How Do You Know You Need to Hire an Agile Coach?

Introducing agile to your organization is not a decision to be taken lightly

by Michael de la Maza
How Do You Know You Need an Agile Coach?

It seems almost everyone is talking to the C-Suite about the benefits of agile. Recent articles in Forbes, CEO Magazine, CIO, and the Harvard Business Review have touted Agile as the answer to productivity in the workplace.

This may be so, but introducing agile to your organization is not a decision to be taken lightly. The process of learning and applying agile can take, on average, about six to nine months, according to Michael de la Maza, a Certified Enterprise CoachSM who has consulted with companies in education, financial services, and e-commerce.

Agile means everyone, including executives, will need to change their mindset about how teams work together and listen to the customer. The rewards, of course, can be well worth it, whether it's improving a financial metric or creating a workplace where employees are empowered.

But before you make the leap, de la Maza suggests you analyze what's really prompting your interest in agile. If one or all of these scenarios resonate with you, it might be time to hire an agile coach.

You want to stay competitive

Simply put, agile is not just about adding value, it's about surviving.

"There are increasing amounts of data that the most successful companies are the most agile," says de la Maza. These companies range from software development and finance to customer relationship management services and aircraft manufacturing.

It's not just big companies using agile, but smaller companies, too, that see an opportunity to overtake a sleeping giant. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where tech start-ups grow like weeds, de la Maza notes that every startup he has observed uses agile from the very beginning. It's one of the reasons they're able to compete against larger companies.

"It used to be that increased agility was a sort of new thing," he says. "It was something you needed to start exploring to stay in business." Not any longer. These days, for companies who want to survive in the marketplace, adopting Agile to get ahead just makes sense.

You want to affect change in your organization

If you want to bring agile into an organization because agile is trendy, you want to impress the boss, or someone told you to do it, think again. The best fit for agile is a company that is trying to affect change. When working with a new client, de la Maza categorizes that client based on what needs are driving the company. This classification method, inspired by Frederic Laloux's seminal book, Reinventing Organizations, helps de la Maza understand the company's current stage of development. From there, he determines how agile coaching can provide them the most value.

 These categories include:

  • Rules-driven companies that seek to improve their compliance or audit functions;
  • Results-driven companies that want to move a financial metric by making more money from a product, for example, or increasing development time;
  • Values-driven companies that want to create a happier, empowered workplace.

For example, in the results-driven category, de la Maza worked with a financial services client that wanted to roll out agile to 3,000 people. The company started out with one team and two coaches. After two years, it had up to 100 teams and 20 coaches.

Agile had a profound effect on the company's product owners in particular. "They discovered the product instead of defining the product," de la Maza recalls. "They figured out a good way to measure business value."

It also improved the company's ability to deliver software. The mainframe team that de la Maza coached had been taking 18 months for each release, followed by six months of fixing bugs on that release.

"By the time I finished coaching them, they were releasing every two to three months with virtually no defects."

You want to know the awful truth

Often the result of introducing agile is that it reveals dysfunction within the organization.

"It's the greatest point of contention," says de la Maza. "There's a way of thinking about things that makes problems very clear. The person who brings that way of thinking is the agile coach."

"That's one of the moments of truth," he added, "typically early in an engagement, where you assess the organization's tolerance for truth."

You want your employees to enjoy coming to work

One of the reasons de la Maza got into agile is its potential to transform the office from a place of fear and anxiety to a place where people feel safe and thrive. Employees in a constant state of physical and emotional stress can experience health problems, poor cognitive performance, and low creativity.

Agile, however, can increase their sense of well-being, by ensuring they have a voice and take ownership of their projects. In other words, de la Maza says, agile is a way to "improve people's lives and their health and happiness of the workplace."


Interested in hiring a Certified Agile Coach®? Search here to find your perfect agile coach. 


Related Article:


About the Author:

Michael de la MazaMichael de la Maza is a Certified Enterprise Coach with a Ph.D. in Computer Science from MIT. He was VP of Corporate Strategy at Softricity (acquired by Microsoft in 2006), cofounded AnswerFriend (acquired by Oracle in 2011), and cofounded the New England F# User Group ( He is the co-author of two books, Professional Scrum with TFS and Agile Values (to be published).

As an agile consultant, he has worked with edX, PayPal, State Street, Carbonite, Symantec, and many other companies. As an angel investor, he has invested in a dozen startups including Amino and LovePop.