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An Agile coach in a consulting firm has been called into a big company's transformation project.

However when he got there he realised that the project had two developers, and one head of project, and it's merely a proof of concept, leading to a business transformation in the future. A month later there was some progress in the proof of concept, but the team hasn't grown due to poor hiring from the consulting firm's side. This resulted to the coach being called to do various other things in the project, along with facilitating the team and removing its impediments.

Is this the right way for a company to use an agile coach?

  • I changed the question to better cater for the forum. – dqm Jul 3 '17 at 21:16
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An Agile coach should be a proactive person. If there is not enough work on the current project I would expect the coach to find gaps and work with the company on other Agile improvements.

The coach could also be an extra hand on the team. I have seen coaches do:

  • (Pair) Programming
  • Testing
  • Writing requirements
  • Writing user documentation

If their focus is the project and not the company in a whole then anything that can make the project a bigger success could be the work of the coach.

Even on a two person development team the coaching of technical excellence and creating a good clean code-base for the future growth and transformations might be enough challenge for a single coach. Certainly if the developers don't have a lot of Agile software engineering experience.

As a last resort I would expect a proactive coach without any work on its current project to go looking for a new project, maybe even outside of the current company. You don't want to sit still, but you want to teach, learn and grow together. Being reactive and waiting does not seem the passion you want to see in your Agile coach.

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I do agree that an Agile Coach should be a proactive person but it depends on the type of facilitation and impediment management the coach is doing to determine if the company is using the coach effectively.

In my professional experience, an Agile Coach should really be focusing on

  • Ensuring the Development SDLC process is efficient and effective
  • Driving Agile best practices & process improvements
  • Completing Agile training or workshop sessions with the team
  • Working with the team Scrum Master to facilitate Agile meetings
  • Coaching the team and leads on effective communication and conflict resolution

In the case of facilitating general meetings between company leadership and stakeholders to identify requirements for building the team, budgeting, defining goals, etc. should really fall more on the shoulders of a Program/Project Manager.

There is a Scrum Alliance blog post that goes into the same clarification issues that are noted in your company's situation that may help: https://www.scrumalliance.org/community/articles/2015/september/what-really-is-an-agile-coach

In this situation, the Coach should be proactive by accessing the needs, issues or risks with the team and bringing awareness to the Leadership team.

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A coach needs to challenge the system and brings up the friction points in the system. A coach's job is to help elevate the current status of the system to the next level.

A coach can do that by helping people at the team level, management level, and organization level.

There is no harm in facilitating a session or doing other stuff and helping the organization, as long as it helps with the ultimate goal of the coach.

Also, it depends on what kind of coach is your organization is getting and depending on the mandate of the coach. Sometimes, if you are experiencing Agile for its first time in the organization, the understanding from the management is that it is only needed for the team and not for them. A coach is usually being asked to help with the team level and not the management.

It is the coach's job to bubble up all the issues to the management and realize them that they need to change as well and not only the teams.

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The scenario you describe makes little sense. Hiring an Agile Coach for three people working on a PoC seems a bit extreme. At best, it's an expensive way to supplement staff.

I'm not sure that there is a useful absolute answer. Is the coach working on issues that were explained prior to the hire, or is this a surprise. If a total surprise, the Coach has the option of choosing to adapt their duties or moving on to a role where they are doing work closer to what interests them.

I'd worry less about the box and more about the interaction and specifics. Are they working? How can they be improved? And, of course, given the people involved, is it plausible to ground an Agile transformation?

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