Crossing these reflections with discussions held with our client, we came to formulate a question that seemed controversial and which we discuss in this article:
"Is an Agile coach the best or the worst of three worlds, Agile, coaching and change?"
To answer this question, it is of interest to dive into the different sub-topics, mentioned in the above chart.
Doing Agile means, applying learned methods such as Scrum, Kanban, pair programming or the Agile test pyramid. Being Agile means understanding that oneself is a relentless, lifelong learner.
Notwithstanding all gathered expertise, Agile frameworks knowledge, methods, processes, artifacts, ceremonies and/or roles. It is always a new, interesting challenge to help clients become Agile and adjust Agile frameworks to their organization, without losing the essence of Agile principles.
Sharing knowledge with teams, units and leadership helps them to apply certain methods and practices, but also makes them understand the underlying principles and values.
To share Agile knowledge, one must first gather it by oneself and be a role model for it, meaning acting by its principles and having an Agile mindset. That is why it is important for an Agile coach to have broad Agile experience. Only then will a coach earn full trust and attention of coachees and organizations.
Most corporates go through a disruptive organizational change when they transform their operating model to Agile. Therefore, it is very important to apply Change Management practices.
Whether it is building a network of change agents, handling stakeholders, or making the change process transparent through prompt, recurring communication, change management methods support organizations on their Agile transformation journey. These methods help to keep focus on the transformation objectives, establish transparency, and take every organization member along on the journey.
Now there is coaching. To describe the methods and competencies of coaching, we use the famous Agile coaching "X-Wing model", created by Lyssa Adkins. The model divides the methods and competencies into a left side of "Content" and a right side of "Process authority", where coaching is located.
This framework developed by Adkins helps to differentiate topics that are often mixed.
On the "Content Authority" side, there is:
- Teaching: transfer a specific set of knowledge to a student in a way he could use it well afterwards
- Mentoring: use your experience and support a client with solutions that worked already for you
The professional coaching on the "Process side" deals with a different scenario:
There’s a phrase every consultant hears if he comes to a new client: "We are different!". Now you would be in trouble, as your experience and solutions may or may not help here if that is right.
This can be changed by coaching experience, as this is the area where professional methods are used to "deal with unknowingness".
The coach attitude means expecting that the client would be the best expert to solve their problems. The coach supports with leading the client through processes that allow them to access their resources and clarify their solution. This is where coaches can even help professional soccer players to improve, even if they are already much better that the coach.
Now that we have understood the different dimensions of our area of conflict, let’s analyze the different types of Agile coach peculiarities in our Agile coach triangle.
The Agile transformation expert
When corporations go through a (scaled) Agile transformation, very often they lack Agile expertise in the organization at the beginning of their journey. To gather transformation pace, it is popular to engage external resources, which bring Agile expertise, known today as Agile coaches.
Agile coaches should teach the organization the theory and support the employees in the application of Agile practices on the job.
In most Agile transformation initiatives, Agile coaches are also included into the change team, supporting communication, or identifying Agile knowledge sources within the organization.
In our experience, most Agile coaches in today’s world are representing this form of Agile coaching.