What is Agile Coaching for me?
Agile coaches coach individuals, delivery teams, and enterprises to bring culture change, adopt agile-based delivery, and facilitate mindset change. An agile coach operating at the enterprise level may have a different approach to help an organization transition to an agile way of working vs. an agile coach coaching a product delivery team to reduce time to market. An agile team coach job may look like a scrum master job because a scrum master is also an agile coach. A successful scrum master goes beyond facilitating scrum events and removing impediments to coaching and mentoring teams on a self-management journey guided by empiricism, scrum values, agile values & principles. Along the way, coaches hold the bigger view of wanted change, even when others may have lost sight. Agile coaches work as:
- The facilitator facilitates change, facilitates events, facilitates team decisions, facilitates conflict resolutions, and impediments removal.
- The Teacher teaches agile values & principles to everyone within an organization, teaches process frameworks and practices, and helps learn supportive approaches such as Kanban, DevOps, design thinking, etc.
- The coach coaches individuals and groups to unleash their potential to challenges old behaviour and adopt new. Most coaches practice 11 core ICF competencies, including active listening, powerful questioning, direct communication, creating awareness, designing actions, and managing progress and accountability.
- The mentor design and execute a mentoring program for the mentees. It is unlike coaching, where coaches help the coachee to uncover their potentials. There are various mentoring models, starting from 1:1 mentoring, group mentoring, and reverse mentoring. Usually, it is a long-term program that gets executed in a combination of formal and informal mentoring sessions.
- An expert consultant consults to bring change in practices, processes, tools, culture, and mindset by guiding individuals, teams, and organizations.
What is needed to be a successful agile coach?
Agile coaches work with individuals, teams, and stakeholders to design a new way of working to embrace enterprise agility and guide, coach, consult, and mentor them on:
- Agile values and principles
- Lean thinking and system thinking
- Various frameworks and methods
- Development practices
- Engineering culture
To become a successful agile coach, one should embody agile values and principles and demonstrate the same. Have in-depth knowledge of a few frameworks such as Scrum, Large-Scale Scrum, Lean Software Development, and Extreme Programming. Coaching helps move from current state to future state, so it is essential to know how to assess current reality and design a roadmap for change.
What type of coaching requirement available?
Enterprise Agile Transformation Coach
Enterprise means the whole organization, not just the IT department. Agile transformation means developing the ability to respond to change in the organization. In other words, I am talking about business agility.
An enterprise may have thousands of employees, industrial HR policies, rigid PMO, and legacy processes. Such enterprises usually choose to invite big consulting firms to help them in the transformation journey. Few companies take an alternative path and hire an external coach to consult executives.
Executives take help from coaches to design change roadmap and execute themselves.
If you are an expert in organization design, preparing a strategy for change, and have a systemic view, this might be an area to explore. I will not advise this kind of coaching unless you have experience in dealing with executives.
Independent Agile Delivery Coach
An individual takes up coaching work for an organization but focuses on delivery rather than strategy. They are helping a few teams in the transformation journey where the consulting companies draw plans and execution done by these coaches. Coaches are not free to experiment at large and having some reporting structure.
Like the organization has decided to implement SAFe, and these coaches are working as RTE, or someone has designed own methodologies where these Certified Agile Coaches are working with a team to adopt new methods.
I have seen good coaches doing wonderful jobs by finding ways to coach, teach, and mentor people within those constraints.
A Full-time Agile Coach
An organization hires external or develop internal agile coaches to sustain change. That doesn’t mean they don’t hire to initiate change, but it is more about sustainability. I hear from many that change through internal coaches is slower than getting external coaches to start. Although I don’t wholly agree with this view, I have seen a couple of organizations driving change altogether by hiring full-time internal agile coaches.
Developing internal coaches through long-term mentoring or executing a coach-the-coaches program is an outstanding practice. I have witnessed and have organized many short-term and long-term mentoring programs to help individuals such as middle managers, project/program managers, and engineering managers to shifting into an agile coach’s role. I highly recommend such mentoring programs for every organization going through an agile transformation.
How can I become an agile coach?
It is highly advisable to start your agile coaching journey with yourself first, next is team coaching, and then get into enterprise/business agility coach or consultant. I usually recommend the below path to people who would like to move into an agile coach role.
Learn Scrum and play the role of Scrum Master for a few years:
It is not necessary to start your agile journey with the Scrum framework. You can begin with Extreme Programming (XP), Kanban, SAFe, or any other frameworks and look for a similar role that talks about facilitation and teaching. Scrum is the most popular framework, so the majority start by learning the Profession Scrum Master.
Gain insight into what a product owner/ business owner does
It helps facilitate change with a product owner by having collective ownership. It becomes helpful while mentoring new product owners and guiding them about the expectation of a product owner.
Take deep dive into technical mastery
It is to coach your development team as a technical coach. It is not about you should always write code, design test automation framework, or configure CI/CD pipeline, but it is more to guide your team on the path of technical excellence. Coaches should know to the level that helps challenge the status quo by asking the right questions and understanding the purpose of technical agility.
Finally, take a deep dive into system thinking, lean thinking, organization change model, facilitation techniques, and various mentoring types.
I organize mentoring sessions every year for agile coaches, product owners, and scrum masters through the Agile 30 Community.
Naveen is a Lean-Agile Coach, Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) and Internationally acclaimed Speaker in many Conferences and Agile events. He has over 22 years of experience in multiple domains and he is a Certified LeSS Practitioner (Large-Scale Scrum) and one of the early adopters of DevOps practices and teaches DevOps culture around the Globe.