Skip to main content

Q: What is an Agile Transition Guide?

David Koontz guiding a canoe
I was at the Dallas Tech Fest last week and was asked several times what an Agile Transition Guide was (it was a title on my name tag)... it's surprising to me how many people assume they know what an Agile Coach is, yet there is no good definition or professional organization (with a possible exception coming: Agile Coaching Institute).

So naturally the conversation went something like this:

Inquisitive person:  "Hi David, what's an Agile Transition Guide?  Is that like a coach?"

David:  "Hi, glad you asked.  What does a coach do in your experience?"

Inquisitive person: "They help people and teams improve their software practices."

David:  "Yes, I do that also."

Inquisitive person: "Oh, well then why don't you call yourself a coach?"

David:  "Great question:  Let's see...  well one of the foundational principles of coaching (ICF) is that the coached asks for and desires an interaction with the coach, there is no authority assigning the relationship, or the tasks of coaching.  So do you see why I don't call myself a coach?"

Inquisitive person: "Well no, not really.  That's just semantics.  So you're not a coach... OK, but what's is a guide?"

David:  "Have you ever been fishing with a guide, or been whitewater rafting with a guide, or been on a tour with a guide?  What do they do differently than a coach?  Did you get to choose your guide, or were they assigned to your group?"

Inquisitive person: "Oh, yeah.  I've been trout fishing with a guide, they were very helpful, we caught a lot of fish, and had more fun than going on our own.  They also had some great gear and lots of local knowledge of where to find the trout."

David:  "Well, there you have it... that's a guide - an expert, a person that has years of experience, has techniques to share and increase your JOY with a new experience."

Inquisitive person: "Yes, I'm starting to see that difference, but can't a coach do this also?"

David:  "No, not unless the coach is willing to switch to a different modality - to one of mentoring, teaching, consulting, or protecting.  Some times a guide must take over for the participant and keep the person/group within the bounds of safety - think about a whitewater river guide.  A coach - by strict interpretation of the ethics, is not allowed to protect the person from their own decisions (even if there are foreseen consequence of this action."

Richard FeynmanAnd now the conversation start to get very interesting, the Whys start to flow and we can go down the various paths to understanding.  See Richard Feynman's dialogue about "Why questions"

So, I'm not a Coach

I've been hired as a coach (largely because the organization didn't truly understand the label, role, and the ethics of coaching).  This relationship was typically dysfunctional from the standpoint of being a coach.  So I decide to study the role of coaching. I've done a few classes, seminars, personal one of one coach, read a lot and drawn some conclusions from my study - I'm not good a coaching within the environment and situation that Agile Coaches are hired. I've learned that regardless of the title that an organization uses (Agile Coach, Scrum Master, etc.) it doesn't mean coaching.  It intends the relationship to be vastly different.  Since I'm very techie, I appreciate using the correct words, and phrase for a concept.  (Paraphrasing Phil Karlton: In software there are two major challenges: cache invalidation and naming things.  Two Hard Things)

So to stop the confusing and the absurd use of the terms, I quit referring to my role and skills as coaching.  Then I needed a new term.  And having lots of friends that have been Outward Bound instructors and understanding their roles, the concept of a river guide appeals to me in this Agile transformational role.  Therefore I coin the term Agile Transformation Guide.  But many organization do not wish to transform their organization, but they do wish for some type of transition, perhaps from tradition development to a more agile or lean mindset.  So a transition guide is more generic, capable of the situational awareness of the desire of the organization.




What does a guide really do?  
This question may best be answered by David Kelley in his TED talk, "How to build your creative confidence."  In this talk David points out his desire to teach parents that there are not two types of children - the creative and the non-creative.  There are, however, children that lost their desire to express their unique talents early in their lives.  He helps people regain this capability.

It is much like how Dr Bandura has developed his treatment for phobias.  David will tell you about this basic guided mastery technique that restores self efficacy.

How to build your creative confidence. TED Talk by David Kelley

This is what an Agile Transition Guide does... they guide you on a journey toward self efficacy via many techniques in mastery of your domain skills and capabilities.

See Also:

Agile Coach -or- Transition Guide to Agility 
Much of the coaching I enjoy doing is about being a "Transition Guide" toward Agility. My thinking on this is that I don't want to have to wear the Kevlar vest of the Change Agent. I prefer to model the behaviors of the best guides I've had the pleasure of knowing - the community of Outward Bound guides I've learned so much from. And the role of a true coach is one totally focused upon the client's needs (not the sponsor's desires for the client).  That ethical constraint is not respected in the Agile community.
Levels of Agile Coaching by Lyssa Adkins
Levels of Agile Coaching, The 3 Levels that you must know by Luís Gonçalves
Why does Lyssa change terms from "team facilitator" to "agile coach"?  What's the differentiation she's trying to make by not using the term coach?

The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring

Six Kinds of Agile Coaches by Ravi Verma Describes the HUGeB coach, the one to be.

Where Agile goes to Die - Dave Nicolette
about those companies that are late adopters or laggards in the innovation curve and the challenges that "coaches" have when engaging with them.


The Extinction of Agile Coaching by Jason Little
Extinction of Agile Coaching

Scrum Master vs Scrum Coach by Charles Bradley

Agile Coach -or- Transition Guide to Agility by David Koontz; the whitewater guide analogy to agile coaching.

Academic paper:  Coaching in an Agile Context by David Koontz

What is the ROI of Agile Coaching - Payton Consulting

Interesting Twitter conversation about the nature of "coaching" with Agile42 group.






Post a Comment

Most Popular on Agile Complexification Inverter

Innovation in the Automobile Industry

In the 1900s the automobile industry was the most important and innovation industry in the USA.  But one could question if this was good for our society in the long run.  And one could question if they actually innovated.

In the early 1900s there were few automobiles, very little infrastructure created to support the industry.  For example the road system was still designed for horse drawn wagons and the wagon wheel (remember a steal rim and wooden compression spoke wheel).  The future US Highways, or the 1950s Interstate Highway System at the cost of $425 billion were decades and many innovations away. There was no gas service station, there were however horse stables, farriers, and blacksmiths in each town along the roads.  There was no real "road map", there was no road naming system, like was created in 1926 - the United States Numbered Highway System.

The industry employees millions of people, and was a large factor in the economy of the USA.  It created or was created b…

Software Development terms applied to Home Construction

Let's Invert the typically wrong headed view of Software Development project management as a construction project.  We can map it the other way just to see if it works... to have some fun, to explore the meaning of phrases we toss around quite frequently.


Normally Project Management terms come from a construction domain.  We are going to apply the lexicon of modern software to the construction of a home.  We will follow the construction project and meet some of the people doing the work.

This is a very small (8 homes from $600,000 skyward) program in my 30-40 year old neighborhood.

About 6 months ago I saw the programs landing page go up.  It gives casual observers and some of the stakeholders a general idea of the intent of the program.  And most importantly who to contact for additional information if you happen to be interested in their products.

The Refuge program has 8 product projects and has them running independently.  Yet much of their DevOps infrastructure has already b…

Timeline of Social Networks -or- the Long Haul

I was listening to KERA's Think and they mentioned the concept of social networks.  It got me think...

But the book Long Haul, is its own interesting story - A Million Miles and Counting - A Trucker's Tale.

“The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road”
Did you know 41 million people move in the US a year?  Having moved a few times in my life, sometime with the Bed-Bugger's help, this book is a great insight into that life.
Author: Finn Murphy's CB handle - "U-Turn" The radio interview noted the concept of social networks in the 21st century.  What is a highway - but a manifestation of a social network - a trail across the land.

a timeline using the Knight Lab Timeline JS tool kit.

See Also:

Social Media - Tracking its Exponential Growth video
Social media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity on the Web
List of social networking websites - Wikipedia

The World's 21 Most Important Social Media Sites and Apps in 2015



The Growth of Social Media - infog…

David's notes on "Drive"

- "The Surprising Truth about what Motivates Us" by Dan Pink.

Amazon book order
What I notice first and really like is the subtle implication in the shadow of the "i" in Drive is a person taking one step in a running motion.  This brings to mind the old saying - "there is no I in TEAM".  There is however a ME in TEAM, and there is an I in DRIVE.  And when one talks about motivating a team or an individual - it all starts with - what's in it for me.

Introduction

Pink starts with an early experiment with monkeys on problem solving.  Seems the monkeys were much better problem solver's than the scientist thought they should be.  This 1949 experiment is explained as the early understanding of motivation.  At the time there were two main drivers of motivation:  biological & external influences.  Harry F. Harlow defines the third drive in a novel theory:  "The performance of the task provided intrinsic reward" (p 3).  This is Dan Pink's M…

One Dark and Stormy during a Hurricane

I'm from the Carolina's where legend has it that our family commonly just hunkered down in the home on the coast and waterways than to head for inland shelter. Now that's from the old school days of barely improved (read paved) roads. They counted a storms severity by how high on the back porch steps (about 15 - top to ground) the water reached.  I don't recommend this action in todays world of long range forecast and transportation options.

I do recommend a drink or two in a hotel bar, far far away.

This is the week that Harvey came ashore in Texas.  I live on a hill in the little old town of Grapevine outside Dallas and Fort Worth.  And thank you all for letting me know that a storm is coming... I didn't get out and walk Malibu before the rain hit, so I grabbed a hat and we went anyway.  Much nicer walk with the drizzle, I'd say.

I'll raise a glass to you - if you were not smart enough to do the responsible thing, at the last responsible moment.

I do re…