What makes a successful Agile Coach – A three-dimensional approach, by Rammohan JAYARAMAN, Senior Consultant at why innovation!

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What makes a successful Agile Coach – A three-dimensional approach, by Rammohan JAYARAMAN, Senior Consultant at why innovation!

What makes a successful Agile Coach – A three-dimensional approach
Rammohan Jayaraman
2 min
28 Aug. 2019
I begin every day by asking myself a question, “What is the simplest change I can bring to benefit my client?” Most of the time, it is not hard to determine the answer. But the real challenge is to make it happen.

As an Agile consultant, our expertise in Agile and technology can help us to gain initial acceptance, but we do need softer skills (such as persuasion, facilitation, problem solving etc.) to have a continuous impact. We must also be able to combine these with human values like trust, respect, honesty to make lasting change. 

I visualize successful change as being in the “sweet spot” where Expertise, Skills and Human Values converge.

Expertise refers to domain , technical or Agile experience in guiding the client through evolutionary change. At a minimum, Agile consultants must be experts in Agile values, Principles and different type of frameworks, methodologies, practices. They must have enthusiastically applied and repeated success with several clients.

Technical expertise/domain expertise can be an added advantage - if required, roll up your sleeves and start coding. It will help to show that “I don’t just preach, but I practice as well”. Setting a precedent in this manner can help skeptics to reconsider their position, and pave the way to be aligned with the Agile transformation goals.  My colleagues have proven this time and again by mastering client’s need in a short span of time and serving them better.

A consultant develops certain Skills over a period of time. These can be as trivial as facilitating team level decisions objectively, or explaining specific Agile concepts in a language (not too technical) that is easily understood by management. Many times, Agile consultants are required to lead discussions among groups with different interests, priorities and demands.

A good Agile Consultant must exhibit their skills regardless of the organization cultural type. Culture can tend towards one of the following types (as per Schneider’s model for cultural assessment)
  • Control
  • Collaboration
  • Competence
  • Cultivation
No one culture is deemed better than the others. However, a survey performed by Michael Spayd, Author of “Agile Leadership and Outcome-Creating Competencies”, indicates that agilists have a stronger preference for Collaborative culture, followed by Cultivation. Self-organization, team ownership, accountability is epitomized by Collaborative, Cultivation culture. At why-innovation, we focus on helping clients to continuously evolve their culture to become more Collaborative in nature. It involves listening to our client’s needs, understanding their pain-points, observing organizational mechanics and coaching stakeholders by striking a balance between Pragmatism and idealism.

Agile consultants challenge the status-quo of process, culture and people’s belief.  Understanding  and championing the following Human values can also help to understand why people would support or resist change.
  • Trust
  • Respect for people and client’s existing cultural norms
  • Honesty (with no hidden agenda)
  • Empathy for people who are going through change

Consultants lack the above characters often struggle to develop and maintain collaborative connections.
We have to remember that we travel with clients on a journey of constant “trial and error” to learn and discover, where the only thing constant is change. Periodic reinforcement of this will help us to keep grounded and seek for new learning.

Sustained cultural change resulting in building quality product, giving a great user experience, with a higher return on investment are some of the results that why innovation!'s focuses on Agile transformation.

Your thoughts to remain forever in Customer’s wall and mind!
About the author
Ram carries more than 17 Years of experience in the Information Technology Industry with good experience in all the areas of SDLC like Requirement Gathering, Detailed Analysis, Design, Development, Testing, Release processes. Diverse experience in Development, Maintenance, Production support projects across different geographies following Agile Methodologies. He is currently a Senior Consultant at why innovation!, dedicated to support Organization transformation at Program and Team level from waterfall to Agile in several Fortune 500 Customers across Airlines, Banking, Financial, Insurance and Telecommunication domains.
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