I saw a tweet this morning that got me thinking about a coaching anti-pattern I frequently see:
Without knowing you, your Agile coach knows you use should start using stand ups, TDD and pair programming, etc. Taylor would be proud.— Machiel Groeneveld (@machielg) July 1, 2013
The Prescriptive Agile CoachThe Prescriptive Agile Coach is armed with a reliable set of practices. The practices have been documented, vetted, and implemented successfully on a number of teams. They are inarguably proven. To the Prescriptive Agile Coach, those not following these practices are not truly Agile. To the Prescriptive Agile Coach anyone following these practices, but not achieving the results desired, is simply doing it wrong. For a Prescriptive Agile Coach, bringing a client's practices into compliance is of significant concern.
So what's wrong with this exchange?
The Coach asks if the Client is ready for feedback, gets acknowledgement, provides the feedback, and explains their reasoning. This is practically a model of affective professional coaching. But the coach didn't listen to the client's response. Rather than probing to find out why the three question approach felt disconnected and less like a team, our coach simply redirected back to the benefits of doing it "right".
Meet them where they are and leave them in a better place
When I encounter a team that sends daily email status updates, walks the board, or does stand up three times per week, my first responsibility is to understand how and why they came to this practice. How did they come to this decision? What challenges does this approach address? What benefits are they optimizing for?