Toward an Agile Coaching Code of Ethics

Agile coaches usually assist organizations that know very little about Agile. These organizations actively seek authoritative guidance. It is safe to say that in almost all cases, the Client is in a vulnerable position. The client can very easily be taken advantage of. Now, to be very clear: The overwhelmingly vast majority of Agile Coaches in our community genuinely serve Clients, each and every day. Most folks in Agile Coaching are of high integrity and seek to serve. That said, the potential does exist for abuses of the role of Agile Coach.

A Coach may, for example, choose to take up the Scrum Master role or even the Product Owner role for ‘some time’.  This is called ’embedded’ or ‘integrated’ coaching.  It creates an ‘extended stay’– and some very real dependence. There are some in the Agile community who promote embedding as a completely normal aspect of Agile Coaching.

But wait. Is this something we are willing to validate as professional coaches?

The practice has several issues. First, the practice promotes an unhealthy level of Client dependency on the ‘coach’. Second, no one in the Client organization is learning anything useful about being Scrum Master, because the role is ‘occupied’. Third, when the ‘coach’ leaves, it is over, because little if any Client learning took place. The Client is not in a place of free-standing Agility.

We can do so much better than this.

The standards body known as the International Coaching Federation publishes the ICF Code of Ethics for Coaches . I believe this is a excellent starting point for discussing the construction of a Code of Conduct for Agile Coaching.

Take a look, especially pay attention to Section 2 Item 9:

Section 2: Conflicts of Interest
As a coach: 9) I will seek to avoid conflicts of interest and potential conflicts of interest and openly disclose any such conflicts. I will offer to remove myself when such a conflict arises.

I wonder if it is time for us in the Agile coaching community to begin having a crucial conversation … about Agile Coaching Ethics.

What do YOU think?


Here is some food for thought:

“What you tolerate, you insist on. What you insist on will be supplied.” – Michele and Jim McCarthy, SOFTWARE FOR YOUR HEAD


See also:

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