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Transformation of the Agile Coach role


Organizations need good leaders: people who are effective at creating an environment in which people flourish and do their best.

requires making decisions, and it also requires coaching, mentoring, and supporting. It requires collaboration, inquisitiveness, and continuous learning

Rethink the kinds of leadership that are needed for your existing Agile roles like Agile Coach, Scrum Master, and Product Owner. Make sure to include the kinds of accountability that the roles should have.

Agile coaches today should learn more about leadership, and become leaders who understand agility, instead of Agile-role-this and Agile-role-that

Servant leadership is only one mode of behavior that an effective leader uses (connect to situational leadership)

Correct narrative of Agile

  • Phased software development does not usually work well.
  • Business users often do not know what they want or need.
  • It is almost impossible to fully design software up front.
  • Documents alone are not effective for communicating things.
  • Don’t build something entirely in one go.
  • Big teams usually do not work well.
  • Don’t micromanage how developers work.
  • Don’t trust anything until you see it running.
  • Build quality in.
  • More effort != better; automate to avoid effort.
  • Continuously reflect and improve.

Incorrect narratives of Agile

  • A team must be completely autonomous.
  • Multiple teams will self-organize.
  • Most challenges pertain to team behavior.
  • Teams do not need leaders, except to “remove impediments”.
  • Written communication is inferior to verbal communication.
  • Everyone should sit together.
  • Always trust the team.
  • Teams can resolve technical issues if leaders merely “get out of the way” and “resolve impediments.”
  • If Agile does not work at scale, it is the organization’s “fault.”
  • Practices such as pair programming and TDD are always “best.”
  • Structure prevents you from having effective collaboration across the organization.

Problems with the Agile manifesto

The Agile Manifesto is not a process, but its main flaw is that it is so ambiguous. It contains some short maxims, without explanation.

Recommendations to people who run organizations

And also great recommendations for evolving the Agile Coaches role.


  • Don’t look to the established Agile community for answers: their answers did not work.
  • Forget about the Agile Manifesto: it’s fundamentally broken.
  • Have people read the Agile 2 book. Yes, really: it is a much richer view of organizational agility. And read it yourself.
  • Rethink the kinds of leadership that are needed for your existing Agile roles like Agile Coach, Scrum Master, and Product Owner. Make sure to include the kinds of accountability that the roles should have, and remember that “accountable” does not mean “punishable” – accountable means that you know who to talk to about an aspect of the work. Then redefine those roles based on those kinds of leadership and accountability.
  • Help your people to learn about leadership, especially transformational leadership, and especially with respect to which leadership behaviors impact agility. (There is some information about this here.)
  • Help your people to learn about behavioral psychology, particularly about how groups of people behave.
  • Help your people to learn about cognitive science, particularly about how people think, communicate, and create.
  • Help your people to learn about operations research, which will enable them to reconsider their ideas about Lean and Flow through a much more sophisticated lens.
  • Find a mentor for each person, particularly people in leadership roles.
  • Make sure you internalize these changes yourself: lead the way. Walk the talk. Visibly demonstrate the behaviors that you want people to have. Advocate for these changes, and go the distance.


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