Weeknote 25 - 29 May 2020

Weeknote 25 - 29 May 2020

4 minute read

On learning by doing, situational leadership and mentoring.

This week the trend in COVID-19 response work is still down a little. Over the next couple of weeks I imagine the recovery work, which our service and operations teams are already designing, will start filtering through as demand for IS work. In between, we are finishing or restarting some of our longer term changes and even have a little time to think about transformation. Some of our work has an element of all of this:

As the peak of the recovery work hits us it will be interesting to see how many of the lessons we have learned during the response phase have stuck. I hope we will hang on to:

  • the kindness and caring for each other
  • a focus on how much we get done rather than how much we have started
  • multiskilled teams building things together rather than handing off requirements and deliverables.

Situational Leadership

During the lockdown most of my work engagement has been internal to the council but even this is opening up a little again. I had a really good catch up with a colleague in another Council who is at a similar stage in adopting agile ways of working.

One of the things we talked about was situational leadership1. I was hooked on the Hersey-Blanchard model when I was introduced to it in one of my first management roles. I had been struggling to identify my leadership style and this model helped me realise I needed to be reasonably competent at all of the styles of leadership and learn when to apply them. The right style is a function of the individuals you are leading and what you are asking them to do. Your individual preference as a leader should not have much to do with it. I found similar ideas were important in my other roles such as running workshops, professional development courses and business change programmes. It feels like I need to refresh myself on all of this. I am also having to relearn how to handle the layers on top of this. How do you lead and develop great leaders? How do you lead your boss and their boss?

The same need to adapt approach crops up in my role as an agile coach. The empowered, self-managing teams we want are fantastic but people need to be ready for it. Team members may be perfectly competent to take control of their work but might need a lot of support and encouragement to become comfortable and confident to do so. They may have got used to a team leader or manager tackling things behind the scenes and need some time to work out how to confront issues constructively with their peers2. It can be exhausting to think through all of the options and variables and the team just want someone to tell them what to do to get started or take up and sort out an issue on their behalf. The role of the coach can start to look a lot like a traditional manager but this shouldn’t last. The team may have to wrestle with other stakeholders to get their work done but they shouldn’t have to wrestle with a coach who takes too much control for too long.

So there are some more things to put on my “to read” or “read again” list about agile adoption and models of learning3.

A word about a good cause

I am a member of the British Computer Society Mentoring Programme4 and had an introductory chat with a new mentee this week. I’ve used the scheme as a mentee myself before so it is nice to pay it forward. I was able to offer some pointers and suggestions but also took away some notes for myself. Listening to what my mentee was going through and thinking through how I could help made me realise that some of the same ideas could be helpful for some of my teams as well. Interesting that it took an unrelated conversation to spark the ideas. If you need something to nudge you into getting involved as a mentor think about how it can help you learn and develop as well as what you are doing to help others5.


  1. Wikipedia introduction with links for more reading

  2. Another theory which I find is really useful here is the Tuckman Model of team development. 

  3. In particular I need to spend some time on ideas such as ShuHaRi. I think I have stumbled into this approach naturally but should probably be more deliberate about it. 

  4. More on the BCS programme 

  5. As well as industry/profession mentoring schemes there are also ones focused on wider goals. For example, a couple of years ago I really enjoyed taking part in the 30% Club scheme. 

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