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Do we still need the Agile coach?

“To learn how to be responsive; what does that mean? The ability to both tell people the answers to questions about agile AND the ability to ask a question that prompts introspection with the person you’re talking to.”

– Niall McShane (Author)

Are agile coaches still relevant? I see less and less of these roles being advertised.

In times of recession (now) the focus seems to turn to value, getting things to done and delivering on what you promise. There’s a natural tension between getting things done and how we get things done. Agile coaches should support outcomes but not at the expense of the those that do the work. Right now I’m seeing little focus on how work is done and even less focus on the role of the agile coach.

We’ll always have the role of agile coach in the job market but a lot of what agile coaches do is now expected to be done within many other roles. Delivery leads, scrum masters, process improvement experts and even management consultants are all expected to in some way provide agile coaching services as part of their work. Agile coaching as a service could be considered everyone’s job; especially at the moment with the world transitioning to a new way of working.

I’m keen to see agile coaching as a capability become as important as the role of agile coach. For too long the role has been owned by the agile “elite” who look down on other agile practitioners and see the role as being reserved for the select few who have earned their stripes. I think this is silly. During a time when our entire global workforce is experimenting with new ways of working; agile coaching should be a capability not an exclusive role. Here’s my advice is you want to consider a career in agile coaching

“start agile coaching with whatever you know and/or have done”

In other words just learn how to coach and encorproate it into your existing skill set and certainly don’t wait for anyone to give you permission to start helping people change their behaviour.

If you know scrum then start coaching with that. If you have been in a devops team then start coaching others on devops. If you’ve been a change manager then help people understand the impacts of moving to agile and support them.

That’s great Niall but “How do I coach?” I hear you ask. Simple; agile coaching has two parts:

  1. asking questions (to understand your client’s mindset and needs)

  2. giving advice or assist (help your client do & learn new ways to work)

“The secret to learning to deliver agile coaching is getting the balance right between these two elements. I’ll be writing more on these two elements in a series of articles that relate to my new book on this topic.”

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