Why They Need Agile Coaches

Over the past several weeks I have encountered multiple people from completely different companies that are implementing scrum.  Some have been trying this for a few weeks.  Some have been doing it for a couple of years.  Others are somewhere in between.  Some received formal training.  Some read books.  Others supplemented with You Tube videos.

Everyone I spoke to had a different reason for meeting with me, an agile coach.  Some were people I was interviewing for clients to hire onto their full time staff.  Some were clients and potential clients.  Others were people in the agile community that asked for mentoring.

They all had something in common – doing it alone.  In each case, they got information about scrum and tried to implement change.  In each case they are struggling.  Half of the struggles they are facing are around simply understanding how to implement the scrum framework properly.  This stems from brain overload and trying to cram too much understanding into their minds from a two day class or a book and attempting to remember it with no context to their real world.  Then, trying to implement the things they learned in their own environment while not forgetting anything.  Yeah, right.

The other half of the struggle they are facing is a much larger issue.  This issue can’t be solved as easily in books, videos, and a two-day class.  This is an issue of a shift in mindset.  In each case, these people were trying to change a set of behaviors but they didn’t really grasp the mindset change that needed to happen in order for the behaviors to make sense.  The behaviors alone won’t bring agility to an organization, or to a team, or to an individual.  Agility is a way of thinking, a way of believing, a way of life.

IMG_2407This is why we say that learning scrum is easy but implementing it is so hard.  I can teach you the basic scrum framework in a couple of hours.  I extend it to a two-day course so I can teach you about the agile values and principles and try to let you experience how to practice the scrum framework.  But, organizations that want to be really successful invest in more than just a two-day training class.  The two-day training class just sets the groundwork. Organizations that want to be successful invest in coaching.

Having a coach on site to work with teams and with managers to help them on a day-to-day basis while they get started is an investment that far outweighs the price tag.  A coach helps teams to understand how to implement concepts the two-day class and books only talk about theoretically.  The coach helps the team sort through misunderstandings and watches for bad decisions that will lead them to bad behaviors.

A coach teaches teams how to think in new ways, challenges them to make decisions they would have never made before, to do things differently, to self organize, to build high performing teams, to live the scrum values, to properly live the agile values and principles, to identify when they or others are acting in anti-patterns and how to respond to break those anti-patterns.

A coach works with management and human resources to change the culture of the organization so that job descriptions reflect the new culture, the correct employees get hired, and the proper decisions are being made that lead the entire company towards and not further from agility.

A coach helps the company see where to spend less money in the right places and make the right investments that will save them money in the long run by creating a better return on investment and reducing technical debt. When something comes easy to you it is sometimes hard to understand when others struggle.

I’ve been coaching for about five years now and I love when people start getting this stuff.  But, I’m having a pretty rough week.  I realize now more than ever how hard this is.  It makes me so sad to see people struggling when they don’t have a way to get help.  I’m just one person.  Even if I could do this for free there’s not enough of me to go around.

Well, I can’t change the world – that I know.  But this week it all came to a head for me and I developed a personal mission statement to keep me focused because even though I can’t change the world I can change the people in the world.  I can do my part. This is what it’s all about for me – My Mission:  To leave you better than I found you with each encounter.