Most organizational coaching is biased

Coaching Jul 12, 2021

I will repeat it again "Most organizational coaching is biased", because it is.  Great coaches ask great questions instead of providing answers. But even in that approach, most questions have bias in them. And generally, the coaches end up taking you somewhere with their coaching strategy, somewhere that is familiar to them.

If you use sports coaches as a metaphor to coaching, many of these coaches are not coaches at all. They are trainers. They teach the game (the method) - the repeatable set of rules, techniques and scenarios to apply these techniques, tools to use, strategy to use in particular context. They are all still training.

Coaching is about instilling values and principles in oneself, a team or a system. And values and context based on deep evaluation of those values and principles in the context of the work that is being done. And to do that, one does not need to be a coach, but need to be a bias-free facilitator. Which is hard. Even facilitators who use bias-free facilitation techniques struggle to maintain their neutrality and allow the questions and related answers to emerge with the least amount of bias in it.

Now, let's come to the big industry of "Agile Coaching" and I reinforce the above concept again. Most to all "Agile coaches" are biased in their coaching. In fact, most "Agile Coaches" are not coaches at all, but are trainers imparting methods knowledge - whether be it Scrum, Kanban, SAFe, CI/CD, DevOps, TDD, ATDD, BDD, Product backlog management - these are all methods and or techniques. And what is imparted is training, not coaching.

Here are the challenges that tend to introduce bias in Agile coaching:

  • One needs to identify in particular context the set of problems or challenges that one is solving - without doing this, several so-called Agile coaches end up entering with answers. This requires facilitation to surface said challenges.
  • Once problems or challenges are identified, it is imperative to identify the values and principles that are used to solve these challenges. Using the same approaches with embedded values and principles will result in the same old results from previous approaches. So the learning challenge here is to identify and learn new values and principles that need to be applied. This is a teaching issue and not coaching or facilitation.
  • Constraints need to be identified. Values and principles cant be blinded instilled in environments where its practices are deterred. Therefore when the objectives of the required new values and principles are known, one need to know which of those changes are feasible and which are not. This requires facilitation to identify.
  • New values and principles agreed upon needs to be absorbed. This requires teaching and practice. And associated systemic change to support the survival of these values and principles in order to influence system behaviors. This requires teaching, training, coaching, facilitation and consulting.
  • And then come the methods and tools/techniques which are the last to introduce into the system and need extensive training and coaching during practice of whatever was learnt.


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