If you are a tourist, a specialized escort or a guide, can be useful. Especially if, like any self-respecting agilist, you are going to the mountain. But that is not the type of person I want to talk about today.
Recently, I presented HEART, the essence of Agility in only three principles (Humility? Humility? Oh yes! That’s the thing for which I am number one, like everything else actually…)
This way of breaking down Agility highlights new angles of approach and the need for a specialized Agile coach role. For example, the principles of proactivity and people require specific conditions and we could make this role the guardian of their presence.
Ensuring Protection, Power and Permission
Proactivity first requires courage. Transforming any situation into an opportunity requires efforts and implication, a commitment of responsibility to take charge of things. So it requires establishing a certain number of permissions that will give the opportunity to carry out the necessary actions to be proactive. To be perfectly reassured about our ability to undertake these actions, we need means.
Some would talk of power. Since the first principle, explaining that building software is complex, implies that we cannot really anticipate the result of our actions, it is obvious that we will miss some things. These failures are normal and should not be turned against the people who acted, or be used against them. So it requires implementing a certain number of protections.
Protection, Power, Permission… You probably saw me coming. It is the famous therapeutic triangle, sometimes simply called 3P. We could assign responsibility to ensure the 3P to a specific role within organizations building IT products.
Broadening the Range of Possibilities
Proactivity also requires a real freedom to choose. It goes beyond simple permission. It requires a certain number of possibilities to choose from. The larger the range of possibilities, the more we can exercise our freedom to choose and the more we can maximize our chances of finding a way to be more proactive.
The role that we have imagined above could also be accountable for helping people broaden their range of possibilities. It would be about showing new paths, helping the emergence of new alternatives, etc.
Guaranteeing a Suitable Framework
The principle of people also implies establishing certain conditions. People make the best choices if they are in the right condition to do so (we have already seen above that they should be offered the widest range of possibilities).
Their basic psychological needs (see Transactional Analysis) must be met so they can fully focus on their tasks. Other needs must be met to ensure the motivation necessary to perform their tasks and disruptive elements must be kept as far as possible. In short, it is necessary to guarantee a framework favourable to exercising the principle of persons.
To guarantee the 3P, the person occupying the role we have just envisioned will have to adopt different stances. To ensure power, the person will teach new skills and new know-how. She or he will be a trainer. To grant the required permission, she or he will assume the position of coach or mentor.
To create the framework favourable to applying the three principles of HEART, this person can wear the hat of an expert or consultant. He will provide practices, recommendations and suggestions to create the right conditions described above and provide the necessary protection for proactivity, the last element of the 3Ps that we still lacked.
Since the name is already established…
This role, you have probably already understood, is that of an Agile coach (yes, I’m trying to make you believe that I am useful). We could further dig around the accountability that HEART implies (or even the original Agile Manifesto which, as we have seen, is a detailed version of HEART). We could, for example, put forward the fact that proactivity leads to having to think more often in terms of solutions than in terms of problems to be solved.
Coaching techniques dedicated to this new paradigm have been created (Solution Focused Therapy for example) but with the statement of HEART, we are better able to link up the wagons between the theory of the coach’s role and tools and Agility as imagined in 2001 when the manifesto was written.
The new light on Agility brought by the HEART makes it possible to better consider the reflections that shaped the role as we know it today. If we very well perceived the interest of the know-how described everywhere, understanding the origin of its development was perhaps less obvious.
In addition, it should be noted that this role’s name is probably badly chosen. As we have seen, an Agile coach is not just a coach. He must adopt other stances. But now that customers are looking for “Agile coaches”, it will be difficult to sell ourselves as “HEART protectors”. Too bad, the guardian angel side flattered my ego…