Why an agile coach is important to organisation transformation

why innovation! uses cookies to provide you with an optimal browsing experience on our website. Please check our Privacy Policy & Terms of Use to learn more about how we use cookies. By clicking on “I agree”, you consent to the use of cookies.
Sign up   |   Sign in

Why an agile coach is important to organisation transformation

Why an agile coach is important to organisation transformation
why innovation!
8 min
16 Jan. 2023


Our work environment has been fast faced for decades. In fact, the speed at which things progress today is significantly faster than even a decade ago. As competition grow rampant, innovation is quickly becoming a necessary attribute to cultivate, if businesses expect to continue providing strong value to their customers.

Now more than ever, if businesses want to stay competitive, it is vital for them to be able to adapt fast and pivot based on prevailing market conditions and the fickle, ever-changing consumer behaviour.

Against these manic, almost desperate desire to cut costs and increase revenue, business owners can sometimes struggle with bridging the gap between productivity and efficiency – and between generating output and outcomes.

Suffice to say, if a magic pill to exponentially increase profits existed, it’d become a controlled substance.

Unfortunately, there is no magic pill or silver bullet. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a good solution. There is a clear, executable solution that many companies around the world have implemented and reaped results.

Companies like LEGO, Cisco, Barclays, Sony (PlayStation Network), Yahoo, Mitsubishi, ING (Dutch bank) have used this solution to achieve incredible success. And close to home, our flagship air carrier, Singapore International Airlines (SIA) have seen success with this implementation as well.

Agile works but the fact is when it is implemented wrongly, it will do more damage than good.

What we found is when companies choose to implement agile on their own without the help of an experienced, external agency, the implementation tend to favour the process of agile with the focus firmly on efficiency and deliverables.

The often-ignored truth is that this ‘silver bullet' is a holistic one that puts people over processes. It is about empowering individuals with agency and the autonomy to adapt to changing situations.

It is about putting the customers first and creating an innovative culture within the organisation that takes into consideration the wants and needs of the customers to guide this process.

When implemented well, agile development is a great way for organisations to improve their ability to adapt and innovate on both large projects as well as smaller projects. It is the closest to a magic pill, if ever there existed one.

But this silver bullet can turn into a smoking gun.

Imagine for a moment that your organisation has adopted the agile methodology. That’s great. It’s an excellent first step.

But unless the person advocating and leading the internal change is an experienced agile transformation expert well-versed in all the branches of agile beyond just Scrum, you run the risk of implementing agile inefficiently, or worse, inefficiently.

Agile may be a relatively simple thing to understand or explain but it is not easy to implement without an expert’s help. In fact, many things can and have gone wrong.

It takes more than just training staff members or adopting frameworks like Scrum and Kanban if you want to build lasting change within your organisation. If too much emphasis is put on process, you risk employee brain drain and fatigue.

It’s about creating a strong bedrock rooted in people and culture from which the entire transformation will flourish.

But you may not know this or how to start when you attempt a transformation alone.

This is where coaches/consultants come into play.

Where does a consultant/coach fit into an organisation?

Coaches/consultants are invaluable resources that’ll ensure your transformation remain on track. More importantly, they are the experienced voice to interpret necessary changes - be it cultural or organisational - and implement them in a way that is complimentary and non-combative.

A good coach/consultant can fit in wherever your organisation requires. Consultants and coaches are highly trained individuals that can help you with your agile transformation in many ways, such as:

Most assuredly, they will help you create an effective agile team, or improve the one that you already have. Coaches are flexible and can work with any company, regardless of size or industry.

They are also embedded within the organisation and essentially become a part of the company while remaining apart to maintain an objective perspective.

What is the difference between a consultant and a coach?

Although the words are often used interchangeably, there is a stark difference between a coach and a consultant.

A coach is someone who helps you learn and grow, whereas a consultant is an expert who has been brought in to solve a specific problem or project. Coaches often work within your team, whereas consultants are often external to the organization they're working with.

The difference between a coach and a consultant can be subtle, but it's important to understand the distinction so you know what to expect from each type of professional. Many agencies provide one or the other as they rely more on their built-in capabilities.

At why innovation! our coaches are also trained, expert consultants. We are experienced in adapting our approach to accommodate the unique needs of our clients.

Why should I hire an agile coach instead of doing it myself?

As mentioned, agile coaching is a different approach to agile training.

Coaches work with clients on an as-needed basis, rather than providing a pre-packaged program of instruction.

When you hire a coach, you're hiring someone who will sit down with your team and help them to identify and work through their challenges collaboratively. This develops the independence and discipline to continue learning on their own after the coach leaves.

This isn't the same thing as hiring someone to deliver a series of classes or workshops (which has value), but it's also very different from hiring an independent contractor who provides advice and support from afar—then disappears once the objective has been met.

A good agile coach knows how to guide clients through their learning process collaboratively in ways that are tailored specifically for them; this means asking questions like "What are some things we could try out?" instead of just telling them what's wrong with their current software development practices.

These types of questions help clients develop their own processes while staying true to the agile methodology. This has long term benefits as opposed to the coach imposing their own preferred methods that may run counter to what the organisation needs or is built to handle.

This is important because amusingly, agile coaches don't always agree on how things should be done; some lean more toward Scrum and others toward Kanban (or another method), for example.

When a coach attempts to impose their method instead of implementing something that works to the benefit of the team, that usually is a red flag.

A good agile coach will work with you to figure out what works best at your organization instead of trying to force a particular approach on everyone who hires him or her. They understand the value of being flexible and are able to approach difficult situations with empathy.

At why innovation!, we place emphasis on learning about the companies we work with to identify the best way for them to move forward. We work with you to achieve your objectives.

In fact, the first thing we do is conduct an agile scan of your organisation or team to ascertain the existing level of agility and to identify gaps that need to be addressed. Then we create a programme with feedback from the team and management and chart a way forward, together under our expert guidance.

More important to you, our coaches are learned in all the various methods of agile enabling them to use one or a combination of styles that are more suitable to your business environment.

I already have Agile experience. Why would I hire an expert to help?

Why would a marketing department hire a PR or a creative agency to assist with campaigns? Why would a publication house hire external vendors to help with distribution? Why would an IT department hire additional staff from freelancing companies?

For many reasons, none of which is a lack of knowledge or expertise. It’s an industry practice to hire external vendors to help relieve staff of some duties so they can focus on their main tasks.

Sometimes, it’s a lack of manpower. Other times, like the marketing or creative departments, it’s to provide a fresh perspective. That the external vendor can provide additional, tangible support to help the team cope with resources and time management is also invaluable.

Having an external party allows the team to marry their brand equity and knowledge with creatives that are not stifled by work bias to create something new and appealing. It is also an important way to get their pulse on what’s trending in the market.

It’s the same with an agile coach. By hiring one, you bring in a valuable, third-party experience, insight, and perspective that will be instrumental in guiding and keeping your transformation on track.

What value can an agile coach bring? Let's take a look:

You must understand however that a consultant/coach is no substitute for the expertise of an entire experienced agile team. They are an excellent addition to your team, but they are only human and will not be able to perform the job of a full agile team.

They will help you step back from day-to-day operations by providing an unbiased perspective, while ensuring that the team is able to deliver continuously to meet the objectives of the stakeholders.

When making structural changes within your organisation or even if you're just starting out with agile, this approach is key.

How do I know if I selected the right person to help with the transformation journey?

Knowing if you have selected the right coach for the job is subjective. It is not always immediately visible if you made the right choice.

But there are certain indicators to consider that will help:

  1. Have they experience in successfully implementing agile practices?
  2. Do they have experience coaching teams?
  3. Are the scale of the projects they’ve worked with diverse with results in various industries and organisation size?
  4. Their clientele
  5. The company’s reputation

However, it is possible that even someone who fits all these criteria can ultimately be the wrong fit.

To that end, the best qualifier as always will be culture. Go with empirical evidence and your instincts. If the coach is more interested in pushing their agenda over yours, then that is a foundational misalignment.

If you find that you can’t have conversations without arguing or shake an uncomfortable feeling about the person, then it’s a good idea to find someone else.

If the person in question is receptive and can offer possible solutions and alternatives to problems you highlight while remaining respectful of your challenges, needs and objectives, that’s a clearer indication of a good fit.

If you are just starting out, we have experience affecting positive agile transformations for small, new companies to large, established one. We'd love to talk to you and understand your needs and expectations.


Agile transformation takes time. It may be the closest to a silver bullet but it’s one that involves time, dedication, and commitment to the path once the decision to undergo this transformation, is made.

It’s important therefore, to have someone by your side who can help you keep your agile adoption or transformation progress on the right path. It is easy to deviate from that path when you are on it alone.

Coaches/consultants help organisations accelerate their agile adoption by bringing in new skills through training and mentoring activities. They also imbue teams with new knowledge about tools and techniques used in agile projects.

If you’re just getting started with agile development, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the new practices involved (e.g., stand-ups, sprint planning, retros, etc.).

An experienced coach will be able to show you how these fit together into a cohesive whole. and used to achieve the desired results.

After the fundamentals are established, they can guide you toward more advanced areas like continuous delivery or test automation, if so required.

Lastly, having a coach on board helps employees develop themselves personally and professionally so they feel empowered working on important projects toward their company's success.

An agile coach can do this because they are trained to put people over processes. A company that undergoes agile transformation without an experienced coach may end up putting processes over people inevitably due to a lack of understanding of all the moving parts.

An experienced coach understands the key to a successful agile transformation is good culture and happy employees, not so much whether a sprint sticks to its two-week cycle or that a retro is conducted faithfully. If there are no lessons learnt and solutions implemented for people to feel happy and motivated, it will be ultimately, for nothing.

At why innovation!, we take pride in helping our partners make progress on stalled projects or take them through the rigorous and rewarding journey that is agile transformation.

We build resilient and adaptive organisations by empowering and educating teams on how to innovate regularly for the company to remain ahead of the competition.

If you want to know more about how we can help you, reach out to us today!

More Content