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Will AI take over agile coaching? 3 coaches respond

Agile methodology is purpose-built for accelerating technological advancement. But, in 2023, technology is accelerating agile. You may have read some of our past blogs on Agile AI – such as ‘Will AI put an end to agile?‘ or ‘Will AI help teams foster agility?‘ and gotten some ideas on how Artificial Intelligence (AI) could start shaking up agile environments. 

But today, we’re exploring AI’s partnership with agile through a different lens: agile coaching. We interviewed 3 experienced agile coaches, asking the daring question, “Will AI take over agile coaching?” Their answers were insightful and thought-provoking, to say the least. 

How are agile coaches using AI right now?

With an open embrace, Agile coaching has welcomed the integration of AI. Guillermo Mendoza, an experienced Scrum Master at Canada Drives, reveals that over the past year, the purpose of AI in an Agile workspace has become increasingly evident. He states, “AI is primarily for documentation right now. But, we are still trying to use everything as a test to see if it fits our company’s goals.” 

In his perspective, AI’s value in providing meeting summaries is worth noting, as “AI proves excellent at capturing action items and blockers mentioned in meetings.” Various AI tools are available for taking meeting notes, like and others, and tools ideal for meeting prep, like Zenhub’s Daily Feeds.

The dialogue, however, extends beyond just documentation. Zachary Hanson, who leads field solutions at Nextdata and brings considerable Agile coaching experience, observes an intriguing shift: “Story writing has started to turn into prompt writing.” This observation indicates the evolving dynamics of documentation, a change observed across many AI project management tools.

In the near future, how could AI be most helpful for agile?

In the foreseeable future, AI is poised to become a significant ally in bolstering agile methodologies. Zach shares, “It’ll help us with planning just to break down the user stories or the problems we’re trying to solve. I don’t believe they will overtake their role, but they will help the team to move forward faster.” This remark underscores AI’s potential to expedite and refine the planning process and the breakdown of user stories, all while respecting the irreplaceable contribution of human expertise.

An essential facet of agile coaching, prioritization, is also likely to experience a positive impact from AI integration. As Zach mentions, “There are many different AI models that have the potential to help with prioritization, which is a large part of agile coaching.” Leveraging AI rankers to make data-driven decisions about the value of backlog items could greatly enhance teams’ efficiency in managing their workloads.

However, Guillermo understands that Agile’s adoption of AI has its challenges. He brings our attention back to the foundational principles of Agile, stating, “The Agile Manifesto emphasizes individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” He adds, “So perhaps, [with AI] we are going to find ways to communicate and collaborate better together.”

AI may become the expert, not the coach

Klaus Boedker, Owner of Inner Agility Academy, has an idea of what we can expect from AI: expertise. “One of the first things you think about when you think about an agile coach is someone with a really deep experience of agile and lean. And in that respect, Chat GPT is outcompeting most agile coaches,” he suggests.

Agile coaches typically come into an organization bringing a wealth of knowledge to the table, but inexperienced teams may depend on coaches for this expertise. AI could perhaps empower teams with easier access to agile best practices: “If you ask ChatGPT about any issues your team may be having, for example, ‘my team’s estimations are recurringly off,’ it can provide suggestions to help you dive in deeper,” Klaus explains. 

This could perhaps democratize Agile and make it easier for teams to self-assess long after an agile coach has done their job. However, when it comes to replacing coaches, “expertise” is only a small fraction of the puzzle. “Obviously, the [AI] tool can’t do the actual training and facilitation that an agile coach does. AI does tasks, not jobs,” he adds.

Where “soft skills” remain critical to agile coaching

So, where else might AI fail to “take over” agile coaching? It could be where “soft skills” come into play, says Zach: “You’re never going to replace soft skills. An undervalued aspect of agile coaching is bringing multiple stakeholders to the table, getting them to align on something, and agreeing on the same goal.” 

Bridging gaps, facilitating collaboration, and aligning diverse stakeholders toward a common objective are critical to being an agile coach. Because of this, Klaus believes how coaches position themselves in the workplace may also shift: “If you only sell yourself as an agile expert, you will be outcompeted by someone who does not sell themselves solely as the expert. If you say, when it comes to training, observation, and facilitation – that’s my realm of expertise. That will differentiate you from other agile coaches.”

Soft skills are all about awareness of people and processes around you – information AI struggles to gather. Because of this, a coach’s ability to “pulse check” a team will be critical to their value. “For example,” Zach says, “Janice might just be recovering from being sick, so we may want to give her a lighter workload than her calculated average velocity.”

Understanding team morale, dynamics, skills, and other complex resourcing considerations might not be a realistic expectation of AI, placing a greater emphasis on these skills for (human) agile coaches. 

Final thoughts: will AI work coaches out of a job?

AI shows a lot of promise in filling in process and expertise gaps and bringing to light areas of improvement. So, perhaps there will be less regression of agile practices with teams who use AI. After all, “a coach should really just be there temporarily to help the team find their feet, get in the rhythm, and understand the cadence,” says Klaus. “My favorite saying as an agile coach is – you eventually want to work yourself out of a job.” 

So, will AI work agile coaches out of a job? The short answer is no. The long answer is it could make agile coaches more effective so that their teachings have greater staying power and are more easily facilitated.

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