What does success look like for an Agile Coach?

It is imperative that coaches, the companies they work for, and the clients they serve have a mutual understanding of "what success looks like" for an agile coaching engagement. Not having alignment on this topic can lead to uncomfortable conversations and sticky situations at the end of an engagement.

When asking these three parties to state what success looks like, they may say something like:

Coach - "Success will be when I work with the team to help them explore opportunities and ask hard questions in the spirit of adopting and expanding their agile mindset."

Company - "We feel our consultant is successful if they maintain a certain level of profitability, gain great feedback from the client, and have this engagement lead to follow-on work and a larger account"

Client - "We are simply looking for someone to come in here, get their hands dirty, and get our teams moving in the right direction. They aren't going to be here to just make suggestions, we expect them to roll their sleeves up."

Despite that they are talking about the same engagement, all three parties are not on the same page. The coach is focused on the folks they are supporting, the company concerned about profitability, and the client simply wants someone to get some work done.

My guess is that at least part of the statements above will seem familiar. This type of misalignment can happen due to not having the proper conversations at the early stages of the engagement and sets one or more of these parties up for failure.

For example, let's say things don't go so well with a particular engagement. The following statements might be made when trying to figure out what happened:

Coach - "Well, I did my best but the teams didn't listen to my suggestions. At least I gave them some options to think about."

Company - "The feedback from the client wasn't as positive as we hoped and we don't think we'll get any follow-on coaching work since our consultant seemed not to add a lot of value. Looks like we won't be able to grow this account next quarter."

Client - "I don't think we'll be hiring any sort of agile coach in the future, all they did was ask questions and make suggestions instead of getting in there and actually helping us deliver."

So, where to start? Before stepping into any sort of arrangement be it coaching, training or consulting I like to have a very explicit conversation around what success looks like. I often ask "what does success for this look like for YOU?" to get someone else's perspective on the question.

As the coach on the ground, understanding what is expected of you from the client you are supporting is important. The onus is on YOU to make sure that your definition of success is in line with theirs, and adapt accordingly.

This becomes more complicated when your own organization may have a different view of the engagement than yours (re: profitability or growth). Simply being aware of how success is defined for your organization can help you as a coach avoid "missing the mark", which could be a mark you had no idea existed :)

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