find and capture their emergent, common language. Sometimes this may happen by simply playing back someone's words in an effort to translate and transfer his message to someone else.
Whether I am facilitating a chartering session, helping to compose a product backlog, or working to get the technical house in order, I find a bit of preproduction always helps me start the important conversations that feed the iterative collaboration that needs to take place in the early iterations.
Early Iteration Themes
In the studio, cutting good backing tracks (the body of the songs) is essential to producing a great final product. As the band records and rerecords each song, they start building a groove (the term musicians use to describe the feeling of playing well together). Sometimes the groove grows organically, with limited intervention from the producer. Often times the producer needs to provide guidance to one or more players. Many times a fancy piece of gear (technology) is the groove killer, and needs to be removed, no matter how cool it is.
The early iterations are an important time for bonding and building healthy habits. Each iteration challenges the community to come together in a way that deliver working software and a healthy code base in a sustainable way. While some communities do this well, forming strong bonds early on with little intervention, others are in need of some coaching.
Like a music producer, the coach works with the community, possibly helping one member see another's perspective. Helping engineers understand the product vision while coaching them to deliver the product one story at a time is like guiding the production of a complete recording song by song. Here are four themes I brought from music production to agile coaching:
Theme 1: Helping People Learn
In a similar fashion, a coach stepping in to help does not take over. The best and most lasting discoveries are those found by the community. A skilled coach finds the right time to provide supportive words and or a gentle nudge. Sometimes coaching is providing guidance, while other times coaching involves letting a situation safely play out and helping the community learn from the experience.
Theme 2: Leading and Teaching
I produced several bands that went on to produce their own recordings. Some producers are hurt when this happens, but I always viewed it as a natural evolution and hoped my contributions had helped them feel confident to take the reins.
Like good producers, coaches often lead while teaching and teach while leading (and learn while teaching). While your coach may lead the early stand-up meetings