​Being an agile coach is more than just facilitation

Mar 8, 2018, 11:13 AM

Agile transformation process in an organization – facilitated by a coach – usually starts with interviews and continues with coaching. Often this transformation support ends up being much more than just facilitation.


Together with my team, I help organizations in their agile transformation by acting as a catalyst of sorts. The secret art of facilitation that gets everyone involved and actively participating is almost magical when done right.

In coaching, by definition, we assume the participant already knows the answer but cannot verbalize it. The coach’s job is to get that information spelled out – to help in forming the thought and the solution.

However, quite often we are asked to provide answers and directly solve customer’s problems, such as how to set up a first draft of a portfolio kanban or how to vertically slice the customer’s specific content.

In these cases, participants lack the knowledge of how to apply the agile methods in the given setting or the discipline at hand. Here, asking coaching questions from the client is simply not enough. It’s time to move from facilitating and coaching to teaching. And the only proper way to do this is to give out inspiring examples, and concretely help the client to learn from them!

And just like a good football coach needs to master the play on some level in order to coach the players, an agile coach needs to know the essential aspects of the organization’s challenges. Neither needs to be an expert, but what it does take is empathy towards the client’s problems and interest in getting real results.

We drew a nice diagram to illustrate what an agile coach does. Agile transformation happens when there is both knowledge and will to change.


What do you think? We think this is pretty cool. Who knows, it might even help our grandmas finally understand what we do for living!



Maarit Laanti is the Head Coach of Nitor. She has done her dissertation on large scale agile transformation. Maarit is one of the contributors of SAFe methodology and is the first certified SAFe program consultant trainer in Finland.