Essential Advice for Agile Coaches

As coaches, we have a great deal of responsibility. Through our words and actions we lead and guide our teams and apprentices as they encounter the new way of working that Agile requires. We are responsible for their success as well as the success of the endeavor they are working on. How can we ensure we are doing everything in our power to live up to this responsibility?

Pairing Spend time sitting with team members to learn what they are doing and appreciate their work. Maybe even find ways to help them out. This time will help you develop a personal connection with each team member. Doing this will also help you become attuned to the non-obvious obstacles that impede the team’s progress.

Service Don’t let anything get in your way of serving the team. Meetings, training, and other things can easily become excuses not to do the hard work of service. Make sure that you aren’t sacrificing the team’s well-being for your own.

Team Building Keep thinking about and encouraging team building exercises. Little things can often make a big impact. You don’t need a full-day wilderness off-site to get a team to work well together. There is a huge difference between a bunch of individuals working towards the same goal vs. a team which is “in the zone” of super-productivity. As a coach, getting the time to spend as much time in this state of flow is your primary objective.

Experiment Aggressively experiment with new ways of doing things and encourage the team to do so as well. Every experiment that fails is just as important to improving as every experiment that succeeds. If every individual is experimenting with ways to improve their own work, then we can trust an evolutionary process to take place where better and better improvements are constantly being found.

Personal Development Constantly strive to develop personally in terms of behavior, knowledge, thought, and morals so that you can lead by example. “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues” and so it is a good place to start. This personal development may require getting your own coach or even a therapist. Your own barriers to improvement can best be overcome with help from someone else.

Learning Actively seek new reading materials and research subjects that are related to agility. Expand your reading to organizational culture, community development, economics, the philosophy of science, sociology, as well as technical fields. This diversity of knowledge will allow you to see otherwise hidden opportunities.

Breakdowns Encourage little breakdowns to avoid the big ones… little ones are much easier to handle. Lots of little breakdowns can become opportunities for transformative learning, but letting them accumulate until they create a catastrophe usually just hurts. The small breakdowns are difficult enough.

That’s a big list. I don’t do all that perfectly, but that is the standard I am constantly striving towards. It is a standard of constant improvement, just like Agile Work itself.

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