Friday, 7 April 2017

My favourite coaching tools: The Evening Review

The Evening Review is a great technique for increasing self awareness. 

It is deceptively simple – but it is very powerful. The evening review puts the spotlight on all the kinds of vague impressions about how one's life is going so that one can encounter and understand more fully what is actually happening. 


I suggest keeping a diary/journal next to your bed.

The review method:

  1. At the end of the day, preferably about 10 minutes before going to sleep, find a quiet place free from outer distractions.
  2. Close your eyes, give attention to relaxing your body, quieting your feelings, and as much as possible stilling the activity of your thoughts - aka calm your "mind monkey". Your mind should be quiet and receptive, but remain alert.
  3. Now, review your day in your mind, playing it back like a movie, but backwards, beginning with where you are right now, then the time of late evening, then early evening, then the dinner hour, and the late afternoon and so on until morning when you woke up - and even any disturbances of your previous night's "sleep".
  4. Throughout the experience it is important to maintain as much as possible the attitude of an objective, detached, non-critical observer, calmly and clearly registering the events of the day, neither becoming elated at a success, nor depressed and unhappy about a failure. The aim is not to relive the experience, but to notice without emotion in your consciousness what were the patterns and their meaning for this day.
  5. Finally, write down your general impressions of what happened and anything particular that you have learned.

There are many variations of the Evening Review. In the above form, it is very effective for gaining a greater sense of the whole of one's life.

After you have captured a few days (or many days, weeks, months or years) read through your notes and observe how they affect you. Usually people are surprised by what patterns they discover for themselves, once they just start to collect "the evidence".

And that's really what's required - once you have brought the unconscious into the conscious, suddenly you have greater awareness and from there, you have more choice about how you wish to proceed or act or behave differently - if you so choose. And hence you have more freedom!

Thank your for reading and your support!

Thursday, 30 March 2017

My favourite coaching tools: Mindset Evaluation

For sure I was aware of, and thought I understood the meaning of the term "mindset" for a long time. It's only when I went a bit deeper, and upon a great reflective mediation, that I documented all (that I knew of in that moment) of mine. And there were quite a few...over 30.

Then, the hard, but most rewarding work really began.

Evaluating each of them on their merits and on their consequences...which is the first step towards freeing oneself from mindsets that no longer serve the intended positive outcome, but instead have become restrictive to the life that could be led.

As our facilitator told us, before proceeding with the mindset evaluation, look with kind eyes, and be gentle with your self and your mindset. It began its existence to serve a purpose - to protect you and guide you to the future. And it has done its job really well - hence you are alive today, and, if you are reading this and looking at your own mindsets, then it has somehow also guided you to this point where you are given permission to free yourself from this restraining pattern of being.

The 9 simple questions I use to use to evaluate a mindset:

  1. How strong (on a scale of 1 to 10) is this mindset?
  2. How long have I (or the coachee) had the mindset?
  3. What behaviour does the mindset drive?
  4. What feelings are behind the mindset?
  5. How has this mindset served me (or the coachee) in the past?
  6. How has this mindset limited me (or the coachee) in the past?
  7. How does this mindset serve me (or the coachee) now?
  8. How does this mindset limit me (or the coachee) now?
  9. How would I (or the coachee) like it to be?
These question seem simple and innocent enough, but "Oh wow!" do they open up some serious thought and feeling provocations...and these of course lead to deeper realisations.

Interestingly I found some mindsets were much fresher due to a significant later life event, than most of mine which stemmed from childhood and teenage years, and in the fresher ones, I found limits, but I was happy with them as they appear to be healthy boundaries.

Also significantly I found this work incredibly exhausting - mentally and emotionally I was drained after evaluating sometimes just 1, but often no more than 3 in 1 sitting. Simple and innocent questions - I am just amazed what the right framed question does at the right time and place!

Also interestingly, several of my answers to number 7 were - "it does not!", and several answers to number 9 also converged on a similar pattern. I believe these patterns in number 9 were more indicative of my true self trying to be authentic - and hence I am doing this work, so there is quite a bit of synchronicity I believe in this exercise, if it is performed as intended: open heart, open mind, quietly and extensively.

Thank you for reading and your support!

Friday, 24 March 2017

Agile Principles 105

So... if I had reached nirvana state of finding "the 1 best method" to teach and learn the agile principles with my previous Agile Principles 104 post in this agile series...why is there an Agile Principles 105?

My thinking continually evolves as my experiences, perspectives, understandings and, most importantly, synthesising, across the variety of things I do and things I know continues. I never stop exploring the boundaries - and the beyond! :)

The muse for this particular approach came from the advice from Peter Senge's "The Fifth Discipline" on how to create a vision for an organisation that the people own and strive towards. Peter's description of the holographic view of an organisation by each individual employee was/is bind mending!

You'll see (I hope) how each of my previous posts, with alternative teaching styles and variety of learning outcomes, informs my next target state. Hence I try new and improved approaches whenever opportunity meets preparation.

In this case, even off the back of the successful approach to learning/teaching the Agile Principles 104, learners returned to their day job and forgot the goodness of their understanding and experience fairly quickly - unless there was a disciplined framework, a management mandate or a positively persistent coach (like me!) agitating them to remember, and to apply in their thinking.

This approach, I hope, causes learners to converge more collectively onto the same shared understanding of the agile principles by folding-in everyone's understanding recursively.

Its extremely beneficial that each team in the organisation evaluates themselves against the their own and their organisation's interpretation of applying the principles. By spending time as a team in "think space" (reflection) goodness follows "for free"/"semi-automagically". That's the beauty of having an aligned collective mindset - energy, thought, creativity and work flows rapidly and positively due to common understanding and knowledge of the "game rules", and in the absence of interference of any kind.

Agile Principles 5th Approach

  • Timebox for 30 minutes
  • Ask the learners to read, write (or complete pre-prepared sentence spines) the 12 agile principles onto index cards or similar, and to rank them from most important (at the top) to the least important (at the bottom). A single list - ranking decisions must be thought through and made according to the available knowledge everyone has at the time!
  • Then ask the learners to self-organise into pairs and to read and discuss each other's rankings and understandings.
    • Now ask the pairs to fold-in their lists. Together they must:
      • Agree the most important principle  and record why
      • Then agree the least important principle and record why
      • Then they need to sort through the remaining 10 to create their own agreed ranked list, similar to Agile Principles 104, and write down Why
  • Then ask the pairs to self-organise into groups of 4
    • Now ask the groups of 4 to fold-in their 2 lists into just 1, and to tease out (and record) the consensus "Why" for each decision they reach
  • Now it becomes recursive - sub-groups keep folding-in together until the entire group of learners is once again 1 group and there is 1 list they all have participated in creating.
    • ie, 4+4 = 8
    • 8+8 = 16
    • 16+16 + 32
  • Yes, as the groups get bigger the fold-ins can take longer, but often there is an emergent consensus pattern that helps the fold-ins stay quick, energised, and positive so in my practice I don't see things slowing down, I see improvements in communication and negotiation emerge rapidly!
  • Any "odd" numbers just fold-in the next round so if you started with 6 in total, you then have 3 pairs, 1 pair observes whilst the other 2 pairs fold-in, and then merge in the final round the 4+2. It is critically important to fold-in 2 lists to create 1, as this speeds up the event and deepens everyone's shared understanding and personal sense of ownership of the final ordering. 
    • Trying to do more than 2 lists at a time, eg 3 lists and 3 groups into 1 creates too much complexity too quickly and often causes people to disengage. There's just a little (too much) friction in the group dynamics that causes energy loss.
  • The final outcomes of this approach are
    • A shared understanding and ownership of the most important to the least important agile principle as understood by the group
    • Clarity and understanding of why the ranking decisions were made
    • Practice in avoiding group conflict by smart structuring of group work which is known to create conflict as everyone's personal perspective is a factor when working with knowledge, experience and mindsets.
    • 2 Artefacts that can be referenced and reviewed inside the office as-and-when the need arises - typically retrospectives (reflection), and escalations (crisis)

  • Now, do the same recursive process for ranking from easiest to hardest to achieve in the organisation.
    • The final outcomes are the same 4 as above, but you have also now agreed a backlog of work that needs to be done for the organisation to become more agile.
      • WIN!

Whilst this approach is similar to the previous, there is something truly amazing about the folding-in of people's perspectives aka consensus. As well as Peter Senge's book, Sam Kaner also describes the diamond of participation model of group consensus that is incredibly useful and insightful!

For more thoughts and approaches to learning or teaching the agile principles, please read my collector post at What Is Agile For. Thank you!