The Many Facets of Agile Coach

January 2, 2018
Saket Bansal
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  • Agile
  • Agile Coach
  • Agile Marketing
  • Agile Team Facilitation
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We all have encountered a coach of some sort in our lives. Who is a coach and what are those striking qualities that we often associate with a coach? A coach is someone who is regarded as a subject matter expert, a mentor, an advisor, a facilitator, a counselor, a change agent and many more. As you may have noticed, a great coach wears more than one hat. This holds good for an Agile coach too.
In order to understand the various roles an Agile coach could potentially play within an organization, let’s consider the following analogy – roles & responsibilities of a surgeon, doctor and a fitness coach.

Surgeon

A surgeon is often regarded as an expert in a particular area and is a highly specialized skill. In a diagnostic process, the surgeon understands the patient’s condition and determines the need for a surgical procedure. Once deemed necessary, the surgeon goes ahead with the procedure. Seldom does the surgeon describe the surgical process & obtains opinions from the patients. If you were to take an example of a cardiac surgery, decision on which block or artery to work on first is the decision of the surgeon. There is limited engagement with the patient.
Drawing a parallel with the agile coach, there will be situations, where you would have to wear the surgeon’s hat. You may make the decision independently based on your experience. Usually, a highly experienced agile coach with proficiency in implementing agile projects take on this role.

Doctor

In this case, the patient shares his or her problems with the doctor. The doctor understands the concerns and recommends further course of action and treatment to the patient. As a part of the treatment, the doctor prescribes suitable medication. One of the prominent differences in the role of the doctor and the surgeon is the level of involvement of the patient. While there was minimal involvement/influence of the patient is the case of a surgeon, the involvement significantly increases in the case of a doctor. This is because, the treatment will be successful only if the patient co-operates and follows the prescribed treatment & medication. In short, patient buy-in and collaboration is required for success.
Comparing this to the role of an agile coach, this signifies the need to function as a “partner”. In this role, the agile coach will have to develop effective partnership with teams, understand the challenges, suggest remedies and most importantly be a change agent, obtain buy-in and ensure successful outcomes.

Coach

The third role is that of a coach or a fitness coach. In this case, all the work has to be done by the patient be it waking up early, doing exercise, modifying dietary habits and so on. These are laborious tasks that needs to be performed by the patient. This role is entirely different from the previous roles discussed in that there is no procedure or prescription. These are real tasks that needs to be performed and is 100% participative in nature. The primary role of the coach is to motivate and facilitate the patient in performing the fitness tasks.
Once again drawing parallels with the agile world, while performing the role of the coach, the focus is on enablement. Under this hat, the primary goal is to enable the team to perform, unlock the knowledge and capability to drive performance.

This topic is from one of our recent Agile coaching session, where we discussed the various roles that need to be played by an Agile coach. You can access the recordings of the session through the link below.

The long and short of the story is that as an Agile coach, you may have to perform all the roles discussed above at various stages for your clients. The key to success to is recognize the different roles and be flexible in moving between these roles depending on the need and drive superior outcomes for clients.
I would like to hear from you on your experience as Agile coach. Have you seen your role changing and what different roles have you played as an Agile coach? Where you a surgeon, doctor, fitness coach or perhaps someone else? Please do share experience, we are eager to know the various roles you have had to play.