How Many Agile Coaches Do I Need?

Do you even need agile coaches at all?

agile coachOne of the best Agile coaches I know and I think alike on this important point, which makes me think I may even be right about it. The point is how to answer the question, “How many Agile coaches do we need?”

We say, “Very few, the fewer the better.”

In the context of hundreds of teams and thousands of programmers, “You need 5 to 7, any more is too much.” You have one team? “You need one outside expert part-time.”

We see, in general, the coach role has been abused. Especially the “full-time” coach. It is abused by the executives in larger organizations who use it as an excuse as to why they don’t need to learn agile. It is abused by front line managers who hire coaches and then ignore them.

Agile coaching, if we are being honest, is mostly a waste.

You are either ready to receive the insights of an Agile coach or you are not. Most likely, you are not. Ironically, you pay an agile coach anyway. Sometimes you pay dozens of them.

If you are ready, a few hours of coaching a week over a few weeks can have a dramatic impact. Like, everything changes impact. If you are not ready, we can coach you for forty hours a week for the next few years and have very little impact.

This was never clearer to me than a recent engagement where I coached three different projects on how to write a dramatically better backlog. It took almost no time at all. The difference in the results I was seeing were dramatic too.

What worked?

They listened, and then instantly changed how they were working.

No struggle. No arm wrestling. No trying to convince people it was a better way. They listened, and did the work. Problem fixed—fast.

If you are NOT ready, you can hire twenty to fifty full-time Agile coaches for your large organization and mainly waste your time and money.


if you are ready,

a small handful of good Agile coaches can change everything.

A few hours with each team can change everything.

So, when you ask me “How many Agile coaches do you think I need?” I am now inclined to say “Wrong question.” A better question is “How should I grow the ability of my organization, my very large organization, to be agile.”

I have great answers; they have nothing to do with hiring lots of coaches.

By Tom (Thomas) Meloche –

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