Book Review: Coaching Agile Teams

Author: Lyssa Adkins

Coaching agile teams is a challenging task. It means going beyond establishing and maintaining basic agile processes. The ultimate goal of an Agile coach should be to enable creation of a high-performing, self-sustaining, continuously improving and innovating team.
Lyssa Adkins, a well known agile coach, presents her approach towards this goal through this book.

The book has three parts spanning thirteen chapters. The main areas covered in these parts are as follows:
Part I – It Starts with You: Who is an agile coach and what are the inherent qualities  of an successful agile coach. Foundations that allow a high performance team to emerge and put in agile team context. How to develop self-awareness, recover from command-and-control-ism and discover practices that help you cultivate presence. The leadership style framework that helps coaches know which style to use as the team they coach evolves (and devolves).
Part II – Helping the Team Get More for Themselves: Techniques for mentoring, facilitating, teaching that will help the team in collaborating to solve problems and navigate through any conflicts they may have.
Part III – Getting More for Yourself: Common failure and success modes in agile coaching; List of skills, mind-sets, tools and techniques to be acquired in the agile coach journey. Stories of other coaches’ journey.

Part I,  has been written with all sincerity and good intentions to help ScrumMasters and project managers in transition to become a great agile coach.  But it is rather abstract and philosophical. For the techniques mentioned in this part to be effective it is very essential that the team being coached fully understand “what coaching really means “.  Though a team may say that they need an agile coach, most of the  times they may be really looking for a consultant who can provide solutions fast rather than a coach who takes time and subtly helps them  to arrive at solutions . With such teams  some of the approaches discussed in this part may backfire and the coach may be perceived as a   philosopher asking  too many questions and wasting everyone’s time.  So setting the right expectations at the outset is very essential for the coaching to succeed. One cannot coach someone who does not want to be coached.
The chapters in Part II exposes the readers to a variety of techniques to coach by wearing different hats – i.e. of a mentor, facilitator, teacher, problem solver, conflict navigator and collaboration conductor – for different situations. They form the most useful and perhaps the best part of the book.
Part III is more or less a summary of the contents of the first two parts. The plus point of this part is the chapter where stories of six different agile coaches (including the author) are told in their own words.  While their backgrounds, experiences, and view points differ they all say that agile coaching answers their call for a humane way of working that delivers the tangible results that businesses demand.

This book while quite an useful addition to the agile coach’s library  is  probably not the best choice as a first book to read on agile coaching. I would rather recommend  the book “Agile Coaching” by Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley since it is more practical, pragmatic and more suited for teams who are in the initial stages of agile journey.


Book Details: Published:2010, Publisher: Pearson, Paperback: 344 pages.

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