Hasselt Lean Coffee

On Tuesday I went to the Hasselt Lean Coffee Meetup at the Corda Bar (Hasselt). It proved to be a great evening with some smart people.

What's Lean Coffee?

It's a nice way to connect with likeminded people and discuss topics in your field.

From the Lean Coffee website:

Lean Coffee is a structured, but agenda-less meeting. Participants gather, build an agenda, and begin talking. Conversations are directed and productive because the agenda for the meeting was democratically generated.

What did I learn about?

  1. The concept of nemawashi: in our discussion it centered around changing a company's culture. You can't just pull the company from it's current culture and drop it into a new one. It takes some careful digging around the roots, before you transplant the tree.
  2. Coworking location Seats2meet: the idea is that you can book a workspace or meetingroom and share your knowledge with other people in the building. You can see what everyone in the building has to offer, and meet up for an informal talk and share some ideas. They only have one location in Belgium (if I'm correct), but it's definitely something I want to check out when I'm in the Netherlands.
  3. A lot of angles/concepts in how we approach agile working. The topics I proposed where: "How to approach Product Ownership at the client's side?" and "How to teach agile to people without prior knowledge or people just coming from school?"

When's the next meetup?

The next Hasselt Lean Coffee will be held on Tuesday 6 December 2016 - 19h00 at the Corda Bar (Hasselt). If you want to join, make sure to RSVP on meetup.com

Thanks Wim Bollen and Tim Pijpops for organizing these meetups, I'm definitely attending again.

Feedback

The idea for this post came to me when reading this article on Harvard Business Review.

This part made me reflect on how we do software development:

A core value at The Other Side Movers is “200% Accountability.” Meaning every employee is expected to be 100% accountable for the quality of their own work, AND 100% accountable for the quality of the work of everyone else they see. The quickest way to get in trouble at The Other Side Movers is not to fail on #1, but on #2.

If we really embrace this rule as a team, there's no escaping, you'll have to give/receive feedback at some point.

As a Scrum Master it's my job to make people aware of the importance of feedback. I often see two things happening:

  • Giving feedback: some people are hesitant of pointing something out if it involves a colleague. "What if I'm wrong or my colleague doesn't like what I'm saying?" Let me turn it around: What if you're right and you didn't point it out? This moment was a chance to improve and we didn't grab it.
  • Receiving feedback: some people feel threatened because they see feedback as a bad thing. Once you see it as an opportunity to learn, you'll grow much faster as a person.

How to give feedback?

The following steps should make giving feedback an opportunity to learn for both parties:

  1. Name (not judge!) the behaviour you're seeing, the moment you see it. If you wait too long, the behaviour will be forgotten and the message is not as strong. Talking about the behaviour, not the person, is key in this step.
  2. Tell the person how you interpret this kind of behaviour and what effect it might have on the team.
  3. Propose a new way of behaving in this situation and see if you both can agree.

Don't let emotion get in the way of providing feedback. By keeping it factual, there's a bigger chance that the recipient will accept the feedback.

How to help teams complete actions effectively

As a Scrum Master my brain is hardwired to be in project delivery mode most of the time. There are deadlines on which we have to deliver (part of) a project to our customers. The only way to achieve this is by communicating often and clearly about our status, so we can respond to change as quickly as possible.

My approach to this is, that I'll gather all actions from a daily standup, meeting, discussion,... and communicate these actions accompanied with an owner and a deadline on which we want an answer. Preferably on a whiteboard in our teamroom, so you can't not see it.

So far, this sounds easy, right?

Transparency and honesty

In reality I sometimes encounter teams where it's common practice to hide slow progress or issues, creating surprises at the end of a sprint. The daily standup is the perfect setting to let your team know you're running behind, won't be able to complete an action, ask for help with something,... Failing to do so, tells your team everything's going according to plan.

When this happens, it's important to coach your team on being transparent and honest when giving a status update.

Imagine you have a date with your SO in a restaurant at 8pm:

  • If it's 7pm and you know you won't make it, you're probably going to call her and tell her you're late. At this time, it's not a big issue and plans can be rearranged.
  • If it's 10pm and you haven't called her, I wouldn't like to be in your shoes. You missed your deadline, the damage is done.

Surprisingly, the second point happens quite a lot when working in teams/with clients.

Can I help you?

So let's circle back to actions, owners and deadlines. Writing them down is the easy part. Completing them can be a lot harder. To avoid frustrating conversations when deadlines pass without completed actions, try this:

Before the deadline passes, ask if the owner of the action needs help to complete it. This serves two purposes:

  • If the answer is no: you know your colleague/client got reminded of an upcoming deadline that's important to you.
  • If the answer is yes: you'll have a better view on the status, you're able to respond to change before the deadline arrives and offer a helping hand.

This is a great step to work towards transparent and honest communication within a team. Team members will learn that taking responsibility is part of working in a team and that the team is there for you when you need help.