Thoughts on Agile Coaching

When I tell people I am an Agile Coach, unless they are in IT, I tend to get a lot of strange looks. Most of the time they will say something like, “I get the coaching part, but what the heck is Agile?” It is at this part of the conversation that they experience immediate regret as I launch into an endless barrage of commentary on Agile development.

Lately, however, I have begun to re-examine my own assumptions about what it the Coaching aspect of an Agile Coach is, especially now that there are so many professional coaches looking for work after the end of the regular NFL season.

I remember listening to the radio and hearing about how Chip Kelly would be a good (or bad) fit for a particular position based on the amount of organizational control he could have and that college coaches have a great deal of organizational control versus professional coaches. And though I have done my own share of sports coaching, it finally hit me that there is a world of difference between sports coaching and Agile coaching.

Sports coaching is much more like traditional project management in that the head coach succeeds based on his (or her) ability to control every aspect of the team. This type of coaching is very top down. My agile coaching, however, is very far from command and control. A professional sports coach is successful when his team wins and he gets to keep his job. I am successful only when I am no longer needed by the team and it can function on its own.

So next time someone asks me what an Agile Coach is, I will make sure that in addition to ranting about the superiority of developing software in an Agile manner, I will also remember to let them know that the term Coach should not be confused with professional sports coaching (as if anyone would confuse me with Andy Reid).

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