Agile Coaching 101 – Unbiased Point of View

We all know the term. Justice is blind. I would argue that the same should apply to an Agile Coach.

It is common in an organization for Agile Coaches or Scrum Masters to be under technology/engineering. This can often be seen as a bias towards that department. There is even an old saying that can also be used to explain why most of us think that way.

Don’t bite down the hand that feeds you.

old saying about dogs

While that is true, and that the management structure is under a specific department, we are not biassed towards anyone or any department. Otherwise it wouldn’t work. There is no point in optimizing only one part of the value chain, if everything else remains unchanged.

Lead with data

One of the tools I’ve used in the past is data. Today you can hear this echoing in almost every company

We need to be data first…
We need to be data-driven…

Data is objective. It has no feelings. It has no point of view. It just is. As someone that has come from the world of Business Intelligence, I know how powerful data can be. I also know how damaging it can be if used in the wrong way.

We have to be very careful. Several issues can come from just leading with data. This is true for everything that we follow blindly or have too much of.

Data without context

You need to be able to interpret the data and the context from where it came.

In the “agile world” this example is more common than I would like to admit. Imagine this scenario :

The team has a stable velocity of 40 SP's. By the end of each sprint, this goes down as a report to higher management.
After 3 months of stable work, the report shows that the team has dropped to 10 SP's.

What is the problem? What happened to this team? Do we need to intervene?

This looks really bad for that team. Maybe there is a very big problem we need to fix.
This is what “just data” looks like. Now data with context.

There was a production issue and half the team was on vacation during that Sprint.

Do you still think this is a very big problem that should be fixed ASAP for that team?
Or, would you say that it is very normal considering the circumstances?

Information without context is just noise. It is meaningless

Too much information

Too much information can lead you into analysis paralysis. Nowadays we are flooded with information from hundreds of sources. Millions of bits and bytes. But our brains can only handle around 40 data points at a time.

We cannot be stopped by trying to figure out every single detail. Trying to dot every i. Trying to cover every scenario. The world works in chaos and we need to navigate around it.

Fast is better than slow.

https://www.google.com/about/philosophy.html

Our role is to set up the infrastructure to make sure we can use data without falling into any of these pitfalls. And with that, help everyone in the organization to make objective decisions. To help everyone navigate their cognitive filters, confirmation bias, and judgment/decision making heuristics.

This can be considered a very challenging part of the role, but that is what makes it fun at the end of the day.

Cheers,

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