Tag Archives: agile coaching

There’s More Than Meets the Eye to Agile Coaching

This year at AYE Jerry Weinberg hosted a session titled “Coaching the Coaches“.   Jerry split the group up into people who self-identified as Coaches (coaches or managers who do coaching stuff), people who have been coached and people who didn’t feel they fit into either category.

Jerry asked the coaches how they received the title ‘Coach‘ and when it came to my turn I said it’s for marketing.  All the cool kids are doing it, that’s what the industry is asking for and it sounds a whole helluva lot cooler than ‘Business Process Consultant‘.

About a year ago while talking to a couple senior people at the organization I was working with, I realized there was a whole lot more to ‘Coaching‘ than I thought.  I was getting pressure to commit to having a project done with fixed scope for a fixed date and instead of trying understanding their perspective, I immediately went into ‘Agile Coach‘ mode and tried to explain to them why they were wrong.  Needless to say it failed miserably.   Over the last year I’ve had several epiphany’s about what a coach is and it all became crystal clear during a recent coaching session hosted by Michael Spayd. Continue reading

Position Paper for Agile Coach Camp 2010

Agile Coach Camp 2010 is coming the weekend of March 19, 2010 in North Carolina.    I’ve heard great things about Coach Camp and this is my first opportunity to attend.  You can check out their site here and for those who aren’t familiar with Coach Camp, it’s an Open Space conference focused on peer-to-peer learning and exploration as opposed to the traditional speaker/audience conferences I’m not a huge fan of.

Anywho, onto the position paper:  You’ll notice these are high-level points, that’s the point of Coach Camp.  The goal is to share experience and gain feedback from the Agile community.

Title: A Recipe for Enterprise Agile Transformation

Background and Challenges:

  • large department within large organization
  • tall hierarchy, great deal of office politics
  • heavily silo’d organization
  • complex product portfolio
  • mix of full time, contractors, outsourced developers and teams
  • limited people with Agile experience in the organization
  • no recognized Agile champion

Speaking and Presentation topics I plan to share:

  • transitioning focus of functional managers and other roles
    • there is much confusion about ‘where does my role fit’?
  • breaking down silos between multiple groups
    • having to prove you are worthy of being trusted
    • demonstrating and sharing success and failures
  • portfolio and team organization
    • how to structure your teams with the right skills for the project
  • techniques for handling ‘specialist’ groups
    • how these groups interface with teams
    • how these groups share information gained from working with multiple teams
  • cross-project knowledge sharing (technical or process related)
    • getting people together to talk about experiences.
  • How PMO and process teams evolve
    • more teaching and coach, less command and control
  • spreading Agile culture
    • making it about the organization, not the coaches
    • teaching the organization to think for themselves

The above topics will be accompanied by some fancy diagrams I’m working on for an experience paper and due to the format of Coach Camp, if my paper is accepted and put into the plan, the topics discussed with likely be determined by what my peers want to hear about.

I am still planning on writing and experience paper I had hoped to have finished by now where I can share more details.  Interested in your thoughts and experiences!

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.