24 July 2020

Better intentions and relationships make better organisations.

Geof Ellingham posted an article on Linkedin with a fresh look at agile coaching. (This post is part of a longer series that begins here.) In the article Geof reflects on some of the conflicting ideas in agile coaching. For example he places the 'expert'coach in a context, and the 'values' coach in another context and thus tries to make sense of this apparent dichotomy in the diatribe that goes on about what an agile coach is.

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Some initial impressions;
This model seems valuable as it addresses some often un-reconciled thinking about how agile coaching should be done. It's great that a context is set, so that agile coaches and the people who hire them can start to think more specifically about what they want.

Agile coaches are at the moment a blunt object in many cases, as evidenced by the social media No True Scotsman arguments, as well as the regular "Do it this way" messages in meetups, training and online groups.

The consensus among the (quite experienced) agile coaching community I know around this behaviour is that this is a manifestation of some of these ideas;

People are selling something; Digital marketing calls for people to assert strong opinions to stand out -thus a clear simple message beats subtlety and nuance. Buyers often don't know what they are shopping for when selecting an agile coach. Many managers have had agile foisted upon them and just want to delegate the 'agile stuff' to someone while they get back to their more important and urgent work. In this context an easy selection process beats out a good one.

The growth in demand for agile coaches has outstripped the supply, leading to people will less depth of experience taking on the role, and thus people who know less are put on an expert pedestal. In this instance they are likely to rely upon what has worked for them in their one, two or maybe three experiences prior to this role. Again, diversity and nuance are gone, but now the coach is in a place they need to protect their role based authority and thus assert what they know as a 'truth that matters.'  This defensive stance is probably amplified by manager thinking around 'this agile stuff is simple; just do it.

There are other weird things that go on in the agile coaching world; for example everyone on the online groups seems to have a strong bias for collaboration and psychological safety.  While these things are valuable, they may not be what the agile coach was hired for. It seems that agile coaches who either rely on process and methods, or on collaboration and trust are all blinkered.

These coaches are often viewed skeptically by more experienced coaches who can apply a more situational approach to coaching, drawing on skills from a variety of experiences.  

Abraham Kaplan quote: Give a small boy a hammer and he will find...

Overall I really like the thread this series takes. It's a great deconstruction of some of the arguments out there that are usually insufficiently resolved, and thus we're doomed to hear them again and again.

Better intentions and relationships make better organisations.
- Geof Ellingham in his second essay in this series

1 comment:

  1. Great to see that the model has resonance with your real-world experience, Craig. Happy to answer any questions that arise either here or on LinkedIn.