Working together with multiple agile coaches

How do you get the most from your agile coaching investment?

As more and more organisations build agility into their operating models, they’re realising the benefits of expert agile coaching to help drive and support agile adoption and improvement. In larger organisations, we’re seeing multiple external agile coaches engaged to support many teams to establish and mature their agile capability. Unfortunately, with multiple perspectives comes divergent opinions about what is and isn’t good practice – almost 50% of agile initiatives fail because of lack of consistency. Creating and supporting alignment across agile coaches is key to reap the rewards that agile ways of working can bring.

We’re in this together

For agile initiatives to grow, coaches need to work together to combine and learn from their collective knowledge, skills and experience. A collective and balanced approach will support teams to mature, while ensuring a consistent understanding of up-to-date terminology and good industry practices.

An effective coalition of coaches will build on individual talents and multiple perspectives by sharing, comparing and evaluating different styles, approaches and artefacts. This promotes an environment where people share practical insights, experiment with different methods, develop areas of interest and build a deep sense of collaboration, rather than competition.

By melding and merging experienced agile mindsets, agile coaches will further inspire internal staff to become proficient and then leaders in agile adoption – contribute to interactive learning, exchange ideas, coach and support others, promote and amplify a culture of continuous improvement.

Model essential behaviours

Modelling effective coaching practice and behaviours also helps to grow internal coaching capability within the organisation. Through working with motivated and engaged individuals, the coaching coalition will identify and guide internal agile proponents and ‘champions’ to gradually transition to and take up agile coaching roles and responsibilities.

This approach reduces the dependence and reliance on external coaching expertise and ensures agile practice is home-grown, embedded, maintained and sustained over time.

Practical ways to work together

Understand and respect the hierarchy

  • Engage with key executive sponsors to align with their vision and authority to make decisions and provide the necessary ‘referent’ authority to agile coaches
  • Ensure clear communication (to leaders and teams) regarding agile influence and decision making, with consistent messaging and constant reinforcement.
  • Is there a lead/senior coach to drive and steer overall coaching practice, or a flatter structure requiring more consultative and collaborative arrangements between coaching peers?

Create a shared vision and common goals

  • Consolidate agile coaching practice across the organisation
  • Generate buy-in and commitment from all coaches – collaborative effort, common purpose
  • Work together to identify and define shared goals. e.g.
    • support all teams in progressing their agile maturity
    • encourage and foster a collaborative culture and community of practice
    • learn from and share with each other, to apply what works in various contexts
  • Build up processes and protocols with a view to gradual handover and transition of responsibilities to internal officers to maintain and sustain over time
  • Identify and replicate preferred practice; mandate and standardise practices in the long term

Share the load

  • Divide and allocate teams evenly to share the workload
  • Promote whole-of-organisation coaching services, rather than local team/branch initiatives
  • Align siloed coaching effort and capacity (org structure, cost-centres, hierarchy, reporting)
  • Find the right allocation to ensure cultural fit, social alignment and personality match
  • Accommodate ‘multi-speed’ growth and development for teams with varying agile maturity

Work together as an agile team

  • Work together as an agile team, work in the open, articulate goals, commit to Scrum events
  • Find a shared work area/space/wall to call ‘home’ and use this to visualise the flow of work
  • Find and use available communication and collaboration tools (e.g. WebEx, Skype, Microsoft Teams)
  • Use a ‘working agreement’ to articulate expectations, cultural anchors and ways of working

Share lessons learned

  • Empower teams to learn while encouraging them to ‘optimise for the whole’
  • Build and expand on previous experiments and experience – evaluate, re-use and leverage past/existing practices, materials, and artefacts
  • Promote and apply consistent practices (where appropriate) and ensure common vocabulary
  • Create opportunities (e.g. Community of Practice) for teams to learn and share
  • Create a repository (online hub) where people can store, share and find useful materials

Identify and solve larger problems together

  • Collectively resolve complex and systemic barriers beyond the remit of individual teams
  • Facilitate group problem-solving and root-cause-analysis to address larger challenges

Conclusions

Investment in agile coaching can reap rewards up to 10x the investment. Understanding, supporting, and reinforcing the need for agile coaches to work together as an agile team will improve consistency and reduce the risk of failure.

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