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August 15, 2013

Do I Need An Agile Coach?

3 mins read

We work with Agile teams and practitioners of all levels – from the early adopter gurus to those just getting started.  And, regardless of your level of experience or expertise, all projects can benefit from help from time to time.

We are often asked, “Do I need an Agile coach?”  This post will explore the need for Agile coaching on new or existing teams, as well as what to look for when seeking a coach.

How Can an Agile Coach Help?

In short, Agile coaches can help new or established teams for a short, medium, or long duration.

For teams that are new to Agile, implementing Agile without a coach is often challenging.  Organizations who invest in Agile training, but expect teams to implement Agile immediately, are often unsuccessful because the teams lack the experience necessary to apply the principles learned in training to their existing projects.

Not only does this result in a wasted investment, it often also slows the momentum of a team who is excited about Agile, but sees that it falls flat after training.  For these teams, a coach is necessary to help establish the Agile mindset and reinforce the principles and practices learned in training.

On existing teams, every team will inevitably come across barriers they don’t know how to solve, especially as their teams grow and the scope of their work evolves.

The best way to fix those barriers is to bring in an outside, impartial perspective.  A coach who is flexible and experienced can address specific challenges faced by teams in short durations.  You can engage with a coach to get coaching for a day, a sprint, or a greater length of time to help a team work through barriers and challenges.

What Should I Look For in an Agile Coach?

The better a coach is able to understand your environment, the better poised they will be to help you modify your Agile practices to suit your needs.  We recommend looking at three things when considering hiring a coach:

  1. Depth of Knowledge This one is a given, but you’d be surprised how often it is overlooked.  When seeking an Agile coach, look for someone with a depth of knowledge and experience, both in Agile as well as the specific area that you need help with.  For example, on a software development team, look for a coach with software development experience in the industry you are in and with the technology you use.
  2. Flexibility Look for someone who has experienced success with multiple clients and teams at different organizations or across multiple industries.  We recommend seeking a coach who is not prescriptive or academic, but rather one who provides an array of experience.  Be sure to look for someone who is willing to work with you on what you need, rather than try to sell you something.
  3. Understanding Your coach must be able to understand and work within your culture or industry.  Similar to when you engage an Agile trainer, we recommend that you get recommendations for Agile coaches from your peers or colleagues in your industry.


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