Agile Thinking

When Does Coaching End and Doing Start?

In essence, the job of the agile coach is to make him or herself obsolete. The coach conveys to a team all the information about a successful agile implementation, such that the coach is no longer needed. It is a fine line to walk though. As agile coach John Yorke explains at his blog, a coach’s goal is not to solve a team’s problems for them. Does that make it okay for a coach to watch a team fail for the sake of learning?

Call an Audible?

The roundabout answer to the above question is that a coach should create situations where the team is not inclined to fail. In other words, the coach should guide a team through learning opportunities that, at the end, make a team realize that continuing in a given direction will result in failure or disruptions. That is where the whole “coaching” thing comes into play.

Yorke concedes that sometimes coaches can be too cryptic about their methods though. If it looks like they are doing nothing to help a problematic situation, even if they truly are helping in subtle ways, it still sends a negative message to the team. That message is that the coach is a dingus. Coaches need to make it more apparent that they are coaching teams to learn the “whys” so that the “whats” become inherently more intuitive.

Yorke identifies what he views as a spectrum of six different levels of coaching. On one end is direct teaching, perhaps classroom-style, and on the other hand is just taking a team’s work and doing it oneself without actually teaching anything at all. Agile coaches tend to operate within the second and third levels according to Yorke, which he describes in this way:

  1. Or it might be useful for the person being coached to work through a generic example with the aid of a coach (Training). Workshops or interactive activities such as games.
  2. Or it might be useful for the person being coached to work through a real example with the coach available to ask questions or the coach asking questions and offering encouraging ideas (Coaching/Consulting/Advice)

These methods allow for the most natural teaching process, and they create situations where the coach is never taking over and doing work him or herself. For numerous reasons, this is for the best. You can view the original post here:

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