An Agile Coach’s View


of Successful Agile Transformations



By William “RED” Davidson

North Texas, USA

This is an experience report. I have been working as a Scrum Master and an Agile Coach for over a decade. I have worked with several teams but only a few have turned out to be what could be considered highly successful.  In this paper, I will discuss the attributes that I believe are essential to enable a team to become highly successful as well as a viewpoint as to why Agile transformations fail.

This paper assumes the reader has a basic understanding of Scrum, its terminology and general process flow.

A Typical Coaching Engagement

When I am called into an engagement, a group has usually been identified in advance. I am told that my job is to go train the team Scrum and Agile and get them started.

The true engagement is actually a bit more involved than just teaching Agile and Scrum. Most people are unprepared for adapting an Agile way of working. Many people must be shown how to collaborate as a team, to use new techniques that are highly collaborative in nature, and for Product Owners to become team members (vs. a Business Requirements Document writer) and Scrum Masters to become facilitators (vs. a Project Manager).

The engagement usually starts with 1½ to 2 days of training, followed by an intensive release planning session that last 2-3 days. This is followed by one-on-one teaching and mentoring of the Scrum Master and Product Owner. During the first Sprint, the coach will demonstrate how the team should conduct the core Scrum events. Starting around the second Sprint, the coach starts to step back and do more observing as the team gets their “Agile legs” underneath them. After about 3-4 months, the coach disengages as the team moves forward.

While learning Agile is important, “Being Agile” is the real desired outcome. Many organizations want to know how well a team does Scrum. This is wrong. Scrum is a tool to enable Agility. Agile is the four values (or more correctly, the value pairs) and twelve principles. It is about delivering value, iteratively and incrementally. Being Agile is all about customer satisfaction, exceptional product quality, team self-organization and their satisfaction as well as continuous improvement. Being Agile has nothing to do with daily meetings and everything to do with rapid value delivery.

Story of Two Teams

I will be telling the story of two teams; both were at very large companies, one in banking and the other in auto finance servicing.

The first team was charged with maintaining the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system the bank uses to service their credit card customers. The bank was in Florida while the IVR service provider was in Georgia. This team adopted Scrum using two-week sprints.

The second team was charged with maintaining the Credit Bureau Reporting (CBR) system that the auto finance company utilizes. The system would report data to the three major credit bureaus monthly, therefore the accuracy of the data reported was of high importance. Both the application development and support were outsourced to a company that had personnel located in both Texas and in India. This team also adopted Scrum in two weeks sprints.

Both teams had the following challenges:


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Editor’s note: Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English.  Original publication acknowledged; authors retain copyright.  This paper was originally presented at the 14th UT Dallas PM Symposium in May 2022.  It is republished here with the permission of the author and conference organizers.

How to cite this paper: Davidson, W. (2022). An Agile Coach’s View of Successful Agile Transformations; presented at the 14th University of Texas at Dallas Project Management Symposium in Richardson, TX, USA in May 2022; republished in the PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue VIII, August. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/pmwj120-Aug2022-Davidson-an-agile-coachs-view-on-successful-agile-transformations.pdf

About the Author

William “Red” Davidson

Texas, USA


William Davidson, known to many as Red, is an Agile Coach from Plano, Texas. He’s coached at large enterprises including Frontier Communication, Citigroup, Toyota and Chase. He’s been writing software for money since 1983 (whoa, that’s a long time). He’s held many positions (Development Manager, Project/Program Manager, PMO Lead and Scrum Master), receiving awards (Business Development Quality Award for Excellence), written papers & articles, and presented at more than 100 conferences and user group meetings. As an Agile Coach, Red helps teams (and their organizations) achieve the benefits of Agile software delivery. He can be contacted at reddavidson@yahoo.com or www.linkedin.com/in/reddavidson