Importance of Coaching Office in Sustaining Agile Transformation

Agile Transformation is not just putting in place a set of ceremonies and processes but it should bring about a change in the culture of the organization. It is found inevitable in organizations that such transformation efforts need expert coaching at all levels. Mostly companies hire external consultants to help in such initiatives. But how long can it continue? When the assignment comes to end, companies are faced with a great challenge to sustain the transformation.

Some of the reasons why sustenance can be so challenging are:

1. Identifying a leader who is passionate about Agile culture
Since it is a new role there can be hesitation in taking on such a responsibility. Only someone who is very passionate about it can really fit the role.

2. Providing capacity to the identified person to perform the role.
Even if such a passionate person is identified, providing the capacity to perform the role is difficult. Most persons who are self motivated would already be involved in several initiatives in the organization. Taking on additional responsibility would mean something else has to be given up. So this is again a challenge in organizations.

3. Leader should be experienced and empowered
There may be some persons at the Scrum Master level or so who are passionate and are willing to take on such responsibility but sustenance at an organization level needs more experience overall and also empowerment. Hence a senior person is preferred in my opinion for such a role.

4. Very easy to give up good practices!
When external coaches are around everything seems to be going fine. The moment they stop teams seem to get back to their old habits and get immersed in their work as there is no one to remind them to have a planning meeting or a retrospective! This also is because most organizations underestimate the effort needed to bring about a cultural change and stop external consultants much sooner than they
should have. When practices are not internalized enough cultural change would not be deep enough to sustain by itself.

All the above and perhaps many more seem to point that sustenance needs a lot of attention and effort. In order to provide sufficient attention and care for sustenance, establishing a coaching office helps a lot. Of course it goes without saying that management commitment is a must as for any other major initiative in the organization.

Coaching Office Functions

Coaching office is normally headed by a senior person in the organization who has good knowledge of Agile and is passionate and reports to senior management. It would be staffed with at least 2-3 junior coaches who can be part-time too but should dedicated atleast 30+% of their time to coaching. They can be SMs or POs or or any senior person such as senior architect, tester or designer. Coaching office may include external coaches from time to time to bring in more experience and fresh outlook.

The benefits of coaching office are:
1. Nurturing internal coaches – initial junior staff of coaching office are like internal coaches

2. Training and Coaching new teams/new joinees

3. Making sure periodic self-assessment of teams happens

4. Define and implement metrics

5. Assist in removal of impediments escalated by Scrum teams

6. Assist in forming and conducting Scrum-of- Scrums

7. Conduct periodic activities related to Agile – hackathons, competitions, Agile Day and so on.

8. Guide management in introducing newer processes and tools

And so on..
I have just put forth some views based on my experience in establishing and running a coaching office in a couple of organizations. I am sure you would have had some experience in this area and would love to hear your thoughts and inputs.

What do you think?

2 Responses

  1. I agree that organizations starts thinking of agile coaches within the organization, the impact that it will have on its people will be multifolds.

    This culture will help develop quality leaders and will also help people move and take risks.

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