Where can I find good agile training

Find the right “agile coach”

In 2004 and 2005, more and more teams switched to agile methods and of course they often first needed advice and training. In many cases, however, I unfortunately had to come to the companies after the training and clean up the mess that the trainers had left behind. At the time, I wrongly assumed that this would only be an issue as long as the new agile teams - especially in companies that develop standard software - still had to gain experience. Unfortunately, the problem of bad trainers and coaches has not yet disappeared. Although many companies have already chosen good coaches, in my opinion they are still rather the exception.

As with many other things, it is of course up to the customer to find the best trainer for them. However, if a team needs training, it is very likely that those who have to make this decision have no previous experience with it. The intention behind this article is therefore to help product companies find the right trainers and coaches for agile methods.

Different factors for finding the right agile coach

1. In most cases, software is still being developed for internal purposes (IT) or specifically for a specific customer. Therefore, many agile trainers just don't get along well with companies that develop solutions for the mass market. Of course, you don't want to be the company at which such a trainer practices. It is therefore important to know in advance whether the potential trainer understands the difference between IT (internal), customer-specific software development and standard software development.

2. Companies that develop standard software have completely different roles than other types of software. A potential trainer must understand the role of the product manager, product marketing, user experience team, interaction designer, visual designer and user researcher.

3. The trainer needs to know what the collaboration between product managers and UX designers and the agile development team looks like. The trainer should have personal experience with dual-track agile (two-track development) - i.e. with product discovery and product delivery.

4. In a software company, in certain cases you have to be able to make specific commitments and provide reliable information on the time of completion. This has to be done with integrity and one has to be aware that conventional roadmaps tend to be littered with items that don't really bring the customer anything. So the trainer needs to understand how to make such commitments and how they are managed in a product team.

5. In standard software development teams, the product vision is extremely important to create context and motivate the team. A trainer for agile methods must therefore understand the key role of the product vision and strategy and also know how this fits together with product discovery and delivery.

6. When it comes to in-house software, many agile method trainers think they are pretty quick if they try out a few ideas every two-week sprint. In the case of standard software, however, this would be viewed as extremely slow. Make sure your trainer understands that speed is extremely important to innovation and how Dual-Track Agile helps us validate most ideas without having to write code.

7. In standard software organizations, you have an ongoing cycle in which you build something (prototype and production), measure the results, learn from them, and then repeat the process. It is very important that the trainer understand the importance of this cycle, as well as prototyping, analysis and A / B testing, in decision making, testing and continuous learning.

8. From a cultural point of view, there is a big difference between the developers in an IT organization and those in a standard software organization. The agile trainer needs to know that the level of experience and skills of the developer is very different and that the approach has to be adapted accordingly. Many of the developers are much more experienced in creating real products than most trainers. Therefore, coaches with the wrong mindset can quickly fail to earn the team's respect.

9. Another big difference is that a team in an IT organization must meet the needs of the business. The product team in a standard software organization is there to develop solutions for the customers in a way that is feasible and profitable for the company. That is not an insignificant difference. The trainer needs to understand that this is not a service organization designed to meet the needs of the company.

10. Ultimately, it is crucial that the trainer not only understands companies for standard software, but also the requirements and methods of business-critical SaaS (Software as a Service) services. Topics such as scaling, reliability, fault tolerance, performance, monitoring and control, test automation, and technical debt are no longer optional but a must. Furthermore, when developing standard software, there is no room for dogmatic and blind adherence to processes. When it comes to agile methods, some people like to confuse the means of achieving a goal with the goal itself. The only goal that really matters is a successful product.

Conclusion

When choosing an agile method trainer or coach, keep in mind that the company they work for is often not as important as the individual. So check out the potential candidate and find out if they are too has the experience with the off-the-shelf software companies you need.

In general, one can say that a trainer comes to you, explains the theory to you and then leaves again. A coach, on the other hand, actually applies the methods with your team in your unique environment.

This text comes from Marty Cagan's blog and has been translated into German by us.