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Lessons Learned from the UK Agile Coaches Gathering

Leia em Português

The UK Agile Coaches Gathering (organized by Rachel Davies and Mike Sutton) was recently held at Bletchley Park (British wartime code breaking site and home to Colossus, the first digital electronic computer). The event was organized as a series of open space sessions allowing the attendees to pick the discussion topics that they wanted.

Sessions (on 5 tracks)  included:

with many more mentioned on the Topic Incubator. In addition, Liz Keogh took notes with Mindmaps.

David Harvey shared his notes on “Effective Coaching Styles”:

  • Models for sensemaking - Cynefin, Tuckmann, Dreyfus, Situational Leadership - there are many of these. Unless we can form a coherent view of what’s really happening in a situation, we won’t be able to act effectively.
  • Models for action - The category is closely tied to the above: and different sensemaking models can suggest both different opportunities for and types of intervention. But by adopting a model you’re giving yourself a framework that can help focus on the right things at the right times. The danger here is that we get very attached to our models (give a child a hammer, everything becomes a nail), the onus on us as coaches is to avoid this.
  • Tools and techniques - specific interventions that we make at particular points for particular outcomes. The whole zoo of facilitation techniques, the array of influencing tools that we bring to bear.
  • Coaching styles - directive, non-directive, questioning.
  • Coaching Stance - I liken this to the psychotherapeutic notion of “stance”: it’s fundamentally about how a coach relates to the team above and beyond details of interactions, interventions and models. It’s affected by whether you’re coaching a team full-time or whether you’re a consultant-coach, but in either case it’s up to you as coach to identify what sort of relationship you want with a team, what sort of relationship a team needs, in some cases which sorts of relationship are even possible.

The group mind mapped Peter Camfield’s “Why Do We Coach Session” Why Do We Coach?

Andy Duncan and Mike Sutton organized a session around some popular games from Improvised Theatre, and then briefly reflected on each one, to consider the lessons that might be applicable to our coaching and consulting roles. Among other things they learned: “sometimes we fabricate and impose rules on ourselves unnecessarily”, “that regularly introducing new elements leads to confusion and lack of continuity” and “that the person who seems to be in control is not always in total control. The person who doesn't have a voice can lead with their actions.”

In Dilbert Considered Harmful, the group discussed the effect of Dilbert Cartoons (also Apathy and other posters from, they imply a culture where disrespect and cynicism have become institutionalized and they affect the way people approach work, teams and the whole organization.

Finally Tobias Mayer, convened a session on Coaching Games where everyone brought their own favorite games. David Harvey liked the disentangling game: “where (i) a “manager” has to direct a tangled ring of eight or so individuals into a state of order (which is almost impossible) and (ii) where the ring of people has to figure it out themselves (it took a matter of seconds…)”

Several people have already declared that they’re looking forward to the next gathering.

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