‘The team remains agile after the coach is gone.’
This is my ultimate acceptance test for effective Agile coaching. True Agile Enablement endures.
Whose line is it anyway?
I come across a number of Agile coaches who talk a lot about Agile. Agile is hard because it’s the doing that accompanies the saying that makes a person agile. Nine out of ten coaches I meet are those who live by the mantra of Do-As-I-Say-Not-As-I-Do.
Most important of all, their kind of Agile doesn’t stick. Teams may think they’re agile for the duration of such a coach being onsite, but when the coach is gone, teams are left to make-do and make-believe a fuzzy, undisciplined and/or enforced form of Agile (originally adopted to appease a forceful coach) all on their own.
Give me an example
I recently met Rupert, a charming and personable Agile coach who prides himself on being a doer. He told me that because he was having difficulties with the testers in his client organisation, he had written a code of conduct for the testers so they can work with the rest of the team. A few weeks before that he’d been preoccupied with composing a code of conduct for the business analysts. ‘And these are the rules for developers to follow,’ says Rupert as he proudly points to a flipchart among the numerous flipcharts of commandments that now cover the team wallspace. Eat your heart out Laura Ashley. Forget floral, swallow those words.
Words, words, words
What about Rupert’s team, I found myself wondering with mild anxiety. In my experience, a team has to come up with its own guidelines or manifesto through a collaborative effort. It’s part of the initiation process towards becoming a team. What happens next is the enforcement of the manifesto which should come easily – so long as it originated from the team. Otherwise, the manifesto is yet another group of words with no more meaning than a company’s mission statement, created by a small clique in a galaxy far, far away from the people who deliver business value.
When coaching, I compare Agile with a pair of socks. The notion of a good pair of socks is likely to vary from person to person. Some prefer pink and others blue while the chaussettes conoisseurs among us might wear Santa socks 365 days of the year. Nonetheless, one thing is certain: we all have a common understanding of what makes a good pair of socks. For instance, most of us would agree that a good pair of socks keeps both our feet warm and dry. Once we understand the purpose of something, it’s easy to distinguish genuine function from fancy form.
Genuine Agile has collaboration built-in to make it last. If you’re living the Agile Values, trust your instinct when it’s telling you your Agile coach is wrong.