A few days ago, the “Agile en Seine” event ended with a round table on the future of agile coaching, which has been hit hard by the health crisis.
Coaches, change agents of a digitalization that is meant to be agile, appeared as non-essential skills with the shrinking budgets and many of them have remained unemployed since the lockdown.
This paradox reflects the abuses encountered in the overheating period before the pandemic, with firms riding the wave and offering their clients, as coaches, project managers who are poorly trained and who do not exceed the level of skills of good professionals. We usually recognize them by the fact that they only have a vague idea of what agility is and are convinced that Sutherland’s first name is Donald.
This observation of a self-destructive profession led us at the beginning of the year at Astrakhan to consider restoring a “True Agile” approach, which aimed to go back to basics. This idea was reflected last summer in a suggestion posted on LinkedIn by some “historical” coaches of the French market, evoking the creation of a control and validation body for coaches.
This approach only makes sense in order to fight against the abuses mentioned on the French market. Unfortunately, this approach is conservative and has no future. It is a good idea only at first sight.
A look beyond our borders is enough to see that the international agile community is brimming with vitality. It does not seek to maintain the fundamentals – it implicitly takes into account the fact that, since its creation, agility, like all disciplines, has never ceased to develop and renew itself. It is not by going back to basics that agile coaching will be saved. It is by following the evolution of agility in the world.
Here are a few examples:
● Shiftup, launched by Jurgen Appelo, creator of Management 3.0 and Agility Scale, where Jurgen himself plays a voluntarily non-central role (to be compared to the navel-gazing approach of some guardians of the French agile temple). In Shiftup, 6,000 agility practitioners challenge each other on a daily basis to distribute qualification points that represent their respective rises in skills.
● Agile People, by Pia-Maria Thoren, a Management 3.0 facilitator who began her career in HR agility through a contributory, joyful and energetic approach, surrounded by a community of facilitators from around the world where the French are conspicuous by their absence… and that Astrakhan will be joining,
● Future Of Agile, a community launched for the development of agile coaching in Africa,
● Business Agility, where we find other agility specializations, including one focused on the sales force, led by the coach Marina Alex.
These examples show the dynamism and unifying spirit that currently reign in the global agile community, whose forces are joined via international Think Tanks.
We have tried to translate this new modernity of agility into a list of commandments that summarize the practices that a coach must, in our opinion, integrate into his routine in order to really bring added value to his clients.
The 10 commandments of the agile coach:
1. Be part of a clearly identified ecosystem: belonging to a community (Management 3.0, Agile People, Business Agility, etc.) encourages peer-to-peer exchange, ensures the sharing of an ever-growing number of techniques and feedback on their application.
2. Be creative: a coach must be able to find original answers to complex but sometimes repetitive problems. Proposing original and constantly renewed techniques is a guarantee of freshness that will maintain the effect of the first contributions over time.
3. Multiply the sources of inspiration: reading, getting informed, then testing, comparing, are the guarantees of a know-how that evolves with the discipline and the times.
4. Accepting specialization: today coaches specialize in agility on the Human Resources side, on the Sales Force side, on the Management side, in Industry where agility tools are different (Change, Lean…), and no longer only on the IT side.
5. To have integrated remote working into the coaching practices: given the constraints of the time, renewing coaching practices by integrating distance is an obvious choice. Ask the candidates you meet what theirs are. (Note: Astrakhan has recently updated its Management 3.0 Better Meetings training to include the specificities of remote working).
6. Have a soft skills development approach: implementing agility is not the only goal of an agile coach. It is necessary to have an approach allowing the development of soft skills such as the ability to listen, creativity, empathy…
7. Talking with different kinds of professionals: the role of a coach is also to provide a link between operational staff, managers, decision-makers and all the different professions in general. This requires an understanding of the workings of a company, and respect for it and its culture.
8. Be an agent of real change: the coach must integrate temporality into his approach; it cannot produce in-depth results overnight. You must therefore know how to remain humble and avoid taking a subversive approach.
9. To be supervised: a privilege of leadership or personal development coaches, supervision becomes essential for the agile coach to avoid the excesses that we sometimes witness.
10. Don’t despise agility as seen by large firms: no matter what you think about it, you still have to learn from reading reviews by McKinsey or PwC’s on agility practices at scale. There is no shameful reading, and when you disagree, understanding why allows you to strengthen your identity as a coach.