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Coaching in the Moment

Coaching conversations

21 June 2016

Naveen Ks
iTech US

I overheard a discussion recently in which a developer, in order to save time, wanted the quality analyst (QA) to review delivered functionality before deployment to the QA environment. QA wasn’t ready with an argument, as he had heard the same request for the past few sprints. The developer argued about limited days in the sprint and that as a team we should try to identify issues before functionality goes to deployment. QA flatly refused, because it couldn't do it operationally; plus there were complexities involved with testing. All the effort wouldn’t create enough value for the time they would have to allocate. This scenario is typical of the conflicts and challenges that Scrum teams face day in, day out.

In the end, the developer gave up. I could sense that we weren't making the necessary progress as a team and that this had been a lose-win situation. To mitigate the situation, I stepped in by putting on my consultant hat. I asked about the complexities involved in testing and identifying the speedup issues early in the testing process. After understanding the technicalities and the amount of effort required, I knew that progress could be made with some adjustments. The original request didn't make sense and QA was right.

I had to put on my coaching hat to get everyone's energy back to where it was at the beginning of the call for collaboration.

I asked each team member which sport he or she liked and best, and what was the major sport in their country. Most of them answered football or cricket. I asked, "If one team member fails (in cricket, for example, if the star batsman gets out early), how does the next batsman respond? Does he think about his limited capability to fill the star batsman's shoes to make the required runs? Or does he try to find a way to improve his game or to contribute as much as he can to win the game for the team?"

Don't we, as team members, try to do our best to win the game for the team? Don’t we question our own limitations and try to do a little better during challenging moments?

The following guidelines have helped me during such conflicts:
  • Identify the challenges in the changing flow.
  • Identify what could happen if you fail.
  • Encourage failing early.
  • Support any attempt to try new things.
  • Hold brainstorming conversations to find alternatives, and break away from the mundane.
What have you observed in your team, and in your company, in similar situations during a sprint? I welcome your comments.

Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.

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