What I learned at the LeSS Coach Camp

Edward Dahllöf
May 7, 2018 · 4 min read

I joined the LeSS Coach Camp in Berlin the other weekend. It’s a yearly unconference in a small suburb, Zeuthen, at a nice hotel right at a lake. The weather was sunny and many of the session where held outside. Germans like beer, hence the flat rate bar was included in the conference price which made the evening discussions even more interesting.

I missed the first half day due to bad flight planning. Anyways the second day started of with sharing notable stories from the day before and a market place. Lots of interesting topics, and a engaged group.

I visited a slot about product backlogs in large organizations and some industry examples. We talked about the Product Owner as match maker, connecting customers and stakeholders to the team. The customer as the source of information. The product backlog should be one dimensional, containing only PBIs. But the product backlog is only one source of information which should be complemented by for example user story mapping or impact maps. Then the other artifacts can guide the long term view and the product backlog can show what needs to be done in the short term, hence keeping it short and one dimensional.

Just outside the hotel in the shadow of some trees we talked about “LeSS fuck ups” shared stories of LeSS adoptions going wrong. The focus was to find out what we did wrong, what could we do better next time. It was interesting hearing all the things learned in the group, but it was more interesting hearing about the common themes; Lack of communication with management. The discussion turned to how to better communicate with management. My former colleague Markus suggested I should grow a beard just as white and wise as his… I guess his point was that it comes easier with seniority.

Before lunch I had the opportunity to talk to three LeSS coaches about what LeSS really wants. We talked about Larmans idea of “reducing suffering in software development” But I wondered if you could make it a bit more easy to sell. We talked about it being a slippery slope, LeSS is not a prescriptive framework and it needs you to think for yourself, therefore we cant sell a easy way to adopt LeSS, you need to really want it yourself, and it’s going to be a tough journey.

In a session about Spiral Dynamics we learned about the history of the terminology, dating back to Clare Graves to Ken Wilber and Don Beck to Frederic Laloux, the point being that they all got it wrong.

The sun was out and the temperature was well above Swedish summer so we decided for a coaching dojo on a pedal boat. The coach and coachee was pedaling and the observer where listening on the sun deck. I was reminded of the challenges making a well disposed coaching session in just ten minutes while paddling and steering.

After the dinner there was a campfire by the beach and we played games and discussed into the night.

The next morning there was a slight delay in the start of the open space…

A LeSS trainer hosted a session about the problem and solution space in the product backlog. We simulated a product owner ordering something complicated form a team. The learning was that the team should look for the simplest solution to validate the product owners hypothesis. “Think Simpler”

My former colleague Nils hosted a session on Causal Loop Diagrams. In teams we discussed the influence a set of som variables had on each other. Always good to practice and se the thinking of others.

Yet another LeSS coach invited to a session about management in LeSS and how to use the middle management as a engine for LeSS adoption. Management needs to publicly own the change and constantly educate them selves

I hosted a session on how to suggest LeSS as a scaling framework when SAFe is taking over the market. Where SAFe says do exactly like this, because it is tested on a lot of places and will work for you, just follow these steps. And on top of that gives people the possibility to train in SAFe after just a four day course, it sounds almost like a ponzi scheme where the solution is simple and you get it after a short training as long as you pay the lisence, and boom 250 000 licenses sold. When you look at SAFe, you get nothing, only three books to read an one course to attend, if you get hold of one of the 16 LeSS trainers. I think that is the reason for the majority choosing SAFe. As a metaphor: SAFe is like a missionary religion, promising hope and improvement to all, as long as you pay your tithe, where as LeSS is like the Zen monastery where you have to kneel before the gate for three days while they try to drag you away. Making real profound change in an organization is hard, if you really want it to change you have to make a lot of sacrifices and unless you really want it you shouldn’t go through that door. And that’s why many companies chose not to.

I stayed until the evening on that day and had the white asparagus with lamb, it was delicious. I’m looking forward to the next LeSS coach camp

Edward Dahllöf

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