What Color is Conflict? – Conflict Games 1/3

[This post is one of many sparked by Agile 2015.]

Somehow I ended up attending a lot of sessions related to Conflict at Agile2015. Back at home I offered a workshop to share 3 games / exercises with the wider company. I’ll share the games and our experiences with them in this and the next 2 posts.

First off is “What color is Conflict?” from Ellen Grove‘s workshop “Games for Learning about Conflict Resolution” (my favorite session of all of Agile 2015, BTW).

sketchnote_conflict-resolution

All you have to do is scatter a number of color swatches (pilfer paint samples from Home Depot?) on the table.

Color Swatches - Conflict Color
Each person has to pick the color that they associate with conflict. Then you go around the table and everyone explains why they picked their color. Even if most people pick red, they pick it for different reasons and those reasons are interesting.

This game is great for a new team that’s just starting out together, e.g. during a liftoff. It lets each team member know all the others’ attitudes towards conflict.

Thanks to Ellen for her inspiring workshop!

PS: I pondered conflict so much since Agile 2015 that conflict is now a different color to me than it used to be. Curious, eh?

Explain, Explore

[This post is one of many inspired by Agile 2015.]

Here’s a game for newly-formed teams that you could play during a liftoff: “Explain, Explore”. It’s from Luke Lackrone‘s engaging session “#awkward – Coaching a new team“.

All you need is a piece of paper and pen per person. It’s probably more fun with more people. 8 or more participants would be good.

In the Explain round, everybody writes down a word or phrase that is true for them. Then they team up with someone else, preferably someone they don’t know yet. The partners exchange names and then explain to each other, why their description is true for them.

Example descriptions from the session: “foodie”, “mom of a Golden Retriever”, “hiker”, “dad of a 4-yr old”, …

Now you mix things up. People walk about the room and swap their notes for someone else’s at least 3 times.

After swapping, the Explore round begins with finding a new partner. Everybody checks the description they got via swapping and explore in what respect that might be true for them, too.

It’s a fun game that serves 2 objectives: Getting to know each other and taking on a new perspective. To quote Luke Lackrone:

I always like to say one of the outcomes here is to point out two mindsets. The Explain mindset is easy for us: we can explain something true about us easily to others; but the Explore mindset encourages us to push through surface resistance and connect things that aren’t obvious. For example, I might get a card that says, “Mom” but I’m not a mom. How might that be true for me? Well, perhaps the traits of a mom — giving structure, loving, teaching — reflect how I interact with my team. Maybe I’m the team mom!

As teams are going through agile transformation, or even routine self-improvement, we want to encourage them to live more and more in the Explore mindset.

Thanks, Luke, for sharing this game, the equally great “Journey Lines“, and your help proof reading this post!

PS: How awesome is “Luke Lackrone” for a name, eh? I need to write a novel just so that I can name a character thusly 🙂

What is Coaching anyway?

[This post is one of many inspired by Agile 2015]

[Update: After reading Johanna Rothman’s comment, a better title for this post would have been “What is Reflective Coaching anyway”.]

The other day I found out that my husband’s definition of what it means “to coach someone” was very different from mine. His was a sports one, i.e. someone who observes and then gives hints what to do differently. It seems to be a popular notion. Last week, Johanna Rothman quoted Consulting Role: Principles and Dynamics of Matching Role to Situation, by Champion, Kiel and McLendon with this definition of a Coaching: “You did well; you can add this next time.”

Mine is different, though and given the high number of coaching related sessions I attended at Agile 2015, I will probably talk a lot about Coaching. Hence it might be good to clarify what I mean, when I use the word.

For starters let me point out that Agile Coaches very often do not actually “coach”. Take this framework by the Agile Coaching Institute:

ACI-Agile-Coach-Competency-Framework

You’ll notice that Professional Coaching is only 1 of 4 possible activities, next to Teaching, Mentoring and Facilitating. At least in the beginning of an engagement Agile Coaches often have their hands full Teaching and Facilitating and that’s okay. Advice and orientation is often what people need and seek.

In contrast, coaching is the act of creating and “holding” a safe space in which the coachee can find answers in and by themselves.

 “Coaching is life-changing – if it is not life-changing it’s not coaching” – Martin Alaimo

For the most part, for me that translates into shutting the fuck up and doing some serious listening. As a coach you don’t have to have all the answers. But you better bring some pretty great questions! Powerful questions for example. Or clean questions.

How about you? What’s your definition of Coaching?

Coaching Canvas

[This post is one of many sparked by Agile 2015.]

Have you noticed how many canvases are around these days? Business Model Canvas. Lean Canvas. Value Proposition Canvas… Can’t we think of any other approach anymore?

That’s why I was a little hesitant when Olaf Lewitz and Martin Alaimo opened up their “Great Coaching Conversations Workshop” with the “Coaching Canvas“. Yeah, right…

Coaching Canvas

How I regret thinking that! It totally worked! We paired up and took turns being coach and coachee.

We had a list of Powerful Questions to pick from for each field of the canvas. Together with the canvas this was enough rigging so that 100+ people had insightful conversations. Some even had coaching conversations:

“Coaching is life-changing” – Rich Litvin

“If it’s not life-changing it’s not coaching” – Olaf Lewitz

I had one, for example. I had a profound realization about myself and how I view tricky situations. This realization might well change my (career) path sometime in the future. Still mulling it over.

I guess what I’m saying is: If you’ve got a coaching situation on your hand and don’t have much experience in coaching, absolutely do give the Coaching Canvas + Powerful Questions a shot! You’ll be surprised!

Thank you Olaf & Martin!

SMARTe Ziele auf deutsch

Hm, wie würdet ihr die SMARTen Ziele übersetzen? Für den deutschen Retromaten (um den sich ansonsten Patrick Zeisig hochverdient gemacht hat) habe ich es gerade folgendermaßen eingedeutscht:

  • specific = spezifisch
  • measurable = messbar
  • attainable = ausführbar
  • relevant = relevant
  • timely = mit Termin

3 davon sind ja sehr naheliegend. Auch “ausführbar” finde ich nah dran. Einzig “timely” finde ich kniffelig. “terminiert” und “Termin gebunden” fand ich beides weniger gut als “mit Termin” aber so ganz trifft es “timely” im Sinne von “zeitnah” nicht. Was meint ihr?

Clean Questions and the Power of Metaphors

A year ago I blogged about Non-Violent Communication as a means to avoid judgement and find needs. Now I think I found something even more radical (once again via Andrea Chiou): Clean Questions / Clean Language.

With Clean Language, not only do you forego judgement, you don’t even offer interpretations. It’s a bit like the game “Taboo”: You can only use words that the other person has used first. (As Clean Language was developed by therapist David Grove, the “other person” is usually a client.)

Examples of Clean Questions – X is a something said by your client:

  • And that X is like what?
  • Where is that X?
  • And is there anything else about X?
  • And what needs to happen for X?

Here’s a list of all common Clean Questions. (For my fellow German natives: Clean Questions auf deutsch)

While asking these simple, repetitive questions, you look out for metaphors used by the other person and take them literally. Metaphors make it possible to access, talk and possibly resolve very deep, semi-conscious things that would be hard or impossible to address directly:
If a client feels they don’t make progress at work, then “It’s like smashing myself head-first into a brick wall” vs. “It feels like running on a treadmill, going nowhere” describe very different experiences.

Here’s an excellent TEDx Talk on how Caitlin Walker used Clean Questions to help under-privileged teenagers to deal with anger:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVvcU5gG4KU&feature]

I’m still on the lookout for an opportunity to try this out. If you’d like to try, here’s a great article on how to apply Clean Questions in a business context.

What do you think about the concept of Clean Language? Have you already used Clean Questions? How did it go?

The Power of Habit – Book Tip

cover_power-of-habit

When the insanely insightful Amy Hoy is smitten with a book, I read it. And “The Power of Habit” did not disappoint!

It’s an entertaining journey through cases that helped scientists uncover how habits (and willpower) work and how you can change them. Understanding why and how our automatic actions play out is highly important, given that they govern about 40% of all our daily actions – A staggeringly high amount.

I highly recommend reading the book! As an appetizer, here’s an excerpt on how to change a habit by changing the routine within the Cue-Routine-Reward loop.

Let’s close with some quotes I highlighted during reading: Continue reading

13 activities for retrospectives to know

25_Cause-Effect-DiagrammI like all activities in Retr-O-Mat. Of course, I do, otherwise I would not have invested the time to add them. Still, when I selected activities for the Print Edition I realized that some activities HAD to be in it and others were interchangeable.

Which are these key activities, you ask? Well, here they are:

For  Teams

Teams new to agile need to learn what to improve, what they can influence and how best to implement change:

  •  Circle of influence
    The team will be most successful if they tackle problems they can influence instead of bitching about things they cannot change
  • SMART Goals
    A concrete, measurable goal / action item has a much higher chance of being implemented than a nebulous one, that no one knows how to act on
  • Low hanging fruit
    Start with small steps. Early successes can start a virtuous cycle
  • Undercover Boss
    Changing perspective: The team’s perspective is not the only one there is. Other views are just as valid.

For Facilitators

If you’re new to facilitating retrospectives, here are methods and ideas I keep coming back to:

List of Books about Retrospectives

Recently I’ve made a list of all books about retrospectives that I’m aware of for my Retr-O-Mat newsletter. Just in case you also want to explore this topic:

My very own Retr-O-Mat Print Edition is not really book, but just in case 😉

[This blog post was scheduled to be published before the author went on vacation and is valid without signature 😉 See you guys mid-December!]

Update 2016: In the meantime I’ve written an book on the retrospectives, filled to the brim with activities and other advice to improve you retrospectives.

Join the Wall-Skills.com Advent Calendar!

Have you ever heard of “Testing on the Toilet“? I hadn’t until Roland presented it at the Düsseldorf Agile Meetup: Some Google testers wanted to improve the (automated) testing done across the company. That’s why they started to hang up tips for testing in the toilets for people to read in their “leisure” time. They exchange the tips weekly.

Roland copied the idea for his company, not with testing but with all kinds of other topics such as “10 Tips for Maintainable Code”, “Admin Zen”, “9 Tips for Better Presentations”, “Agile Mindset”, “10 Vim Tips”, etc.

I liked the idea so much that I convinced him to team up, create a nice layout for these 1-pagers and make them publicly available. Just a few weeks later, we present to you: Wall-Skills.com

wall-skills_screenshot

There we’ll collect 1-page PDFs or images on Agile, Lean, development, devOps, system administration, Scrum and Kanban – ready for print out.

Right now, we’ve only published two sample posts, because we want to kick off the collection with an Advent Calendar. Although we’ve got ideas for most of the 24 slots, we think a greater diversity would be more interesting. Maybe you’ve got great, suitable content in your blog? Wonderful! Tell us about it – Contact us on Twitter or via email. (Please be quick and submit until next Monday, the 25th so that we can prepare everything for December.)

What do you think? Would you give it a try in your company? It’s not mandatory to display the bulletins in toilets 😉 Refrigerators are perfect targets, too!

Don’t miss our first post on December 1st, 2013 – Subscribe to the Wall-Skills.com RSS feed