There was a time when software developers worked with consultants that will do things for their company or teach some technical knowledge. Agile approaches have brought forward another type of people: coaches. According to Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley, a coach doesn’t tell you what to do, rather she shows you how she thinks you might do things and hope that it will help you to improve your situation. She leads by example. It is not easy to write a book on this type of topic. The authors recognize this situation and manage to achieve a good balance between general advice and practical usage reports.
The first part of the book is concentrated on the basics of coaching and communicating in software project. The software development curricula are often weak on “people” skills and you are not always lucky to find the right person as a supervisor when you get out of school. I think I was lucky, thank you Claude ;o) The second part goes through the different activities of a typical Agile project (daily meeting, user stories definition, planning, etc.) and discuss how coach can help a project team to achieve its goals. Each chapter has a final checklist and the book is also full of “personal stories” from the authors that enhance the theoretical advice, applying it on real situations.
Although the title of the book and some of its content might make you think that its value is limited to an agile context, I will recommend this book to every person that has some supervision function in software development organizations and to every developer who believe than acquiring additional “people” skill might improve its work environment. Just changing the way you talk with colleagues could lead to having more sunnier days at the office.
Disclaimer: Rachel Davies has been a (valuable) contributor to Methods & Tools since 2005
Reference: “Agile Coaching”, Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley, Pragmatic Bookshelf, 250 pages, to be released August 28, 2009
“Agile is all about teams working together to produce great software. As an Agile coach, you can help your team go from first steps to running with Agile to unleashing their full Agile potential.”
“The art of Agile coaching is understanding the situation, the values underlying Agile software development, and how the two can combine. As an Agile coach, you don’t need to have all the answers; it takes time and a few experiments to hit on the right approach. We’ve worked with teams who’ve come up with great solutions, and we learn from every team we work with.”
“Don’t expect to get recognition for your work as an Agile coach. It’s a supporting role rather than one that delivers direct benefits. A good coach gives credit to the team. When you work on an idea with Frank, it’s Frank’s idea if it succeeds, and if it doesn’t, then commiserate together.”