How much of an impact can a great agile consultant have, and why?

29 Mar 2023

Agile coaching.

If we are working purely from an agile coaching basis, you should be asking your client questions to help THEM discover the best way forward.

This is a fundamental element of coaching.

It’s the belief that people know the right answers and that those answers lie within themselves and within their team environments. Your job is just to help them discover those answers from within themselves.

You aren’t there to tell them what to do or teach them what might be best practice.

Agile consulting

As an agile consultant, you may at times coach, but you should have a broad and deep understanding of agile, agile frameworks, and valuable agile practices that lead to product development success.

Multiple agile frameworks. Multiple agile practices. Multiple agile patterns.

You also need to have deep experience and expertise in actively building products, in an agile way, within an agile team environment. You need to have walked the agile walk and know the process and experience of product development, in complex environments, inside out.

You need to have worked with many teams.

You need to have worked in many different environments. You need to have experienced agile and made a success of it in multiple different applications, preferably across multiple different industries.

You need this to help your clients narrow down which agile techniques, practices, and frameworks are best positioned to help solve their problems and achieve their objectives.

So, an agile consultant steps out of the coaching stance and firmly into the mentoring stance.

Helping the client move forward.

You know how best to help the client, and where necessary, your job is to show them how to adopt and excel with agile. They don’t know the answers because they have never done the work before, so it’s pointless asking them questions or trying to get them to discover the best answers.

They simply don’t know and that is why you are there. To help them.

A great agile consultant will quickly assess and determine where the client’s current skill level is at, and where they need to evolve to in order to become more effective and capable.

If they have super advanced skill levels, you – as the agile consultant – will be introducing super advanced practices and techniques. The tweaks, guidance, and nudges will be more subtle and aimed at helping them become a high-performance product development team.

If they are just starting out and have limited experience with agile, you – as the agile consultant – just want to help them nail the basics.

A metaphor for agile consulting

A great agile coach is a bit like a swim coach.

If someone doesn’t know how to swim, you must start right at the beginning.

Let’s see if you can float. Let’s get you more comfortable with being in the water. Let’s get you familiar with what you should be doing and what you should be avoiding.

Let’s take away your fear of being in the water completely.

We need to nail the basics before we can even begin introducing a swimming stroke and a kick.

When you’re dealing with a more advanced swimmer, you’re immediately into coaching them toward high performance. They understand the terminology, they can do what you ask them to do without hesitation, and you’re now designing a program that is going to help them develop their strength, stamina, and endurance.

You’re going to work on techniques where the marginal gains add up to increased velocity, competency, and capability in the water. You’re going to explore the nuances of the sport and help them leverage competitive advantage using your arsenal of techniques, practices, and mindset or approach to high-performance.

You’ll also be there on race day.

You will be observing them closely, through training and in competitive heats, looking to identify where the next opportunity for improvement is going to come from and how they perform relative to their competitors.

Deliberate practice.

Transparency. Inspection. Adaptation.


Metrics will play an important role in their development and you’ll be making the scorecard visible and transparent so that the swimmer is aware of where they are, where they want to go, and what the current gap between good and great looks like.

As an agile consultant, you will help your client choose metrics that are objective and outcome based, I strongly recommend that you use Evidence-Based Management from Scrum.Org, so that you can help them make changes to their practices that lead to their organization succeeding in the areas that most matter to them.

Doing this will:

  • Reduce the cycle time.
  • Improve the feedback loops.
  • Improve the learning capability of the team and organization.

The NETT impact I have seen, personally, with organizations that have employed great agile consultants, is a nine (9) figure return on investment from a six (6) figure investment.

So, a great agile consultant can deliver up to 100 times the return on investment for the clients they serve. It depends on the industry they serve.

Some industries care about societal impact, others care about currency.

I personally aim for a 3 to 10 times impact on the consulting engagement I am deployed within, and if I fall short of that, I feel as if I have failed to deliver value to that client. So, a minimum of three times return on investment is a great benchmark for a solid agile consultant.

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