I have been coaching teams as an independent consultant since 1991, starting out with relatively traditional testing (slanted toward programmers), moving toward what came to be called Context-Driven Testing in the latter half of the 90's, moving toward Agile in the early days of this decade. Although I'm known as a testing guy, I've broadened my scope to include both whole-team / management coaching and also programming coaching.
What do I want to learn?
As someone who wouldn't want to belong to any club who'd have someone like me as a member, it's unnatural for me to be a rather established figure in the Agile Establishment. So I'm automatically sympathetic to the post-Agile tendency:
Post-Agilism?, like any human idea, mushes up true observations, personal or shared theories-of-the-world, and private personality. The parts that resonate with me are these:
- Humans are, sad to say, social animals. They jockey for status, some more skillfully than others, some more consciously than others. Those who are skilled can seize upon any sweeping change, such as Agile, to upgrade or consolidate their position. Those who master the terminology, master the explanation, master the formalities of the process can win out over people who might in fact be better able to perform and adapt Agile software development to their particular situation.
- People gain strength and security in a group. That makes it easy for them to become zealots or join in a cult of personality. That offends people, who tend to form anti-groups in reaction (such as a cult of personality behind a charismatic anti-zealot).
- People like to move from certainty to certainty as quickly as possible: OK, if waterfall's wrong, let's get the right process in place ASAP and then settle down. Those who are uncomfortable with uncertainty are going to try to reach closure quickly, even at the expense of effectiveness or efficiency. Therefore: we're supposed to do automated acceptance tests, and FIT is used for automated acceptance tests, so let's have all the testers writing FIT tests and why are we still talking about all this? Those who prefer a barely-clad emperor to the anarchy of figuring out what to do when the emperor is deposed are going to tussle with those who can't understand why so many people are ignoring the blatant fact of the bare-assed monarch.
The result can be a project-wide or company-wide psychodrama that is no doubt interesting for the anthropologist but unpleasant for many involved.
Coaches often step right into the middle of this:
- Coaches, like any other drip under pressure, have a tendency to come on too strong, emphasizing certainty over doubt, simplicity over complexity and diversity. Even the most sincere coach can be co-opted into the organizational psychodrama, often on the side of those aiming to rise with the Big New Thing.
- And that's just the scrupulous coaches. There are now a lot of unscrupulous ones around (some consciously, some unconsciously).
As a result, even we scrupulous coaches are liable to get caught up a thesis-antithesis battle that easily ends up in a synthesis that results in both the hard work of Agile and the likely harder work of post-Agile being avoided with a sigh of relief by the majority of people. Then we go off to the next consulting gig, perhaps leaving behind people who think "At least work doesn't suck as much as it used to", perhaps leaving behind a polarized organization where people have locked into positions that treat others as malign objects.
So my topic: What are tricks people use to resolve all the conflicting forces around presenting ideas you really believe in while still letting the non-true-believers accept and own them? without stirring up unproductive conflict? while keeping honest work higher priority than process rectitude or team loyalty?
I'm personally rather allergic to Satir-style model a project as a dysfunctional family solutions to such problems. I like to enable people who can be excited by change more than finesse the resistance of those who are brought to change by crisis. I'm an audacity of hope kind of guy. So I'd personally prefer tricks that cater to my style, though it would be unfair to mandate that.
What do I plan to contribute?
The above topic. Participation in other topic. Occasional humorous remarks.