At a recent Agile Meetup we talked about exit criteria for Agile coaching. Participants wanted to know how to determine when an Agile Coach is no longer needed. I flippantly responded with “when the budget runs out”, because that seems to be when most organizations stopped coaching.
One Meetup participant (who I previously coached) responded that the need for coaches is ongoing. As he put it, professional sports teams don’t outgrow their coaches, in fact, the higher the level the more coaching they get. It made me consider my own approach to coaching.
Agile Coaches Work Their Way Out of a Job
I see coaching as a short term intervention used to help people adopt new ways of thinking and behaving. My job is to empower people to be able to perform well on their own. As a result, I treat every coaching engagement as if I am working my way out of the job. I am there to help the organization transform, and to invest in the internal coaches or champions. I don't want to be the key person to the transformation, or have the transformation collapse or fail if I am not there.
Is this shortsighted? In addition to the challenge of always having to find new coaching engagements, the downside of this approach is that it can be less effective for deep change of longstanding patterns of thinking or habits.
Coaching for the Long Haul
What about the idea of coaches acting like the coach for a sport team? They are not temporary, they have a permanent role on the team. Should agile coaching be more like that?
I can certainly see some advantages to a long-term approach for agile coaches. Lasting organizational change can be quite slow and frequently people and organizations backslide. A coach that has been there for the long haul can help to remind and hold individuals accountable to their longer term goals and commitments.
What do you think? When is the job of agile coach done?