This year it’s 10 years ago that I started working full time as what we now call an agile coach.
Agile coaching is change management, it’s helping people from where they are to somewhere else.
That somewhere else, is a place neither of us know.
Partly because I don’t know yet enough what is their current place, partly because they don’t understand what agile really means.
So one of the typically questions I get is: give me an example.
In these 10 years I have worked for the industry automating food factories, healthcare, postal service, banking, insurance, energy services, consumer service and a few more.
When I gave examples in the first years, I was giving examples about one of these companies I helped.
Yet, when I speak for a few hundred people, most are not in the same industry as most of my examples. And even when they were in the same industry, people came with excuses why my example was wrong for their company. For me that was fine. My examples were never intended to be used as best practises in your company. Their are intended to inspire people, so that they can adapt them and find their own solutions.
So gradually over the years I started to use a different story telling technique.
Most of my examples are now about my family.
Because I consider my audience smarter then me and capable of translating examples of my personal life, to their work situation and find their own solution.
I have the impression this works better.
yes, there still are laggards who don’t want to change and think that some of the new idea’s in this fast changing agile world are crazy and won’t work in their company.
That’s fine. I prefer to spend my energy helping people who want to change, that is still most part of the world.
(And they prefer to spend their time with something they know. That is fine too.)
Look at the picture above: I’m pair working with my daughter. Who is the expert on the picture? yes it’s my daughter. Although I have build a lot more castles then she has, and I have a lot of years more experience, she was really the expert. Next time you are pair-programming , think about my daughter and what you can learn from her …
I don’t even have to explain you what you can learn from this situation. I know you are smarter then me and you will find the lessons you need.
Or as my father says: you don’t have to believe in the sea to get wet, you do have to get in to get wet. Meaning, what you learn of a situation is related to the energy you put in.
If this post inspires you, please share your personal stories. How do you apply agile in your life?
The last couple of weeks, I have been in a few discussion (on and offline) around the salary of a scrummaster and an agile coach. (Some inspired by our community book on hiring)
In one of these discussions a European company asked me what would be a good salary for their scrummaster. In another a great agile coach (and dear friend of me) wanted to work as a freelance coach in a new country and had no idea what was an acceptable daily rate. Another company was about to start an agile transition and wanted to find the right balance between paying a decent fee and hiring as many great coaches as possible.
The problem that all these people had, was the only decent information they found, came from the USA and did not feel adapted to the rest of the world. And my personal information is, well is just about me and my friends. And then my friends Sam & Karen launched their salary survey for South-Africa. I thought, why not launch a similar survey but then globally.
Update: I received a few questions about the survey.
– Who has acces to the raw data?
Me, Karen, Sam. In the future I will probably ask my father to help me with the statistics.
– Where will you publish these statistics? The statistics will be send out to the mailing list and then published on my blog.
I will only publish data about countries I have at least 10 people. Otherwise it feels like not statistically relevant. And it helps to keep more privacy.
– What about totally transparency of agile? It’s always a trade off between transparency and privacy. I know that some people hoped on full acces to this data. I also know that others are really scared about giving data about their income away.
– What countries do you have data on?
Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, South-Africa, Spain, Uk, Ukraïne, USA.
Most countries don’t have 10 people yet. So I hope more people will make publicity for it. As I really want to publish some nice data.
Feel free to add your question about the survey below.
I don’t know Frank personally, yet I have heard his story many times and it keep inspiring me.
For those who who don’t know Frank, he turned (one of the) worst FOD (ministries – is that an English word?) around to become one of the hottest places in Belgium to work for.
Inspired by semco, the new working etc…
Many people felt inspired by the talk, yet what also happened was that a few people wondered yeah but would it also work (fill in anything you want…)
Now I have been working as an agile coach for ten years, and more specifically the last 5 years helping large to huge organisations in that role. And then my role is partly a change agent.
Helping to turn an organisation into a new way of working, with a big mindset shift.
I helped companies around EMEA and at the same time I spoke at conferences in many different countries.
Two of the most common reactions I get are:
– yes this is fine in (name another country/company ), but this would not work in (the country /company of the speaker)
– yes this is all nice in theory, but in the real world...
Thus this mean, I’m never frustrated about where my clients are and the speed they go?
No, I’m always frustrated. I always want to go faster. And that is good because that is my job. The moment I’m happy with where a client is, that means I stayed too long.
The story that Frank told today, is where he is now, and yes it’s the good part. I’m sure there were moments he was frustrated, I’m sure that he still has things he wants to improve and he might even feel they just started. That is not the point.
The first big change assignment I took in a large organisation, I felt frustrated about the speed. I felt frustrated about how little we achieved. I thought I was frustrated because I compared them to what I knew in other companies. It took me a few years to realise that was not really the case.
I compared my clients with:
a imaginary team existing of
– the best developers from the best teams I worked with
– the best tester from a great team I worked with
– a great scrummaster (who is now working as an agile coach)
– a Product owner that is a combination of two great PO’s I worked with, mixed with the person who taught my PO training and wrote one of the best books on user stories.
mixed with stories I heard at conferences, read online, and hopes I have build up over the years.
so really that is not fair to anyone. None of the teams I have worked with or any of my colleague coaches, will win this comparison. All teams will look pale compare to this imaginary team.
What I started to do instead, is compare my clients to how they were when I joined.
F ex: at my current client, we now have the support of the CIO. That is something that I consider necessary for the kind of change we are trying to achieve now. And I have to admit, one year ago, I did not think we would have this already now. That is a huge achievement.
I can choose to complain about all the possible roadblocks and thing that go slower then I want, and yes I sometimes do that, because I need to let go of my frustration.
yet I love my job, because I am asked to help people to find a better working world.
Just as Frank, I meet a lot of good people that are capable of doing extraordinary things, if we allow them to think. And I know they are capable, because they do it. Unfortunately some of them don’t do it at work, but do it in some kind of volunteer work. And I’m totally not against volunteer work (I’m a coach for coderdojo, and I love helping kids discovering technology), yet I don’t like it when people do voluntary work because they can’t do what they would love to do at work.
Ask people their values, give them a why and trust they will figure out the how. (After all you hired them because you thought they were smart.) Basically treat them as adults.
PS If you think they are behaving as children, ask me at the next GentM, about some of the times I treated my children as adults and what that resulted in… (Thanks Lamazone to ask me the questions that reminded me of these stories…)
As a coach, I decided some years ago, that the books I read as a coach, I want to have in my possession. I decided this because I try to learn something from every book I read.
The number of books that I really have to say, I did not learn anything from is very very low.
During my coaching, I referred people to the different books I had read.
I know that not every one likes to read as much as I do, yet in every organisation there is at least someone who loves to read.
And gradually I began to bring books to the clients I was coaching.
Every company/person has their own proces for lending books.
I call my proces: the library of trust.
Here is how the Library Of Trust works:
You select a book you would like to read
You take a picture of you with the book
You send this picture to my work and personal e-adres
You read the part of the book that interest you (mandatory)
You bring the book back
You ask me to take a picture of me with the book and send it to you (important, that way I have a trace it’s back)
I get two kind of reactions to this proces:
Wow cool proces
How many books have you lost already?
Ah that last question is interesting. I also bring my books to the XPdays conference and I leave them in the hotel lobby.
There I lost 2 books in the last 10 years. One of them came magically back the next year at the conference.
So I lost 1 book in 10 years.
The reaction of one of the people that asked me this question. Wow we have a very rigid proces and we loose about 1 book a year. I rest my case.
My friend and colleague Franky Redant said that the SCARF model kinda explains why. Something I let you figure out on your own.
As I wrote in my new years video mail, last year I had two pair of shoes that I wore out. (where I usually do + one yearwith a pair of shoes)
At the start of this year, I bought a new pair of shoes. I went to buy a new pair of shoes in the first weekend of the wintersales. At first, I thought I was lucky that my shoes broke down before. Until I entered my regular shoe shop. (As much as I like to create new habits, the last shoes I bought, I bought somewhere else and you know how that ended…)
I entered the shop and it was -predictable- full of people. And unfortunately in my size not many options for shoes left. Until I found some shoes, that looked different as what I usually buy, yet looked ok. When I put them on, I noticed that inside, the was a little heel. Which basically lifted my foot half a centimetre (or maybe even a centimeter.) It felt strange, yet the shoes fitted.
Side note: Now I personally am one of these men, who don’t like that women wear high heels. I actually think it’s rather foolish to walk around in stiletto’s of 5 to 10 centimetre. Especially when I see the narrow size of the “heel”.
When I tried the shoes, my thought was, you know what, instead of criticising, maybe I should buy these shoes and try a little bit what it means to wear heels. (Which at the same time felt rather ridiculous as it was only a small heel and it was inside the shoe.) Yes, yes, the stories I tell myself when I buy something.
Next monday, I wore the shoes to work and by the time I arrived, my feet hurted like hell.
I was barely able to move, I don’t even call it walking.
My internal message: “Well yves new shoes always hurt, so …”
Yves this is al very nice, what has this to do with agile?
Great question, let me tell you about an agile transformation I did a few years ago.
I worked for a very big international organisation (think x0.000 people) as part of a 3 persons coaching team. We were coaching multiple development teams.
There was another team that was thinking up the agile transformation. Some of the people of that team had been with this company for decades and had in this company only been thinking up policies and regulations. (Think project management Office style), some others had agile experience, yet never in this company. Together they came up with some way the teams were supposed to work. The coaches team realised very quickly that what they came up with did not work for the teams we were coaching.
A conversation I had recently made me realise they had split up their company in thinkers and doers. Something that might make sense in a factory (although Toyota shows us it’s not needed to be successful.) yet it for sure makes things harder in a company that does knowledge work. At a more recent agile transformation, we had a similar transformation team only there the coaches team convinced this team to organise themselves in a similar way as the development teams.
I’m not saying this avoided all problems, yet by walking in the same shoes they asked the developers to wear, they felt the same pain.That created trust in multiple directions.
Reader: Yves, before you leave, please tell us what happened to your new shoes.
Thank you for asking.
In the first week, I noticed that my heels were bleeding. I remember having sore feet, yet I don’t remember bleeding feet. Once the bleeding stopped, my children noticed that I walked strangely (basically put my heels down first and only the my toes.) At some point I realised it was no longer my heel that were hurting, now it was my ankles that hurted. At that point, my partner asked, no begged me, to buy new shoes. She wanted to avoid that I would damage my legs for every. Although I felt I should really walk a while into new shoes, every morning I walked or better stumbled the 1.200 steps to the train station, I wondered what “a while” really ment.
As a change agent, I know I’m asking a lot of people to change their habits, that is why I’m regularly changing my own habits. Asking people in a large corporation to make the switch to agile, is a big change. A change that hurts.
In one of my coaching conversation I had with a CxO some years ago, this persons brain physically hurted. Intellectually this person new it was the right thing to do. yet ignoring the old reflexes gave physical pain.
And that was a person who believed in agile, where a lot of people I’m coaching, are not convinced agile is a solution to their problem. (And who can blame them.) On top, everyone around them, sees they have a hard time, and all these counsellors tell them to stop and good look for a new job. (just like my partner asked me to buy new shoes…)
Now, it’s about a month ago I bought the shoes, my feet no longer hurt. I have to admit, I still realise about once a week, I have new shoes. Which tells me, these new shoes are not a naturally extension of my body yet.
It’s similar, to a manager that is pretty new to agile, although he actually likes it, when there is a crisis, they automatically start to micro manage their teams, not only honestly believing they are helping, mostly they don’t even realise they started doing it again.
So next time you help someone with a new process, please co-create it with them and walk a while in their shoes before you do. You will see, your new proces is accepted much faster…
After the strong CoachRetreats year in 2013, Oana and me slowed down a little. That resulted in only 6 CoachRetreats in 2014. The good part for me, is that these happened without any support of me. Self-organisation at it’s best. Now it’s time to find more people to organize CoachRetreats in other cities/countries. A big thank you to Oana and all local organizers for all their work in 2014.
As you can see in this years video, I did a presentation with my 12 year old son at Failing.Forward. it was a real nice experiment, especially as he did not yet have English at school and the conference was in English. The standing ovation he received at the end, told us it was a successful experiment. You can read about it (in Dutch) here
I have stepped 4.730.443 steps this year. That is 5.795 km, or 601 km less than last year, probably due to the fact I did not run this year. I also had two pair of shoes that completely broke down on me. Even when I was living of wellfare, I never had that. I guess the quality of cheap shoes has gone down dramatically… (Sorry Guido, I’m one of these men, who don’t like to spend money on quality shoes..) Or maybe that is because I did 5795 floors, which was 661 more then last year.
This year I found a developer helping me out to relaunch the PairCoaching community site. He has trouble setting up a wiki for the PairCoaching domain. Is there anyone who has experience with a setting up an open wiki, who wants to help out? The PairCoaching community will love you for it.
I started coaching CoderDojo and even took on the role of LeadCoach. My three children joined and two of them have brought in their own friends.
On a personal level, we now have 2 children with a double digit number.
Geike at age 7 already knowing very well what she wants and does not want to do.
Bent going alone to school by bike. Sometimes coming home alone and already studying before we come home.
Joppe going to a bigger school, 7 kilometers by bike with a bunch of friends. What made me most proud was he stayed with a friend who fell on the way to school, risking to be late for a test. Life is all about priorities. He has his priorities right.
The plans for our new home got accepted and although we did lose a lot of time for multiple reasons. We did make a progress and looking forward to see the new house grow this year.
Yet that was not the main reason why this presentation was special.
I had a co-presentor. Now for those who follow me, know I make a lot of publicity for PairCoaching, so having a PairPresentor is also nothing new. What made it special, was it was my 12 year old son who joined me on stage.
And we did the presentation in English. A language he did not learn at school yet. So his English is mainly “television & music” English. Ah, it’s wonderful to live in a country where most television has subtitles and is not dubbed.
During the day and the weeks before I received a lot of questions from friends about this presentation, I wanted to group some of the answers here.
How were you invited to this conference?
As Greet De Keyser said in her presentation, people should ask what they want.
When I saw the program of the Failing.FWD conference, I tweeted something like: Damned this is a conference I would have wanted to talk. And then Karen one of the organizers replied: oh you were on our list and we still have an open spot. Getting what you want, is that simple!
Did they agree on bringing your son? This is a nice example of “asking for forgiveness instead of begging for permission“. I’m a professional speaker. It’s my responsibility to make a great talk. I don’t need to ask people if the content or style of my talk is ok.
yes, I did tell Karen I wanted to bring my son and I told her it was possible that he would be on stage with me. I guess, she trusted me. A BIGTHANKYOU to Karen, Ann and the full Failing.FWD team for trusting me.
How did you prepare?
The million dollar question.
After I got accepted and before I started to prepare my talk, I received an e-mail from Joppe’s school that the school would be on strike. So I asked Joppe if he wanted to join me in going to a conference -that was in English-. I assumed his English would have been good enough to follow a few sessions. He said yes. And he said yes with an enthusiasm, that triggered me in asking him if he wanted to join me on stage. Without blinking he said yes. I replied, you realise we will talk in English, he looked at me and said yes with a big smile on his face. Ah, the youth and it’s innocents enthusiasm.
I prepared this talk like I prepared all my talks.
– I created the draft of the presentation on index cards. (alone)
– Then I rehearsed the presentation using cards (alone) a first time. (And adjusted the cards.)
I did these steps alone, not because I did not trust him.
In 2011 he helped a lot in creating our joined presentation about our life in Bordeaux, I knew having helping me to create the presentation would be a great asset. I did it alone because he still had some large tests at school and my partner did not want that I distracted him. (WorkLife balance is also challenge for him…)
I tried it a few times alone and then talked with Joppe about it. Just like last time, he had some great idea’s and the presentation grew. And then last Friday we rehearsed a few times & some more on Saturday. The first time saturday morning, was one of the first times the rest of the family joined in watching and he froze. he stopped after 5 minutes and refused to continue.
We talked a little bit about what to do when this would happen at the conference.
I still don’t know exactly what happened, yet I don’t want to pressure him in sharing something that scared him. I did tell him to not worry, if it would happen on stage, I would take over.
Next time we rehearsed the whole family was out. Although they came home while we were halfway, this time he continued and everything was fine.
In the meanwhile I was a more worried about the nr of slides (we had already 50 by now.) I got worried because a lama listening to the name Sofie (or is it a Sofie listen to the name Lama?) asked me about the speed of the presentation.
Sofie is the kind of women that with just a few words turns my world up side down (no, not that kind of upside down.)
I’m the kind of man that has a big EGO, yet I also know that I need to listen to women smarter then me. (I live with two of these)
In the dry-runs with Joppe, I realised that Sofie was right. In some places the speed was wrong.
So on Sunday, me and Joppe we worked on the pace and the order of one part of the presentation. Joppe’s help was crucial here, although at first I thought he did not well remember some of his lines, he made me realise that I got some parts mixed up.
So I went back to my walking desk and started to type out that part of the presentation. It was hard, now Joppe & Sofie were independently of each other partnering up “against me”, yet more importantly in favour of a great presentation.
It was already 15:00 and we needed to leave. I had agreed with the people from Failing.FWd we could do a try out on the real stage.
And then everything fell together, yet when we tried it out, I noticed again it was hard to remember the correct order (remember we had already been practising this talk a dozen times.)
And then I did the probably the opposite of what Sofie would have done, I added 3 more slides. And boom, it felt right. No time to rehearse the full presentation. I uploaded the slides to Slideshare, loaded the luggage in the car while dropbox synced and of we left for Genk. We were half an hour late, yet the lovely Ann Dries from Failing.FWD came out to let us practise on the real stage.
I wanted to do this, so Joppe could feel the stage and I hoped that feeling this he would talk louder. Joppe is rather introvert and when he talks to me, while other adults are in the room, I can hardly understand him. Ok, this is probably partly due to hearing loss as a DJ and some other ear damage, yet he talks rather quite. We practised a full Dry Run, without microphones and with my computer in front of us. I asked him to talk louder then he did and probably wanted.
We agreed with An that we would practise another time Monday morning , now with microphones etc etc..
Although lots of things went wrong (I’ll blog about these in the next days), we had a blast on stage.
Joppe spoke loud enough and it felt to me that the audience loved his style, right from the start.
So it was no surprise to me he got a standing ovation of the full audience.