The ICF Code of Ethics

Let’s get real. The International Coaching Federation has a Code. See it here. This document and the wording in it as written is inadequate for Agile Coaches in my view. It is missing a key set of  keywords.

The ICF wrote a generic Code. It is not intended for the Agile Coaching specialty. Agile Coaching probably was not even a real occupation when the ICF code was written.

Using the ICF code is dodging the issue. The issue is DEPENDENCE.

We need to include certain specific words in the Agile Coaching code.

They are:





These words need to be at the front of mind if you are an Agile Coach (big A, big C).

The reason is simple: there is nearly automatic dysfunctional, highly codependent relationship that can exist between external Agile Coach and client. I have ranted on this plenty in many previous posts.

(previous Agile Coaching Ethics posts.)

The ICF code is a good starting point. OK? It is a base class, also known as a abstract class. It’s good to use as a starting point, and for using that starting point to add more (minimal) features that tailor it for the Agile Coaching. Let’s stop pretending the ICF Code is adequate as a code for Agile Coaching ethics. It’s not.

Here is the idea: Agile Coaches must

1. Be mindful that dysfunction is nearly automatic;

2. Take steps to create firewalls that prevent co-dependence between coach and client;

3. Never knowingly encourage a dangerous and unhealthy  dependence on the coach;

Such dependency can create a nearly-automatic stream of revenue from client to coach. I’ve seen it. It goes on where I live. It probably goes on where you live.

That, and:

1. Client learns nothing; and has no clue this is true;

2. “Coach” ends up doing the same tasks over and over; making loads of MONEY

3. Agility gets a black eye when people observe the results; resulting in observers worldwide thinking Agile is some kind of gimmick;

4. The client trades one set of dysfunctions for another; and has no clue this just happened.


We can do so much better. Where I live, there is loads of this happening. And no one is saying ANYTHING about it. Where is leadership in the Agile space when we NEED it? We have a very weak immune system.


It’s time for the Agile community to:

1. Get a backbone and have this conversation now.

2. Develop a code of Agile Coaching Ethics that devalues the development of ANY dependency in the client.

3. Start discussing and identifying which behaviors that encourage a dangerous dependence, and call them out as out-of-bounds and not honored by the community at large. For GOOD reasons.

4. Wake up and smell the coffee. A lot of coaching is actually revenue generation with little or no learning taking place. The Agile community has no immune system and even honors this behavior.

It’s ludicrous and absurd to watch.

What’s up with this? Anyone can show up and promote ideas like coaches “occupying the Scrum Master role for some time” when we all know that is not coaching at all. What that is, is manipulation. Coaching is not manipulation and coaching definitely is not consulting, EVER.

Let’s all wise up. The ICF Code is a starting point. Let’s go to work.

What you tolerate, you insist on.

What you insist on will be supplied.

-Jim and Michele McCarthy, SOFTWARE FOR YOUR HEAD