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Do Senior Users Make Good Product Owners?

Few people would disagree that the Product Owner is a critical role in agile teams. That means that organisations often want to ensure that the product owner is as effective as possible – and th…

Why Coaching is the Number One Skill for Leaders in in an Uncertain World

It is often said that everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves. There are few groups for which this is more apt than senior leaders. It was once thought that leaders n…

5 Levers for Changing Organisational Culture

Organisational culture is one of the most powerful, and misunderstood, concepts around. Leaders and coaches alike understand the power of culture to make—or, more likely, break—an agile transformation…

Is your Agile getting stale? Take the Mani-fresh-to Challenge today!

TLDR; Everything changed in 2020, even the Scrum Guide got an update, but the Agile Manifesto didn’t. With my good friend Chris, we came up with an idea to re-develop it and in the process, really pic…

On Agile & Mastery

I’m lucky enough to find my job professionally satisfying. That’s because I think that the line of work I’m in actually matters—not just to me, but to anyone who works in teams or with processes that …

Introduction to SAFe

SAFe® is an acronym for Scaled Agile Framework® and was introduced in 2011 by co-creators Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo as an actionable framework for Business Agility, inspired by the Agile Manife…

Leading SAFe with Jon Spruce

SAFe® (Scaled Agile Frameworks for enterprise) is one of the most popular frameworks for large organisations seeking to achieve business agility. A great analogy from a friend of Jon’s was that when l…

Why OKRs aren’t enough on their own: Goals and Standards

Objectives and Key Results – OKRs – are a well known goal-setting technique; there’s a wealth of great content that explains what they are. This post is about OKRs as part of the ble…

Essential Skills – Critical Analysis

In a recent conversation with Tyrrell Basson from Manchester University, we explored the topic of ‘essential skills’ for the future. What skills would be necessary for an organisation to succeed 12 mo…

Creating Alignment and Autonomy

We know from Dan Pink’s work that high levels of autonomy are a powerful contributor to motivation. For start-ups and small, independent teams this can be straightforward to create. But it presents a …

There Are Sabre-Toothed Tigers in Your Office

An ancient part of our brains that existed to keep us alive in a world of danger has evolved. But rather than evolving by toning down its power to cope with the much safer world of today, it has found…

The SCARF Model – How it affects agile teams

In the post ‘There Are Sabre-Toothed Tigers In Your Office‘, we discussed how our brains have evolved, and that the primal response that helped protect us from sabre-toothed tigers had cha…

Agile Coaching Capability

I’m a bit of a rugby fan and often find myself wanting to run out with the lads, moving through the field like a wrecking ball and scoring the winning try as the opposition lies in my wake, sobbing wi…

Innovation versus Protectionism

The last time we suffered a global pandemic that brought the world to its knees was in 1918. A little over a century ago. The Spanish Flu collided with a transitional world that had just been through …

I’m in a Theory X Team, Get Me Out Of Here!

For 20 years, ITV’s “I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here” has been a staple of the UK pre-Christmas entertainment schedules. A group of celebrities are isolated from society, originally in the Austral…

ORCA – A powerful feedback model

Ken Blanchard described it as “the breakfast of champions”; Bill Gates said “We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve”; and Jim Yong Kim said that “the most fundamental thin…

Where did you get that hat?

In my previous blog post “Where are all the managers in Agile?”, I discussed why agile doesn’t need the kinds of management that is often present in organisations and suggested some alternatives that …

Where are all the managers in Agile?

The heart of agile is described in the few words of the Agile Manifesto and its accompanying principles; the dominant agile framework is Scrum and its derivatives. Yet, amongst those core references, …

Bring rigour to your thinking

“Belief is so often the death of reason” – Lord Varys, Master of Whisperers – Game of Thrones The Agile Manifesto, created in Snowbird Utah (2001), is a work of Genius inspired by a team of bril…

Genesis: Levels of Agile Capability and Competence

Once upon a time, circa May 2016, the world was a comparatively predictable place. For the most part, square pegs fit into square holes, and we moved from point A to point D in a seemingly logical, se…

Covid Hack – Intention Versus Strategy

Small, cross-functional teams working closely together to frequently and consistently deliver features that delight customers are a cornerstone foundation of Agile. For some, a question arises as to h…

The History of Hierarchies

For 95 percent of the 200,000 years modern humans have walked the earth, there was no such thing as hierarchy. We lived in small bands of hunter-gatherers consisting of a few dozen people at most, The…

Covid Hack – Resilient versus Robust

Many of the corporations we work with are inherently designed to be robust. A concept that permeates every element of that business, from the processes that dictate workflow in each department through…

Covid Hack – Technical Debt

We’ve all experienced massive disruption, complexity and ambiguity in the face of Covid-19 hitting the fan. It’s caused mayhem in many companies, and as people adapt to the new and foreseeable normal,…

Facilitate rapid and effective decision-making

Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is a collaborative, coaching-style workshop that brings together the teams who do the work and the leadership teams that support and facilitate the work. Making the value st…

Covid Hacks – Hiring

In a recent Zoom session with Laura Howie, CEO of Reel Media Africa, we chatted about the importance of having the right skills, the right mindset, and a culture that embraces excellence. Sometimes yo…

Management versus Leadership

5 Weeks ago, our revenue streams dried up, literally overnight. The Covid-19 fairy waltzed in the front door, waved her magic wand, and *poof* our lives were irrevocably changed in a matter of hours. …

The Coaching Imposter #2

When I last posted something, before life changed significantly for all of us, I was coming to terms with the so-called Imposter Syndrome, but 5 months on from the inception of my Agile Coaching role,…

Customers and Developers in the same room. WTF?

At the turn of the 20th Century, the father of modern Business Management – Frederick Winslow Taylor – discovered that he could significantly increase production output and decrease labour…

First they ignore you

‘How do I get the senior leadership team to buy into Agile?’ is a question I’m often asked. It’s a great question if the leadership team value the principles and values upon which Agile is built. It’s…

Stealth Agile

I recently connected with Tyrrell Basson from the University of Manchester in one of my ‘Ask me Anything’ one-to-one video conversations. Like most organisations, they are dealing with disruption on a…

We didn’t do anything wrong

‘We didn’t do anything wrong, but somehow, we lost.’ – CEO of Nokia There’s a moment where the CEO of Nokia, Stephen Elop, ends a press conference in tears. He’s gutted. ‘We didn’t do anything wrong’ …

We didn’t have time for Governance!

Many Agile coaches and trainers often speak about the unicorns of Agile. Spotify. Netflix. Amazon. Agility is spoken of in the past tense. The idea that this happened a while ago, and we need to look …

Building bridges amidst disruption

The Case for Business Agility As an Agile coach, consultant and trainer, I pretty much live in a world of disruption, uncertainty and volatility. It’s par for the course. That said. If you’d asked me …

Coronavirus and The Corner Shop – A Portrait of Agility?

If ever one wanted the ultimate portrait of a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – the current crazy time through which we are living is it. The novel coronavirus, kn…

The Coaching Imposter

Agile Coaching? Hmm, yes I know what you’re thinking, “what does that mean and how is that an actual job?” Well, I’ve had a very broad variety of comments (my wife included) ranging from ‘I literally …

Exploring & Exploiting: Striking the Right Balance

In 1913, Henry Ford implemented one of the greatest innovations ever seen in manufacturing: the moving production line. Before this change, workers would move from car to car within Ford’s factory, pe…

Agile Bootcamp #4 – Using Story Mapping to Teach Agile

User Story Mapping is a great technique to help teams explore their product scope and plan how they can deliver value to their customers as quickly as possible. Even for large and complex problems, te…

Agile Bootcamp #3 – Scrum Simulation with the Inception Deck

There are lots of ways to help introduce the concepts of Scrum to teams and to give them a chance to put their new knowledge into practice. I wanted to try something a little different. I wanted it to…

Agile Bootcamp #2 – Behind The Scenes at an Agile Bootcamp

The bootcamp is planned, the travel arrangements made and suitcases packed. Now, the hard work starts! After a long day travelling and a chunky time-shift, we arrived at our accommodation well into th…

Agile Bootcamp #1 – To Fail To Plan is to Plan To Fail

When we were asked if we could help another organisation start on their journey to agile, I was keen to get involved. Partly because I thought it would be interesting to get to know a new organisation…

The opportunity of IR35 for organisations and start-ups

The recent announcement from HMRC that IR35 and Off-Payroll Tax would come into effect on the 6th of April 2020 as a means to combat ‘disguised employment’ presents a significant threat to companies a…

Meteors, VUCA, and Business Agility

Once upon a time, two-ton wombats lumbered across the Australian Outback. Around the same time, sabre-toothed cats and woolly mammoths roamed freely across Europe and North America. Millions of years …

Predict Success by Finding Problems

Agile was supposed to make things easier. It was supposed to fix the problems of large projects with big, up-front planning ending up delivering solutions that didn’t meet the customer need. Its focus…

Scrum Beyond Scrum

On my professionalisation journey to Scrum Alliance Certified Team Coach, I am collecting badges and certifications like a cub scout at a swimming gala. I am also going to conference presentations, re…

The 6 Enablers of Business Agility

  When I first started my journey as a Scrum Master, I devoured books on how Scrum worked. I learnt all about Scrum and its commonly applied processes and practices. I thought I had it nailed. Th…

Agile Project Management

To say the words ‘Agile Project Management’ in front of Agile purists falls somewhere in the spectrum between ‘not cricket’ and ‘blasphemy’. Why? Because Agile doesn’t in any way focus on Project Mana…

The Scrum Framework

The Scrum Framework is an Agile framework within which various Agile methodologies can be both employed and deployed. Co-created by Dr. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, Scrum serves as a framework fo…

What is Project Management?

Project Management, as both a profession and specialised discipline, is relatively young. From the dawn of time, humans have been pretty good at setting objectives and organising people, skills, tools…

Don’t look back in anger

Continuous improvement is a core agile principle. The retrospective is an important event in all agile methods and an ideal time for teams to identify improvements. Yet too often, retrospectives are i…

The Peak of Mount Stupid

This is a blog about coaching; specifically, lean and agile coaching, though it applies to leadership or enterprise coaching just as much. I am part of a new coaching service aimed at increasing the m…

Ways for a group to reach a decision

There are always moments in a project when decisions must be made. How those decisions are reached will vary according to circumstance. What is ultimately important, however, is to have the support of…

Personality traits of an excellent Scrum Master

“Bring it to the team” should be the daily motto of an excellent Scrum Master. Nobody can truly fulfil this role without being fully committed to the team. This means that Scrum Masters must be humble…

How Agile benefits Kanban and XP Development Frameworks

Above all, Agile is about focusing on the customer in the most streamlined way possible. Fundamental goals are established at the outset of a project but can be adjusted incrementally as problems or c…

The Origins of Scrum and Agile

As leadership guru Steve Denning has written, Agile is “not about doing more work in less time: it’s about generating more value with less work.” At base, both Agile and Scrum emerged from an imp…

Scrum and the Agile Manifesto

The values and principles of the Agile manifesto are designed to remind you of one thing above all: that whatever you are producing, you are producing it for actual use by actual people in actual situ…

Ethics and morals

Anyone whose profession involves advising others needs to be concerned about ethics. In a more general sense, of course, all humans should be worried about this―but when you work as a coach, the matte…

Feedback: it’s not what you get, it’s what you do with it

When teaching Scrum a large part of the information is around feedback: product feedback, process feedback, people feedback. Moreover, it would not make sense to not ask for feedback on us, as trainer…

Feedback in Coaching

All coaches reading this will probably agree that the following outline, provided by Jonathan Moss, is a useful and accurate snapshot of the essential elements of coaching: Collaboration – Both …

Metaphor, Simile and Analogies

Communication in all its aspects is of vital importance to effective coaching. Getting the most out of the spoken and written language you use sharpens your coaching. Comparative and figurative speech…

Challenging and Requesting

A considerable part of a coach’s job is to challenge clients. If they do not stretch, if they do not take chances and try to move out of their comfort zones, there will be little scope for the sort of…

The CLEAR Model

In the early 1980s, Peter Hawkins developed the CLEAR model, and thus slightly pre-dates the GROW model. CLEAR is, in many ways, like the GROW model, but weaves a couple of other elements into a coach…

The FUEL Model

The FUEL model is a coaching tool that consists of four components: Frame the conversation: Set the context for dialogue by agreeing on the purpose, process, and desired outcomes of the discussion. Un…

The Art of the Post-It®

For years I have watched my husband, John, sticking post-its all over the place while working. I never really understood why. I just thought it was one of his (many) quirks! I always thought of post-i…

Hidden Aspects of Communication

Communication consists of far more than speaking and writing. Most of us are unaware that we communicate in many different ways even when we are not speaking. This communication is so for both hu…

Show Confidence

We hear a lot about confidence in the contexts of business, personal relationships, and just about every other element of life these days. People are always worried that they lack it, wonder how to ge…

Body Language

As important as the spoken word is, body language may convey even more information than speech. As a coach, you need to be aware of how body language works. It is essential that you be able to read cl…

A brief overview of Scrum

In this brief overview of Scrum, we introduce you to the Scrum Framework, roles within the Scrum methodology, and briefly touch on some of the key elements of Scrum. Scrum is a framework within which …

The Trust Equation

Trust relationships are vital to the way we do business today. In fact, the level of trust present in business relationships, whether internally with employees and colleagues or externally with client…

Coaching: Face to Face or Over the Phone?

Coaches are often called upon to work with clients who do not live or work in proximity to them. In this age of remote work, when we have more tools than ever at our disposal to help us communicate wi…

Sprint: the Heartbeat of Scrum

A Sprint, as described in the Scrum Guide, is a time-boxed period of one month or less during which the Development Team works to produce a “Done” product increment — a useable and potentially releasa…

Introducing Certified Agile Leadership® (CAL1)

Throughout my years as a Scrum Master, Agile Coach and Scrum trainer, there has been a common and persistent theme. It is a theme that I have encountered as a practitioner and tried hard to overcome a…

Empathy

Empathy is a quality particularly crucial in a coach. Clients, as a rule, start out as strangers―they come to you looking for help and guidance with issues that may seem entirely professional, but inv…

History of the GROW Model

In the mid-to-late 1980s, Alan Fine, Graham Alexander, and Sir John Whitmore developed the GROW model—today one of the most recognised and influential coaching models in the world. The model came abou…

Reflecting

As a coach, you cannot afford to misunderstand your clients. Communication between you needs to be clear at all times. If clients feel that you do not get what they are saying, there will be little ch…

Active Listening

Active listening is a communication technique that requires the listener to feed back what he or she hears to the speaker. This communication can be in the form of simple repetition of what the s…

Levels of Listening

For a coach, there can surely be few skills more important than listening. Hearing what your client is saying, with attention and compassion, is key to being able to understand that person’s desires a…

The GROW Model Explained

The GROW model is a solid, time-tested coaching tool that can help coaches ensure efficient results for their clients. GROW stands for: Goal Reality Options (sometimes Obstacles) Wrap-up (sometimes Wi…

What do Agile and Electricity have in Common?

In February, it will be 17 years since the writing of the Agile Manifesto. Much was, and still is, promised by those who espouse Agile frameworks. There is still a great excitement and appetite for in…

The Responsibility Process® in Action

Recently I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days with Christopher Avery renewing my practice of responsibility. The workshop was on The Responsibility Process and how to lead and coach others in …

Using your Intuition

In the words of Francis P. Cholle, Intuition is a process that gives us the ability to know something directly without analytic reasoning, bridging the gap between the conscious and non-conscious part…

Staying Curious

Curiosity is vital for any coach. It helps us stay interested in our clients and their goals, in our work, and in life in general. How can we cultivate curiosity, and how can our clients and we benefi…

Enterprise Scrum as a Language of Choices

The purpose of Enterprise Scrum is to give organisations the ability to become more resilient in the modern business climate with rapidly occurring disruption in products, markets and audiences. …

A Cycle for your Coaching Relationship

Any coaching conversation is only as good as the trust and intimacy of the relationship between coach and coachee. And for the coachee with themselves. As we progress through a coaching relationship, …

Everyone can lead an exceptional life

You may not know who Rick Rubin is but you definitely would have heard of his music. He has been a megastar producer for over 20 years, helping a hugely diverse group of artists along the way: Johnny …

A Simple Method for Breaking down Product Backlog Items into Tasks

During Sprint Planning many teams resist breaking down Product Backlog items selected into tasks, preferring to rely on gut feel and yesterday’s weather to give them confidence in their for…

Growing Great Scrum Masters

Agile Coaching has a big problem with the way it currently operates. A problem that sees vast swathes of practitioners and consultancies consistently failing their clients. A problem that leads to Agi…

Enterprise Scrum and how it supports Business Agility

Currently, within the corporate universe, agility in business has become a key factor in maintaining a good position in the market. A company without innovation and quick answers to the market in cons…

The Productivity Myth

I am often asked if using Scrum can make software developers more productive. My response is always the same; ‘Can you please define productivity in a software development context?’ Often people canno…

What Role do Team Members Play in the Scrum Team?

Let’s get to know the different roles and responsibilities of each person in an agile development team. Just as there are several agile approaches such as Scrum, Kanban, XP, etc … Let&#821…

Acceptance Testing

Most Agile frameworks express customer requirements using simple and lightweight methods, such as User Stories. These stories represent features that reflect customer needs and are small enough t…

The Scrum Master beyond Technical Lead

The Scrum Master seeks to ensure that the team respects and follows the values and practices of Scrum. It also protects the development team by making sure that they do not over commit themselves to w…

Premature Estimation

Don’t worry.  It happens to a lot of people.  Really, it doesn’t matter. But deep down you know it does. You got ahead of yourself, got way too excited to get it done and you fin…

How many Saturdays?

Have you ever wondered how many Saturdays you have left? If you knew, would you change the way you spent the next one? How about meetings or conversations or emails? If you knew how many you had left,…

An argument of coaches

It was another Thursday morning meeting. “Who puts in a 9am meeting? On a Thursday?” “Sorry everyone on the line. Give us a minute to sort out the connection problems.” “…

Sprint burndown charts: Grapes of Progress or Watermelon Surprise?

In a recent discussion with an ‘Argument of Agile Coaches’ (an apt collective noun for a group of coaches), the question was raised: “Do we really need sprint Burndown char…

My Journey to CEC

There are two questions that I am often asked about being a Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC). First, what is a CEC? Second, why did you choose to become one? I shall attempt to answer b…

No Framework Will Save You

It is often said, by those in the personal training industry, that you cannot out-train a bad diet. What is meant by that, is that you could run 10 miles per day, then spend another hour in the gym pu…

The Road LeSS Travelled – Becoming a LeSS Trainer

When I first started working with multiple teams, I did not know where to start. Scrum is great at lowering the water and exposing rocks within organisations. Fixing them, on the other hand, is a diff…

LeSS is More

It’s the age old debate. ‘I want self-organising teams, but I need to set some constraints. I want some level of prescription, but how much is reasonable? When does it start disempowering the te…