Thriving as an Agile Coach in the Age of AI

Thriving as an Agile Coach in the Age of AI

Thriving as an Agile Coach in the Age of AI

The potential impact of AI on the job market has raised concerns about job displacement and unemployment.

In order to stay ahead in the race with AI, individuals and organizations need to continuously upskill and adapt to new technologies and ways of working.

My article ChatGPT will make Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters redundant — in less than 2 years, received a tremendous response from the readers.

The article covered a few scenarios that I threw to ChatGPT and the responses it gave. The responses did make sense which leads me to strongly believe that ChatGPT and similar applications will indeed make routine jobs redundant — simply because the computer program would be able to do it far better and faster than the below-average agile coach, which sadly makes up a large cross-section of the agile coaching community.

This, however in no way implies that Agile Coaching as a profession will be over in a couple of years or that people will stop hiring scrum masters. That is not going to happen since a lot does add value, and what I tried to describe in my other article.

AI Bots are Here to Stay

One thing is certain, though — Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will be leveraged in agile coaching.

So what can AI Chatbots do in Agile Coaching that many Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches do today?

  • Quick answers to commonly asked questions

  • Personalized advice for queries in the context

  • Feedback on artefacts like retrospective actions and product backlog items

  • Keep the team updated on new agile practices and trends

  • and much more…

Many of these are important but transactional items, and there is value in letting the bots take over these.

AI Bots will Excel at Regurgitated Content

AI Bots in the near future will excel at regurgitated content, which most of the above will require. Regurgitated content is a term I first saw in the blog ChatGPT and Regurgitated Content. | by Michael Long | Geek Culture | Mar, 2023 | Medium] and it has caught my attention.

As Michael says in the blog, [AI Bots based on LLM] have spent a long time chewing through books and articles and text extracted from the internet. It digests everything it's fed, packs it away in its Large Language Model, and, given the right prompt, spits some of it back up again.

That is precisely what the AI bots are going to master, and there is no way any agile coach — good or bad is going to beat them at.

In fact, that is not a fight we even ought to pick up.

If you were the search engine agile coach whose primary skill was to google for answers and then spit it out to the team (or on blogs and social media showing your expertise), then it might be game over for you very soon.

Authentic Coaching Might Require AGI, Not AI

However, authentic agile coaching — the one that involves working with the team to take them towards high performance or drive a complex transformative organisational change is a different ballgame.

There are two things that I have seen differently in agile coaches who have successfully driven real change that AI, as we know it today, will take a really long time to muster. They actually would fall into the domain of Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), which is still a distant dream.

AGI is a machine that has the ability to understand or learn any intellectual task that a human being can, while AI is a machine that performs specific tasks well. [Agi Vs Ai — Alibaba Cloud]

That's a simplistic definition. However, I recently heard a fascinating podcast from 

Tim Ferriss, where David Deutsch shares an amazing anecdote to better understand the critical difference between AI and AGI.

When an AI chess player makes a move, it’s because it had calculated that if it makes the move and then somebody else makes a move, and it makes a move, and the other player makes a move, and so on, and then it works its way back by a long chain of reasoning to its fundamental motivation, which doesn’t change. It never thinks, “Oh, I’d rather play checkers instead,” or, which is more realistic, “I don’t so much care about winning. I love the game. I want to have a good game.”

Now, why an AI is the opposite to an AGI is that an AGI, as I said, can do anything, whereas an AI can only do the narrow thing that it’s supposed to do. A better chatbot is one that replies in good English, replies to the question you ask, can look things up for you, doesn’t say anything politically incorrect.

[David Deutsch and Naval Ravikant — The Fabric of Reality, The Importance of Disobedience, The Inevitability of Artificial General Intelligence, Finding Good Problems, Redefining Wealth, Foundations of True Knowledge, Harnessing Optimism, Quantum Computing, and More (#662) — The Blog of Author Tim Ferriss]

ChatGPT, in fact, is going a long way in ensuring that its AI is predictable — it does not discriminate or give answers that are biased or not in line with expectations — essentially, we are building bots that will do exactly what they are expected to do. [How OpenAI is trying to make ChatGPT safer and less biased | MIT Technology Review]

This means that the current generation of AI bots is still not close to "human abilities" — two of which I have found are extremely useful in driving change, especially when it's really complex.

Human Ability 1 — Disobedience and Defiance

A few years ago, I was invited to lead a large transformation program for one of the client's internal IT departments. This was a very traditional setup — archaic processes and leadership, especially the middle management, was very happy with the status quo. To cut a long story short, while I would not claim magical transformation, we did succeed in making a dent because of one quality that the team of coaches had. They were disobedient and defiant. The transformation team refused to accept the status quo and continued to push the boundaries in ingenious ways.

Returning to the example from David Deutsch, AI BOTs of today will not challenge the "leadership" and steer them away from just getting the "Agile Label" and explore ways to inculcate more agility.

That still will require a thinking human — that won't take no for an answer and push on.

Human Ability 2 — Creativity and Connecting The Dots

This quote from Steve Jobs is one of the best definitions of creativity I have seen. Coaching happens in such a complex arena that the ability to connect dots is paramount. Driving real change requires creativity. Today's specialised and narrow AI applications are not even remotely close to the human ability to be creative and connect the dots.

However, as Steve puts it, many humans are also linear and do not have enough diverse experiences to connect these dots. Those will be replaced.

Agile coaches that bring diverse experiences and have the thinking ability to connect the dots are still very much in the game.

The Wrap

The age of AI is just starting. We are still decades (or maybe years) away from designing systems like TARS and CASE, as shown in the movie Interstellar. However, we indeed are at the cusp of exciting possibilities in terms of what machines can do that bring to the fore the age-old question — what makes us human?

We cannot outsmart the machine in terms of speed or the ability to process a large amount of information, but human ingenuity is still our advantage. Let us strive hard to keep it that way.

Share this article

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

terms and condition.
  • No comments found

Share this article

Hrishikesh Karekar

Agile Expert

Hrishikesh is a Director, Financial Services BU at Capgemini. He has 19+ years of experience in IT software industry playing high responsibility roles as Agile Transformation Lead, Agile Coach, Program Manager, Delivery Manager, Technical Project Manager, Technical Lead & Software Engineer. Hrishikesh is passionate about building high performing teams, taking individuals and teams on a journey of excellence and satisfaction. His vision of Agile is not just about implementing effective, efficient and lean processes, but transforming people’s mindsets – to deliver better ROI and real business benefits. Hrishikesh holds a Bachelor of Engineering, Production Engineering from VJTI, University of Mumbai.

Cookies user prefences
We use cookies to ensure you to get the best experience on our website. If you decline the use of cookies, this website may not function as expected.
Accept all
Decline all
Read more
Tools used to analyze the data to measure the effectiveness of a website and to understand how it works.
Google Analytics