leanpizza.net - tasty Agile… one slice at a time – by Olivier Lafontan

Coaching,Decks,Large Organisations,Retrospective

April 6, 2011

Hitting the “reset” button

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“We are learning new ways of delivering software, by doing it and helping others do it”…

As a coach, I go through a deconstruction process every time I join a new team.

Why is that? Well, I don’t believe it is possible for a company to decide to move to Scrum or XP or Kanban, – or any other methodology for that matter – on the Friday for their employees to come back to work on the Monday and be “it”. When coaching, it is relatively simple to explain the theory and to put it somewhat into context of the client. What is harder is the straight implementation of the theory into practice. The environment is probably not yet suited to do all the practices, maybe not ready or receptive to the principles, and also very possibly against the actual Values for instance.

So it is often an attrition war to get to the end goal and achieve a successful transition to Agile. In the process, the coach’s determination will be tested, and I am pretty sure that every coach out there will “give in” at particular times, and will adapt (hopefully with full knowledge of it happening) some of the practices to generate a new increment towards the end goal. Some of these decadent practices might happen to stick in certain contexts, and moving towards the dogma may loose some of its value (again, depending on the context).

I personally feel this entropy on most of the gigs I have the pleasure to work on. It is gratifying to deliver business value, and sometimes as the proverb says, the end justifies the means, and there is the risk to become complacent, to stop probing left and right, and therefore not stick to the recipe… and so, from time to time, I have to hit the “reset” button.

I hit the reset button is when it suddenly appears to me that I have slipped in this complacent mode, I have diluted too much of the practices and values and have left my mercenary hat in the changing room. I came in to change the customer, not the other way round! Of course, there will always be a level of transfer that operates, and some of it is good and is actually the stuff that makes up experience.

I don’t have a ritual to hit that reset button, I just know that it happens at the same time as I realise the above. Sometimes it happens when I go through my Transition Decks and critically assess the state of the transition I am helping with. It can happen many times during one gig, and will sometimes never trigger on some particular projects or with particular teams.

But when it does, oh boy, I come back to work with a vengeance and a new appetite to not “make my customer feel happy” but to “make then happy” instead.

I would be happy to hear if this experience is shared, and also if you have particular ways to “reset” yourself mid-gig and in between clients. Let me know!

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  1. I find that the longer I am at a client, the less effective I am. I become “adapted” to the local environment and loose some of my ability to effect change. One technique that helps with this is to bring in “fresh” coaches for a day or a week to stir things up and help me reset. Sometimes I reset myself too.

    Comment by Michael Sahota — April 7, 2011 @ 3:48 pm
  2. Thanks Michael. Feel very close to what I also experience when I stay too long with a client.

    Bringing another coach also helps me, but I find it funny – retrospectively – that when they suggest ways to improve what has been achieved, I too start to resist their suggestion and end up explaining to them why “we do things this way here” 🙂

    Comment by Oli — April 12, 2011 @ 5:10 pm
  3. As Gerry Weinburg says…

    Cucumbers get more pickled than brine gets cucumbered… A small system that tries to change a big system through long and continued contact is more likely to be changed itself.

    Comment by Glenn Waters — April 24, 2011 @ 2:27 pm
  4. Thanks Glenn! I’d heard of the Law of Strawberry Jam before, never the Cucumber one! Am pretty sure I will reuse this, thanks!

    In this case though, one doesn’t put the cucumber in brine in order to make the brine taste better. I’d rather see myself as the pear dipped in liquor, which eventually makes the said liquor substantially taste better (or at least different…).

    Comment by Oli — April 24, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

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