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    January 20, 2015

    Training and Coaching – Why your teams need both!

    Have you ever wanted to learn a new sport? Cricket, Golf or Rugby?

    Where would you start? You may say, well I would find a coach. Maybe, you would consider reading a book, or watching a video, i.e. training!

    So You want to learn a New Skill
    Let’s use golf as an example.

    If you’ve never seen a set of golf clubs, reviewed the rules of play, or know what a golf course really looks like, how will you learn to play? If you haven’t had any training, and you hire a coach, they will give you training. Coaches can’t help you improve your game until you understand the basics. If you’ve had training, a coach can help you incorporate what you’ve learned and give you pointers to help your game.

    Training Lays the Foundation
    Let’s introduce you to the course. It is played over 9 or 18 holes (sprints). The goal is to have the lowest number of swings possible (inverse velocity) while trying to get the golf ball from the tee into the hole. Holes differ from par 3’s to par 5’s. To move the ball from the tee to the hole, clubs are used. Clubs are grouped together by their primary use. There are drivers, irons, wedges, and putters. Once you’ve been trained on the basics of maneuvering through the course and using clubs, you can get out on the course. You practice, and practice, but your score is not what you want. You need “continuous improvement” to improve your score. This is where coaching comes in.

    As Agile trainers, we like to get to know your organization. What are your goals and objectives of training? Are we introducing something new to your teams? Through learning about your organization, we can tailor our training specifically to your teams. Trainers can better provide a pragmatic approach by learning the big picture (how big and what type of golf course are we working with). Spend a little time up front with trainers to determine exactly what your needs are. Then rather than having them provide “out-of-the-box” or “by-the-book” training, you will get a customized approach that enables your teams to get the most out of training. Your teams will be introduced to Agile (the big golf course), its various roles (clubs) and ceremonies (swings). Together the organization will engage on a journey to establish best practices to enable organizational success through Agile methods.

    Coaching Helps You Improve
    Coaches look at what you are doing. Do you have the right clubs? Are you selecting the right course for your play? Are you holding the clubs correctly? Coaches can help make sure you do not fall into bad habits. They can also help you to avoid or get out of sand traps. Coaches point out if you’re lifting your head during a swing, if your feet are positioned too close together, or if you are using the wrong club. They give you suggestions to try, and let you practice a bit more. If you don’t take any of their “suggestions”, improvement may only come from you working harder and harder to get to the hole. If you take their suggestions, your score will undoubtedly improve. In fact, the objective is to show continuous improvement. A golf coach may not only watch your swings at a range, but may play a few rounds with you. This helps them see the big picture of your play rather than just how you approach a par 3, specific lie or a long put. If gaps in your knowledge appear during full play, a coach may have to act as a trainer or suggest training.

    As Agile coaches begin an engagement, they often want to assess where everyone is at in their use of their chosen Agile method. How much training has the team/organization participated in? How is practice going? Coaches do this by observing, asking questions, and participating with teams throughout a given time period. Within Scrum, a coach will follow you through sprints. Within the sprints, Scrum has many ceremonies to navigate where a coach’s impact can be seen. Observing how the team works together, and how well the team executes each ceremony allows a coach to provide feedback for improvement. An Agile coach may encourage the team to step out of their comfort zone trying something new. They may suggest teams engage roles a bit differently both inside the team and across other parts of the organization. A coach can help you review your results, and pick something to improve each iteration. Coaches work with specific individuals on improvements they can make, as well as working with the team as a whole. Some basics outputs of coaching will likely include:

    • Establishing a cadence
    • Standardizing Agendas for Scrum Ceremonies
    • Clarifying roles, and helping team members perform within those roles
    • Identifying and improving your velocity
    • Establishing an environment for continuous improvement

    Use Both to be Your Best
    Just as in golf, where training and coaching gives you the foundations for play and then helps you reduce your overall score, Agile training and coaching gives you the foundations for Agile and then helps you increase your velocity. So invite your trainers and coaches on your journey to improving your Agile game. Your organization will thank you with more frequent delivery of working software.

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