I've heard several questions and problems around what agile coaches should and should not do. Should agile coaches focus on:
- How well the teams use their pre-determined agile framework. (For example, how good is their Scrum?)
- Enroll (or somehow persuade) the managers in an agile mindset. (As an example, how agile do the managers think?)
- Removing some impediment—but not changing people's behaviors. (An example: we want lower WIP, but we can't touch the project portfolio.)
These ideas all sound like enforcement to me.
Coaches are not enforcers.
Great coaches are also consultants. They help the client create more business value.
Great coaches start with questions. These questions help the two people discover their common purpose.
Consider These Questions to Start
I wrote a little about this problem “Agile Coaching” is Not the Goal. I offered questions there.
You might ask these questions also:
- What keeps you up at night? You often hear symptoms, not real causes.
- What do you want as outcomes? You might hear about finished projects, etc. Ask more questions about how to know those projects are successful.
- Assuming you asked the 30, 60, 90-day deliverable question, you might ask this: “How will we know I succeeded as a coach?” I often bound this question either “when the engagement is over” or “every month” for a longer engagement.
Coaching requires two people who want to work together. These questions invite the client to work with you. You collaborate—together.
Can You Collaborate with Your Client?
I see this a lot. You're an agile coach, contracting with a larger consultancy or with a recruiter. You did not negotiate the contract or deliverables.
Can you be an effective coach?
IMNHO, you still need to ask these questions. Ask the questions in “Agile Coaching” is Not the Goal. Ask the questions here.
Find ways to create a collaborative relationship.
What if you can't create room for collaboration?
(Read my consulting book, still in progress.)
Without a collaborative relationship, you are not an agile coach. Your client has to want your coaching. You can try to coach—you won't succeed.
If you want to succeed, ask how you can support your client's business. Especially focus on how the business creates value.
How do they make money and how can you help them do that?
Agile coaches support how the business creates value. That's why an agile coach offers value.
Find your common purpose. Support the client so they can deliver business value. No enforcement. No “agile this” or “agile that.”
When coaches focus on the client's business value everyone wins. Isn't that the point of coaching?