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Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition (Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn)) [Kindle Edition]

Lyssa Adkins
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The Provocative and Practical Guide to Coaching Agile Teams


As an agile coach, you can help project teams become outstanding at agile, creating products that make them proud and helping organizations reap the powerful benefits of teams that deliver both innovation and excellence.


More and more frequently, ScrumMasters and project managers are being asked to coach agile teams. But it’s a challenging role. It requires new skills—as well as a subtle understanding of when to step in and when to step back. Migrating from “command and control” to agile coaching requires a whole new mind-set.


In Coaching Agile Teams, Lyssa Adkins gives agile coaches the insights they need to adopt this new mind-set and to guide teams to extraordinary performance in a re-energized work environment. You’ll gain a deep view into the role of the agile coach, discover what works and what doesn’t, and learn how to adapt powerful skills from many allied disciplines, including the fields of professional coaching and mentoring.


Coverage includes

  • Understanding what it takes to be a great agile coach
  • Mastering all of the agile coach’s roles: teacher, mentor, problem solver, conflict navigator, and performance coach
  • Creating an environment where self-organized, high-performance teams can emerge
  • Coaching teams past cooperation and into full collaboration
  • Evolving your leadership style as your team grows and changes
  • Staying actively engaged without dominating your team and stunting its growth
  • Recognizing failure, recovery, and success modes in your coaching
  • Getting the most out of your own personal agile coaching journey

Whether you’re an agile coach, leader, trainer, mentor, facilitator, ScrumMaster, project manager, product owner, or team member, this book will help you become skilled at helping others become truly great. What could possibly be more rewarding?

Editorial Reviews


“ The subtitle of this book says it is for ‘ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers,’ however, its guidance and advice extend to anyone associated with an agile (Scrum) team. It will also certainly help team members better understand their relationship to the work ScrumMasters, agile coaches, and project managers do for the team. And, beyond this, the book can be valuable to anyone working in a coaching capacity with any group of people, expanding the book’s application beyond agile-based efforts.”

—Scott Duncan, Agile Coach


“ Lyssa explains brilliantly how skills from professional coaching can be applied to coaching agile software development teams. What I love about this book is how Lyssa brings practical advice to life by relating it to everyday experiences we all recognize. An essential guide for every agile manager’s bookshelf.”

—Rachel Davies, author of Agile Coaching


“ As I read this book I could actually hear Lyssa’s voice, guiding me and sparking precious ‘a-ha moments.’ This truly is the next best thing to having an experienced and wise coach sitting by your side, helping you be the best coach you can be for your team.”

—Kris Blake, agile coach


“ Lyssa Adkins presents agile coaching in a gentle style with firm underpinnings. She resolves the paradox of how coaching can help a team to self-organize, and shows how a nurturing environment can push teams to perform better than ever.”

—Bill Wake, Industrial Logic, Inc.


“ I love Lyssa’s three qualities of an agile coach—loving, compassionate, uncompromising—sweet. Every chapter offers a compelling blend of philosophy and action, framework and freedom, approach and avoidance, as any agile book should. Coaching Agile Teams is a good candidate to become dog-eared on my desktop rather than looking good on my bookshelf. The depth and quality of expertise that Lyssa sought, sampled, and sounded out along her own coaching journey have been synthesized in her own voice of experience.”

—Christopher Avery, Responsibility Process mentor,


“ In my experience with agile projects, the agile coach is one of the most important roles to get right. Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins gives the details and practical insights for what it takes to be a great agile coach.”

—Dave Hendricksen, software architect, Thomson-Reuters


“ I remember the first time I met Lyssa at a Scrum gathering in Orlando, and realized very quickly how inspirational she would become in the agile community. This book encapsulates her thoughts and ideas into a fantastic literary work that, I believe, fills a void in our community. We knew the role of a coach was needed, but for a long time we were not sure what that role actually was. We struggled as a community to explain what to do, when to do it, and what to do next. Lyssa not only collates all of the things we as coaches aspire to be, but has provided some great advice with realistic direction on how to be the best coach you can be for your team.”

—Martin Kearns, CSC + CST, Principal Consultant, Renewtek ply. Ltd.

About the Author

Lyssa Adkins has taught Scrum to hundreds of students, coached many agile teams, and served as master coach to many apprentice coaches since 2004. Coaching coaches one-on-one and in small groups, she enjoys a front-row seat as remarkable agile coaches emerge and go on to entice the very best from the teams they coach. Prior to agile, Adkins had more than fifteen years of expertise leading project teams and groups of project managers in large and small consulting firms, commercial software companies, and the Fortune 500, yet nothing prepared her for the power of agile done simply and well. She teaches the “Coaching Agile Teams” training course, which allows agile coaches to learn, practice, and deepen the skills and mind-sets offered in the book.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me April 19, 2011
I was very excited to read Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins. I knew Lyssa's name as one of the big names in coaching and with the raving forwards by both Mike Cohn and Jim Highsmith I had very high expectations. I am a beginning coach and this is my first book specifically geared toward coaching. My feeling after reading the book is it must be for someone who has had a couple of years experience coaching and has read some of the more "instruction" based books on the subject. There were some nuggets of good information and a very heavy emphasis on self-awareness and introspection but in general this is not the how-to book for coaching that I anticipated. The self-awareness emphasis helped me understand the importance of this subject to be a good coach but the book only touched on the subject throughout and I am left to go out and look for other resources to fill the void. This is not the type of book I was looking for or did I expect based on the table of contents.

The first chapter discussed moving from positions such as ScrumMaster, Project Manager, or Tech Lead to an agile coach and contrasted some of the thinking for the different roles and how they should change during the progression. This was interesting information and useful as a checkpoint to make sure you are on the right path. Chapter two moved into expecting high performance from the team you are coaching. This is where I started to wonder if this book was right for me at my stage in coaching. Lyssa discusses the power of metaphors and introduces the High Performance Tree as a metaphor you may use with your team. The High Performance Tree has roots in Commitment, Courage, Respect, and other important Agile cornerstones. It also has fruit of Astonishing Results, The Right Business Value, and others.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book that teaches how to think like a coach May 30, 2010
Coaching of all forms--whether of kids playing basketball or software professionals learning to ScrumMasters or other agile leaders--is difficult. The advice given often boils down to "here's how I do it..." or "you should always do..." The first style of advice fails because the coach's personal style may differ dramatically from the apprentice's style. Techniques that appear honest and sincere when one person uses them may appear forced and artificial when used by another. The second style fails because it is directive and ignores important differences in context between two coaching opportunities. In "Coaching Agile Teams," Lyssa Adkins avoids both of these traps.

It would be easy to write a book like "101 Coaching Situations and What to Do in Them." Such a book would present a problem and offer good advice for that situation. If the book was done well, readers could leave the book knowing what to do in precisely 101 situations. But the reader of uch a book would not know what to do about the million other problems he or she is likely to encounter as a coach or ScrumMaster.

The reader of that imaginary book would not have learned how to think through coaching situations. Adkins' book is very different. Her book teaches you to think like a coach. You won't leave this book with 101 memorized solutions to problems, but you will leave knowing dozens and dozens of new tools and ways of approaching situations. These will allow you to solve just about any coaching challenge I can imagine.

Throughout the book, Adkins points out that one thing a good coach does is look for teaching or coaching opportunities. These are the perfect moments for a coach to make a point and for others to learn from it. I encountered many such perfect opportunities while reading "Coaching Agile Teams." Adkins was able to teach me numerous, practical things in each chapter. I am confident others will also learn a great deal from this book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Love the Shu Ha Ri Model July 28, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very helpful resource for Agile coaches. Some of the principles are old hat for students of leadership but the packaging is fresh and relevant to Agile teams. The most useful section for me is Agile Team Stages; I love the Shu Ha Ri model:

"One good model for mastering anything (if that's possible) comes from martial arts. A martial arts student progresses through three stages of proficiency called Shu Ha Ri. Shu: Follow the rule. Ha: Break the rule. Ri: Be the rule. These stages also describe Agile teams as they first practice and then get good at Agile...A team can be in one or all of these stages simultaneously...Each person on the team inhabits one or more of these stages simultaneously, too..."

The most common mistake I see Agile teams making is bending the rules before mastering the rules--what we call ScrumBut. "We do Agile Scrum but..." can get your team and your project in all kinds of trouble. This book will help you get back out.

Good stuff, and recommended for new and experienced Agile coaches.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific, practical book on coaching! September 19, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Having worked with many agile teams in the corporate world, I was excited to start my own business coaching agile teams. I was propelled and excited by the prospects of helping to grow teams in other businesses, making the world of software more positive and more successful. Although I had a lot of experience, I found myself myself with 1,000 questions about coaching. How do you coach advanced teams versus new ones? What's the best time to coach agile teams without getting in their way? How assertive should you be as a coach, versus letting them figure it out themselves? When is it appropriate to insert yourself into a conflict, versus letting them resolve it themselves? How do you inspire teams to do their best when it's all about the team, not about the coach? This book was just what the doctor ordered. Lots of perspective that's helped give me confidence about how to be an effective coach. Many things I already knew, many others that I didn't but rang true as I read them. Lyssa has put a lot of herself into the book, I can almost hear her kind words coming to me as I coach. I appreciate the help!

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Time to refresh.
Published 15 days ago by David H Stannard
5.0 out of 5 stars A must.
Definitely worth reading.
Published 1 month ago by Fred Fowler
5.0 out of 5 stars Theoretically accurate
Theoretically, an accurate description of how to achieve maximum efficiency. Unfortunately the normal workplace politics will bastardize the efforts described... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Trent
4.0 out of 5 stars Really nice book
I recommend this book for those who wish to become agile coaches, for those who already are coaches and wish to improve and those who think they are coaches to see what else... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Willi
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed with short comings...not a recommended book...there are...
This book is a personal description of the author's experience which is only applicable if you are the author. Read more
Published 2 months ago by hdchdtv
2.0 out of 5 stars Some useful info, but...
Imagine taking a series of instructional YOGA videos and putting them in book form. That's about how this book reads. Read more
Published 3 months ago by adamj
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational
In the week it has taken me to read this book, I have already had numerous opportunities to apply some of the advice that has been presented. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Steve Beaverton OR
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly transformational
Whether you are already an Agile Coach or aspiring to become one, this book will be tremendously helpful and inspirational. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Bo Hawkes
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read!
In my years as a customer of Amazon since its inception I have only written 5 or less reviews, but I can't pass the opportunity to praise this book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Anoosh Ghajar
5.0 out of 5 stars Handy
Lyssa gives some great tips and techniques, that are definitely worth pursuing. Graphics on my plain Kindle are painfully small and almost unreadable.
Published 7 months ago by Han van Loon
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More About the Author

Since 2004, I have taught Scrum and Agile Coaching to well over a thousand students, coached many agile teams, and served as master coach to scores of apprentice coaches. In both one-on-one settings and small groups, I enjoy a front-row seat as remarkable agile coaches emerge and go on to entice the very best from the teams and organizations they coach. With the Agile Coaching Institute, I have had the pleasure of training over 2,000 people in the skills and mindsets of great agile coaching. Prior to agile, I had more than fifteen years of expertise leading project teams and groups of project managers (I was even a PMO Director -- twice!), yet nothing prepared me for the power of agile done simply and well. I believe that agile is more than an alternate project management methodology and I am passionate about deepening the roles in agile - specifically agile coach and agile manager - to help agile move into its fullest expression. I hold an alphabet soup of certifications: Certified Scrum Coach (CSC), ICAgile Expert in Agile Coaching (ICE-AC), SAFe Program Consultant (SPC), Project Management Professional (PMP), Six Sigma Green Belt (SSGB), Organization and Relationship Systems Certified Coach (ORSCC) and Associate Certified Coach (ACC). I am also a trained Co-Active Coach and Leader.

As co-founder and President of the Agile Coaching Institute (ACI), my quest to improve the skills and abilities of agile coaches takes center stage. At ACI, we believe that agile coaches are powerful transformation agents...when they are well equipped. We are equipping them. Why? Few companies are enjoying the full promise of agile done well because agile is not just a "process." It is a means of improving everything, which is exciting and can be quite difficult. Agile coaches are in the perfect position to help their companies with this difficulty and to use agile well and fully. To do so, those coaches need the complete set of skills and mindsets -- that's what the Agile Coaching Institute brings.


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