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Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition Paperback – May 18 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (May 18 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321637704
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321637703
  • Product Dimensions: 17.5 x 2.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #22,475 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“ 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.

From the Back Cover

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.


InCoaching 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?

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a very difficult book to read; each sentence was chock-full of so much useful information I found myself instantly thinking how I could apply it to my work environment, only do find that my eyes had continued reading without any comprehension. I kept having to go back and read and re-read each sentence because it kept triggering this response.

I eventually finished the book and thoroughly loved Lyssa's philosophy of what an Agile coach should be and how to attain it. It won't be easy to get there, but this is a wonderful framework to use to get started.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Enlighting and chuck full of useful ideas about what it means to be a coach. Working on a Scrum team the book has changed the way I approch our retrospectives.
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Format: Paperback
The author obviously knows her field, and has great tips & tricks for moving from traditional Project Management to being an agile coach. Extremely useful.

The only reason this got 4/5 stars rather then 5/5 is that the writing style is a bit... hippie-ish. Kumbaya round the campfire style. It's unfortunate, as it will likely turn some readers off and what she has to say is spot on & extremely valuable. If you can slog through the saccharine writing style you will find a lot of gems.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9e3aa8b8) out of 5 stars 60 reviews
31 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d92c0f0) out of 5 stars Not for me April 19 2011
By Louis A Parisi - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d1471ec) out of 5 stars Great book that teaches how to think like a coach May 30 2010
By Michael Cohn - Published on
Format: Paperback
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.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d8c5be8) out of 5 stars Love the Shu Ha Ri Model July 28 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d8c5da4) out of 5 stars Left wanting more April 20 2011
By Jay Paulson - Published on
Format: Paperback
I was excited to read "Coaching Agile Teams," by Lyssa Adkins and started it immediately when I got it. Part of my excitement was due to the fact that part of our organization is going through a transformation and I, hopefully, would be a part of the Agile transition. With forwards written by Mike Cohn and Jim Highsmith I had high expectations for this book. I was really hoping to get some deep knowledge about the topic.

After reading the first four chapters I was grasping for the depth I was looking for and the intimate knowledge that could only be known by someone with extensive experience like Lyssa Adkins. The first four chapters have some good ideas that one could take away and use, such as the Shu Ha Ri. However, on my teams if I tried these ideas I would have been laughed out of the room. That's not to say that they are bad ideas they just were not a fit for my situation.

I also struggled to find any good "meat" in the first for chapters. It seemed that I could have just read chapter 3, Shu Ha Ri, and not worried about the other chapters in the first part.

The second part of the book is definitely where the "meat" of the book is located. I found that I wanted more while reading. Just when I found myself saying, "yes right on!" the section stopped and didn't go any deeper.

The biggest value I got out of the book was chapter 9, "Coach as a Conflict Navigator." Although several books could be written on this topic alone it was a very good over view of how to deal with conflict. I was left wishing the other chapters were written more in this fashion.

The third part has some interesting nuggets, but in my opinion one could go without reading this section and be fine as a coach.

Over all is the book worth owning? I'm not sure. I would say definitely check it out if you are interested in becoming a coach as she references a _ton_ of other sources throughout the book. At the end of each chapter Lyssa has thoughtfully put a list to her references, links to videos, and other web site/blogs that go more in depth. It is a good supplement to the content of the book and if you are wanting more depth, as I do, then exploring these references, web sites, and video will help in your quest for knowledge.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9e6810c0) out of 5 stars Book Review: Coaching Agile Teams, Adkins April 20 2011
By Frank Souders - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
- A small group of Agile Austin members divided Lyssa Adkins' "Coaching Agile Teams" into four parts and met bi-weekly over the course of two months to discuss each part's content. The opinions of those who participated in this `book club experience' varied and the related discussions were certainly informative and entertaining. Some members of the group will be posting a personal review of the book.
- One of the primary elements that run the course of this book is the author's *journey* from Project Manager to ScrumMaster to Work/Life Coach to Agile Coach. Having taken this path, the author shares her firsthand experiences through anecdotes and advice while addressing other roles and perspectives often encountered in agile projects. She bolstered these areas with content from historically relevant discussions, input gathered via strategic interviews, casual research/discussion, and jewels of knowledge from well cited sources.
- Most of the book's chapters end with a summary/refresher, a list of additional resources, and a list of references. In my opinion, these subsections of the book's chapters comprise the book's biggest take-away. I think of them as a reasonably well-constructed compendium that I plan to use on my *journey* forward.
- Admittedly, I would not have read past the first few chapters if I had not been part of the related discussion group, as I found the content rather wordy. Not to belabor that point, but in certain instances, the book's figures and tables came as a welcome relief or nice break from the text. I appreciate Lyssa Adkin's sharing her knowledge and experience, and while I wasn't a particularly captivated by the book in terms of signal to noise, I'm sure others will find it a pleasant read.