Purist or Pragmatist? The Battle of the Agile coaches continues (Part Two)

In many organisations’ transformation to Agile, hiring an Agile Coach is an early step on the journey. What should you expect from your coach, and how do you measure success? Should coaches have ‘skin in the game’ and be responsible for software outcomes? And when the pressure is on, should a coach prioritise delivery?

Three Agile coaches share their views in a series of three blog posts.

Bobby SinghBOBBY SINGH has over 10 years project delivery experience and is a passionate Agile convert. Bobby has worked across a number of large portfolios delivering projects and is a hands-on Agile delivery practitioner.

Bobby is a reviewer for the Agile Australia 2014 Conference.

Before we ask the question ‘when is coaching done?’, we should look to ask when/where does it start? As with anything, we need to have a purpose and it is no different with Agile coaching and coaches.

Taking a purely transactional view, an Agile coach should have clear expectations and responsibilities in relation to coaching teams, an understanding of why a team needs an Agile coach and ensuring we are not doing Agile for Agile’s sake (i.e. validation of the investment we are making by moving to Agile delivery).

In sporting codes, coaches assume liability for understanding the game, leading, motivating, supporting and developing high-performing teams. The Agile coach is similarly aligned and should seek to help influence/support outcomes, build/motivate teams and achieve performance. However, this is something that I don’t believe we are universally seeing in Agile coaching and currently it seems to be a licence for anyone who has read an ‘Agile 101’ book to be seen as an Agile coach.

Anyone who leads a team, influences the delivery approach and looks to develop teams should also seek to take joint liability for the outcome (with the team). A coach should not just be coaching Agile (i.e. this is how we do SCRUM) they should seek to set and manage customer expectations and deliver outcomes within the constraints of the environment they operate. Again I refer back to sporting coaches – in sport coaches take absolute liability for team performance, people development and they influence the outcome.

…there is a commercial reality we as coaches need to be aware of and that is sometimes we do ‘just have to deliver’.

A coach shouldn’t look to be an ‘Agile zealot’ nor seek to be ‘adulterate’. We should look to take the best practices available; be it what has been learnt through Agile or other. With that in mind there is a commercial reality we as coaches need to be aware of and that is sometimes we do ‘just have to deliver’. That doesn’t necessarily mean at the risk of not being agile nor at the risk of delivering crap; but to understand the context and environment within which you operate and determine how Agile you can be within these constraints. Agile represents the opportunity to evolve delivery based on learnings.

This post was originally published in AgileTODAY, a free publication featuring real Australian case-studies of Agile in the enterprise, and the latest hot topics in the Agile community. Find out more.

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