Sunday, December 29, 2013

Change is the new habit – Personal Coaching with Agile

Shirly Ronen Harel and Avi Naparstek

Something is happening for several years now in the high – tech industry. An evolution called Agile. Agile is a working approach that entered the high-tech world in around 2001. It entered into the day to day activities of the industry employees and introduced an agenda of working with simple tools that leverage their natural abilities, empowering them and giving them motivation to continue to grow. Tools that have inspired, directed action that brings quality results. One of the growth engines of this change is the ‘Agile coaching’ that Tangent to the life coaching, professional coaching, business coaching or in fact any other coaching method that leads to growth. 

One of the biggest problems in high-tech is the astronomical cost - each project is costing a fortune, every delay costs money and risking on losing potential customers or business opportunities - sometimes bungling of such an opportunity could cause the Company to fade completely.

"The need to develop study habits and adapt to changes is the root of many coaching methods - if it is that the programmer needs to deal with new operating systems, or a parent that has to deal with changes in the needs of his children"

In addition, the pace of technological change is one of the highest ever for the history of the industry - techniques and methods which we experts only a year ago may no longer justify themselves today.  There is a constant need for learning new things, standing at the forefront in technology and business. You cannot even wait a few months to produce your products, you need to work fast. You need to get use to change, and not just get used to it, in order to survive in this industry you should embrace change as a way of life, as your new reality. Customers are not waiting; they change their minds because their reality changes as well. Manufacturers must recognize that and develop methods to get used to the change.

One of the things we're working on in agile coaching is reducing these risks and teaching the agile teams’ new ways to respond quickly to change, Improve and internalize practices that change rapidly. The pace of change in the world is only growing. We'd better get used to it!

The need to develop study habits and adapt to changes is the root of many coaching process - if it is the programmer that needs to deal with new operating systems, or a parent that has to deal with changes in the needs of his children and his role as a parent, or if we need to take on a diet, quitting smoking, changing business dealing and so on.
Change and the human need to deal with, is universal.  As coaches we all recognize this need, particularly the difficulty that our coachees , learn and understand what they need to change , and mostly the need to preserve this change, so it will not dissipate within a week and a month, but will become a habit of a new life. Which is exactly what agile coaching does - helping coachees to change old habits effectively and quickly, to leave the comfort zone and make a habit of dealing with the new change.

So what can we learn from agile that can be related to personal coaching? Among other things:

●  Create constant Heartbeat Or constant pulse -  Agile teaches us to produce a pulse of constant action - setting objectives, walking towards the goal immediately, collecting feedback from the environment and learn from them and setting a new destination. And back again, creating a uniform and constant ‘doing and reflecting’ rhythm. This type of “Rotation" (of placing a goal – moving toward the goal – collecting feedback - and a setting new target) is usually set to be from 1 week to four weeks, while the tasks are relatively small - sometimes the whole process takes an hour or even a few minutes.

The 'secret' that enables persistence over time is to maintain a constant Heartbeat. A team that finds that it work for them with the rhythm of the round of every two weeks, would be good if they continue with the exact same rhythm over time.  The team should not be tempted to "change the pace" - even if there is pressure to finish something just in a week and a half. Using Agile We have learned that changing the rhythm of things is like changes in a human heart rate – the price we pay in the long term is greater than the immediate shock that we may make.

 Visibility - Is key . Things happen when you see them. We will visualize all that stands in front of us and we will manage it. In some cases we will place big whiteboards and sticky notes that will symbolize the road a head and the goals we see and though create full transparency for ourselves and our friends to the journey.

Using agile teaches how to reflect clearly in a way that cannot be ignored-(processes, mindsets, priorities, problems and solutions)  . Using big visual boards) Information Radiators) Has become commonplace in agile teams. You will not find them looking at a computer screen, looking for a file with a list of tasks, but standing together in front of a huge board on the wall, where you see the tasks, failures, obstacles, strengths of the team and their shared vision.  The entire team related information is large and clear for all to see, in an atmosphere of trust, mutual support and joint motivation for action (Team Spirit).
In Agile personal coaching we use similar tools to help the coachee manage the process of his transformation. Using the board’s visibility allows the change to become a sustainable habit over time.

●   Kaizen - Routine of continuous improvement - The idea of continuous improvement is first of all, do it all the time, and in small doses. It is particularly effective when adapting a routine or (the way we like to call it) a pulse, which we examine our doing all time.
Agile holds a structured processes called Retrospective- This is an hour of  "coaching session", held once a week / two weeks (depending on the rhythm of the team), the session is run by a coach (or by a Scrum Master). The purpose of the meeting is to allow the team - together -to define goals and objectives of improvement – related to the process of their work, interpersonal conduct, dealing with obstacles and problems, and basically anything they see as contributing to or interferes with their effective conduct together as a team.
In agile Personal coaching we also employ similar methods to create a pulse of progress, improvement and problem solving in the coachee. Make the improvement itself - a habit for life

●  Value Focus- Value as a motivator in order for me to be able to recognize the value generated for my own benefit, its best that I will embrace an approach of which I think of myself as a customer that his money is important to him and his quality requirements are high, and also think about myself as a provider, and provide myself the best service I can.

A very important agile principle is placing myself in my client's shoes (as a product manager or as someone that is responsible in any way to provide a service). This allows us to think like a customer and make decisions - sometimes not easy decisions – that will ultimately serve the customer, and will allow us to deal better with pressures directed against us from management, other stakeholders, and most importantly - ourselves.  Agile developed structured tools and techniques to define customer needs from the perspective of the customer himself. Sometimes (and highly recommended to do it as a routine ) we will seek our customer real feedback.
In agile personal coaching we apply the same principle -we Identify the true value for the coachee in every decision or in any progress direction, in order to get to the bottom of it (and quickly), and realize what the coachee really want and need in life.

●  Baby Steps  - walk in small steps   - Smaller is easier to control, easier to make a mistake and easier to fix.

In our experience, Effective change and the ability to make things happen  - Better be happening gradually and Incrementally. Using Feedback Loop will allow a proper understanding of the events in the changing reality.
An agile Heartbeat (mentioned above), in small doses produces the ability to cope with changes, react to them and learn. This pulse, in small doses, creates a flow of action, and routine, but a kind of routine that creates special feeling of success. Once we get used to it, this routine will become a part of us and embrace the change as a habit.

●  I am my own organizer and director, and I learn to do it well even after the coaching is long over and not just as part of a coaching period.
The concept of self-management and self-organization Is fundamental in agile -  It enables employee empowerment, allowing him to discover and invent for himself the best way he could function.  It's not as simple as it sounds - it is necessary to create supporting frameworks and set clear boundaries. The role of the manager is turning at 180 degrees here – from a manager that decides for his employees their tasks to a manager that defines responsibilities, supports, protects workers against interference and allows them to maximize their abilities (Servant Leadership).
The principle of self-organization, decision making and taking responsibility for them and for your own actions (both over the successes and over the failures) - is also an essential part of the agile personal coaching – it’s the accountability and responsibility the coachee in the coaching process, to his own life and those around him
There is so much more to write about agile ... so much .... There is an entire infrastructure in the heart of the agile practices that ultimately enables action and constant growth,   Continuous improvement in work habits and life.

So what's next?
We wish to take the knowledge, methods and concepts of agile into the world of personal coaching – we initiated a project called Jelly – agile coaching. This is the first article in the series.

And best of all .. Do not forget to enjoy the way - it's also one of the most important agile principles. **

Shirly Ronen Harel and Avi Naparstek - both personal trainers and activists for many years in the high-tech industry. Members of the Agile Life group  Whose goal is to take the agile into other areas of life (education, art, society, etc.) and project partners Jelly - Agile coaching- designed to bring the world of agile into the  personal coaching area.


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