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Where have all the Agile Coaches gone?

Updated: Jul 15, 2021

Have you noticed a trend of companies getting rid of Agile Coaches? Some are shutting down their transformation office. What do you make of this? What, if anything, should we be doing about this as Agilists?

Coaches haven’t been able to show ROI. How do you show executives the return on investment from Agile coaching? I’ve never seen anyone clearly articulate the value. People find value when they have a coach, but they can’t communicate that value to the people writing the check.

Agile coaches talk to executives about collaboration and iterative work but it’s fuzzy and usually not clear how the coach will help.

You may be thinking, ‘well that’s the old paradigm, tying a job to ROI.’ Maybe, but if you’re helping a company transform you are likely living in the old paradigm.

Agile is still viewed as a process. I still hear companies talk about ‘the Agile Process’. If you think Agile is a process, then why on earth would you need a coach? The reason Agile Coaches exist, where other processes don’t, is because of the high amount of collaboration and mindset shift required to make Agile really hum. The Scrum rules are simple. You don’t need a coach to tell you to have a daily standup and a retrospective.

‘We have a scrum master’. I’ve heard companies say that they have great scrum masters, they don’t need a coach. I’ve seen great scrum masters and I tend to agree if you have a great scrum master a coach is redundant at the team level. In these cases, you might need Organizational and Leadership Coaching, but not a coach for teams.

Agile isn’t new anymore. When Agile was new, it was so different, teams needed a guide. Nowadays most people have some experience with Agile, there is less need for coaching. That’s not to say they couldn’t use a little coaching, but we’re past the newness stage.

Agile coaching teams are hard to manage. Agile Coaches are notoriously hard to manage, partly because we can't measure the efficacy of a coach, and partly because Agile coaches tend to get religious about doing things their way. Companies don't like that. It seems like more trouble than it's worth.

Maybe it’s not a bad thing. Coaching should not be a forever role. Once teams are up and running the coach should go away. The same goes for transformation offices. This should not be a permanent department, set up to justify its own existence. As with many transitional roles, Agile Coaching and Transformation roles have evolved to create work for themselves. It’s probably time we shook the tree a little.

What have you noticed in terms of Agile Coaches being cut?

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