Category Archives: Agile_Role

03/14 – LeSS Talks: Johanna Rothman: How To Create a Career Ladder for Vertical and Lateral Movement

Materials

Johanna Rothman’s monthly newsletter “Pragmatic Manager” and her blogs can be found at www.jrothman.com and www.createadaptablelife.com


Additional Assets Relevant to the Topic:

Gap Between Science and Business
OKR: Narrowing the gap between “O” AND “KR”


Additional Learning Assets:

 

Changing Your Coaching Engagement Type

From Independent Coach  To Coach – FTE

Imagine yourself: you – for many years, investing into and developing your own career path, as an independent, professional coach.  You have years of experience behind your back, serving many different companies, many personal accomplishments, highest (and rarest) industry credentials, tens of thousands of community followers around the globe and lots of industry recognition, coming from the most recognized industry leaders.  Now, you are at the point in your life, when you still have enough energy to continue doing what you have been doing.  However, you come across, what seems to be, a great opportunity: you can join a great team, at a great company and work with some great people – as a full-time employee.  What do you do?  What do you need to consider, when deciding if such transition is a good idea for you?

Organizational Alignment

Initial Reporting Alignment: At the time of on-boarding, you want to make sure that you are positioned, organizationally (reporting-wise), in a way that will provide full backing and support to you, your profession/role and line of work.  It implies that your line management understands really well the essence of your role, as it is defined, according to the highest industry standards (could be different from an internal definition).

Reporting Alignment Over Time:  Organizational structures tend to change: re-orgs, down-sizing, strategic realignments. Although it is impossible to predict what exact changes may take place, it is important to inquire about any known plans for such changes for a foreseeable future, at the time of on-boarding.

Becoming a Report-Into Person:  One of the key conditions for being an effective coach is your ability to create a safety space around yourself: for your coachees, as well as junior colleagues that might be looking up to you, as a role model.  If you become a manager of other people, they will perceive you differently and your coaching relationship with them will most likely change.  It is strongly unadvisable for a coach, to take on a managerial role, at least, in the area, where coaching will take place. 

Focus of work

General Expectations: To an extent possible, try to discuss upfront what an organization will be expecting from you, as a coach, once you join it full time.  Will your role and responsibilities be consistent with your own understanding of what a coach should/should not do, as per well-defined industry standards?  How much of an impact will “staff augmentation” factor have on you?  Will there be any gap between what is expected of you as a coach (and related activities: consulting, training, mentoring) and other responsibilities you may have (a.k.a. conditions of employment)? Do you foresee any conflict of interest between multiple roles assigned to you?

Opportunity to Deliver Unique Value: How well is an organization aware of your unique coaching/coaching-related capabilities (e.g. trainer, mentor) that you bring to the table?  Will it see value in quality and authenticity of learning and education that you bring?  It is very likely that what you bring to the table is a significant extension to what an organization has today: if you don’t explicitly explain this, they will not know. 

Exemptions and pre-clearance

As an independent professional coach, over many years, you have made a lot of investment in your personal growth.  How much of this personal investment would you have to surrender, if you join a company, as a full-time employee?

Community Support: You spearhead local and global virtual communities, run public events, present at seminars and webinars, speak at conferences. For many years, this has been a huge part of your professional growth, as coach and the requirement to achieve and maintain your unique coaching credentials.  Will your new employer demand that you stop your activities?  Will it require a tedious approval process to continue each individual activity?

Blogging, Publishing, Audio/Video Recording:  You love giving back to a community. Over many years, you have written many articles, published and co-published books, have recorded podcasts and educational videos.  Will your new employer demand that you stop your activities?  Will it require a tedious approval process to continue each individual activity?

Outside Business Activities:  As a professional coach (also, trainer and mentor), you have unique capabilities to deliver coaching/mentoring/training content to general public – and it is in high demand.  You have built your own curriculums and intellectual property (lots of it is under creative commons) and this enables you to deliver your unique content. Teaching online classes and running mentoring cohorts is a part of your annual income.  Will your new employer demand that you stop your activities?  Will it require a tedious approval process to continue each individual activity?

Important: It is important that you discuss the above with your potential employer prior to on-boarding.  It is also critical that you make it very explicit that none of the above activities will be at expense of your paid work (focus, quality) that you will be expected to do for your employer. You must also make it very explicit that you will not be using any of your employer’s intellectual property or proprietary information, while engaging in outside activities.  Inquire, if you can receive in writing a one-time blanket exemption that will allow you to continue performing the above activities.

Compensation & Benefits

Base compensation: At the time of onboarding, explicitly discuss your base compensation that takes into account not only your current income that you generate as an independent coach but also the fact that your internal growth, and therefore, base compensation increase, might be different from that of a traditional employee.  Today, many traditional organizations still set employee compensation, based on how many people report into a person. As a coach, most likely you will have no people reporting into you, as his is inconsistent with how a coach should be positioned organizationally and relate to other people (see above).

Subjective compensation: Today, many companies still have subjective monetary incentives/bonuses, as a part of overall compensation structure. “How much of an overall compensation is represented by a bonus?” – it varies from industry to industry.  Many companies still pay bonuses, based on individual performance of an employee.  (Side note, as a coach, you may have to deal/challenge some of these existing organizational norms, as a part of your job.)  On a personal front, since you are a coach, all/most of your deliverables will be soft and not easy to measure (standard metrics don’t apply).  Therefore, you want to make sure that you are comfortable with your base compensation, so that if there are any omissions/shortcomings with your year-end bonus, the financial impact to you is minimal.  Ideally, you want to be less reliant on a subjective bonus, as a part of your overall compensation (“have the question of discretionary moneys removed from the table”, as per Daniel Pink)

Stock options:  You should inquire about common and/or restricted stock options.  Make sure you also find out about how equities are vested.  Some companies, may offer a stock, as a part of your retirement (see below) or bonus (see above) but under conditions that you remain employed with an organization for a certain number of years.

Pension & Retirement: This is usually standard for all employees: 401(K), annuities, other. Make sure you inquire about matching policies.

Health benefits: This is usually standard for all employees: medical, dental, other special coverage.  Make sure you inquire about who is a medical carrier(s), availability of family coverage, cost of premiums, deductibles.

 

From Coach – FTE To Independent Coach

Imagine yourself: You have been an employee with the same, or a few, reputable companies, for a number of years, as an internal coach.  You have learned a lot about internal organizational dynamics, structure, culture. You have reached a certain point in your career, where you feel that you would like to become an independent coach and explore other opportunities.  What do you do?  What do you need to consider, when deciding if such transition is a good idea for you?

Financial Cushioning: As you enter the world of independency, the first thing you must think about is how you will generate income.  Your income flow may not always be steady, there could be gaps between your engagements.  In consulting work, it is to be expected.  However, before disengaging from your employer you should either line up a few clients (at, least, short-term) or have enough financial cushioning (savings) to get you through the initial phase of being independent.

Your Personal Capabilities: As you become an independent coach, be also prepared to become your own boss, and a ‘jack of all trades’.  Your responsibilities may now include: extensive networking and business development, community service (public speaking, presenting, newsletter, etc.), becoming incorporated, purchasing general liability/other insurance coverage and other logistics.

Pipeline of Clients: As you enter the world of independency, you will have to learn how to balance between delivering quality work to your clients and developing your own ‘book of business’, for future engagements. This may require a very effective time and WIP management.  Consider going back to your past employer(s) and ask for referrals or ‘follow’ other exiting employees to their new places of work – and offer your services there.

Network and Public Visibility: As an independent coach, you will have to significantly step up your networking efforts (LinkedIn, Meetup, personal web site, presentations, podcasts, webinars) and increase your public visibility.

Uniqueness of Your Current Value: Today, the coaching market is significantly diluted. Over the last few years, many people with “used-to-be” roles have renamed themselves into coaches.  The current market supply of coaches is artificially inflated with professionals of low quality.  Unfortunately, majority of organizations are still not good at seeing a distinction between a great coach and a coach-pretender.  How do you envision positioning yourself, so that you stand out and draw clients’ attention to yourself?

Pursuit of Unique Credentials:  Just like the industry is flooded with coaches-pretenders, it is flooded with various certifications.  Be careful about certifications: not all of them come from authentic and reputable organizations; some of them are not even legit.  However, there are some unique, guide-level (elevated) credentials from more reputable organizations- industry leaders that can really add a notch on your professional belt. Consider pursuing those for your coaching and training credentials.

Opportunities for Partnership: You may wish to consider looking for people like yourself, independent, energetic individuals that have professional assets that complimentary to yours (personal certifications, training/coaching/certification capabilities, sales/marketing/networking skills). Consider forming a team. You don’t necessarily nave to be legally bound for such partnership.  Alternatively, you may consider sub-contracting through another larger and more established consulting organization (please, be careful with your choice, as not every big consultancy has a great reputation), while developing your own book of business and clientele.

Overall Business Plan:  You may wish to create a dynamic business plan, with short- and long-term goals for your business and professional development.  Please note, that these two are not the same: you don’t want to excel in one dimension at expense of another dimension. Another words, you want to stay balanced. Otherwise, you may end up being temporarily in high demand (e.g. due to great sales and marketing techniques) but underqualified or being in low demand (underutilized) but over-qualified.


Please, weight all pros and cons in all of the above dimensions, for both types of transitions and extend your research further, if required, before you make a decision.

02/27 – LeSS Talks: Facilitating LeSS events virtually (using Miro, Mural)

Facilitating LeSS events virtually (Ideas, Tips & Tricks)

Tools and platforms shared in the session:

Additional Self-Study Assets:

Use of Velocity in Complex Organizational Settings

LeSS Scrum Master David Nielsen and I have discussed system dynamics in complex organizational settings, with respect to Velocity, produced by a single team and/or multiple teams.  We did only one cut (no dress rehearsals, dry runs or editing).
The following system variables were identified and their cause & effect relationship was ‘unpacked’:
  • Ability to use Velocity as a metric
  • Degree, to which combined velocity from multiple teams can be used as a measurement
  • Effectiveness of team’s estimation techniques
  • Likelihood that Customer/Product-centric development is valued, by business and the whole organization
  • Dependency on traditional organizational structure and protection of a status quo of component managers
  • Dependency on complex frameworks, processes
  • Degree of measurement dysfunction

As well as a few helpful proxy-variables to ‘glue’ the model together.

Download System Model (CLD)

Please, also refer to the following page on System Thinking, to make the best of the video and the model.

01/15-LeSS Talks: System Modelling in LeSS with Robin Hyman


Miro Board Export

Relevant References:
Additional STRUCTURED LEARNING Learning Assets:

01/10-LeSS Talks: Lead and Serve Others: Focus on the Team, Not Individuals, by Johanna Rothman

 

Materials | Live Chat Transcript

A very relevant resource: Gap Between Science and Business

Additional Learning Assets:

 

01/24-LeSS Talks: Experience Report: Navigating Self-Incorporated Consulting

Recording – TBD

Optional Pre-Read for this event.

 

Additional recommended assets:

12/06-LeSS Talks: US Army’s Intelligence Staff Director COL Candice Frost on Crisis & Leadership

Colonel Candice Frost:

Synopsis:

  • An 80% solution on time is far better than a 100% solution late
  • Defining Problem Statement
  • Demonstrating a desire to create change
  • Providing a clear Vision into the Future
  • Leading by Example
  • Clearing Paths to Achieve a Common Goal
  • Changing is Constant
  • Building Strong Relationships
  • Providing Consistent & Continual Feedback
  • Giving Transparency

  • How excessive organizational layers, processes and approvals can lead to missing an opportunity
  • Importance of mentorship/education, as means of spreading knowledge laterally, to many people
  • Significance of striking a healthy balance between being a Specialist (know one discipline really well) and being a Generalist (knowing other disciplines fairly well)
  • Benefits of building long-lived teams
  • Keeping levels of “undone” work to a minimum and thriving to drive it to zero
Additional Learning Assets:

LESS TALKS: Uncovering the Agile Mindset, with Heidi Araya and John Turley

 

 Materials

Synopsis:

“Agile transformations fail regularly, despite many putting their best efforts forth. And dominant focus continues to be on agile as a process, addressing the important need for an agile mindset and culture only in passing. While Agilists feel that someone’s mindset is absolutely critical to agility, the agile mindset is not actually defined anywhere. Even Steve Denning, in a May 2020 article, said, “is it possible that we in the Agile community have been putting too much emphasis on such an undefined and ambiguous term [mindset]?”

Additional Learning Assets:

LeSS Trainer’s Class Experience Report: Product Definition, DoD & Team ‘Blueprint’ Exercise


This summary, is an experience report from the recently conducted online LeSS class (provisional CLP).  Specifically, this writing is about a few discussion topics, accompanied by in-class exercises and homework activities: product definition, definition of done (DoD) and teams (blueprint).

In class, we were lucky to have a few people that were already highly experienced with Scrum and knew fundamentals of LeSS. A few people were also from the same XYZ company (name withheld for privacy) that specializes in global ERP solutions for manufacturers. Among XYZ company people, there was a senior vice president of R&D and a few other senior-ranked technology professionals.  With everyone’s consent and for everyone’s benefit, we were able to discuss the above topics in the context of XYZ case.

It was also made clear to everyone that this exercise is merely a simulation of a much more comprehensive discovery process that takes place during the initial phase of LeSS adoption, with many more people involved, not just a few.

We started, by trying to understand the company’s big picture: vision, revenue steams, cost factors, product partnership (internal business, external customers, R&D), value, competition, innovation.  For that, we used the great facilitation tool, created by E. Gottesdiener – The Product Canvas.

After the first round of exploration (v1.0 below), it became apparent that the product definition was too wide (big), and it would be impossible to support its development by a single LeSS product group (2-8 teams).

Of course, this assumption was not conclusive but for the purpose of this in-class exercise, it was decided to reduce the product definition, by focusing only on one particular area – Sales (v2.0 below).  This was consistent with what is recommended in LeSS: to expand product definition as reasonably possible, but not make it too wide to manage.

In the second phase of product definition, the class focused on identifying user types and actions, as well as various product components: interfaces, data, controls, environments, etc. This further helped validating the assumption, made in the first step of product definition.

Following the product canvas use, to identify the most important (and big) product features, the class proceeded with a story mapping exercise. The following five large features have been identified: New Sales Order Interface, Shipping Dashboard, New Quote Interface, Data Layer. They were then further decomposed into smaller features that were prioritized, on a time scale.  The class had a quick conversation about what a minimal viable feature (MVF) could look like if multiple small features, from various buckets were deployed together (the curvy black line below).  Within a few rounds, many more small features were identified and bucketed under large features (but not prioritized). It was a shared understanding by everyone that all identified items, eventually, should end up in a backlog.

Next, the class tried to envision what Dominion of Done (DoD) could look like for a team that was tasked to deliver any of the above mentioned features. The attempt was made to identify those activities that would be still Undone (impossible to finish in a sprint) at the initial stage of sprinting and how important it would be to gradually expand DoD and shrink Undone, over time. The class further discussed differences between Unfinished work (usually, a team’s problem) and Undone work (usually, organizational problem).

Based on all of the information collected, the class tried to envision what technical skill set and functional domain expertise would be required, for each team, to ensure that each team could take any item from a backlog and get it to Done in one sprint.

Finally, the class (this part was mainly driven by people from XYZ company) tried to hypothesize what a team structure could look like (team ‘blueprint’), given that some developers had one and some – more than one, skill set and domain expertise. Everyone understood that this is just a hypo and the intention is not to assign people to teams prematurily, since managers, leads or anyone else should NOT be making decisions on behalf of on teams. The idea of self-organizing team-building workshop was introduced and discussed (a few published LeSS case studies were reviewed to better understand this event).

 

During the break, one of the class members (XYZ company) tried to blueprint what LeSS Product Group may look like if v1.0 model (illustrated above) was followed to describe the whole product.  It appeared that each Requirement Area, would have only between 2 and 3 teams. It was then discussed that this approach would  NOT be recommended, as very small requirement areas (with very few teams in each area area) would lead to organizational silos, compartmentalizing of work, scattered knowledge and local optimization.
The class further discussed R&D organizational design implications of XYZ company. Many HR aspects were highlighted, such as a developer’s career path, promotions, compensation/incentives, etc. Various HR-related LeSS experiments were  explained.

At this point, the class ended the simulation exercise, with understanding that in real life this process could take from a few weeks, to a few months. It was understood by everyone that before an organization makes a ‘flip’ to LeSS, some additional, very important milestones would have to be achieved:

Team Self-Formation Workshop:

Product Backlog Creation (Initial PBR session):
Preferably, a creation of an organizational impediment backlog – something, to be continuously attend to during Overall Retrospectives, where senior management, would take ownership of problems.

HR-Related LeSS experiments

 

XYZ Company people have demonstrated a lot of determination to implement many aspects of LeSS learning and discoveries ASAP, in real work settings, within their organization.