Having spent the past several years as a consultant, I have encountered a variety of organizations and situations that required my help in different roles. In some cases, I was a Scrum Master, and in others, I worked with higher levels of the organization as an Agile Coach. From this experience, I realized something that perhaps I should have discovered earlier in my career: coaching is a complex hybrid of a variety of skills that is often very difficult to learn because you don’t know what you don’t know. Another revelation is that there are two distinct levels of coaching when it comes to Agile organizations: team-level and organization-level. Based on what I have seen in the market, I feel that the future of Agile Coaching is strong as more organizations desire the benefits such as ability to manage changing priorities and improve speed to market. I also feel that we will see two distinct groups of skills come about over the next few years.
As you may have guessed by now, the two groups will likely be “team-level” and “organization-level” – both will demand slightly different expertise and skills. I will share a few observations for your consideration.
|Team Level||Organization Level|
|Core Skills||Facilitation, Teaching||Mentoring, Coaching|
|Focus||Short-term goals||Long-term goals|
|Primary Relationships||Individual teams, Middle Management||Middle Management, Executive Management|
This table shows the main characteristics of Agile coaching at two levels, which may appear much less apparent if you operate within an organization that does not define the two roles explicitly. If you are in this situation, do not feel bad – This is very common!
Most organizations that are new to Agile do not fully understand how to make this shift, and many of them expend an exorbitant amount of time and money trying to reinvent the wheel. Do not get caught in this loop! If you have a small team, then start at the team level and launch a pilot project to experiment with this new way of working. Explore how it works, learn what makes sense and what does not work in your specific context, then try it again with a different set of conditions.
If you operate in a large organization, you will likely benefit from a multi-pronged approach that encompasses both the tactical and strategic levels. An important thing to keep in mind is that if you are attacking this from two levels, those people should have some basic alignment in terms of principles and practices, working agreements, etc. so that there is a consistent message being delivered from top to bottom. If this alignment is missing, you will very likely encounter issues such as fragmentation amongst different teams or disconnect between various levels of the organization which will slow down your transformation at best, or derail your efforts altogether.
In closing, I firmly believe that the future of Agile Coaching is strong, and there will be a strong market for skilled individuals who can operate at both the team and organization level. Starting at one end of the spectrum that makes the most sense will likely help you gain traction early. If you aren’t sure where to begin, consider investing in a short-term consultant to guide you.