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What consultants don’t tell you before you begin an agile transition – Part 4: Why a coach is useful

As a follow up to my previous posts (part 1part 2, and part 3), this fourth and final article written in collaboration with my colleagues Stéphane LécuyerJean-René RousseauSylvie TrudelJoël Grenon, and Eric Laramée, presents why the use of external coaches is a key success factor for an organizational transition to Agile.

Most people in organizations that initiate an Agile transition will tell you that, to be successful you need to do more than reading Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum and taking a ScrumMaster Certification. Some organizations succeed without external help while others prefer to follow Forrester’s recommendation and hire consultants to support them. In this context, there are three types of coach.

The Organizational Coaches

The Organizational Coach uses a support approach coupled with an advisory role to assist the various stakeholders in developing the required skills to maximize the benefits of their Agile transition. As a member of the project steering committees and working directly with the individual managers involved, the Organizational Coach helps transform the traditional management style used within the organization. Thus, the coach helps the various stakeholders assess the gap between the current situation (current management style) and the expected target (new leadership style). The coach then works with the stakeholders to define an appropriate plan of action and take concrete steps to address the obstacles encountered during their personal development. This coaching approach offers the following benefits:

  • Establishes a partnership between the Organizational Coach and the client with the intend to achieve a successful transition;
  • By working directly with the individuals and their team, the Organizational Coach helps them move from the current state to the desired situation;
  • Supports the stakeholders via discussions, suggestions and observations to help them change their management style and to ensure the development of the skills required to reach the desired level of management Agility;
  • By pushing the leaders outside their comfort zone, the Organizational Coach attempts to change the status quo.

The Organizational Coach typically plays the role of the Agile expert at the management level. In addition, the Organizational Coach works directly with managers from both the technology and the business side of the organization in order to help them assimilate and apply the Agile principles to their daily management activities. As such, the Organizational Coach support the management team in their development of an Agile Leadership better suited for the success of the transition.

The Team Coaches

Ultimately, the objective of the Team Coach is to develop the skills and competencies of the ScrumMasters to become quickly autonomous and derive the maximum benefits of the Agile approach. More specifically, the Team Coach supports the start of the projects, provides recommendations for improving the implementation of Scrum throughout the projects and disseminates the best practices. The Team Coach promotes and facilitates a cohesive adoption of Agile within the teams. In addition to supporting the execution of the project, the Team Coach works closely with the ScrumMasters to develop and implement activities to improve the team’s performance and to develop the skills of team members and the ScrumMaster. The coach’s role is to share his expertise and best practices with all team members in order to help accelerate the development of their skills and quickly make the team more efficient.

The Engineering Practice Coaches

The Engineering Practice Coach supports the Team Coaches by specifically addressing the engineering practices used within the software development process. As such, the Engineering Practice Coach reinforces software development best practices, helps the various teams identify and remove impediments, and foster team self-organization. As an expert on agile development and testing technologies and practices, the Engineering Practice Coach stays abreast of the latest industry tools, developments, and best practices, and broadly share and evangelizes those developments inside the organization. The Engineering Practice Coach brings a broad expertise of engineering practices in the Agile development team, including:

  • Test Driven Development (TDD),
  • Various Agile automation test frameworks (eg. GreenPepper),
  • Release planning techniques,
  • Story point estimation,
  • Integration of software engineering best practices (eg. code reviews, unit tests, etc.), and other techniques that enable teams to deliver high quality software products in an Agile structure.

For example, within each development team, the Engineering Practice Coach ensures that the engineering practices supporting the iterative and incremental development are known, understood, and properly implemented. In addition, the Engineering Practice Coach may also accompany the architecture team in the selection of tools and technology.


We hope you enjoyed these short articles and have found useful information to help you succeed with your organizational transition. Do not hesitate to send us an email if you would like additional information about a specific topic.

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