I’ve written several times on the subject of how coaches and trainers in the Scrum and Agile communities often use “management” as a term implying dysfunction and marginalization. Not always as clearly as that might sound, because they’re often paying the bills, but behind closed doors they’re often complaining about them.
If an agile adoption goes awry, we often blame it on the leadership team –
Clearly our training and coaching of the agile teams was complete. The fact that the adoption is failing or dysfunctional isn’t my problem. It’s those pesky leaders. I tried to invite them to the CSM class…and they didn’t have the time. They only had time for a 1-hour leadership overview and half of them were on their cell phones the entire time.
They keep asking me to do more team training, and I’m doing that. But they really need to get their act together for this agile transformation to work. Sadly, I’m at a loss as to what I can do…
I think one of the problems here is that the coaches and trainers in these situations don’t have the skills, experience, and courage to truly connect with their client leadership teams. My emphasis here is the experience.
Walking in their shoes
My personal take is that the BEST Agile & Scrum coaches and trainers have walked in multiple paths. They have:
- Been a software developer in several companies - preferably in a staid Enterprise-level company and an Entrepreneurial start-up company;
- They’ve held a technical leadership role; perhaps serving as a team lead or architect of some sort;
- They’ve held project-level responsibilities in several companies and diverse business domains, having the experience of successfully delivering projects in Waterfall and Agile;
- They’ve worked in other technical domains, for example Business Analysis and Software Testing. The point is, they have direct experiential breadth;
- Importantly, they’ve held senior leadership roles within their experience. I’m not talking about a Software Management role for a year or two. I’m speaking about 5-8 years of line management at a Sr. Manager, Director, or VP levels.
This is the sort of practical background that I’m looking for in a “seasoned” coach. It implies that they’ve not only operated within teams, but at a senior leadership level as well. They can talk the talk of the C-level and their experience can make a difference in those communications. In a perfect world, they’ve actually led an agile organizational transformation and they understand the challenges, balance, and commitment required to get through it.
But beyond the experience, they’ll have a hard-earned respect and empathy for technical leadership in today’s organizations. But in addition, experienced coaches will provide a healthy honesty and push to their leadership clients to ensure they get the results their organizations need from their agile adoption efforts.
About a year or more ago, I wrote an article about criteria for selecting an agile coach. It was very well received and I know it helped more than a few companies in their selection processes. I’ve also more recently, talked about the areas of focus for agile coaches.
I want this shorter article to compliment both of those. Here are links back to those topics:
- Actively Coaching Organizational Leadership
- Agile Coaches – We’re Coaching the Wrong People!?!?
- Selecting and Agile Coach – Critical Considerations: Part 1, Part 2
But the real point is when you’re looking for a solid agile coach, look into their backgrounds. LinkedIn is a wonderful tool for this. Not only look at their coaching chops, but also look at the other roles they’ve held and for how long. Specifically look for significant technical leadership experience in your agile coaches and trainers.
I think you’ll find that breadth of experience matters in your coaches. That when they have broad experience walking in the shoes of those they are coaching, they are more balanced and effective.
Stay agile my friends,