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Challenges & Recommendations To Be A Successful Agile Coach

In the real world, there are many versions of Agile implementation which are tailor-made to fit into existing organization’s AS IS hierarchy and operating patterns. Top leaders and managers understand that Agile coach’s role is pivotal to make Agile transformation feasible and possible in their organization. Let us consider different scenarios under which Agile coach is hired for transformation purpose on a project or in the organization:  When an Agile coach is hired as an external contractual consultant for a specific duration to make people aware of Agile principles/values for the first time and help in transitioning for one or two releases When an Agile coach is hired as full-time employee - after initial awareness is created by external consultant but practices were not followed, so now the organization wants to get implementation done through full time Agile coach When an Agile coach is either hired as full time employee or taken from a pool of Agile folks available to the organization - to generate  awareness from scratch and own the responsibility of Agile implementation on a specific project or account There are pros (which serve as strength to the coach) and cons (serve as a challenge) in each of the scenarios mentioned above for an Agile coach. Based on these pros and cons the recommended approach has to vary dynamically. Scenario 1:  Agile Coach is hired as an external consultant for a specific duration (3 to 6 months) – to create awareness & lead implementation by handholding for one or two releases. Pros:  Strong support from SPONSOR OR Top management (Be it hierarchical or flat hierarchy-based organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders agree and accept the change due to decision made by top management Cons or Challenges:  Project Managers or Technical leaders attend all awareness sessions due to top management’s pressure but do not completely accept or understand the benefits of agile implementation. This leads to GAPS leading to incorrect IMPLEMENTATION  Project Managers or Technical leaders send selected members for awareness of their preference. Rest of the team members are interested in understanding Agile too but they mostly woder “WHAT IS THIS AGILE STUFF really?” I would also like to know.. as I am going to do coding & testing in Agile way too”. This leads to a low awareness spread across the project or organization  Recommended Approach: Conduct stakeholder analysis: Identify stakeholders and prepare Stakeholder analysis graph – Power/influence vs Interest in implementing Agile transformation. Sponsor (High Interest, High Power), Project Managers (Interest variable, Medium Power), Product Owner (variable interest, Medium to high power). Make sure to enlist every individual role’s name with role in this quadrant at least for one or two major projects If this is organizational change. Set expectation to each role based on Agile Roles- Identify and set expectation for each Agile Role verbally and in written by agreeing in the expectation management meeting– Product Owner(who may be a current Business analyst), Scrum Master(who may be a current Tech Lead or Team Lead), Future Agile coach(within organization), Project Manager(though is not a role in SCRUM but is needed to oversee the entire transition and collect metrics and remove project level impediments and client management ensure success of a process and product delivery) Make batches of 15-30 participants & Conduct Coaching session for tailored different target Agile roles identified in point no. 2.  Ensure that Project Managers understand their role in terms of supporting transformation and how success factors need to be measured and monitored at specific intervals to ensure their engagement. Conduct tests or quiz at the end of each session and share the results of each role group with top management to show the awareness of knowledge transferred Call randomly one person from each role group to present their understanding to the top management. For e.g. Chief Product Owner must ensure whether Product Owners understand the importance of backlog grooming & refinement, whether they can write crisp user stories to support INVEST criteria. Similarly, Scrum Master & Project Managers should also be called upon to present their implementation approach and how they will successfully carry out transformation on ground Also, team members should be provided tests and called upon randomly to present their understanding about basic Agile overview, values and principles, roles and responsibilities. Coaches should guide all the roles with usage of Agile life cycle tools & managers to check metrics and reports from those tools.  Coach can be present for one or two releases, to see if the implementation by attending Agile ceremonies or meetings for each team randomly to see if everything is falling in place and help managers by guiding about how to measure and demonstrate metrics with transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Once all falls in place which takes around 3 to 6 months (based on acceptance from all leads) window for a project or organization of about 100 -150 people then external Agile consultant can move on to another assignment. Coach should share Agile learning reference manuals and templates on a shared repository so that everyone remains Agile aware even after he/she leaves at the end of a contract. Manager’s support is pivotal to keep Agile best practices going on after an external coach leaves the project or organization. Scenario 2:  Agile Coach is hired as full-time employee – lead implementation after external coach leaves Pros:  Strong support from Top management (in case of hierarchical organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders agree and accept the change due to decision made by top management( in case of hierarchical organization) Cons or Challenges:  Low to medium support from  Top management (in case of flat or less hierarchical organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders may not agree and challenge every decision and create hindrance at every step (in case of flat or less hierarchical) as they have rights to make decisions at their project level Recommendation:  Conduct Stakeholder analysis as described in pt. 1. In scenario 1 to keep handy the stakeholder map and create a strategy to handle each set of stakeholder differently based on their power and interest Be in observational mode for a couple of iterations :- Attend all Agile meetings to check if all meetings/ceremonies are followed as per the methodology suggested  Take a note of GAPS in Agile practices not being followed. After a couple of iterations, start recommending corrective actions formally during Agile meetings or ceremonies verbally.  If specific set of stakeholders do not follow recommendations despite verbal & written reminders then escalate it to the project manager. Project manager generally supports in hierarchical organizations to close the gaps formally in case there are is no ego problem. In case of non-hierarchical organizations support from managers is less or non-existent which leads to an approach wherein building personal rapport with non-collaborating stakeholders like Tech leads or Team Leads is the only way to get implementation through Also, refresh the Agile basics of team members and leaders by sharing good articles or videos on various Agile topics.  As per stakeholder analysis and gaps found in Agile implementation per role, group coaching should be targeted to fill the gaps.  For e.g. if  product owners do not break epic into stories and technical team enters technical tasks instead of user stories in every iteration, then there is a need for the Product Owner to be trained on backlog refinement or breaking epics into user stories OR breaking bigger stories into smaller ones then coach them by sharing examples of doing it by one-to-one coaching OR YouTube videos OR articles present on internet sources or publishing self-written white papers or videos or presentations to educate the product owner about writing user stories in Agile. Ensuring inter-team meetings (for e.g. scrum of scrum) to happen where team leads can highlight dependencies and find resolutions to mitigate risks related to schedule slippage. Such meetings also aid sharing lessons learnt  across teams to ensure consistency in implementing best practices. Conduct coaching presentations – One presentation topic to address entire project at least once in a week to ensure everyone is on the same page and also to ensure consistent application of Agile implementation. After essential coaching sessions are conducted as a refresher awareness sessions tests should be conducted in the form of quizzes to check if everyone is aware of Agile practices. Check at regular intervals - sprint or release - If Agile lifecycle management tool like JIRA or RALLY etc. reflect the progress of the project as it is on ground thereby maintaining transparency to ensure that metrics get collected to review if milestones are reached as per schedule and devise strategy to mitigate risks to close gaps or slippage well in advance. Ensure Project managers measure metrics suggested and monitor project health at specific intervals to ensure their engagement. Help Project managers to maintain a log of Agile practice gaps or impediments – backlog, open and closed along with start and end date and actions taken to monitor progress of all gaps closed in a particular duration and the actions taken can help other projects in future implementation Present a milestone chart to the SPONSOR or top management along with the project manager about how transition happened with the gaps found initially and actions taken to close them and how Agile transformation was successfully achieved. Once the project is established in Agile practices after a couple of releases, an Agile coach can move onto another project or account. Scenario 3:  Agile Coach is hired as a full-time employee – create awareness and lead implementation   Looking for a Full time position as an Agile Coach?! You've come to the right place... https://t.co/7RXWV1AMxp #Scrum #Jobs #AgileCoach — AgileCareers (@agilecareers) April 12, 2016 Pros:    Strong support from SPONSOR OR Top management (in case of hierarchical organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders agree and accept the change due to decision made by top management(in case of hierarchical organization) Cons or Challenges: Project Managers or Technical leaders attend all awareness sessions due to top management’s pressure but do not truly accept or understand the benefits of Agile implementation. This leads to GAPS leading to incorrect IMPLEMENTATION (in case of hierarchical organization) Low to medium support from  Top management (in case of flat or less hierarchical organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders may not agree and challenge every decision and provide hindrance at every step (in case of flat or less hierarchical) as they have rights to make decisions at their project level Recommended Approach: Combination of recommended approach for scenario 1 and 2  Note:  These approaches are subjected to how they are carried out by an individual coach. There might be many other successful approaches based on the challenges faced in a real world which is full of multiple diverse surprises.   
Challenges & Recommendations To Be A Successful Agile Coach
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Mini Shah

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Mini Shah is a seasoned Agile practitioner who has transformed big and mid-size projects in organisations like Accenture and Datamatics. She has demonstrated her expertise by playing roles like Agile coach, Scrum Master, Product Owner and Business Analyst across multiple agile projects in past six years.

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Challenges & Recommendations To Be A Successful Agile Coach

In the real world, there are many versions of Agile implementation which are tailor-made to fit into existing organization’s AS IS hierarchy and operating patterns. Top leaders and managers understand that Agile coach’s role is pivotal to make Agile transformation feasible and possible in their organization. Let us consider different scenarios under which Agile coach is hired for transformation purpose on a project or in the organization:  When an Agile coach is hired as an external contractual consultant for a specific duration to make people aware of Agile principles/values for the first time and help in transitioning for one or two releases When an Agile coach is hired as full-time employee - after initial awareness is created by external consultant but practices were not followed, so now the organization wants to get implementation done through full time Agile coach When an Agile coach is either hired as full time employee or taken from a pool of Agile folks available to the organization - to generate  awareness from scratch and own the responsibility of Agile implementation on a specific project or account There are pros (which serve as strength to the coach) and cons (serve as a challenge) in each of the scenarios mentioned above for an Agile coach. Based on these pros and cons the recommended approach has to vary dynamically. Scenario 1:  Agile Coach is hired as an external consultant for a specific duration (3 to 6 months) – to create awareness & lead implementation by handholding for one or two releases. Pros:  Strong support from SPONSOR OR Top management (Be it hierarchical or flat hierarchy-based organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders agree and accept the change due to decision made by top management Cons or Challenges:  Project Managers or Technical leaders attend all awareness sessions due to top management’s pressure but do not completely accept or understand the benefits of agile implementation. This leads to GAPS leading to incorrect IMPLEMENTATION  Project Managers or Technical leaders send selected members for awareness of their preference. Rest of the team members are interested in understanding Agile too but they mostly woder “WHAT IS THIS AGILE STUFF really?” I would also like to know.. as I am going to do coding & testing in Agile way too”. This leads to a low awareness spread across the project or organization  Recommended Approach: Conduct stakeholder analysis: Identify stakeholders and prepare Stakeholder analysis graph – Power/influence vs Interest in implementing Agile transformation. Sponsor (High Interest, High Power), Project Managers (Interest variable, Medium Power), Product Owner (variable interest, Medium to high power). Make sure to enlist every individual role’s name with role in this quadrant at least for one or two major projects If this is organizational change. Set expectation to each role based on Agile Roles- Identify and set expectation for each Agile Role verbally and in written by agreeing in the expectation management meeting– Product Owner(who may be a current Business analyst), Scrum Master(who may be a current Tech Lead or Team Lead), Future Agile coach(within organization), Project Manager(though is not a role in SCRUM but is needed to oversee the entire transition and collect metrics and remove project level impediments and client management ensure success of a process and product delivery) Make batches of 15-30 participants & Conduct Coaching session for tailored different target Agile roles identified in point no. 2.  Ensure that Project Managers understand their role in terms of supporting transformation and how success factors need to be measured and monitored at specific intervals to ensure their engagement. Conduct tests or quiz at the end of each session and share the results of each role group with top management to show the awareness of knowledge transferred Call randomly one person from each role group to present their understanding to the top management. For e.g. Chief Product Owner must ensure whether Product Owners understand the importance of backlog grooming & refinement, whether they can write crisp user stories to support INVEST criteria. Similarly, Scrum Master & Project Managers should also be called upon to present their implementation approach and how they will successfully carry out transformation on ground Also, team members should be provided tests and called upon randomly to present their understanding about basic Agile overview, values and principles, roles and responsibilities. Coaches should guide all the roles with usage of Agile life cycle tools & managers to check metrics and reports from those tools.  Coach can be present for one or two releases, to see if the implementation by attending Agile ceremonies or meetings for each team randomly to see if everything is falling in place and help managers by guiding about how to measure and demonstrate metrics with transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Once all falls in place which takes around 3 to 6 months (based on acceptance from all leads) window for a project or organization of about 100 -150 people then external Agile consultant can move on to another assignment. Coach should share Agile learning reference manuals and templates on a shared repository so that everyone remains Agile aware even after he/she leaves at the end of a contract. Manager’s support is pivotal to keep Agile best practices going on after an external coach leaves the project or organization. Scenario 2:  Agile Coach is hired as full-time employee – lead implementation after external coach leaves Pros:  Strong support from Top management (in case of hierarchical organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders agree and accept the change due to decision made by top management( in case of hierarchical organization) Cons or Challenges:  Low to medium support from  Top management (in case of flat or less hierarchical organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders may not agree and challenge every decision and create hindrance at every step (in case of flat or less hierarchical) as they have rights to make decisions at their project level Recommendation:  Conduct Stakeholder analysis as described in pt. 1. In scenario 1 to keep handy the stakeholder map and create a strategy to handle each set of stakeholder differently based on their power and interest Be in observational mode for a couple of iterations :- Attend all Agile meetings to check if all meetings/ceremonies are followed as per the methodology suggested  Take a note of GAPS in Agile practices not being followed. After a couple of iterations, start recommending corrective actions formally during Agile meetings or ceremonies verbally.  If specific set of stakeholders do not follow recommendations despite verbal & written reminders then escalate it to the project manager. Project manager generally supports in hierarchical organizations to close the gaps formally in case there are is no ego problem. In case of non-hierarchical organizations support from managers is less or non-existent which leads to an approach wherein building personal rapport with non-collaborating stakeholders like Tech leads or Team Leads is the only way to get implementation through Also, refresh the Agile basics of team members and leaders by sharing good articles or videos on various Agile topics.  As per stakeholder analysis and gaps found in Agile implementation per role, group coaching should be targeted to fill the gaps.  For e.g. if  product owners do not break epic into stories and technical team enters technical tasks instead of user stories in every iteration, then there is a need for the Product Owner to be trained on backlog refinement or breaking epics into user stories OR breaking bigger stories into smaller ones then coach them by sharing examples of doing it by one-to-one coaching OR YouTube videos OR articles present on internet sources or publishing self-written white papers or videos or presentations to educate the product owner about writing user stories in Agile. Ensuring inter-team meetings (for e.g. scrum of scrum) to happen where team leads can highlight dependencies and find resolutions to mitigate risks related to schedule slippage. Such meetings also aid sharing lessons learnt  across teams to ensure consistency in implementing best practices. Conduct coaching presentations – One presentation topic to address entire project at least once in a week to ensure everyone is on the same page and also to ensure consistent application of Agile implementation. After essential coaching sessions are conducted as a refresher awareness sessions tests should be conducted in the form of quizzes to check if everyone is aware of Agile practices. Check at regular intervals - sprint or release - If Agile lifecycle management tool like JIRA or RALLY etc. reflect the progress of the project as it is on ground thereby maintaining transparency to ensure that metrics get collected to review if milestones are reached as per schedule and devise strategy to mitigate risks to close gaps or slippage well in advance. Ensure Project managers measure metrics suggested and monitor project health at specific intervals to ensure their engagement. Help Project managers to maintain a log of Agile practice gaps or impediments – backlog, open and closed along with start and end date and actions taken to monitor progress of all gaps closed in a particular duration and the actions taken can help other projects in future implementation Present a milestone chart to the SPONSOR or top management along with the project manager about how transition happened with the gaps found initially and actions taken to close them and how Agile transformation was successfully achieved. Once the project is established in Agile practices after a couple of releases, an Agile coach can move onto another project or account. Scenario 3:  Agile Coach is hired as a full-time employee – create awareness and lead implementation   Looking for a Full time position as an Agile Coach?! You've come to the right place... https://t.co/7RXWV1AMxp #Scrum #Jobs #AgileCoach — AgileCareers (@agilecareers) April 12, 2016 Pros:    Strong support from SPONSOR OR Top management (in case of hierarchical organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders agree and accept the change due to decision made by top management(in case of hierarchical organization) Cons or Challenges: Project Managers or Technical leaders attend all awareness sessions due to top management’s pressure but do not truly accept or understand the benefits of Agile implementation. This leads to GAPS leading to incorrect IMPLEMENTATION (in case of hierarchical organization) Low to medium support from  Top management (in case of flat or less hierarchical organization) Middle management for e.g. Project managers or Technical leaders may not agree and challenge every decision and provide hindrance at every step (in case of flat or less hierarchical) as they have rights to make decisions at their project level Recommended Approach: Combination of recommended approach for scenario 1 and 2  Note:  These approaches are subjected to how they are carried out by an individual coach. There might be many other successful approaches based on the challenges faced in a real world which is full of multiple diverse surprises.   
Challenges & Recommendations To Be A Successful Agile Coach
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In the real world, there are many versions of Agile implementation whi... Read More