Disciplined Agile

How to Grow Effective Coaches

There are several ways to create effective coaches, including team leads and scrum masters.

  • Letting coaches figure it out
  • Training in the mindsets
  • Bringing in outside coaches to coach internal coaches
  • Bringing in outside coaches to coach your teams
  • Hiring experienced coaches as FTEs
  • Establish a coaching community of practice

Each of these has their own level of cost and effectiveness. The cost shown is not just cost in dollars but the cost of not having qualified coaches.

Let’s go through each of these.

  • Letting your own coaches figure it out. Many companies are forced into this choice because of lack of budget. The result, however, is poor coaching and often poor agility. Taking a two-day Scrum Master class provides an insufficient start because it typically does not provide the “why” of the roles, events, artifacts, and rules of scrum. New coaches are left to “follow scrum” without the deep understanding required to apply it to the teams they are coaching. While it might be inexpensive in dollars, it has a high cost in time and frustration.
  • Training in the mindsets. A more effective approach is to equip new coaches with the mindset to be a coach. Expose them to agile coach-specific training that teaches the mindset of agility and ways to accelerate process improvement and helping teams choose their way of working. This is what the Disciplined Agile Coach course does. While this helps individuals, it is not sufficient by itself.
  • Bringing in outside coaches to coach internal coaches. This can be the most effective approach since experienced outside coaches can bring a holistic view of the organization’s agile process and be able to adapt their coaching to it. There is a risk in that outside coaches may not be that experienced with agile frameworks, which will likely yield a poor result and be expensive.
  • Bringing in outside coaches to coach your teams. This is an expensive way to grow your coaches. While you get immediate results and will improve your teams, coaching doesn’t just “rub off” and there will be little or no coaching experience left in your organization after they leave.
  • Hiring experienced coaches as FTEs. Hiring experienced outside coaches can be effective because you are adding experience to your teams. This is also a great approach when none of your existing team members have the ability or want to be coaches. The challenge, however, is if you don’t want to allocate people full time to a coaching role.
  • Establish a coaching community. This is often the best approach when coupled with equipping coaches with the basic knowledge of coaching. Establish a community of practice (CoP) for coaching. This is a collection of people who share the profession of coaching and have banded together to learn from each other to develop themselves and often even the organization. It requires support from management and probably a facilitator. The cost is relatively low and it becomes a vehicle for maturing coaches. These can work well with an agile center of excellence.

June 2023