The agile coach is all about Agile. Agile is the reason we do what we do. Agile is a philosophy which appreciates its own set of values and follows its own principles. It is a mindset.
Agile is not just something we do. Agile is not a method, methodology, nor framework. It is not a set of processes and practices.
I already wrote about the Scrum Master role within an organisation – I believe some of the information provided below may be similar to the previous article. In this article, the focus is on the organisation as a whole and not a single team and its surroundings within the Scrum framework. Not all companies are using Scrum as their implementation of Agile values and principles. In such cases, Agile Coaching may be the answer. In others, it may be a good addition, how the organisation works.
True Agile Coach
Last time, I wrote about doing vs being agile. I believe you have to be both to create real change and achieve success. As Lyssa Adkins wrote:
Agile coaching is 40% doing and 60% being.Coach Agile Teams – Lyssa Adkins
Why am I writing about it in this article? Because Agile Coaching is built on these foundations. Agile Coaching is about who you are, your values and principles and your behaviour against your peers, within your teams and organisations where you work. These are more important than used tools and techniques.
Agile Coach should model Agile on all levels of his company and its surroundings. Agile is just another tool in toolbox alongside lean, complexity, systems thinking, soft skills, etc. I see one of the traits of great Agile Coaches is to switch between methodologies, mindsets and tools. Just anything to create a great environment, where people can grow and good behaviours can flourish.
Agile Coaching Institute distinguished eight groups of practices, on which Agile Coach may work and on which he should develop. These eight groups alone are big enough to notice that Agile Coaching is a vast concept. Good Agile Coach should have one competence from each quadrant – at least. Thanks to them, he can help in a different type of problems and act accordingly to the situation. I already described the top quadrant.
The right and left quadrants are important from one simple reason: they help people grow.
Teaching and mentoring
Agile Coach can work on all concepts by sharing his knowledge (teaching) and/or experience (mentor) in similar situations. These two are pretty straight-forward for anyone who worked before in an Agile environment. However, to work as an Agile Coach, you will need to put more effort into your surroundings and people living in this environment than just that. Teaching and mentoring are a great way to start – if you do now have any visible boundaries and you work with a group of people without real problems. You have to take into account that these learning methods may not be too effective for people who already have their own mindset hardened. They may have great effects in the short-run, but peoples may come back to the behaviour which they already used in the past and which worked for them. In that case, you will need different quadrant.
Coaching in the workplace is one of the best ways to build engagement and positive interactions within the organisation. Agile Coach should always put problems of their coachee first and help them grow. Thanks to coaching toolbox, Agile Coach can help to analyse their real issues, name them and plan how to deal with them. The coachee is a driver for these conversations. Agile Coach is just a passenger, and thanks to the usage of powerful questions can help the person-in-need find their solution.
Facilitation techniques can also help Agile Coach in their daily work. He should remain objective. Try to take a step back from the detailed content and your personal views, and focus purely on the group process. Similar to coaching – their success is more important than your own. Your key responsibility as a facilitator is to create this group process and an environment in which it can flourish, and so help the group reach a successful decision, solution or conclusion.
Road to become a master
And finally, we are under last quadrant – masteries. Here we are under “doing Agile” side of our original graph. As you can see, this part is also crucial in an Agile Coach job. Start where you are.
Did you start as a Project Manager or Scrum Master? Follow that path! Focus on empiricism and Scrum Values – try to live with them, help people grow and find a way to deliver real value to the users.
Did you start as a developer? Try to remember different techniques and methods which were helpful for you while you have been a programmer or tester. And by that, I mean communication as well. Remember that creating products is a team effort.
Did you start as a Business Analyst and then become a Product Owner? Try to master business agility to grab the highest value items on your road.
It does not matter where you started – all these paths may lead you to an Agile Coach role within your organisation.
An Agile Coach in your organisation
Now you may ask “why I need an Agile Coach in my organisation?”. I could not find any greater reason than helping in building high performing teams. Agile coaches activate the teams they coach to unlock their true potential and help them the pursuit of high performance. How? Each team builds their own path to greatness. As an explanation, I decided to use the below video to go into details:
Agile Coach = Scrum Master?
The Scrum Master role is often compared to Agile Coach role. And often the Scrum Master role is degraded when compared to Agile Coach role. And this shouldn’t be true!
An Agile Coach and a Scrum Master in some cases may be the same role. Both these roles should support individuals to create value from their work and help them unlock their potential. Scrum Master from the definition is more focused on the Scrum framework. Even if your organisation does not use Scrum framework extensively, you can still be a great addition to it by helping them to adapt Agile Mindset and then as one way of doing that – implement Scrum as well.
In some organisations where I worked, Scrum Masters work next to Agile Coaches. The reason for this is the complexity of modern organisations. Scrum Masters had limited ways to impact the organisation from their position because they are too busy on their teams and their surroundings than the organisation as a whole. That is often an Agile Coach’s job.
I believe this should be changed, not exploited – Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches should work together on an organisational level to build up its agility as a whole.
In the end, position in the company shouldn’t block us from doing our job – and both Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters should work to find the best way to help people in need (individuals, teams and organisations).
So if current company structure limits your ability to inspect and adapt – try to remove this impediment by working together as a team.
The Agile Coach role is specifically designed to be the guardian of performance and quality in an organization. Through his work and through being part in the systemic reduction of organizational impediments, organizations can build a sustainable agile mindset and values. This should harness change for good and create an environment within which results are delivered constantly.
- Coaching Agile Teams – by Lyssa Adkins
- Developing Great Agile Coaches – by Michael K. Spayd and Lyssa Adkins
- Agile Coaching Institute
- What Are the Differences Between Agile Coach & Scrum Master? – by Joshua Partogi