Agile Coaching: A detective game

By Georg Fasching | blogpost

Jan 20
Playing Detective

Over recent months, I’ve come to hear tales and woes of some Agile Coaches seemingly ‘breaking and entering’ an organisation and instantly eliminating whatever the existing Agile practice in favour of their own methodology. Supposedly, some contexts do demand this approach, perhaps based on previous learning this is even the client’s intention or the coach’s recommendation. By and large however, it seems to me that this robs the Agile Coach of valuable learning; losing knowledge of the underlying causes of success and dysfunction that would inevitably prove useful when working with the people and the organisation going forward.

While this approach is somewhat “Lean” – in the sense that the coach will effectively “stop the line” with immediate effect; in Lean methodology it should never be an outsider who takes this action but rather a member of the line itself.

An obvious exception to this rule may be in situations where operations really are in an irrecoverable state. Without taking the time to inspect goings on though, how would one really know whether this was in fact the case? With Agile leveraging the scientific method and empirical process control, without establishing transparency in order to inspect, how could one adapt accordingly?

Magnifying GlassStarting out with a new organisation, each and every conversation can be seen to contribute to investigating the case of how they got to where they are and what influence each aspect of the system, including each person involved, has had on getting them there.

Further to observation of daily work & ceremonies, as I discuss with the Team Facilitators, Team Coaches or Scrum Masters, one side of the story emerges. I talk to the Product Owners and another account unravels. Equally, as I talk to some team members, a further perspective becomes apparent. Naturally, I also spend time in conversation with relevant stakeholders and leadership, again other sides emerge still. All discourses are true and relevant and only together do they form a truth.

As these investigative discussions take place, I shape and reshape my view of the situation and update my list of hypotheses. This shifting perspective naturally flows into my coaching approach and determines the nature, direction and outcome.

Just like in childhood detective games; my role is to fit together each individual clue and piece of evidence; until a case is concluded and I move on to the next organisation. The difference being of course, that in teams & organisations adopting, practicing, or scaling Agile, usually no crimes are committed.

Please do feel free to share any feedback in the comments.

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