As a Lean/Agile coach, I want my team members to take turns running all the key ceremonies; Standup, CFD, Retrospective, Planning Poker and so on. It works better that way. It’s like my mother always told us kids: Family Hold Back to let the guests go first.

Pop Quiz:

You’re the coach or the Scrum Master, or the Team Lead of a Lean Agile team. Who should run the daily standup? Who should update the Cumulative Flow Diagram? Who should facilitate Planning Poker? Who should ask the 5 Kata Questions? Who should run the Retrospective?

2 points to anyone who suggested You.

10 points to anyone who suggested anyone else on the team.

There are 4 reasons why you might want to spread the tasks around a bit:

These tools, methods and ceremonies only work when the entire team is engaged with the process. The moment it becomes something that’s done to them, their attention will wander and participation will fall off a cliff. If you create a situation for each team member where they are at the centre of the process, it starts to become a cultural norm that the team collectively adopts.
The more actively someone takes part in the technique, the better they will understand it. Once someone has updated the CFD from the raw data (a few times perhaps), they will start to understand what it’s telling them.
Lifting the Team Up
This one’s about power and feelings of power. Your role as Coach or Leader or Master automatically gives you status, both for the position and for the implicit extra knowledge. And all of these roles — done well — is a helping role. But there’s a problem: humans don’t accept help well when they feel themselves with lower status than their helper. To most effectively carry out your helping role, you have to build the team’s status relative to yours. Giving up control at the team’s key cultural events is one way to do that.
Bonus Reason for Retrospectives
Retrospectives have a particular issue: you really need honesty from everyone. So you really need to make sure that every member of the team feels safe to expose where they went wrong. This isn’t going to happen where the dynamic has your status higher than the team’s and you’re the one at the front encouraging everyone to confess. Like the Lifting the Team scenario, you need to build the team members’ individual and collective status so they feel they are confessing to equals who are also sinners, not superiors judging them. So let a team-member run the retrospective. You contribute as a member of the team, not as coach. And confess your own sins too.

Coach Supertip

The effectiveness of your coaching is best assessed on how well the practises you coached are maintained after you leave.

Under a Bus
One day, you won’t be leading, coaching or Scrum Mastering this team. That day might happen more suddenly than you expect, although hopefully less dramatically than the scenario title. If the team is not self-sufficient in the methods you’re coaching, their ability to sustain them will be limited.

Attributions and Thanks

This piece came from ideas and experiences suggested at the March 2013 @LeanAgileGLA meeting, so thanks to the crew there.

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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Quick Tip: Coaches Hold Back! by Martin Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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