The three steps to setting Up an Agile Academy to Build Internal Agile Coaching Capability

Sharing patterns and practices and driving consistency across the organisation is key to building an organisational capability however eventually when we as external consultants leave, there is always the risk that the organisation will just spring back to their old ways of working if the change and capability is all tied up in external expertise. We recognise that over time, transfer and upskilling allows clients to continue the agile journey as an enduring capability. This is always top on mind for us when we start an engagement – “How can we eventually do ourselves out of a job”? 

Once we have seen our clients develop to a baseline of good agile practice from an action, behaviour and agile mindset perspective, we start to plan with the Agile Centre of Excellence (CoE) on how we can build upon this and start to develop their own internal Agile Coaches to create sufficient experience to be self-sufficient.  

We have been using our ZXM Agile Academy™ framework to help strengthen the client’s own internal agile coaching capability and maturity so that they can scale and implement agility across the enterprise. ZXM Agile Academy™ is an agile capability maturity framework, designed to nurture agile experience through a mentoring program and is a strong and robust strategy for building an Agile CoE.

Setting Up an Agile Academy 

We undertake a number of activities to identify and grow internal Agile talent to support them in agile delivery. Our coaching is conducted at the Program level and with agile teams so this process begins with coaching teams and team members around agile frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban and Lean and helping them implement Scrum Events within the Sprint and extends to Scrum Master and Product Owner roles and responsibilities within those events. It further expands up to the Program level by coaching and mentoring of key roles such as Release Train Engineers, Product Managers, Dependency Managers, Release Managers, System teams and Program Managers.

1. Focus on Developing Internal People in Key Agile Roles

Scrum Masters, Product Owners, Release Train Engineers, Product Managers and others have an important role to play in supporting teams to deliver value within a scaled agile program.

Over the past two years we were working with an organisation who were two years into their large scale Agile Transformation and had set up an Agile CoE. One of the areas of focus for us was to work closely with  Program leadership, to ensure that coaching efforts were aimed at  investment in their own internal talent’s development in key agile roles and identify agile champions.

For those staff, development has focused on developing their agile capability maturity and growth mindset. 

2. Mentor Agile Champions

ZXM program and enterprise agile coaches are active in sharing knowledge and building capabilities for our clients as we know this is the best way to help accelerate learnings when starting an agile journey.

When talent is identified by us as the coaches or Program leadership, ZXM consultants  would work with that staff member to develop a coaching canvas and mentor and help them identify where they can improve and build upon knowledge. We also used Agile IQ as a coaching tool to help identify improvement goals and set actions to drive continuous improvement towards Enterprise Agility. 

In addition to the mentees coaching canvas, we  conducted regular one-on-one coaching sessions to continue to grow their Agile knowledge and skills.

Our mentoring involves using our experience to give ideas about how to approach or solve a problem. We understand that just because something worked for another team, in another situation, under certain and similar circumstances, does not guarantee it will work for them or that it’s the right or best thing to do. Mentoring can help uncover and share ideas, but every team, every individual is different, as are organisations. We look for repeatable patterns to drive consistency of practice.

In fact 25% of the staff that we had mentored  over the past 2 years went on to secure roles and higher duties. These mentees were the people that we looked at as candidates for the Agile Academy™.

3. Develop an Agile Coaching Pathway

Agile Academy was the next step to address this challenge to build an enduring internal coaching capability and outline a development pathway for their internal Agile Coaches.

ZXM’s Agile Academy is an Agile Coach Development pathway it has used been using as a blueprint to develop internal capability within many large corporate and government agencies undergoing Agile Transformations. the focus starts with Scrum master development of capability as these practitioners are the Agile framework process actively supporting Product Owners,  Team members, and stakeholders understand and enact good Scrum Practice. Having said that, this doesn’t exclude mentee and champions coming from the Product or Business space being part of the Agile Academy, however we do strongly suggest to them to spend a rotation in a Scrum Master role. 

An Agile Academy should define a clear progression pathway guiding internal staff through the learning journey as a coach. The ZXM framework details the progression pathways and standards for key Agile coaching roles. This provides clarity to organisational leaders and interview panel members to help with the hiring process for both internal and external candidates and also assists aspiring Agile coaches to know the key skills and competencies required for the role.

We  ensure we contextualise the ZXM Agile Academy™ framework to provide the client with a solid foundation on which to build their own agile coaches. We also work collaboratively with the Agile CoE to develop roles profiles and pathways  for the Agile Coaches at each stage of their development. These outline what to expect from the different Agile Coach roles, impacts and outcomes. 

Conclusions

One of the key risks of failure with agile transformations is lack of experienced support and cultural at odds with agile mindset. As experienced Enterprise and Program Agile Coaches who are also experienced practitioners our focus must be on developing and building agile capability and maturity and transferring knowledge to develop people in key agile roles as well as support and building internal agile capability in coaching. 

Our measure of success as external consultants and Agile Coaches must always be to develop and nature talent and provide support as they build their skills so that they can stand on their own. It’s their transformation, so support and help them own it and further develop it as the journey continues long after you move on to the next transformation challenge.

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