What is your biggest regret as an agile coach?
I’m not somebody that believes in regret.
Professionally, I don’t regret anything that I have done. Let me explain why.
Regret is really about looking into the past and making a judgement call that you could have done X or should have done Y instead of taking the course of action you did take.
It’s wondering what things would look like or how they may have turned out had you made a different decision. It’s dwelling in the past, often with no benefit to yourself or others.
I have done things that I know I would differently now, given the knowledge and experience I now have, but I don’t look back on those moments or decisions with regret.
I don’t regret what I did, and I don’t regret what I didn’t do because all throughout my career, I have made sure that the option selected was the best available option given the information I had at the time.
I took the time to consider what my options were, evaluated which of those options was most likely to deliver the outcome I was anticipating, and made a decision based on the limited information and expertise I had at the time.
The benefit of hindsight may highlight that a better option was available to me but I have full confidence that I made the best decision I was capable of at the time.
I do take time to reflect on the decisions I have made and evaluate what the difference is between what I anticipated would happen versus what did actually happen, so I have extracted the lessons from those failures and applied them to future decision-making.
If you are in a position to reflect frequently and consistently, you will often find that you are constantly learning and improving through the process. You will find that you make better decisions and achieve higher value outcomes more frequently because you reflected on past experiences and extracted the lessons from those moments.
What I do want to know is that I act in good faith when making decisions. I want to know that I have taken the time to understand the problem/opportunity to the best of my ability and that I have considered the options, variables and other people involved in the equation before deciding what I will invest my time and effort in doing.
I want to make sure that I follow a process that is sound.
I want to make sure that I am making the best decision I am capable of, given the information and variables before me, and that allows me to see the post-decision reflection and evaluation process as a learning experience rather than something where I beat myself up.
We don’t know the answers to what we do.
In a complicated space, like civil engineering for example, you know that you can follow a formula and the outcome is pretty much guaranteed. In a complex environment, you simply can’t know what you don’t know and you have to use a process of discovery and experimentation to learn what works best given the unique environment you work in.
You simply can’t expect to get it right first time.
You can do your best to place small bets, learn fast, iterate rapidly and improve with each decision you make but you cannot expect to know what to do when the problem has never been solved before or the product has never been built before.
As a coach, you are working with people in complex environments and so you need to adopt the same approach as product development. You need to develop a hypothesis, run the experiment, and prove or disprove your hypothesis.
There is no ego involved, only learning.
It would be great if we could get it right first time but that isn’t the nature of the work we do and so you are better served adopting an agile mindset and culture of working when it comes to decision-making and learning through doing.
So, in a nutshell, that is why I don’t have any regrets as an Agile coach and continue to approach each engagement with humility, curiosity and a strong desire to learn through experimentation, inspection and adaptation.
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For more information on John McFadyen, connect with John on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmcfadyen/.
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