The Agile Coach on Approach and Fitness

I’m a big Kansas City Chiefs football fan, born and raised. This is a bit sad to admit, but my mood for the week is largely dependent upon whether we won or lost on game day. So you can imagine what a foul state I was in for most of last year. We went 2 and 14, an absolute train wreck. Whatever could go wrong, did. The fans lost faith, and quickly resigned to another ‘rebuilding’ phase.

It’s a new year, and the 2013 Chiefs are off to a 9 and 0 start, as of this writing. Everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon. Expectations are high. The BBQ is smoking in Kansas City. The beer is flowing. And we broke the Guinness World Record for loudest outdoor stadium noise level (137.57 decibels).

So what changed? Well, we got a new head Coach (Andy Reid), along with his crack staff of Coordinators and Assistant Coaches.


Photo courtesy of hubsm.com

We also got a new Quarterback from the San Francisco 49’ers (Alex Smith) and a couple of draft picks, as we do each year. Other than that, the team has stayed largely the same in terms of player personnel.

I believe our new Coach identified something inherent and fundamental about the Kansas City Chiefs football team that should resonate with many IT organizations.

Much of our success or failure as both an individual and a team has to do with our approach and fitness.

A good NFL Coach is a true servant leader to the team, the organization and the fans. Someone always looking to help remove impediments and drive the framework. Someone who will serve the team first and has the ability to lead. Someone who genuinely cares about the people on the team, is confident yet humble, approachable and fair. Someone who helps the team to self-organize and work cross-functionally (just  because you’re a kicker doesn’t mean you can’t make a tackle). Someone who protects the team from those pesky TV and radio reporters when needed. Someone who can teach. Someone who can coach the Owner (Clark Hunt). Someone who can ensure team meetings happen and facilitate them. And at the end of the day, someone who can take the team to the freakin’ Superbowl and win it all!

Sounds a lot like a Scrum Master, huh?

When a new NFL Coach comes into an organization it usually means lots of change. In Andy Reid’s case, it didn’t mean so much a change in personnel as it did a change in approach. He knew he had good players. He just needed to help them be successful together as a team. He didn’t rush in and make wholesale changes. He was patient. He talked to the players, watched them closely in summer camp and on film. He looked at the organization. He found allies on the team; those who believed as he did. They won a couple of pre-season games, gained some momentum, learned how to win again as a team, and built from there.

Breaking down walls takes diplomacy. Coach Reid is good at this. He promotes big picture benefits and relies on the team to get it done. He doesn’t appear to take sides or get in political fights. He recognizes that we all want to work in a winning, fun, positive atmosphere. He’s as open, honest and transparent with folks as he can be without giving away trade secrets.

One of the things I like best about Coach Reid is his recognition of the team’s success. He celebrates wins with the team. He’s selfless. And he ensures we recognize the offensive line when we score a touchdown.

Now in all likelihood, the Chiefs will lose at least one game this season. I’m a realist, after all. With the parity in the NFL, I don’t believe the undefeated season of the 1972 Miami Dolphins will ever be broken. Perfection is impossible, improvements can always be made. And as we see each year, teams change in their makeup for many reasons. Every year there is work to do.

I applaud the Chiefs organization for their ability to finally find an effective Coach. The role is complex and deep.

I’ll leave you with a bit of history on how Coach Reid entered the NFL Head Coaching ranks, a very elite fraternity. Back in 1999, many in Philadelphia were critical of him being hired as the Head Coach for the Eagles. They said there were other more experienced Coaches available who had winning track records. Coach Reid’s track record, while impressive, was not even as a Coordinator, typically a stepping stone to the Head Coaching role. He got his start as an Assistant in 1992 with the Green Bay Packers, and later was named the Quarterbacks Coach in 92, which also happened to be Brett Favre’s first year with the team. And we all know they went on to win a Superbowl together 5 years later.

So I guess the Eagles must’ve looked beyond the traditional job description in his case, and seen that his approach and fit for the Head Coach job was just right. I believe Coach Reid will likely go down as one of the best Coaches in NFL history, so it appears Philadelphia made a good decision.

Oh, and we all know Philadelphia made a really bad decision in letting him go last year, but I’m a Chiefs fan, so I’m good with that. ;-)

This entry was posted in Agile Adoption, Agile Coaching, Agile Management, Agile Teams. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Agile Coach on Approach and Fitness

  1. David Lowe says:

    Nice post Mike. I really like the paragraph that ends “someone who can take the team to the freakin’ Superbowl and win it all!” and the point of the subsequent paragraph that highlights that patience is vital before encouraging change.

    In reference to your point about a strange hiring decision being made, I’d like to augment this with the fact that a good player doesn’t automatically make someone a good coach; they are different skills.

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