit in more than one quadrant. The whole point of Solution Focus is to lead the coachee / dialog partner to focus on an optimistic future and we can reach that by asking the right questions.

  • If you realize your coachee is happy about the past your questions should be about how the past experience could be repeated
  • If you realize your coachee is unhappy about the past your questions should be about how she survived and what she learned from that experience
  • If you realize your coachee is worried about the future your questions should be about what she would like instead or how she would want to do things differently
  • If you realize your coachee is already optimistic about the future your questions should make her want to kick off right away
Naturally asking the right questions isn't that easy and additionally questions like "What did you learn from that experience?" feel rather odd to the coachee (as they would to everyone), meaning your focus is on getting that questions answered but not necessarily asking it directly. One possible way would be to ask about the feelings and go on from there. But that is only one possibility.

Solution Focus Scaling

A second tool for Solution Focus is a ladder / scaling technique:
Solution Focus Scaling
SF Scaling is used to show where you are right now. You could use a flipchart, draw a ladder and ask your coachee to draw where he thinks he stands. However using a room (or similar) as Klaus did with us in his session seemed more impressive to me. The length of your room represents the scale from 0 to 10.
  1. Ask your coachee to stand where she thinks she is with her problem right now, her sight towards 10.
  2. Ask her to turn around and ask how she feels (this will most likely be something like "I can see that I'm not still at the beginning", "I'm farther than I thought", etc.)
  3. Ask her to stand at 10, sight towards 0 and ask how she feels now (answers will be most likely something like "this is really far away" or "I feel uncomfortable standing here"). 
  4. Ask her to stand where "good enough" would be and ask her how she feels
  5. Ask her to return to the original position and ask her how she feels now (the answer will probably include that she's seen the "perfect state" and that things look differently for her now)
  6. As a last thing ask her to take a step forward and then turn around. Ask her how it feels like to have taken a step forward.
When we did this excercise Klaus asked us to pick something that we care about and want to improve for ourselves, I chose my rhetorical skills. Seeing where I am right now and where I can be with only one step forward got me inspired to finally take that rhetoric workshop I've been wanting to do for 2 years now. Thank you Klaus for that!