Beginnings of an Agile Coaching Team

Photo by Tom Woodward

Photo by Tom Woodward

There’s been enough success with agile to justify forming a coaching team—congrats! Now what?

A few big questions come up:

  • How will we know if agile coaching is successful or not?

  • How will coaching be structured in the organization?

  • Which teams or groups will agile coaches work with?

That first question is a doozy! Agile coaches can be squeamish about metrics to evaluate how effective their efforts are because ultimately results are outside of their control. Yet we all like to know that our work adds value and makes a difference; when we feel we are not seeing positive results despite our best efforts, we will look to make a change in that coaching relationship. Metrics could support conversations with the people we coach about how things are going and if coaching should continue with them or not.

Coaching could be structured around working with groups for a particular timeframe or until a team reaches a particular set of capabilities. There’s often an underlying assumption that every team will need agile coaching, and that leads to agile coaches having more teams to coach than they can handle at once. Organizations typically need a diverse coaching group that includes technical skills, product/business skills, and organizational change/team dynamics skills—this is important in enabling longer-term benefits of agile. Hopefully these coaches are working together (rather than in silos by specialty or disparate areas of the organization) and are aligned with a shared goal.

Which brings us to the final big question from above. There are many options to consider in determine which groups or teams to start coaching:

  • Management/leadership so they “go first”

  • Teams that ask for coaching because they are open and motivated

  • Teams whose managers request coaching for them because they must be important and have management backing

  • Teams working on the highest priority products/work for the organization so that they are more likely to be successful and create visible wins

  • Teams who will be working on new products so they get started on a good path and we can make use of the fresh start from a timing perspective

  • Teams that are bottlenecks for programs/other teams because these will have a multiplier effect for the organization

Other options probably exist, and there’s no clear “use this approach in all cases” answer. In fact, some agile coaching teams offer different products or services based on those “customer” personas or needs.

Newly formed agile coaching teams need to take some time to think through these questions and create their own charter. It would be easy to just start coaching and become so busy that we forget to reflect on our efforts. Let’s get clarity about our plan to help the organization because doing so will enable us to replan later as needed. An agile coaching team that can pivot based on organizational needs is quite amazing.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.

Agile and Metrics – Measurables or Miserables?

Photo by alev adil

Photo by alev adil

Years ago, I talked to a COO about helping his organization adopt agile, and he asked about metrics. How would he know how teams and products are performing? Part of the desire for agile was to address their current lack of visibility into the teams’ work and to establish KPIs across IT in particular.

What metrics could the COO expect to see? Great question. Agilists often talk about using empirical process control—namely transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Yet we’ve seen issues arise when metrics that are useful at a team level are exposed to managers and stakeholders outside the team. Unfair comparisons of teams and assumptions about how to intervene can pop up. Education about the metrics and how to use them can help. Recognizing what kinds of decisions and support may be needed from those outside the team may encourage tracking and discussing additional metrics.

Ken Howard and I created a presentation about metrics a team might find useful and metrics executives might be interested in; it’s called Agile by the Numbers: How to Develop Useful KPIs and was a popular session at AgileShift in Houston. Slides are available online here. If you’re interested in us presenting for your group, please contact me.

Allison Pollard

I help people discover their agile instincts and develop their coaching abilities. As an agile coach with Improving in Dallas, I enjoy mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. In my experience, applying agile methods improves delivery, strengthens relationships, and builds trust between business and IT. A big believer in the power of community-based learning, I grew the DFW Scrum user group significantly over the five years I served as an organizer. I am also a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach, a foodie, and proud glasses wearer.