Coaches are a relatively new addition to the Agile workplace but they are hugely valuable in the right settings. An Agile coach is normally someone who has started out as a Scrum Master and has a lot of experience in a variety of different organizations. They are almost evangelical about the benefits and processes of Agile, but not in a way that prevents them from being pragmatic about what solutions actually work in real life.
A good Agile coach can work with your company to boost the morale of the team, help improve your throughput and increase your process maturity levels. This happens because they look at what’s currently happening in your business and help your team develop solutions to improve, as well as bringing best practice from elsewhere and tailoring it to fit your team.
Yes – tailoring! Generally tailoring Agile methods isn’t recommended but when you have someone with that much experience you can trust them to analyze the situation and apply it in ways that stay true to Agile mindset and methods but are still practical for your organization.
So how do you know if the time is right to bring in an Agile coach? Here are 3 scenarios to look out for.
Scenario 1: You Want to Know What’s Really Going On
An Agile coach has no axe to grind. They have no history with the organization and no particular take on what’s happening with the team.
When you need someone to tell you the truth about how your team is performing and what could be improved, an external, impartial pair of eyes is exactly what you need.
Part of the role of the coach is to uncover where the issues are. Matthew Heusser, writing on CIO.com, tells the story of an Agile coach brought in to upskill the team in one area who realized that they actually desperately needed help on something else.
An Agile coach should be someone you rely on to support your team to improve, whatever it takes.
Pro Tip: As the hiring organization that means you have to be open to the fact that your new coach may not do exactly what you’ve asked of them. If they uncover an area where the team needs support, empower them to get on with it – you’ll thank them later!
Scenario 2: Your Team Just Doesn’t Seem Productive
Are you hearing stories about how your competitors can complete a sprint in a week and yet it’s taking your team three? Does it just feel like you are going to slowly? A coach can work alongside your team to look at areas where they could improve.
This could be technical, process-related or to do with business change. Often coaches will specialize in one of those areas so if you already have a feeling that your Agile processes aren’t working as smoothly as perhaps they once were, then choose a coach with a special interest in that area.
As the coach works with the team, they’ll find areas together where small tweaks, or big improvements, will have a positive impact on productivity.
Scenario 3: You Want to Jump Ahead in Maturity
Agile methods can take a while to adopt, and even experienced Scrum Masters only bring with them the knowledge from their own careers. A coach gives you a different set of experiences to draw from, often one that has seen multiple companies and Agile work environments. Coaches tend not to stay at a company for a long time, which is why you’ll often find them in contract positions. That gives them the opportunity to work with lots of different businesses and they know what works.
When you want your company to leap ahead you have two choices: Learn over time (which is hardly leaping ahead) or take the shortcut by employing someone who can bring a mature Agile mindset to your business and help inspire others to adopt new ways of working.
This second option is where a coach brings so much value. Having someone on your side who has been there and done that (and tried all the things that don’t work so they can recommend what to avoid) is a shortcut to increasing the skills of your team.
That goes for all levels in the team: Ideally an Agile coach will be able to work with everyone from senior leaders who might need support setting a strategic vision to coders working on the first iteration of the product to ship. A coach will typically be able to turn his or her hand to the job that needs doing, whatever it is. If the team needs help testing, they’ll test. If the team needs help grooming the backlog, they can support that process too.
If that makes an Agile coach sound like a flexible all-rounder it’s because the best ones are! They’ll flex their involvement to the needs of the team.
That makes it a very sought-after role which can add huge value in the right situation with a team that is open-minded to change.
We can work with you to find the perfect Agile coach to support your teams. Or perhaps you’re an experienced coach looking for the next company you can help. Contact Triumph Strategic Consulting today and let us source your next move.
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