Nanny McPhee’s Advice for Agile Coaches and ScrumMasters

Nanny McPheeNanny McPhee, though never working as an agile coach or ScrumMaster, knows a thing or two about organization dynamics. New to this particular group, she brings a wealth of experience and a toolbox of techniques and practices. She has a sponsor; someone that invited her in, who sees the need for her presence and who wants the overall group to improve – for their own sakes as well as for the long-term well-being of the broader group and their wide community of stakeholders. Not all the people involved either agree they need to improve, or want to improve. The status quo suits them just fine, and not everyone welcomes her, or her ideas.

She has a very apt quote from the first movie:

There is something you should understand about the way I work. When you need me but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me but no longer need me, then I have to go. It’s rather sad, really, but there it is.

Nanny McPhee faces an uphill battle, but is undaunted. Her experience helps her to understand the situation, and identify ways to help individuals and, with time, the entire group. Eventually she helps the group to reach a point where they can carry on without her, building on the foundation she helped them to lay. Part of her engagement with the group is to recognize when they no longer need her, and can continue to make improvements themselves.

Although I had seen this family movie when it first came out, it was Olaf Lewitz who pointed out the relevance of the quote to me at a coaching workshop on a Friday afternoon in Trondheim, on the last day of XP2010. Since then I noticed that Lyssa Adkins used the quote too in Chapter 4 of her excellent book, ‘Coaching Agile Teams’.

Who knows what’s next for Nanny McPhee and her reach in the agile community? Maybe a keynote or invited talk at Agile 2011 or XP 2011?

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