Bob Costello

Bob Costello, Senior Agile Coach with the Eliassen Group, Expert in leadership & team coaching and change management, Veteran leader in the software industry

#053: Coaching Agile Teams: From Being a Group to Becoming an Agile Team

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s featured guest and leading organizational coach Bob Costello—a Senior Agile Coach with the Eliassen Group—for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast!  Bob offers over 20 years experience in the software industry and has held leadership positions in both software startups and large organizations. He has a background in software development, product management, and engineering. For the last 8 years Bob has been helping organizations, both at the team and leadership levels, to make the transition to agile. Bob excels at helping organizations achieve both their business and organizational goals of an agile change program, with leadership coaching, team coaching and change management. He has a rich background of experience with IBM Design Studio, BlueCollar Objects, Akkolade Consulting, Valtech, ACS, CGI-AMS, BEA Systems, Deloitte, Next Software and more.

In this episode Bob shares his journey over the last 20 years rising up through the ranks in the software development industry to becoming an agile leadership and team coach.  Themes covered in the podcast include: working at NEXT Software with Steve Jobs; The Agile Manifesto; the changing operating context that catalyzed the agile movement; agile principles and practices; coaching agile mindsets vs. process; “being” vs. “doing” agile; using situational leadership for coaching agile leaders and teams; shared leadership in agile teams; the 4 SCRUM ceremonies; managing your role as an agile team coach; team maturity and development; agile teams as learning teams and more.  Bob also shares some great stories coaching agile teams as well as recommendations on books and team coach training programs that focus on agile.

All team coaches including both generalist practitioners as well as specialists in coaching agile teams will find Bob’s insights and lessons learned well worth the listen.  This is an episode that you will surely not want to miss!

Listen Now


Contact Bob


  1. Appelo, J. (2010). Management 3.0: Leading Agile Leaders, Developing Agile Leaders. Addison-Wesley Professional.
  2. ICAgile: Agile Coach Certification
  3. Adkins, L. (2010). Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition. Addison-Wesley Professional.
  4. Broza, G. (2015). The Agile Mind-Set: Making Agile Processes Work. Create Space Independent Publishing Platform.
  5. Agile Manifesto

Listen to the Episode:








  • Based in New Jersey
  • With the Eliassen Group based in Boston and Connecticut
  • Agile Coach and Consultant with over 20 years of experience in the software industry (Start ups and large organizations)
  • Focuses on leadership and team coaching as well as change management
  • Role as a father and husband has given insight into coaching
  • Enjoys kayaking and used to do triathlons, golf with friends, travel
  • Loves coaching, finds a lot of personal satisfaction. Goal as a coach is that teams find themselves better after the coaching experience

Journey into Coaching

  • After school was doing engineering, then took a more systems view of things and really enjoyed it; was working in start-ups where you learn to do every job, there’s a lot of direct communication because there’s more pressure
  • Worked for NEXT, Steve Jobs’ old company – created a culture of people who had similar beliefs, desires, and commitments to the organization. There was a culture of being challenged, to dive deeper – was one of the best work cultures
  • Moved from start-ups to marketing and consulting work
  • IT world started changing – people became commodities, dehumanized. Moved as a leader into own philosophical approach that was mindful and acknowledged employees as whole people. Saw that it made a difference in how people performed.
  • Book: Jurgen Appelo, Management 3.0
    • Perception of management today needs to change. Currently management philosophies are anchored in Newton’s physical laws. But the world is chaotic, changing all the time.


Agile Approach

  • 2001: software gurus got together in Utah with own methods of software development. The result of this meeting was the Agile Manifesto: set of principles and values people and interaction should be valued more than process and tools. Collaboration over negotiation. Working software over documentation. Reprioritization of beliefs. Assemble teams, support them, and let them work, self-manage, and self-organize.
  • Traditional approach to software development was the “waterfall” approach, didn’t accommodate dynamic environment
  • Had exposure to more object-oriented approach which wasn’t always effective, had potential to be adversarial as opposed to collaborative
  • Proposed Agile model on a project that wasn’t going well. Used “Take it to the Team” approach; asking individual team members to propose solutions
    • Saw an uptick in morale and engagement, smarter working
  • TCZ Episode 050: Doug MacKie, Strengths-based approach to team leadership and coaching
    • Evolutionary psychology – reverse-dominance leadership for most of our history; hierarchy is a more recent phenomenon
  • Differentiating between leadership and management
    • Leadership as a function vs. Leader as individual à can we move toward leadership as a collective function that can emerge from any part of the system?
    • Shared leadership model: opportunity for members of the team to take ownership and believe themselves to be a leader

Agile Process working with Teams

  • Coaching people to be on a team
  • Job as a coach is to coach mindset, not process
  • Understand why you’re there and what the goals of the organization are, alignment
  • Meet with leader/manager of the organization as a needs assessment and agreement
  • Team training, introducing Agile process (2-3 days)
    • Scrum is most popular
    • Set foundation for mindset change
    • Trust building with the group (Group -> Team)
    • Usually no team leader (just individual manager), so you become a leader
  • Four stages, ceremonies
  • Challenge: Individuals don’t always have confidence à create a leadership void and people step up
  • Defining how the team wants to work: What do “done” and “ready” mean?
  • Cycle of relationship with a team
    • At least 4-6 months before you see real progress in human relationships
  • Challenge: Role of manager of self-organizing teams?
    • Be a coach-leader
  • Systemic Team Coaching – Peter Hawkins
    • See a team as a whole, not the sum of its parts
    • Team acts based on feedback loops
  • Agile Team Maturity
    • Process: is the team dong the process?
    • Behavioral characteristics: indicators (e.g. lateness, reluctance to participate)
  • When coaching role comes to an end, hand off to managers to set up for continued success, leave a support infrastructure to allow the team to continue to grow
  • Situational Leadership: “Using Situational Leadership Theory for Coaching and Leading Agile Teams” – upcoming white paper and training
  • An agile team is a learning team: iterations à feedback à improved result
  • Warner Burke: working on learning agility on an individual and collective construct


Resources for Coaches

Advice for Team Coaches

  • Scrum framework very easy
  • There’s a difference between being agile and doing agile: focus on mindset, behaviors, and teams, not process
  • Less doing, more being


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