Episode 12

13: When Does an Agile Team Need a Coach?


August 26th, 2015

50 mins 50 secs

Your Host

About this Episode


Ryan Ripley, Zach Bonaker, Amitai Schlair


It’s a miracle that this episode happened. Zach Bonaker (@zachbonaker) got lost in an English bog, Amitai Schlair (@schmonz) was wandering in Guatemala and Ryan Ripley (@ryanripley) was nearly sucked in to the power fueled DC world, but the three managed to come together to ponder some questions about coaching agile teams.


We started with defining coaching, then mentoring, and finally consulting. And ultimately came upon an important insight. If the team knows how to learn together and has a high level of skill in conducting retrospectives, they likely need little coaching. However, such stars rarely align. We discussed if the team should choose when a coach is needed, and managements role in the process. We then moved on to our next question:


When the checks start to bounce, of course! This is another difficult situation to handle. It takes a great amount of awareness to realize that the team can find success without you (the coach). Watching the teams behaviors, the systems they are working within, and the response they have to the coach are all important considerations. On the other hand, we did discuss that in professional sports, the coach never leaves. Even LeBron James has a coach.

The conversation then pivoted in to agile transformations. At the heart our discussion was the idea of influence vs coercion and how coercion can tank an agile transformation quickly. The tendency to hold on the old practices, even harmful ones, is hard to break as teams new to agile often struggle to embrace self-organization. Trust was also a key theme throughout.

Amitai was kind enough to share episode 8 (care) of his podcast: Agile in 3 Minutes. He creates art each week by focusing on one agile idea each week. Insightful and poetic, Agile in 3 Minutes is clearly a labor of love that I’m grateful to enjoy each week. I hope you give Agile in 3 Minutes a listen and subscribe via rss here.

Finally, Zach told us about Victor Bonacci’s recent Kickstarter project: Agile Coaching Cards. Vic was a recent guest on Agile for Humans and taught us how to play Lean Coffee. He’s now selling a deck of cards on Kickstarter designed to help teams get up to speed quickly with Lean Coffee discussion. This is a fun tool that can help teams facilitate conversations about agile topics.

And then…we called it a night.

If you would like to continue the conversation, please visit www.agileanswerman.com/ask-a-question. You can record a message that could end up on the show or send us an email with your feedback, topics, and questions. We hope to hear from you soon.

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