Maybe our definition of coach is too narrow

Some time ago, I was wondering why I was noticing people moving away from agile approaches (and cultures). One of my theories was that people were neglecting “craftsmanship” when coaching agile teams.

I am an agile coach and I often explain to people that agile coaching is about helping teams build the capability to interact better together and better adapt to change. I also say that we are all about helping people discover, pursue and share value.

Alas, some stakeholders thing that agile coaching is really about implementing agile best practices from the big agile book of correct behaviour.

But when I feel sorry for myself I think of the journey that some other “coaches” are going through and I realise that we agile crew still have it fairly easy. I spoke to a QA a while ago who saw her job as coaching the team to build better systems and to build learning into their work. This was an awesome approach to improving both the quality of the end product AND the quality of life for the team. Alas the team disagreed. They thought that QA was a latin word meaning “Break things” or “notice things that developers should have seen and then raise a ticket for them to ignore”.

But really, helping the team to improve their technical learning processes through experimentation (testing) and through understanding what quality means in context, is a lot like what I do for a living.

I also see technical leads who are actively teaching coding to others in the team, both as a craft and as a way of thinking. Teaching how to merge practices, actions and thinking sounds a lot like coaching to me. Perhaps technical coach is a role that is included in the technical leadership role.

Now product managers are looking at “discovery coaching” and “transformation coaching” as different needs within the product community.

So maybe I should stop complaining that people do not know what agile coaching is and I should find better ways to help artisans and professionals to build more effective coaching into their existing roles.

What do you think, is coaching a role in and of itself (such as I like to think it is) or is it a capability that starts as a seed within many professions and needs to now start to flourish a a core competency among many roles?


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