Three Reasons Why You Should Not Hire an Agile Coach

Originally posted on LinkedIn here.

I admit it – I am an agile coach. I walk teams through starting up, I work with Product Owners on building backlogs, I work with organizations on agile adoption, I help people and companies get more “awesome.” And now I am going to tell you three reasons why you shouldn’t hire me, or anyone like me! Now, this doesn’t mean every organization should never hire coaches, but over the years I have witnessed scenarios where coaches could not be successful.

You are expecting an Agile Coach to do the “dirty work”

Yes, it is true. I’ve gone into organizations where they were notably overstaffed and were expecting my experience to help them identify, what they called, “areas of organizational improvement.” And they didn’t want to stop there. They actually wanted me to hold seminars to talk about why certain roles were no longer applicable in agile or even talk about how different levels of leadership or management were not longer “en vogue.” Agile, and its associated frameworks and principles, are very good at identifying problems and making them transparent to the organization. Agile (and agile coaches) is not a silver bullet! The organization must have the intestinal fortitude to make decisions, especially when it comes to someones’ employment.

You desire consistency in framework across the board

This one requires some explanation. I am not speaking of consistency in delivery or in practices or even in some type of metrics. Delivery, practices, and metrics consistency is a very organizational-specific conversation. What I am speaking of is some organizations’ desire to replace a traditional command-control methodology [read: waterfall] with an agile framework in a very command-control way! The whole point behind agility is the decentralization of decision making that impacts day-to-day work and, more importantly, roadblocks. Processes and rules generally become roadblocks and providing differing methods for teams to operate is an efficiency gain. While I have had the “consistency” chat with more than one organization, one organization specifically believed that one framework, rigidly implemented, was the best way to achieve agility. Most organizations need to see frameworks as tools that can be leveraged to achieve certain goals.

You want to “fix” IT

I mean Information Technology, not some other “it.” You might be thinking – “isn’t agile an IT thing?” No, no it isn’t. Agile is a organization thing! Expecting an agile coach to come into your organization and just make IT changes is like telling a mechanic to only fix a dent in your car after you blow the engine. IT needs help, it needs to be released from antiquated practices, but business needs to be addressed as well. And then both need to be brought together to create high collaboration, problem solving, and delivery of awesome products. Agile coaches that are called into this kind of situation can spend so much time trying to convince a business that doesn’t think they are in need of any change! Don’t do this! It isn’t smart!

So…

Two lessons to be learned here. 1) When you bring in an agile coach, everything is on the table, and 2) Your organization must have the courage to fix what is exposed. And yes, I want you to hire someone like me, just be ready to partner with them to do what is needed to see your organization get more “awesome.”

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