Agile Coaching for Your Agile Company

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Summary:

Coaching and training are indispensable to Agile transformations. This can be difficult for some organizations to accept.Agile frameworks are simple to understand, but there are many nuances to handling the complexities involved in an Agile transformation.While it is often helpful to tap into outside resources (books, websites, courses or consultants), the organization will need someone who understands the subtleties of Agile transformations and the context of the organization to make the transition as successful as possible.We refer to this role as the “internal Agile coach” and we often encourage clients to identify one or more such individuals as the organization's need for Agile knowledge and understanding grows. Being an Agile coach requires a wide range of human qualities, skills and experience, and selecting one for the company should be done carefully.In this article, we discuss when you need an Agile coach, what an Agile coach does, and a few tips on how you might create your own internal Agile coach.

Part I - When do you need an internal coach?

1. Symptoms of the Need for Coaching

Many companies embark on their Agile journey alone. Some will persist in the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) method and others will determine that they need help in the form of expert training and coaching provided by a professional Agile consultant from outside the company. As Agile spreads within the enterprise it will either become apparent or the Agile consultant will suggest that the company create an internal coaching position to better serve the needs of the evolving organization.

Sometimes the need is not so obvious. DIY companies in particular can take a long time to realize that Agile expertise exists and that not enough of it is available within the company.

Deciding to create internal Agile expertise can be guesswork or deliberate. Some symptoms of an organization ready for a funded, centralized, dependable, persistent corporate Agile presence are:

  • There is no way to judge the success of the existing Agile teams
  • Teams show a wide variance in their success
  • Teams show largely unsatisfactory Agile implementations, a lack of success, or a lack of benefits compared to what went before
  • Your outside consultant(s) becomes a bottleneck to your rollout
    • For financial reasons – they just cost too much
    • Because they cannot meet your demand
    • Because they are not experienced enough to meet all of your needs
  • Your Agile implementation is moving from individual teams to programs
  • Other organizations within the company notice that they are not aligned with the Agile organizations

The first three are about how well your Agile teams are doing. If you are well into the adoption of Agile methods and you can’t tell how well your teams are doing, or if your teams are doing poorly, you will want to take action. In a PMO-driven world, you would put in numerous rules and oversight to address these issues. In an Agile world, you want to provide support, training, and education in order to make teams more successful in discovering the best implementations and benefits from Agile methods. You will also want to distil and synthesize from your successes a localized formula for adopting Agile, so that training and coaching can be as effective as possible within your organization.

One good way to do this is to provide someone who is well versed in Agile and who can both assess Agile maturity and provide coaching services (see below) to your teams.

The next symptom refers to what happens when you outgrow your external source of Agile expertise. Eventually, you will want to become self-sustaining and you will need to shift Agile expertise in-house. The items listed here are the symptoms you will begin to feel as you go beyond the need for Agile introductory training.

The last two symptoms are natural outgrowths of a successful Agile adoption. You will eventually want to apply Agile principles to large-scale projects, and will also notice as Agile takes hold that some of the organizations outside of the development teams are asking for training to align themselves better with the new rhythm and style of the Agile teams.

The thoughtful reader will notice that we have just argued that there is a need for internal coaching if your Agile tranformation is going poorly, or if it is going well. In other words, there is an eventual need for Agile coaching in nearly all companies that choose to adopt Agile methods.

Part II - What does an internal coach do?

2. Training (those new to Agile)

Training is one of the primary functions of an Agile coach. New

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