What is Agile Coaching

2021-05-19 15:22:48
Renee Fey
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Summary : In the 1970s, American tennis coach Timothy Gallwey wrote a small book "The Inner Game of Tennis", and one day he had no choice but to second a ski instructor who could not play tennis to replace him. He urged: "You only need to teach them to focus on tennis, never show them demonstrations."

What is Agile Coaching

Agile and Lean

The term "lean" comes from the Toyota production system, which compares Toyota's lean production with mass production. The implication is to significantly reduce the batch size of tasks and remove bottlenecks to accelerate the delivery of customer value output. There is no longer competition for economies of scale, but competition for adaptability, avoidance of inventory, and small-unit work. Lean is not simply "reducing waste", nor is it just partial optimization and efficiency improvement. Whether it is the early version drawn by Toichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, or the Lean Thinking House modified by Craig Larman and Bas, its goals include low-cost, rapid delivery and response in short iterations to maximize customer value.

"Agile" is a way of thinking. The core is the Agile Manifesto, that is, values. There are many fruits on the agile tree. Taking the Scrum school as an example, it draws on lean thinking, PDCA Deming Cycle, etc., as well as some from software engineering. Specific practice. Therefore, agile is not only applicable to IT, the ideas contained in it can be implemented in the entire closed-loop business and daily life.

Agile Facilitators

To achieve agility, hard knowledge and practical skills are required. Common methods include splitting the team, flattening the organization, authorizing self-organization, visualized management, reducing the cost and time of decision-making, and reducing the time consumption of handover and non-value added. Split the work content, reduce the dimensionality of complex tasks to simple domains, try to automate, modularize, and break dependencies. Divide the time into short iterations, publish frequently and transparently, improve the sense of accomplishment, and expose risks as soon as possible. The most important thing is to establish a continuous improvement mechanism so that the working method itself is constantly optimized. These practices can enable agility.

Origin of Agile Coaching

In the 1970s, American tennis coach Timothy Gallwey wrote a small book "The Inner Game of Tennis", and one day he had no choice but to second a ski instructor who could not play tennis to replace him. He urged: "You only need to teach them to focus on tennis, never show them demonstrations." The ski instructor acted according to plan. One month later, he was surprised to find that the students taught by ski instructors generally improved faster than those taught by professional tennis coaches! He curiously discovered that the ski instructor was unable to demonstrate because he could not play tennis, so he had to ask the students to focus on tennis and ask some open questions. The trainee eliminates command and correction, stays relaxed, has the imagination of good performance in his mind, and feels his body, then his performance will improve.


What kind of ball games, "If you always want to play, you will not be able to play well. The more others judge and make ideas, the more abnormal." Later AT&T became his first corporate coaching client, despite his expertise in the communications industry and enterprises. Management knows nothing! Later, more experts combined consulting and psychology to continuously enrich coaching skills, forming NLP theory and many coaching genres, and forming the ICF International Coaching Federation. Coaching technology has become an effective method to stimulate potential, improve corporate and personal performance, and improve management and leadership.


The coach’s philosophy is to believe that the client’s abilities and resources are complete. The coach is like a mirror, reflecting the real situation and limitations of the person involved, and at the same time triggering the self-awareness of the other person, making people aware of why they need to change, and arousing the energy and motivation from the heart. Let the other party see more possibilities and give the other party a chance to choose again. The basic skills of a coach include trust and connection, active listening, strong questions, clean communication, awareness-raising, and support for accountability. It takes patience to wait for the opportunity to happen naturally, without judgment and advice, but to accept all possibilities. Of course, the client can only be coached when he is ready to enter the state of being coached. It cannot be forced, and the client has to take responsibility for his actions. A non-serious summary of the coach is: do not take the initiative, do not refuse, do not take responsibility.

Matrix of Content and Process

Matrix of Content and Process

Professional coaches are also divided into majors. For example, fitness coaches, parent-child coaches, and executive coaches need to combine coaching skills with experience and knowledge in a certain field. If the service provided is more on the content, it is the traditional consulting (Consulting) role, which tends to inform. And if the service is more in the process of exploration, it will be more Facilitating. The facilitator is a neutral role and does not contribute anything. Combining the two, since coaching is deeply involved in the professional background, it also helps clients to explore themselves. Therefore, a more in-depth and focused development direction is needed. Many friends in the circle started from the professional field, gradually realized the importance of coaching skills, and then began to learn professional coaching skills.

Coaching vs. Consulting

Hard skills, that is, objective, theoretical, and scientific knowledge play a major role in improving performance in the early stage. For example, if you don't know how to write code, you don't know how to write, so you have to develop hard skills through training and deliberate practice at the beginning. But after reaching a certain level, it is more soft skills that play a role, including how to understand each other's intentions and emotions, and effective communication and collaboration, in order to form a team culture.

The consultants mainly rely on their own knowledge and experience to make assessments and judgments, make suggestions to clients, and promote implementation. The role of consultants here also includes process improvers within the enterprise, sometimes nicknamed "Policy Police". It is more about asking the team to implement certain policies, but in fact, everyone is unwilling to be "managed." However, agile coaches are more through dialogue, to experience the status quo of each team and individual, to explore the organization and individual will, to tap the internal motivation, and to promote change.

Coaching vs. Training

Good training can focus on the students and get recognition and promotion from both perceptual and rational aspects. But the problem is that training often lacks follow-up support, encouragement, and accountability, resulting in unsustainable training effects and less change. The combination of coaching and coaching after training is a key mechanism for transforming training into actual work, which can effectively help students integrate what they have learned into their own work, establish and implement an action plan that they agree with. According to statistics, 88% of the productivity increase is obtained through training supported by coaches (Source: Chartered Institute of Personnel + Development UK)




Final Words

According to Scrum Alliance CTC Certified Team Coach Model, an Agile coach is to


  1. Facilitate: Focus and align. Agile coaches guide the team and stakeholders to focus on key dialogues and activities that are in line with each other, maintain a neutral perspective, and use collaboration and consensus strategies to identify opportunities for innovation.
  2. Educate: Decision-making and understanding. As a mentor and leader, an agile coach guides customers' agile learning through education and exploration, and aligns the effective use of agility with customer maturity in accordance with local conditions.
  3. Balance: Coach and consultant. I have already talked about the difference between coaches and consultants. Agile coaches need to balance their professional experience with their team's needs and goals.
  4. Assess: Explore and command. Agile coaches act as a mirror of the team, interviewing, evaluating, and giving feedback to help the team see below the surface, expose challenging symptoms and isolate the root cause.
  5. Catalyze: Leading and organizing. Agile coaches are change agents for the team. They bring in the leaders of the entire organization-level system and the guidance system. Enhance the existing skills and abilities of the team. Establish connections between mutual dependencies. Even actively introducing changes, creating a culture that tolerates mistakes, and even creating an internal entrepreneurial environment is also a catalyst.


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