Most professions have a code of ethics that guide their behaviors, typically guided by an association that provides credentials.  A code of ethics is a compilation of ethical principals brought together into a framework. Agile coaches describe themselves as a profession.  They have conferences, camps and in organizations are a separate job category. Because agile coaches can have a powerful impact on those they interact with, a code of ethics is needed to provide guidance.  A code of ethics will professionalize and generate consistency within the profession. A few of tenants a code of ethics needs to include are:

  • An agile coach will have a clear coaching contract or service agreement with their clients and sponsor(s) before beginning the coaching relationship and honor this agreement. The agreement shall include the roles, responsibilities, rights of all parties involved, and will define who the client is. – Note the client and the person being coached can at times be different parties, this relationship must be transparent to all parties.
  • An agile coach will hold all parties responsible for being aware of and setting clear, appropriate and culturally sensitive boundaries that govern interactions, physical or otherwise, the coach may have with their clients or sponsor(s).
  • An agile coach will never betray a trust established or shared between the coach and client.
  • An agile coach will ethically speak what they know to be true to clients, prospective clients or sponsors about the potential value of the coaching process.
  • An agile coach will avoid entering into business, intimate or personal relationships with clients (and those they are coaching, if different) outside of the boundaries defined contract or agreement.
  • An agile coach will establish boundaries based on their qualifications and certifications and will not practice outside of those certifications and qualifications.
  • An agile coach will share all qualifications and certifications with the client from the outset. If the coach, sponsor or client finds that a different discipline (for example counseling) is the best way to proceed, the coach will refer the client to an appropriately qualified practitioner even when the coach has the appropriate qualification.
  • An agile coach will work to recognize their own personal issues and biases that might interfere with or reflect on their clients and sponsors.

I am sharing a potential list code of ethics ideas as a starting point to spur to both a discussion among agile coaches and to plant the nascent seed for the need for a professional organization without other business goals to help generate consistency and professionalism within the profession. Many of these initial ideas are a reflection of the professional organizations I am a member or interact with on a regular basis.  

As a point of transparency, this essay and the theme it belongs to is a reflection on observations across many years in the industry.  Nor is this the first time I have written and podcast on ethics, for example, SPaMCAST 452 and Project and Process Improvement Ethics: A Primer. I personally work to hold myself to a set of ethical guidelines, but I do not know if they are sufficient or if they are useful to others.  For example, should consulting agile coaches have different guidelines than coaches that work as an employee within an organization? I believe that in the profession of agile coaching it is time for action to iron out what is the range of ethical behavior.