Agile 2008: A Coach's Role is to Reveal the System to Itself
Agile 2008 officially starts today, August 4, 2008. However, over the weekend this reporter and others from the Agile community attended coaching training that focused on organization and relationship systems coaching (this class was attended by coaches in IT, health care, mediation, and life-coaching). This type of coaching focuses not only the individuals but the relationship between individuals as its own entity. The theory can be applied to both individual and team coaching.
The term "coach" in the Agile community can mean different things to different people such as mentor/advisor, team lead, project manager, or even consultant. In the broader coaching world, they have a distinction - and that is a coach's job is not to "fix" the system but to reveal the system to itself. The theory is that change can only come from within. Furthermore, that every system is naturally creative, resourceful, and whole - even if the system is dying, that is ok.
This definition of a coach, and the system that she is coaching maybe uncomfortable with many of us in the field. However, being at a conference is an opportunity to check new theories quickly with some very experienced practitioners. (Surprisingly?) This view of a coach's role and how to successfully bring about change in an organization is not alien to many of the more experienced attendees in the conference. Four different experienced coaches and practitioners validated this view of a coach's role and responsibility to the team or organization they are coaching.
So, what is coaching?
Coaching is not about "making" the change but "causing" the change
From coaching with several organizations for years I understand that this little concept is paramount to being effective at introducing lasting organizational change.
Whenever I tried to make a change on a system, a team in this case, I obtained rapid response sometimes in the direction that I wanted, sometimes in the opposite direction, I was in control of the "change", but change didn't lasted, so to maintain that I needed to put effort to maintain it, this can't be called change, it was just a reaction.
But when I reflected as a mirror the system to itself, I had sometimes no rapid response, but after a couple of times patiently doing that suddenly change happened not as a reaction that will end as soon as I stopped putting effort on making the change.
This I think is related to the concept of trying to change what we do, to obtain what we want, instead we need to change what we are that will effortlessly change what we do, and lead to the results that we want.
It's the paradigm, baby!