Everyone Needs a Coach

Everyone Needs a Coach

The next time you’re looking to engage an agile coach, there’s an additional set of questions I want you to explore with them—

  • Do you (they) have a coach?

  • How often do you (they) meet?

  • What are you (they) currently working on in your journey?

  • What was the last crucial conversation you (they) had with your coach like?

  • Reflecting on your being coached journey, how coachable are you? What are the keys to your being coachable?

What I’m asking you to explore is their personal coaching journey. I feel that most agile coaches are comfortable coaching. But the counterpoint, being coached and being coachable, are often a different question. I guess it’s the age-old challenge of telling being easy and receiving being much harder.

Our Language

Our Language

I delivered a lightning keynote at the StarEast conference in May 2019. If you’re unfamiliar, this format is a 5-minute pitch on any topic you like.

I intentionally went into it without a predetermined talk our slides. I wanted to see what might inspire me before or during the conference. Unfortunately, I waited until the day before the keynote to decide what I would talk about. But I’m sort of glad I did.

My Observation

Mary Thorn and I shared 3 – ½ day workshops at the conference. And during those sessions, and in the hallways, I noticed a trend.

I was listening carefully to people’s questions, the discussions, the stories, and the challenges. And one pattern emerged that caught my attention. The language was very much around –

Leaving Your Nest!

I can’t believe our Meta-Cast podcast, brainchild of myself and Josh Anderson, is approaching it’s…

150th Episode


We began it in 2010 and will be celebrating our 10th Anniversary in January 2020.

So, yes, this is a PLUG for the Meta-Cast.

Leaving Your Nest…

But it’s also a plug for a recent 3-part series that Josh and I recorded about leaving your nest. That is, if indications are that you need to.

I’d recommend listening to the whole series…in order. And we hope it nspire folks to either Stay or Go.

Stay agile my friend,


Bringing and Being Ourselves

Bringing and Being Ourselves

There is the current notion in modern organizations of bringing our whole selves to work. That separating our lives from our profession isn’t a good idea, healthy, or even possible. 

Chris Murman recently posted an article that showed real courage and vulnerability in sharing who he is. He shared his emotional nature and how it has impacted his professional life.

I applaud Chris for this.

It takes an incredible person to share so much of themselves publicly. But if you knew Chris, you wouldn’t be so surprised.

From my perspective, there are different sorts of agile coaches for example—

You’re WRONG, Jeff!

You’re WRONG, Jeff!

I saw this post from Jeff Gothelf.


In which he says that Fixed Time & Scope projects end in one of 3-ways:

  1. We move the deadline

  2. We reduce scope

  3. We implement “crunch mode”, everybody puts in 80-hour weeks till the deadline, burns out, quits and goes to work somewhere else.

I want to respond to Jeff’s thoughts…

First, option #3 is was coined by Ed Yourdon as a Death March. I personally like the imagery that inspires.

Second, I agree 100% with his 3-alternatives. They seem almost as absolute as gravity in software projects.

But he goes on in the article to make the point that Product Management is primarily responsible for these problems.  


Am I the only one who really struggles with the terms:

  • Agile Project Manager?

  • Agile PMO (Project Management Office)?

I see them being used all of the time. I encounter them in adds for open positions and in organizations who are striving to introduce agility. The terminology seems to be pervasive.

But at the same time, if you put on an agile mindset, they seem to be oxymorons.

It’s not the People

And my beef isn’t with the people filling those roles. It’s with the role and responsibilities associated with them.

Here’s another “Test”

One side-effect of using these terms, and I hear it all the time, is the organizations also use the term resources to refer to their people.

Again, this terminology doesn’t align with an agile mindset.

Wrapping Up

It’s simple. Really it is.

If your organizations is moving down the road to aligning with agile principles and the mindset. Then you really don’t need project managers and a PMO.

Instead you need accountable, self-directed, and trusted teams who have a goal and understand the importance of transparency.

And you need leaders who support them, get out of the way, and expect great things. With no real need for “projects and project management”.

Stay agile my friends,


BTW: Here’s an article by Anthony Mersino that not only supports my point, but does a MUCH better job of communicating it. Please take the time to read it - https://vitalitychicago.com/blog/myth-agile-project-manager/

Did we need a more diverse Agile Manifesto?

Did we need a more diverse Agile Manifesto?

My daughter Rhiannon is a social worker. And I’ve learned from her that my definition of diversity is much shallower than hers. She has a broad, deep, and nuanced view of it and I’m learning to appreciate hers and broaden my own. 

It’s just part of my ongoing efforts to challenge myself and learn.

That being said, it made me think differently the other day when I was reading the Agile Manifesto again. And it dawned on me that –

  • There are 17 signatories to the Manifesto

  • All 17 were men

  • All seemed to be at or approaching middle age at the time (probably well beyond by now)

  • All were white

  • All were software developers with the possible exception of Brian Marick (was he the token tester ;-)

Don’t go out without an Umbrella!

Don’t go out without an Umbrella!

I recently (January 2019) saw a tweet by someone who speaks regularly in the software / agile testing community. It was short and direct. But it had a broader impact on me beyond the words. Here’s the tweet:  

I’m a practitioner. Most of my days I’m not traveling/speaking but delivering software to partners and users and making that a better experience for us all. You don’t have to do what I do. You don’t have to tell me you disagree. Some use too much effort to correct my reality.

That complained about folks trying to correct “their reality” that they present publicly.

And I’d agree with them if they were a 100% practitioner working on private projects in private companies. That is, not in the public forum.

However, they clearly have chosen to “go public” with their ideas. In recent years, they have become an accomplished public speaker, idea presenter, and role model for many, many testers. And not solely limited to testers, but beyond to software development teams.

And with this sort of role, comes great responsibility…or at least I think it does.

Effectively Measuring Agile Leaders

Effectively Measuring Agile Leaders

Nearly every time I speak, write, teach, or simply think about agile approaches to software development, someone has to bring up measurement. 

And the measures they’re talking about inevitably focus on their teams and/or delivery dynamics. How do we measure our teams? How do we measure the impact of agility? And how do we measure your value as a coach? Are representative of the types of questions I hear.

BUT, if you subscribe to the theory that leadership sets the culture AND that culture drives performance, like I do, then why aren’t we measuring leaders in agile contexts?

The challenge is, what might that look like? Here are some of my thoughts around what we might measure –

Work Balance Matters

Work Balance Matters

More than a few years ago, I visited a client in Greensboro, NC. I did a little consulting there, but it really wasn’t a longer-term gig.

What stood out to me, after all of these years, is that folks could bring their dogs into work. And everyone seemed to do just that.

  • There were dogs roaming free in the halls.

  • There were dog play areas.

  • There were dogs at their owner’s desks.

  • And those that didn’t have dogs were playing with others dogs.

  • And yes, there was the occasional “doggie accident” ;-)

It was a wonderful environment. Instead of feeling like an office space, it felt like a home that I was visiting. A comfortable home where the family loved their pets.

Another example, kids