I wrote a coaching article a while ago that illustrated an agile coaching anti-pattern. It was quite well-read and I received quite a bit of feedback on it.
One of the folks who responded was Mick Maguire.
A great article by Bob Galen, he shines a light on an all too common pattern, especially among the late adopter market that we are in these days... My advice... If you are about to engage agile coaching, and you don't want to waste (a very big pile of) your money, make sure the first conversations are "what does success look like?" and "How will we know if we are getting there?...”
I’m not focusing on the coaching part of his reply, but more so reacting to this entry level statement:
“Especially among the late adopter market that we are in these days…”
Mick’s comment has stuck with me since I read his reply. Making me think about Geoffrey Moore’s, Crossing the Chasm and where the agile (movement, methods, frameworks, etc.) might be on that scale.
As the instructor walked us through the exercise, he made it clear that “it depends” was not an acceptable answer. I asked if we could say “I don’t know”. And that was unacceptable as well.
It seemed that his only view of a viable answer to leadership was to provide a historical, trended data forecast. To give them as specific a timeframe as possible and lightly couch the risks associated with the estimate.
His primary driver for this position seemed to be that:
If we didn’t give them a specific forecast, they would go to someone (another team, another organization, offshore firm, nearshore firm, outsourced, etc.) that would make a more specific commitment.
I.e., that because we’re afraid of losing the “bid”, we have to provide something to win their confidence and win the work. No matter the level of confidence or runway we have in our historical “velocity-based” data.
I was once working with a peer agile coach and we were discussing the role of the coach within agile teams. His view was that it was as a “soft, encouraging, influencing” role. That at its core agility is about the team. And the team in this sense is…self-directed.
He also emphasized that taking a more direct or prescriptive approach in our coaching would be anathema to good agile practices. That it was draconian and dogmatic.
He was actually a leader of this firms coaching team, so he had tremendous influence over a team of ten or so agile coaches. I was one of them and I sometimes struggled with his view and approach.