Agile coaching: a fundamental approach for new Project Managers

agile coaching

An Agile coach helps organizations with the implementation of the Agile methodology. It helps developing agile teams and facilitates organizational change culture in order to ensure effective results.

The goal of an Agile coach is to provide the right knowledge to an agile team. The teams will have to receive the right training and will have to know adequately the indispensable tools. The goal is to ensure that members are able to use this method to its full potential.

Agile coaches can be employees of an organization or work as external contractors.

Organizational benefits of an Agile coach

The implementation of an Agile methodology can help simplify the processes but, as many will know, it is not easy to make changes in an organization.

Typical challenges faced during a change can be grouped into five categories:

  1. Primary problems: any elementary situation that has to be solved. For example, the organization wants to increase customer satisfaction. To achieve this, it may be necessary to reduce marketing time or maintain competitiveness in a dynamic market, etc.
  1. Awareness / inattention. People are not aware of what they do not know and, for this reason, they need help to have a clear understanding of problems, gaps and opportunities that allow improvement. In Agile, awareness is an indispensable condition for promoting continuous improvement.
  1. Low sense of belonging. Lack of involvement and participation is one of the most typical challenges for many organizations. For this reason, many companies need help to create elements that foster collaboration and increase the sense of belonging of their employees.
  1. Skills gap. Perhaps people will need a different set of skills in order to reach the desired state. Most of the time, change means adopting different behaviors and new ways of working. People have to learn different responsibilities and activities during an Agile transformation. For this reason, they will need assistance and support in order to develop these new skills.
  1. Organizational barriers. Business agility is a great desire for most organizations. As a result, companies must optimize their processes and organizational projects in order to achieve greater flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness to unpredictable changes. This is why companies need help to identify and overcome barriers during their path of improvement.

Encouraging everyone to accept a new methodology requires significant effort from the management.

The agile coach in support of the Team

Having a coach able to guide and direct the change in the right way, can help a team to overcome the difficult phases, especially in the first period of change.

An Agile coach will allow the company to maintain its activities while at the same time committing itself to create an agile team. These factors will help save time, money and resources in the long term.

Moreover, another task of the Agile coach is to understand the reasons why, in certain cases, Agile does not provide the expected results. It will be his task to find possible solutions to remedy the situation.

Before the Agile coach finishes his job, the goal is to have a fully functioning agile team ready to embrace the new methodology.

The Agile methodology is indeed easy to understand, but difficult to master. The consequence is that many Project Managers encounter problems during the transition.

Most of these problems are due to unrealistic expectations. There is a tendency to overestimate the simplicity of implementing Agile within a team, a department or within the entire organization.

The role of the Agile coach

The role of an Agile coach can be temporary or permanent, depending on the needs of the organization.

Larger companies, with more teams, may want to keep this figure within the human resources department. His presence will be useful to help supervise the application of the agile methodology in the long term, but the position is generally temporary.

For most companies, especially medium and small organizations, it is more useful and economical to hire an Agile coach temporarily in order to help make the team work in an agile manner.

There is no valid strategy when it comes to agile adaptation, so every organization will have unique needs in the process.

Agile coaches take advantage of their background in project management, IT and other related fields in order to understand what will work for a particular organization and what will not.

The essential qualities for an agile coaching

In particular, there are five qualities necessary for effective Agile Coaching:

1. Knowledge of everything that surrounds the Agile methodology

Agile is not a standard recipe, but a complete philosophy. It is a mentality in which change is not the goal, but rather the starting point. The Agile methodology uses different methods and frameworks, such as Lean and Scrum for example. An Agile Coach must therefore be aware of all these different methods and know how and when to use them.

2. Possessing an open mind

The study following the Agile methodology is relatively new and is still under development. For this reason, an Agile coach must be constantly open to new techniques, tools and insights.

3. Understanding and empathy

An Agile coach does not say what should happen or what went wrong, but helps the team to get more information about their performance and take responsibility for it. This only works if this figure is able to gain the complete trust of the members of the team. This is why an Agile Coach needs a good understanding and empathy.
the agile coaching

4. Addressing conflicts

In an Agile environment, self-managed teams have the space to do their jobs as they want.

This also means that they must be able to resolve tensions and differences of opinion within the group itself. In this case, there is no manager to intervene and calm the situation.

Conflicts in the workplace are not a disaster in themselves, as long as they don’t get out of hand. The Agile coach therefore has an important role in identifying open or underlying tensions and giving the opportunity to speak about it correctly.

5. Patience and perseverance

Developing an agile mentality is usually a difficult process and some people need more time than others.

An agile coach must be able to focus on the things that are going well and, above all, keep looking forward. Changes always take longer than what one thinks.

 

Agile Coaching is therefore a vast activity that aims to allow improvements in organizations and helps people to evolve their mentality and behavior.

The task is not at all simple and can vary greatly depending on the context. There are more forms and techniques to do it and it will be the Agile Coach’s ability to find the best way in every situation.

 

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