Agile coaches, I am your friend

Posted on February 3, 2014.
(image courtesy of Shutterstock)

I spend a lot of time consulting with large organizations grappling with making Agile work as an engineering practice and then expanding it to include marketing, product management and eventually user experience and design. Often these companies have invested not only in training but in full-time coaches dedicated to making sure these new practices stick. In the overwhelming majority of cases, these coaches are very good at building in the rituals and policies necessary for improving the agility and predictability of the engineering organization only.

As any coach will tell you, having only one department work in an agile fashion  is far from ideal (this is what’s often called Agile Fall – a hybrid process where the up front design work is done in a traditional waterfall fashion and then handed off to engineering for scoping and prioritizing into iterations). With Lean UX gaining popularity as a solution for integrating design into the Agile process, we are often called in to help figure out how to get the whole team working the same way.

The first people we meet when we arrive are the on-site Agile coaches. Immediately, I can sense their concern. They aren’t difficult to ascertain:

  • How will this affect the rituals and rhythms I’ve been teaching the engineers?
  • What am I not doing that they feel there’s a need to bring in another teacher?
  • I don’t know anything about design. Will this new training make it obvious?
  • If I’ve not been coaching a holistic approach to agility, will this threaten my job?

I want to allay all of these concerns. I want to bring user experience and design into the Agile process in the most effective way. I want the groundwork you’ve laid as the on-site coach to take root and involve the entire team. Without that, the benefits of iterative design can never be achieved. I want the teams to not only deliver great software. I want them to deliver beautiful, usable software. I want to help expand the Agile values of collaboration and communication to the entire product team. In short, I want to help make you and your teams successful.