Agile Coaches Myth or Reality?

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).

SM Scrum Guide


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
  • Patient
  • Impartial
  • Humble & always learning
  • Respectful
  • Not so much directing, more guiding (i.e. helping people find ways/answers not giving answers)
  • Non-judgemental
  • 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”)

Quick re-cap:

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…


Could a Rugby player be a good Scrum Master? Let’s see what happens…

Today’s post is related with Scrum Masters. Well, in this case with a specific type of Scrum Master.

You might be asking why I’m writing about them, since I never wrote anything related with Scrum Masters. Well… Today I have a funny reason.

Today, I had a friend from work (Melvyn Bulkes | Agile Coach) that during our coffee break he said that he would like to share with me a really funny video about a crazy Scrum Master that he found on Youtube. At the beginning I didn’t believed him until I saw the video that he was talking about. The video was so great and funny that I decided to share with you too.

So, to start I think that we need to know the origin of the word Scrum.

“A Scrum (short for Scrummage) is a method of restarting play in rugby that involves players packing closely together with their heads down and attempting to gain possession of the ball.” [1]

And since we are talking about Scrum and Rugby, what do you think that could happen if we had a Rugby player as Scrum Master?

Let’s see what happens…

Did you enjoy the video? Now I have a quick challenge to you that comes down to one question only:

  • What do you think about this Scrum Master? 😉


[1] Wikipedia | Scrum (Rugby)


Lean Coffee Portugal first year Retrospective

Today’s post is related with the Lean Coffee Portugal Community and the first full year retrospective.

Logo Portugal

In order to give you some context, more than one year ago to be more precise December 2014 a group of 4 people started a community (Lean Coffee Porto) with the following mission, objectives and values:


After few months and with the continuous success was decided to embrace a new challenge and start the Lean Coffee Braga.

During this time something magic happen. We started to have more and more people committed to keep making this a success every month and with the motivation to make this community growth at a fast pace.

So, today at less than one week for the next Lean Coffee Session (28th of Jan at Blip) I’m happy to share some numbers that I believe that shows everyone feedback about the community.

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 13.43.53

Screen Shot 2016-01-23 at 13.43.35

At this point I only have one final question. 😉

Are you joining us in the next session in Feb 2016?

If yes, see you there!

SGRIO2016 Brazil :: TALK Why for Some Product Owners and Stakeholders Agile is Like Crossing Over to the Twilight Zone

Today it´s really my day!

Is with great pleasure that I found today that:

“Nós recebemos muito mais submissões do que os 42 slots disponíveis para o evento e o processo de seleção foi extremamente difícil e cuidadoso. Foram 5 submissões para cada vaga.

A equipe de revisão das sessões do SGRIO2016 usou critérios como relevância do tema, experiência do palestrante, conteúdo proposto e alinhamento com as expectativas do evento, entre outros. É sempre importante ter um equilíbrio na quantidade de palestras por trilha e naturalmente algumas trilhas são mais concorridas do que as outras, o que torna o trabalho do time de avaliação ainda maior. Após algumas rodadas de votações, chegamos a uma lista final com as 42 sessões selecionadas.

PARABÉNS, sua sessão (Why for Some Product Owners and Stakeholders Agile is Like Crossing Over to the Twilight Zone) foi selecionada para o Regional Scrum Gathering Rio 2016!”.

Know the sort translation:

“CONGRATULATIONS , your talk (Why for Some Product Owners and Stakeholders Agile is Like Crossing Over to the Twilight Zone) has been selected for the Scrum Gathering Rio 2016!”

I’m extremely happy to be one of the speakers for the SGRIO2016.

Nevertheless, now is time to start working and find sponsors for the trip 😉

Agile Mammoths Games 2016 Cluj-Napoca Romania :: Talk Agile Champions the new Change Agents!

Was with great pleasure that today I was invited to present my talk “Agile Champions the new Change Agents” at Agile Mammoths Games 2016 Cluj-Napoca Romania.

The conference will be on 11th of March 2016 and I’m really happy to be one of the speakers for this conference. Nevertheless, share and learn with everyone!

See you there 😉

Adopting Agile Scrum (With caution) by Bogdan Suteu

Some time ago (November Last Year 2015) I’ve challenged a friend that is a Scrum Master (Bogdan Suteu) to write an article sharing some of his past experiences.

The result from the invitation was that he accepted the challenge and today I’m sharing his article as invited writer from this Blog.

It’s a really interesting article since we have some good points that we should keep in mind when we are helping a team or business during their transition to adopt Agile Scrum.

Having said this, please find the article below:

Nowadays, everyone uses the word “Agile”, “We are Agile”, almost to the exhaustion. But my question is… Do they know and understand what they are saying and what it means?

For that, I must explain you what is in my mind!

What makes any business powerful and competitive is their ability to constantly adapt to market change, while delivering quality products. Agile Software Delivery with its Scrum flavour give us the tools for having high performant teams with the availability to have a fast, high quality and perfomance delivery this way being able to achieve highest customers satisfaction.

Nevertheless, being transparent, adaptive, responsive to change and able to deliver at pace may be everyone’s dream, and yet a lot of teams and business are reluctant in adopting an Agile Scrum approach for Software Delivery.

As a result, I truly believe that ,we shouldn’t use Agile because is the new buzz word in the industry and because everyone is using it. We should use Agile Methodology in order to survive in this industry, but most of all be competitive and be ahead of the competition. Yes, that’s right. To survive in this wild, dynamic and competitive market/world. So, if you really want to succeed, you need to be able to get outside your comfort zone and take actions.

Agile is much more than having iterations, a definition of done, product backlog refinement meetings and so on. Agile means a cultural change at an organisational level, where people start to take ownership of their commitments and actions, and also, start to reflect on the way they think and work.

In the context of Agile Scrum adoption, there is no “smooth sailing” all the time. From my experience by working with scrum teams, I identified some anti-patterns that can make everyone transition/adoption more difficult.

1) One pitfall is to implement Agile for solving problems that don’t require Agile in order to be solved (Depicted below), on top of this, create performance metrics focused on data that is not accurate or reliable. Taking actions based on those metrics, will lead to a failed Agile transition/adoption.

Applying Agile Framworks

2) Trying to change every single issue that you’ve found really quickly, can lead to failure. Agile comes with a lot of benefits but also creates a lot of transparency, awareness and bad pattern revealing. Setting realistic actions and timeframe for implementing them will make people to be open and to get outside their comfort zone easier.

3) Agile Implementation & Support must come from top to bottom in an organisation. People need to be encouraged to share their lesson learned, and to feel that every mistake has the benefit of generating feedback &more powerful teams. Removing the “pointing finger/blaming culture” and trying to promote team spirit together with a culture of winning together / loosing together must first come from the top management. Do not be afraid of failing, but learn from your experience and each time, take actions.

4) Micromanagement days should be over! We should have small, but solid steps in creating self-organizing teams that can deliver valuable software each iteration. The management should create the safe environment and act as an enabler for those teams.

5) The term of a Cross functional team can be really misunderstood. Try to encourage “T shaped people” to step in. For example, one backend team member can change a label on a contact form. Encourage those types of inter-technology mix. Do not abuse of that from the very beginning, but make sure that you have willingness needed in the team.

6) First and foremost always try to keep delivering High Quality. Try to reach a sustainable pace while delivering high quality products. What’s not done, almost done or done but with “minor” defects (according to team’s definition of done) should be moved back into the project backlog. Try not to split established units of work or to create defects just to cover for “almost done” work. This is just enormous source of debate and politics. And it’s misleading for everybody.

7) Even if we implement everything with caution, with small solid steps, eventually Agile is not for everyone and we can expect that some people will not be on board. It demands an extra effort to leave comfort zone and maybe leaving your ego at the door.

8) Be flexible and patient. 😉 That’s so easy to say, but if you want to have most of the crew on board, you need from time to time to adjust and refine your agile processes. Change the retrospective format, cancel a product refinement meeting in a busy day, bring chocolate to the retrospectives, and be sincere and empathic.

So, is your organisation up to the challenge?

My feedback is that is really an interesting article showing his past experience and point of view. I hope that you enjoy reading it like I did.

The Scrum Year Retrospective by Nuno Gouveia

Today, is the last day of the year 2015 and there is nothing better than talk about Retrospectives. Having this said, this time I’m not writing one of my articles but instead I would like to share with you an article written by my friend Nuno Gouveia (Scrum Master from the Avengers Team).

After reading his article “The Scrum Year Retrospective” I thought that was really great to share with you their idea on how they could keep improving as well their experience regarding the Scrum Year Retrospective. Not forgetting the outcome results and feedback from this experience.

For me it’s really amazing when we see teams with this innovation spirit. In other words, not having afraid to fail and with continuous improvement as a team value.

Having said this, please find the article below:

I’ve been acting as Scrum Master for my team (Avengers) for the past few months. Just to give some context, we are a team with some experience with Scrum and some of us have been working together for about 2 years now. Our retrospectives usually have a lot of good discussions and I like to believe that we are not the type of team that sweeps stuff under the rug. Our biggest problem is really that sometimes we discuss so much that we start deviating from the issues at hand. With that in mind, on my first retrospectives as a Scrum Master I tried not to change too much from what was the routine retrospective (+/- board with post-its) and focused instead on trying to not let the team scatter too much on the issues being discussed.

For the past 2 sprints I’ve been working with another team member that is also acting as Scrum Master, so we can say we are a kind of a Scrum Master’s team. The experience has been very good and last sprint, we had a great idea for a retrospective and this post is to share that experience.

The idea
The idea was to do a year review or year end retrospective. This seemed a great idea but there was a big problem: if sometimes in the sprint retrospective we have a hard time remembering everything that happened in the last 2 weeks, how would we remember all that has happened during one entire year? To solve that problem we had the idea to do a year timeline that could represent all the main events that had happened during that time. So a couple of hours before the retrospective we (the Scrum Master Team) tried to capture the most outstanding events from each sprint. We also decided to take screenshots from the most important product features we developed. We assembled the timeline on a big paper just a few minutes before the retrospective and then called everyone into the room (the result is the image in the cover of this post).

Year Retrospective

We started by explaining what was going to happen to the rest of the team. We told the team that besides our usual sprint retrospective we would also do a retrospective of the entire year. After that we unveiled the year timeline and everyone looked quite surprised! We went over the timeline together and while at it we decided (with the team’s input) to add the time of the year when the team new members joined in. After that we gave everyone around 10 minutes to write post-its for good and bad things that had happened during the last sprint or the entire year.

There were a lot of post-its both from the last sprint and from the entire year and that generated a lot of discussion, and it was the first retrospective where the number of post-its for good things exceeded the bad ones! It was very good to revisit some old discussions and try to get closure in others. We have been improving as a team with each sprint retrospective, but this was a totally different experience that allowed us to step back and realise how far we had come since the beginning of the year.

In the end it was an amazing experience and we had a very good feedback from the team. If you haven’t done something similar yet I would recommend that you try this with your team, either to close this year or to start the new one!

Good 2016!


My feedback from this is simple: Great article. I hope that you enjoy reading it like I did.

See more at: The Scrum Year Retrospective by Nuno Gouveia