Seven DONT’S as an Agile Coach
There are many Agile guides and books out there. Still, one is missing, which hardly anyone talks about: Things not to do as an Agile Coach when accompanying change to flexible and adaptive ways of working. So here is my list:
DO NOT call Agile to disguised organizational processes
Agile is a buzzword that many organizations use in their existing practices without fundamentally changing what they do.
“Fake Agile” usually takes the form of a framework that you can not make any changes to because the book or guide says so and masks traditional processes without changing from the root to collaborative, iterative, and flexible ways to increase value as a team.
Some organizations cling to the old ways of doing things and label themselves Agile for following a company guideline given by email, where the CEO mentions that starting tomorrow… We are agile! Or, worse yet, because the consultant we just paid tells us that Agile has arrived.
I am defining “Fake Agile” as “Pretend to be and do Agile while organizations cling to practices that are not consistent with Agile values and principles.” In this sense, false agile is the traditional, predictive, command and control management with nice Agile labels. As an Agile Coach, you should show that you are moving away from the path instead of accepting it.
DON’T move faster than the people you help change
Change is accompanied. We do not need an agile coach who only follows his agenda or, worse yet, who calls change management what is accompanied. The Agile Coach must adapt to the needs of the people he helps and not try to impose his agenda.
It is also crucial that you do not go faster than the people you accompany on their change. It is not advisable to rush a team or department to change when they are not ready for it.
This accompaniment must be based on respect, humility, and empathy. Respect, because we do not always have all the answers, and we must listen to our interlocutors. Humility because we must consider the needs of those who accompany us on this journey of change. And empathy because you cannot adapt or understand what happens in other organizations without it. Agility is a mindset that allows us to adapt to any circumstance.
DON’T make judgments about solutions
Many of the points that were made in the past about the importance of the role of a consultant in Agile have been replaced by a simple fact: Organizations have already realized that they do not need the pseudo-expert to tell them what to do. . They don’t need a prescription. They need to understand the what for first and then decide, together and systemically, on a solution.
This is good because we all agree that the pseudo-expert telling people what to do based on their experience or biases has never worked. Instead of saying the magic recipe or throwing the silver bullet, blend in with the team and understand it as a system. Stop making judgment calls, and please bring improvement experiments to the teams.
DON’T tell people that change is good for them when they disagree with you
We must stop the push for change or its management. People are tired of carrying out imposed or mandatory change processes, which follow a plan.
As Agile Coaches, we have to help them see the difference between a change process (typically imposed, mandatory, and with a plan) and a transformation process (which is voluntary, individual, and free). If you try to convince people by telling them how good it will be for them, you will most likely lose your audience before starting.
If you want people to accept the new reality you are proposing. Indeed, you must show them its value and how it can benefit them in their day-to-day lives.
DON’T use the terms like Agile Methodologies or Agile Project Management anymore
Adding the word Agile after Methodology or Project Management does not mean that it is already an Agile approach magically.
Although I am not a purist and have much respect for traditional and agile ways of working, I must confess that sometimes I wish people and organizations that sell or accept Agile were more educated.
A methodology implies a repeatable process with a scientifically defined set of steps to achieve a goal. You will get something like this if you search for a methodology definition (you can choose any dictionary). Do you believe that Agile has a scientifically proven set of steps to be flexible and adaptable as people, teams, and organizations? The same goes for Agile Management. In management, you control to deliver; in Agile, you cocreate to increase, which are entirely different things.
DON’T marry any Framework or Framework
It’s not a problem to use frames, but it becomes a problem when you marry them and stop thinking about the greater good.
The intention here is not to undermine any framework or whatever it is called but to show that Agile works when we accept increasing value as a Way of Working. A framework is just a tool without context. Suppose you have problems for your organization or team to be and do Agile. You are going to use a framework or framework to solve it. In that case, you are probably going to fail in the accompaniment because that Framework or Framework will not help you at all without contextualizing it. You must change the way you work and empower people first, with insights so they can incrementally add value in a psychologically safe, neutral, and inclusive environment.
The customer and their needs must be the center of our universe, not the framework we are using. We have to focus on creating value for the customer. That means you always have to embrace and agree to improve the way you work. If a particular process or practice helps us do this, great! But if it does not allow us, we must reflect and change it until we find one that does help us. Break the frame.
DON’T forget that each person/team/organization you meet is fighting their own battle for change
An organization or a team is a group of human beings, each with their history, circumstances, concerns, needs, strengths, and weaknesses. And each person also has their own story within the organization’s history. That is why listening to people’s stories and accompanying them on their journeys is at the core of our work as Agile Coaches.
The systemic and holistic approach in accompaniment is key to achieving change in flexible and adaptable ways. It’s the difference between just giving a solution or fixing a problem with your biases and working with people to create impactful, sustainable, positive change.
For this, we must always maintain curiosity and know where we are in the process of change. You have to understand what the desired future state looks like, the current situation, the strengths, what challenges we face, and how we want to address them as a system. Also, keep in mind that each person’s experiences change differently, based on their own experiences, skills, and knowledge. Just because something worked for someone else doesn’t mean it will work for them. Break your biases and keep all these things in mind to adapt your approach, showing yourself as the chameleon Agile Coach they need in each process step.
It may seem obvious, but I am surprised how often this point is overlooked, both by those who accompany the organizations and those who belong to them.
The change to Agile is difficult. This is why so few organizations have addressed it and continue to address it successfully. Even if the problems Agile is used and made for are solved, it probably won’t be enough to change things for the better.
It takes much time, effort, and dedication for this transition to flexible and adaptable ways to be successful. And never forget that Agile is about people, their communication, empowerment, feedback, and responsiveness to the value that commands them.