This is part of a blog series on 7 Levers that co-create a powerful space for coaches to really be impactful.

The lever that came before was Activating the Person. For all the levers, see the 7 Coaching Levers overview blog post.

The next is about Activating the Space (Lever 2) and understanding where we are going, what it is we are trying to create. Coaches need to be able to choose what Agile lever to use in a particular space.

What do I mean when I say Agile Lever. This is the Agile content that they choose to use to support teams in becoming higher performing. Things like waste, planning, visualising.

To make powerful and impactful choice coaches need to understand what success looks like and what they are creating.

This is a contentious topic and there are many different takes on what agile is and what successful agile looks like. I have always found that life as a coach gets easier with a simple True North or North Star. Something that pulls people in a direction, something more of a horizon than a destination. I have had success using a simple statement – agile coaches support teams to deliver more value with more ease. It’s effectiveness is that it focuses not on how or on ceremonies, but on the impact we want to be having as coaches. It opens up the space for coaches to make choices and use their strengths.

What do we do ? We support delivery more value with more ease!

An essential part of this lever is the concept of guard rails. How we create more value with more ease is important. We can either be responsible for the doing, so building the obeya boards, running the stand up’s, telling teams what to do, solving their delivery problems for them and giving them the solution that they just mindlessly implement. Or we can support the teams in finding their own way. In case you were wondering, the last option is the one that aligns best based on observations of coaches who have significant impacts on teams

This shift from doing to supporting and empowering is a difficult one for coaches to ‘get’. Often coaches come from ‘doing’ focused roles like Product Ownership and Analysis. They are used to leading from a more mentorship, directive way and getting their hands dirty. So to enable coaches to experience and explore a different way of being successful we started to play with 2 guard rails.

It is important at this point to explain a bit more about what a guard rail is and what it isn’t. The point of guard rails is to create a way for us as individuals to become better observers of ourselves and the impact we are having. They are not solid concrete walls. They are also not rules that though shalt not break. We expect to go through them. Their power is in the conversation that happens when we find ourselves on the other side of the guard rail. What happened ? What pulled us here ? Was it something we chose or was it a pull from the team/ system we are in ? Is the guard rail still valid ?

The first guard rail we explored was to find out what would happen if we stopped doing (it is no longer our work). The second was to stop problem solving and to instead create spaces where our teams become better do’ ers (the work is theirs not ours) and to co-create spaces where teams are able to find their own solutions to problems. The goal of these guard rails was to open up a space for the teams where they could own agile for themselves. Where the coaches weren’t rescuing or accountable for the work or for the agile work so that the teams could start to own agile and the ways of working and cease to be dependant on the coach.

Do we cross the guard rails. Yes! Is it a crisis ? No! It’s normally a really interesting exploration and we learn quite a lot about individual strengths and the system we are in. Oh and it has really helped the coaches create safety inside the spaces they are working and so shift the teams from having to push agile in, to the teams pulling on the coaches.

The next lever is Mind the Jerk.