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Progressing From Agile Practitioner To Agile Coach- A Perspective

Introduction: -With Agile becoming a norm in the current world, enterprises that want to be in the forefront of transformation typically focuses on an adoption strategy that involves hiring Agile practitioners. This hiring is expected to create and foster an Agile culture by coaching employees who may not have any prior Agile experience.I had an opportunity to lead one of the high profile enterprise Agile product development in my organization for a US client. It was a multi-year program with more than 60+ team members distributed geographically across 4 locations (India & US). The program was highly visible and had all tight constraints in terms of budget, timeline, and quality. The client’s engineering teams were too slow in adoption and were not supported by strong engineering practices and focusing only on management aspects.The hope was that my 'extreme programming and engineering practices' background would bring light at the end of the tunnel! Also, since I had spent a considerable amount of time as a practitioner and had attended internal training on coaching, my manager was confident about my accrued experience.I took on all these challenges one by one and also in the meantime I learned that coaching involves three simple stages, as follows. Let’s see these 3 different stages of Agile Coaching that will help you to move from an Agile Practitioner to Agile Coaching.Three Stages/Phases of Agile Coaching: -First is the Assessment Stage, where I observed existing processes and interaction with the team members, gauging them on technical and non­-technical considerations. I evaluated some of the baseline metrics and assessment reports.I was able to identify some of the key improvement areas that could help the team and client progress towards the goal quickly and deliver value. I had devoted a lot of time in listening actively to the team members on multiple occasions. This gave lots of insights into various processes and standards followed by the team and its dynamics. Some of the key challenges that existed were,Non-standardized approach by the team leading to the suboptimal solution.Unwilling to share the best practices or knowledge.Lack of cross synergy and cohesion thereby decreasing overall velocity.Losing focus on the big picture leading to silo working modelThe second is the Active coaching stage where I started encouraging the team members to set specific goals and provide accountability and followed-up to improve the performance. More often I would have open conversations like “What can I do to help you improve?” and create awareness around the problem or issues.I was able to change or influence the behavior patterns of the team on retrospectives during stressful times by not attending the ceremony. This provided freedom to the team members and allowed them to express freely on the pitfalls and improvement areas.I noticed a few things..The build took almost 2 hours, potentially delaying deployment across multiple stages. I probed the team to come up with new ideas to reduce the build time and team was able to explore multiple options and with maven scripts, the team reduced the build time to 45 minutes (60% reduction).The personal characteristics and attitude are most difficult to change as they are built from childhood. I would often leave it to the individual to resolve if there is a need to change and why it would benefit them personally.The key was to actively listen to their opinions, ideas and most importantly to empathize and motivate the team members. I realized as a coach, that influencing or changing behaviors of the team cannot be done overnight and provide immediate results but was always a gradual and long-term process. Over a period of time, the team became self-sufficient and I observed well-enabled retrospectives and well maintained Jira boards.  The difference between completed and accepted story points came down to 3-5% from 8-10%. The team had started realizing their potential without much of an active involvement from me. Team dynamics often created unpredictability (low motivational levels, low performance, poor standards etc.) and I was careful particularly in not providing any directions and specify the outcomes rather understood the working ways of the team and coached them to overcome all of these challenges by themselves.The final stage is Sustainability, which is to continue to perform better indefinitely while I stepped back and enjoyed the results and performance of the team. In some iterations, the results were excellent and few iterations stayed flat.I reviewed the qualitative and quantitative metrics from time to time just to make sure the fundamentals were being followed and as long as there is a harmony in the team, I didn’t interfere. I also learned to identify the quick learners, star performers and nurtured them as they were the ones who would eventually become the team’s influencers and motivators and made them as the internal coaches to continue this endeavor forever. I fostered a healthy relationship with multiple units in the team, for the team to function more effectively.Responsibilities of an Agile CoachPlays a mentoring or coaching role in the organization without being a part of the Scrum teamMost often this person is not a part of the Scrum team and an outsider (from outside the organization)Guides the team members, without personal or political considerationsThe person is an Agile expertIs experienced in implementing Agile techniques in different cultures and environmentsAble to run the complex and different sized Agile projects successfullyA Roadway from Agile Practitioner to Coach:-The coaching experience gave me a sense of fulfillment as I would see mostly the team smiling and brimming with ideas for improvement constantly in the journey of self-reliance. This has helped me improve my personal traits to a greater extent and I feel that I’ve made a sincere attempt to embed myself into my organization towards enterprise agility.Despite the resistance from the team members to change, I was able to win and influence them through my communication, empathy and logical reasoning skills. I truly believed coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.
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Progressing From Agile Practitioner To Agile Coach- A Perspective

181
Progressing From Agile Practitioner To Agile Coach- A Perspective

Introduction: -

With Agile becoming a norm in the current world, enterprises that want to be in the forefront of transformation typically focuses on an adoption strategy that involves hiring Agile practitioners. This hiring is expected to create and foster an Agile culture by coaching employees who may not have any prior Agile experience.

I had an opportunity to lead one of the high profile enterprise Agile product development in my organization for a US client. It was a multi-year program with more than 60+ team members distributed geographically across 4 locations (India & US). The program was highly visible and had all tight constraints in terms of budget, timeline, and quality. The client’s engineering teams were too slow in adoption and were not supported by strong engineering practices and focusing only on management aspects.

The hope was that my 'extreme programming and engineering practices' background would bring light at the end of the tunnel! Also, since I had spent a considerable amount of time as a practitioner and had attended internal training on coaching, my manager was confident about my accrued experience.

I took on all these challenges one by one and also in the meantime I learned that coaching involves three simple stages, as follows. Let’s see these 3 different stages of Agile Coaching that will help you to move from an Agile Practitioner to Agile Coaching.

Three Stages/Phases of Agile Coaching: -

Three Stages/Phases of Agile CoachingFirst is the Assessment Stage, where I observed existing processes and interaction with the team members, gauging them on technical and non­-technical considerations. I evaluated some of the baseline metrics and assessment reports.

I was able to identify some of the key improvement areas that could help the team and client progress towards the goal quickly and deliver value. I had devoted a lot of time in listening actively to the team members on multiple occasions. This gave lots of insights into various processes and standards followed by the team and its dynamics. Some of the key challenges that existed were,

  • Non-standardized approach by the team leading to the suboptimal solution.
  • Unwilling to share the best practices or knowledge.
  • Lack of cross synergy and cohesion thereby decreasing overall velocity.
  • Losing focus on the big picture leading to silo working model

The second is the Active coaching stage where I started encouraging the team members to set specific goals and provide accountability and followed-up to improve the performance. More often I would have open conversations like “What can I do to help you improve?” and create awareness around the problem or issues.

I was able to change or influence the behavior patterns of the team on retrospectives during stressful times by not attending the ceremony. This provided freedom to the team members and allowed them to express freely on the pitfalls and improvement areas.

I noticed a few things..

The build took almost 2 hours, potentially delaying deployment across multiple stages. I probed the team to come up with new ideas to reduce the build time and team was able to explore multiple options and with maven scripts, the team reduced the build time to 45 minutes (60% reduction).

The personal characteristics and attitude are most difficult to change as they are built from childhood. I would often leave it to the individual to resolve if there is a need to change and why it would benefit them personally.

The key was to actively listen to their opinions, ideas and most importantly to empathize and motivate the team members. I realized as a coach, that influencing or changing behaviors of the team cannot be done overnight and provide immediate results but was always a gradual and long-term process. Over a period of time, the team became self-sufficient and I observed well-enabled retrospectives and well maintained Jira boards.  

The difference between completed and accepted story points came down to 3-5% from 8-10%. The team had started realizing their potential without much of an active involvement from me. Team dynamics often created unpredictability (low motivational levels, low performance, poor standards etc.) and I was careful particularly in not providing any directions and specify the outcomes rather understood the working ways of the team and coached them to overcome all of these challenges by themselves.
coaching difficulty & resistance in agileThe final stage is Sustainability, which is to continue to perform better indefinitely while I stepped back and enjoyed the results and performance of the team. In some iterations, the results were excellent and few iterations stayed flat.

I reviewed the qualitative and quantitative metrics from time to time just to make sure the fundamentals were being followed and as long as there is a harmony in the team, I didn’t interfere. I also learned to identify the quick learners, star performers and nurtured them as they were the ones who would eventually become the team’s influencers and motivators and made them as the internal coaches to continue this endeavor forever. I fostered a healthy relationship with multiple units in the team, for the team to function more effectively.

Responsibilities of an Agile Coach

  • Plays a mentoring or coaching role in the organization without being a part of the Scrum team
  • Most often this person is not a part of the Scrum team and an outsider (from outside the organization)
  • Guides the team members, without personal or political considerations
  • The person is an Agile expert
  • Is experienced in implementing Agile techniques in different cultures and environments
  • Able to run the complex and different sized Agile projects successfully

A Roadway from Agile Practitioner to Coach:-
The coaching experience gave me a sense of fulfillment as I would see mostly the team smiling and brimming with ideas for improvement constantly in the journey of self-reliance. This has helped me improve my personal traits to a greater extent and I feel that I’ve made a sincere attempt to embed myself into my organization towards enterprise agility.

Despite the resistance from the team members to change, I was able to win and influence them through my communication, empathy and logical reasoning skills. I truly believed coaching focuses on helping another person learn in ways that let him or her keep growing afterward. It is based on asking rather than telling, on provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.

Ramkumar

Ramkumar Armugam

Blog Author

Ramkumar is an experienced Program Manager with 13+ years of success in leading all phases of diverse technology IT Projects in retail, e-commerce, insurance and pharma market research industries. He has more than 7+ years of experience in leading and executing projects and programs using agile and lean methodologies. He is currently working as Senior Manager in Cognizant Technology Solutions India Pvt Ltd and holds multiple certifications including PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM, CSPO, CSP and ICP-ACC. He has a zeal for project and program management and his current endeavor includes leading a large scale distributed product development team in delivering a world class product features in the area of Finance and HR domains for a large US retailer. He is a regular contributor to projectmanagement.com.

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Scrum Master and Product Owner: Understanding the Differences

According to the State of Scrum report 2017-2018 based on the data collection initiated in 2013. This survey represents the real world implementations of Scrum.     Agile methodology imparts the easy and convenient path to work. Scrum is one of the renowned Agile methodologies. The agile methodology consists of 4 main roles, viz. Product Owner, Scrum Master, Scrum team and Stakeholder. Each role has its share of responsibilities. These roles are all about commitment.     Scrum Master and the Product Owner are the two vital roles in the Scrum software development methodology. Since they both are working on different areas of the project, they are indispensable for the project. Scrum Master is a mediator between the Product Owner (PO) and the Development Team.     Let’s see how a Scrum Master is different from a Product Owner. Difference between the Product Owner and Scrum Master-   Though the Product Owner and the Scrum master vary in their roles, they complement each other. Scrum master should support the Product Owner in every step possible. There should be an amicable relationship between the Product Owner and the Scrum master. Disputes may happen between them if the roles are not clarified. Let us have a look at the differences in roles between the Product Owner and the Scrum Master. The Scrum Master concentrates on the project success, by assisting the product owner and the team is using the right process for creating a successful target and establishing the Agile principles.     Skills of the Scrum Master (SM): Removes the impediments and keep the team on track The Scrum Master helps the team to strictly adhere to the Scrum practices and helps them in reaching the target. The Scrum Master find out the distractions that are hindering the team from delivering the product quality. The distractions include unwanted meetings, complexity in the procedure, work environment etc. Encourages Collaboration The Scrum Master notices the daily activities of the team members. Also, the SM share his/her experiences with the team members via meetings, conferences, and seminars. The Scrum Master encourages the collaboration through the stand-up meetings, the release of planning sessions, iteration planning, and demo sessions. Good listening and Communication power The Scrum Master should have good communication skills in order to discuss the ideas and plan with the team. Good communication helps to deliver messages to customers, teams, and target audiences. Also, listening to the team members will help them share their ideas with the Scrum Master. So, Scrum Master should be a good listener also. Mentors the team as a Coach A successful Scrum Master understands the importance of the team working in collaboration. He/She mentors the team members as a Coach to implement the Scrum practices.    Flexibility for adopting the change The Scrum Master should be flexible for adopting any change. While implementing the Agile methodology, the team members may face the problems. So, the Scrum Master should be able to help the team members to adopt the changes. The Scrum Master facilitates the daily Scrum meetings for the team members to discuss their issues that are hindering the project growth.     Partnership with the Product Owner Scrum consists of three roles – Product Owner, Scrum Team and Scrum Master. The Scrum Master acts as a mediator between the development team and the Product Owner. The two roles- Product Owner and Scrum Master are valuable for the team, as they build a perfect relation with the team and thereby delivering the best results. Servant Leadership quality The Scrum Master provides collaboration. Scrum Master is also known as a Servant Leader.  He/She guides the team members on how to follow the Scrum approach to motivate the team members to deliver the best. Responsibilities of the Scrum Master:   Scrum Master facilitates team for better vision and always tries to improve the efficiency of the teams. Scrum Master manages Scrum processes coordinating with the Scrum team in the Agile methodology. Scrum Master removes impediments for the Scrum team. Scrum Master arranges daily quick stand-up meetings to ensure quick inspection and proper use of adaptation processes. Scrum Master helps Product Owner to shape the product backlog and make it ready for the next sprint. Conducting retrospective meetings. Scrum Master organizes and facilitates the sprint planning meeting. Most importantly, the Scrum Master removes the impediments that hindering the project success. Scrum Master keeps the team away from the distractions. The Product Owner’s responsibility is to focus on product success, to build a product which works better for the users and the customers and to create a product which meets business requirements. The Product Owner can interact with the users and customers, Stakeholders, the Development team and the Scrum Master.   Skills of the Product Owner (PO): Product Owner should have an idea about the business value of the product and the customers’ demands. Certified Scrum Product Owner Certification (CSPO) will be beneficial for the sales team. The development team consults the Product Owner, so he should always be available for them to implement the features correctly. Product Owner should understand the program from the end-user point of view. Marketing is discussed on the sales level in most of the Organizations. So it is the Product Owner’s duty to guide the marketing persons to achieve the goals successfully. Product Owner is responsible for the product and the ways to flourish a business. Product Owner has to focus on the proper production and ROI as well. Product Owner should be able to solve the problems, completing trade-off analysis and making decisions about business deliverables. After Certified Scrum Product Owner course, Product Owner can work with the project managers and the technical leads to prioritize the scope for product development. Sometimes Product Owner and the Customers are same, sometimes Customers are thousands or millions of people. Some other skills are as follows: 1.Communication Skills Communication is the key factor for any team member to be successful.  The team should be open to working together to achieve a common project target. It is very important that everyone on the team should communicate effectively. Most probably, the Product Owner should possess good communication skills. As the Product Owner needs to work with the customers’ to understand their needs and conveying that to the development team to bring it to reality. If they could not able to communicate effectively, it may affect the organization value. 2.Commitment The Product Owner should be committed to the project target, product vision, team, and the business. They have to attend all the meetings and work with all the team members. So, it is very important for them to collaborate with everyone. Furthermore, the Product Owner must be accountable for the process and be committed to the success of the project 3. Vision The Product Owner should be able to clearly communicate the product vision between the backlog items and the large project goals. They check whether the product vision is aligned with the company’s vision and needs. 4.Curious about what they work Concerning that “bad product owner” is so often the excuse for bad product. I coach towards product leadership and team ownership. 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Spending some time to prioritize the user stories with a few team members. The Product Owner and Scrum Master Relation     This question is highly debatable in an Agile world. Many say that there needs to be a clear contrast between these the Scrum Master and Product Owner and therefore needs two individuals to manage these two roles. The Product Owner should have an overall vision of the client’s requirements. Due to this reason, the Scrum Master needs the Product Owner. Whereas the project team requires the Scrum Master to work maintaining the velocity and capacity of the team. Choosing the best The Product Owner has to get involved in grabbing the project details. But, along with that, the Product Owners expect an experienced Scrum Master should work and guide his/her team members to work efficiently yielding good results. The Scrum Master and the Product Owner have mostly overlapping roles and responsibilities and skills as well. 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INFOGRAPHIC: Agile And Management Learning Path For Your Next Career Move

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INFOGRAPHIC: Agile And Management Learning Path Fo...

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Agile Project Management Vs. Traditional Project Management

In this fast-moving world, project management has become one of the most important pillars that are helping businesses run without any glitch in their processes. Both small and large scale organizations around the world are exploiting technology and depending on project management systems to deliver the software development project successfully. Whether it is team workflow management or timing, these tools help to ensure that everything is going well without any obstacles. While there are tens of different project management approaches, Agile is considered one of the most practical and flexible software development mechanism that exist today. It is capable of executing a variety of tasks, but what sets it apart from others? Let’s find it out. Here’s a brief comparison of Agile management and traditional project management software:                                                                                                                    Traditional vs Agile Project Management Overview of Agile and Traditional Project Management What is Traditional Project Management? The traditional Project Management (waterfall) approach is linear where all the phases of a process occur in sequence. Its concept depends on predictable tools and predictable experience. Each and every project follows the same life cycle which includes the stages such as feasibility, plan, design, build, test, production, support, as shown in the figure above. The entire project is planned upfront without any scope for changing requirements. This approach assumes that time and cost are variables and requirements are fixed. This is the reason why traditional project management faces budget and timeline issues. What is Agile Project Management? When a traditional system focuses on upfront planning where factors like cost, scope, and time are given importance, Agile management gives prominence to teamwork, customer collaboration, and flexibility. It is an iterative approach that focuses more on incorporating customer feedback and continuous releases with every iteration of software development project. The basic concept behind Agile software development is that it delves into evolving changes and collaborative effort to bring out results rather than a predefined process. Adaptive planning is perhaps the biggest feature of Agile and one that makes it a crowd favorite among project managers. Scrum and Kanban are two of the most widely used Agile frameworks. They are very well known for encouraging decision-making and preventing time consumption on variables that are bound to change. It stresses customer satisfaction and uses available teams to fast-track software development at every stage. The table below shows the major differences between Agile project management and traditional project management.                                                                                Table: Agile project management vs traditional project management Why is Agile Preferred and why not the traditional project management? Agile is preferred by most developers and managers because of a variety of reasons. Let’s have a look at the most common ones: Project complexity Traditional: This method is the best fit for small or less complex projects as it follows linear approach. Sudden changes in the project or any other complexities can block the entire process and make the team go back to step one and start all over again. Agile: This is the best methodology to follow in case of complex projects. A complex project may have various interconnected phases and each stage may be dependent on many others rather than a single one as in simple projects. So, Agile methods are preferred for large complex projects, as they can respond better to such structures. Adaptability Traditional: This approach works with a belief that once a phase is done, it will not be reviewed again. So, it is not adaptable to rapid changes in the work plan. In case if any sudden situation arises or any change in the requirements from the client’s side, traditional approach fails to adapt to the new change. The only choice is to start from the very beginning once again. This wastes a lot of effort and time in the process. Agile: The adaptability factor is very high in this methodology since it is not linear. Complex projects consist of several interconnected stages, where a change in one stage can cause an effect on another. And the project managers can take calculated risks in such scenario, as there is a chance of high adaptability.  Scope for feedback and changes Traditional Each and every process is clearly detailed and defined at the start of the project in the traditional approach. It cannot deal with any big change or feedback that might require a change in the process. Mostly, the project delivery time and budget are fixed, allows change very rarely. Agile There is a high acceptance for feedback and change in this method. The process is very flexible and allows constant feedback that can help to provide better output within the fixed project delivery time. The main reason that managers or developers choose agile direction is for the flexibility it offers. Developers working with Agile management are able to respond to customer requests quickly as they are only addressing small parts of the project at a time and the customer validates each iteration or sprint before finalizing.   Some of the important characteristics of Agile development Breaks project into parts Agile divides a project into parts (called iterations) where the release is sent to the customer after every single iteration. Additionally, the success of the project can be easily foreseen through the success of these iterations. This removes the need for upfront planning completely. Self-organized As mentioned above, Agile uses a parallel mode of management. Employees of a company are not managed by a central line of control, but by groups. For example, in Agile, there may be eight teams working on a single project. Each team is managed by itself without external guidance. The teams only interact with each other for project discussion and process linking as they are otherwise not self-sufficient. Generally speaking, an Agile project consists of three parts: The product owner – the expert on the project (for which the product is being developed) and is the main person who oversees the projects The scrum master – this person manages the process involved in Agile. He/she looks after the iterations and its completion The team – individuals who play significant and minor roles in the software development process Customer Engagement In Agile, customer engagement is at the very top. The customer is regarded highly in its frameworks as after every iteration, feedback is generated and acted upon. Overall, Agile is clearly the winner among project management systems. When compared with other traditional approaches, Agile’s features come to the fore and reiterate why it is one of the top software used by companies globally. Can Agile Coexist with Other Approaches? This is a question asked by many project managers, and opinions of experts seem to be divided. While some say it is possible for Agile to coexist with traditional project management systems, they suggest being cautious and using them for different terms. For example, using two different approaches on the same project can be counter-productive and highly explosive. As Agile and most other frameworks are totally contrasting to each other, the projects may go for a toss. On the other hand, some experts believe that it is not possible for Agile and other tools to co-exist because of their contrast. Using them together can cause disorder in the entire company system, making the productivity to go for a toss. Agile vs Traditional- Adoption Growth According to a recent online survey of 601 IT and development professionals, it is proved that Agile is the new typical formula for project success. The majority of projects and development teams are now adopting this methodology, while the traditional waterfall approaches have many flaws.    Traditional organizations vs. #Agile organizations #SALC16 pic.twitter.com/bBgxkQB1fI — Scrum Alliance (@ScrumAlliance) January 20, 2016 Agile was first introduced about 15 years ago as a substitute for traditional software development approaches. Many people considered it as challenging to implement traditional approach practices and Agile adopters stated that this new style of software development improves team collaboration and is more customer-centric.  Though Agile method was present more than a decade ago, the vast majority of organizations have adopted the practice in the last 5 years. Moreover, the survey reported that agile adoption saw an inflection point between the year 2009-2010. As shown in the above figure, agile adoption seems to have slow incremental growth till 2008 and then its growth was accelerated after gaining traction in the market. Reasons for the transition to Agile Most of the organizations who transitioned from traditional to agile project management have listed the following reasons: Improves collaboration between teams- 54% Enhances the quality level of software in organizations- 52% Results in enhanced customer satisfaction- 49% Speeds time to market- 43% Reduces development cost- 42% The Verdict In the traditional software development, the customer involves only before the start of the development process. So, there might be a number of mistakes and a large amount of money needs to be spent to rework on them. Since in the Agile software development, the customer involves at each stage, the corrections can be made once the defects are detected. This helps us in saving cost. As we can see, Agile project management is really in-demand for teams. It helps the team to work on the top priority ones at the right time and allows them to walk through the risks much faster than they would with traditional project management tools.  
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Agile Project Management Vs. Traditional Project M...

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