Abstract/Description

What does teaching a seven-year-old how to hit a baseball have to do with agile coaching? After coaching Little League for eight years, and agile teams for ten years, I thought I was an expert at both. Last year, while attending a New York Yankees coaching seminar, I quickly realized that I still had so much to learn. After struggling for fifteen minutes to teach a little boy how to hit, I heard a booming voice behind me. “You’re doing it wrong,” the Yankee instructor scolded. “Stop telling him what to do. Let him figure it out for himself. You’re his coach, not his babysitter!” Those words stopped me in my tracks. *You’re his coach, not his babysitter*. I knew instantly I would apply this advice to my agile coaching clients.

Rather than focusing on individual mechanics, the Yankees believe in coaching towards achieving outcomes that can be measured. For example, a typical Little League coach focuses on the “how” with advice like “get your elbow up” or “keep your head still”. In contrast, Yankees coaches focus on the “what” by instructing players to “hit the ball off that green sign” or “throw the ball into your teammate’s glove”. Their approach allows players to learn the “how” at their own pace through self-discovery and experimentation, which allows for deeper learning and longer-lasting results.

The Yankees philosophy can be applied towards coaching agile teams. For example, rather than coaching Scrum teams to only improve their mechanics (i.e. complete a daily standup meeting in 15 minutes), I now help teams to achieve business outcomes (i.e. double the number of new subscribers). Focusing on outcomes frees teams to experiment with the mechanics that will help them deliver the results they want. This approach made me a better agile coach. I had less friction with my teams, and they achieved their desired results more quickly.

In this session, we will describe in detail the outcome-driven approach taught by the Yankees. We will teach baseball fundamentals to a few lucky volunteers, who will hit real baseballs off a “tee” and field ground balls. And we will demonstrate how to apply these concepts to make your agile teams more effective. We promise a fun and highly interactive session in which you will receive baseball instruction, but most importantly, you will learn how to become a more effective agile coach.

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