Why You Are Agile Coaching at the Wrong Level

death to stock, larry apke, agile doctor,

The way I go about choosing which blogs to write is a very simple process. During odd moments in the day, something someone says or does will trigger an idea. If I don’t capture the idea immediately, chances are that I will most likely forget the idea (one of the disadvantages of human aging) so I use Wunderlist to quickly and easily jot down these possible blogs.

Then, being the good agilist I am, I prioritize these potential blogs, this gives the idea time to settle.

I find that many times an idea I was very enthusiastic to write at the onset becomes less attractive over time and will eventually be scrapped without ever seeing the light of day. The “classics”, or those that stand the test of time, eventually get written about.

Recently, I had something else happen. Instead of losing enthusiasm for actually writing on a particular topic, for the first time in my experience, someone has actually beaten me to the punch and published a blog entry so close to the one I wanted to write that I felt I no longer had to write.

That dubious honor goes to Bob Galen and his great post, Agile Coaches – We’re Coaching the Wrong People!?!?.

In this blog, Bob argues that Agile coaches tend to spend their time on activities that are more lucrative and easier to accomplish (like two day trainings and working directly with scrum teams) as opposed to those activities that are most needed by the organization or more difficult to accomplish (creating meaningful organization change and working with leadership and upper management).

I couldn’t agree more, and so I find now that I really don’t have to write the blog entry I identified some time ago called “Agile Coaching at the Wrong Level” since Bob has done such a good job for me.

I urge you to please go out and read his blog!

There is only one thing that I would tend to disagree with based on my own personal experience.

In my past, I have worked in many places where coaches did not work with upper management or shied away from larger organizational change by choice, but have been frustrated by the very fact that they have been purposely been shut out from decisions affecting the organization at large and have either been prohibited (expressly or implied) or discouraged from working with “leadership.”

It is not that there is not value to be derived from teaching teams to be agile and optimizing teams (and scrum masters), but that unless the organization as a whole supports agile, optimizing teams becomes a never-ending treadmill of obtaining a certain measure of optimization in spite of the organization and seeing whatever progress that is achieved by the team erased as teams are constantly formed and broken up.

No matter how good a coach, results are short lived when the teams themselves are short lived.

This issue is one that needs to be addressed by “leadership” and a coach’s inability to positively affect change at the leadership level, whether by choice or by culture, verifies the contention that most coaches are coaching the wrong people and coaching at the wrong organizational level.

Can anyone say Chief Agile Officer?

Larry Apke

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