Agile Coaching 101 – Boosting Ownership

Some time ago I started reading a book by Navy Seals Jocko Willink and Leif Babin called Extreme Ownership. It is an amazing book that I strongly recommend.

As you can imagine, the main point about the book is about Ownership, strange right? But it’s also about the amazing things that happen when we start taking ownership of what we do. In our personal lives. In our work and even in our businesses.

I know that Software Engineering is extremely different from Navy Seals, I get that. But that doesn’t mean that ownership is not important. In fact, for each example that is presented from the Navy Seal days of Leaf and Jocko, they also include a business example from their consulting firm.

Bad Culture

I try not to generalize, but if you are in this industry, there is a high chance you know what I am talking about.

A lot of companies (here is the generalization) still think that engineers are code monkeys. In fact, this is so rooted in their cultures that I’ve seen engineers that have the same mentality as well.

“I am here to code I don’t care about the product. Just tell me what you want me to do.”

software engineer

This is an old factory mentality and we need to get rid of it.

In this way of thinking, the output is what matters, not the outcome. More lines of code and hours in your desk is equal to more productivity. It doesn’t matter if you are building the right thing, the goal is to build whatever you are told.

Whenever you see these companies talking about agile transformations and so on, their main goal is to become more productive. To deliver more code. They never stop to think if what they are doing is the right thing or not. And the teams in the trenches, building it, are either not involved in the talks, or just don’t care.

Forget about the buzz words of Agile, Scrum, Kanban or Waterfall for a second. This type of culture is toxic. As an Agile Coach, you need to get rid of it. One way you can do this is by…

Boosting Ownership

“OK, nice buzz word Rui, OWNERSHIP. Whoopy doo. What do you really mean by that?”

Engineers need to be involved in decision making. They need to have a seat at the table. This will boost their commitment towards the end goal and boost their sense of ownership, because well, they also own it now.

Engineers need to get something back. They need to receive value from being part of that project. This will depend on person to person. For some, it can be just monetary, and that’s fine. Others can be aspirational, trying new technologies, learning new things, etc.

Engineers need to be autonomous. And it’s not just autonomous, they need to feel accountable as well. Accountability for everything that you do is a big part of extreme ownership. If you are not accountable you will never feel you own it. If you are not autonomous, you cannot be accountable.


It is our job as coaches to help the team on each of these points. How you do it, is up to you. You can liaison with Product/Business to get the team a seat at the table. Or sit out with each member and understand their aspirations. This will greatly depend on your style of coaching and where each team/individual is on their journey.

Now I am interested in what you have to say.
Have you ever tried this?
Do you have any tips on how to help teams in this regard?

Please ping me and let me know over the socialz. Till the next Post.

Cheers,

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