Becoming an Agile Coach – 5 Tips for Multiple Coaches at a Client

Squatting at a free area… for now…

Agile Coaching isn’t an easy sport to play… and when you have an entire group of Agile Coaches working together at a client, it can get even more hairy.

Leading a group of Agile Coaches is like herding cats… cat’s with a lot of expertise, knowledge, and even a bit of ego. A couple of tips when working with multiple coaches.

Multiple Agile Coaches – 5 Tips

  1. Ego Aside – Put your ego aside, we’re all here to do one thing: Service the client and help them deliver. At the end of the day, delivery is key. “Servant Leadership” comes to mind here…
  2. Coach Alignment on Engagement– Spend some intentional time with the other coaches to align on how to engage with the (common client). Last thing you want are “turf wars” or “religious wars” around how best to estimate, do planning, etc. etc. Make it a pizza and beer night. Get all the coaches together and go through a list of common themes/ceremonies/artifacts and get everyone playing by the same book. I did this with multiple coaches [SEE EXAMPLE BELOW FOR WHAT WE AGREED ON]
  3. Coordination of Roles/Duties/Expertise – Some coaches excel at certain areas. Allow them to flourish in that. Not EVERYONE needs to be “scaling agile.” Look, we all need to coach teams at some point, but not everyone needs to be into everything. Split up duties, take on roles that work within your skill set. If a coach is great at ATDD and dev-ops stuff, let them have it! If two coaches want to attack the executive level, figure out what works.
  4. Collaborate – Multiple coaches means that it’s hard to pin down where they are and what they’re doing. Use a common communication platform if coaches are in different locations. Use an agile or scrum tool if necessary to collaborate and communicate. Do a daily standup to talk about how we can all help each other. Look, as sick as it sounds, sometimes tool-agnostic coaches have to use tools to work together (me included)!
  5. Leverage and learn from each other – When do you get to work with some of the best Agile Coaches in the world under one roof? Answer: Not very often. Bleed each other for knowledge and free consulting. As iron sharpens iron, you’ll only get better at your craft.
Sometimes coaches don’t talk to each other when working either…

Example Alignment for Multiple Coaches on a Client:

Relative Story Points unique to each team Yes
Timeboxes Yes – 4hr planning, 2 hr demo, 2hr retro, 4hr grooming
Sprint Goal? Yes, but… low priority
Finish tasking during Sprint Planning No, not necessarily… timebox is there for a reason.

  • Tasks = yes
  • Timebox it
  • prioritize
Done each sprint Yes
Demo each sprint Yes
Defects prioritized in backlog Prioritized within backlog
No separate requirements documents Stop requirements docs
TDD / ATDD? Oh my god no, so many other issues… to address first
Story = title + who, what, AND why Yes
Task = how Yes
Use Personnas? Good, but not a battle to die over
Story Pt estimates prior to Sprint planning Good, but not a battle to die over
Sprint Review + (Demo + Retro)? Sprint Review + Retrospective
Three Amigos for estimating? Yes
Impediment board / blocking card Let the teams do as they want, but need visual indicator!
Handling non-functional reqs (operations training) Depends on situation… story? Task?… as long as its visible
Who talks in Standup? Everyone speaks as a team member
Must team stand during standup? yes
Planning poker? Teach it, but use whatever technique works.
Track velocity Yes
Burn-down (hours remaining) chart Yes, we’re teaching points.
Burn-up (points done) chart? Not yet… agile 102, we’re on 101
Team commitment during planning No, … unless they’re all in the room
Consistent calendar (start on Wed)? For new teams, start on Tue-Wed-Thu
How to track Retro actions? Pick something they have control over, post it, prioritize, assign it, follow up in daily standup, and review at retro
Post Team norms Yes
Acceptance criteria required Yes
Story card format/features (pts, owner, etc.) Leave it to the team.
Standup updates by person (not story) Let team decide
Track task hours remaining Yes, but look for opportunity to stop…
Stretch goal vs. pull-in on sprint commitment Pull-in
Definition of Done Yes
Story board orientation Teach horizontal, not a battle worth fighting

 This is a continuation of our series on “Becoming an Agile Coach”

4 Replies to “Becoming an Agile Coach – 5 Tips for Multiple Coaches at a Client”

  1. Thanks for the inspiring post!
    Like your five tips, and think alignment is the most important.
    Given your example, I’d start at another level:
    1. Why are we doing this? What does the client intend to achieve by “becoming agile”, what is the expected impact of our joint engagement?
    2. Given this goal, which objectives do we focus on Now? How do we assess progress?
    3. Only then, with this frame in mind, I’d start talking about tools and practices. The document you created is valuable, yet I wouldn’t create this as a specification in advance, rather as a summary, regularly updated to align where you are and what you want to focus on, together…
    I have made the experience in the past that without a frame like that we risk to lose focus, to get distracted by myriads of small to medium dysfunctions that we observe:-)
    What do you think?
    Take care

    1. Thanks a bunch for this Olaf!

      1 – Totally agree. We need to foundational understand (as be we can) why we’re going agile in the first place. What’s the main reason? Whats the metrics behind it?

      2 – Assessing progress is a big one… I’ll take that on in another post…

      3 – Agreed. 🙂 This blog, is a great place for many of us to share our thoughts… get feedback (from people like yourself) and have the discussion!


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