To-Don’t List

I’ve made to-do lists since I was a kid, currently managing a love/hate relationship with ‘em, which is ironic, since I’m in a profession where I’m all about backlogs and frontlogs. So you’d think I’d be dang good at ‘em. I mean, I am. (I’m real’ humble, too!) And I bet you are, too. And we can get better, with a little help from our friends: Bruce Lee, Greg Marta, and Tim Ferriss.

Oh, and y’saw “To-Don’t List” in the title, and wonder when we’ll get more into that? Yeah, that’s at the end. I can’t stop ya from skipping ahead, but its build-up will make a little more sense if you hang out for the ride…

Continue reading To-Don’t List

Low-bar Agile Coaching is Crafting the Next Frontlog Item

Look at your hat. It says “Agile Coach”. I know, it’s a weird choice of hat, but where you work, everybody’s got a hat, some folks wear more than one, and this is yours.

How do you stand in this hat? Well, depending on how much you’re responsible for the client result (“doing, in the present”) or the client growth (“doing, in the future”), there are 9 ways to stand, per a popular diagram by some Dandy People.

Yet from my experience, there are 2 main flavours of stance, based on what the client is expecting when you roll up to ‘em, wearing that hat:

  • consulting: “I don’t have time. Just fuckin’ tell me what to do.”
  • coaching: “I have some time. Get me to see what to do.”

In both cases, your hat says you’re paid to help them with what to do next. And that thing, that next thing, that next thing you have some input on, is hopefully perceived as worth what they’re paying you to wear that hat. (Heck, instead, they could’ve printed a developer hat!)

So whether you’re peddling yourself as

  • a magician of “aha” moments,
  • an empathetic ear,
  • a resource in their back pocket,
  • a cheerleader in their corner,
  • a trusted advisor,
  • an accountability partner, or
  • a parental force of high expectations & tough love,

your client will walk away with a thing to do next. It may not have been explicitly stated by you… it might be a new approach, an old idea, or a boost of confidence to actually do a thing.

So what’s #TheNextBigThing?

  • It is one actionable item of continuous improvement.
  • It is one experiment that you could do, which you would do.
  • It is ONE low-risk try to have things suck less ‘round here, and maybe even be awesome.

Want a low bar for earning that Agile Coach hat, or Scrum Master hat?

Craft the Next Frontlog Item.

Oh, and it’s totally safe to try this at home, too.

You’re not a real Agile Coach unless You’ve Coached Yourself

Or, to bastardize a quote attributed to Gandhi:

Be the Agile Coach you want to see in the world.

And you can start being that person at home. Right now.

Think about it… If you were hiring a coder, wouldn’t you want someone who codes in their free time, contributing to open source projects, or is otherwise experimenting on their own? If you were hiring a network engineer, wouldn’t you prefer someone who has set up a LAN in their basement, or is otherwise experimenting on their own? Why wouldn’t this apply to hiring a Scrum Master or Agile Coach? If you were hiring one of these kinds of cool cats, wouldn’t you rather have someone who geeks out on this topic at home, or is otherwise experimenting on their own?

Regardless of the skill or domain, finding ways to experiment on your own means:

Continue reading You’re not a real Agile Coach unless You’ve Coached Yourself

Old Chess Saying

You should probably know that I was a chess geek growing up… it probably explains a few things:

  • I like my moves having more than one purpose.
  • I am uncomfortable until I can see all the pieces in play.
  • I don’t just play the game: I also play the player.

So when my wife bought us a Masterclass membership, I took a beeline to one of my heroes: Garry Kasparov:

  • He was the world chess champion when I was a kid.
  • He represented humanity against computers.
  • He also has a double ‘r’ in his first name.

In his first lesson he drops this:

“Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do, while strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.”

old chess saying

I just love that so much.

Sit with it. Let it wash over you. Soak it in.

As I get more comfortable in my own skin, getting aligned with “my why” ‘n’ all that, I’m reconnecting with parts of me that were conduits of a flow state, thus leading me to beauties like the above. This includes working through Emanuel Lasker’s “Common Sense in Chess” from 1917 with my daughter, coincidentally showing her (see above about multi-purpose moves) that letters don’t just spell words for prose or poetry, but also stories played out over a board with jumping horsies and other characters.

Anyway, no analysis for that one. Just sharing ’cause it’s been a while.

Bias to Inquiry is Hard

I’ve got a Bias to Action. My wife will call me a Fact Finder, which is true, and at some point… I do make a move.

I recently learned the phrase “Bias to Inquiry”, which is useful in the world of an Agile Coach: you run across a behaviour you deem odd, and instead of wanting to act on it, you first seek to learn about it. Context is key. History can be insightful. Figure out why there’s a fence across the road before trying to tear it down. It’s the fifth Habit.

This Bias to Inquiry is something I do at work – I get paid to be diplomatic.

This blog post is to acknowledge aloud that Bias to Inquiry at home is hard.

Let’s take a benign example:

Oh, lookie here! Clothes strewn in the hallway. I’m going to make a quick decision and either kick it aside or take a detour to throw ’em in the hamper.

Then there’s a more contentious example:

Oh, lookie here! You believe some fantastical conspiracy theory about the election or vaccines. I… don’t even know where to begin.

I don’t always have the time or energy to first seek to understand bullshit. Maybe I should be more open-minded. Maybe I should have more grains of salt with what information I consume in general. Being open to learning is generally good for one’s survival, so why not apply that in these cases?

I’m just saying it’s hard.