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BONUS: Agile Coaching With a Philosophical Twist, Exploring Michel Foucault’s Work, The Panopticon, and Other Systems of Control With Michelle Pauk

In this episode, with Michelle Pauk – an Agile Coach – we explore what we can learn from philosophy, and Michel Foucault’s work on systems of power and discourse. Learn more about the systems we need to adapt to, and even transform. From the Panopticon, to the systems that drive compliance, and remove creative thought! A must listen for those interested in changing the world of work!

Michelle’s Journey into Agile Coaching

“It’s not about predicting; it’s about responding.”

Michelle’s journey into becoming an Agile coach was as unpredictable as volcanos can be, literally! Inspired initially by Michel Foucault during her studies, she found herself intrigued by the intricacies of thought and its impact on behavior. This intellectual curiosity led her to a company specializing in language learning software, where her role in project management opened her eyes to the stress and unpredictability inherent in the field. The realization that many of her challenges could be mitigated by Agile methodologies was a turning point. Agile, with its emphasis on adaptation over prediction, offered a solution to the guilt and responsibility she felt over uncontrollable factors, like a volcano disrupting her project. This journey not only transformed her approach to work but also challenged inherited industrial revolution-era notions of work processes.

Foucault’s Influence

“The panopticon and Agile: Visibility without the constraint.”

Michelle’s admiration for Michel Foucault’s work, particularly his book Discipline and Punish, provides a unique lens through which she views her role as an Agile coach. The book’s exploration of the panopticon—a system for observing without being seen—parallels the modern open office plan and contrasts with Agile’s emphasis on transparency and collaboration. Foucault’s historical analysis of justice systems and control mechanisms resonates with the systemic changes Agile coaching aims to implement in the workplace.

Systems of Control and Culture

“Pay attention to what is *NOT* being said; it speaks volumes about your team’s culture.”

One of the core aspects of Agile coaching for Michelle is the focus on discourse and culture within teams—what is being talked about, and perhaps more importantly, what isn’t. Drawing on Foucault and Wittgenstein, she emphasizes the power of unspoken norms and assumptions in shaping work environments. By encouraging teams to challenge these silent boundaries, Agile coaching not only aims to improve workflow but also to humanize the workplace, making it more receptive to change and innovation.

Awareness of Culture in Agile Practices

“Can we even think outside our language?”

The challenge for Agile coaches and Scrum Masters lies in becoming deeply aware of the surrounding culture and its influence on thought and action. By critically examining workplace norms and practices, Agile professionals can identify and challenge the limitations imposed by current systems of work. This awareness is crucial in fostering an environment where innovation thrives and work is humanized, reflecting the core goals of Agile methodology.

Philosophical Inspirations

“I’m curious on what I learn from literature. It helps to understand, and develop empathy.”

Michelle’s coaching philosophy is enriched by a broad spectrum of historical and literary insights, demonstrating a deep-seated belief in the value of diverse perspectives. Beyond Foucault, she draws inspiration from literature and other historical accounts of thought, believing that understanding different mental frameworks can enhance empathy and effectiveness in her coaching practice. Books like Edgar Schein’s explorations of organizational culture further contribute to her holistic approach.

Exploring Systems of Control

“Understanding ‘coercive persuasion’ sheds light on resistance to change.”

For those interested in delving deeper into the concepts of systems of control and their implications for learning and adaptation, Michelle recommends an article from the Harvard Business Review by Edgar Schein. This resource provides insights into ‘coercive persuasion’ and the natural resistance to change, topics that are crucial for Agile coaches aiming to navigate and mitigate these challenges in their organizations.

About Michelle Pauk

Michelle Pauk is the founder of Streamside Coaching, where she helps leaders and organizations thrive with change. She has over 15 years of experience working in diverse agile environments as a Product Owner, Scrum Master, project manager, and Agile coach. She is a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation and has a master’s degree in leadership and organizational development.

You can link with Michelle Pauk on LinkedIn.

BONUS: The Agile-Product Continuum: Phillip Starke’s Blueprint for Becoming a Product Coach

This episode was triggered by Phillip Starke’s blog post titled “Why agile coaches should strive to be product coaches”. You can read that blog post here, and listen in this episode to Phillip’s perspective and why he reached those conclusions.

Agile to Product Coaching Transformation

“Agile Coaches are already product coaches in essence, they just need to realize and embrace it fully.”

Phillip reflects on why agile coaches should also consider themselves product coaches. He argues for a unified approach to coaching that encompasses both agile and product development principles.

A Pivot Towards Product-Centric Coaching

“I had a turning point when I realized, despite our success, how much more impactful we could have been with a stronger focus on user interaction and discovery.”

Phillip shares his experience transitioning from an agile-focused to a product-centric coaching approach, highlighting a project where greater emphasis on user discovery would have led to even more significant outcomes.

Enhancing Product Development Through User Engagement

Continue reading BONUS: The Agile-Product Continuum: Phillip Starke’s Blueprint for Becoming a Product Coach

Viktor Didenchuk: Breaking the Ice, How To Turn a Tough Agile Retrospective Around

In this episode, Viktor, shares a challenging experience in conducting retrospectives. He faced difficulty in initiating conversations among engineers, who prefer concrete specifics over discussing feelings. Despite his facilitation skills, Viktor struggled to engage the team. Eventually, by openly admitting his uncertainty and holding space for silence, he encouraged team participation. Viktor shares tips like holding weekly retrospectives, setting up a retro board at the sprint’s start, and using current events as facilitation tools, emphasizing that metaphors can significantly aid dialogue.

The inspiring story of how a failing hospital turned things around with Agile and Lean

Recovering from failure, or difficult moments is a critical skill for Scrum Masters. Not only because of us, but also because the teams, and stakeholders we work with will also face these moments! We need inspiring stories to help them, and ourselves! The Bungsu Story, is an inspiring story by Marcus Hammarberg which shows how a Coach can help organizations recover even from the most disastrous situations! Learn how Marcus helped The Bungsu, a hospital in Indonesia, recover from near-bankruptcy, twice! Using Lean and Agile methods to rebuild an organization and a team! An inspiring story you need to know about! Buy the book on Amazon: The Bungsu Story – How Lean and Kanban Saved a Small Hospital in Indonesia. Twice. and Can Help You Reshape Work in Your Company.

About Viktor Didenchuk

Viktor began his career as a Software Engineer in the mid 2010’s, before discovering a passion for coaching and facilitating value delivery. He currently serves as a Scrum Master at Lloyds Banking Group, the UK’s largest retail bank, where he contributes to the Agile transformation of a 60,000+ employee organization, navigating and sharing the challenges encountered.

You can link with Viktor Didenchuk on LinkedIn.

BONUS: Beyond Frameworks, A Vision for Agile Coaching Excellence with Rahul Bhattacharya

In this episode, we explore Rahul’s experience with Agile Coaching and how he developed his coaching approach systematically and beyond any frameworks. His latest book is: Coaching Agile: A guide for Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters to build and scale their coach approach, and now available on Amazon. 

The Agile Coach’s Toolbox: Beyond Frameworks

Rahul’s journey from startup co-founder to Agile Coach is a story of evolution and adaptability. His experience in the corporate world, starting as a product manager, led him to realize the power of Agile methodologies. Rahul emphasizes the importance of a broad perspective, advocating for a framework-agnostic approach in Agile coaching. He shares invaluable lessons about what works and what doesn’t, offering a treasure trove of practices that transcend specific frameworks. This holistic approach is crucial for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches who wish to apply the most effective strategies in diverse environments.

The Agile Coach vs. Scrum Master: Clarifying Roles and Expectations

Continue reading BONUS: Beyond Frameworks, A Vision for Agile Coaching Excellence with Rahul Bhattacharya

Josh Lambert: Strategies for Improved Team Collaboration in Agile Teams

In this episode, Josh shares a team’s struggles – newly formed, but spanning distant timezones, and facing communication issues. Individual work overshadowed teamwork, and this was made worse by very unclear responses from a team member that was not meeting their sprint goals. Frustration peaked on the final day of one of the Sprints. Reflecting on that story, Josh advocates transparent communication, urging team members to share when help is needed. He stresses the importance of a working agreement when seeking help and proposes conducting psychological safety assessments and focusing on team well-being.

Featured Book for the Week: “Coaching Agile Teams” by Lyssa Adkins

In this episode, Josh recommends “Coaching Agile Teams” by Lyssa Adkins for Scrum Masters. He highlights its enduring value, providing continuous support for navigating challenges. Drawing from a team member’s experience feeling trapped in a “hamster wheel,” Josh emphasizes the book’s relatable stories, offering preparation for similar situations.

Transform Your Agile Teams with Hard-Earned Lessons from Super-Experienced Scrum Masters

Do you wish you had decades of experience? Learn from the Best Scrum Masters In The World, Today! The Tips from the Trenches – Scrum Master edition audiobook includes hours of audio interviews with SM’s that have decades of experience: from Mike Cohn to Linda Rising, Christopher Avery, and many more. Super-experienced Scrum Masters share their hard-earned lessons with you. Learn those today, make your teams awesome!

About Josh Lambert

Josh is an Agile Coach at a financial institution. He has been through a few different Agile Transformations. And became a Scrum Master in one of the early transformations and loved the role where where he stayed for 6 years, after which he transitioned into an Agile Coach.

You can link with Josh Lambert on LinkedIn.

Get These Valuable Lessons Today!
Down-to-earth, hard-earned Scrum Masters lessons and the Tips from the Trenches e-book table of contents, delivered by email
Enter e-mail to download a clickable PO Cheat Sheet
This handy Coach Your PO cheat-sheet includes questions to help you define the problem, and links to handy, easy techniques to help you coach your Product Owner
Enter e-mail to download a clickable PO Cheat Sheet
This handy Coach Your PO cheat-sheet includes questions to help you define the problem, and links to handy, easy techniques to help you coach your Product Owner
Enter e-mail to download a checklist to help your PO manage their time
This simple checklist and calendar handout, with a coaching article will help you define the minimum enagement your PO must have with the team
Enter e-mail to download a checklist to help your PO manage their time
This simple checklist and calendar handout, with a coaching article will help you define the minimum enagement your PO must have with the team
Internal Conference
Checklist
Internal Conference
Checklist
Download a detailed How-To to help measure success for your team
Motivate your team with the right metrics, and the right way to visualize and track them. Marcus presents a detailed How-To document based on his experience at The Bungsu Hospital
Download a detailed How-To to help measure success for your team
Read about Visualization and TRANSFORM The way your team works
A moving story of how work at the Bungsu Hospital was transformed by a simple tool that you can use to help your team.
Read about Visualization and TRANSFORM The way your team works
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