Coaching can be done by anyone on a team. Managers, ScrumMasters, product owners, anyone can help the team focus on removing impediments, working toward continuous improvement, and guiding the team toward higher performance. Having a coach dedicated to working with an Agile team can be even more effective in guiding the team to continuously improve, as that is the coach's primary focus.
We took an in-depth look at essential Agile coaching skills as part of an Agile Coach Community of Practice in Chicago, Illinois, while reviewing Lyssa Adkins' book Coaching Agile Teams. There are 14 skills that Lyssa mentions as important for coaching. We prioritized these skills in order of what we thought was most essential to focus on first and were able to draw insights through affinity-grouping these skills.
Though the use of some of these items may be ongoing and may run in parallel, we reviewed the importance of these skills in the following order:
The first three skills focus on yourself.
- Set yourself on a path of learning and growing.
- Model Agile values and practices.
- Master yourself.
Before you start to coach others, it's good to know your own strengths and weaknesses and your coaching style, as well how you respond to different situations (e.g., change, conflict). Embodying and demonstrating Agile values is also important.
The next set of skills focuses on initial coaching of others.
- Instill Agile practices.
- Coach the whole team.
- Coach team members.
- Coach team members one on one.
- Coach product owners.
- Coach outsiders.
At this stage, it's important for the coach to know how to share Agile practices in ways that can be quickly adopted by the team. The coach works with the team and the individual team members to better understand and apply Agile practices, while also coaching people outside the team to minimize disruptions.
Once the teams have become comfortable applying the basic Agile practices, the coach should move forward on the coaching scale by focusing on in-depth coaching of skills and team dynamics, working with the team while continuing to self-reflect.
- Coach the team through change.
- Accept their ideas above your own.
- Navigate conflict.
- Integrate paths to high performance.
Depending on the environment, a coach may have the opportunity to work with new Agile teams and introduce values, practices, and the Agile mind-set. Working with new Agile teams is another skill that may involve more teaching and mentoring.
- Start up Agile teams.
After building up experience, a coach is in a good position to share with the wider Agile community.
- Start giving back.
As a facilitator, teacher, coach, and mentor, you'll find that coaching a team can elevate them in progression toward higher performance. But becoming a coach is itself a journey. Start with a focus on yourself and your own development, and as you grow and share with others, you'll continuously improve your Agile coaching skills and be able to provide more value to teams and to the organization.