Robert Scebold's Agile Coach Journey

I appreciate Lyssa’s point about there being many journeys to becoming an Agile Coach.  Though my college degree is in engineering, my career has traveled far from that discipline and looped back around via a management path.  Software engineering is not even in my background!  So, I am perhaps the most unlikely of software development managers.  Nevertheless, my boss views my lack of programming background as a plus – I am never tempted to second-guess the team’s technical decisions.  So my job is all about consensus building, reflecting successes and challenges to the team to either celebrate or solve, to remind the team of their own commitments, to have them review what worked and what didn’t, to suggest new practices, to facilitate new things the team comes up with… and to enjoy watching the lights turn on.

My journey into Agile has been quite different from Lyssa’s.  I started as “Project Manager” by title, but was brought on to a team that had just adopted Extreme Programming a few months earlier.  I had no formal PMI project management training, so, I cut my PM teeth on the Agile approach.  At a loss for what my role was supposed to be (because XP really has no formal manager on the team) I took some PMI classes which covered traditional PMBOK processes.  At first I was thrilled with having new management tools to help track our software projects.  But when I tried to apply them with my team, it was like coming into the kitchen and trying to cook gumbo with mechanic’s tools.  It took a few years of trying to adapt PMBOK processes to XP before I gave up.  The Coaching Agile Teams book has been a refreshing explanation of why I was having problems.

Perhaps one of the most satisfying, but also painful recent experiences I’ve had was when I sent four of our developers to a Scrum Master Certification workshop.  A few months prior to this, I had led the team to adopt a crisper standup meeting formula (standard Scrum) and to use relative story point estimating.  They went along with me for a while, but I could tell they were holding out for whether these changes would really help in the long run.  Well, when they got back from the workshop they were energized and went way beyond what I had initiated.  They totally owned Scrum!  Wow!  The ego-deflating part for me was being “left out of the party.”  They seemed to have forgotten that I was the one who first initiated some of the Scrum practices.  So, Lyssa’s comment that Agile Coaches might not get the kudos they would like – even while doing their jobs well – was helpful in that moment.  I do like getting credit for things I contribute. But even more, I enjoy seeing the team thrive and increase their productivity.

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To read more agile coach journeys turn to Chapter 13  of the Coaching Agile Teams book.  And, about those agile coach contributions being invisible…check out ways to both cope with that and make them more visible (while still supporting the team) starting on page 280.