Agile coaching is about supporting a company success with Value, Speed and Quality . There are few agile coaching models and perceptions. Here are some of them.
– James Smart
What is an agile coach?
An Agile coach helps teams and individuals adopt Agile practices and methods in their work. The goal of an Agile coach is to make a team more efficient, transparent and cohesive, and to enable better outcomes, solutions and products/services.
Selecting the right tools and methods is important whatever your role, though the Agile coach has to be like a good bartender and know how to mix them together to create a perfect combination tailored to the organization. The role of an Agile coach includes discovering the organizational goals of both teams and individuals, identifying the method/s that will help in their journey, and teaching these practices.
Why do you need an Agile coach?
The participants all agreed that while there is value in the items on the right, they place greater value on the items on the left:
– Andrea Della Corte
Using this Model
– James Smart
What does an Agile coach do?
Catalyzing improvement – Using Agile methods means changing your organization’s processes and responding to future changes better.
Promoting awareness – To kickstart changes, a coach has to make a team aware of the need for change and create buy-in across the organization.
Boosting ownership- Awareness increases responsibility and commitment to finding a solution and helps staff be a part of the change they want to see.
Developing competencies- Creating a collaborative learning environment and promoting emergent learning cultures are the key to sustain an Agile approach long.
Facilitating barrier removal- As a company transforms into an Agile organization, the process can face numerous barriers and challenges.
“What are your main objectives, as an organizational and agile coach? What are you planning to accomplish, while engaging with us?“.
Organizational “Laloux Color”: from Orange to Green
The main characteristics of Orange organization are pretense of clearly defined goals to beat competition and to achieve profit and growth. Here, innovation is the key for staying ahead, and management is performed by meeting objectives, with managers “commanding and controlling its employees on “what“, while giving liberty on deciding “how” to workers.
The main characteristics of Green organization are focus on improving organizational culture by empowering employees and helping them develop high intrinsic motivation. Click here to see an example.
Organizational Tribal Stage: from Stage 3 to Stage 4
Tribal Stage 3 – is being characterized by employees operating in clusters and attempting to outperform each other and beat each other to get a bigger reward. At this stage, everyone is striving for dominance; individuals express behaviors of “lone warriors” with organizational culture reminding “wild, wild west.”
Tribal Stage 4 – is being characterized by employees forming structures called triads. At this stage, individuals, express tribal pride, mutual support, collective thinking, team work and shared ownership. Click here to see an example.
Organizational Structure: from Silos to Transparency
Here, the main objective of a coach is to help senior management bring down walls that separate different parts of the same organization, in order to increase transparency and improve communication. Organizational silos are a problem that is not specific to technology departments only. Lack of transparency, poor communication, distortion of information as it flows through multiple organizational layers – is what describes many organizational departments, especially of large companies. Click here to see an example.
Leadership: from Command & Control to Enable-ment
Here, the main objective of a coach is to help senior management promote culture of Servant Leadership, in pace of Command & Control. This may require de-centralization of power and empowerment of lower layers of organizational pyramid. In order to develop agile culture, senior management needs to provide enough autonomy and sovereignty to organizational layers, that get work done. Click here to see an example.
Optimization: from Local Focus to Global/System Focus
In System Thinking chapter of Large Scale Scrum, Local Optimization paradox is described very well by C. Larman and B. Vodde: “Everyone is doing their best yet overall systems throughput is degrading. How can that be?” This is the paradox of local optimization —when a person or departmental decision maker optimizes for the local view or self-interest. The party making the decision frequently believes they are making the best decision , but because ‘best’ is a local optimization. Click here to see an example.
Teaming: from Component Teams to Feature Teams
The main characteristic of Component Team is high concentration of expertise in a specific product component, with very little or no expertise in other product components. Therefore, a component team can work only on “one flavor” of tasks and its deliverable rarely presents a complete and clear business value to customers. As a result of this situation, component teams ‘locally optimize’ themselves to stay busy and work on component-specific items that have much lower business priority. Click here to see an example.
Workforce: from single-specialists to T-shaped workers
Here, the objective is to harvest T-shaped/cross-functional experts that can wear multiple hats (e.g. developer, tester, architect), on demand. The letter “T” is used to describe expertise of such individuals, with vertical line of the letter, representing depth of primary knowledge and horizontal line of the letter, representing breadth of secondary knowledge. In contrast, “I-shaped” individuals have only primary knowledge but no secondary knowledge. Why is this so important? In order to build efficient, cross-functional feature teams that can operate independently and work through an entire stack of system components. Click here to see an example.
Measuring Performance: from Individual to Team-based
The main objective of a coach is to make senior organisational leadership fully comprehend a strong correlation between various elements of organizational an ecosystem that are typically viewed as independent. Individual performance measurement is one of very critical elements of an ecosystem and very often becomes its center-piece, as it defines behaviors of employees. Directly related to individual performance measurements, are promotions and performance-driven monetary rewards that define and get defined by employees’ goals, values and behaviors. Click here to see an example.
Value Measurement: from “Check Marks” to ROWE
This topic is of particular significance for organizations, where a lot of emphasis is made on “check marks and score cards” used to measure accomplishments by individuals and teams. These are mainly large organizations, where production Cycle Time between initial idea and its practical implementation is long. In such organizations, true results are possible to measure only when a product actually comes to a market place. But since it does not happen frequently, organizations introduce interim measurements of value and success, mainly for reporting and book-keeping purposes. Click here to see an example.
Agility @ Scale: from Complicating to De-Scaling
It is not uncommon to see internal agile champions seeking scaling solutions that conveniently support existing organisational structures and require little organizational re-design. Frequently, complex agile frameworks are preferred because of their “unpack and install” capabilities. Such frameworks seamlessly fit over an existing organizational design and dont really challenge anyone’s status-quo, don’t call for dramatic changes and dont expose existing dysfunctions. Click here to see an example.
An Agile Coach wears many hats: Coach; Teacher; Mentor; Consultant are 4 hats that stands out to me! This picture is about wearing the “Coach” hat.
– Manoel Pimentel
It is possible to see different styles and flavours in doing Agile Coaching, which is good because diversity is important in our industry; however, the most dangerous part is the massive number of strange job announcements, asking for Agile Coaches, that I have seen over there.
The DNA for Agile Coaching
Agile Coaching is an approach to foster an organisation shift to improve the work, the behaviours, and the outcomes in the context of the development of solutions/products. It is not only about adopt framework X or Y. Agile Coaching is about how to enable people to respond more quickly, with less risk, and more qualitatively for business opportunities.
To provide this enablement, Agile Coaches can work on five elements (see the image above): Catalyse Improvement, Promote Awareness, Boost Ownership, Develop Competencies, and Facilitate Barrier Removal.
How to evolve with this DNA
I’ve synthesised those elements into this model to serve as a compass to drive the behaviours and outcomes for my work as an Agile Coach. I always need to evolve this DNA. I need to add more practices and elements according to the environment of the company or the team. You’ll need to make the same thing in your context. You can create an infinite number of genetic combinations with this DNA.
The Heart of Agile (HoA) is another interesting model for what areas can an Agile Coach lean into when faced with an issue. To describe this learning and application journey, the HoA uses the Shu-ha-ri model, a Japanese martial art concept, which describes the stages a student progresses through three levels:
The framework can help an agile coach reflect on their capabilities. There are many different ways that the wheel could be used in a coaching conversation, but it could go something like this:
Agile coaches and scrum masters aren’t rivals. These roles complement each other and can both be instrumental in delivering organizational change and growth. The key difference in how these roles operate is in scope, with some overlap.
A scrum master typically focuses on a single team or at a maximum 2 or 3. Scrum masters will help ensure that the team lives and breathes Agile processes outlined by the Agile coach and in accordance with the company vision.
An Agile coach will work with many teams either directly or through management personnel. Because of this, they can’t develop the same level of personal relationships with employees as a scrum master, though they have a larger degree of oversight and organizational ownership of the Agile process. They work with the managers to increase the overall agility of a number of teams and across an entire organization.
An Agile coach has a few common specialties:
How do I become an Agile coach?