Let’s start with coaching before we examine the ‘Agile’ part of that question.

Over the past 100 years, management has thrived in the simple or complicated space. Production lines and civil engineering environments are a great example of that.

There is a ‘best way’ to build something, and that methodology is well known to everyone in the value stream. The manager is generally someone who has a great deal of experience working in that environment and it is their job to ‘manage’ efforts and resources to ensure the job gets done.

Managers generally carry a great deal of authority and knowledge, and they assign work to people along with deadlines within which that work, or specific project, must be finished.

Because they know how long each element of the project or product production process takes, they can skillfully and accurately estimate how long each step of the waterfall-style process will take and manage the process from start to finish.

Traditional management thrives in these kinds of environments and whilst coaching is a valuable element to introduce, it isn’t essential in a simple or complicated environment.

Complex Environments

A complex environment is the domain of the 21st Century.

There are many, many variables and a great deal of those variables are unknown. It’s the space of knowledge workers. A space where things are being discovered and created rather than simply being executed.

The US Army speaks of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) to describe the conditions we currently face and will continue to deal with in the foreseeable future.

In essence, we don’t know the answers upfront. We don’t know what the best product to build looks like. We don’t know how markets will react to what we are creating, nor do we know where disruption from competitors will most likely come from next.

Since we don’t know the answers and must discover or create them, traditional line management doesn’t work well in this space. Coaching, however, thrives.

Coaching is helping individuals and teams to create environments where they can thrive.

A great coach will work with individuals and teams to discover the best answer. Work with them to explore opportunities to do things better and create new products and services that have never existed before.

A great coach will help individuals and teams reflect on what works, what needs work, and how they can improve based on the known variables in play.

So, coaching, is an incredibly valuable skill to bring into the modern workspace.

We know that people are doing the work, we are not there to check up on them, we are there to help them discover the best way forward and produce the best result the team are capable of.

Agile Coaching

Agile coaching comes into play when a specific agile framework is in play or when a company have embraced ‘Business Agility’ as a culture they wish to cultivate and nurture in the organisation.

An Agile coach will have a lot of experience in working with Agile frameworks and will contribute a great deal of knowledge and expertise to the team in helping them find more ‘Agile’ ways of working.

Scrum is one of the most popular Agile frameworks in the world so you’ll find that an Agile coach will be well versed in Scrum and help both individuals and teams to work through each phase of the Scrum cycle.

In addition to professional coaching, they will be working with individuals and teams to work through sprint reviews and sprint retrospectives.

They will be working with members across the Scrum team as well as in other areas of the organisation that don’t necessarily work with Scrum or in ‘Agile’ ways.

Kind of like a bridge between the two worlds, helping each side work together toward the most valuable work.

A great coach will also be introducing frameworks for the team to explore and working through each part of the process to discover what works best for individuals as well as the team.

Agile coaches look to optimise for the whole, rather than simply at the local level, and so their work will have multiple touchpoints across the organisation.

Sometimes that requires Agile coaching and at other times, it’s simply professional coaching that is required.

If you are interested in becoming an Agile coach, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master course page, the Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master course page, and the Agile Coaching Academy page.

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John McFadyen © 2021. All Rights Reserved. In partnership with Agile Centre