Top critical review
36 people found this helpful
Not for me
on 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. This all makes sense but all of this takes up most of chapter two and I just can't see myself going to my team and building the metaphor while drawing this tree to hang up in the team room. I think I would be laughed out of the room. Maybe that is just me or the team I am working with but I tend think that most of the technical teams I have worked with wouldn't have much value for this exercise.
Another example of why this book was not right for me was in Chapter 11 discussing failure modes for coaches. This is a quote from the book under the heading Get a Broader View:
"If you imagined this team's life together as a gigantic landscape, what would today's view be? Perhaps you visualize a barren hill obscuring the horizon, a physical representation about how you feel about them today.... Perhaps the view drives you to become a Nag. Now step back. See the team's current circumstance on a broader timescale.... you see the barren hill below, but it's now just a sad dot in what is otherwise an interesting and varied landscape." I get it. Don't dwell on today; work on helping the team move past their difficulties. But this took three paragraphs and this was just one of the failure modes. This style of writing did not appeal to me for this type of book. Others may like it and I suspect that people who have attended Lyssa's training or presentations may appreciate the style more than me.
There were some good parts of the book too. I liked the Doing Donuts in the Parking Lot metaphor. It was about the responsibility of the product owner and how just because this process allows them to change course after every iteration that is not necessarily the best business approach. And as others have mentioned, the Shu Ha Ri stages is a great model to guide agile teams as they gain knowledge.
The chapter on Conflict Navigation was probably the most "instructional". It discussed five levels of conflict, how to determine the level of conflict, and some guidance on how to handle the conflict. I have to say this was not the right book for me but others may find it helpful.