Agile Coaching ... for the Boss

Agile Coaching ... for the Boss


Men in Suits

There's a pattern I've noticed in a lot of companies: the boss of agile efforts is also the boss of the old waterfall processes.

They may hire staff with agile experience and certifications, or even send their own staff for training. Yet the person who owns all those efforts, agile and waterfall, is the usually same person. 

What does that mean for a company's attempts to adopt a more modern posture? Are their attempts eventually doomed to fail, producing only a limited improvement in the way they deliver?  

Jaded Employees

Will employees make only a half-hearted attempt, because this methodology, too, shall pass? In companies where "lifers" have been around for 10, 15 or more than 20 years, they have seen a lot of managers come and go. 

They have also seen a lot of hair-brained ideas come and go. In the end, they did not feel like the organization moved the needle, despite the money spent.

Whether the attempts were noble, is another story. We have all heard of organizations undertaking half-baked projects, while more worthwhile needs were starved of funds. 

Mindsets are hard to change. There's no "agile software" in the world that could fix that. You may purchase something to support your efforts, but no product, in and of itself, represents a commitment to change. 

Agile Coaching ... for the Boss

What you need is a plan to shift the mentality that allows the waterfall approach to still slow down large enterprise efforts. 

That's where agile coaching comes in.

Far from the gimmicks and jargon associated with various tools, a good coach will help you the same way you can expect a coach from another discipline would do. 

It is the wrong approach to hire coaches to only work with the technical teams. The best place to start is with the senior-most management leaders of those teams.

For better or for worse, they are the vanguard, the keeper of the culture. If change must endure, the leaders must submit to the transformation first. 

What to Consider

A good agile coach will start an assessment with all the typical questions: 

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you wish to see the organization?
  • What obstacles did you face during previous attempts?
  • What future state do you envision? 
  • Who are the influencers in the organization?
  • What's the cost of not changing?

I believe that there's an even more important question: What is the penalty, in real dollars, that will be suffered if this fails? We see what happens all too often when there are no or few consequences for inaction. 

From Apathy to Action

Sometimes my best clients are the ones who are facing some sort of crisis. They are actually willing to implement my proposed solutions.

There’s nothing like having internal auditors or government regulators breathing down their necks to make them to confront their problems and stop vacillating.

When there’s no impetus to change, people get stuck in contemplating their options. They debate and twiddle their thumbs. They delay because whether they make a decision today versus a year from now is inconsequential.

It shouldn't be that way, but sadly, some organizations go from crisis to crisis. Don't let it come to that for your team. 

Invest in good coaches who truly care about the boss, (you!) and your team. Choose someone who takes delight in helping you produce quality software that will be impactful to your customers.

Just because you can establish a continuous delivery pipeline should not mean that you give yourself a pass to do the needful at some mythical later time.

Put your best foot forward every time. An agile coach can help you achieve that.


Kareen Kircher founded DevOps Advisors to help clients transform the way they do business. She helps them eliminate the busy work, streamline processes and automate repetitive tasks.

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