I have the privilege to act as an agile coach in a huge French manufacturing company, along with other agile coaches like Laurent Carbonnaux, Pierrick Revol. I am thus exposed to a real agile transformation initiative, going further than the classic agile pilot. We are currently coaching approximately 40 projects. And, what’s more, we are speaking to each other, trying ideas like Lean Design, comparing, counselling.
In this privileged environment, it came clear to me that there is at least 8 ways in with agile coaches can differ, making 2^8 possibilities, thus 256. Of course, your posture will depend on the context. Moreover, the answer will be grey, not black or white. However, after having working with coaches since 2 years, I find that they have, and I have, dominant traits. We need to acknowledge them, either too encourage them (work on our strengths) or encouraging the opposite (work on our weaknesses).
Here are the 8 axis
(1) Prescriptive versus Contextualized
- The coach can be prescriptive, focused on the current change management initiative, deploying the official agile flavour of the company, being sometimes brutal and creating sometimes resistance.
- On the opposite, the coach can base his/her change management on listening to people, providing a contextualized agility, but somehow loosing readability of his effort.
(2) Therapist versus Lean senseï
- Some coaches put the focus on psychology, on the stages of the team of Bruce Tuckman, on the resolution of conflict, harmony. Retrospective are long, looking sometimes as family therapy sessions, but rich.
- Some other coaches put much more emphasis on optimization of the process, delivering fast value, improvement of tasks. Retrospective are short, focused and somehow poor.
(3) Serious versus Playfull
- Some coaches, perhaps the older ones, have quite a classic way to teach, and are not at ease with games, fearing to loose the clarity of the message in the details of the play. Sometimes, trainees get bored by academic details.
- Some other coaches, perhaps the younger ones, enjoy games so much they could do a complete agile training with games, leaving people delighted. Sometimes, trainees don’t remember that much, and find the whole thing too fun to be taken seriously.
(4) Proven versus Innovative
- Some coaches wait until concepts are proven in the community and tried on guinee pigs projects before they deploy them massively, thus delaying the deployment of new beneficial techniques.
- Some other coaches are so much innovators they deploy techniques as soon as they grasp them, or invent them, without sound preparation, taking risks while innovating.
(5) Persuading versus Leading
- a. Some coaches appeal to the logical mind of people, handling carefully and logically objections, until they agree to « give it at try », perhaps making too much concessions.
- b. Some other coaches, more charismatic, lead them in the adoption, by the sheer strength of their will and energy, perhaps with a lack of explanations.
(6) Intensive vs Lasting
- a. Some coaches manage to train to agile and set on track the whole team in a week, having set up the foundations of the agility of the project the next week. They then leave to coach other projects, the team will feel alone, and diverge from agile.
- b. Some other coaches prefer to work by touches, training and starting the project at the beginning, coming back, attending retrospectives, coaching the scrum master in his personal development. This coaching takes more time, reducing the number of projects coached and the transformation.
(7) Planned vs Reactive
- a. Some coaches plan their intervention, writing a coaching plan with a set of actions and goals, perhaps lacking somehow flexibility.
- b. Some other coaches have a reactive, opportunist approach, coming with an open mind, looking for the most urgent intervention at the time. This way of coaching lacks of readability.
(8) Visible vs Invisible
- a. Some coaches are very visible, incarnating the agile transformation, somehow the guest star of the project, preventing leadership from emerging.
- b. Some coaches are invisible, whispering in the ears of people, like a film director, having again readability problems.
My signature is 1b-2a-3a-4a-5a-6b-7b-8b. Can you tell me yours?
By the way, do you see other axis, other ways for you to differ from your fellow coach friends ? Things they find obvious and that you don’t understand, or at least you don’t share? Variations from a so-called agile consensus?