Who is the agile coach and what value brings?
Agile Manifesto, introduced us all to the idea that change can be harnessed and celebrated. It provided us values and principles upon which to stand and from which to build practices that help us keep pace with an ever changing world. It taught us that change is the only constant, and that it should be embraced. Agile coach is there to guide us.
But, it didn’t change the human truth that change is hard, and in the face of constant change, we can be lost, hurt, confused, or left behind. Change challenges our thinking, our world-view, and our self-view. Agile coaches learn progressively more complex skills, and receive exposure to rich areas of further self-development beyond the classroom.
Agile coaches support, guide, coach, teach, mentor and facilitate change without colluding with the current reality. They do this in service to teams, to cause change, navigate conﬂict, intervene, and guide teams toward joyful high performance.
Along the way coaches hold the bigger view of desired change, even when others may have lost sight. Effective agile coaches require from people to:
- Take their development one step at a time, obtaining competence at each step before moving on
- Guide people in understanding, processing, and embracing constant change, so that the change is sustainable, lasting beyond the individuals
- Keep neutrality and transparency, and focus on the team process and suspend judgments
- Improve the quality of team conversation, which leads to better understanding, collaboration and remarkable results
- Learn how to use the desired outcomes to design the meeting ﬂow, so the team can achieve their desired outcomes
- Get clear about the change they desire, identify places where current reality does not match desired reality and then take action to close the gap, all in service of delivering business results that matter
- Make some key mindset shifts and serve as a living example of how one can thrive within these new mindsets
The Agile coach is a person who is responsible for creating and improving agile processes within a team or a company. Agile is easy to understand, but hard to master, resulting in many leaders running into problems when making the switch. Most of these problems come about due to unrealistic expectations of how easy it is to implement Agile within a team, department, or the whole company.
Agile coaches are in demand as Agile is achieving more mainstream adoption. There are three main agile coach types that help teams and companies with their agile transformations:
Agile Team Facilitator – Works with one or more teams on an individual level and is responsible for introducing and maintaining agile ceremonies within those teams
Agile Coach – Works in multi-team and organization levels. Engages top management, facilitates inter-department dialogue and advances the adoption of agile throughout the company
Enterprise agile Coach – Works on the enterprise level, manages organizational and culture change, introduces enterprise-level agile methodologies and coaches executive leadership.
Some of the key areas, why organizations need agile coaches are for improving the:
- Agility across the organization and use of agile best practices, living the values and principles
- Management mindset and overcoming resistance to change
- Delivery speed and quality of products
- Communication, collaboration & transparency in the entire organization
- Individual, team, and organization metrics by focusing on results and outcome
- Integrate agile teams within the wider processes of a non-Agile company
No matter what value they deliver, agile coaches are having an impact across multiple levels of the company, from organization-wide, to team-level, to customers, and products. Being Agile often requires removing or mitigating external dependencies. However, sometimes, those dependencies stem from other teams and there is not a lot a PM can do about them.
Since an Agile coach has a higher-level view of Agility in the whole organization, they should be the person to contact in order to help to initiate the resolution of the dependencies.
The most prevalent challenge that agile coaches report is that leadership and management tend to be a barrier to agility. There are a variety of reasons, including lack of buy-in and support, resistance to change, having a mindset that is not conducive to agility, being rooted in older management styles, lack of understanding, and a lack of alignment between agile teams and leadership.
While management is generally a point of difficulty in adopting agile, there are instances where leadership has been brought on board and become part of the transformation. Let’s remember Socrates quote and help organizations become more agile:
“I only know that I know nothing. Every time you think you have learned something, you can let go of it to continue learning.”