Flight Levels Blog
Flight Levels Coaching Skills – What’s in it for me? Flight Levels Coaching Skills – What’s in it for me?
Siegfried Kaltenecker

Over 20 years ago, Jürgen Hargens pleaded, „Please do not help. It is already hard enough.“ Writing his landmark book, Hargens had no idea how much harder helping would become in the next two decades. He did not anticipate the jungle-like variety of offerings we are currently confronted with, nor did he expect that coaching would become everybody’s darling. From health to marriage to career, from teams to projects to leadership, from change to strategy to agility, every aspect of our life seems to be subject for external support.

Given this abundance of services, why should there be any need for a special Flight Levels coaching? And why should we even need special skills training for it? Don’t we have enough tools and techniques? Doesn’t our experience as agile team coaches provide all we need to manage organisational change with Flight Levels? 

The ambivalence-friendly answer may be: yes and no. On the one hand, many agilists have solid know-how. On the other hand, their knowledge is mainly focused on specific methods (such as Scrum and Kanban), roles (e.g. ScrumMasters or Product Owners) and teams (especially in the area of software development). To take-off with Flight Levels as planned, however, we should support end-to-end value streams and therefore potentially the whole company. Metaphorically speaking, Flight Levels Coaches need to collaborate with an experienced ground staff as intensively as with an efficient support crew and a reliable tower that keeps overview. 

A professional Flight Levels Coach (FLC) can provide all training, consulting and facilitation services needed for a smooth change process. That’s why FLCs need a wide variety of skills.

They should be capable of:

  • Mindfully exploring the current situation of your coachees
  • Defining their focus for improving this situation
  • Checking whether or not Flight Levels might help
  • Finding a committed sponsor and the right change agents
  • Building the knowledge needed to apply Flight Levels where they make sense
  • Guiding the design of Flight Levels Systems and architectures
  • Supporting the take-off and operation of these systems and architectures
  • Facilitating the whole change process in an agile way
  • Harnessing the emotions that accompany such a process

That’s why the FLC has to be an all-rounder who can collaborate with different experts, and groups across hierarchy levels. For sure, teamwork still plays an essential role in organisation-wide collaboration. As the catalyst of business agility, however, the FLC has more to do with interactions across teams and departments, with large groups and senior managers. A substantial body of technical knowledge is needed, but also social skills and emotional intelligence. 

Looking at our own experience, we feel like Flight Levels Coaching is a complex endeavour. We are never done learning and are always smarter in retrospect. Out experience is that it is as easy to underestimate the challenges of change and overestimate our competences. In real life, Flight Levels Coaching is a complex balancing act where you have to deal with many tensions.

  • How do I get the information needed and build trust at the same time?
  • What techniques do I need and how do I make sure that I don’t end up as the proverbial fool with a tool?
  • How do I combine questioning and active listening with key messages about Flight Levels? 
  • How do I clarify how to establish Business Agility and achieve an explicit agreement which is needed for this? 
  • How do I get clear assignments and win over the right people to co-create effective change?

In our foundations workshop Flight Levels Coaching Skills, we want to work on the answers. With a focus is on practical exercises using real-life examples, we build a strong foundation. You apply what you already know, try out new things, and get feedback and tips from the trainers. It provides a great starting point for those who want to progress to become a Certified Flight Levels Coach. Think of this workshop as a training camp for enriching your existing skill-set.

It is also great compliment to the Flight Levels Flow Design workshop, which focusing on building Flight Levels systems.

Both Sigi Kaltenecker & Cliff Hazell have a lot of experience to offer, and bring many practical Flight Levels cases with different customers and are close sparring partners of Klaus Leopold & Katrin Dietze for many years.

Flight Levels Education Programs and Path
Cliff Hazell

Many people have been reading our book Rethinking Agile and saying “we need this in our company”. Some even describe it as the missing link. However, the book offers only a small glimpse into the problems we are solving and it outlines some of our solutions. There is so much more once you get into the details… This has prompted the Flight Levels Academy to clarify its workshop program and introduce titles to make it easier to understand who has what knowledge and who has what experience. 

Our workshop programs show you a way to use Flight Levels to help entire organizations achieve true business agility – tailored to your requirements, your company size, and your existing experience!

New Programs – Learn and Show off your Experience!

We offer two Programs: One for departments, tribes or single Products, one for the whole company:

  • In the Flight Levels Flow Enabler  Program, you learn to establish business agility within tribes, products and departments. We focus on the size of about 30 and 300 people.
  • In the Flight Levels Flow Architect Program, you learn how to establish business agility throughout the organisation, across multiple departments and products. We focus on the size of 1000 – 100k people.

If you want to go beyond that and put Flight Levels at the centre of your work as a professional l coach or trainer, we offer two advanced programs:

  • In the Certified Flight Levels Coach  Program, you learn how to design and support agile change processes for entire organisations.
  • The Certified Flight Levels Guide  Program is aimed at trainers who want to offer certified Flight Levels training.

Details of the programs and titles

Flight Levels Flow Enabler

You can build and operate cross-team work systems and establish Flow for 30 to 300 people. You will develop the coaching skills to help others manage their Flight Level Systems and to design and conduct large group events. 

There are three workshops that make up the program:

  1. Introduction to Flight Levels
  2. Flight Levels Flow Design
  3. Flight Levels Change Leadership

Flight Levels Flow Architect

You deal with the process organisation and change at the organisational level. You find out which systems are needed at which Flight Levels in an organisation to achieve the desired goals. You discover which systems are necessary at which Flight Levels to achieve the desired goals, and you can design an agile change process.

There are two workshops that make up the program:

  1. Introduction to Flight Levels
  2. Flight Levels Systems Architecture
  3. Flight Levels Change Leadership

Flight Levels Coach

When the decision is made to improve the operational structure of an entire company using the Flight Levels concept, you really have a lot to do. You must be able to master the skills of the Flight Levels Flow Enabler and Flight Levels Systems Architect because as a Certified Flight Levels Coach you must also be able to lead Flow Design and System Architecture workshops. You must be able to accompany and coach people from top managers to individual team members. Basically, it’s about creating a new social architecture – that requires a great deal of sensitivity and the knowledge of how to accompany change processes.

To become a Certified Flight Levels Coach:

  1. Completed: Flight Levels Flow Enabler, Flight Levels System Architect
  2. Completion of the Flight Levels Coach Training
  3. Review process through the Flight Levels Academy

Flight Levels Guide

Together with another Certified Flight Levels Guide from the Flight Levels Academy, you will learn to prepare and conduct all workshops as a co-trainer. After successful completion, you will be entitled to hold workshops at the Flight Levels Academy and issue the corresponding certificates.

In what order should the workshops be completed?

Everything starts with the Flight Levels Introduction Workshop, as it forms the foundation for all other programs.

We generally recommend that you complete the Flight Levels Flow Enabler program as the first step, followed by the Flight Levels Systems Architect program. The intent is to first learn how to establish business agility within a tribe, product or department of 30 to 300 people. Once you have experienced this, the next step is to learn how to create business agility for the entire organisation.

If you still want to start with the Flight Levels Systems Architect program, a simple self-assessment:

  • You have several years of experience as an agile coach.
  • You have already successfully created and operated work systems for tribes, departments, company or product divisions of 30 – 300 people.
  • You know how to establish Flow and visualise work and create focus across multiple teams.
  • You know how to work with individuals, small groups and large groups (like 20 or more experts coordinating together through a Flight Level 2 system), and have experience in facilitating stand-ups and retrospectives on all three Flight Levels.

If you can answer all questions with Yes, then you are ready for the Flight Levels Systems Architect program. If you answer No to some of the points, we recommend starting with the Flight Levels Flow Enabler program.

If you have already completed workshops, these will count towards your completion of the Program.

For questions, we are always at your disposal!

Six Dimensions of Performance Six Dimensions of Performance
Cliff Hazell

Just increase team velocity. Just do ten times the work in half the time. These things alone won’t guarantee success. Organizations need more than just “more, faster” to succeed. They need the right things; they need these things to work; they need to know they can continue to do those things. In short, it isn’t as easy as measuring “more.” 

Many problems occur because we view “good” or “bad” using a single measure. The real world is more complex, requiring people to solve dilemmas. The problem with individual performance metrics is that they obscure the price paid by improving that one measure. We need to help people see these hidden costs. 

This article lists the six dimensions that compete with each other in flow-based systems that aim to deliver the highest value to customers. For each measurement dimension, you need to challenge teams to not only improve one metric but look at the warning signs of improving that metric too fast or too much. You can focus too much and too little on each measurement dimension, its about balance. For each dimension, I’ve listed some starting points of over and under focus in a system when pushing to improve this metric. 

My tip to getting a balanced performance dashboard is to find one measure in each dimension. Don’t worry about the perfect metric; worry about getting one metric in each even if it’s not perfectly captured or clean.

“Do Lots” – How Much/Many?

Measure how much raw work product is flowing. In a perfect world, not just in development but to customers. This measure isn’t about customer value; it is evidence that the system is moving items (has flow). This measure is also useful for forecasting future delivery when in balance with the other five dimensions.

Too little focus or capability

  • Dis-satisfied customers or stakeholders not getting what they need. 
  • Demand > supply, but you don’t know it.

Too much focus

  • Declining quality causing defects and re-dos (not “really” done yet)
  • Less valuable “easy” features delivered rather than most needed

Typical metrics in this category

  • Throughput – count of items or tickets per day/week/sprint
  • Velocity – sum story points per sprint

“Do it Fast” – How fast?

Respond and deliver things quickly, given its complexity and novelness. The easiest way to improve this measure is to finish something in-progress before starting something else.

Too little focus or capability

  • Customers frustrated in how long it takes to get changes

Too much focus

  • Declining quality causing defects and re-dos (not “really” done yet)
  • Less valuable “easy” features delivered rather than most needed

Typical metrics in this category

  • Time in State – the time an item was within a “state,” for example, “In Development.”
  • Cycle time – the time from start to finish at some boundaries in your system
  • Lead time – the time from some commitment to delivery (to the person committed too)

“Do it Predictably” – How consistent is the delivery of value?

Delivery occurs at a consistent pace rather than huge feasts or famine of delivered value to the customers; for example, the variance of pace “Do Lots.” This dimension helps see shorter-term process instability (the sustainability metric measures longer-term system stability; it’s coming up soon).

Too little focus or capability

  • Periods of progress and others of lower value to customers.

Too much focus

  • Less risky “known” features delivered rather than most valuable or needed
  • Little incentive to push process improvement in case they cause a temporary decline

Typical metrics in this category

  • Variability of throughput of velocity
  • Variability of the delivered customer value
  • Net Process Flow: Things Delivered – Things Started. This measure shows balance through the system with variability represented as a higher or lower peak, with the desired state hovering around zero.

Tip: For a variability measure, consider using the Coefficient of variability: Standard Deviation / Mean rather than the Standard Deviation alone (higher values naturally have a higher Standard Deviation for the same percentage change. Dividing by the mean normalizes that.

“Do it Well” – How good was the quality versus expectations?

A measure of how well the delivery of things that solve a problem or need. Often this measure is called Quality and is one of the hardest measures to get a handle on. The goal isn’t purely quality; it serves as an early warning sign that a system is being pushed to deliver beyond its capability. 

Too little focus or capability

  • Rework. What is delivered needs to be corrected
  • Customer dissatisfaction. 
  • Production issues. 

Too much focus

  • Little or no delivery of value or flow of items due to “just a little more testing.”
  • Slow feedback if the wrong thing is built (albeit perfectly functioning)

Typical metrics in this category

  • Escaped defects. Defects found outside of the development and delivery team
  • Customer satisfaction. Customers don’t like what you built and tell you
  • Production rollbacks. Second and third releases to get a stable, working system
  • Unplanned downtime. Issues in production outside of planned change windows

“Do Valuable Stuff” – How valuable was it to the customer?

A measure of how much value customers derive from released features or projects. The goal isn’t purely customer value; it serves as an early warning sign that a system is being pushed to focus on work output rather than an outcome. 

Too little focus or capability

  • Rework. What is delivered needs to be revisited to deliver “more” of this feature
  • Customer dissatisfaction. Internal feeling that work is flowing well, but the customers aren’t feeling the value.

Too much focus

  • Increasing technical debt. Teams consistently skip technical debt reduction items for supposedly higher value items.
  • Lack of prioritization for strategic work that is mid to longer-term (current customers happy, but declining entry into new markets or targets).

Typical metrics in this category

  • Cost of delay. An economic view of the cost of NOT doing work to the customer and organization.
  • Alignment to strategy. Prioritized work allocation matches a planned strategic allocation
  • Customer satisfaction. Customer feedback confirms what was delivered solved a problem with high satisfaction.

“Keep Doing It” – How sustainable is the delivery system (and people)?

A measure of how likely the current performance of the development and delivery system can continue in the future. Often called the “happiness” metric, but it’s more important than that label describes. When teams push hard on the improvement of the other metrics, it sometimes takes a toll causing a decline in the future. The goal of this metric is to be an early warning indicator of that gloomy performance in the future.

Too little focus or capability

  • The current performance measures aren’t maintained.
  • The collapse of delivery.

Too much focus

  • Stagnate performance improvement over time. The other metrics stay flat.

Typical metrics in this category

  • Team health via survey or team retrospective (honest answer to “are we able to continue at this pace?” 
  • The aggregate of the other performance metrics (D1 to D5) metrics

History and credit:

Larry Maccherone came up with the first four dimensions in his Software Development Performance Index (SDPI). He combined measures of Productivity, Predictability, Quality, and Performance to assess different Agile folklore (best team size, sprint length, co-location as examples) against 10,000 projects for his employer Rally Software with help from Carnegie Mellon’s SEI. He noted that it was possible to do all four and suggested the addition of the Happiness metric, which is coded here as Sustainability. I added the value metric based on the observation we could deliver lots of un-useful stuff, and wanted a balance against just increasing velocity or throughput for no real customer impact (I’m sure others also noted that omission). I also took liberties, renaming them after teaching them in training. I think the Agile community owes a massive debt of gratitude to Larry’s work, I certainly do.

Troy Magennis is a Flight Levels Guide. He offers training and consulting on Forecasting and Metrics related to Agile Planning. Find out more at FocusedObjective.com