A coaching model that I've found very effective is something I call roadmapping and mentoring. In a traditional coaching engagement, the coach comes alongside the team and works onsite for some period of time. This is a very effective way to work and teach, but also requires a substantial budget commitment. It also needs a dedicated block of time from the coach. Lining up client needs with coach's availability is often challenging, and there are usually problems that are discovered after the engagement is complete and the coach is at a different client site. These problems are often insurmountable for the small or medium software shop.
Roadmapping puts a coach back in reach for most teams. The coach comes onsite for only few days, and that drastically reduces the cost. I meet with both the teams and the leadership. What pain points triggered this invitation? We try to identify what the existing pain is, but we also look for pain that the team has come to accept as normal. What hidden pain points exist?
There's usually management pain as well as technical pain. Quite often the pain is perceived as different issues when it's really just two sides of the same coin. The initial goal is to identify a focused set of changes that alleviate pain points.
After the initial visit, the client has a list of changes or improvements. However, like most people, I find clients are usually better at a “New Year’s style resolutions” than following through, so I return every few weeks to check up on my new friends. Sometimes they require a bit of encouragement and other times we switch directions or adopt new goals.
What sorts of challenges do teams have?
Many shops have similar challenges, and while this isn’t a comprehensive list, it does contain the “Top Five” most common issues I’ve encountered.
- Slow delivery/Long product cycles
- Lack of shared product vision
- Quality issues
- Lack of automated builds/tests/deploys
- Expensive manual product verifications
This is just an introductory discussion, but maybe it’ll spark a few ideas that can help move your organization forward.