As an Agile Coach, my job can be fraught with an amazing feeling of satisfaction as well as frustration and despair. As with any job that requires patience and a commitment to changing customer demands, “success” can be very difficult to define and achieve. Sometimes, the effectiveness of a coach depends heavily on intrinsic characteristics of an organization, often known as “the cards that you are dealt”. However, in many cases, the level of success is often heavily driven by the level of sponsorship for a change initiative. Another factor is the style of coaching that is deployed – drawing parallels with sports coaching, which has many similarities to business and leadership coaching, some coaches are much more comfortable with an assertive style, while others may be less aggressive and more cerebral in their approach.
Regardless of your style, wouldn’t it be great to know if you are making a difference in helping the team navigate through their Agile maze?
If you are an active Agile Coach, or might have interest in becoming one someday, you may wonder if there is a standard by which your performance is assessed. We all appreciate the satisfaction of a job well-done, which can lead to intangible rewards as well as new opportunities. Whether you are a full-time employee or a short-term consultant, I have a feeling that you desire regular and meaningful feedback so that you can understand how much value you are bringing. In my experience coaching teams within a variety of organizations, I have yet to come across a consistent set of standards by which Agile Coaches are evaluated. One possible reason for this is that this role is still relatively new and is continuing to evolve in unpredictable ways as more organizations flock towards implementing Agile practices. Thinking through how I would like to be assessed, I came up with a short list of possible measures (or metrics) that you may wish to consider for yourself or your team as a method to gauge the impact that your coach is making.
Metric #1 – Customer Satisfaction
Implementing Agile is all about managing change; in my opinion, it is impossible to be an effective coach if you do not invest significant effort in helping people make that leap from the “old way” to a “better way”. While there will always be people who are unwilling to change, the effectiveness of the coach will typically correlative to the overall satisfaction of the key customers and stakeholders. Even if the change is not quantifiable or evident, the level of satisfaction by the sponsors can be an effective representation of morale and team dynamics that may have resulted from effective coaching.
Metric #2 – Commitment and Follow-through
While team performance is often measured by metrics such as quality, amount of output, etc., the impact that a coach can have on the team can be seen through how the team functions; this may be subtle and not easily observable, but the level of proactive problem identification or issue mitigation is one sign that the team is changing. When teams commit and follow-through, you can sense a change in their level of energy and interactions. This is not something that you can easily monitor or track on a status report, but it translates directly to the team morale and the quality of their work. This may be one of the phenomena that falls into the category “you will truly believe it when you see it for the first time”.
Metric #3 – Would you rehire (or recommend) this coach for another transformation initiative?
Agile Coaching is a challenging task for many reasons, most of which are related to the absence of direct authority or influence. There are many external forces that are not within the control of the coach, which means it is not always reasonable to place the blame on the coach when things do not go well. While this may happen anyways, it is possible to assess the performance of a coach by asking a simple question: “Would you recommend his/her for another similar initiative?” The response should provide insights into whether this coach has what it takes to help your organization.
In closing, being an effective Agile Coach requires mastery of soft skills and influence which will not always work for all situations. Some projects will fail, and that’s just reality, but that does not necessarily mean that the coach lacks the appropriate skills. If you are considering hiring a coach to help you with your Agile transition, consider the factors I shared above and decide for yourself what level of support you need, and how much support you are ready to provide the coach – this is a challenging journey and the only way to succeed is to make sure you are partnering with the right person who is equally-committed.