When I tell someone I am an agile coach, I sometimes receive a puzzled response.
"Oh? What sport?"... or
"Is that the thing where you train a dog to run an obstacle course?"
When I explain that I coach people and teams that create innovative products and services, they get even more confused.
"Why do they need a coach? Aren't they professionals? Don't they know their stuff? Shouldn't we reasonably expect that they can get the job done?"
Well, yes. They are professionals, and as professionals, they are constantly learning and improving both their disciplines and how to put those disciplines to good use. Learning and improving is a key characteristic of a professional. A coach is simply an accelerator in that learning and improvement process.
So, how does a coach provide that acceleration?
- Focus - A coach has a different perspective from the team. The coach isn't so much "in the game", as they are an observer -- an observer with purpose -- that is, the purpose to improve the performance of those in the game. As an observer, the coach sees both the action and the impact of that action. The coach helps the team see what is working and what is not. Where things aren't working, the coach helps the team assess the impact and identify potential remedies. This intentional focus on areas for meaningful improvement drives both personal and team development.
- Teach - With targeted areas for improvement identified, the coach works with the team to help them develop new knowledge of tools and techniques that would be effective in addressing the improvement area.
- Practice - Knowledge is not proficiency. Proficiency comes from practice, practice, practice. The coach guides the team through practice in the correct form of a technique or use of a tool with eye to the desired improvement.
- Sustain - Practice develops muscle memory. The coach works with the team to develop new habits that stick. To sustain a new way of working, the individual or team must cross a tipping point where it has overcome the resilience or spring-like effect that would draw them back to the old way of doing things.
Coaching is ultimately about developing people — helping individuals and teams realize their potential. In a creative environment, the innovative nature of the creative process constantly challenges the status quo. We create new products and services using new techniques and tools or by re-imagining old ones. Those who learn and adapt quickly to improve both their products and services and their processes thrive. Those who stand still are left behind.