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Coaching, Coding and Learning By George Evjen
Book Notes From: "Coaching Agile Teams" By Lyssa Adkins

Will I Be a Good Coach?

  • Nothing prepared me for the power and simplicity of agile done well.
  • Project management was serious business - project managers orchestrated the working of the whole machine.
  • Mental model of project management was outdated.
  • First week - had produced real work. - that would have taken us months to do in the past.
  • If agile teams are going to have these kinds of stellar experiences with agile - they need coaches who can provide the right teaching, coaching and mentoring to make it possible.


Why Agile Coaching Matters

  • If you're like most aspiring agile coaches - very little has prepared you to be an agile coach.
  • Questions like
    • What is my role in a self-organizing team
    • How do I help the team yet still stay hands off.
  • Understand the world you coach in - and the people you coach.
  • Most coaches will go too far in either extreme.
  • The world feels far more uncertain than anyone can remember.
  • The people I coach want to know that they matter - they are no longer happy being a cog in the wheel.
  • Their contributions are seen as valuable too.
  • The people I coach are not motivated by carrots and sticks - they are motivated by a sense of worth and purpose.
  • Agile coaching is important because it helps in two areas:
    • Producing products that matter in real, complex and uncertain world
    • Adding meaning to people's work lives.
  • Agile focuses us on the critical products to create and makes it possible for us to create them.
    • Most important after most important.
  • Teams need coaches who bring a view of agile done well.


The Agile Coaching Context

  • Agile itself is sufficient - coaching deepens it.
  • Small set of practices to teach.
  • Easy to get going - but hard to do well.
  • Agile exposes the dirt that has been swept under the rug for years.


The Doing of Agile Coaching

  • Agile is a set of values, practices, principals and roles we uphold as we coach people.
  • Become their facilitator, teacher, coach, mentor - bring to them other things we have learned.
  • Model has room for what you have learned.


The Being of Agile Coaching

  • You must know your job as coach and your way around agile and be constantly searching for that next breakthrough idea for the team.
  • Agile coaching is 40% doing and 60% being.
  • An agile coach - models agile all the time. How you interact with the team.
  • The most important thing you can do in in the face of a mistake is to model the agile value of openness.
  • Imagine a team that admits mistakes, reinforces their shared values, forgives one another, and moves on.


Lets' Get Our Language Straight

  • A scrum master who takes teams beyond getting agile practices up and running into their deliberate and joyful pursuit of high performance is an agile coach.
  • Coach multiple teams - seen a range of possibilities and limitations and successes and failures across a variety of situations.
  • An Agile Coach is:
    • Appreciates the depths of agile practices and principles - help team appreciate them too.
    • Someone who has faced the big dragons, organizational impediments, has become a coach to managers and other outsiders
    • Someone who can help management see the benefits of agile practices.
    • Someone that has brought ideas from professional facilitation, coaching, conflict management…
  • Agile Mash-Ups
    • When teams mashed up scrum with something else - such as lean or user-centered design  - when they let agile fall by the wayside - they often struggled and sometimes outright failed.
    • The seed of the downfall - is finding a way of working that fit them best.
  • Agile Coach - plays the field and keeps its options open.


Moving Toward Agile Coaching

  • Each person's journey to becoming an agile coach follows a different path - some of the street signs along the way may look familiar


The Road From Scrum Master to Agile Coach

  • A scrum master gets a team up and running with scrum practices and agile principles.
  • After a few sprints the scrum master often notices a significate depth to each of the scrum practices
  • Scrum master realizes that a significant amount of time gets spent coaching people in the wider organization to support the team.
  • An agile Scrum Coach is
    • Appreciates the depths of agile practice.


The Road From Project Manager to Agile Coach

  • A project manager and agile coach are like a house cat and a jaguar - they are simply not in the same family.
  • A project manager plans and controls  - supervising throughout.
  • An agile coach - Guides
  • The road from project manager to agile coach may be a bit longer for some.
  • Order to become an agile coach
    • Training in agile
    • Practice on teams
    • Leads to multiple teams in succession
    • Mentored by someone who has made this transition from project manager to agile coach.
  • An agile coach mentor offers in-the-moment coaching to help you see how agile works and to bring it to your attention when you inadvertently fall back into plan driven mind sets.
  • The coach focuses on the getting teams to do agile well.


The Role From Tech Lead to Agile Coach

  • Sometimes agile coaching skills get added to one's bag of tricks as a way to further assist people developing their technical skills
    • Over time they being to mentor other developers.
    • Then the teaching and coaching cross multiple teams.
    • At some point the tech lead starts using the term agile coach.


An Agile Coach Emerges

  • As you successfully being to work with agile teams - you begin to change
  • What you do as a coach and what you talk about shift as you move from managing to coaching.


Native Wiring

  • People who make resoundingly successful transitions into agile coaching have a few things in common
    • Ability to read the room. - read the emotion in the air.
    • They care more about people than they do products. - caring about people.
    • They cultivate curiosity - they know what they don’t know.
    • They believe that people are basically good. Meet people where they are.
    • They know that plans fall apart. So they act in the moment with the team.
    • They have a thirst for learning.
    • They believe that any group of people can do good things in the world.
    • They have a low tolerance for institutional reasons that hold people back from excelence
      • Yeah I know it’s a waste of time - but that is how we have always done it.
    • They believe that disequilibrium is essential - chaos and destruction are simply building blocks for something better.
    • They risk being wrong. - own up to it and move on.


Make Agile Coaching Your Personal Experience

  • Find your own voice  as an agile coach.
  • No one does agile coaching the same way.



  • Becoming an agile coach - education, experience, and practice.
  • Being an agile coach in all that you do - is a powerful example.
  • Path to being an agile coach are many and varied.
  • Qualities of successful agile coaches
    • Openness
    • People Orientation
    • Deep and passionate pursuit of personal and professional excellence.
Posted on Friday, July 22, 2016 4:37 PM Agile | Back to top

Comments on this post: Coaching Agile Teams - 1

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I really liked your blog. Really looking forward to read more.
Left by Henry Coward on Jul 25, 2016 1:47 AM

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The most important thing you can do in in the face of a mistake is to model the agile value of openness.
Left by Henry Coward on Jul 25, 2016 1:48 AM

# re: Coaching Agile Teams - 1
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An effective coach will be able to teach the best to his members. - Mark Zokle
Left by George Wallace on Sep 14, 2016 2:24 AM

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