Agile Business Coach, or Management Consultant?

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Agile Business Coach, or Management Consultant?
In a recent conversation, two of our leading executives speak from their experience on making the jump from coach to consultant.    

Are you a coach or consultant?

In a recent conversation, two of our leading executives speak from their own experience on making the jump from coach to consultant.     

Their case studies and personal reflections will help you understand how ADAPTOVATE provides both Agile coaching and management consulting to our clients, and by example the difference in the way we work.

Alan Trivedi is a principal in our US office and is currently undergoing a doctorate in understanding Transformational Leadership.

Ray Freeman is a project lead in our US office and also runs his own podcast Thriving Culture, where he discusses positive ways you can get ahead in life faster, helping young black people push back against what’s holding them back.

At ADAPTOVATE, we are in a unique intersection between Agile coach and Management consulting.  We offer both on their own, however we have blended them together and provide a unique offering to our clients.   

The difference between an Agile coach and a Management consultant

The career path of an Agile Coach and Management Consultant, are both rewarding careers, neither is better than the other.  They are different skill sets.

Alan Trivedi has helped many mentees build both coaching and consulting capabilities.  He explains in the following story his experience with a Product Owner.

I subscribe to this idea that we wear multiple hats.  All of us that go into the work that we do, you are switching hats for different reasons.   When I think about management consulting, at it’s simplest form, it’s about providing solutions.   You are bringing your experience, your knowledge, your wisdom, into a situation and providing a perspective and solving common problems.

When you think about coaching, the agenda is different.  You are empowering others and coaching others to solve their problems.  You look at possibilities about how they might solve their problems.

The best way to illustrate this is to give an example.

In one of our clients, I was working with a leader who had recently moved into a Product Owner role.   As a coach, I asked her how it was going.   She replied she was really struggling with one of the I.T. leaders in the group.  She explained she was the product owner, the leader, but the I.T. leader thinks there is an I.T. solution, however she thinks there is a business [problem to fix, not just an I.T. solution per se]

So, I asked her as a Product Owner, how does she show up.  She answered having integrity is how she leads.  By that she meant, committing to something and following through with it.    She felt like the I.T. person was not doing that. The key question I asked her was – does the I.T. person know that’s what is important to you?   The answer was no.    It made her reflect on her own behaviours and expectations.

So, in this situation I am acting as a coach and leading the Product Owner to her own decisions.  Really empowering the person and bringing out the best version of themselves to solve the problem.

[Wearing a Management consulting hat], its different.   If I am a management consultant, I would be thinking about ‘what is the business value you are trying to drive as a product owner? How does agile help you solve the problem?’   So there is a lot of ‘how to get to the solution’ – whereas in coaching,  we’re helping her solve the problem for herself.

Who to hire – a Business Agility Coach or Consultant?

If you have a business problem, like reducing costs, or improving innovation and product delivery, or driving more revenue, those kinds of problems are often solved through improving business agility.

If you are looking for external help to improve business agility, how do you choose between an Agile consultant or a coach?

We at ADAPTOVATE believe you need support that can do both management consulting and agile coaching, and can change ‘hats’ as the moment requires.

In some cases you just want someone to help you with a specific type of a business problem. When you think about management consulting you are looking for industry context or a specific capability or skill set (and experience) to solve the business problem. As a global firm, where we have experience in many business agility problems, in many industries, and different countries, we collaborate globally as a firm to find the right expertise to help come up with the solution.

In the same context, you might be looking for behavioural change, and looking for people to have an agile mindset.   How do I think differently, or empower my team or people to have an agile mindset, so they start to think differently and start to behave differently?   Then that would be more of an agile coach that could help create that shift for you. Once again, as a firm we collaborate globally on finding similar situations, and techniques, so that we bring the strength of our firm to the problem at hand.

Business Agility problems need Agile Coaches that are also Agile Consultants

Ray explains a turning point in his career where he realised he needed to be both a coach and consultant with his clients.  He was a coach, and helping different clients with agile coaching, helping them with scrum cycles, or SAFe.  There was a particular client and he recognized things weren’t going well.   He says, “I thought I could continue doing what I was doing, in helping them to use scrum.  Or I could give them some advisory of best practices from past history.  That took a lot of guts to step up to someone to do that.  I really felt that was a turning point for me, that change from coaching mindset to consulting mindset.

Our recommendation is if you are a coach and doing your work, really try to understand why that work is important, who it’s for, and how you can make it better.   And importantly, don’t be scared to let others know, I think there is a better way.   Take your opportunities, find the courage.

To finish up, although there is a clear difference between a coach and consultant, it’s not just about what certifications you have or what credentials you have that makes you one or the other in any situation.   It’s a lot about the personal motivation, the personal courage to change the way you work.

If you have spent your career in traditional coaching, and are looking to also do management consulting, Alan gives this advice:

It’s business value.  As you are coaching, really start to think about what that change is going to deliver for the organization.   What are you really trying to do, and what’s the cost of not doing it? Start discussing that with stakeholders.”

That’s your business value.  Then when you reflect on what you have done, you didn’t coach an agile team, you actually helped an organization go three times faster, create opportunities three times faster.   You have started to adopt the management consulting mindset.    You can coach and help and change the behaviours through the coaching process,” Alan says.

Ray agrees, Changing mindsets “from coach to consultant, you should not say what you did, but what value you added.   You actually start telling your stories differently.    Don’t keep saying ‘you helped teams do scrum’, you probably helped create tremendous value.”

For further reading :

What is the difference between coaching and consulting?

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