Valuing Your Work as an Agile Coach

How should we value our work as agile coaches and consultants? The way I do it is to ask myself if I will have had a positive long-term impact on a team or organization. I’m not particularly interested in short-term impacts. In fact, many coaching engagements could have a negative impact in the short term if I’ve done or suggested anything disruptive.

It would be nice if these changes were always easily and directly measurable. Unfortunately, they really aren’t. To measure the impact of my coaching, we would need at least two identical teams, Soccer Coach Surrounded by Teamtwo identical products, and at least a handful of years.

One team would build their product without my coaching. The other team would build theirs with my coaching. Their sales forces and all other supporting functions would need to be identical.

If all other factors were made equal, though, we could measure the impact of my coaching on that team. We’d simply look at sales for the two products over the handful of years and know which had done better.

In some ways, of course, it will be your clients who determine your value as an agile coach. But sometimes clients are not in a good position to judge value. Some clients want you to parrot back to their teams what they’ve said—regardless of whether that is valuable advice or not. Other clients really do want their teams to receive the best possible advice. These are, of course, the clients that we, as coaches and consultants, treasure.

So ultimately, we are the best judges of the value we add. We can bring a proper long-term view, but we need to look critically at our work. Is our advice helping? Is it pushing people to improve? Is it too disruptive? Not disruptive enough? Is it appropriate for the situation?

A slide in my Certified ScrumMaster class says that a ScrumMaster “unleashes the energy and intelligence of others.” In class I often joke that I want to go home at the end of the day and answer my wife’s question of, “What did you do today?” with, “I unleashed the energy and intelligence of others.”

But, on the days I can do that, I find I’ve delivered value to my clients.

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Mike Cohn

About the Author

Mike Cohn specializes in helping companies adopt and improve their use of agile processes and techniques to build extremely high-performance teams. He is the author of User Stories Applied for Agile Software Development, Agile Estimating and Planning, and Succeeding with Agile as well as the Better User Stories video course. Mike is a founding member of the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance and can be reached at If you want to succeed with agile, you can also have Mike email you a short tip each week.

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