Thursday, September 24, 2015

On Coaching Agile: A Matter of Gray - Don't let prejudice guide you

Just recently I was receiving a mail containing a quote which went like this:

"I get paid for features not for tests"

It has been put in a context where we were discussing something like code coverage or test coverage issues. That's the setting. What happened next?

To me this quote in this very moment and this very context has been proof that there something was totally wrong. Based on this quote we would not need to talk about application of agile methodologies with these guys any longer for they are not prepared for it. And I went off into my standard narrative about ignorant developers and ignorant management, that most of the time were complaining about what went wrong and that everything would have to change but no one would ever start doing anything least did they question themselves. And on and on it went.

"I told them many times and they just don't understand. They just ignore the evidence", is what I could tell myself over and over again.

That very same day while taking a shower in the evening it struck me: What did I know about the quote?

Well basically nothing! Who did say this? I don't know. What has been the context it has been said in? I don't know. Was there anything else that has been said to put this into relation? I don't know. How was it said? Angry? Regretfully? Complainingly? Resignedly? Ironically? I don't know! Anything? I JUST DON'T KNOW!

What I did know, it felt perfect to me. I could be the good guy knowing about all the "right" stuff, doing all the "right" stuff - well most of the time. And they (as anonymous as could be), they are the guys doing it wrong. Again. And over and over again. With that two things are for sure:
1. My work as an agile coach would never ever come to an end, and
2. I would always be the good guy. I could always feel superior to "them"

A question arises here: Could I really be a coach to "them" when I consider myself superior? Would I ever be able to bring my message across? Would I really like to bring my message across to help "them" get better?

To be honest the answers would be something like: I don't think so. No. To some extend, yes.

At least in retrospective I would need to admit that "being better than them" gave me a feeling of comfort, a feeling of importance, somehow even a feeling of doing the right thing which supports me in trying to move on despite the little impact one achieves from time to time. So, in a way this attitude supported my will to strive for a change.

Thinking about this I figured that I would have to deal differently with the quote. First of all. Listen. In this case I wasn't able to listen for I've got this second hand. So it would have been asking. Asking all that questions to fill in the obvious gaps, to understand what the speaker really wanted to say. Only then I would have been able to build an opinion about that. Only then I would be able to decide on which steps to go the mitigate a possible issue that could have been meant by saying what has been said. - You see, all purely conjunctive.

What did I learn from this?

Instead of speculating about the manifold of possible reasons one should try to get a hold on the real reason. If you can't just let it go.
Do not exploit a quote to make a point. You could try to do this with the very person the quote came from. You would be spoiled right away. Nothing could reestablish the lost trust.
Do not preach your solutions. Try to understand the issues your coachees have and help them solving them no matter whether your prepared solutions or methodologies could be applied or not.
Don't exaggerate your position. You are not the guy anyone is supposed to follow, the guy that knows. You are the servant. You should do what many blogs, articles and books tell about coaches:

You are a facilitator, enabler, mentor, partner whatever the coachee needs at this very point.

After all the most important thing you have to be is being


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The opinions expressed in this blog are my own views and not those of SAP