Archive for the ‘Coaching’ Category

As a coach one of the things I run into a lot is the limited budget that companies have these days for training.

I’m always looking for tricks (let’s call them hacks) that will allow my clients to get more value out of their limited budget.

When I ran public training with PairCoaching.net (Before I gave the domain away), I quickly discovered that hiring public training rooms upfront was not smart for my business. Either the rooms were not needed, when I could not sell a certain training. Or they were too small when I had a huge success.
The hack I discovered at the time was to not book a room and then a week before the training was due, to contact a company I knew, and ask them if they had a training room available for that day and offer them a free place in the class in return.

I discovered this hack, when totally unexpected, I received new subscriptions for a training a few days before it was due. I had no idea what to do with the request. I was ready to send an e-mail to reject the subscription. As a last crazy idea I ask the question on twitter, does anyone have a room available on this date? And less then 5 minutes later, Jo replied to me: I have a board meeting in 5 minutes, let’s talk tomorrow (it was 8 pm at the time)

My luck had turned, instead of rejecting an interesting order, I now would do a training, in an office that is close to my home.
Even better, their office was at 300 meter of my children’s school. I could park my car with my training stuff on their parking lot, take my kids to school, and come back and install myself for the training. But wait, that was just the start, it got even better, during the break of the training, I started talking with Vincent. Vincent had started to work agile at OneAgency. We stayed in touch -remember I give free life time support on every talk I have- and a few years later One Agency became a client.

I’m telling this story because I want to turn on the heat on this way of working.

I know that when I deliver agile training, it’s best to take a team offsite. Teaching a team in an offsite location, changes the dynamic totally.

1) Everyone takes the training more serious

Managers think that when they do a training in-house, they can find the people when there is an emergency. That is 3589% true. Unfortunately in most occasions the interrupts are not emergencies. Sometimes, they are urgent, yet not important. Sometimes important, yet not urgent. Over the 15 years that I give training, the times that an interruption was urgent and important I can count on one hand. And I’m sure that in these rare cases, the people would have been able to contact the people in the room if we would have been offsite.

2) part of an agile training, is also building the team together. An offsite helps in creating such a team.

3) With some of my training, we do crazy stuff. Play with lego or blow up balloons, even -dare I say it-, even talk about emotions. All that stuff works so much better offsite. People are not afraid that the CEO will walk in and ask what they are doing. Especially if the training room is a nice glass room.

4)…

Now in the current economics most companies can’t afford an offsite training anymore.

As a change agent, I understand this dynamic and I want to see if I can’t turn these disadvantages on it’s head.

What if one company would offer their training room for free to another company, that would in return do the same thing for the first company?

It’s like professional CouchSurfing …

What do you think? Are you interested in this?

 

Yves

One of my main drivers to start my own company was that I wanted more training than my previous employers gave me.
For 15 years I had a rule that I invested 10 to 20% of my revenue in training.
It was a combination of reading books, evening events, conferences, training & coaching.

The last years I have added community activities to that. I have learned a ton from creating

and mostly the teams that helped me with them.

Actually, I learned so much by working with great teams and their trust, that I decided that the next years, I want to experiment with how I will learn new things.

I want to learn by doing, instead of purchasing training. I will be helping multiple teams or organisations for a short while. This means I will contact companies that work in special ways or are doing stuff in a creative way. My current idea is to do actual work for them for a week.

Last week I came up with the name Au-PairCoaching for this and then asked on twitter what that made people think:

Here are the reactions:

Nicole Rauch: To me that sounds as if the coach would move into my house and live with me for a while.

 

  • Holger Oem: The coach is very young, has no experience on his job but is willing to do anything to help
  • Zurcherart: 19 year old learning a foreign language by coaching your children
  • George Dinwiddie Someone cheap to spend all their time babysitting the children (development team) for years.
  • Leo Exter :  Um. The stuff cheap-and-nasty romance novels are filled with.
  • RonJeffries: A young woman who doesn’t speak my language, won’t watch the kids very well and will get mixed up with my husband.

 

 

Nicole reaction, was in sync with what I thought. It’s not moving in in your house, yet moving in with your team/company.

Holger’s reaction is both good and bad.
– Although I still see myself as young, I doubt my children agree with that.
– I do have experience, I actually think I will bring lots of value.
– yes, I come to learn at the same time
– yes, I am willing to anything to help

Steve’s (Zurcherart) reaction makes me think, I burned down my parents’ house at 19. Not sure you want that 19 year old person in your company ;-)
I consider working people as adults, I don’t want to treat them as children.
I want to learn, yet more the company culture then the language.

George reaction: mmm, not really want to be seen as cheap, usually people don’t listen to people they consider cheap consultants.

Leo’s reaction: I wonder if that is good or bad. these novels are popular.

Ron’s answer is really disturbing. (Thanks Ron, I like it when people push me.)
The part about not speaking the language will be true most of the times. I might miss local nuances. (It’s the main reason why we say that a CoachRetreat is done in the local language.)
I really want to do the job well. I wonder, is this the general experience with au-pairs or just rumors?
The last part; it took me 16 years to convince my wife to ask me to marry her. I’m not going to jeopardize our relation buy fooling around. And I doubt that is what au-pairs actually do. (Although It might be a secret wish of some men hiring an au-pair.) I will check with my wife to see if she has some similar concerns.

Do you know of other people doing this?
When I asked for help on the draft of this talk, I learned about a people who did something similar.

 

So Yves, how is your initiative different, how is it unique?

  • I’m talking about coaching, while most others was about programming
  • I have 3 children (and a lovely wife) that I want to give a lot of love, attention and support. This means I don’t want to go away for months in row. Just like with the training I want to replace, it’s maximum 1 week every 2 months.
  • I will be picky on the companies I pick. I want them to be a-typical. As I will have regular clients at the same time, I can afford that.
  • With that family to support, I won’t work for free
  • I will do paircoaching: One of the things I am really careful about is so called seagull coaching. dropping some shit on a team and moving on without seeing the consequences.
  • I give freelifetime support in this week
  • As I haven’t been part of what the others done, I don’t know, all the differences. I will write about it at the end.

 

Do you care if people are actually using what you are saying? You said it was about learning, so if you learned something and the company is not taking your advice, are you happy?

Great question.
Yes, it’s about learning, but learning as a coach: when I learn something that clients don’t use, I have not really learned anything. One thing that is constant in my life, is that I want to become more effective. Also  as coach. Not learn fake stuff, this is partly why this works better than training, I still have to be able to use what I learned in real life. In that sense, my learning will also be verifying assumptions that I already have.
or as Nicole rephrased it so nicely:
“Your notion of ‘learning success’ is when you learn something new, apply it and see that the other person reacts in a way that they feel helped. Of course, then you need the other person to be interested in what you are applying.”

 

You are talking about learning and you still want to earn money with it. Isn’t this some cheesy marketing scheme?

That is a hard question and one I have been struggling with for a while.
Let’s start by making clear, this is not about finding new regular clients. I will keep doing the work I am normally doing. For my clients in Belgium. If this blogpost is related to marketing, it’s about finding companies that I could learn from. The companies I am looking for, are different than my usual clients, if only because they are outside Belgium. For full transparency, the first of these companies I have already contacted and they have said yes. I will be helping them in October. After I come back to Belgium, I will do a retrospective with the coaches I have helped and plan a next iteration with another company.

The money part: can I charge for learning?
When I was at university, I had a friend who was studying at the conservatory. He practised playing guitar on the streets. earning money while he practised. He even told me, it helped him to practise longer and better. As long as he brought people value, they paid. I think that was smart. I’m sure you can find people around you that earn money while this perfecting their craft.
Update: It took me a while to realize his money scheme was different. His “customers” pay after the delivery of the songs. And they decide how much they will pay, after he has delivered. I will experiment with that.

 

Will you always move to the country, what about distributed teams?
Good question. I just finished reading: A year working without Pants from Scott Berkun. A wonderful book. In 2005 I was coaching an agile team that was distributed : partly in Belgium, partly in Yekatarinaburg. I loved doing that. I am interested in helping out a full distributed team like Berkun did. On top of it, it would be nice if I can work full time on my walking desk.

What do you hope to learn?

  • My current modus operandi; is to do long term assignments. I observe teams for a week and only then start giving ideas. Working for one week, I will need to change that.
  • Most of the companies that are calling for help are companies that want to change the way they are working. You can see it as a therapist helping people in trouble. I want now to work with companies that are doing great and that I will help to become even better.
  • I don’t know what I don’t know…

From the twitter remarks, it’s clear that the name au-pairCoaching is not the best name.
Will you help me find another name?

Current proposals:

  • BYOC (Bring your own Coach)
  • CoachOnTour
  • JourneymanCoach: invented by Olaf Lewitz
  • JourneyCoach: invented by Olaf Lewitz
  • CoachOnJourney
  • Distributed Coach
  • Remote Coach: invented by Olaf Lewitz
  • StageCoach: invented by Martine Vos
  • CollaborationArchitect: now used as part of Innovation Games certifications
  • CollaborationCoach
  • RemoteCollaborationArchitect
  • RemoteCollaboration
  • RemoteCollaborationCoach
  • CreativeCollaborationAgent: this is the name I have been using for a while…

Update:
After some soulsearching and discussing with friends. I decide to use Remote Coach. It fits well in all situations.

Do you know companies I should do this with?
Please tell me

When a client hires me to help their team or company, I do a lot of one on one coaching.
Coaching of developers, VP’s, testers, CEO’s, scrum master, CIO’s, Product Owners, coaches, teammembers etc…

Lately I started also doing coaching of individuals, outside of team or company work.
F ex: A small yet growing company, with no experience with teamleads or managers, asked me if I wanted to help, 2 of their long term employees in growing in such a new job.
Next to that, I also started to coach a few people I met at conferences.

I received quite a few requests from lovely people from other parts of the world. People whose timezones make it actually easy for me to help them.
yet the difference in currencies, make it harder. I either ask them something that is a fortune for them, or they pay me so little I can’t even buy a bread for an hour work.

After I have been struggling with that for a while (ok, I admit, too long) I asked for help to one of my coaches. (In this case Johanna Rothman)
Without missing a beat, she said: Yves, not everything is about money.
What else could you ask?
We talked for an hour, bouncing back idea’s. I’m not sure who came up with the original idea, (which is for me a sign of  good coaching.) yet I decided to offer now
an hour for an hour.

I coach a person an hour and in return I ask that person to help me with something else I would do myself.

Yves, what does kind of work do you talk about? That really depends on the skills of the person that contacts me.

That coaching talk was exactly one month ago, and in less then one week I found my first client that pays me this way. That’s the power of coaching and why I waited to long.
Oh well, I’m not perfect and I’m happy I did the coaching.

Update:
After posting, I got some reactions on twitter on how to subscribe.
Please add a comment and I’ll contact you.
While you wait on me, please think what you can offer in return.
If you don’t want to do this public: ask me by mail, skype (YvesHanoulle) , or DM me in twitter.

 Update2:

On Tuesday 2 July 2013, the manual of our leadership game, was released as leanpub book, as a result of “an hour for an hour coaching” I did with Meike Mertsch. You can download this free book at leanpub
So now, the community has advantages of my coaching.

 

 

Last week I blogged about how I helped a team decide if they wanted to split.
This week I will write about how I helped teams to do their split. By now, I have been using this technique with multiple teams, their sizes vary from 40 till 7.

Warning:
If you want to use this technique, I want to stress that it’s crucial that the team itself wants to split. I was myself part of a group where this technique was used, when we were not convinced that the split was needed. That was a disaster. If you don’t want to take the time for a team to decide if they need to split, you might as well decide on the split yourself.
Update: ok disaster was a little harsh. One of my teammembers told me, it did work, yet we spend a lot of time discussing after the fact and a few people where really hurt. I’m convinced we lost more time after the split then we would have if we discussed before. For me as a coach I learned a lot, as a participant, not really.
F ex not everyone realized that the groups needed to be resplit. (there was a real need, yet not everyone was aware of it.)

Please read my previous post, to have an idea how I did that in one occasion.

Ok, by now your team has decided that they want to split. In a lot of cases, they will come back to you and say, please help us, we don’t know how to split our self up.
In most cases, what they mean is: make the decision for us.

Or to put it more bluntly: “I don’t like to say to person X I prefer these other people over you.”

People have told me, they did not like that, as it made them think of in school they had to select someone for sport or other activities. As someone who was bad at most sports and frequently selected last, I can see people don’t like that.

This technique is different, it does not let one person select, and there is no one selected first or last. Also this technique won’t help you as a manager or coach to select your dream team.

The team does not want to do it. You can’t either.

With this, you will help your team to self–organize in multiple sub-teams.



What you need: a large empty room.
I have used meeting rooms where we put all the tables and chairs to one site.

Then I ask the team to walk around in silence.
I ask them to feel the atmosphere. I tell them that won’t give them any criteria to decide. I also tell them I will not ask them to discuss criteria. The reasoning behind that, is that when you discuss criteria, you are looking for an agreement up front, and then people will come up with lots and lots of criteria they want everyone they agree upon. Which only slows down the process and usually does not help. (If you disagree, please read on, and at the end I will explain how I solve this.)

I ask them to form groups. (In some cases they agreed up front in the decision part about splitting up, how many teams they want. Yet I have seen teams split up in a different number and feel ok with it.)

I tell them that the way we will select teams is by physically standing together.  As long as they are not happy with the TOTAL result they should be moving.

That simple? Yes that simple. Yet as most simple things not easy.

How long does this take?
I have seen a team do this in less then 30 minutes and another team needed a few days for it.

How many facilitators does this need?

2. One to help the group stay quite and sometimes facilitate some questions. And one to talk people who have a hard time.

Does this get emotional?
yes. This is why you need a second facilitator that can have a person chat with people for who this becomes to emotional.

Does this guarantee the best team split?
No, not at all. Yet I know this is a much better split then any manager of coach can come up with.

What if there are some real constraints on how to split up the team, like every team should at least be able to do x?
For that I trust the people of the team. I know that there are multiple spoken and unspoken rules that these new teams have to follow. When you start discussing these rules -especially the unspoken ones- you have discussion and create separation in the total group.
When you don’t discuss them. The people that care about a certain rule, will not be happy with the end result. These people will keep moving. In the end, everyone will be happy, even if people might not agree on all the rules that everyone individually had for herself.

If you prepare people for the split, won’t people create alliances before? 

Cool question invented by a member of  my group, (the one that did not receive time to understand they needed to split)

For me this does not really matter. The fact we walk around and feel, these things will become very explicit.
When we see everyones pre created alliances, two thing can happen.
– Things won’t change: this basically means that the pre-split alliances are accepted by everyone. >> Great.

– Things do change:
Now people see that the created alliances don’t make sense for everyone. This might make people mad (remember the emotional part?) At least the not followed alliances are also very visible to other in the alliance (and outside).
Making things visible, make it possible to deal with.

Did the question to split came from the team?
I think this has been partially answered by my first post. Yet maybe not enough.
One of the teams had an external customer refusing to work with a sub-team. To reorganize the team was a team decision for them. The team were I explained the process of deciding, there I was hired to see if I could help the team splitting. I have no idea who came up with the original idea. Yet it was 100% the decision of the team to split. If they would have said no, it would have been no split. One of the things I guaranteed also was that after x time (x decided by themself) we would reevaluate the split. (That evaluation was also positive and I will post  that as a third post).

Could you give a few examples when things get tough?
Good question. yes I can and will.
1) It’s their fault
In one of the teams, the original problem that let to the desire of splitting up, was not solved after one of the moments that people stopped moving. (They wanted to split up a sub-team that customers complained about. And these people where still together, now with a few more people. )  When I asked if everyone was happy, one person complained that the people where still together and that they boycotted the process. I told him that although it was true that these people where together. I disagreed that it was only their fault. As everyone had been moving. So if everyone really wanted the split, they should all behave like it.
This seems to be typically. People prefer to put the blame on others, yet they don’t see how their own behavior had also on influence.

2) It does not work. Yves, you have to choose the team split…

This was a funny or maybe sad reaction. The team where this reaction came, they had been discussing before about the reasons for changing the team. One of the main reason that came up why the last set up did not work, was done my boss and the person who was in my job before. When someone said: “it does not work” (and multiple other were nodding)
I looked at them. I could not find my words. I looked at them for a full minute, and then I said something like: I don’t understand. You wanted another team split, as the previous one was done by x & y. And now you tell me I have to do it?
No. I refuse to. I have told you when I started, that I would give you tools that would help you to take decisions on your own. I could not explain then, what I ment. Well this is one of these tools.
When I said that last sentence, I looked around. I could see in their eyes, that it clicked. They started to walk around and some time later, they ended up with a team I would never have selected. Later a few team member told me, that was the moment she first understood what a self-organizing team really was about.

This our my slides for My presentation on the Microsoft Webcafe today at PHL.

– Did you recently joined a new team?
– Do you plan to join a new team in the next years?
– Do you plan to welcome a new team member in your team, in the comming year?
If you said yes to one (or more) of these questions, you should watch these slides and you will learn about the power that a junior team member has.
A power that that senior’s don’t have. A power that will help you to grow yourself and your team.
During the preparation of this talk, with all the feedback I have received, I decide that I should turn this into a book.
If you are interested, please go to the leanpub website and tell me about it..

When we talk about thinking outside a box, lots of people have the tendency to say we should not have a box.
I used to think I was very open minded and I did not think inside a box. That in itself is “a box”.
The last years as a coach, my questions are more around helping people realizing they are always inside a box. (or actually more boxes)
Once they know that, we can work on finding the boxes.

When I was reading Personal Kanban, I read about a pedometer. A small device that tracks my steps and helps me visualize how much movement I make (or not make).
When I read it, I was convinced, which is funny as I gave that to my brother-in-law a few years ago as a (requested) gift and I was not convinced at the time [box 1]

When I had mine, I quickly realized that my movement was even worse then what I assumed. (the biggest value of Visual management) as the problem is always worse then what you think of.

When I realized that, I started looking how I could move more.

I could hardly find any:

– I work full time for my clients
– I have a company to run
– I have 3 young kids
– etc etc

>> Yes: all kinds of excuses. Easy to see from a distance, but when you are in the situation, they all look valid. (And they are valid.) [Box nr 2]

So I shifting my coaching question to myself.
The internal conversation went something like this:

Why do I try to coach myself? Why don’t I wait to ask my personal coaches, to help me on this one?
Nah, I am waiting on a train, I have some time to think about that.
True, but with my coaches, thinks might go faster
Mm, I feel some resistance here. Let’s drop the resistance. [Removing box 3, that says I need a coach to change myself]
Ok, if I can do this myself, let’s see what box I am in.

After a while (no idea how long) I found a box:

One box, is that I can’t move more with my current life. [Box 2]
Part of that box, is that all these movements need to be large movements. [Box 4]
Haha, but that is why I have the pedometer, to see the total of the day.

– I already take the stairs instead of the elevator at work as much as possible.
– I go by foot or bike to the trainstation.

What else can I do?
And then it struck me. I was standing at the train station and I was waiting already 10 minutes.
Instead of standing still like everyone, I might as well walk while waiting.
And so I did.

More important, I did this the last 6 months every day I took the train.
Every morning when I arrive at the train station I walk in circles/ellipses while waiting.

side effects:
I don’t rush to get my train anymore.
If I arrive a few minutes earlier, it’s no longer a loss. It’s a gain.

Still left to improvement:
I don’t have the same habit in the evening. I do it from time to time, but not as regular.

Update: Other options would be to have a treadmill desk. Read a diary of one user here.

So what box are you in?

In the agile world we have lots of people that have some kind of musical background.When I started presenting, I had the feeling I had to have original content. As if I could only be a good presenter with original content.Now I know that my presenter gift is story telling.  It doesn’t matter who’s content it is.
Jurgen received some critique for his management book because he was recycling others’ ideas, but I don’t mind. Actually, it’s one of the things I like about his book.(It’s also not true as he has some great toolsin the book.)If I think some further, agile is doing the same. We are gathering great practises and combine them in supporting frameworks.

Some time ago when I first had the idea to write a book, I told myself that whatever I wanted to do, I only wanted to add my ideas to a book, if they were significantly better then things I knew from other people.

Just as a lot of coaches I have an ego, yet it’s not that big that I think my ideas are better then everyone else’s. And then it struck me. That is exactly what I did as a DJ. I played other people’s songs to give my audience a good time. Although I’m not the one writing songs, I am the one throwing great parties. (I see kanban, scrum, TDD as songs). I see my role in the agile community more as a story teller, making publicity for others people songs.

My friend, Johanna told me I could write content, yes I know just like I know some DJs are making music or we have cover bands. I think that if you want to entertain an adult crowd, your songs have to be of great quality. Until now I don’t think I added new songs of quality. Don’t understand me wrong, I don’t mean that in a negative way. I am very proud of my story telling and my mixing of others people songs.

And I think that when you go to an unknown audience you are better of with a collection of CDs than your own songs. Or in coaching language, with any company you are better off with an unlimited tool set than just with your own invented framework.

And yes, some DJ’s only do one genre. And as an audience member, it’s great to go to a rock party or a Gothic event, it’s great because everyone expects this and we all have a good time. And it’s easy as a DJ as he or she can predict what songs the audience will love.
It’s a lot harder at a wedding or a party in a holiday center disco.  There you have all kinds of people, some from countries you have never heard of. You have no idea what songs or even genres they like.

That’s the job of the typical coach who is called in to make an organization agile. When I go into an organisation, I have to blend practises from many cultures to fit the company culture.

Yes I could focus on scrum because that is trendy today, but at some parties that latest bilboard hot 100 song just won’t work. And for some company cultures La Bamba might work and others don’t like touchy feely stuff…

The larger your tool set, the more chance you have to find the sweet spot of an organization. With a DJ people have the habit of asking for songs they like. Some people have to have fun before they will ask for a song. Others will requests songs because they want to help you to start the party. With a band we will expect them to have their own set list.

And yes when I coach, people expect to want a silver bullet from me. (Just like a 16 year old expects the band to play the perfect love song to seduce that beautiful girl he has been watching all night.) As a DJ it’s easier to find the perfect mood.

People don’t like it when I want to listen to them, to know what songs or solution would work.  But for me it’s easier as a coach with a public toolbox then one with my own theories.

The next person on the Who is series, is Bob Marshall, better known as @flowchainsensei. (Wikipedia has never heard of our bob)

I think that Bob is the only person I personally invited that I think I have not met in person. I don’t need to. Bob is so vocal on his twitterfeed, I know who he is and thinks. Thanks to Bob I know the RightShifting movement. He is also one of the few agile people who has an evil counterpart on twitter. (I guess that is a side effect of his clear, to the point statements.) Out of respect for Bob I don’t link to the account.

Bob9c

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Most folks in London know  I ride a motorcycle, but that may not be apparent to folks farther afield. Further than that though, I also consider myself a biker, which is more of a lifestyle choice and mindset than simple a choice of transportation mode.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

Actually, I don’t consider myself “in IT”. Both because I don’t believe software development should have ever been co-located/conflated with IT, and because most of what I do relates to people.
As to an alternate life-path,  most likely I would have become an industrial model-maker. I did have a thriving commercial model-making business whilst (still) at school, plus a job offer back then from the UK’s leading industrial model-making company. I have yet to begin my second career – although I have long had it picked-out – being an intention to start a new “religion”. :Q (And no, Rightshifting is not a religion, as fas as I’m concerned, at least).

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge – for thirty years and more, until recently - was to understand just why software development was (and remains) so universally poor. Now I feel I have uncovered the answer to that mystery.

So my biggest challenge presently is to find a means to share that insight in ways that folks can use, practically, for the advantage of everyone working in software development, and, given the near-ubiquity of software today – for society at large, too. This recent new challenge has been a good thing because it has driven me to long and deep study of human motivation, individual and group psychology, neuroscience, and such like.

What drives you ?
People, people and people. Tech and gadgets are neat toys, or intellectual puzzles, but seeing people realise even a part of their innate potential is what gets me out of bed every morning (literally and metaphorically).

What is your biggest achievement?

My biggest achievement is not really for me to claim. Others may be better placed to proffer an answer. But if pressed, I might reply that my biggest achievement is what other folks who have worked with me say about my contribution to their lives.

What is the last book you have read?

Tricky, given I have about fifteen started-but-not-yet-finished books in my iPad and another ten or so in my “legacy” (dead tree) pile.
The one that most immediately springs to mind is Margaret Wheatley‘s excellent “Leadership and the New Science“.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

How about “why do so many business improvement projects (ie agile adoptions) fail?” And the answer is “because folks fail to recognize the true nature of the challenges involved, and thus use inappropriate approaches”.

Who do you think I should ask next?

There are so many fine folks in e.g. the agile, lean and twitter communities, I’m sure I’d offend many by omission. But despite such risk,  I’d suggest maybe Benjamin Mitchell, Grant Rule, or David Joyce.

The next person in our “Who is” series is Rachel Davies. Not the actrice Rachel Davies but the agile coach Rachel Davies. I met her at XPday Benelux 2004. I followed lots of  her sessions since. The session that I remember most is her Keeping the furniture police at bay. So much I invited her and Emmanuel Gaillot to do a Retrospective workshops for PairCoaching.net. If you like any of my ideas on Retrospectives, thank Rachel. You can do so by buying her book. (Ok I’m exaggerating, I learned a lot from Agile Retrospectives as well.

What is something people usually don’t know about you but has influenced you in who you are?

Even though I have spent most of my career working as a programmer, my degree is in Philosophy. Through studying Philosophy, I learned not to become too attached to ideas, to question assumptions and practice shifting perspectives to reach a deeper understanding. This practice is useful when trying to understand the underlying beliefs that people hold and not to let those differences get in the way of working with them.

Another aspect of my life is that I come from a family of keen gardeners. As a child I learned to identify all sorts of wild flowers when we went for walks. I find plants of all kinds very beautiful and love to watch them change and grow through the seasons. I particularly love old trees because I like to reflect on how things life has changed as they have grown up around us. I also like to seek out ancient stone circles because I like to think about how people walked and lived in the same places hundreds of years ago.

If you would not have been in IT, what would have become of you?

I’m not really sure. When I finished university I realised that there was not a very obvious career path for someone with a degree in Philosophy. I applied for all sorts of jobs with no luck. I decided to study software engineering and was really excited with how creative it is.

What is your biggest challenge and why is it a good thing for you?

My biggest challenge is not too take on too many things to work on, especially volunteering for conference organising roles. This year I have been a chair of XP2011 conference in Spain, helping Manav Mehan with UK Agile Coaches Gathering and also Open Jam at Agile2011 I have a passion about getting people together to share experiences and conferences are a great way to energise people and encourage change. Even though, conference organising may seem a diversion from my client work, sometimes it puts me in touch with new people to work with. I often get free registration but this doesn’t really compensate for all the hours spent on emails and skype calls. I think the real benefit is working with a team of other volunteers to create a special experience that will boost people’s energy around Agile development. When I chaired Agile2008 in Toronto, I really felt like a Product Owner shaping something new.

What question do you think I should also ask and what is the answer?

I think you might ask how much time I spend coaching these days. The answer is not much. It’s been about six months since I coached a team. I am puzzling over this because I do enjoy coaching teams and would like that to be a bigger proportion of what I do. It seems that the role of agile coach has now become more ubiquitous and in the UK is now something that companies source through job agencies. The number of years experience required seems to be less and perhaps people think I might be too expensive because I am a book author not actually the case :-) I am enjoying running workshop style training courses for coaches who want to improve their skills in coaching teams – the next one will be 25 August.

What drives you ?

I hate to see people asked to do pointless things in the name of process. I love to see a people collaborate to build a better product. I am driven to help people work more effectively together.

What is your biggest achievement?

In the realm of work, this has to be writing “Agile Coaching” book with Liz Sedley . I am so pleased to hear from people that they found it easy to read and picked up useful ideas. The team at Pragmatic Bookshelf provides great support for new authors so it’s a great place to get started and they’re always looking for new authors

What is the last book you have read?

A book called Psychiatric Tales

Who should be the next person to answer these questions?

Steve Freeman.