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Improving Scrum Teams with the Agile Coaching Canvas

Alexey Krivitsky, @alexeykri,

Low and High

I had proposed a session on this topic at one of the un-conferences this year. And my fear (my so-called low dream) was that no one would show up.

Well, I was wrong. One person did.

The guy who came was very eager to know about the Agile Coaching Canvas so instead of explaining him how it works, I offered him a coaching session to demonstrate how it works in action. He gladly accepted my offer (did he have a choice?) and we quickly left the room to make sure no one else would join this session and break up our coaching intimacy.

We went for a walk around the event premises. sunset, hills and meadows all around us. He was describing me his current engagement as a Scrum Master and all the associated challenged... when I kindly interrupted him and asked to briefly visit one of his teams in a year from now.

In the beginning he was not sure how. But then he literally didn't want to stop. That is how it usually works – we like our dreams.

Forty minutes later I had to pull him back to the present to wrap up our session and drive some specific things he had wished to do next Monday. He was very fluent in knowing what to do with his team, though his initial coaching request was to get at least some clarify of the next steps.

Dreaming Never Ends

What is your low dream on reading this article?

Probably, that this reading is going to be some kind of yet-another-consultant-bluff about how cool his services, tools and client reviews are? Can be.

And what is your high dream then?

Likely that this article would make your day and you would end up sharing it to your entire network! That is also my high dream.

These two completely opposite thoughts - are both dreams. This idea is actually quite interesting, because the typical definition of a "dream" is that it has to be something high, positive, sweet and inspiring - or it is not a dream but a nightmare!

Well this is not true. At least partially.

Dreams (as we know now) can be both - low and high, and also with the full range of all possible shades of amplitudes in between.

And hence all expectations are dreams - we in fact never stop dreaming. Though some of us have long-lived habits and preferences of dreaming low, while the others – high. But we all are dreamers. And that is why this tool, the Agile Coaching Canvas, works so well.

Let me explain you more.

That Day

Do you remember that day when you learned the news that you are actually getting your job or a contract if you are consulting like I am. Yes, you finally got that long-awaited engagement you would been dreaming of.

How did it feel?

I bet you felt good. And in fact, I am pretty sure right in that moment you have started to have all sorts of dreams about coming in and changing that team (project, department, company).

You have likely envisioned the wide and deep impact you would be creating, and how everyone would be seeing and appreciating this.

Well, I can't read your dreams and you cannot read mine, which is, by the way, a good thing. But we can come back to them and get reconnected with that great source of clarity and power.

There is only one problem with that...

Lost Dreams

Now, how often do we happen to come back and re-live those high dreams during your "core office hours"?

I don't know about you (maybe you are special) - but I tend to spend my days juggling with my daily routines. And I barely have time to do anything else. Not mentioning dreaming. I would like to see the face of your boss when you log an hour for a dreaming activity in your timesheet.

We forget our dreams. We lose them. We get lost.

Lost Dreams of a Scrum Master

If you are working as a team coach or a Scrum Master, likely your "job description" (or in other words "what they expect from you to be 100% busy with") boils down to this list of repetitive low-level tasks. Instead of being the change agents, the ones who keep the flame of Agile and Scrum values burning, most of the Scrum Masters I talk to end up following a routine.

Talking to hundreds of Scrum Masters a year, I know this is true for most of us. And this has become my low dream of ScrumMastery as a profession. That is a sad one of mine. And I am working hard to change it!

Dreaming Up

One way to change the impact of our work as Scrum Masters and Agile coach is to go broader: work with more teams in the organization, on the level of the stakeholders, with the overall product organization, serving the entire value stream. That is one way – going wide.

Another way is to get reconnected with a higher purpose (without redefining the status quo scope of our work). That's about going higher.

These two directions – higher and broader – are not mutually exclusive.

Getting High

Some time ago I have published an article Scrum Master is not (just) a Team Facilitator which got rather positive tension in the community. That was about going wide.

Today, I would like to offer you a way up, a way to reconnect with you high dreams without redefining your current job description. You can also call it "hacking a job description", as no one can stop us from dreaming big and acting bold.

So here it goes:

You are lucky! You have a chance to visit your team (department, project, company, and client) in a year from now. For a very short period of time though. Intrigued?

Three.. Two.. One.. You are there! Bam!

Let yourself enter the building.

To your surprise everything you had been working on and hoping for a year ago did happen.

And not only like you thought it would, but it is exceeding your expectations.

You and your colleagues have been working really hard yet very efficiently. Now simply enjoy observing the result of those great returns.

Notice what is different as you are walking down the halls and rooms of the building:

  • What is on the walls?

  • What is on people's faces?

  • What are people doing?

  • What are they talking about?

  • What is the energy there like?

  • What is slightly different?

  • What has drastically changed?

Pause now to take some notes. Jot down some key observations you will be taking home with you.

How what you see is impacting you?

  • Who else is benefiting from these changes in the organization?

  • Stakeholders?

  • Clients?

  • Who else?

Now stay there for as long as you would like and let me know you are back.

Ground Control to Major Tom

I do hope you allowed yourself to spend few minutes dreaming. If not, please do. You deserve it.

And you should know one thing – those dreams are no one else's but yours. And you have all permissions to have them. It is your birthright to have those dreams.

If you don't - no one will. So please - take some time and allow yourself dreaming.


Now, Major Tom, provided you liked that dream:

  • Which individual skills do you need to deepen in order to make those changes come true?

  • Which skills do people around you need to deepen?

  • Which new skills would help if they start acquiring?

  • Which new habits to be gained?

  • Old ones to forget?


In order for your dream to stay coherent with the environment you are in:

  • Whose support you think you need to seek?

  • Now, if there would be one person you wouldn't really want to open up and share your dreams - who is he or she?

  • Who else can impede your dreams?

  • What can stop them?

  • How? Why?

These are the people you will need to learn how to connect with in order the dreamed future happen. They will need to be on-boarded.

And you know what - they also have their dreams! The low and the high ones. So instead of seeing them as your "impediments" - why not starting some light discussions about they are hoping for. Let them dream out loud.

You will be surprised how easier it is to reconnect with people on the dreaming level...

P.S. Become the Dreaming Master

The Agile Coaching Canvas is a compact and illustrated guide that you can use to keep dreaming and help others to.

I often use it with my fellow Scrum Masters who I mentor. I also run the so-called futurespectives with agile teams to get collective dreaming going.

The goal of using such tools is to distort (at least a little bit) the stiff perception of the reality that we all have and help us see the new options, other perspectives and fresh ideas on how to get where we truly want to get.

Not to mention: dreaming is a very emotional process that stays long in our memories. These bright pictures then work as our best motivators helping us persevere in the harsh times.

So if you have followed me through this article and allowed yourself to dream, you already know how to use this tool in a nutshell. There is a bit more to it as our ultimate goal is to facilitate some specific actions - something we would do differently "next Monday".

Hence, feel free to download the Canvas and its accompanying materials and master this simple yet powerful dreaming toolkit. It is free and open source.


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This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Methods & Tools

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