Why do we need agile coaching

Career & Salary

Many companies have had the painful experience: For the agile transformation of their organization, it is not enough to introduce agile methods and change the structures. Rather, an agile attitude is necessary so that the culture in the company gets moving and the strategy is filled with life. But that cannot be prescribed and introduced by decree. It only develops in a lengthy process of change in which employees and managers need active support - from agile coaches, for example.

Most companies are now largely in agreement on this, but it is unclear to them what exactly the role of agile coaches is and what know-how they should bring with them. Often project managers, scrum masters or organizational developers are still appointed agile coaches without much preparation due to their passion for the topic and their supposed methodological proximity. But passion and methodological knowledge are not enough to be able to fulfill this role.

Selection is often made without a system

Many companies send their prospective agile coaches to training courses that are intended to qualify them for their future tasks. Correspondingly, there are now many agile coach training courses with different approaches on the market. But how are the participants determined for these courses? It gives the impression that the decision as to who is allowed to complete such training is made at random. For example, an employee appears to be the logical choice to the decision-makers because they are already working as a Scrum Master in organizational development. Another still has something good for a project and is interested in the topics of "agility" and "digital transformation". So he gets the course as an incentive for the work done. The fact is: the selection of future agile coaches is often very unsystematic.

In addition: Often too little attention is paid to the fact that an agile coach training course has to convey not only the necessary methodological skills but also the mindset that the coaches need for their daily work. He decides what the agile coaches convey to their colleagues and whether the methods are used correctly. Therefore, a rule of thumb when designing an agile coach training course should be: 20 percent technology and methodology, but around 80 percent attitude!

Agile coaches need an agile attitude

Agile coaches are multipliers. So the central question is: what are they multiplying? Only method know-how or also the attitude necessary for agile work? The answer depends on the people, but also on the concept of the particular training. The question of how the participants in an agile coach training are correctly selected cannot be answered easily - especially because the exclusion and entry criteria for this, as is so often the case with personnel selection and development, are not always hard to measure.

Two examples: Assume that you select an employee as the person responsible who is already fit in the Scrum methodology and who works successfully as a Product Owner or Scrum Master in your organization. Then this does not necessarily mean that he fulfills the partially different basic requirements for an agile coach. Scrum is just one of many methods in the agile world of work, and the usefulness of each method also depends on the spirit with which it is applied. In the worst case, the Scrum Master mutates into a method watchdog, who slavishly pays attention to compliance with the rules, but is neither suitable as a team developer nor as a coach for employees. It is not uncommon to hear from experienced Scrum Masters that they think nothing of "all the psychological stuff" - their willingness to self-reflect is correspondingly low. An agile coach should be adaptable as well as able to learn and develop.

Choosing candidates is not easy

Suppose you think an already trained coach is the right choice. Then the question arises: Is the internalized credo of many coaches standing in the way of his development to become an agile coach, that the other person must always find the solution within himself? Practice often shows: yes.

Agile coaches have to show great role flexibility in their work. Sometimes they are faced with the challenge of coaching employees or colleagues and actually looking for the solution in the client; However, sometimes it is also important to advise and not infrequently to actively help shape it. In addition, they are often sparring partners for management when it comes to how the desired development can be promoted. Therefore, in addition to certain "doer skills", they also need a backbone and a certain standing in the organization, otherwise they will quickly be shipwrecked.

So, before naming the participants for an agile coach training, companies should deal intensively with the question of which competencies and, above all, which attitude a candidate needs in order to fill the role of an agile coach in the future. Practice shows that the following competencies and skills, among others, are important:

  • Relationship-shaping skills (pronounced communication skills including the ability to constructively shape conflicts;

  • Team and cooperation skills, an understanding of agile leadership), cognitive and (self- / emotional) regulatory skills (such as mental agility, tolerance of ambiguity and frustration),

  • Ability to control oneself (observe one's own behavior, assess and readjust one's own behavior in a differentiated manner).

In practice, these skills and competencies make it easier, among other things, to confidently deal with ambiguities, i.e. ambiguities, to approach changes openly and to quickly find oneself in a volatile framework that is characterized by changing roles instead of rigid (hierarchical) structures. In principle, all employees and managers can embark on the "agile journey". However, it is important to know the starting point or starting point of the journey of the potential participants.

Agile awareness workshop as a starting point

Therefore, the following concept has proven itself for the selection of the travel participants

it enables decision-makers and potential participants to sharpen their focus on who is where on their own personal journey. It is expedient, for example, to start with an open "Agile Awareness Workshop" for those interested. This workshop serves to create a basic understanding of what

  • agile transformation in general means

  • which dimensions this (change) process affects and above all

  • what the tasks and roles of, among other things, an agile coach in everyday company life are.

One, if not the central goal is: The potential trainees must have a clear picture of whether they would like to embark on a journey into the world of agile coaches. If the answer is yes and your interest is aroused, a structured and transparent way should be shown how and under what conditions you can decide for yourself whether you want to take part in this journey, and how the selection of candidates for an agile coach Training takes place. Such a workshop also creates an initial common understanding of agility in the company.

What's next for those interested? Towards the end of the workshop you will be given a homework assignment to show your own motivation for the training. This task can be, for example, to deal intensively with a self-reflection task. They are also asked to fill out a psychological personality inventory. Then the candidates are invited to an "Agile Attitude Development Day".

Agile Attitude Development Day

Among other things, this day reflects on how the participants approached the homework and what attitudes they were guided by. This serves as an introduction to a conversation about what motivates you to become an agile coach and the attitude with which you approach the topic of agility. They are made familiar with the agile principles in a playful way in joint exercises and deal with both the tasks and themselves in various learning and reflection sessions.

Towards the end of the workshop, all participants should receive detailed individual feedback and the evaluation of the personality inventory completed in advance so that they can decide for themselves: "Yes, I want to become an agile coach" or "I can do more to increase agility in another role contribute to our organization. "

Of course, it is also in the company's interest to see where its employees start their (agile) journey - among other things, in order to plan the development of all trainees individually and based on their needs. In fact, their development already begins on the "Agile Attitude Development Day" - at least if they are given specific, individual development recommendations in the workshop.

Agile coaches are also gradually maturing

The advantage of such a multi-dimensional process is: It is and does not appear artificial, as the participants are already dealing intensively with the mindset necessary for agility. In addition, it becomes clear from the start how important mutual appreciation, a high level of transparency and communication at eye level are, so that people reflect on their attitudes and their usual behavior and are ready to change their attitude and behavior. The following applies not only to agile coaches when it comes to agility: 20 percent are technology / methodology and 80 percent are attitude. This also applies to the people who accompany you in the change process.

The training to become an agile coach should have a modular structure and extend over a longer period of time, for example six or nine months, so that the future agile coaches can develop the attitude and attitude necessary for their work. In addition to teaching methods, the subject of self-reflection and reflection on the experiences made should also play an important role in the training. This is the only way for coaches to develop further, and they gradually develop the attitude and thus also the confidence in behavior that they need in their everyday work in a changing environment.

  1. Generate constructive conflicts and criticism
    "Conflict" does not necessarily have to be negative. It can also have a positive effect when it is used constructively in an agile team. IT management consultant Ivan Kovynyov gives tips on how executives can specifically create a positive conflict culture in the team and thus improve performance and project success.
  2. Form a heterogeneous team
    You need a heterogeneous team. If, for example, the team consisted exclusively of middle-aged white men, it is foreseeable that they will all have a similar style of thinking.
  3. Conflict-free team building
    Team members should already have met and worked together. It would be counterproductive to start the team building phase with a constructive conflict.
  4. Remove impediments
    Barriers to freedom of expression in the team must be identified and removed: irrational need for harmony, excessive consensus orientation, strong opinion makers, camp formation, authoritarian project managers or product owners, zero-error tolerance, target specifications contain a solution, etc.
  5. Take the right path
    The middle way is not always the best way: if one wants to pass the tree to the left and the other to the right, the way through the middle is obviously not the best.
  6. Define consensus rules
    Looking for a qualified consensus: Rules must be defined for situations in which the team cannot come to an agreement. For example, the team calls an independent expert or the project manager or the product owner decide.
  7. Define a common goal
    Common goals as the North Star: Debates can easily separate participants of an agile team further from one another. A common understanding of the team's goal and mission creates the opposite and has a balancing effect.
  8. Humorous interaction
    When all else fails: humor always helps!