Agile Coach Code of Ethics

January 2, 2021
12 minute read

The Need for an Agile Coach Code of Ethics

The world needs an Agile Coach Code of Ethics. I have seen many people claiming to be Agile coaches doing things that are clearly unethical. Lying about experience. Creating dependency. Misrepresenting Agile methods. Traumatizing teams. Hiding conflicts of interest. Playing politics and subverting legitimate authority.

These behaviours increase harm, support oppression, enable cheating, condone betrayal, invite subversion, and degrade people.

Fortunately, the Agile Alliance has recently begun an effort to create an Agile Coach Code of Ethics. Many good people have contributed to it. They have made a great start to it which you can find on their page. The problem is, it isn’t part of a systematic ethical framework. Therefore, it has some important gaps.

Ethical Framework for an Agile Coach Code of Ethics

In the book “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” the author Jonathan Haidt describes a research-based framework of moral thinking. (The book is amazing! I strongly recommend reading it to anyone who cares about politics or religion or agility.) This moral framework has six dimensions or features:

  1. Care/Harm
  2. Liberty/Oppression
  3. Fairness/Cheating
  4. Loyalty/Betrayal
  5. Authority/Subversion
  6. Sanctity/Degradation

You can read more about Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory to get a good explanation of each of those dimensions.

Expanded Agile Coach Code of Ethics

Using the six dimensions of Moral Foundations Theory, I have categorized, edited and expanded upon the work of the Agile Alliance. Now, I present systematic and comprehensive Agile Coach Code of Ethics. Anything in bold is my own contribution.  Anything unbolded is copied directly from the Agile Alliance’s draft document.

Care / Harm

  • I am working to do the best for everyone in the organization and on the team.

  • I never intend harm to anyone.

  • I care about the success of the individuals, the team and the organization.

  • My care encompasses their physical, emotional, mental and ethical well-being and safety.

  • My overall goals as an Agile coach are to help the organization be successful and the people working in the business to achieve happiness.

  • By my action and inaction, I will strive to leave society better than I found it.

Liberty / Oppression

  • I value self-organization and that means I support liberty and freedom.

  • I work to reduce and eventually eliminate oppression in any form such as bullying or manipulation.

  • I seek opportunities to bring different voices to every non-confidential conversation.

  • I won’t condone, allow or perpetuate discrimination in any form.

Fairness / Cheating

  • I value fairness in all its dimensions and I will call out anything that appears to be cheating.

  • I will always attempt to deal fairly with every individual I encounter.

  • I consider each person’s circumstances, their resources, their relationships and their limitations.

  • I am open and transparent about my skills and experience. I won’t claim to have abilities or knowledge that I do not have.

  • I will not abuse my power to influence others for personal gain.

  • I attribute other’s ideas appropriately and avoid the appearance they are mine.

Loyalty / Betrayal

  • I have complete loyalty to the organization and to the team while I am working with them.

  • My loyalty extends even beyond my contractual obligations whenever possible but is bounded by the laws to which I am subject.

  • I ensure that the relationships I have with the organization, team and or individuals, remain valuable and I won’t extend them unnecessarily.

  • I am honest about any perception of declining value.

  • I never knowingly put myself in a conflict of interest situation.

  • I am immediately transparent about any potential conflicts of interest with all who might be affected.

  • If I find myself in a conflict of interest, I will withdraw from the relationship or situation if a conflict of interest cannot be adequately managed.

  • I protect information shared with me and won’t disclose it without agreement or legal reason.

  • I am honest with the client if I believe they need another form or source of professional help.

  • I work with the client to understand their needs rather than impose my own solution.

  • I do not collude with an organization that is pursuing purposes at odds with the Agile Manifesto’s Values and Principles.

Authority / Subversion

  • I acknowledge the legitimacy of the authority of the organization’s leadership.

  • I will never subvert that legitimate authority either directly or passively.

  • I bring any concerns with authority to the appropriate people to address those concerns.

  • I recognize the authority of the expertise of each employee.

  • I assert my own authority as an Agile coach.

  • I engage in introspection and I engage with a peer group or mentor to explore ethical and other challenges in my agile coaching work.

  • I seek to improve my self-awareness and effectiveness through professional development.

  • I ensure we have an agreed scope for my work as an Agile coach.

Sanctity / Degradation

  • I uphold the nobility, agency and uniqueness of every human being.

  • I assert the sanctity of the agreements I have made.

  • believe in the dignity of the Agile coaching profession.

  • I will never objectify the people with whom I work as an Agile coach.

  • I uphold the reputation of the Agile coaching profession.

  • I won’t condone and will challenge unethical behaviour in other Agile coaches.

Feedback on an Agile Coach Code of Ethics

I intend this to be a part of a larger conversation. I’m using the #agilecoachcodeofethics hashtag on LinkedIn to identify my contributions to this discussion. I hope you will join the conversation by responding to my LinkedIn post or by using the hashtag.

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