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6 Kinds Of Agile Coaches - Which Are You Hiring / Applying For?

UNFLATTERING WISDOM OF HIND SIGHT

As I look back at my many years as an Agile Coach – helping organizations introduce, optimize and scale Scrum, I am amazed and disappointed by the number of contradictory things I have been asked to do as an Agile Coach. And in all humility, I am also disappointed by the things I have done and the person I have been as an Agile Coach.

The term “Agile Coach” has become overloaded to mean many different things to different people. This overloading can create a lot of mismatched expectations and suffering for Hiring Managers, Agile Coaches and Agile Teams because each person may have a completely different interpretation of who an Agile Coach is, what they do and what one might expect from them.

With the unflattering clarity of hind-sight, I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts in the hope that they will alert me when I start going down a path I will regret in the future. And also to help hiring managers, Agile Coaches and teams get on the same page when it comes to expectations of an Agile Coach.

So here are the 6 kinds of Agile Coaches I have been asked to be. And sadly, there are times when I have allowed myself to play almost all of these roles …

#1-CTB AGILE COACH

The CTB Agile Coach is a Check-The-Box Agile Coach. The Hiring Manager couldn’t care less about what Agile is and is not. They just know that everybody seems to be “doing it” and they are tired of answering irritating questions from people (especially their powerful stakeholders – leaders, customers, prospects, investors…) about why they are not “doing Agile”. The Hiring Manager often thinks Agile is the fad and flavor of the month and will soon pass. So they decide to hire someone, anyone to play this role so they can put this conversation to bed and focus on doing “real work”.

#2-TPST AGILE COACH

The TPST Agile Coach is a Trophy, Parade & Sales Tool Agile Coach. The Hiring Manager wants to hire someone charismatic with lots of TLA’s and industry certifications who will shut up and sit in a trophy display case. At the appropriate moments, this Trophy coach is brought out of the trophy display and paraded to placate unhappy customers or to impress key prospects about how Agile the organization truly is.

#3-L AGILE COACH

The Legitimizer Agile Coach is someone who is brought out to endorse, legitimize, and “Agilize” whatever ridiculous, unethical, ineffective behavior powerful leaders are engaging in. The target audience is often an unhappy customer who is frustrated with the outcomes and needs to be confused and convinced into thinking that they are completely un-Agile and the root cause of all misery in the failing relationship. Often combined with the role of TPST Agile Coach.

#4-SE AGILE COACH

The Selective Enforcer Agile Coach is brought out by the Hiring Manager to bludgeon and confuse anyone who dares to challenge the Hiring Manager’s ideas about what Agility is, until they give up and align with the Hiring Manager.

#5-R AGILE COACH

The Ritualizer Agile Coach is used by the Hiring Manager to ensure that teams are blindly following the rituals of Agile like the “Daily Stand-Up” and “Demo”. The Hiring Manager does not care about the underlying principles, values or intended outcomes of Agile Frameworks, they just want to be able to show some evidence that teams are “doing Agile”. Often combined with CTB Agile Coach.

#6-HUGeB AGILE COACH

This is one of the rarest Agile Coaches – the Help Us Get Better Agile Coach hired by a rare  Unicorn Hiring Manager who sincerely wants application of Agile Values, Principles and practices to enable sustainable, measurable business agility.

This Agile Coach enables self-sustaining communities where self-organizing teams and servant leaders…

  1. Continuously gain a deeper understanding of Agile Frameworks, Values, Principles and Practices
  2. Continuously create a clear, shared understanding of what business value is in their context
  3. Continuously apply ‘1’ to implement experiments that reveal actionable insights to generate sustainable business value expressed through ‘2’

TWO INVITATIONS

So I would like to end with two invitations that might help us reduce needless suffering in the name of Agile Coaching

For Agile Coach Hiring Managers:

Can you be courageous, authentic, unambiguous and unapologetic and communicate exactly what kind of Agile Coach you are looking for?

For Agile Coaches:

Can you ask hiring managers and leaders which of these Agile Coaches they are looking for?

Keep calm and Scrum On!

PSF PSM PSPO SPS Contact
About Ravi Verma

Ravi Verma is a Public Speaker, Agile Coach, Professional Scrum Trainer, Evidence Based Management Consultant and Blogger with a passion for helping teams recapture the magic of making I.T.

6 Comment(s)
  1. chuck November 16, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Ravi,
    Good way to look at coaching. I’ve been 3/4/5 coach at times – didn’t last and I hated it.

    I don’t think a type 6 coach is that rare. I’ve been there many, many times because if I recognize a different coaching need, I try to avoid the client. In fact I’m working at 2 of those clients now.

    • Ravi Verma November 16, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks Chuck. I realize that #6 is not that rare and that many of us are blessed to be playing that role. I meant that in proportion to all the Agile Coach positions in the world, #6 was probably a small %-age.

  2. Nagesh Sharma December 20, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Great post Ravi,
    Very insightful and a must read for both hiring managers and Agile coaches.
    Isn’t this a journey which an agile coach experience in his lifetime.
    And It needs a deliberate practice and constantly reminding ourselves to be the #6 HUGEB AGILE COACH.

    • Ravi Verma December 21, 2016 at 4:48 pm

      Thanks Nagesh. I am hoping that this blogs gives us a shared vocabulary so we can self-select and gravitate towards the kinds of positions that are aligned with our core values and principles.

      Scrum On!
      Ravi.

  3. Dov TSAL February 25, 2017 at 10:50 pm

    Hi Ravi,

    I consider myself a #6 type coach (like everyone, I guess)

    However, I came to understand divisions like the one you make may be quite dangerous, and block change.

    I’d like to believe we are all hired by well-intentioned people (to a degree), with limited understanding of what agility is (and we ALL have limits to our understanding..)

    Our goal as Agile-coaches (or whatever you want to call it) is to help the organization that (for example) wants us to put the process in place, and do it while helping the organization to understand the values and principles.

    So you’re maybe hired to fill a checkbox, but once you are in, you help them grow.

    • Ravi Verma February 27, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Dov,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and share your thoughtful comments.

      I have found myself in more than 3 situations (trying to apply the scientific method and capture at least 3 readings) where the hiring manager(s) told me very clearly that they could not care less about Agile Principles & Values. They wanted to do the bare minimum to keep a powerful stakeholder satisfied – either an external customer or internal management like CXO. They wanted me to do the bare minimum so they could keep doing what they always did but still assure the stakeholders that the teams were agile.

      My goal is always to try my level best to help my clients get to the next stage of agile maturity no matter where they might be currently. However, the school of hard knocks has taught me that there are many people in our industry who have no desire to be helped along the path of Agile Maturity. No one can help someone who does not want to be helped in this area.

      My goal with this post was to created more informed members of our community so they can poke around to find out what kind of a situation they are getting into and make an informed decision that minimizes the risk of needless suffering in the name of Agile.

      Regards,
      Ravi.

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