The agile coach tool kit

The agile coach tool kit

Rhys Horton 06.10.2017

So what is agile coaching, and why is there increasing demand to work agile?

There’s a buzz around Sydney: IT & business transformation, change, growth, cost reductions, efficiencies and let’s work agile. But what does this really mean, and why is everyone talking about it?
 
I sat down with Obed George, an industry-leading agile coach who has worked with some of the largest organisations in Sydney, to get a firsthand perspective of where the industry is heading and to understand Obed’s skill set and how this methodology is applied within the industry.
 

How did you get into agile coaching and why?

I come from a consulting background, upon graduation my first role was as a junior consultant for a firm set up by three top ex-IBM executives who were also very well versed with agile. I learnt under their tutelage and working in the field. Eventually moving to senior consultant role where I was guiding client teams on their agile journey whilst also designing and building tech solutions.

This experience started me on a long journey of coaching and helping teams understand and wield agile. With years of experience, comes the ability to scale your knowledge as well as coaching multiple teams and the skill needed to guide senior leadership through tactical and strategic thought leadership. The objective is to bring about real tangible change in the ways of working, across the organization.

An agile coach is not just someone that coaches and guides multiple teams, but someone that can actively coach and guide all levels of the organization. This challenge, and opportunity, to engage everyone at every level of an organization, is why I enjoy being an agile coach. 

What’s in an agile coach’s tool kit?

Agile coaches have a myriad of skills, tips and tricks that comes from years of experience. Each coach has their own skill set and their own flair, you would be hard pressed to find two coaches with the same items in their tool kit. 
 
But a basic toolkit would include:
  • Good facilitation skills
  • The ability to bring people on a journey with you
  • The ability to reflect the coachee to themselves
  • Question everything, with the intent to spark creativity
  • Reframe change to suit the audience
  • Adapt language to suit the environment
  • Show courage and be empowered
 

How does a scrum work and what does it teach us?

A scrum, or a stand up, is a sync session for the team where they come together for a time boxed period (usually 15 minutes) to discuss what’s happening with each other and if there are any blockers. This is a great way to share dependencies and to identify where help is needed. The great thing about scrum/huddle/stand ups, is that you don’t have to be in an agile environment to do this, this session can be done by any team working in any framework.

As we can initially see, agile coaches bring a unique set of skills to a business, developing individual approaches, to help improves the overall performance of a business and individuals within a team. 
 
This is not just a methodology, it’s a mindset, co-operating and learning from others and being passionate about the work you do is one of the key foundations to success in an ever changing industry.

Agile application and its impact

What is the hype around businesses working Agile, what value can it bring?

Businesses working agile have seen a shift in culture, ability to deliver incremental value, increased adaptability, and improved employee satisfaction. Mature organizations have a culture of incredible team empowerment, trust and a shared vision that is clearly visible in everything they do. These teams also have learnt the knack of maximizing the work not done, and have incredible flow of work thanks to team pull.

All the above provide the business with the ability to delivery value, adapt quickly, and learn continuously.

Agile also provides a pathway for people to be seen as people, and to be cross functionally skilled, it gives the customer realistic expectations, the customer’s value is highly regarded, teams are empowered to pull their own work, teams are also encouraged to fail early and often and learn from their failures, it gives leadership the ability to change tack very quickly and yet learn with every decision, they also can receive early indications of issues and delays, they can set purpose driven milestones and most importantly, everyone can expect great quality and fit purpose products.

What are the key challenges to a business to adopt an agile approach?

People, process and culture.

People, because people can resist change. When you introduce a new way of working, a majority of the team might resist that change. Bringing them on that journey to the other side is part of a coach’s responsibility.

Process, because processes are ingrained from years of working in the old ways. Value delivery, Recruitment, progression and promotions, KP’s, and a focus on financials have all been challenges for organizations. 

Agile is more than scrum, to be agile, and see great results, the organization as a whole needs to change. From leadership, to the teams and from a financials focus to a customer centricity and value delivery focus. The challenge to move organizations from focussing on P&L to value and customer centricity is huge and many organizations struggle with that also. 

Good coaches, working as a team can help and guide organizations at every level progress through their agile journey.

Do you see being agile as the optimal target for business to obtain efficiency or is there going to be another monumental shift soon?

I think agile provides an optimal business environment for great customer satisfaction, team happiness, continuous learning and a clear fit for purpose framework for teams to work in. 
 
However, I have seen agile grow and scale and fit differently for different organizations, and I think as more and more organizations adopt agile, it will change and new ways of working will be introduced and added to the current framework. There will be shifts in the market, but agile is about culture and the culture that is aims to implement is for customers, teams, its members and great end products.

Summary 

As you can see Obed is extremely passionate about the application of this methodology, and from a business perspective you can really see the benefits of aligning your organisation to work cooperatively and effectively, and provides a great environment to identify and resolves issues early in the process, thus allowing businesses to adapt and save costs throughout a project.
 
Where I see one of the most interesting benefits is within the business culture, by shifting towards agile, offices are becoming more open plan, people can hot desk, work from home and collaborate with colleagues more quickly and effectively. This provides an extremely conducive atmosphere and brings teams together with a common goal. 
 
Who wouldn’t want to work in a business where the work-life balance is flexible, but also the most efficient?

 

Image: "toolbox" by royalty free is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Rhys Horton's picture
Senior Consultant | Project Delivery
rhorton@morganmckinley.com.au