What makes a good Agile Coach?

The right mindset, a bagful of practices with the skill to use them. More importantly, the wisdom to know when not to.

Limiting beliefs

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Certifications make a good Agile coach.

The agile space is flooded with certification providers because this belief is firmly held. Aspirants flock to the fly-by-the-night certification courses. Employers consider this an easy way to staff the often urgent agile coach positions.

Agile Coaching is about Agile

The second limiting belief is that agile coaching is about implementing agile — teaching it, coaching about it. This belief is an extension of the first one — certifications drive this thinking and push you deeper into the agile filter bubble. Agile coaching involves agile, but it is essentially about leading change. You are not just an advisor or strategist.

It is OK to not understand delivery or operations.

A lot of coaches, especially those in IT come from either development, testing or operations backgrounds. Many of them become scrum masters and advance to agile coaches. Their last dabble into actual delivery is from an era that no longer is relevant.

Enabling Beliefs

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Agile is about delivering value and reducing waste.

A significant transformation like agile will be a long-drawn multi-year journey in most organisations. Without a lean mindset and approach that maximises value and reduces waste, these multi-year efforts often cause more overhead and damage. They struggle to make a dent in the status quo.

Plans are useless, but planning is essential.

Many agile coaches often levitate between the two extremes. They either think of the world as a straightforward, linear system or assume it is very complex — the future is uncertain and totally unknowable. Well, the future is unknowable for sure. We never know if a comet could wipe off life on earth before next summer. No one can rule out that possibility, but we do plan our next summer vacation, don’t we?

Practice makes one perfect or rather practices.

All this talk about mindset and beliefs is useless if you do not possess a bagful of practices that you have used yourselves, seen others use, discussed with others or at least read about it. You need to build that magic bag wherein you can push your hand and pull out a practice for the context and problem you need to address.

The Wrap

Becoming a good agile coach is all about practice. It is about working with yourself to observe, discover and build the correct beliefs and your toolkit of practices that will serve you well and let go of the ones that won’t.

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