A tale of two coaches.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. In the words of Jim Collins, some coaches supported “The Tyranny of the OR” whereas other Coaches promoted “The Genius of the AND”.

This is a tale of Yves and David. Two coaches working with identical companies in a way that is only possible in literature, movies and the minds of thought leaders. The similarities are spooky. Even the managers had the same name… Neil, though David spelled it with a K.

David’s Story

David: “Hello, I’m your new Agile coach.”

Kneel: “Let me explain how our business works.”

David: “No need for that, I’m off to the Gemba.”

Knell: “What’s a Zumba? Is that like my wife’s fitness dance class?”

David: “Sigh. Nothing for you to worry about. You go and learn to be a servant leader.”

Kneel: “A savant lieder? What’s that?”

David: “You have to work it out for yourself whilst you still have a job.”

Six months later. Kneel is talking to his team.

Kneel: “So let me get this right. He changed it, and now its broken something else but if we change it back it will break the thing it fixed.”

Peon: “Yep. What happened to that David guy.”

Kneel: “He told the CEO to sack all the middle managers and get you lot to self organise. The CEO sacked him for being a moron.”

Yves’s Story

Yves: “Hello, I’m your new Agile coach.”

Neil: “Let me explain how our business works.”

Yves: “Great, that will be useful context. After that we’ll head off to the Gemba.”

Neil: “What’s that?

Yves: “I’m going to pair coach with you so that you learn how to coach your teams?

Neil: “Is that necessary? Surely you can do it? Do I need to do coaching?”

Yves: “Management are part of the governance, risk management or control function of the process. Imagine a simple boiler with a controller. Now imagine that the controller does not know how the process works. What would happen?”

Neil: “Chaos. I see your point. But what if they need skills I do not have?”

Yves: “You can help them to find them. It may be someone on one of the other teams or you may need to bring someone in.”

Neil: “So if I go to the Gemba, I don’t need to sit in the glass booth anymore?”

Yves: “You need to do both. Some risks are best observed close up. Some, you need to get some distance”.

Neil: “Can you give me an example.”

Yves: “Imagine all of your teams are burning down through work nicely. However, you have a feeling you are not delivering as much as you think you should.”

Neil: “I get it. Management reporting will help me get the big picture view to spot risks and issues that are at a higher level. A bit like fractals. If you measure the coastline using a one metre ruler you will get a very different answer to if you measure it using a mile long ruler.”

Yves: “Yes, you are looking for problems at a different scale which means you need a different measure and viewpoint. Sometimes at the Gemba. Sometimes in the glass booth.”

Six months later

Neil: “Hi Yves, You remember that change we put in. Well we had to take it out again, and replace it with something else. I didn’t need to get involved, the team did it. They just wanted me to keep an eye on things… Anyway, you know how you said we would probably need to talk about Cynefin and Staff Liquidity. Well I think we’ve hit that point. When can we bring you in again?”

This post is a response to Chris Young’s excellent post and a tweet by Joshua Arnold

All names of the characters are purely fictional. Any resemblance blah blah…

About theitriskmanager

Currently an “engineering performance coach” because “transformation” and “Agile” are now toxic. In the past, “Transformation lead”, “Agile Coach”, “Programme Manager”, “Project Manager”, “Business Analyst”, and “Developer”. Did some stuff with the Agile Community. Put the “Given” into “Given-When-Then”. Discovered “Real Options” View all posts by theitriskmanager

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