The Agile Coach Manifesto

The Agile Manifesto is the heart of soul of what it means to be Agile and I often refer back to when talking to colleagues and especially with those that are new to Agile.  This post was sparked after a great cross-group meeting that happened yesterday where some information was shared between groups that typically wouldn’t have otherwise collaborated.

I had been asked to present a quick talk on Scrum for a couple of new teams that will be starting up soon, followed by a quick overview of these new projects.   The output of this session coupled with what I learned at AYE and through the weekly coach round-table I attend with Michael Sahota, Gerry Kirk and Declan Whelan (special thanks to Michael Spayd for his recent ‘guest appearance’!) gave me some inspiration to write this.  I hope it is of value to you.

Client Success over Personal Gain:  The Coach isn’t the hero.  They are there to help the organization.  They need to understand the client and contribute to their success, without worry about accolades or personal gain.  This includes the coach fulfilling his duties to the best of his abilities instead of holding back to extend the gig.  I like to take the approach that my goal is to work myself out of a job as efficiently as possible because the organization needs to be self-sustaining to succeed.  Others will argue that “well, I need to make a living” but I knew the risks when I took this path.  If I’m any good I’ll find more work.

Guiding over Dictating: Resist the temptation for the ‘my way or the highway’ approach, especially in organizations that have a more controlling culture.   Organizations need to learn and they learn the same way a team learns, through experimentation.  A coach needs to help guide them to the answer because the people in the organization are best served to find these answers with the help of a coach.

Objectivity over Subjectivity:  The coach needs to remain agnostic in order to avoid making emotional decisions.  I do get frustrated when my observation is that the client isn’t listening but that just means I’m doing a poor job of communicating. Remain clearly focused and you will serve the client better.

Adaptation over Doing-What-Worked-Last-Time:  Ok, so this one is the same as ‘Responding to Change over Following the Plan” however I mean that organizations are unique.  What you were successful with at your last gig won’t necessarily translate into success at your current gig.   To me, this one is about understanding the organization’s culture so you can frame your approach.  Controlling cultures will require a different approach as opposed to collaborative cultures for example.

I firmly believe it’s the responsibility of any coach to make sure the Agile transition is about the client.  Deflect focus from being the expert and help the organization understand that Agile is a tool and it’s only as good as how it’s used by the people using it.

  • http://www.stevenlist.com/blog Doc

    Interesting to me that you present this from the perspective of a consultant-coach, but I think it applies equally well to internal coaches. Regardless, this is some good thought and well worth taking to heart. Thanks!

  • Jason

    Yes, I agree it applies to all coaches except if you’re internal you probably won’t want to work yourself out of a job!

  • Deborah Hartmann Preuss

    Internal coaches should plan for another career, for sure. After being an Agile coach for a time you should have killer experience and skills to apply to many other leadership roles. Well, if the organisation actually succeeded in adopting Agile Values. Else, you might want to look for work elsewhere, anyway.