Perfect Agile Coaching

Imagine if it was possible to for an organization to reach a state of self-sustaining, freestanding agility after just 5 coaching days.

Just FIVE.

What might that mean for the spread of agility throughout the world?

I met Chris Rufer, Paul Green and Doug Kirkpatrick last May when I presented a session on Gaming Happiness At Work at the Self-Management Symposium. One of the things I learned was that MORNINGSTARCO uses this concept of stepping-stones. Here are the steps:

  1. For a given task or job, define perfection. For example, at MORNINGSTARCO, for maintaining machinery that processes tomatoes, “perfect” is defined as a maintenance cost of ZERO for processing an INFINITE volume of material.
  2. Next, figure out your current performance numbers. For example, for machinery that processes tomatoes, the current score might be “one dollar of maintenance expense, on average, for  every 10 tons of product processing.”
  3. Now define a stepping-stone goal, in the direction of perfection: How about trying to get the maintenance cost down to 92 cents per 10 tons of processing, instead of 1 dollar?  89 cents maybe? That’s a stepping stone. 89 cents. Its a small, achievable goal, in the direction of improvement…in the direction of perfection.

In golf, “perfect” is eighteen hole-in-ones. That’s it.  “18” is the perfect golf score. Now, no one can actually achieve that. This actually does not matter. What does matter is that the ideal– the perfect—  is very clear.

Every golf pro is thinking about 18 as the ideal– as perfection. And they make small moves to get closer and closer. Thinking about perfection when aiming to improve is a very interesting idea. This idea from MORNINGSTARCO got me thinking about Agile coaching and perfection.

Perfection in Agile Coaching

What constitutes perfection in Agile coaching? How do we apply the MORNINGSTARCO stepping-stone concept to the execution of Agile coaching?

I think it has to do with client organizations reaching a state of self-sustaining, freestanding agility via the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM coaching engagement. What is that minimum exactly? Can a coach help get an org to a state of self-sustaining, freestanding agility with 30 days of coaching? 20 days? 10 days?

How about FIVE days?

I am actively seeking and working with clients who want to  explore this idea with me. We are working from the premise that “perfect” is no more than FIVE TOTAL DAYS  of coaching to reach a goal of org-wide self-sustaining Agility.

Is this definition of perfect even remotely possible to reach? We are finding out.

Currently, we in the Agile community consider it normal for a coach to set up camp at an organization and “embed” or “integrate” there for months on end. Sometimes even years. This makes absolutely no sense to me given the lack of genuine and lasting results these client organizations are actually getting.

So instead, I am working with clients, and doing many small experiments, in service to the idea of absolutely minimizing the number of coaching days required. To do this, radical new techniques have to be identified, developed and completely tested out. The old ways of doing things that are getting poor results have to be thrown out in favor of a all-new and radical approaches that can help get us there.

Current techniques are obviously deficient, because coaches are setting up camp, for YEARS in some cases, supposedly enabling an ‘Agile transformation’. These ‘Agile transformations’ are obviously NOT HAPPENING. Meanwhile, no one is sounding an alarm. Companies seem willing. Money is changing hands. Everyone is happy.

The problem of course is that there is no progress. In some of these organizations, dozens of coaches are working for years with results that are dubious at best. Something obviously has to change here.

Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible. That’s what Frank Zappa once said. We need to embody this idea. We need to throw out old assumptions, define perfection for the task of Agile coaching, and define and then achieve stepping stones in the direction of perfect. That’s exactly what I am doing with some of my clients in Boston and it is super-interesting to try out some of these new and radical ideas.

I plan to report the results to you, over the summer, as events unfold.