Review of Agile Coaching

The book: Agile Coaching by Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley (September 2010)

Why I chose this book …

I bought and read this book when I was approaching the first engagement where my role would be solely to coach. In nearly three years at ThoughtWorks, all of the projects I had worked on until January were either pure software delivery, or co-sourced delivery, where coaching of the team was a happy side effect of the work we did.

Summary

This is a great book for first time coaches. It consists of four parts: the first one covers coaching in general and people skills, and the rest walk through Agile practices and how to coach teams to use them. The last section also includes a chapter called “Growing You” which reminds the reader to look after their own skills – and sanity:

“It’s vital to invest in yourself and your own learning so you can grow as a person and keep your ideas fresh. You also need to take care of yourself in order to cope with the day-to-day demands of being an Agile coach.”

The good bits

The book is straightforward and easy to read. The content is broken up with lots of short stories and examples, which I really like – I find this helps to understand the points better.

The book encourages the reader to help the team to think for itself and make mistakes:

“Your goal is to grow a productive Agile team that thinks for itself rather than relying on you to lay down the Agile law. Showing people how to be Agile isn’t enough; they need to change how they work and how they think in order for Agile to stick.”

There are lots of practical recommendations and exercises for how to achieve this, which was great because it was immediately useful and applicable – I often found myself wanting to get into work and try out something the book had suggested. Alongside this, the authors pointed out common hurdles to introducing new practices, often illustrated with examples from their own experience.

I also enjoyed the chapters on development. The book isn’t a technical read and doesn’t try to be, but I thought it dealt reasonably well with the social issues around collective code ownership, refactoring, incremental design and pair programming.

Each of the chapters in the book is self-contained, so you can either dip in to the bits you want or read it from cover to cover.

The bad bits

I can’t really point to anything I disliked about this book! For more experienced coaches, it might not be as useful – I don’t think it contains anything groundbreaking or new.

Recommended?

I would definitely recommend this book for anybody looking to start coaching Agile, looking for a good general read on the subject or some tips and techniques for introducing Agile to a team.