Agile Coaching in British Telecom

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program of workshops focused on key issues the team would have to address such as the role of coaches, celebrating successes already achieved, and focusing on the understanding of the underlying values and principles of Agile delivery and how these might be applied in different situations.

Apprentice Coaching
Previously pair coaching had involved people with equal, but different, experience working together. To help develop new coaches, experienced coaches would now be paired with apprentice coaches. This approach allowed BT's new coaches to get involved immediately, taking on a greater level of responsibility over time as their experience grew. A number of other practices were used to support the now growing group. These included daily stand-ups, regular release planning, knowledge share events and facilitation skills courses.

Overall, apprentice coaching has proved very successful in creating new coaches and delivering new value to coaching engagements. At an individual level the feedback on the experience from the apprentice coaches has been very positive. Some common feedback points included:

"Coming from a 'non-coaching' background, I took a great deal of learning from pairing with a hugely experienced coach by not only confirming some of the practices I had been using previously and polishing some of the theory, but also some new techniques and skills which I hadn't even thought of before. I was basically a sponge for six weeks which is exactly what I needed."
- Apprentice Coach, British Telecom

"Even as an experienced coach I found that working with new coaches offered a fresh perspective that was invaluable... it especially helped me avoid becoming "pickled' by the environment to the extent I sometimes no longer questioned assumptions."
-Senior Coach, Exoftware

Manufacturing Lumpy Jam
Each step of the journey has been matched by success and subsequently increased demand for our services. Even with 12 coaches, demand still far outstrips supply. An quot;Agile Boot Campquot; has therefore been set up to create the quantities of coaches we need to meet BT' needs. People nominated to be coaches by BT's development programs attend an intense four-day experiential training session focused on two key objectives:

  • Developing a deep understanding of Agile delivery, from values and principles all the way through to practices.
  • Develop the attendees coaching skills so that we were able to effectively apply there new Agile delivery skills into their own programs.

Although still in its early stages, initial feedback on the quot;boot campquot; initiative has been very encouraging.

Summary and Conclusions
The first line of the "Agile Manifestoquot; states that from an Agile perspective quot;people and interactions are valued over processes and tools."; This is a core value statement that is reflected throughout the practice of Agile. The same statement holds true when applied to quot;Agile Coachingquot;. Ultimately, the most effective means of helping enable an organization, project, or person to be more agile is to directly interact with the people involved. However, when engaging with an organization the size of BT Exact with a limited coaching capability, the challenge is how to be successful without spreading the effort so thin that is no longer effective.

BT drew inspiration from the quot;Law of Strawberry Jamquot; and intentionally set out to build internal Agile coaching capability with its Agile coaching partner, Exoftware. Based on previous positive experience with "Pair Coaching,quot; an quot;Apprentice Coaching" model was chosen as an effective approach for building this internal coaching capability. This provided a rich and experience-based learning environment while also allowing the group to be effective as it engaged with the BT Exact organization. This initiative proved successful. The significant aspect of this success was how quickly the Apprentice coaches

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