I know, I took my time right? But hey, what matters is that it’s finally here, the second part of what I’ve learned in going from Scrum Master to Agile Coach 🤓 In case you missed the first article you can find it here: https://orouho.com/2020/01/31/from-scrum-master-to-agile-coach-a-never-ending-journey-1-2/.
You’re all set? Great, let’s go!
You’re not part of the team anymore
I’m very attached to the idea of being part of a highly supportive and tightly-welded team so this was one of the toughest part of the transition. But I do think it’s an important one. As a Scrum Master I was always very close to the team (which helped a lot obviously), working with only one at a time and being with them all the time. But with the experience what is expected of me has changed, expanded actually. Now I always work with several teams at once and a broader range of people from the company come to me for questions, advice and coaching requests.
It is very interesting and quite stimulating but I did loose part of this particular link that helps to help others. You might be thinking it shouldn’t be like this, it doesn’t matter if you’re Scrum Master, Agile Coach or whatever, you should still be close to the team or you’re doing it wrong. Well let’s go a little deeper.
Should you necessarily have one Agile Coach for each team?
There’s an undeniable question of efficiency of course. The maturity of the team and the organization should be the key factors in this decision. On one hand your ultimate goal should be to coach the team to a point where they don’t need you anymore, they assimilated all the concepts, are adaptive and always reflect on the way they work to find and act on improvements. On the other hand in a bureaucratic command&control kind of organizations they will need you to unblock situations and protect them, work with everyone to create constructive interactions.
So at some point, to really help the team(s), you will have to take a step back and put more work on the system than on the team itself. In order to do so you will need support and recognition from top management/executive committee, and if you’re part of it even better, now you can really influence the way the company is working as a whole!
Working with management
That’s a big part of the job! I already talked about the top-down vs bottom-up approach in a precedent article and I think opposing the two is fundamentally wrong and misplaced. Empowering people is important but you will always need management positions, I know I will loose a few people here but I stand by it, and there are good reasons for that.
Not everyone wants responsibility
Auto-organization is great, but it comes with responsibility. It’s kind of the idea really, you’re given the trust and right to decide what to do and how to do it which means you have to make sure it works and gets the company where it needs to go. And if it doesn’t it is your job to react and find solutions! This makes a lot of people quite uncomfortable and more than once I’ve been in situations where team members would ask me to tell them what to do (or even to assign them the tasks they should work on…). This behavior, most of the time, is a clear reaction to fear and means that you need to work on creating a fail safe environment. But sometimes it’s something else: lack of self-confidence or plain and simple lack of interest for example and it’s ok too. People have every right to just want to be assigned tasks that correspond to their knowledge and capacity and execute them.
Organizational change needs management support
Managers are needed but their work might have to evolve (depending on how they do it today obviously) and if they are used to boss people around there’s a lot of coaching to do! A manager should work on the system, define clear limits to the playground of the team(s) in order to create the conditions of success. Give the team(s) what they need to work efficiently and intervene when they face a problem they can’t solve on their own. When some procedure, process or activity is unproductive their job is to transform it or make sure it is not required anymore using the feedback of the team(s) members.
Once again, work on the system more than the people is a good way to summarize it all ⚙️
Get Yourself a Coach!
That was one of the feedback from my last article of 2019: https://orouho.com/2019/12/21/the-agile-way-6-things-ive-learned-this-year/.
Coaching teams & organizations can be very hard and it’s very difficult to know if you’re doing the right thing (actually who said there was a right and wrong?). From my experience, it is very important to have other coaches with you to challenge you, debate, share ideas, observe and learn together and from one another.
Personally I use the community: books, articles, videos, conferences, meetups…those have helped me a lot and continue to do so on a daily basis. You will be in doubt sometimes, you will even ask yourself if your job is really helping people or if it’s just noise (I know I have and still do sometimes) and I think it’s a good sign. Means you don’t take anything for granted and challenge your own decisions, that’s great as long as it doesn’t become a blocker that freezes you. Take actions, do experiments, reflect on them and remember: you won’t know if it works until you try!
As I said in the title, this is a never-ending journey. There always are new stuff to learn and discover, things that will work and things that won’t, things you believe today that you will preach against tomorrow…This is just my experience and take on it. Yours might differ (although I doubt that it is entirely different) and you might not agree with everything I said, but I hope it was a good read!
Also, if you want to go further you should have a look at this article, I don’t necessarily agree with everything but it has some pretty good insights: https://www.toptal.com/project-managers/agile-coaching/agile-coach-vs-scrum-master
What about you? Are you on the same path? What’s your point of view on all of this? I would love to read your comments 😊
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