Hire a Coach, Not a Crutch

More and more, I see advertisements and hear people asking for a Coach to come for a period of time and help their organization on a full-time basis. They seem to assume that it’s necessary to Coach the team 5 days a week, every week. This makes little sense to me.

Teams need time to acclimate to new knowledge. They need to try it on their own, making decisions without immediate help. Otherwise they come to depend on the coach making the decisions, and they don’t learn how to make them, themselves. I’ve seen this happen when I’ve been working too steadily with one team.

It’s also important to limit the presentation of new information to the rate at which it can be absorbed. Time the team spends practicing without the presence of the coach is an important part of this absorption. Without such “soak time,” the team will get lost in the details, trying to climb the proficiency ladder without learning to practice the simple things fluently.

If you try to go faster than you can, you’ll only end up going slower.

4 Replies to “Hire a Coach, Not a Crutch”

  1. George,

    You have been doing this a long time… when I first got going in XP, the role of coach included being part of the development team.

    Now I find myself starting up more teams, in which I do not intend to participate as a developer, at least not extensively. I am more of the part-time coach that you mention, but I wonder if in the past I was not also a part-time coach… when I was also playing part-time developer?

    To me, your most important point was “they come to depend on the coach making the decisions, and they don’t learn how to make them, themselves”. As long as a coach can hold his role (as coach, that is), I figure it is OK that they are full-time on the team possibly in a development role.

    Coaches help bring great accomplishments out of other people… and the “coach” who has all the answers is not leaving room to do that.


  2. George, thank you for this post about what is commonly called ’embedded’ or even ‘integrated’ coaching. I agree the time has come to discuss what constitutes legitimate coaching and what is mere contracting. I too notice advertisements selling 5-days-a-week “Agile coaching”. Ultimately this conversation must address the ethics of Agile Coaching.

    I open the topic in this series of blog posts…Agile Coaching Ethics


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