Archives: August 7, 2018

Effective Teaching

Whether you use Scrum or Kanban as a delivery method, as a ScrumMaster you must be able to help the team or organisation understand and use the methods or frameworks.

This involves an element of teaching, coaching and mentoring. I have already looked at one way I have been establishing a coaching stance at my clients in my ‘Coaching Dojo’ blog earlier this week. Now I want to share with you something that Carlo Beschi and I put together for a conference and now subsequently using to help people become better trainers within the same organisation.

I regularly train non certified Scrum Classes and I am also an accredited Kanban trainer for the LKU. In fact, I am also a Train the Trainer for the LKU (ooooooo I hear you say! Smile )

This means I spend lots of time thinking about how to convey messages in a simple and fun way, that everyone gets and can practically take back to their work places and start using.

I am one of the first people to turn off with my three second attention span if you just talk at me. Equally if you want me making random shapes with my body, then you are going to lose me too. For me it’s about getting the right balance of the two and really thinking about who your target audience is and what you want to get across.

I have seen many great trainers over my years and love the Sharon Bowman’s ‘Training from the back of the room’. So when Carlo and I put together this offering it was a blend of all of our years experiences and what we have learnt from our own training and research.

Our strategy was to include as many good and bad practices as we could Smile. If the students could recognise them in us, maybe they could recognise them in themselves. To help facilitate this we created Bingo cards and of all the techniques we were planning on using in the session. As soon as they had a row, we encouraged them to shout ‘Bingo’. Not only was it educational, but it meant they kept focused throughout the session and had a little fun along the way. We rewarded winners with chocolate.

The first half of the deck is sharing different thoughts and practices for running great training sessions. You won’t get this sense from the deck, but throughout the class we were using all the different techniques we were talking about so they could see them and experience them in person. 

The second half is about handing over the reins to the attendees and getting them to put into practice everything that they had learnt over the course of the session.

We gave them a time box to go away and plan a mini training session and we had 2 decks of cards for the topics, normal ones like story points and user stories and then wild cards which are harder topics such as probabilistic forecasting.

You will see in the slides that there is a lot more content around them than just words on a page. Apologies, but without writing a whole book this is hard to convey.

Carlo and I first run this at the Agile Tour and we got some really great feedback from the attendees. Now I have adapted it further and we are going to use it to facilitate a half day session at my client to train people in preparation for a software craftsmanship course, they are planning on running internally. We hope that they also take many practices into the sessions that they are about to write and plan.

Our slides are in the public domain and you can find them on my slide share here: https://www.slideshare.net/helenmeek/effective-teaching-v20

Maybe have a think about how your communities train each other and whether there is any value from any of the practices that we call out. Don’t forget that the practical element of any training is extremely important, and so that’s why we have included it with the provision of valuable feedback to the students.

I know so many great trainers from my peer group who I admire. I took the opportunity to contact a few of them and ask them for some of their top tips. Keep an eye out for these in the deck and thank you to everyone who contributed them.

I wanted to share these slides with you because I feel it’s important to help grow and harness the expertise in our industry. Together we have so much knowledge and by creating a sharing culture we can truly become awesome and transform the world of work.

Thanks again to everyone who was involved in this and special thanks to Carlo Beschi my co creator.

You never know, we might run it again at conference near you Smile

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Guest Blog by Doug Idle: Awesome Aeronautical — Scaling Kanban with Lego!

I wanted to share with you a blog by my good friend Doug Idle. It is about a conference session that we created together for London Lean Kanban Days.  I was going to write a blog on this, but I thought his was already perfect. I am very pleased to share it with you. Enjoy x


I recently had the opportunity to attend a two-day course on Kanban (KMP2, for those in the know) taught by the fabulous Helen Meek (Accredited Kanban trainer and all-round Agile Coach). Knowing my love of all things Lego, Helen asked if I’d be interested in working together to find a way to demonstrate the scaling of Kanban and some of the KMP2 curriculum in 90 minutes rather than two days using bricks. We targeted presenting at the London Lean Kanban day in April.

We knew that we couldn’t teach the entire curriculum in 90 minutes (there’s a reason it’s a two-day course) so we decided to concentrate on six of the seven cadences in the session. We wouldn’t cover the Strategy review because it was just to big to fit in to the session and isn’t covered in KMP2 either. What we would cover would be:

  • The three delivery cadences — the daily standup, queue replenishment and delivery planning
  • The three improvement cadences — the operations review, service delivery review and risk review

… and we’d do it all with Lego!

We asked the group or 30 to self organise into teams. One member of each team would be the Service Delivery Manager who would be responsible for:

  • Facilitating key meetings
  • Supporting collaborative decision making
  • Sequencing and scheduling work
  • Helping the service understand its performance
  • Working to improve the overall service
  • Collecting data using the supplied lead time chart template

Each team would be responsible for constructing one part of a plane — either the fuselage, undercarriage, wing or tail. Each team was provided with the exact set of parts they needed to build all of their components, Lego style step-by-step instructions, a Kanban board and a set of laminated order cards.

After the teams had been setup and the SDM was ready to go, we kicked off by giving them a one-minute Daily Standup (the first cadence) and then building us one red, one blue and two black planes in four minutes. After the first run and a short retrospective we gave the teams their first opportunity to scale out by introducing dependencies between them. To reflect the dependencies, we gave them a new Kanban board to use.

At this point, we introduced the second cadence: Queue Replenishment. In this cadence, teams decide what to select from the pool of options. By moving work to the ‘Ready’ state they are making a commitment to complete it. Under normal circumstances, the meeting is no more than 30 minutes in length and would include key decision makers and stakeholders. Most teams will run a scheduled queue replenishment meeting — although on demand replenishment is desirable, it is often hard to coordinate. We gave our teams three minutes to run their queue replenishment and coordinate with each other.

After giving the teams another set of orders, we started them on their second run (a daily standup and some building) along with a retrospective afterwards. After the second iteration, it was time to introduce the third cadence — the Service Delivery Review. In this cadence, we look at whether or not we are delivering according to customer expectations. We look at a single Kanban system and include key people from each activity (dev, test, analysis etc.). The group compares current capabilities against fitness criteria metrics and seeks to balance demand and risk. The session is typically 30 minutes in length. After conducting a short Service Delivery Review, we asked the teams to scale out again — this time with all five teams forming a single service. On this occasion we didn’t provide a board since testing of the game had shown that the teams had outgrown anything other than a full scale whiteboard and we weren’t able to carry one around for the session.

During each scaling out session, we asked the teams to consider their policies, review their work in progress (WIP) limits, working together agreements and delivery lead times.

The Delivery Planning meeting was the fourth cadence we introduced. Here, we plan what can be delivered and form a commitment to our customers. Issues about delivery are raised in this session, solved and/or taken to the Risk Review cadence. Key attendees will include anyone who accepts the deliveries or is involved in the logistics of delivery. Specialists are present for their technical knowledge and risk-assessment capabilities. This is a decision making meeting and could be 1–2 hours. We conducted a five-minute delivery planning meeting where we asked the teams to estimate their percentage confidence in the third iteration orders we’d just given them.

For the third iteration, we introduced two new classes of service — a plane which had to be expedited and another which had to be completed by the end of the iteration as well as a fixed date plane, which had to be delivered by the end of the fourth iteration. Once more, the teams had five minutes to build the planes including a one-minute daily standup.

At this point, we introduced the fifth cadence, the Risk Review. In this, we look at problems that put our delivery capability at risk. Anyone with information, experience of recent blockers or managers from dependent services may be in attendance at this meeting. As a result of the session we may review the assigned Class of Service and/or explicit policies. Techniques such as blocker clustering can be used to analyse the work. Sessions can be 1–2 hours in duration.

We then kicked off the fourth and final iteration, asking the teams to build us 12 planes — four of each colour.

After the last iteration, we introduced the Operations Review. This is a ‘Systems of Systems’ level review and would be facilitated by a senior leadership team member. Here, we review the demand and capability for each system with a particular focus on dependencies. Improvement suggestions, actions, decisions or required changes to strategy with designated owners are the key outcomes of this meeting. The duration can vary depending on the number of services. With a large number of attendees, it could last up to two hours.

Although it is no substitute for the KMP2 course, the 90 minute session does give a really good look at six of the seven cadences, as well as giving attendees the opportunity to put them into practice.

After our successful outings at the Kanban Coaching Exchange and the London Lean Kanban Days, Helen and I are looking for opportunities to run the session again — so hit me us if you’re interested.

Doug Idle is a Senior Agile Delivery Manager. When he’s not delivering awesomeness he spends his time listening to Guns ’N’ Roses and rocking stages with his Velvet Revolver tribute band.


Coaching Dojos – At Scale!

One of the key areas of my role I am super passionate about is people! They are the highlight and sometimes the lowlights of each of my days. But ultimately by loving, cherishing and harnessing their awesomeness, we can do great things in communities. I also think about my role sometimes as throwing a pebble into the community pond and the waves and ripples that come out carry on with them.  Deep for a Monday I know!

I wanted to share with you today one of my little pebbles that I kick started with my biggest and oldest client. For those that know me, you can work out who!


The History

Many years ago I hosted a meet up group with Rachel Davies where I saw her run a coaching dojo. I enjoyed it immensely and saw endless possibilities with it.  So, I took this format and experimented with one of my insurance clients at the time and had some great success with this, and I saw how it really helped the ScrumMaster there grow.  This is the same place I met my good friends Richard Arpino and Doug Idle. If you like they were my original lab rats Smile 


Why I am passionate about Coaching Dojos?

I see many role disciplines in my career revert to the old classic of, you tell me your problem and I will solve it for you. We know this is not the optimal way of getting people to think for themselves and ultimately people know the answers deep down, we just need to help them unlock it.
So in the coaching dojos we give people the tools they need to unlock potential and ideas within themselves and each other. I have seen managers become less tell and more coach, which reduces burden and increase the ability for leadership and the coaching of others. I love that ‘A-ha’ moment when my students use it for the first time in 121 or retrospectives,  and they come back beaming from the results. I have run these in many organisations, but often run also at the London Lean Kanban Days conference.


What is a coaching Dojo?

Each dojo has a time box e.g. 10 minutes and we ask people to bring real life situations they need help with. Work or personal is fine and we have strict confidentiality rules.
We introduce different models and give people the opportunity to practice these.

You have three roles:

  • The Seeker –  Person needing help
  • The Coach – Person to coach
  • The Observer – Provider of feedback


At the end of the time box we ask for feedback from the seeker, coach and observer (in that order).
By doing this the coach gets the valuable opportunity of feedback and this can really shine a light on some of the bad habits we have or don’t even know we are doing.

What types of habits do you see commonly?
This is not an exhaustive list, but can include:

  • Not really listening. Maybe thinking about new questions or solving the problem while the seeker is speaking.
  • Butting in when the seeker is speaking
  • Trying to give people the answers to their problems
  • Using cognitive bias on situations
  • Lack of patience or self awareness of what your body is doing

The Coaching Dojo is about teaching you awareness of yourself, different models to use and a coaching mindset/stance. It is a great playground to practice safely in.


So how did you scale this?

Originally with my client we opened coaching dojos up to 65 ScrumMasters, and for at least a year we ran monthly 1 hour sessions where we would introduce different models and practice. However we wanted to make this more of a rolling program and something a little more formal.  We also didn’t want to limit it to just the ScrumMaster community, because developers, testers, product owners, you name them! Can get value from these skills.

So we created a 2 month program and kicked if off with a taster session so people can drop in and see if it’s something they want to do. Each 2 month program is a commitment and so the expectation is that they will commit to 1 hour per week for the duration.

We had lots of learnings along the way:

  • Originally I had about 4 sessions a week and it was getting crazy, and so I sought the help from my good buddy Richard Arpino and Chris Toby to help organise. My long term goal was always to hand this over the organisation to continue without me. The real test of success!
  • We also had lots of no shows which is very frustrating, but since we changed to a 2 month program we have found this to be so much better.
  • People were always very compliant in sessions, rather than difficult as some can be. So when this happen the lead coaches step in with example.
  • Keep the groups static as this builds trust in the peer group. You also find they start working closer with each other in the wider business.
  • We run small groups of 4 people, this allows one person to miss a session. We keep them small so we can focus on individual growth, rather than sheep dipping.

We have had so many learnings along the way, and this is really about experimenting and finding the right fit for the people.  But something must be working as we have a waiting list now!

So what is the curriculum?

There is now a formalised curriculum and we created a knowledge bank where people can go and see useful information about the models and coaching in general. Plus an internal coaching Facebook page where we put daily words of wisdom and new ideas they can try. We have book recommendations and are encouraging people to practice as much as possible.  The lead coaches can then support and debrief any difficult situations when they take these practices back to the teams.

Our topics:

  • Powerful Questions
  • GROW Model
  • The 5 Whys
  • Active listening
  • SARA Model
  • DESC
  • Dealing with difficult people
  • CIGAR Model
  • Contracting in Coaching
  • OSCAR Model
  • Clean Language
  • Real Options

It does seem a lot, but each program is built from a subset of these and we are adding more all the time. Especially as I am on the Barefoot PG course Smile

Each of these modules have supporting documentation and we may spend more or less on one than others, depending on experience in the group.
We also have different stages of groups. The first 2 month program is level 1 and 2 and so developing.

So what next?

We want to launch a level 3 which looks deeper into the art of coaching people and more practice of course. We are thinking about doing these in larger groups as they have already mastered the basics. We need to work this out and so ideas are welcome.

So we scaled by putting a program in place and by having three people that can run a max of three groups at any time. We could add more lead coaches, but we found scarcity made people invest in this more! I believe we have trained about 100 people from all different role types.

For the last two months I have pretty much handed everything over to Richard and Chris.  I just pop along when they need help or I have some free time. I leave them for pastures new in a week or so, but I know I have left in strong and capable hands. Plus I look forward to seeing how they can advance the program further.

There is so much love for coaching dojos in this organisation and I see how it has made a difference in the communities here. 

I look forward to my next adventure, when I can try something similar/new like this again.

Call to action!

So what are you waiting for? This is something you could set up and try with little investment. If you want some help or advice, please get in contact and I will support you however I can. I look forward to news of your experiment.

dojo