As I work with teams, leaders, or executives when applying Agile, often times what they ask for is not the first thing they need. This is why bringing a “meet them where they are” mindset is important. When you meet them where they are, you can bring the kind of coaching, education, and feedback that better fits their role and experience.
In most cases “meeting them where they are” means to understand where mentally (both intellectually and emotionally) they are in relation to the topic, in this case Agile. This may mean attempting to understand their level of Agile knowledge, experience with Agile, and motivation or willingness for Agile. Sometimes meeting them where they are is physical meaning you join them in their workplace, their daily stand-up, or any space you may observe their interactions to better understand where they are.
This approach can help you understand the common ground. This helps the Agile coach know where they are and where they can go from there. It helps a coach determine how to engage in a way that is sensible and motivating to those they are coaching. Example of meeting them where they are include:
- If a team has only just begun to form, it may be better to educate them on what it means to be a team, the Tuckman model, and on what it means to form before you expect them to perform well.
- If a new team wants to give and receive honest feedback to each other, it may be better to first initiate icebreakers and connecting activities so that team members can get to know one another and build psychological safety and trust first.
- If a team or company wants to embark on an Agile journey, before you educate the team on how to do Scrum it may be better to first start with a discovery activity to gauge the current knowledge of Agile, Agile experience, and willingness to apply Agile. This can help you better adapt the level of Scrum education they need.
- If you learn that the team is fairly Agile savvy and have applied Scrum already, but are having challenges with decomposing work, then you can meet them where they are but experimenting with story mapping.
Meeting them where they are has multiple advantages but the primary one is that you can determine what they need first. When you meet them where they are, you can bring the kind of coaching, education, and feedback that better fits their knowledge, experience, and willingness.