Sunday, July 26, 2009

Coaching and Scaling Agility

At QCON San Francisco 2008, David Hussman gave a presentation on coaching. He defines coaching as helping plan products, helping with iterative delivery, helping tune and improve, and helping to build community. Coaching is about guiding people from how to why Shu, Ha, Ri or practice, improvise, and evolve. Coaching gigs and styles vary greatly. They can be prescriptive where this is what you should do or descriptive where this is what I have seen work.

When coaching large communities, it is important to understand that there is no recipe. Each community is unique. David recommends coaching respectful change where change must happen with people and not to them. Try to understand who people are, how they work right now, what’s working for them, and what motivates them to change. Try to find some set of practices, a way to bound as a community, some way to talk about products, some way to deliver it, and some way to tune it.

Then David talks about providing real education by building a library, providing pragmatic (need to try and experience things) training, coaching classes, facilitating training, and teaching TDD-refactoring.

David talks about chartering which covers who is involved, what we are trying to get done, what are the risks, timeline, etc… David uses chartering to find common goals and build a collective groove. Here is what we are trying to do, here is how we know when we are done, this is who is building it, etc...

Next David discusses scaling core practices. He recommends creating pragmatic product roadmaps (3, 6, 12, 18 months), pairing beyond programming (business person, testing person, and development person), radiating information, making issues visible, and promoting improvisation.

Then David describes two situations: many teams, many products or many teams one product. They need to be working in cross cutting concerns. Also we need to build customer communities composed of people that have interest, passion, knowledge, and some decision making capability.

Lastly, David discusses issues with large distributed communities. Conference calls are NOT just like being there. One option is building whole sub-teams around common goals and common understandings.

This presentation is available on InfoQ at