Why Agile coaches need internal cooperation

An Agile coach is only as successful as their Agile partner. Here's how to foster internal cooperation and create an Agile team.
3 readers like this
3 readers like this

If you're an Agile coach, you probably seek to inspire and empower others as an external member of your team or department. However, many Agile coaches overlook the importance of internal cooperation. That's not necessarily a term you are familiar with, so allow me to explain.

What is internal cooperation?

As an Agile coach, you don't work alone. You try to find a partner in the team you're taking care of. This partner is expected to:

  • Undertake all or most of the Agile transformation in the future.
  • Find all possible opportunities for systematic improvement and team optimization.
  • Be self-motivated.
  • Not be managed by you; you delegate your enthusiasm and vision to them.

Of course, maybe you don't need such a person because, theoretically speaking, everyone in the team is your ideal candidate, and everyone is self-driven. Or maybe your whole team will magically become what you want it to be overnight.

Reality check: most of the time, you need a partner, an inside agent. Somebody to keep the spirit of Agile alive, whether you're there to encourage it or not.

Internal cooperation is required

Getting buy-in from the team you are coaching isn't a luxury; it's a requirement. If you're the only Agile practitioner on your team, then your team isn't Agile! So how do you cultivate this internal cooperation?

Clarify responsibility

Being Agile is supposed to be a team effort. The beneficiary is the team itself, but the team must also bear the burden of transformation. An Agile coach is meant to be inspiring and empowering, but the change doesn't happen in just one person. That's why teams must learn to consider and solve problems on their own. A team must have its own engine (your Agile partner is such an engine) rather than relying on the external force of the Agile coach. It's the engines that want to solve problems, and with the help of Agile coaches, their abilities and ways of thinking can be enriched and improved.

It's best to have an engine from the beginning, but that's not always possible. The earlier, the better, so look for allies from the start.

Know the team

When you find a partner, you gain someone who understands the team's situation better than you do. A good partner knows the team from the inside and communicates with it on a level you cannot. No matter how good you are as an Agile coach, you must recognize that an excellent Agile partner has a unique advantage in "localization."

The best approach is not An Agile coach makes a customized implementation plan for the team, and then the team is responsible for execution. In my opinion, with the support of the Agile coach, the Agile partner should work with the team to make plans that best fit its needs. Next, try to implement those plans with frequent feedback and keep adjusting them as needed.

You continue to observe progress, whether the team members falter in Agile principles, and give them support at the right moments. Of course, when there's something wrong, you often want to stay silent, let the team hit a wall, and learn from their setbacks. Other times, stepping in to provide guidance is the right thing.

[ Related read: Agile adoption: 6 strategic steps for IT leaders ]

Is an Agile coach still necessary?

In a word: Absolutely!

Agile is a team effort. Everyone must collaborate to find processes that work. Solutions are often sparked by the collision of ideas between the Agile coach and the partner. Then the partner can accurately get how an Agile theory is applied in the daily work. The partner understands the essence of Agile theories through the solutions.

As an Agile coach, you must have a solid theoretical foundation and the ability to apply that theory to specific scenarios. On the surface, you take charge of the theory while your Agile partner is responsible for the practice. However, an Agile coach must not be an armchair strategist, and teams aren't supposed to assume that the Agile coach is a theorist. In fact, an Agile coach must consciously let go of the practice part so the Agile partner can take over.

The significance of accompanying a team is not supposed to be pushing the team to move passively toward the Agile coach's vision. The amount of guidance required from you will fluctuate over time, but it shouldn't and can't last forever.

Find an Agile partner

How do you find your Agile partner? First of all, observe the team you are coaching and notice anyone who is in charge of continuous improvement, whether it's their defined job role or not. That person is your Agile partner.

If there's nobody like that yet, you must cultivate one. Be sure to choose someone with a good sense of project management. I have observed that team leaders or project managers who perform well in the traditional development model may not be good candidates in the Agile environment. In an Agile management model, you must have an open mind, a sense of continuous pursuit of excellence, a flexible approach, extensive knowledge, and strong self-motivation.

Be Agile together

Don't be shy about bringing on a partner to help you with your work and communication. Instead, find willing partners, and work together to make your organization an Agile one.


This article is translated from Xu Dongwei's Blog and is republished with permission.

What to read next
Kelsea is running...
Kelsea Zhang is one of the members of ZenTao team. ZenTao is a project management tool that covers the entire software development lifecycle, which has won first place in the "Most Used Test Management Tools" for seven years in a row.
Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International License.