Light Touch Coaching : A Coaching Experiment

What is Light Touch Coaching, execution and final outcomes

Last year we were doing some experiments on what model we should adapt for coaching teams. There were different business units with different challenges and having one model was difficult. Still, we were trying to find out common best practices, to coach teams and transforming them into agile. There was one experiment which we called ‘Light Touch Coaching Model’.

As the name suggest, it was light touch coaching where we were not coaching teams full time. We were there with teams for some selected events and trying to coach through those events only. As we had around to 200+ teams in this BU, we wanted to experiment with this model. We were just 4-5 coaches. So, management wanted to see if this experiment works, we can cover more teams parallelly and do coaching. 

Light Touch Coaching

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

What is Light Touch Coaching Model –

In light touch coaching model, we were coaching teams in just 2 events i.e., backlog refinement and retrospective. The idea was to have proper backlog refinement. So the teams would be able to have prioritized backlog in place with all the required details and properly estimated. This would help in doing better sprint planning. Through retrospective, wanted to coach teams on establishing habit of continuous improvements. Whatever was not happening correctly, coach the team in the retro to improve and decide on corrective actions. Along with these events we were coaching scrum master and product owner in weekly syncs. Answering their queries and guiding them on best practices. Though these intentions were good but not enough for teams to adapt the change on mindset.

Execution – 

We 3 coaches started coaching 7 teams on this light touch coaching model. We planned to coach the teams for 6 sprints, each sprint was of 2 weeks. Idea was to first work with scrum master and establish all the events in for team. There were initial hiccups in establishing these events as teams were new to this model. They never worked in agile scrum before. So initially some time went in setting up these events.

Then we coaches started going to backlog refinement and retrospective events only. Coaching in backlog refinement was ok, the real problem was with retro. We coaches were not aware what was going on in other events. In other events like daily scrum, sprint planning and sprint review, we were not there. We were not having enough context of anything happening outside those 2 events. We were not there to observe teams in other events, to guide them, correct them, then and there only. Moreover our coaching was based on whatever we were seeing there in these two events. We were not understanding what is going behind, what is the complete picture if something is missing there.   

Result –

We coaches were not satisfied with this model. We felt this is not effective model as we are missing the complete context, just seeing some of it and try to make sense and coach team. Teams were also kind of struggling with us as they were also not sure how to run other events effectively and whatever they were doing there was really helping them. Overall, it was a failed experiment, we did not continue this model further. Management had a realization that this light touch or partial coaching model would not be effective, it will help teams to do the do the transformation appropriately.

It was a good learning experience for us coaches also. It was like more of what does not work for teams than what works for them and what we should not be doing in next engagements i.e., light touch coaching.