Author: Alyssa Kristosik

6 Mistakes You’re Making When Hiring an Agile Coach

So, you’ve decided your team would benefit from Agile Coaching. If you think it’s as simple as typing “Agile Coach” into LinkedIn and sifting through results, you may be disappointed. Even though there are plenty of Agile Coaches out there, it takes time and thoughtfulness to find the right coach that meshes with your organization and is able to help you achieve your desired goals. Even when you find that special someone, it’s not always easy to integrate an Agile Coach into your workplace. By avoiding the following six pitfalls, you will be more likely to have a smooth and successful coaching engagement.

1.You’re limiting your search to people with certifications at the end of their name

CSM, PMI, CSP, SA… the list goes on and on. While there is a lot to be said about someone who invests their time and money into obtaining the knowledge required to hold these certifications, it is not always a “must-have.” If you limit your Agile Coaching candidate pool to just those that are certified, you may be missing out on some great coaches. While certifications can be very beneficial, it in no way guarantees the quality of a coach.Instead, look at the skill set a coach has and how they have used it in the past. Having the knowledge is one thing, being able to apply it in a manner that produces desired results is completely different.

 

2. You’re not looking at the types of experiences a coach has

Let’s say someone has 10+ years of Agile Coaching experience. Sounds great right? It certainly could be, but make sure you’re digging a little deeper into what exactly they spent all that time doing. For example, if a coach has been working exclusively at the team level, there’s a chance that person may not be the best fit for your portfolio level coaching need. Additionally, you should be looking for a few key things when considering a coach’s past experiences. What industries have they been in? What size companies have they coached? What about the types of environments? These are all crucial in assuring that you are setting yourself up for success before a coach even gets on-site.

SP Aspen - if you just trust years of experience you're gonna have a bad time

3. You don’t know what style of coaching your team wants or needs

Every coach/consultancy has a slightly different flavor, and you need to have an idea of what flavor you’re expecting. Do you want someone to be more hands off with the team? Do you want someone leading the team almost constantly? This may not be easy to answer right off the bat either. Take a look at your organization’s Agile competency and be pragmatic with what you’re looking to accomplish from of a coaching engagement. Setting these expectations early on can help reduce frustration on both ends of the spectrum.

4. Once a coach is on site, you never want them to leave

Agile coaching can completely transform the way a team works and communicates. This is awesome. What’s not awesome is creating a dependency. If things are only improving when a coach is on site and with the group, then reverting back to old ways as soon as she leaves, this is a problem. To truly get the most out of a coaching engagement, the coach should be able to leave periodically, and upon return, see that everything didn’t go up in flames. This is a huge indicator that the team is starting to truly understand and implement new learnings.

Craig would be so happy - if my agile coaches would just stay with my teams forever i would be so happy

5. You keep welcoming more and more coaches

More does not always equal better, especially if you are getting your coaches through a consultancy. If you’re considering adding another coach to the mix, be sure that you are clear on where you expect to see value added. You want to avoid your organization being used as a piggy bank for a consultancy. Any reputable organization won’t do this, but awareness is key. Ways to avoid this potential problem? Make sure there is an eventual exit strategy for your coaches. Believe it or not, you don’t want them there forever.

6. You’re looking for a coach to come in and tell everyone “the right way to do Agile”

More often than not, team members have slightly different ideas of this whole Agile thing, and sometimes they expect the coach to settle that debate and set explicit rules. “Here’s exactly what you do and how you do it, congratulations you’re now Agile”.

Not only is this unrealistic, but in the long run, it’s not going to benefit your organization’s goal of working in an Agile fashion. You want a coach that is going to help facilitate a shared understanding within the team and teach different methods. It really is up to the team to decide what actually works in the context of their organization and what doesn’t. The coach may be the expert on Agile, but you are the expert on your organization. No two Agile teams are run in the exact same manner, and that’s the beauty of it.