Discover Your "Inner Agile Coach"
What is an Agile Coach
Agile Coaches to aid in guiding organizational strategy and leading Agile practices across a team or organization by aligning them with Agile values and concepts introducing Agile methods and encouraging a culture shift in the workplace.
An Agile Coach is an experienced agile practitioner who supports an organization in creating and improving its agile processes and practices. An Agile Coach does this at all levels of a company, working on the micro level with individual teams and on the macro level with executives.
Agile Coaches teach, show, and embody agile values that help companies and their people build an agile culture that’s tailored to their needs.
Various Levels of Agile Coaches
- Team Coach
- Program Coach
- Portfolio Coach
- Enterprise Coach
- Other variations: Business Agility Coach/Consultant, Agile Transformation Architect
Value of an Agile Coach
To become “Agile,” organizations must fundamentally change how teams (at all levels of the organization) work together. This not only includes implementing practices and processes from frameworks like Scrum, Kanban, Scaled Agile Framework or Scrum@Scale, but also changing mindsets and culture as a whole. That’s how an Agile Coach provides value.
Value Agile Coaches Provide
- Improvement in operational process
- Improvements in performance metrics across the organization from Team, Program and Portfolio
- Improvements in delivery and speed to market
- Improvements in agility through transparency, communication and collaboration
- Improvements and shift in mindset and culture across the organization
Essential Agile Coach Skills
Relationship building is the essential component of Agile Coaches. Agile Coaches need to talk with many people, at all levels, across the organization, so they must be excellent relationship builders. Under of the “umbrella” of relationship building is communications, empathy and trust.
Various types of strong communication skills that incorporate having crucial conversations at times, active listening, psychological safety and facilitation are very important role of an Agile Coaches day-in and day-out.
Crucial conversations: A crucial conversation is a discussion between two or more people where the stakes are high, opinions very and emotions run strong. They happen day-to-day in an Agile Transformation where different areas of an organization are making changes to their process, methods and culture. Most people tend to avoid crucial conversation because they are often are handled poorly because opinions may vary. As an Agile Coach you may have to …. Focus on the conversation, learn how to speak persuasively and not abrasive
Active listening: Rather than giving someone a fraction of your attention, active listening is making a conscious effort to hear, understand, and retain information that’s being relayed to you.
It involves more than listening to the words they say. Instead, you consciously analyze what you hear, and try to pick up on intent, content, and emotion from the speaker. Active listening requires paying attention.
6 Tips for Active listening
- Pay attention
- Give a speaker your undivided attention
- Withhold judgment
- Make a genuine response that makes the speaker feel heard
- Make mental notes when a speaker pauses to recap and remember important details
- Ask questions about any issue that’s ambiguous or unclear
- Pause before responding, summarize to check our understanding
- Ask genuine questions, introduce your own ideas, feelings and suggestions
Agile Coaches spend a great deal of time communicating with a vast number of people to do their work. Most of that communication happens in meetings.
Agile coaches attend meetings, and have the ability facilitate every type of meeting you can imagine: individual and team coaching sessions, Scrum ceremonies, workshops about Agile topics, strategy sessions with executives, Agile training sessions and more.
The purpose of a meeting it to serve the Team. Agile Coaches are looked to as being quipped with recommendations and insights and can embed the principles of the Agile Manifesto into meetings to make team gatherings more effective, inclusive of all voices, and… actually agile.
- Know when to call a meeting – don’t have one just to have one
- Make sure a meeting has a purpose – set an agenda and have necessary artifacts available so people feel their time is valued
- Leave meeting with actionable items to move forward - make a decision, create a plan, or find a solution to a problem that creates value to the end user/customer
- Don’t let the loudest voice in the room be the only voice – make sure everyone feels they have the ability to speak up and be heard
Tips for effective meeting facilitation (remote & in-person):
- Identify objectives and create an agenda
- Provide helpful resources, set expectations
- Listen first, talk second
- Track time, keep your timebox
- Identify action items & follow-up
Essential Agile Coach Skills
Just like relationship building emotional intelligence is an essential component of being an Agile Coach. An Agile Coach needs the ability to understand, use, and manage their own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathize with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Under the “umbrella” of emotional intelligence is empathy and psychological safety.
There are three types of empathy:
- Cognitive empathy: also known as ‘perspective talking.’ It is a useful skill especially when communicating with managers or above. It enables you to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but not necessarily engaging with their emotions.
- Emotional empathy: is when you feel the others person’s emotions alongside them. It can be good (readily understand and feel others emotions) and bad (being ‘hardened’ and not responding appropriately or being too emotional, and having an empathy overload and bursting into tears), but the sweet spot is having good self-control over your emotions.
- Compassionate empathy: is where someone is feeling another’s pain and taking action to help.
Entrepreneur reports that nurturing empathy in business brings benefits such as productivity, innovation and competitive advantage. Does that apply to a set of familiar Agile Principles? Empathy in the workplace also builds trust with your team.
- Perspective talking – the ability to take the perspective of another person
- Staying out of judgement – not easy as you often enjoy it
- Recognizing emotion of others
- Communicating the understanding of those emotions
An article posted by the Center for Creative Leadership says that organizations benefit from diversity of thought, and groups of people with different life experiences are better able to recognize problems and offer up creative solutions than groups with similar life experiences. Unfortunately, many people do not feel comfortable about speaking up in the workplace – especially in the workplace (sccording to a 2017 Gallup poll).
A Gallup article says the behavioral side of culture is built person by person, team by team, day by day. Team and individual safety are both essential, but individual safety must come first in the process of building psychological safety.
An Agile Coach can create and incorporate a psychological safety by making it a priority to get to know their Team, leaders and other coaches by establishing Team norms, showing vulnerability at the right time and giving appropriately delivered feedback.
Tips for creating psychological safety
- Getting to know your Team
- Establish Team norms
- A space for new ideas
- Productive conflict
Looking for an experienced Agile Coach?
Let us know where your organization is on their Agile expedition, and we'll set up a consultation to assess what your needs are. Strategy & transformation is PinnacleTek.