Getting to Agile and the Coach's Role

Allison Pollard's goal is "To Teach and Delight." Her goal is to help people discover and develop their agile instincts. She enjoys mentoring others to become great Scrum Masters, coaching managers to grow teams that deliver amazing results, and fostering communities that provide sustainability for agile transformations. Allison blogs at over at To Teach and Delight.

After attending the Scrum Gathering in New Orleans, I've been pondering: What does it mean to be an agile coach?  I heard a few things that reminded me of a presentation my client created a few months ago; the presentation outlined the agile roadmap for the organization, and one of the slides was about the agile coach role up to that point.

It showed cars in gridlock traffic, and one vehicle was labeled “agile coach.”  I’ll give you a hint what that vehicle looked like:

What does it mean for an agile coach to be an ambulance?  To me, it implies that there’s something critical going on and that the agile coach is urgently needed.  The team has injured themselves, and the coach is to come in and fix it.  There’s a sense of a right way and a wrong way, and the coach must apply the right techniques before running off to the next emergency.  And the agile coach is reactive rather than proactive.

The constant sirens and speeding through traffic and performing CPR on the scene…. being an ambulance is exhausting.

Let's explore another perspective.  What if we think of the agile coach as a muscle car?

Yeah… the coach has deep knowledge of agile and lean, so his engine is pretty powerful.  Some folks ooh and ahh at the agile coach for his expertise confidence.  They want to go for a ride with the coach and experience the power; others are afraid.  They scoff and stick to their sensible cars.  The muscle car could beat those cars in a race, but you’d have to get their interest first.  The muscle car coach is more proactive than an ambulance coach.  He can win over more people by dazzling them with agile knowledge and taking people for joy rides rather than emergency trips.  But if the coach is a muscle car, what does that make everyone else?

With that thought, I’ve been exploring a different perspective: agile coach as bumper car.

If you’re on the track—coach, manager, team member, whoever—you’re in a bumper car. There’s movement and fun and spontaneity and safety on the track.  And it’s pretty much guaranteed: you will be bumped.  Everyone will be bumped—even the coach!  Every car is equal, and we are on the track together.  Everyone is safe and yet everyone will be pushed out of their comfort zone.  Most of all, there is laughter.

I am the bumper car that provokes movement.

This post originally appeared on Allison's blog at To Teach and Delight on 5/17/2012.