Life as an Agile Coach
”Life as…” is a blog series where we dive into professionals’ everyday work life and get to learn more about their chosen profession.
First out in the series is Mattias Ohlsson, who works as an Agile Coach.
Blogger: Mattias Ohlsson
Who is Mattias?
I'm the founder of Probisma. We are a consulting company consisting of 14 consultants, mainly developers and agile coaches. We are a mix of talented future stars and people with long experience who are constantly evolving in our expertise and with curiosity explore new areas.
I have more than 15 years of experience in the IT industry with a background as a developer. I have solid experience of IT management and as a consultant I have successfully combined leadership and management roles. I have extensive experience of successfully building effective organizations, self-organized and high-performing teams.
I love consulting and do this full time at Spotify as an Agile Coach. I have worked as an Agile Coach for 7-8 years, before that I have had roles as Scrum Master, Product Owner and Technical Project Manager. I am not a theorist, I base my experience on work experience. As an Agile Coach, it is important to be present, be flexible in the team and open.
My why in life, why do I exist?
I like to create and maintain fantastic teams. Everyone has different preconditions and all my team members' shared feeling should be that they do a fantastic job. My true belief is that if you have teams that produce a lot of value and they get a lot of feedback then they are also happy. I am passionate about delivering what users want!
I like working with development teams the most, but have experience working with Bank Managers, Unit Managers, Product Managers and coaching the Scrum Master team. I have worked with over 65 teams!
What does an Agile Coach do?
Agile Coaches combine coaching and mentoring to help a team, company or organization work better. We work primarily with guiding and supporting teams or the organization to achieve set goals and visions.
I have danced for over 20 years and I often compare my work as an Agile Coach to dancing. There are many similarities between dancing and working as an Agile Coach. It is important to be clear and accommodating both as a coach and team member as you get to adapt to different situations, just like when you are the one who leads a dance. Another important aspect in the dance is to have a good rhythm and you need to have that with the customers as well to know what works strategically, tactically and operationally.
There are strategic rhythms (annually) and tactical quarterly rhythms to work with. I work with monthly reviews on how the delivery from the team goes and how much has been delivered. For example: how many features has the team I am responsible for delivered to the users? How much of those deliveries created value to the end-users?
Why should you work more agile?
In the agile, constant feedback is an important component and there are many good methods for how to work with feedback. If you establish a good process for feedback in an organization, there is a lot to gain from it.
Focus is also a very important part of working agile. When I coach, I do not want to have a responsibility over too many teams. Just like when you dance, you get better with a partner that you focus on. You work a lot with improvements, after you get feedback you work constantly with improvements.
A clear vision is needed that shows the direction where you want to go.
When I work with teams, there are mainly four things that I first focus on and step through iteratively step by step, where steps 1, 2 and 3 are the most important initially:
- Where is the customer in their Agile development today? If the customer does not know the agile way of working, then you must start by teaching them the agile structure.
- Visualize what team members work with, then you will see that eg “Niclas” works with 15 tasks simultaneously. You can also look at where in the process “Niclas” is with all these work tasks? How close is he to achieve the team’s end-goal?
- After you visualized the workload then you will help “Niclas” with focus, focus, focus. The less things you are doing at the same time, the more you will deliver. You cannot do several things at once.
- Streamline the flows. How does our flows to our business look like? Where do we have our bottlenecks and then you have to visualize them. Questions, e.g. “Why is it always something wrong when we launch a new product?” Well maybe we're missing out on reviewing our code properly? Or we do not do any or enough testing? Streamline the flow with a focus on things that create value for the end-users.
What is the difference between an Agile Coach and a Scrum Master?
If you are a Scrum Master then you are a member of a team. For me as an Agile Coach, the Scrum Master is an extension of the team that I coach. A Scrum Master works operationally in the team and an Agile Coach is never fully a team member. I observe the team, see how they work and find bottlenecks and things that do not work. You often work with coaching several teams and motivate them to good routines/behaviours to stimulate improvements. An agile coach can also support the entire organization, parts of an organization and units. Agile coaches often support product owners and product managers.
What's the best thing about being an Agile Coach?
The absolute best is when you get feedback from the customer or users when they say, "This is magic", that is what you strive for all the time.
Work with clarity, be compliant, have good rhythm, feedback, vision and clear goals and aim for magic!
How do you find a job as an Agile Coach?
A Society is the consulting company of tomorrow and can help consultants connect with customers who are looking for Agile Coaches. Register an account on their website and you will get a personal contact person who will reach out to you and hear what type of assignment you are looking for. You will also get access to all their assignments that they advertise in their network. Joining their network is completely free. Good luck!