Leveraging Coaches

Do Organizations Fully Leverage Agile Coaches?
Posted on Scrum Alliance dated 11-June-2014

You may be in a large organization that wants to start an Agile transformation across the entire organization. You are unsure on how to start and execute your plan for enterprise Agile adoption.

The solution is very simple: Hire an in-house Agile coach to do the magic. . . .

According to Gabrielle Benefield, who wrote on Yahoo’s Agile transformation:

Agile coaches can be very expensive, but we observed that you get what you pay for; as a result, our preference was to sacrifice quantity for quality, even if that means having fewer coaches overall. . . . Based on compelling data, one Agile coach saved the company around 1.5 million dollars per year.

While Agile coaches come on board with significant experience and a broad knowledge base, there are organizations out there that are bad at leveraging Agile coach capabilities. Based on my experience, here are few areas where in-house Agile coaches are grossly misused in various organizations:

  • The organization force-fits Agile coaches into a strict command-and-control hierarchy, just like every other employee in the organization.
  • The organization keeps the coaches’ hands tied and busy with too much process overhead.
  • The organization’s top management offers limited or no support to Agile coaches, with complete bureaucracy built in.
  • Senior management adopts a “My way or the highway” approach on everything related to Agile.
  • Someone with a non-Agile mind-set and behavior patterns drives Agile initiatives throughout the organization.
  • The organization dictates that coaches prepare detailed Agile process documents.
  • Senior leadership forces Agile coaches to align to non-Agile organization initiatives.
  • Top management does not keep full faith and trust in the capabilities of Agile coaches.
  • Senior leadership is not fully aware of the roles and responsibilities of Agile coaches.
  • The organization asks Agile coaches to generate complex metrics that confuse everybody in the organization.
  • The organization uses Agile coaches only to give various trainings to fulfill audit compliance needs.
  • The organization humiliates Agile coaches when they suggest improvements for the good of the team/organization.
  • Senior management tries to undo agility by forcing teams to adapt to a “Deliver at any cost” mind-set, rather than investing time in building good teams and promoting self-organization.
  • Middle and senior management are resistant to change, retaliating against coaches and creating polarization.
  • Agile coaches receive a mandate to own organizational impediments and resolve them.

An enterprise Agile transformation may be too difficult for many organizations. However, an Agile coach is someone who tries to steer a giant ship with a small paddle. It is important that organizations realize and understand that Agile coaches often wear various hats to help the organization to create sustainable agility, thus increasing the competitive business advantage.

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