I wrote this to help explain to the different types of approaches companies adopt when getting started with Agile: books, training or coaching. This is based on my experiences, so I’d like to hear from you. Permanent page is here.

1) Do it yourself

It’s possible to get started with Agile the way many people did after the Agile Manifesto was published in 2001: buy some books and start reading them. Today, there’s a lot more to choose from. As well, there is a lot free online learning material: articles, videos, blogs. I have provided links and bibliography under Agile Learning Resources.

2) Train the team and kick start the project

Training SimulationA good way to get started with Agile is to find an Agile coach to train and launch you project. It’ll take 2-3 days to get a couple of teams trained on-site. (This will be a lot cheaper than public training). Depending on the size and state of the project, it may take 3+ days to launch or restart the project using Agile techniques.

3) Hire a coach to transition to Agile

CoachThe best way to get started is work with an Agile coach to get your team operational and self-sufficient. You’ll want start by training your people and kick start your project (as above). It will take a while before your team is able to fully internalize the values and principles. Depending on how much attention you pay to technical practices, these can take a while to put in place. This approach involves having a full-time coach (or even a pair) work with your teams to accelerate learning and avoid pitfalls. Your coach will work with you to set transition objectives, so you’ll know how things are going and know where they are adding value.

Comparison of Alternatives


Do it yourself

  • There’s lot’s of free high-quality learning material online.
  • Requires minimal cash investment.
  • Can be undertaken as time permits.
  • Delays benefits as this approach can takes years.
  • Substantial hidden costs of employee time spent on learning.
  • Difficult to assess if you are getting things right.

Train the team and kick start the project

  • Allows you to get started with Agile right away.
  • Everyone knows what to expect and can work together to make changes.
  • This will really only cover the basics. Agile is a complex skill that takes time to develop.
  • You may end up doing Agile badly which can be confusing, unstructured and damaging.
  • It’s easy to fall back into lee productive behaviours as it takes time to overcome organizational barriers and ingrained habits.

Hire a coach to transition to Agile

  • Expert Agile project leadership helps reduce project risk.
  • Dramatically reduces the time for your team to become proficient.
  • Allows people to internalize the values, principles while getting up to speed on the practices.
  • Opportunity to mentor internal staff to take on role of process champion and coach.
  • It can be expensive, so make sure your organization is ready for it. A readiness assessment (see below) helps here.
  • You will need to understand the benefits of Agile well enough to write a business case and convince others in your organization. Here is a presentation that might be useful in preparing this.

Other perspectives

  1. CIO Magazine’s 7 Agile Leadership Lessons for the Suits
  2. George Schlitz has an excellent post that explains why Professional Teams Need Coaches
  3. Scrum Alliance article on Top Ten Organizational Impediments to adopting Agile
  4. Presentation on Agile Adoption Patterns And Antipatterns