29 June 2011

A Survival Guide for New Agile Coaches - Patience, Persistence... and Ear Plugs

For the first couple of months after my son was born, we had a heck of a time getting him to sleep in the evening. After a couple of months I realized that I just had to let him scream until he fell asleep. Once he did he slept like, well, a baby! 

Getting to that realization was tough. He was literally screaming as loud as he could into my ear (I've been tested, and the hearing in that ear is diminished!), and he would wriggle away. I figure that he was ticked about having to go to bed! Regardless, the screaming became a routine, and once that routine was established it wasn't as stressful. 

After a few months the patience and persistence paid off. He screamed less and less, eventually going down to sleep without a fight. 

Coaching Point 
When a team is first starting their transition to Agile, you will hear a lot of screaming... mostly in the figurative sense, but sometimes literally. For most of the organizations with whom I've worked, Agile represents a fundamental change to how they think about their organization and their work. Any change that significant will create fear and stress. People will think that they may lose their job. There will be those who lose what they believed to be a prestigious title. Sacred cows may be slain in the name of moving to Agile.

Be prepared to put the team on your shoulder (figuratively, of course) and let them cry it out. Give them time to learn how to work in short cycles.  Give them the support and time needed to learn test automation.  Give them the support and tools needed to effectively inspect and adapt.  When the team has gripes & complaints and wants to give up, listen patiently and with compassion.

If that support is available to them, over time their need to "cry it out" will diminish and eventually disappear.

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