Why agile coaches are the best choice when hiring your next COO?

In the face of today’s radical business landscape, pushed by the world’s economic tsunami, traditional leadership models and old ways of working often find themselves floundering.

Business agility, organisational adaptability, and a deep understanding of people are no longer luxuries, they’re survival necessities.  This begs the question: where will tomorrow’s leaders emerge from? The answer might surprise you: agile coaches.

Wait !! What??  Agile coaches? Those floating ethereal team whisperers ? Those hippies  known for their sticky notes fluency,  their fun – but useless-  retrospectives and rainbow fairy dust ? 😱

Hell yeah ! 🤘 Absolutely ! Yes, you read that right.

Their unique skill set holds a unique potential to become the unsung heroes leading organisations towards success and be your next COO !!

What do we expect from COOs ?

Usually they are expected to play a critical role in keeping an organization running smoothly and efficiently. They are essentially the second-in-command, typically reporting directly to the CEO, and are responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of the company.

Some of the most important skills and abilities for professionals in the role of COO include:

  • Organizational, administrative and leadership skills. COOs oversee a host of daily operations, including activities related to each of the business’s departments. This means that the COO must accurately and efficiently organize all of these activities and operations to support business strategy and align with clients’ or customers’ needs. The COO must also effectively administer guidance and direction for the HR, legal and other departments that report to them, making strong leadership skills incredibly important.
  • Goal-oriented and results-driven. Successful COOs are also very goal-oriented, and strive to achieve not only the day-to-day objectives that support the company’s daily operations, but the larger goals of the CEO as well. This goal-orientation should be balanced with needs for results. In other words, the COO should prove and demonstrate to the CEO and other senior executives how their strategy is supported.
  • Decision-making and delegation. COOs will regularly make decisions about how to best direct the company’s daily operations. This might include addressing any operational issues that hamper progress in the short term, as well as working with the CEO to resolve any long-term operational challenges. In addition to possessing strong decision-making skills, COOs must also delegate tasks appropriately to the department heads and supervisors under them. This delegation and separation of the workload supports efficiency and prevents one professional from taking on too much in the way of operational responsibilities.
  • Being a team player with great communication skills ! The COO will need to report to the CEO on daily operations, but will also consult with the rest of senior-level management on strategy. At the same time, the COO also needs to communicate any changes to strategy, business goals or daily operational tasks to department heads and other employees. In this way, the COO will need to express themselves in a professional and big-picture way to the senior leadership team, while also effectively breaking down management decisions to lower-level managers and workers.
  • Critical thinking and multi-tasking. Often, the COO will have to balance the goals, needs and challenges of all of the company’s departments. Striking this balance requires the COO to think critically and prioritize department supervisors’ needs, while also taking into consideration the goals and direction of the CEO’s strategy. Additionally, as the COO manages the daily operations of the business’s main departments, he or she will need to multi-task and balance these responsibilities.

Overall, the COO is the engine that keeps the organization running. They are responsible for ensuring that daily operations are efficient, effective, and aligned with the company’s overall goals.

It’s important to note that the specific responsibilities of a COO can vary depending on the size, industry, and structure of the organization. However, the core focus on operational excellence and efficiency remains constant.

For agile coaches, and more precisely the senior ones working at enterprise level, they are responsible for helping organisations adopt and implement lean agile ways of working at a company-wide level. They work full stack which means they work with all levels of the organization, from executives to teams and ICs, and help them understand and embrace behaviors and practices that fosters operational excellence :

  • Assess the organization’s current state : This involves understanding the organization’s culture, structure, and processes to identify areas to be improved or strengthened.
  • Train, mentor and coach leaders and teams: Enterprise Agile coaches provide coaching and training to help leaders and teams understand and adopt Agile practices.
  • Remove roadblocks to lean agile adoption: This may involve helping to change the organization’s culture, structure, or processes to make them more efficient.
  • Measure and track progress: Enterprise Agile coaches track the organization’s progress towards its goals and make adjustments as needed.

So now that the stage is set up, let’s delve deeper into the five key competencies that make them the secret weapon your organization needs:

1. For them agile isn’t just a buzzword, or something theoretical and fluffy, rather something very tangible and pragmatic

The core competencies of a COO – operational efficiency, strategic alignment, and driving change – resonate deeply with the very essence of lean agile principles. Senior Agile Coaches don’t just talk about agility, they can also be very hands on and make it tangible within teams. Imagine scaling that expertise across the entire organization. Think faster response times, smoother workflows, and continuous improvement woven into the fabric of your operations. No more bureaucratic roadblocks, just nimble adaptation to market shifts and customer demands.

2. From Sticky Notes Mastery to Orchestrating the Organizational Symphony

Think Agile Coaches only work with small teams? Think again.

Senior agile coaches have mastered the art of navigating complex systems. They facilitate collaboration across diverse teams, including leadership teams, untangle intricate dependencies, and lead large-scale transformations. This systems-thinking superpower translates beautifully to the COO role. Picture them as orchestrating the organizational symphony, bridging silos, streamlining processes, and eliminating inefficiencies across departments. No more fragmented operations; just seamless collaboration and optimized workflows driving the entire organization forward.

3. Leading with Empathy is the new Super Power

Forget the days of command-and-control leadership. The best COOs of tomorrow will lead with empathy and collaboration. Agile coaches excel at building trust and fostering psychological safety. They understand that motivated and empowered people are the true engine of growth. Imagine this human-centric approach applied at the organizational level. Think engaged employees, unleashed potential, and a culture of innovation that thrives on diverse perspectives. No more top-down directives; just empowered teams and collaborative problem-solving propelling the organization to new heights.

4. Uncertainty? Bring It On ! Embracing the rollercoaster ride of change

The future is anything but predictable. Agile folks thrives on embracing change, experimenting quickly, and learning from mistakes. Senior agile coaches have weathered countless changes, adapted to unforeseen challenges, and developed the resilience and strategic thinking needed to navigate turbulent waters. Picture them as the captains of your organizational ship, guiding it through choppy seas with adaptability and a constant learning mindset. No more fear of the unknown; just calculated risks, rapid course corrections, and continuous improvement leading to sustainable success.

5. Translating complexity into actionable strategies

Agile coaches might be known for their colorful sticky notes and their (not always)fun ice-breakers, but truly their skills go far beyond. They are master communicators, data-driven decision-makers, and experts at translating complex concepts into actionable plans. Imagine this ability applied at the strategic level. Think compelling boardroom presentations, data-backed decisions, and clear communication that aligns every employee with the organization’s vision. No more jargon-filled reports; just transparent communication, shared goals, and everyone rowing in the same direction.

Still thinking I am crazy bozo?!🥸 🤨

This is not about replacing traditional leadership models; it’s about recognising the unique value agile bring in the mix, and how seasoned practitioners can lead you organisation to thrive despite of surrounding chaos. Their blend of technical expertise, leadership agility, and human-centric approach positions them as ideal candidates to become the COOs of tomorrow.

You may say I am a dreamer and highly biased : I pledge guilty of this😅 but my point here is not at all a delusional phantasmagory. In fact it already happened.

In her article “From Agile Coach to COO ‘ Marta Piątek describes her journey from Agile Coach to Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Symphony Solutions and offers valuable insights into the potential synergy between these roles and the challenges involved.

Key takeaways (if you don’t have the time to read the full article) :

  • Shared focus: Both Agile coaches and COOs aim to improve organizational efficiency, effectiveness, and adaptability.
  • Complementary skills: Agile Coaches bring expertise in lean agile methodologies, team dynamics, and change management. COOs excel in process optimization, scaling strategies, and stakeholder management.
  • Learning and adaptation: The author’s experience highlights the importance of continuous learning, mentorship, and adapting to unforeseen challenges like the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Leadership and empathy: The COO role requires tough decisions impacting people’s lives. Balancing business needs with empathy and considering individual circumstances are crucial leadership qualities.
  • Agile principles in action: The company’s Agile foundation helped navigate the crisis through rapid decision-making, learning from mistakes, and embracing remote work opportunities.

Piątek’s story and the potential for Agile Coaches to transition into leadership roles, moving from inspiring aside to skin-in-the-game positions, spark a vital conversation. While not a universal fit, the potential for this shift deserves consideration.

A direct and simplistic transition is of course not applicable, the shared focus on improvement and the power of lean agile gile principles suggest a promising synergy worth exploring. This path could open doors for Agile Coaches seeking broader leadership impact and benefit a vast number of organizations seeking adaptable and transformative leaders.

Remember, this is just the beginning of the conversation. Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below! Let’s explore this potential together and shape the future of leadership 😃