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Coaching, Coding and Learning By George Evjen

Book Notes from 'Coaching Agile Teams' by Lyssa Adkins 

Learning About the Team

  • Launch into learning about the team
  • The guiding lights for this product - the team - are a shared vision and team norms


Create a Shared Vision

  • Teams need goals at multiple levels
    • What's in it for me
    • What's in it for us as a team
    • What's in it for the company
    • What's in it for the world
  • Creating this vision starts from the individual out.
  • 'when this project is over, I want to say I have…'
  • Give people permission to talk about their personal hopes in the context of this new team.
  • It opens the door for a continual conversation about goals and how best to support them for one another.
  • Create succinct and meaningful statement of what they desire to become together.
  • With a statement of who the team will become in place - move on to the third level of goals. -
    • What is in it for my company?


Create Team Norms

  • With the shared vision out of the way - the team can easily dive into creating the team norms
  • Shared Values
    • Come up with things they value as a team
    • Ask for characteristics of the best teams they have witnessed
  • Rules for living together
    • Sharing a space together
  • Logistics
    • Core hours, sprint length, stand up time -
  • Being together in conflict
    • Prepare for conflict now.


Learn about the Work Ahead

  • The final part of the start-up - learning about the work ahead
  • Entails three activities, envision, review, product backlog
  • Ensure that the team gets the learning they need.
    • Envision
      • Invite the highest ranking person you can find to paint for the team a vision of the product to be created.
      • Speak about the importance of the project at two levels
        • Company
        • Personal
      • How they expect the product to impact the company
      • Why the product or business impact are important to the person.


Review the Product Backlog

  • The product owner walks through the product backlog
  • The product owner needs to have it stocked with enough items to get going with the first sprint
  • Ensure the product owner has done so - represent the business goals of each item


Get Going

  • Product owner - what short phrase, like a newspaper headline, encompasses the goal for this sprint
  • A sprint goal can also serve as handy shorthand for communicating what the team is up to.
  • With the sprint goal created - you have officially begun the teams first sprint planning session.


Prepare for the Start-Up

  • There are three levels of preparation for a team start up
    • Good enough
      • Using the guidelines in this chapter, create your own formula for a team start up
      • While in the start up - follow your agenda and adjust the teams needs on the fly.
    • Insightful
      • String together activities that achieve the learning goals of the start up - plus any outcomes people desire.
    • Targeted
      • Design a targeted start-up, spend time talking with as many team members as you can.
      • Notice people's ability to interact with one another positively and collaboratively.
      • Notice common problems


Team Restart

  • Restart teams when team membership or team goals change significantly
  • If team membership changes, ensure that you teach agile again.
  • The ten minute whiteboard talk will do the trick.


Teach New Team Members

  • Members come and go
  • Keep the team membership as stable as you can
  • Introduce or take away team members between sprints
  • The people who made the commitment - deliver the commitment
  • When a team member leaves - ensure the team acknowledges the person and their contribution.
  • New team member
    • Talk about the teams shared vision
    • Rules, nature, the identity of the team
  • Teach the new team member agile - the ten minute whiteboard talk
  • Express agile at its most powerful by keeping it to the core.
  • Teach the team member agile done well first - then teach the teams use of agile.
  • Set the expectation that coaching conversations happen every once in a while.


Use Teachable Moments

  • Teachable moments occur frequently and unexpectedly as the team works and converses together.
  • The right learning at the right time.
  • Remember that the team's job in the sprint - is to sprint


Teach Agile Roles All the Time

  • Problems arise from poorly executed roles
  • The biggest role problems come from people on the edge of the team.
  • First teach people their role - anytime is a good time to do this
  • Expect that people will fill their role completely - anything less gets called out as an impediment.


Teach the Product Owner Role

  • The product owner has enormous impact on a team because direction setting and constant strategic decision making come directly from the person in this role
  • A good product owner helps keep the team moving in the right direction
  • A good product owner can help make a team.
  • A poor product owner will certainly break a team.
  • Teach them to be these things for their team
    • Business value driver - gives the most business value now
    • Daily decision maker - make decisions as they arise to the team can move forward
    • Vision Keeper - keep the big picture of the product in the team's sight
    • Heat Shield - protect the team from the outside noise and pressure
    • The one ultimately responsible - be completely invested in the product.
  • Help them firm up their understanding of the role and create a future vision of themselves as a great product owner.


Selecting the Product Owner

  • As the agile coach - you may be asked to help select a product owner for a team.
    • Committed - to the work and engaged fully in it
    • Responsible - for the outcome so that 'skin in the game' is a reality
    • Authorized - by the person paying the bills to make decisions
    • Collaborative - a normal mode of interacting with people.
    • Knowledgeable - about the business purposes.


Teach the Agile Manager Role

  • There are a bevy of agile managers orbiting agile teams.
    • Functional managers, stakeholders, managers of other teams
  • This is not a formal role in scrum - or any other agile framework.
  • Agile coach and organizational change expert.
  • The illusion of certainty that schedules, status reports, and steering committee meetings represent
  • Mangers boost agility  - view their new role as
    • Organizational change artist
    • Boundary keeper
    • Value maximizer
    • Lean manager
    • Organizational impediment remover
    • Team champion
  • Making things flow so the team delivers again and again is an honorable and challenging job.
  • Mike Cohn offers this model (CDE)
    • Containers - within which teams work
    • Differences - between backgrounds of team members
    • Exchanges - transformational exchanges - influenced by their differences/interactions.
  • Managers can appropriately influence teams from the outside without hampering the teams' self-organization
  • Open up the discussion with the agile manager about his role.


Teach the Agile Coach Role

  • An agile coach is..
    • Bulldozer - bulldoze impediments
    • Shepherd - guides team back to agile practices
    • Servant Leader - serves the team rather than team serving you
    • Guardian of quality and performance - what the team produces and how they produced it.
  • Helps the team navigate unpredictable waters and adapt as things happen to them.
  • Promote team's self-organization


The Roles are Interlocking

  • All three roles (Agile coach, agile manager, product owner) working together give teams a chance at creating astonishing results and unleashing agile as a competitive advantage weapon for their company.
  • Bulldozing impediments takes two - a coach and a product owner - stronger together.
  • Overlaps between the agile coach and agile manager
    • They work together to move the organization through all the changes it will experience.
  • Product owner and agile manager
    • Single minded focus on achieving business value - they are business value drivers.
    • Join forces as organizational impediment removers.
  • All three roles have an element of team champion
    • They all must believe that the team can accomplish anything.
  • Support the teams efforts to produce real product in a short period of time.
  • Dynamic tension provides the edge needed for creativity and truth.


Role Clarity

  • Agile roles are not titles
  • They have nothing to do with the organizational structure surrounding the team.
  • Multiple role title combinations
    • Is this person speaking to me as the product owner, as my boss, or as my coach?
  • Avoid role and title jumbles - use this rule when something needs to be done
    • Am I the source
    • Am I the one who should suffer if it goes wrong
    • Does this fall within my area of responsibility
    • Is this part of my commitment



  • Powerful team start-ups are jet fuel to an agile team
  • Teach agile during the team start-up
  • Focus the team on the work ahead
  • Teach agile when new people join the team
  • Teach everyone about agile roles
  • Expect the agile coach, product owner, and agile manager to interlock
  • Constantly seek role clarity
Posted on Friday, August 5, 2016 11:46 AM Agile | Back to top

Comments on this post: Coaching Agile Teams - 9

# re: Coaching Agile Teams - 9
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# re: Coaching Agile Teams - 9
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This is a good learning now. It provides complete details on how to be effective in coaching a team. - Morgan Exteriors
Left by Templeton on Sep 01, 2016 4:06 PM

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