What is an Agile Coach?

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Summary:
As a go-giver the agile coach focuses on putting others’ interests first and continually adding value by serving an individual’s, teams’ and organization’s needs and helping them effectively and pragmatically deal with both their day-to-day and long-term challenges.

“An agile coach is three parts go-giver and one part go-getter”.

As a go-giver the agile coach focuses on putting others’ interests first and continually adding value by serving an individual’s, teams’ and organization’s needs and helping them effectively and pragmatically deal with both their day-to-day and long-term challenges.

An agile coach helps the individual, team and organization envision where they are going and the best way to get there; like depicted in Figure 1.

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An agile coach is guided by an internal gyroscope that is set to SMART.

  • Servant-Leader and System Thinker
  • Modest and Motivated
  • Attentive and Attuned
  • Respectful and Resilient
  • Trustworthy

Servant Leader and System Thinker

“As you evolve, adapt, and scale being agile and lean, go rung by rung, one step at a time. Don’t look to far up, set your goals high but take one step at a time. The key is to make a distinction between where you are going and how you are going to get there.”

First and foremost an agile coach must be a “servant leader”. Robert Greenleaf, who after a career working with many talented leaders at ATamp;T from the mid-1920s to the mid-1960s, identified the desire to serve as the core motivation for great leaders, and the growth of people as the chief indicator of such leaders, whom he called “servant leaders”. “The best test (of the servant leader) is do those served grow as persons? Do they become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous (self-directed and self-organizing), more likely themselves to become servant leaders.”

“Think big, act small, fail fast; learn rapidly.”

An agile coach must be both a system-thinker [see the big picture] and a tactical-thinker. System thinking is the process of predicting, on the basis of anything at all, how something influences another thing. It has been defined as an approach to problem solving, by viewing "problems" as parts of an overall system, rather than reacting to present outcomes or events and potentially contributing to further development of the undesired issue or problem.

System thinking, planning, and actions reflect one’s ability to take into account the big picture, to recognize patterns and trends, mental models, foresee issues, predict outcomes, and have smart "Plan B's" to fall back on. System thinking deals with mission and purpose - why your business exists, how it makes a difference, and where it will be in the future.

Tactical thinking refers to the hands-on part of getting the job done; making sure the system-thinking vision is met. Getting the job done, with respect to “being” agile, consists of iterative and incremental product development and delivery, with progress measured by the commercial or operational value added incrementally.

Modest and Motivated
The Greek word for modest translates to mean "of good behavior”.  The Merriam-Webster definition is:

a: placing a moderate estimate on one's abilities or worth
b: neither bold nor self-assertive : tending toward diffidence

An agile coach knows their strengths and worth, but chooses to downplay this and is humble.  An agile coach is self-motivated. They continuously pursue personal and professional improvement seeking out new ways of doing things and to gain new knowledge and skills.

In order to make change a reality one also needs to understand people are motivated from within. This having been said leaders can set up an environment in which people are able to motivate themselves. To set up an environment that enables employees to be motivated, leaders need to understand what the motivational needs of individuals and groups are. Determining the “what's in it for me” for individual employees and workgroups that

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