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Why Companies Fire Agile Coaches: Is this the end of the Agile Era?

Is this a sign of overall economic recession?

There isn’t a single reason for this trend, but let me share my perspective briefly.

Let’s look at the statistics to have an idea. Below graphic shows the Agile Coach job vacancy trend in UK. Source Total number of contract jobs requiring an Agile Coach within the 6 months to 11 Feb 2024 is only 24 while it was 209 at the same period of 2023. (UK)

On the other hand, number of all contract IT job vacancies in UK decreases from 63,506 to 41,259.

The general downturn in the economy may be a contributing factor to the decrease in IT contract job openings. However, the more pronounced reduction in the number of vacancies for Agile coaches particularly highlights a significant drop in demand for such roles.

There are some fundamental reasons for this diminishing trend.

1-Structural Initiatives vs. Agile Community’s Approach
Many companies have required structural initiatives to improve their overall performance, but the Agile community has largely fallen short in this area. Initially, Agile was all about team-level implementation. Later, scaling frameworks appeared, but they mostly just expanded these team-level strategies. Agile consultants and coaches found themselves focused only to applying these frameworks, often missing the broader context. This led to a lack of structural changes, resulting in organizational impediments that blocked teams. Although Agile consultants took this as a matter of change management and adaptation, the problem was deeper. A systemic viewpoint could have been the solution, but the Agile community didn’t fully embrace this, choosing to focus on frameworks rather than understanding the essence of systems thinking. SAFe filled this gap of structural changes, which should have been a wake-up call for the Agile community to self-reflect. Instead, the community tended to criticize SAFe without understanding the motivation and dynamics behind its demand.

2-Agile: A Buzzword or a Transformational Tool?
Agile has become both a buzzword and an aspirational target for many organizations. Numerous companies announced plans to “transform” their work processes, only to find themselves disillusioned with the results. They often followed profit-driven consultants or groups that implemented practices without critical thinking, exacerbating issues. However, these failures could be opportunities for companies to recognize the need for a systemic and value-driven approach.

3-Decline in Agile Coaching Quality
The capability, knowledge and the experience level of the agile coaches had declined significantly. There had been a trend where individuals seek shortcuts to become agile coaches, with some believing that 1-2 years of experience is sufficient. However, effectively enhancing teams and organizations demands a strong background and extensive experience. This gap in expertise and depth of understanding has contributed to the challenges faced in the implementation and success of agile practices.

In conclusion, the noticeable decrease in Agile Coach vacancies, signals a critical juncture for the Agile community. The underlying reasons for this decline—ranging from the Agile community’s failure to adapt and embrace systemic change, to the dilution of Agile as a transformative tool, and a noticeable drop in the quality of Agile coaching—highlight a pressing need for introspection and evolution. As we move forward, it’s essential for the Agile community to reevaluate its approach, focusing on genuine transformation and systemic thinking rather than clinging to frameworks and buzzwords. Only by acknowledging these challenges and adapting accordingly can the industry hope to overcome the current downturn and pave the way for a more robust and effective adoption of Agile. This moment serves as a wake-up call, urging a shift towards a more thoughtful and strategic application of Agile principles to meet the complex demands of today’s organizational and economic landscapes.

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