I’m noticing a rather bizarre thing happening in the agile services space. Trainers – certified or otherwise – are increasingly adopting the ‘Agile Trainer/Coach’ title.
In my experience, trainers are not naturally coaches. I understand one reason why – it makes them more marketable, especially in a market that is full of ‘professionals’ seeking quick fixes and silver bullets to deeply flawed organizational problems.

Now, I’m not saying a person cannot be both – I just question the effectiveness of either – particularly the coaching – if said person has been peddling the same content repeatedly over a few months/years. Where is the learning for them, where is the problem solving that leads to knowledge that leads to something they can use to help others through a muddle?

I’ve coached over 100 teams over the last 7 years and the more coaching I do, the more I appreciate what a coach does. It is to bring a different perspective to the problem. A perspective informed not simply by the dogma of one framework or methodology – which trainers are great at -but the collective screw ups and successes of the their past experiences made sense by deep and constant reflection. Advice, support and counsel is imparted with honesty and deep empathy. A coach is in your problem with you, but not off your problem. Think about that!

I write this because I value coaching above training and I do not want to see the practice fall into the abyss of uselessness and corrupted definition.

Coaches are there to walk your journey with you – not every step but certainly every step where you falter. Coaches are there to help you become stronger in your practice. They are there long after the nonsensical idealism of training has worn off.

What has your experience of training been?
Have you experienced having a good coach work to help you and your team/organisation deliberately improve? What challenges did you observe, how did you address them?

I’d love to hear your experiences – good/bad/indifferent.

8 thoughts on “Just so you know – #agile training is *not* coaching.”
  1. Hehe

    I value training a lot more than coaching. And I exactly made this my “sales pitch”: Get 2 days effective training and let professionals sort the rest out. Dont hire me as a coach, but I can lead you the way to one. My experience, aka the one of my customers is pretty good so far. But those trainings come tairored to each customer with a lot of work preparing those.

    1. Thanks Seb for the comment. Well at the end of the day – we *all* operate on perceptions formed by experience and the opinions of influencers. My experience – seems similar to yours – is that training, however tailored is a moment in time thing. Coaching is about helping with the emergent. Life is all about the emergent!

      Would love to hear more of your experiences with helping customers see the value of coaching.

  2. Hey Mike

    I would thoroughly agree with you. Every team in every organization is very different and there needs will differ. Cookie cutting processes or frameworks do not cater for the uniqueness of each situation. You need to be able to feel and coach your way through by drawing on all the experiences of the past for the situation. To me this is the best way to help teams and as all are going on the journey together there is greater acceptance and willingness especially in trying new things.

    1. Hey Ger – I feel so happy you read my blog post. The dogma of some trainers just doesn’t fit with the reality of the ground and I struggle to see where many are getting the field experience from when they are doing so much training.

      There is so much to this post that I may write another – because I have made that journey also from being so dogmatic to being much more open minded and embracing of emergent behaviors in the time I’ve been doing mostly only coaching.

      Give my best to my friends in Galway – I’ll be back someday I’m sure!

  3. From my experience, the stance I see from many Agile trainers is that ‘training’ is the ‘in’ to get in front of a company. Company always ask for training, not coaching so I see it more as a tactic for business development than being a poor reflection of the people who are offering the training.

    Of course there are dedicated training companies that base their entire business on training but it’s not unique to the Agile space.

    1. Hi Jason and thanks for the great point you make. I accept that there may be some business development tactics involved, but that is not really my point.

      My point is more about the competence of an experienced trainer doing coaching and, to a much lesser extent, an experienced coach delivering training. They come from 2 different perspectives in my opinion.
      I have no problem with someone saying they are a trainer or a coach – be the best you can be. But I do have a problem with people saying they are a trainer/coach whilst performing poorly in both.

  4. . . but agile coaches make for good agile trainers. In order to be a great agile trainer you need to be an active coach, bringing with you the wealth of experiences only a coach can get.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *