The Agile Gene, by Matt Ridley (book cover) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Agile coaching is not a regulated profession. There are no baselines for credentials, work experience, or even personal hygiene. Literally anyone can claim to be an agile coach and, given the somewhat ephemeral nature of both “agile” and “coaching,” they can probably pull it off for a long time before you ever got the idea they didn’t know what they were talking about and your projects are falling to pieces.
Being the philanthropist I am, I offer you (free of charge) this guide to determine if an agile coach or consultant is the real deal.
- Have they ever actually led a project where they can demonstrate with real numbers decreased lead time and higher quality?
- Have they done this more than once?
- Can they tell you a story of a time they worked with a client, ran into an issue, made a wrong move, and learned from it?
- When they tell stories, are they about actual work experiences (“I was at a client, once, and we…”) or do they sound more like Chicken Soup for the Agile Soul?
- Do they use industry terms in discussions the way a squid uses ink, i.e. spray a cloud of it when threatened?
- Do they tell that pig and chicken story or that stupid Shu Ha Ri thing every chance they get whether it applies or not?
- Do they quote more articles and books than their actual work experience?
- Do they say they’ve had “great success” with something, but are then unable to express specifically how that “success” was measured?
- If doing Scrum doesn’t magically produce agility, do they say it’s because you’re not doing it right?
Greater agility is something that is a hot commodity, now, and with any knowledge work, the market is glutted with people who are decent presenters with no real expertise. As Troy Tuttle would say, “They’re all hat and no cattle.” They’ve read tons of articles and gotten their certifications, but they have no deep understanding of what it means to be agile, how you measure it, and the common obstacles and pitfalls that teams face and how to work through them.
They don’t understand the principles behind the techniques they know. They don’t have the time in the trenches to weigh against what “should work.” They have no authority of their own because everything they have to say comes from something they read or a class they attended.
These people are high risk hires.