06 Feb

The ONLY way an agile (or other flavour of) coach/consultant can make credible suggestions or recommendations — particularly when large/significant changes are being touted — is to spend some time (usually measured in weeks) embedded in the organisation.

Attending meetings (both formal and informal/ad-hoc), making observations (in a safe way; people will act differently from usual if they are not confident that the intentions of having someone observing them are in their favour), having conversations with employees (new and established; the ones who have seen all the consultant-driven false dawns before), building relationships and trust.

AGILE COACHES — if you are making suggestions/recommendations without doing due diligence (above), you are doing your client/employer a disservice.

COMPANIES — if you are expecting an agile coach to come in and make suggestions/recommendations without proper context, you are doing yourself a disservice.

We all want to make an impact, fast. And we like and revere others who do so. Companies want to get a swift bang for their buck, particularly where (relatively) expensive consultants are concerned.

But the truth is — when someone new comes into your company, consultant or otherwise, they are missing your entire company history in terms of context. Failed/successful change initiatives, projects, employees (current, and from the distant and recent past), cultural dynamics, etc. Consequently, they are missing the more granular context of the particular team or situation they have been placed in, however clear it may seem to their trained eye that one or more common suboptimal patterns exists.

For example, it’s very tempting for a coach to observe a couple of daily stand-ups in their first week, write down a list of “dysfunctions”, and start making suggestions to attendees (or, worse, their managers) of how to improve the meeting. This might help the coach feel like they are earning their daily rate, and their client might feel that way too (“wow, Neil has made an impact already!), but the opposite is more likely to be true.

The way those daily stand-ups — and any other process, pattern, or even seemingly innocuous interaction for that matter — pan out today is a function of the way things are right now (in terms of company culture and current employees), plus a complex manifestation of weeks, months, maybe years of human interactions, company and employee dynamics, process inspection, and more.

Thus, in summary, I have a simple message, both for agile coaches and the companies wishing to benefit from their services.

As Axl Rose once sang:

“All we need is just a little patience.”

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