Coaching and Producing

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for ways to improve my coaching, and I wanted to learn what part of each successful project had to do with my coaching and what part had to do with the community or our use of agile methods.

It was quickly clear that many of my producing skills had transferred to my coaching. While the mediums differ, the work of the coach and the producer are quite similar. Both coach and producer help people create their best product with the time, money, and technology available. Where the producer helps the musicians turn songs into recordings, the coach helps project communities turn product owners' dreams into working software. Both follow a process (or journey) which has enough structure to allow for innovation.

Fig. 2: Agile products flow through an innovative delivery process.

Preproduction
My reflection also showed me that, named or unnamed, many projects begin with some kind of preproduction. Preproduction creates the time and space for a community to get ready to produce. As I introduced this idea more formally, I found it offered the same benefit as it did in the music world. I now had a name for a tool that allowed me to get to know the people, their product, and the tools and technologies in play.

Now, I commonly add four preproduction practices to each coaching gig:

  1. Project Chartering-starts building community and a common vision
  2. Creating an Initial Product Backlog-helps people see product value and start to build a common language
  3. Informative Workspace-creates a place where people can bond around the product/project
  4. Iteration 0-gets the technical house in order; design ideas emerge through early architectural spikes (time boxed investments used to better understand a technology or a possible technology solution)

I try to make sure that the amount of preproduction rigor is appropriate for the community I am coaching. For instance, a small community that is already very adaptive may complete these four practices in a few days. Conversely, a larger and distributed community that is replacing a complex system may need a bit more preproduction time.

Project Chartering
To better see the coach's value, let's take a coaching view at project chartering. Before we dig in, you should know (if you do not already) that project chartering is not new. Many managers create project charters; sadly, few people read them. Why? Maybe the charters are buried or simply not shared. Or, it could be that people lack ownership.

As is so often the case, the agile community simply took an existing tool and made it better by making it a collaborative tool. Agile charters are created by the community for the community. The charter is a way for the community to get to know each other, the purpose for the project, and the strengths and risks that lie ahead.

Like hang time (time spent) in a rehearsal room, chartering helps me (the coach) get to know the community. As we discuss project goals and potential roadblocks, I quickly see the communication skills of the individuals and the community. For instance, when the members of a project community are new, I see where I can grow existing connections and where I may need to make new connections. The chartering discussion draws people into a shared discussion around their commonalities and differences.

My time as a producer taught me the importance of fostering strong interaction during preproduction. As a coach, I use preproduction time (and practices) to connect communities. I often use this time to start connecting the technologists and the business players. Similar to getting the drummer to understand the horn section, I help the community

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