Agile coach as recogniser of courage

An Audience for Courage

At my current client, we have a weekly Scrum Master Community of Practice meetup. This week on the agenda was an experience report proposed as the results of an experiment. So far, so good. I was sold on it – anything with experiment that didn’t involve animals and/or genitals was fine by me.

Anyway this Scrum Master tells a story that to me sounded like exercise in complicating the simple, he highlighted many deeply dysfunctional practices that exist in his team. No reviews to speak of, month long sprints, hardly any retros etc.

The assembled community members were stunned at some of the things he shared. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the entire thing.

I caught up with some of the members later and overwhelmingly they all said it was a tremendously courageous thing to do. To bare one’s dysfunctions to an audience one hardly knows (the community is young and memberships has not stabilised).

Agile Coaches recognise and acknowledge courage.

So today, I went to this SM and told him how much I appreciated the risk he took and that he demonstrated immense trust and openness to his peers in sharing his experience and seeking help. He was taken aback, I don’t think he expected anyone to do this. His reply convinced me that despite the monstrosity of mega-corporations, there are individuals who will rise above the pettiness of self-interest, take risks to build trust and grow sustainable communities.

He said ‘we have to start somewhere, so why not with me?

In many organisations, we have institutionalised what we recognise. In rewarding delivery competence, we have undervalued learning and the relationships that foster community. We have made it harder for people to be courageous and to take risks to help their teams, communities and companies grow (and I mean knowledge and goodness growth, not merely financial!).

Coaches need to be good observers of courage and be explicit in their recognition of it (if not publicly, at least privately to the individual concerned).

So I challenge you to look around your team or work colleagues and seek out the examples of courage amongst your colleagues and celebrate them in whichever way makes sense to the person. What would your organisation look like if you did this?

Agile coach as connector.

A little story I wanted to share, about making a difference without realising it.

Today, around lunchtime, as I was heading to the coffee area to get a cup of joe, I noticed a team (one I had met briefly) in a presentation. The title had caught my eye through the glass fronted room.

A ‘User Story Mapping’ presentation, led by one of their business analysts. This chap had been in a 3-hr workshop I had run as ‘Agile for System Analysts”. We had done some very basic story mapping in that workshop but hadn’t completed it, however I told them to connect with the BA on the team I was on to learn from him if they were interested and thought no more about it.

Anyway, I walk pass, stop to read the title and consume the slide – my gawking caused a fair amount of laughter in the room and I was invited in. The team was really pleased to have me sit with them and help their BA talk through  the topic. I soon established that they were thinking of using the technique on some new work and this was their self learning series on it (the first of its kind – something again learned from the team I coach!).

Learning Comes Full Circle

After some really abstract slides the guy showed, I suggested the most useful way to connect this might be to see concrete examples. I ran back to the BA on my team to print out one of his story maps. To my sheer delight, he told me he had already shared this with the BA on the other team (totally different part of the organisation) during an hour long session they had to talk through the technique!!

To see various aspects of this strangely unconnected organisation start to make these connections and little burning embers of passion radiate their knowledge so generously to others and get them fired up was tremendously heartwarming.

As coaches, we often don’t build software, often the rewards of our efforts elude us or are reaped long after we have left, but if we are lucky, we glimpse the difference we make and for that we must be thankful.

Have you had a similar experience?  I’d love to hear about it.