The Demise of the Agile Coach 

Remember when Microsoft sold Office licenses for hundreds of dollars? In the 1990s, US college students were trying to figure out how to beg, borrow or steal to get this mandatory software.

We had to have it but couldn’t afford it or keep up with upgrades. We weren’t the only ones doing this, everyone was trying to figure out how to get a copy of Office without paying the huge sticker price.

Microsoft finally put the customer experience first by switching to a subscription model that is affordable, accessible and provides a solution.

I am an Agile Coach and clearly see that my days in that role are numbered.

Many others see it too. Look at Linkedin or Job Postings. Amongst the Agile Coach titles, you see all sorts of variations, that all basically mean the same thing.

Change expert, company transformer, Adaptable Organization Manager, etc… some are very creative. Why are we becoming an endangered species?



1. Affordable 

Fail! We are not affordable at all. Agile Coaches are extremely expensive.

We cost millions of dollars per month for a scaled agile transformation.

We use up office space, licenses and administrative overhead.

Most of our IP is in our head and curated from our experience, so we create a very expensive reliance on experts.


2. Accessible 

Fail! We are not easy to find or use as a group. All Agile Coaches are not created equal and organizations don’t know what they want.

There are all types of Agile Coaches and when you bring them together, they can be very difficult people to work with.


3. Provides Solutions

Fail! Most transformations do not have defined problem statements, a clear road map or defined measures of success.

If you review the transformation approaches across agencies, both large and small, you will see the same typical approach with less than optimal results.

The engagements usually last about 2 years followed by a year of mourning, then the same cycle starts over with another agency or group of coaches.

When coaches leave the organization falls back into their old ways of working.

Agile isn’t working according to PMI, Version One 10th Annual State of Agility Report and the Standish Group 2015 Chaos Report. Unfortunately, these lessons are very expensive and leave organizations with a disillusioned workforce.


I was once on a large-scale transformation team with over 30 coaches with various backgrounds. We agreed to align on an agreed Agile framework, but we didn’t. There were high tension discussions, sometimes in front of the client, and a paralyzing misalignment.

As we reduced the team, the noise reduced. We aligned on an approach that did not leave our client reliant on coaches but empowered people to continuously learn and grow.

We had a clear road map that helped people learn new ways to work, learn and measure.

This was one of the most rewarding experiences in my career and I have continued to use this same approach.

Agile is not a destination, it is a journey. As coaches, our job is to get people onto the journey from strategy to execution and help them change the way they relate to work, business, customers and each other.

We need to use a clear, measurable road map with an exit strategy.

The first thing I ask my clients is, “What does good look like? When can I leave?” We then work to that plan.

When looking to transform, organizations need to create a road map that leaves their people with a growth mindset that is focused on continuous learning and improving.

Regardless of which coach, agency or framework if the end result must deliver an adaptable organization that is self-reliant and thriving.


Six Industry 4.0 Disciplines 

Need to be implemented to successfully transform an organization, if one piece is ignored the transformation will not be successful.

We are competing in an Industry 4.0 economy, organizations that are not responding to this will struggle, stumble and eventually fail.

Few coaches can scale across all six disciplines or work together to bring a cohesive change.


First, build your program across these Six Industry 4.0 Disciplines.

Then find change leaders in your organization to lead in key disciplines and lastly, engage expert coaches in these areas.

Make sure there are defined measures and deliverables for accountability at every stage.

Create a road map with Customer Results as the “True North.” It is essential to understand your customers and their needs.

Customer-Centric Design is crucial to success in today’s economy. If you do not understand your customers how will you know if any effort put into improving has merit?

Start here using real, relevant data with measurable short- and long-term goals.

As Adrianne Tan of Brainmates said, “Product is about belonging.” Organizations need to develop a strong relationship with their customers to meet their needs.

Next, align your Leadership around four key areas Lead, Assist, Assess and Share. We call this Leadership as a Service.

If the product is about belonging, leaders need to build community.

Good leaders create community and a sense of belonging around a clear vision helping people achieve measurable, meaningful success.

“Just imagine if the vision is unclear 70% of your company doesn’t know what they are striving toward and operating on false assumptions, your team will move slowly and defensively rather than swiftly and proactively. Worst of all, they may be off and running, applying valuable energy in the wrong direction.” Forbes

Aligned leaders develop an operating model that provides Well-Coordinated Movement.

Align the entire organization to a shared strategy, processes and measures.

This creates a nimble organization that adapts to change quickly.

With clear, understood ways of working people can change effectively in response to market changes and inspect and adapt improvements.

The first three disciplines create safety that increases morale, continuous improvement and sparks innovation. With these in place, you can focus on value flow to customers. We call this the “House with no Doors.”

A foundation of Lean Principles and Key Business drivers creates the foundation for transparency and flow.

Now you can leverage light-weight frameworks based on Agile values and principles.

Without establishing the first three disciplines, agile frameworks are not able to get the traction they promise and are often frustrating.

It is difficult to find Agile Coaches with this level of depth or experience.

It doesn’t come from certifications or knowing one particular framework religion. Applying the right technique at the right time is as much of an art as a science.


Quality Delivery

is a must-have discipline. People tend to focus on dates, usually due to outdated funding models.

Customers care about quality first and foremost. I would gladly wait for something that works rather than receive an inferior product.

Most transformations leverage Scrum and Scaled Scrum frameworks which do not guarantee quality. Engineering Mastery, including XP and DevOps practices, is essential to deliver quality.

It takes the right people, processes and tools to make these practices successful.

If your Agile Coach can only help with one of these aspects the program will fail to launch.



The last discipline is Business Results.

Many organizations start with the results they want first and then build the organization around those results.

We are competing in an Industry 4.0 Economy that is no longer building the business.

Now customers want customization and convenience on top of quality, cost and delivery.

Organizations that focus on Business Results first find it very difficult to apply the other 5 disciplines and usually have broken or antiquated operating models.

You will also find that it is difficult to align leaders to a shared vision. Business results are important and crucial to success but other factors need to be considered.

Establish clearly defined metrics that include all aspects of the Six Industry 4.0 Disciplines.

The balanced scorecard should include Financial, Customer, Internal Business Processes and Learning and Growth aspects.

We use a proprietary Agile Balanced Scorecard that continuously measures all disciplines with a focus on three key areas: Culture, Cycle and Converge.

We measure internal clarity and external consumption using fitness and flow measures for both lead and lag indicators.

Agile coaches need Lean, Agile, DevOps, Design Thinking and Systems Thinking expertise and must know how these interact together to leverage the Six Industry 4.0 Disciplines in a Digital Operating Model.

Like Microsoft, it is time for the industry to change its approach.

There are several organizations that are developing solutions that are meeting our clients’ needs.

Agile Coaches must shift our focus to create a strategy to execution solutions leveraging the Six Industry 4.0 Disciplines over teaching cult-like frameworks.

As an Agile Coach, I am becoming more agile in my own continuous improvement plan and am developing and implementing ways for organizations to be successful in their transformation aspirations with great success. 


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