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Coaching is a transferable skill

It's been interesting over the last year for me as I explore where coaching for software teams and  coaching for sports people overlaps. This year I got to be coach for a Roller Derby team which is the first time I've called myself a coach for more than a brief workshop. In my day job I'm involved in many activities that have nothing to do with coaching so I rarely call myself an Agile Coach. But to that sports team I am the coach. And while  I've been involved with Roller Derby for 5 years I have very little training in coaching sports teams so I started applying all the things I've learned coaching software teams.


We built a manifest of shared goals
I can't take all the credit for this one as the team created one before I joined them as coach. But I couldn't be more happy with it as that was one of my first goals. I wanted something that helped defined who we are as a team distinct from other skaters and teams. I also wanted to spell out what our values we…
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What role are your tests serving.

We had a discussion at work after watching the excellent Kelvin Henney talk about good unit tests. And it helped me clarify the many roles tests play and why people get a habit of complaining about their tests getting in the way. So here is the four categories a test is trying to balance:


RequirementsRegressionDocumentationRefactoring guide

Most test today are written as requirements. And this is a huge improvement over the past when we'd write tests later and try and get code coverage. Those 'later' tests are useless. The requirement tests happen for high level acceptance tests and in low level TDD too. Your test defines a behaviour you want. Once your test passes you don't go back to change it at all beyond some obvious cleanups like code duplication. These tests allow rapid development and reliable progress. But they can hinder refactoring, provide poor feedback on failures for regression and may be too implementation focused to be readable.

And easy correction is to…

When Agile is not common sense

It's been about 8 years since I got my Agile training from James Grenning and started an Agile Pilot with my team. Right from the start I was super keen and got people practising TDD and Pair Programming even though I didn't really know if that effort would pay off. I just knew we had lots of problems with the old way so I wanted to embrace the new.

So I'd run my own little sessions with the broader team in Sydney sharing Agile concepts and ideas. Giving us a chance to discuss things and keep learning long after James had left. But often I would present new ideas and a few people in the group would respond "oh of course, that's just common sense". Initially I thought it was great as they were embracing these ideas as valuable even though it was not what we were doing before. But after a while I started to get frustrated because they we're not really listening. If some small part of a concept fit nicely with their "common sense" then they took th…

Applying the Toyota Kata

Last year I got to attend a workshop on the Toyota Kata by Hakan Forss and I could immediately see how it could be useful but I didn't have an obvious place to apply it until recently.

So what is the Toyota Kata? I see it as an alternative to retrospectives. It lets you define a collection of goals and run experiments to see if you can get progress towards that goal. Unlike retrospectives you can define goals that may seem distant (release to customers on every passing commit), may be simply something you want to maintain (have zero bugs in production) or be impossible (have zero wait time in moving a story from backlog to done). Once you've built this collection of measurable goals you decide what you're going to try and your expected outcome (we will to TDD and have 50% less bugs in production). You can define what the period is before you check in again and decide on the next step. But as with anything Agile; shorter is better. You can work it into a normal two week scr…

So I've been advised to create a Coaching Manual

I'm trying to build up my skills as an Agile Coach. In a way I've been doing this already now for about 8 years. But it's getting a bit more structure and organisation.

The way I see it learning is part of software development. It always has been. Some people get comfortable with their knowledge and workload and stop learning but that has never been me. When I get too comfortable I start looking for something else to do.

But my learnings are just a jumble in my brain. Sometimes it impresses me as I can pull out a name, a quote or apply a process to something specific. And sometimes it lets me down so I have to revisit and revise like I'm doing right now. I'm listening to Esther Derby talk about her Six Rules of Change and writing this at the same time. Not something I recommend but I just want a refresher as I've studied it before. I'll probably grab the slides later and use it as part of a mini-presentation. Sorry you just ran into my jumble.

What I'm …

Things I’ve learned from running lean coffee and why you should organise one too

I’ve been running a 30 minute lean coffee session in my workplace every two weeks for 18 months now. Our first meeting for this year is tomorrow. I started the sessions when a bunch of people from work went to the Agile Australia conference and we wanted people to keep sharing ideas and other learnings. Now I invite any software developer in the building so my invite list has grown to 99 people but I typically only get about 10.
How lean coffee works: A few people from work got to take part in one at Agile Australia but I missed it myself. So I just got online and read everything at http://leancoffee.org/ I grabbed a bunch of index cards and texters and was ready to go.
I feel it’s super important to my company as it’s the only time people from all the software development teams can meet each other and discuss things. It’s helping break down walls between teams and helping ensure learnings can spread to other teams quicker.
Location matters. I started off in the building’s cafe but it wo…

Can Programmers Test?

I spend a lot of time working closely with programmers on the software testing process. Much of my career mission is to get more people embracing techniques like Test Driven Development. As I push more and more of the testing demands onto the developers I sometimes run into people who say they need a tester for "independent testing".



It's a concept I'm familiar with from early days in my career. A tester can look at the system and requirements with fresh eyes and find all those cases the programmer didn't consider. If the programmer does all the testing they'll be too tempted to just test the cases they know the code is handling and not discover any new areas where bugs may be hiding. The problem I have with this idea is I never was that type of programmer.

As a programmer if I didn't test something it was purely out of laziness and arrogance. I'm a big supporter of Larry Wall's three great virtues of a programmer. A lazy programmer will do their …