What is Agile Coaching for me?
Coaching involves activities that help an organization/team to adopt agreed practices to be agile in order to achieve the stated goal. Agile coaching work includes activities such as helping to adopt agile values by true facilitation, setting up processes in agreement with leaders as servant leaders, working with development team and management as a facilitator, helping to choose right framework and practices for the team as a consultant and teaching agile values and principles including frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, LeSS, SAFe, XP, Lean, TDD, BDD, CI and DevOps etc. Coaching means ensuring team adopt agreed practices and coaches help team is doing by teaching, mentoring, hand-holding and demonstrating benefit of these practices.
What type of coaching requirement available?
Enterprise Agile Transformation
Let’s pick up every work and try to understand what it means. Enterprise means whole organization not just IT department, Agile means making whole organization agile in nature and Transformation means helping organization to move from X to Y. Often I see enterprise means one department especially software development/ Information Technologies team. Sometime every IT team across organization but majority of time one vertical only.
Enterprise means legacy like they have thousands of employee, strong HR policies, rigid PMO and strong processes where people hide behind. Enterprise does not run by one individual and not like few hundreds of employee dancing on customer’s tune or HR policies get modified every day.
Who get evolved in this kind of transformation?
I see some major consulting firm get into it like Valtech, SolutionIQ, Prowareness, McKinsey and BCG etc. Because they present their strength in numbers like available coaches, years of experience etc. They also demonstrate their skills by methodologies, approach and success stories. They are also good in presenting data and graphs that nobody understand so things look complicated :)
Above looks good for big enterprise but what about SME? I think above also apply to SME until SME is not one man show. Many SMEs in India is one man show and become difficult to change until that person not willing to give full control to coaches. Many time individual owner try to get things done by external coaches which she could have done herself. So why they hire external coaches? I don’t know. Coaches working in these situation are really a coach? May not. Possibly working as consultant to deliver agreed services with agreed timeline like trainings, preparing service delivery model, documenting new processes and designing new metrics etc.
Independent Agile Coaching
This is something very common where the individual takes up coaching work for an organization but what kind of coaching? I feel there are 4 types of work that independent agile coach do.
1st type of work which is more common is working as a contractual coach helping a few teams in the transformation journey where coaching company draws plan and execution done by these coaches. Most likely coaches are not free to experiment and having some sort of reporting structure. Like organization has decided to implement SAFe and these coaches are working as RTE or someone has designed own methodologies where these Certified Agile Coach are working with a team to understand it.
2nd most common kind of coaching where coaches working on 3rd party payroll and help individual team to adopt agile methods (most likely Scrum and XP). Usually, I consider this kind of Agile Coach = Contractual Scrum Master. 3rd party only care about billing.
3rd most common area where I see coaches get hired is for long-term training and help few teams in adopting agile methods. Very few coaches get free hand and enough time to build internal coaches to sustain. Usually coaches are tasked to produce lots of documents on the name of adoption roadmap, new processes, metrics and new policies etc.
4th is hiring coaches for specific requirement like DevOps tools implementation, Scrum training and preparing processes for adoption, Technical practices training and short-term coaching. This is not coaching but consulting where organization identify the specific need and hire specific skilled people with a clear objective.
So what you can do?
Who you are? a coach or a consultant? This will help you to decide what duty you are supposed to perform as coach or consultant.
Becoming consultant is easy because you have skills that organization is looking for. Discuss services that they want with time and cost. Usually a win-win situation for both. I usually see consultant get paid anything between 15K to 60K per day based on skills, experience and duration.
Becoming coach is not easy and required lots of learning and experiment. I don’t know how many people even understand meaning of coaching. As coach most difficult task is to understand objective behind coaching and getting free hand for facilitating change. Majority of time I see chaos and confusion on the name of coaching. Coaches create hostile environment without understanding real need and their roles. Agile coach looks very fancy to many but do they get paid well also? May or maybe not. I have seen people working for 8K per day as agile coach.
So what kind of coach I am?
Enterprise Agile Coach – What was the last time you was running an organization as leader and taking care ROI (P/L)? What was the size of your organization? What are the key changes that you have initiated in order to improve ROI, Customer Satisfaction or Employee Satisfaction etc. Think again. I have seen many Enterprise Agile Coach who may not even qualify to be a good Scrum Master so be aware! Enterprise Agile Coaches usually come up with authentic proven practices with great experience and experiment. I know few of them like Craig Larman, Mike Cohn, Mike Biddle, Jurgen Appello and Ken Schwaber etc.
Agile Coach – You should be very good in at least on agile methods beside than Kanban and DevOps. Either in Scrum, LeSS, XP, DSDM, FDD etc and have good knowledge about other frameworks.
Read few good books like 5 Dysfunction of Team, The Fifth Discipline, Reinventing Organizations, Co-active Coaching, Leading Teams, Humble Enquiry and Nonviolent communication etc.
Be clear what is expected and don’t try to get in area which you don’t know like defining HR policy, corporate policy, sales pitch and marketing decision etc. Let the leaders do these work as they know better than you. But you can help in thinking what is good for agility or not good for agility by teaching them agile values and principles.
Better to go with these 6 steps while coaching – Understand Objective, Assess current status (processes, tools and practices), Design new processes, Implement new processes, Design metrics to measure effectiveness and Create environment for sustainability.
This is my personal opinion and may not be suitable for every situation. As I only have 23 years of working experience with some failed business initiative and few failed association.
Naveen is a Lean-Agile Coach, Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) and Internationally acclaimed Speaker in many Conferences and Agile events. He has over 22 years of experience in multiple domains and he is a Certified LeSS Practitioner (Large-Scale Scrum) and one of the early adopters of DevOps practices and teaches DevOps culture around the Globe.