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Why Agile Coaches & Agile Coaching Fail

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In today's industry, it has become common to question the effectiveness of Agile coaches and the value they bring. And to some extent, there is truth in this because the profession has become so hyped that it has attracted a significant number of individuals who lack the necessary expertise to be true professionals.

Agile Coach is a senior position that demands extensive experience, organizational insight, and inner wisdom. However, the scarcity of qualified individuals in the market has led to a decline in the overall quality of the profession.

Yet, I personally know numerous Agile coaches worldwide who are truly skilled professionals in their field. They genuinely know what they're doing. Surprisingly, many of them have shared stories of epic failures where their attempts to help organizations led to nothing or even tragic outcomes, including professional burnout.

So why am I writing this post? Recently, I had an insightful realization during an initial session with a client for leadership coaching. Throughout the session, I emphasized that it wasn't just about the client evaluating whether they were a good fit for my coaching style, but it was also an assessment of their coachability. What do I mean by coachability? It means that the person is internally committed to stepping out of their comfort zone and making serious changes. Personal coaching and leadership coaching, after all, are about jointly creating a future that wouldn't be possible without the coach.

Now let's apply this paradigm to Agile coaching, which includes the word "coaching." To me, Agile coaching is when a skilled professional, an Agile coach, enters a company and helps it break free from its comfort zone, reaching new heights. Essentially, it's about becoming Agile and guiding the company in that direction. Without the presence of such individuals, companies would remain stagnant. However, there's a crucial factor at play: is the company coachable? Based on my observations and the stories I hear from clients and friends, it often seems that companies fail to fulfill their coaching contracts. They are resistant to change, unwilling to question the status quo, and unprepared to work with a coach.

Hence, many failures occur because the company itself is uncoachable, and perhaps the Agile coach failed to verify this aspect. Admittedly, if such verification were conducted, the number of companies suitable for employing Agile coaches, either as employees or external consultants, would significantly decline. I can honestly confirm this based on my client base. The number of clients declining my services or clients I reject far exceeds those with whom I eventually work.

Let's delve into this topic further.

I assist you in pushing beyond your limits, challenging the current status quo, stepping out of your comfort zone, and ultimately becoming the person (or the company) you couldn't be without my guidance. That's the essence of why you pay me. This is coaching.

Perhaps, like any bubble, it's time for it to burst. All those companies not yet ready for this service should stop using it merely as a trendy buzzword. Agile coaching should become a niche service, just like in the realm of professional and personal leadership coaching. In those fields, it's normal for professional athletes or actors to take out loans to afford renowned coaches because they understand the return on investment through enhanced performance.

So what's the conclusion or final thought here? If you're in a decision-making position within your company and considering Agile, pause and reflect. Do you really need to leap beyond your limits, leave your comfort zone, and transform into something you cannot achieve alone? If so, discuss this openly with your Agile coaches and honestly assess whether they possess the necessary experience to support you. And if they don't, help them grow.

However, if you're not ready, it might be best to reassess and determine whether you need an Agile coach at all and maybe consider roles such as delivery managers or process ops.

On the other hand, if you are an Agile coach working within an organization, try to gauge whether there is a genuine demand for your services. Are they truly expecting you to facilitate change, or was your hiring just a trendy choice that will lead to all the parties only suffering.
And that's all for today.

Do more with less and may the force be with you!
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