The Life of an Agile Coach

[article]
Summary:

For a long time, my colleagues were asking if I could articulate my days when I was engaged in coaching for agile transformation and how other coaches could prepare. Here are my thoughts.

 

For a long time, my colleagues were asking if I could articulate my days when I was engaged in coaching for agile transformation and how other coaches could prepare.

My primary tasks entailed implementing agile processes, principles, and practices across all levels and departments in an organization. As an Agile Coach, I must apply techniques that enhance collaboration, predictability, and transparency and promote a culture of experimentation and innovation. In order to accomplish this, the Agile Coach must also incorporate the agile principles and lead by example.

I have been an Agile Coach of some sort for the last seven years, and there were numerous developments in my daily activities during agile coaching and a variety of engagements. The tasks are distributed and deliberately planned to accomplish the overall objective. There is always a time crunch!

As a Team Level Agile Coach

When I was a Team Level Agile Coach, I had 4–5 teams to coach for agile transformation. My day included numerous activities, like those mentioned below. I ensured that an agile mindset and agile ways were being embraced by the agile team members. The typical engagement cycle included 7–9 member scrum teams for a 6–9 months engagement.

Daily activities included:

  • starting each morning with a conversation with all of the feature teams

  • prepared a plan on which team to engage, on which day in a week, and how long (1–2 hrs max).

  • coaching all aspects of Scrum, Lean, Kanban, Flow practices

  • engaging in all of their events (in rotation to accord with all the team members)

  • engaging based on the need for training for the team

  • speaking one-on-one with scrum master, product owner, or leaders

  • working with scrum masters on tools they were using to mentor them on tool usage and how to decipher the data for continuous improvement

  • initially facilitating many scrum events and ensuring everything was running smoothly and that team members were learning from me; then letting them drive those after some time, usually after a month

  • connecting team members among these 4–5 teams where I was engaged in order to share lessons learned

  • spending time to learn about the feature teams (coaching journal preparation for reflection), each individual, their behavior exchange, etc.

  • presenting team progress in numerous executive meetings and commenting on the hurdles and requests for aid

  • associating with the business for the business team members coaching, especially product owners and their business side co-workers

  • assessing the scrum team and organization’s maturity with the goal of coaching the teams to higher levels of maturity


More or less every day, this is the routine of a Team Level Agile Coach—for several months. 

The challenges I experienced included:

  • devoting time to all of the teams

  • handling numerous types of individuals and various levels of maturity at the same time

  • leaders expecting a miracle to appear immediately

  • leaders pushing their teams until the expectation is met


As an Enterprise Agile Coach

When I was an enterprise coach, my days looked a bit different, and I managed to have only 1–2 teams to coach.

Daily activities included:

  • Team coaching often followed my description above, around 20–30 percent of the time in a day based on the other organizational agile transformation activities

  • The nature of the teams was unique. We used to pick up most of the teams where teams are dealing with high ambiguity and complication.

  • 40–60 percent of the time, I used to look beyond team coaching for diverse organizational agile transformation activities.


Organizational agile transformation activities:

  • Since I was accountable for agile transformation reporting, I spent time creating reports for agile transformation for the business line/department. We used to prepare and present the agile transformation progress report to senior executives. Define, publish, and educate the organization on key metrics that show the progress of the transformation effort.

  • I attended weekly standups with business leaders for the business line where I was answerable for the business line agile transformation and communication to the other team level coaches about the development and challenges.

  • I worked for Scaling agile if there were any needs. This called for an abundance of time for conversation and collaboration for multiple teams. If such an obligation appeared, most of my time was gone!

  • I participated in several training curriculum preparations. We prepared the game for the workshop. We strengthened the training agenda for one day or two days duration. With other coaches, we used to dry run the curriculum and execute the training.

  • I engaged for community contribution, such as the scrum master community and product owner community. We examined the community members and designed what the theme and conversation topics should be.

  • I arranged for a coaching clinic and dojo for mid-managers. We reviewed and drafted a plan for how the drive will be and what will be the outcome.

  • I was a coaching community member, debating about the organizational impediments and what could be worked out to eliminate those. Business line coaches served each other by contributing to each other’s area.

  • If there was a foreign visit, we prepared the agenda, presented the topics, and learned from each other. Every quarter there was a coach exchange from each alternative location to understand cultural exchange and learning.

  • We spent some time for ourselves as a coach in the book club, coaching kata session.

  • I created organizational assets, such as checklists, templates, models, etc.

  • We prepared for Agile Day in the organization, which took several months of preparation.


We were invariably busy all of the time! More or less every day, these are the routine tasks for an Enterprise Agile Coach. 

The challenges I experienced included:

  • making time for all these organization initiatives

  • managing ad-hoc requests for help from strangers

  • removing department-level hurdles, such as appeals for structural modifications, silos ways of functioning, and organizational resistance

  • collaborating with numerous stakeholders and escalations

  • our own motivation!


Most of the activities of an Agile Coach are emergent, and many parts are experimental in nature. It was a huge learning opportunity for all of us. Five years have passed, and the journey is ongoing with new discoveries.

User Comments

2 comments
Rich Stewart's picture

Nice article, Chandan. It's interesting that what is often an umbrella term of "Coach" is actually much more. In this role we usually do a combination of training, coaching, facilitating, mentoring, and consulting. Here is a good article on the distinction between coaching and consulting.

https://nu-yar.com/hiring-a-coach-vs-a-consultant/

February 23, 2021 - 3:51pm

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