This article is really interesting since the subject to write about this was born during one of the Lean Coffee Portugal sessions when someone raised the subject/question “What is a difference between a Scrum Master and an Agile Coach?”.
Meanwhile, seeing as this can potentially be a long and interesting debated subject after chatting with my colleague Cornelius Engelbrecht I decided talk with him if he would like to accept the challenge. That he did 😉
So, we would like to start with a quick question where you ask yourself:
“What is an Agile Coach? Are they a myth or reality?”
The reason why we are asking this is because we can say that Agile Coach is a recent role and when we say this we are talking a few years and not like Developer or Project Manager that are with us for a long period of time.
Also, we think that we have people that are confused regarding the role definition and what are the best characteristics for a good Agile Coach.
To start we want to give you some context behind our opinions. We are not sure if you realised that nowadays everyone have on their LinkedIn, CV or role Agile Coach. But do they know what is the real Agile Coach role?
Well… We can say that we became curious, so we started to dig and get more information around the label Agile Coach. Our first approach was discuss this topic with a lot of people around the world and by coincidence or not, we had the need to also hire Agile Coach’s for my team.
What we discovered was kind of funny. Well… Not funny but curious.
- People that updated their role after reading Agile books.
- People that use the label on their current role even what they do is not related.
- People that use the table Agile Coach since they don’t like the name Scrum Master.
- People using the table Agile Coach since in Kanban there is no Scrum Master.
- Role updated just to apply to a job without any experience.
- People who collect certifications to prove they are a Coach.
- The main reason we see is people that updated their role because everyone is doing it (Buzz word from the moment).
So, we would like to return to the question made during the Lean Coffee Portugal session by providing the definition of what is a Scrum Master and as you can see we don’t need to invent the well since is already well defined as we can see by the Scrum Guide definition (image below).
Now let’s have a look at the Agile Coach role from our perspective:
An Agile Coach helps individuals/teams/departments/organisations so they can become better and be proud of what they do. One does this through being a guide & change agent who applies Lean/Agile/Continuous Improvement practices which are relevant to people’s journey.
Attributes of an Agile Coach:
- Great listener
- Humble & always learning
- Not so much directing, more guiding (i.e. helping people find ways/answers not giving answers)
- Fearless (i.e. able to communicate with confidence at all levels in the organisation be it CEO, management and team members)
- Flexible (“being able to think outside the box”)
Scrum Master is mainly focused on guiding one/two teams (including Product Owner) in using Scrum. Agile Coach is a very different role whereby he/she has a wider organisational view when coaching individuals/teams/organisations on improving (becoming better at what they are doing) whilst using Lean/Agile/Continuous Improvement practices.
Why did we want to become an Agile Coach?
Funny enough we did not know we wanted to become coaches, what we wanted is to improve our ability to help people in achieving more. We started to look into why people understand, react, how they learn, absorb and believe in what they do and how to embrace change – this is where it began for us…