Social Change with Agile Coaching Skills?

Is it possible to bring about positive social change using organization change models with homeless individuals?

I do not have an answer but propose a challenge to Agile coaches.  Is anyone interested in creating a pilot program to offer leadership and individual growth coaching to individuals in a homeless shelter?

Yes, as an Agile coach you provide technical expertise, but I would argue that more of what you do is coach individuals on how to become better persons and how to be a team player. Organizations that transform to Agile, are not just implementing a new set of engineering practices; they are implementing a model that values the collective group above the individual contributors. It places high value on accountability and relationships amongst the people on the team.  One visible manifestation of the model is the team’s ability to uphold its set of self-governing rules of what is acceptable within the culture of the team. 

As many say, a team is only as strong as its weakest link. It is up to the team to recognize and provide ways to strengthen a struggling team member who is not making a positive contribution to their fullest potential. 

Coaches bring techniques and listening skills to enable teams to support each other and bring about positive change. For a coach to be truly successful, they must gain the trust of the team and foster an environment where the team builds trust and positive relationships amongst each other. The individuals of the team must feel they are part of the team before they will feel safe to express opinions and reach their full potential as positive contributors.

I see parallels between Agile teams and society in general. To me, a society is a team full of individual contributors who holistically create the values, culture and norms of the society. As each society is composed of different individuals, the values and rules may differ.  This is no different from two different Agile teams within the same organization having different team rules due to different individuals within each team. Similar to an Agile team, the society is as strong as its weakest contributors.  In a system that values the collective group over individuals, the other members of the society support the weakest contributors and work toward strengthening them so they may be full contributors .

However, many societies value the contributions of individuals over the collective group.  The purpose of this is not to debate whether this is right or wrong, but merely to bring to light an observation that this leaves a large population disenfranchised and feeling alienated.  Once alienated, an individual may not have a desire or motivation to contribute positively.  There are many outward signs in our society of this with homelessness being one visible sign.

Homeless people are often the bottom of society. They are the non-contributors. Now I understand there are many factors that lead to homelessness.  I am not going to address those individuals with severe mental disabilities that render their ability to contribute a moot point, but I would like to address those individuals who are able body and of a reasonable sound mind and are homeless.  I live in an urban area and like many others in my neighborhood, I am frustrated with the individuals who roam my street and alley, taking things that don’t belong to them to sell for their next fix.  I see them begging for money on a daily basis in what appears as laziness to get a job. It is easy to dismiss them or even loathe their presence in the neighborhood.

As a coach, this is hypocrisy at its best. During the day, practicing team building and growing individuals who need help; at home, shunning those that need the most help.  They are one of them, not one of us.  But what is their story?  Why are they there roaming the street? What happened along the way that caused them to give up? If they felt part of this team called society, would they feel safe to expose their vulnerabilities, express their opinions, and be open to learning skills needed for positive contribution to society? If they were able to find their purpose and discovered how they could contribute, would they take positive action for the greater good of the collective society?  Would they value and uphold the team rules of the society and hold themselves and each other accountable?  Can we as Agile coaches initiate this type of positive bottom up societal change with the same tools we use in our professional careers within the organizations we serve? 

Are you up for the challenge? What tools in your coaching tool box do you think should be tried?


Synergies between ADKAR and Influence Maps

I had a discussion with Siraj Sirajuddin (@siraju) with regards to Influence Maps, leadership and organizational change.  My understanding is that via the Influence Maps, an individual leader starts to gain access to their Personal Vision.  It is the collection of Personal Visions that creates the Compelling Shared Vision of the organization.  Having a Compelling Shared Vision is the first step to positive organizational change. I believe there is synergy with another Change Model, ADKAR.  The book ADKAR: a model for change in business, government and our community, by Jeffrey Hiatt, published by Prosci Learning Center Publications explains this model.

ADKAR  “is a framework for understanding change at an individual level.” It is an acronym for Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, and Reinforcement.   Each of these elements build upon each other.  I see synergies with Influence Maps within the Awareness and Desire elements of ADKAR.    

From personal experience, I have found Influence Maps enable a person to access that which is within them to bring about positive change.  With an experienced coach facilitating, an individual gains access to internal keys that influence their decisions, attitudes and beliefs. These are often hidden from ourselves for various reasons. Hidden influences often go unchallenged thus leaving an individual to continue to do things the way they always have.  This creates a barrier to change that can make it difficult to move past current circumstances and comfort zones. 

The Awareness element in ADKAR is about making the individual aware that a change is needed.  I believe Influence Maps help individuals gain awareness. Without an individuals awareness of influences, it is sometimes difficult to recognize a change is needed. The ability to recognize the change is the first building block of ADKAR. Without an individual’s awareness, you will not be able to move on to create the Desire needed to bring about the change that is sought.

The Desire element is about creating a desire to support a change. Once an individual is aware a change is needed, they may desire or not desire to take action and support the  change.  If no desire exists, the ADKAR model can not progress. Without a true internal desire to support the change, an individual will become an impediment to a change. They may go along temporarily if coerced, but overall the change will not last and will be in vain. 

As a tool, Influence Mapping assists an individual to gain access to internal desires bringing forth a personal vision.  The gap between awareness of current state and desired personal vision creates a tension that will draw an individual toward the next element of the ADKAR model, Knowledge. The seeking of knowledge of how to change is the next building block in the ADKAR change model. 

I am still learning about both of these models and welcome your input and insight.


Agile Coach Camp

I attended Agile Coach Camp #ACCUS in Columbus, Ohio September 23-25, 2011 at Columbus State College. My organization, Central Ohio Agile Association #cohaainfo was a local partner for this Open Space conference. I never thought of myself as someone who would be a conference follower, but I must say after this past weekend, I can see why many of the attendees follow this conference around the world.

Being a local, I was actually in the minority. Thought leaders and agilists from all over the world were in attendance sharing their expertise. At the closing ceremony, we were asked a few questions about our experience. Two questions I remember are: What we were glad about the experience and what we were mad about the experience.  

Let’s start with the mad. I believe many of the participants echo my frustration in that they could not attend all the wonderful sessions. There were 80+ sessions led by some of the most creative, passionate and intelligent leaders in our community.  I was over whelmed and did not know where to start.  I fluttered like a butterfly in and out of many sessions. 

If you have never been to an open space conference or unconference as some call it, you really need to try one. As was echoed throughout the weekend, each of us is an expert at something. It is the collective expertise and passion from us all that create a wonderful conference experience.

So on to what I am glad about the weekend.  I attended in hopes of learning some new techniques, sharing ideas on an upcoming presentation I will be giving and seeking to develop some new skills.  What I left with was profound. My life has been enriched beyond words. I discovered hidden truths about myself, made special friendships that will most likely last a lifetime, and have begun a journey of continued self discovery.

I am thankful and blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in such a wonderful event.  Thank you to all the organizers, volunteers, and sponsors.