The Agilist Network

Tales and Tips from Agile Software Projects

When Coaching an Underdog Team

Posted by kenhoward on December 12, 2008

In a perfect world, members of a newly formed Agile team are highly skilled, and the role of the coach is to overlay Agile so the skills are employed in the right way, in the right place, and at the right time. But many of us don’t live in a perfect world.

As a coach, I have often been challenged with team members who lack fundamental software development skills. This can distract efforts to be successful with Agile…and when core skills are missing, there is risk that the organization will peg Agile as the culprit for poor results.

I have met a number of people who told me that Agile was abandoned at their company and dubbed a failure. Agile cannot ‘heal’ poor software development skills, rather, it helps teams that possess skills experience an order of magnitude improvement in results.

When tasked with coaching a team of underdogs, the first order of business is to assess the presence (or lack) of core software skills. If an underdog team is what it is, a successful coach recognizes the obligation to clearly separate Agile coaching efforts from those of teaching/mentoring fundamental skills. This will help a company balance it’s needs: To emphasize skills development, or to place more emphasis on successful delivery. If the latter is the emphasis, it may not choose to pursue that particular project with a team of underdogs.

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2 Responses to “When Coaching an Underdog Team”

  1. .MOz said

    That’s why Scrum is not so easily loved: because it clearly exposes what everybody knows pretending to not to.It is up to us to provide guidance to use this knowledge to improve the enterprise, as just blaming people will not lead anyone anywhere.

  2. … I learned that if you have an “underdog technical” team, you focus on the organizational, cultural, and team agile maturity first and poke at the technical issues to catch up in the meantime.

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