Here are a few pointers that will help you identify rotten eggs - i.e. you can be almost certain that after the consultants leave, the show will be over, and best case you've only wasted money for nothing.
#1 - Lack of Battle ScarsHaving the seniority to assist another organization in their agile transformation, the coach should have a lot of war stories to tell. Stories of experiments, pitfalls, troubles, joyful moments and cheerful victories. Stories of what they have experienced firsthand (not hearsay!).
What people tried, what they set out and where they landed - the differences between intent and destination, the obstacles and dangers on the journey - the small nudges that made the difference and so on.
If you see that the coach either has little to say from personal experience or is only quoting others ("double-hearsay"), beware!
#2 - A shelf full of solutionsIt doesn't matter what your problem is, they already have the bottled solution ready! Just follow their advice, and you will become Agile. NOT!
Especially when they promote solutions as a silver bullet, i.e. universally applicable without concerns for context - you're in for trouble.
#3 - Change without changeFollowing pre-concocted agendas, outlining the change on fancy slide decks without ever talking to the people doing the actual work or knowing the real struggles they have isn't going to work.
The first three questions I would expect to ask: "Why would you want to become Agile?", "What will be different in a year?" and "What have you tried so far?".
If there are no comprehensible answers to these three questions: what exactly do you expect as a result?
#4 - Not rocking the boatMany experienced consultants have learned to avoid challenging status quo and messing with people in positions of power. This is a great approach to maximize the amount of billable hours and to please those who decide whether their contract will be renewed.
As attributed to Einstein, "Problems can not be solved with the same mindset that created them.", it's essential to rock the boat - to identify and tell people about the root cause assumptions which lead to the problems that an agile transformation is supposed to solve. And if key decision makers aren't aware how they are contributing to the problem - how would they know what they must change to solve it?
Consultants who only compliments senior management aren't going to make an impact.
#5 - We've got this!Probably the killer criterion for spotting fake coaches: They can do it by themselves! They have so much experience and expertise that whatever is brought to them, they have the right answer. Senior management doesn't need to involve at all, because the coach knows how to handle everything. Teams don't need to worry, because the coach will teach them everything they need to know.
The coach who offers the solution without teaching you how to find your own solution - doesn't help you learn, and if you don't become a learning organization, you're not going to be agile.
ConclusionI would like to conclude with my favorite TheraminTrees quote, "People who don't want you to think are never your friends!"
A "coach" who doesn't make you think and challenge how you think - is the wrong coach.
Let's fix this: Here are ten signs you might just have found the right coach!