Over the years, I’ve seen many organizations try to adopt Business Agility purely through internal hiring and reorganization. While this is a great idea in theory, in practice success is rare. The skills and qualities necessary to lead transformation are hard to find. In my experience, there are five primary reasons to hire an Agile Coach:
I believe in the principle of DIY. YouTube is my friend.
When it comes to my car, though, I often get stumped. My solution is to head down to my local auto parts store and talk to the nice people there. They have years of experience, they know what parts are needed, and they know what problems I’m going to cause by trying to fix my own car.
They are experts. Unfortunately, listening to them doesn’t make me an expert. When it comes to something really complex, like fixing my brakes, I need to hire an expert — a professional mechanic — to do the job.
For simple problems, YouTube is awesome. For complex problems, you really want an expert. Implementing Agile principles and practices is a complex problem.
I have got a good friend who, for the sake of this article, we’ll call Astro. Astro is a veteran of many Silicon Valley tech companies — and many Agile adoption efforts. We have great conversations about the theory and concepts behind Agile.
However, Astro is first and foremost a tech leader — not an Agile specialist. Astro has many skills in addition to technology, like finance, staffing, and sales.
Invariably, when we do have one of those conversations about some Agile theory or practice, I’m able to bring specialized knowledge and experience to the conversation. That’s because Agile is what I do. Astro is brilliant and has considerable experience with Agile, he is not a specialist.
One of the crucial roles of the Agile Coach is clarity of perspective — to “see the forest for the trees.”
My friend Astro is an incredible software leader. However, every so often I’ve had to tap Astro on the shoulder to point out how some new business initiative is impacting their overall organization’s effectiveness. Astro was too caught up in the details to see the big picture.
Passing knowledge to others is not a simple task. A good Agile Coach possesses the ability to teach concepts simply and effectively, often by putting them into frameworks that learners can apply quickly in a work environment.
This is why so many coaches are students of Susan Bowman’s books on Training From the Back of the Room. Susan was a school teacher who took what she learned and turned it into a program model for how to educate adult learners.
Momentum is critical for learning to stick. Hiring an Agile Coach for the long term means that students don’t just learn in the classroom — they get to practice the concepts and receive feedback from an expert who cares about their advancement. In turn, learned concepts become practiced habits.
The momentum that a Coach brings can be essential to sustaining long term change — and preventing reversion back to “the old ways.”
Change is Hard. Hiring an Agile Coach Doesn’t Have to Be.
Making your organization more responsive, profitable and sustainable is no easy task. It’s a complex problem with many different paths to success. Having an experienced guide is always helpful when you’re exploring new territory. I recommend reading these articles to help you along the way:
- How to Pick the Right Agile Coach
- What Skills Does Your Agile Coach Need?
- Evaluating Candidates with the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel
And please let me know if you’d like to talk!