REVIEW - Professional Coaching for Agilists

Title:

Professional Coaching for Agilists

Author:

Damon B. Poole, Gillian Lee

ISBN:

9780136741732

Publisher:

Addison-Wesley Professional (2020)

Pages:

256

Reviewer:

Simon Sebright

Reviewed:

July 2021

Rating:

★★★☆☆

Recommended.

Although from the title, you might think this is a technical book, it is overwhelmingly not. The clue is in the title, and at the beginning of the book, in the first three chapters, they take care to explain what Professional Coaching actually is, as opposed to most people’s lay opinion of a coach in general (think tennis coach, Agile Coach). A Professional Coach is someone who helps the client/coachee (the term they prefer) to overcome problems and move forward using their own experience, skills and personality and refrains from offering expertise, observations, etc. where possible. The role of the coach is to guide them through this by asking the right kinds of questions (open, thought-provoking, non-biased, non-leading, etc.) to have the coachee reflect themselves and hopefully reach “Aha” moments. Following that, a Coach will help the coachee to decide on next steps and timeframes, but at all points, the coachee is the one deciding.

The next five chapters show how someone acting as a Professional Coach can help people in an agile setting, from adoption of Agile, through improving to find a suitable Methodology, to fine-tuning of processes.

Coachees can be individuals, teams or organisations, and the latter part of the book works through in this order. Of course, you might be wondering if the Coach is not supposed to offer expertise, opinion, direction, etc. what use is this? Well the book is written for people who are also knowledgable in agile practices and aims to show how you can combine these two practices most efficiently. The crux of the matter is that the more the coachees can decide, find out, try out things for themselves, the more successful the outcome is like to be, as they have more ownership of their results. Compare to an Agile Consultant, whose job it is to directly impart their knowledge.

I found the approach to be very insightful and also learned a lot about what it is to be a Professional Coach, regardless of what field you are in. In principle, you don’t have to be an expert at all: the coachee is the expert, you help them find their own path. So it enriched my options a lot.

At the end are two appendices. Appendix A is a list of exercises and questions to consider for each chapter. Appendix B is a reference of their principles, objects and some useful resources.

I found the book thorough and well-written, if a bit dry (not much humour). The authors quoted some of their stories, both successful and not, this gave it a nice personal feel. Particularly at the start, I found it hard to get going, with the introduction of the Professional Coaching concept. But after that, it was very rewarding, hence recommended, if you want to find out more about what that is and how you might apply it in your job, as well as daily personal life.