Home > Point2 - Process and People > 10 Temptations of an Agile Coach

10 Temptations of an Agile Coach

October 9, 2009

When you are in a position of leadership on an Agile team, there is no shortage of mistakes that you can make. Some of these mistakes may be trivial, but there are behaviours that can really limit the progress and efficiency of those you are supposed to be leading. While attending Agile 2009 in August, Stevie Borne gave a quick talk on what she felt were the top 10 Temptations of an Agile Coach. Whether or not you are in a coaching role, being aware of these temptations will help you identify them, and hopefully get them dealt with early.

1) Meddling
– Interfering with the team’s activities when you shouldn’t.
ex) technical work, updating story board, writing stories, creating acceptance criteria, etc.

Consequences
– Takes away from team ownership.

Tips
– Allow team to make mistakes.
– Make suggestions, but let the team experiment.

2) Impatience
– Unrealistic progress expectations, and pushing the team to go faster than they can.

Consequences
– The team becomes discouraged.
– The coach may burn out.
– End up spending unnecessary time and resources.

Tips
– Remember that change takes time.
– Find a coaching mentor to help with these situations.

3) Mastery
You have all the answers, so you freely give them out.

Consequences
– The team fails to problem solve.
– The team become afraid to fail.
– It becomes your process, not theirs.

Tips
– Ask the team how they would handle it.
– Provide ways for them to solve problem, but let them choose what works best for the team. (guide through process of discovery)

4) Changeful
– New idea every iteration giving the impression of constant change for no good reason.

Consequences
– Team loses the chance to get the feel for new techniques.
– Become too focused on the how, not the why.

Tips
– Let the team try changes for at least 2 iterations.
– Make sure there is a good reason for the change, and make sure that it is well communicated.

5) Inflexibility
– Believe there is only one way to do things.  Worked good on one team, so it will work well on this one.
– Dogmatism.

Consequences
– Team loses sight of the value behind the practice.
– The team becomes alienated from you.
– The team allows the process to replace their own thinking.

Tips
– Learn new techniques to accomplish the same goals.
– Focus on principles, rather than practices.

6) Control
– Take control of the team through work assignment.  Often occurs when team faces delivery pressure.
– Injected work items.
– You start speaking for your team.

Consequences
– The team is no longer empowered.
– The team team loses respect for you as coach.

Tips
– Force yourself to step back and re-engage the team.  Give control back to them.

7) Utopia
– Preach that Agile will solve all problems. It’s the only way to work, and everything will go as planned.

Consequences
– The team loses faith in Agile principles.
– The team feels as though they have failed.
– The team is unprepared for potential disaster.

Tips
– Understand that discomfort during change is normal.  Admit it and learn to be OK with it.

8)  Love
– You want everybody to like you.
– Can’t take negative feedback.
– Avoid being bad cop.

Consequences
– Your feelings end up get hurt.
– The team stops being honest with you.

Tips
– Need to develop a thick skin.
– Stay objective, and only mention the facts.

9) Fuzziness
– Problems are talked about in vague terms with no path towards a resolution. ex) “we have so many meetings.”

Consequences
– Issues go unresolved and team becomes frustrated.
– The team grows apart.

Tips
– Ask the team questions. Use the 5 Why’s to find out what the real problems are.
– Name the issue and create an approach to attempt to resolve it.

10) Avoidance
– Avoid failure – unwilling to try new techniques.
– Avoid conflict – unwilling to challenge the team when things go awry.

Consequences
– Your team misses valuable growth opportunities.
– You miss coaching growth opportunities.

Tips
– Understand that occasional failure is OK.
– Find a coaching mentor and ask for help.

By Hemant J. Naidu

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  1. Kevin Baribeau
    October 11, 2009 at 5:58 AM

    I wish I had read this a year ago. Nice post.

  2. October 22, 2009 at 8:32 PM

    This is an awesome list and so spot on. An Agile coach must be able to say no to management and explain why or negotiate a middle ground, rigorously defend the team and remove impediments, and use the Socratic method of challenging the team to come up with their own answers. In all of this, flexibility is a must, and ego cannot enter the picture. Otherwise, you meet people that match up with one or typically more than one of the above.

  3. Vaidehi
    June 14, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    Awesome one…I almost have done all these mistakes…oops time for me to change…

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