Making Agile Coaching Successful for Your Organization
Successful agile coaching requires a combination of experience, knowledge, and soft skills to help organizations build competence, sustainability, performance, and maturity in their agile practices. And when it comes to coaching, there is a vast difference between knowing and doing. That means not all coaches are created equal.
There are a few things you can do to ensure your agile coaching engagement is set up for success.
First, when an engagement with a coach begins, it’s important to level-set what the coach should be expected to do and should not be expected to do. This needs to be understood from program leadership down to the team being coached. You should not expect your agile coach to:
- Navigate long-standing or intractable conflicts
- Understand the bigger systems, processes, and politics in play beyond the team
- Systematically remove all impediments that exist outside the team
That being said, you should be able to expect a competent agile coach to:
- Assess the health of a team by seeing the processes and practices in play within the team, among a set of teams, and within the organization
- Choose what to tackle wisely, focusing on biggest impact rather than what’s easy
- Provide honest feedback that helps the team become better at their roles
- Do everything a ScrumMaster or trainer can do, but at a more competent level of skill
- Deliver a more mature overall agile capability that results in more frequent, high-quality product delivery
Selecting the right coach is also very important. The best coaches span both the business and technical organizations. In order to succeed, they will need to provide the organization assistance in technical practices like testing or DevOps, while also addressing cultural and processes that prohibit delivery agile capable services.
They are also champions of mindset changes that will be required to effect change, which at times will require brutal honesty and uncomfortable conversations about where the team and organization are and what it’s going to take to build a more sustainable agile practice.
Once your coaching engagement kicks off, the coach should tackle it just like any agile project. Avoid developing transformation plans that span a year or more. The coach should perform a time-boxed discovery, build a backlog that defines potential activities and their impacts, and use that information to prioritize what gets addressed by its impact and how it aligns with organizational business goals.
As your engagement proceeds, the coach should treat their objectives like your projects by regularly identifying new opportunities, grooming the backlog, reassessing the priorities, refining user stories, and continuing to work on stories until defined acceptance criteria are met. This will allow your coaches to adapt to the changing needs of your organization and unpredictable things that are encountered as you address changes across your people, processes, and technology.