Ferguson never touched the ball

· December 23, 2014

I’m a coach for teams and organizations. At many of my clients I don’t do anything… Or I’m not typing code maybe is a way of formulating it since I’m very much involved in what goes on (and I also want other companies to hire me).

But really I’ve had a hard time to come to grips with what I’m really doing. Many days is just listening (really just that) or maybe make sure that two people talk. Other days it might be sitting down with someone and think. Or redraw a board that we decided to do but everyone found to boring. I’ve also done training, or suggested other trainers to come by or even suggested that we’d just try something new, like mob programming.

But I’m quite often not very busy and when you look back in what is produced it’s hard to see my foot print (very few check-ins under my name for example).

So what good am I? What do I do? How could you measure the effect of having someone like me in the team, at the company?


Two thoughts goes through my head when I think about this. First a quote by Woody Zuill

Busyness is not good for business

That Woody Zuill © ® and all that on that quote folks, I’m merely citing this great formulation :)

What it means? Well ask Woody he’s the one … No - really it talks about many organizations, in many industries, are very worried about keeping people busy, making sure that they are an activated resource (to use the language of the The Goal). More so in fact than to focus on getting work completed.

This is effective vs efficient all over again. But I’ve seen it so many times. When ideas are proposed that takes people away from being busy for the greater good of flowing work through the process faster. If you ever tried to introduce Pair Programming or Mob Programming to someone you understand what I mean:

“WHAT?! One keyboard - two people?! So there’s only one guy typing? Why on earth would you do that?”

“GET OUT?! One keyboard - an entire team? That is simply not efficient.”

Even when we see the effectiveness of things like mob programming (for example, insert whatever technique that focus on effectiveness here) it’s often questioned:

“Ok, that was awesome. But does it really have to be the entire team? Maybe if we split it up a bit.”

“Yeah, I see the use of an agile coach - but cannot he code too? So that he’s productive.”

No - I’m not busy at my clients. Busy typing that is. But very few clients I work for sells keystrokes. KPM (key strokes per minute) is not their best effectiveness measurement. Programming is not typing.


I’m a coach for teams and organizations. The coach term is borrowed from the world of sports. Let’s take Alex Ferguson as an example, the wonder-making coach of Manchester United from 1986 to 2013. Under this time Manchester United went from a mediocre team and became one of the best in the world. The other day something dawned on me.

Ferguson never touched the ball

He didn’t score a single goal. He did not catch any balls from going into their own goal either. He didn’t even hit a really bad pass. He didn’t produce a single thing. On the field.

So what use was he? How would you know if Man Utd where better off without him?

Put shortly: they didn’t. But the results during this period was extraordinary. The output of the system was great. He had a part in making it so. Man Utd thought it was worth it. But he didn’t touch the ball.

I don’t type code, but maybe I can help, assist, facilitate and challenge the people in the orgnization to make the output of the system better. If not - please let me go to another place. That will be better for both you and me.

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