As many want to do in the upper Midwest, I spend part of my summer fishing. While I live in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, one of my favorite fishing trips is to Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota. The Lake is actually a reservoir created by the damming of the Missouri river. It is a diverse fishery and contains a number of nice-sized Walleyes, one of the best eating fish in the world.
Me and one of our Walleyes
As anyone who has ever been fishing knows, “fishing” is rarely about catching fish. Instead, it’s an opportunity to gain perspective on any number of issues. The world’s problems seem simpler when surrounded by a large body of water with a fishing pole in your hand.
During my most recent trip to Sakakawea, I observed that our fishing guide, Evan Barker, exhibited a lot of the same attributes that one would value in a great Scrum Master or Agile Coach. Some of these lessons are as follows:
- Empiricism –While he always has an approach to helping us find the fish, he’s not tied to this approach if the data doesn’t support it. If we are not catching fish, Evan isn’t afraid to “inspect and adapt” and move to another spot. He is constantly looking at the depth finder for the fish. He has full transparency of the data, and he uses it to inspect and properly adapt his approach. This is empirical thinking personified.
- Coaching – Evan helps the people on his boat learn. When we make a mistake, he respectfully offers suggestions and different techniques that we can try the next time. His feedback is never offered in a disrespectful way. He wants you to get smarter.
- Collaboration – Evan collaborates with other guides on the lake to bring his clients to the fish. While they are competitors, Evan believes that the market is big enough for everyone to succeed.
- Failure – Evan understands that sometimes people need to fail. He shared a story on the boat regarding a recent client that insisted on using a silver spinner. Evan indicated that a plain hook with a worm was what they were biting on. However, he let the client fish with the spinner for an hour. After his fishing partners had landed eight fish, the client rightfully decided to listen to the guide.
- “He doesn’t talk, he shows” – When necessary, Evan will dip a line himself to illustrate any number of techniques such as finding the bottom or how to play a fish.
One of the questions that often arises when I tell people about Lake Sakakawea and our annual trip is, “If you’ve been going up there so long, why do you still need a guide?”. My response is similar to one I provide when a client asks, “Why does an experienced team need a Scrum Master or Agile Coach?”
Evan thinks about fishing 365 days every year, and practices it nearly as often. With my week of experience every year, I forget more than I remember. Similarly, managers, Product Owners, Developers and even Scrum Masters get focused on their environments and their products. Agile is part of their world, but they settle into habits and sometimes lose perspective on the goal. Similar to how a fish doesn’t know it’s in water because it hasn’t experienced anything else, Agile teams can benefit from a coach to help them see the problems and opportunities that they don’t.
Evan Barker (Standing) and My Dad – Ron Stuedemann
One night on our most recent trip, I was reminded of the importance of tapping this perspective. We met some gentlemen that were fishing Sakakawea for the first time. During their first day, they caught one fish. We didn’t have the heart to tell them that we had kept our daily limit and released at least two fish for every one that we kept. Similar to many clients that engage us, these guys believed that they could “do it themselves”. While they did fish the entire day, they didn’t achieve the results they were seeking by not tapping someone who had been there before and had the wisdom and experience to share.
Like any good fishing guide, a good Scrum Master or Agile Coach is about helping the team produce results. With Evan as our guide, we took our limit of fish for the fifth consecutive year.
Like Evan, we are experienced guides who have been there before and can help you with your Agile transformation. If you’re lucky, I may even tell you how to get in touch with Evan.
If you are interested in learning more about Agile Coaching, please check out our offerings at https://www.agilityirl.com/scrum/