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How we are failing Agile Teams

There are many types of professional coaching. There is “true coaching”, my favorite, true coaching is using the client and powerful questioning to achieve the clients on goals and there is consultative and transformation coaching where we coaches use our expert ability to transform change in enterprise.

In coaching Agile Transformations at large enterprises there is often a large gap between what Agile “is” and what we coach the Enterprise to do to be Agile. The gap, to be honest, is largely financial. Most coaches, in the enterprise space, cannot be truly transformative without also being fired. Let me share a common scenario that has fired many Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters (a scrum master is a team level coach that focuses on facilitating one team only)

The Goal: A Healthy, fifteen minute daily stand-up where the team will have a cross-functional conversation as an opportunity to meet, at least once a day, to talk. Communication is important and we often miss the chance to build a true human connection. The goal of the stand-up is to help create this connection and build a bridge of great communication with a team.

The challenge: In an enterprise environment People

  1. Show Up late
  2. Leave Early
  3. Work on their laptops the entire time
  4. “Call-in”, stay on mute while doing their real jobs (on the laptop)
  5. Focus on reporting status only

It is easy to understand why. These people are overburdened and often on multiple teams. Worse, many of them have calendar’s so full of unproductive meetings the only chance they have to work is during those same meetings! Often Coaches and Scrum Masters start the change with what the coach can see (I will use Coach and Scrum Master interchangeably). What can a Coach see? People showing up late, leaving early, and “multi-tasking”.

To this coaches will “coach”

  • You need to show up on time
  • Don’t mute your conference when remote
  • No laptops

Then, during a standup, the coach will open his or her laptop and read down a list of active work-items asking each team member to report.

Interesting, isn’t it? And problematic. If we coach a team member to do something the team member can’t or won’t do we cause a serious rift in the relationship. So serious in fact that asking team members to show up on time or close laptops in meetings get’s coaches fired!

Yes, you read that correctly: If you are a Scrum Master or an Agile Coach in an Enterprise environment asking people to close their laptops can cost you your job!

The astute reader will now have a question: If Coaches know this why do coaches continue to do this and continue to lose employment over this? Enterprises measure Agile Adoption by focusing on what can be “seen” and “measured”. An Agile Mindset is not tangible but a team showing up to a stand-up is. Thus a Scrum Master is doing a poor job when the team is not having a good Stand-up.

What to do then? We start, first, by recognizing that we all have our blind spots. If you are an Agile Coach or a Scrum Master in an Enterprise team … find a peer to pair with! Do not go at this alone. You need to find a Coach to observe and report and share your blind spots and you need to help coach others in your profession. As I have stated in other posts: even coaches need coaches. Proactively be coaches for each other and find your blindspots.

How are we failing our teams? We are failing our teams when we make the assumption that coaches do not need coaching. Coaches are often more in need of coaching than any other. If you are a coach, of anything from sports, to business, to Agile or any other field …. find yourself a coach and co-coach each other. You will find nothing but success when you do!


Ennis Lynch

Ennis Lynch

Ennis Lynch is a Professional Coach Based in South Florida. His primary area of coaching focuses on coaching Software Engineering Leadership. On occasion he does Agile Transformation work as well but prefers coaching at the Team and Individual level vs. the organizational level.


If you have ever wondered: is professional coaching right for me and you are a Software Engineering Manager, Director of Engineering, Director of Software Engineering, VP of Engineering, or CTO reach out for a free initial coaching session. See if coaching is right for you. Initial coaching sessions are the real deal, no hard-sells, no "here is what you would get if you paid". Individuals that receive a free coaching session will get a normal private professional coaching session of 90 minutes (30 minute onboarding + 60 minute coaching) and it will be up to you to follow-up if you want to continue with help on your journey.


Ennis is always gathering research through a team building exercise called the Ball Point Game. If you are interested in a team-level exercise and want to participate in a research project to further the field reach out. The exercise is free in South Florida (and really fun)

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