What is an Agile Coach and Why do you need one?

What is an Agile Coach and Why do you need one?

What is an Agile Coach?
An Agile Coach helps organizations, teams, and individuals adopt agile practices and methods while embedding agile values and mindsets. The goal of an agile coach is to foster more effective, transparent, and cohesive teams, and to enable better outcomes, solutions, and products/services for customers. – 2021 State of Agile Coaching Report

In essence, we help lead leaders and teams towards a more collaborative value focused way of working using the agile mindsets, practices and methods which enable organizations, teams and individuals better adapt to and respond to change.

Why do I need an Agile Coach?
Adopting agile mindsets, practices and methods requires a shift in thinking. You cannot simply “do” agile, you also have to think differently to really understand how agile works. And that is where agile becomes challenging and that’s where Agile Coaches come in. We help organizations, individuals, and teams embrace the culture shift needed to be successful at Agile. The culture shift helps make the Agile practices and methods stick.

What should I look for in an Agile Coach?
There are many different types of Agile Coaches out there, but the Agile Coaches that add value to your transformation efforts will be coaches that have the following traits:

  • They build an environment of trust so that innovation and collaboration across leaders and teams can occur.
  • They know more than one agile framework (scrum, kanaban, scaled agile, disciplined agile delivery to name a few).
  • They listen actively and are curious.
  • They are patient. They understand that culture change that sticks takes time.
  • They are positive and inspire transformational growth in the individuals and teams they coach.
  • They seek to partner with you, your teams and co-design an agile transformation approach that makes sense to your culture and strategic plan.
  • They are organized and help layout an agile transformation plan.
  • They enable teams to work on problems collaboratively and instill a continuous improvement mindset and culture.
  • They are not afraid to experiment and try ideas to see what works for the culture and organization.
  • They can mentor and teach your teams so that learning sticks.
  • They may not have all the anwers, but can discover solutions together with you to the problems you face.
  • They can inspire and grow the agile coaching talent across the organization and teams.

What’s the difference between an Agile Coach and a Scrum Master?
Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters play very important yet different roles in your Agile Transformation. Both the Agile Coach and Scrum Master will help your organization develop and Agile mindset and culture. They both use similar coaching methods to shift mindsets and ways of working. The difference between them lies in their scope.

Agile Coaches are not part of a specific team. They have an independent role and will coach leaders, change agents (such as a scrum master or coach) and several teams. The Agile Coach is framework agnostic – meaning the Agile Coach will have knowledge of multiple agile frameworks and take more of a systems view to formulate a transformation plan for the teams, leaders and/or organization. The Agile Coach will setup the environment for a set of teams from the culture, practices, governance and Application Lifecycle Management and Collaboration tooling (ie: JIRA Align, JIRA, Confluence, TFS). Agile Coaches operate at all levels of the organization: Enterprise, Team of Teams and Team. Agile Coaches contribute to the Lean Agile Center of Excellence and build out a set of Agile Transformation guidelines for leaders, change agents and teams to follow. The career path for an Agile Coach is to start with a set of teams and then progressively move towards leadership coaching at an enterprise level.

Scrum Masters hold a very specific role that is part of the Scrum Team. They are embedded in a team and focus on ensuring the team works in a way that follows the Scrum Framework while ensuring that the team is collaborating and continuously improving. They work with the Agile Coaches to understand and contribute to the guidelines set by the Enterprise Agile Coaches/ Agile PMO/ Lean Agile Center of Excellence. They help the team focus by removing impediments that stop the team from continuously improving and delivering value to the customers. The career path for a Scrum Master is to start with a team and then progressively move towards multi-team coaching. Often Scrum Masters will move towards the Agile Coaching role.

Do I need both roles?
If you are serious about changing your culture to an Agile Culture and you have teams that are wanting to implement the Scrum Framework, yes you do. Both roles will support each other and offer your organization much success in moving to an Agile Culture that can respond to change faster and deliver value to the customer while continuously learning, growing and improving.

Never stop exploring this world called “Agile”!