Why agile coaching matters?

Piotr Romanowski

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“Coaching is the universal language of change and learning.” – CNN

 

In our previous post, we’ve provided you with some hints on how to build a good agile team that will work like a well-oiled machine. We agreed that building a team isn’t very easy, but it’s still feasible and necessary in order to achieve extraordinary results.

As a matter of fact, pulling people together and maintaining the team in a good spirit can be even harder. This is the time when agile coaching can give us a helping hand.

 

Anthony Robins (famous life coach) coined a term CANI –  which is an acronym for Constant And Neverending Improvement.  The key word here is an improvement. Therefore, we cannot say that agile is yet another process – an agile approach is a means of improving everything – c o n s t a n t l y.

 

Here we have a space for agile coach that can help the team to understand why, what they’re doing really matters, and why the agile way matters.

But what is an Agile Coaching, anyhow?

 

Agile coaching competency framework
Agile coach should aim to “grow a productive Agile team that thinks for itself rather than relying on you to lay down the agile law”.*

As we can see it’s not about simply showing the right path but rather helping the team to find their own way within an agile environment.

 

We can boil down the agile coaching to five elements:

Mentoring – a coach is a helping hand that can provide the team with necessary advice when it’s needed. It’s quite critical for a coach to have a wide range of knowledge and experience not only in the scrum methodology. Moreover, agile coach needs to lead by example, simply walk the walk, so to speak. So if a coach wants to teach about agile principles,  he needs to follow the agile rules himself during daily work.

Training – agile coach needs to pass all necessary knowledge and enforce it into practice. It’s not a rocket science, every team is different, made up of various people with different experiences and abilities in acquiring knowledge. That’s why a coach needs to remember to adjust the form of information flow to a particular team.

Management – however not managing people but managing the process itself. As we have agreed – agile is a process of constant improvement.

Coaching – it’s a partnership process, during which a coach supports the client (can be a group or a team) in making the best use of his potential in order to achieve particular goals. How does it get done? By asking proper questions, by understanding the team’s flow and all the habits that come with daily work. A coach should help his client transform to the point where he wants to be.

Assistance – coach needs to facilitate with solving all the issues that will occur somewhere along the line with all his experience and knowledge.

 

Well, considering the above fact it seems that being agile coach is not a piece of cake. But who said it’s going to be easy anyway? :)

It appears that the hardest part in becoming a good, agile coach is developing all of the earlier mentioned competencies. Agile coach needs to have a wide range of knowledge as well as skills to perform all those roles.

 

 

So what skills are important to be developed for agile coaches? As Rachel Davies wrote:

- Working with people: listening, giving feedback, asking questions, building trust and rapport

- Facilitating change: enlisting support, reaching agreement, spreading success, learning from failure

- Systems thinking: seeing the bigger picture, identifying levers for change, communicating danger signals

 

Benefits from agile coaching

Implementing scrum in an organization is often perceived as a remedy for all the problems that a company suffers from. But (as you may have experienced in your companies) implementing scrum isn’t a very easy task and can entail a lot of other problems.

That’s why agile coach is a must!

 

So here we have some of the benefits that a company can get from implementing an agile coaching:

- An outside view – coaches bring a new perspective to the organization, team and individuals and they remove intrinsic bias and interpersonal issues.

- New opportunity for improvement – a good coach provides learning and training for the employees and develops their skills

- Facing the problems – agile coaching creates an environment that allows teams to face the difficulties and work on a proper solution instead of sweeping problem under the table.

- Saving time and money – coaches bring both the tried and the new practices and processes to a team and organization, reducing the degree of trial and error commonly found in homegrown experimentations.

 

One size doesn’t fit all…

Just remember that agile coaching is not a holy grail for all the problems that you might encounter with your team.

“Every technique is working and is not working at the same time”

which means that a technique or a solution that was used for one team can work and, on the other hand, can be useless for another team. It’s all about the context and about people.

 

Picture (with small changes) courtesy of Brain vector designed by Freepik


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