I have seen many discussions, course promotions and certifications for professionals looking to become an agile coach.
Looking at these promotions you will believe that after taking these courses and certifications you will be able to get a job as an agile coach and make $100,000 a year. Looks tempting, don’t you think?
But reality is quite different from ‘theory’. In fact, an agile coach needs much more than a few weeks or months to develop. It takes a lot of experience and a lot of study to be considered an Agile Coach.
Let me try to clear up a few things so you don’t get confused about the role of an Agile Coach.
What is an agile coach?
According to the definition given by the Agile Alliance, a “coach is a facilitator and advisor, working with teams to help them achieve their goals. Coaches help teams work through their challenges, make better decisions, and become more effective.”
As a general rule, an agile coach helps organizations implement agile culture. Note that I said, “agile” and not the scrum.
Many people think that an Agile Coach is a super Scrum Master
The ultimate goal of the agile coach is to help teams develop the knowledge, adopt the tools, and deliver the right training so they can use agile to its fullest potential.
An agile coach is, above all, a professional in project management, capable of aligning teams with the organization’s agile values and concepts. Understand by agile values the four statements of the agile manifesto:
- Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
- Working software over comprehensive documentation.
- Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
- Responding to change over following a plan.
There is no rule saying that an agile coach has to be an employee or a consultant, but according to research the vast majority of agile coaches are professionals hired on a temporary basis.
The main actions of agile coaches are identified in 5 areas:
- Building agility across the organization
- Improve communication, collaboration and transparency
- Focus on delivery, speed and quality
- Development of individual, team and organizational metrics
- Change in managerial mindset
An agile coach is the same as a scrum master?
An agile coach can be a scrum master, but a scrum master is not an agile coach. An agile coach has an influence throughout the organization, while a scrum master is more scrum team oriented.
A scrum master is a professional with an exclusive focus on adopting the scrum framework.
Here we are talking about agility, which goes far beyond the simple adoption of scrum in the company.
An agile coach must master agile frameworks, must master processes and techniques for managing individual, team and organizational changes.
As a general rule, an agile coach will guide the work of scrum masters, product owners, development teams and all other professionals involved in the adoption of agile methods in projects and activities.
It’s like a football coach.
He does not play the game. He is on the side giving directions and changing the team’s strategy.
He cannot be a person who looks only to one team position, such as defense or attack. The coach has to have an overview of the game and know all his players to know the best moment to use each one of them to win the game.
When we talk about agility, we can use several other tools and methods, such as kanban, SAFe, LeSS, etc. Remember the football team: we need defenders, attackers, midfielders, wingers, etc.
If we continue our analogy with a football team, the scrum master would be the team’s main striker, perhaps the team’s captain, as he will guide his team to correctly adopt an agile model (in this case scrum).
How to become an agile coach?
Let me tell you something that will really surprise you – according to a survey with 681 professionals in 51 different countries, only 33% of respondents said they had some training or certification in coaching.
This means that most people who ‘call themselves agile coaches’ do not have the minimum level of qualification or certification to coach people.
86% of all respondents reported holding one or more agile certifications.
Becoming an Agile Coach is a long-term journey. A professional seeking this qualification needs to dedicate himself for a long time and obtain various certifications and training.
There are two areas that you need to pay special attention to: agile management and coaching.
Of course, a good agile coach has to master the scrum framework. Ideally, he should have the scrum master certification and even the product owner certification. Other certifications are also recommended like Kanban, SAFe and I would even say PMP certification.
But, you will never be an agile coach if you don’t have a ‘coaching certificate’. These are some of the best certifications in coaching agile:
- ICP-ATF (ICAgile- Agile Team Facilitation)
- ICP-ACC (ICAgile- Agile Certified Coach)
- Scrum Alliance Certified Team Coach® (CTC)
An agile coach is a professional who spends a lot of time on learning and personal development. He or she is in a constant learning process.
Consider this phase as the training period of a football team. If you notice, a player spends more time training than playing officially.
I’m not saying that you should spend more time studying than working, but you should devote considerable time to developing new skills and knowledge to apply during your coaching sessions.
But, you should be asking: what kind of knowledge should I put more effort to become a good agile coach?
According to the same survey, 56% of professionals dedicate their time to developing new skills to better serve the organization as a whole.
54% seek to develop coaching skills and 33% seek to learn more in depth agile methods and practices.
It is also important to take the time to develop facilitation, teaching and mentoring skills.
Can I start my career as an agile coach?
Agile coach is not a career for beginners. Agile coach is an intermediate or advanced level in your career.
Does this mean you should give up being an agile coach? Absolutely not.
As in any profession, becoming a coach or consultant is a matter of time and dedication.
No professional starts by the end. You have to get experience, develop skills, increase your knowledge of agility.
Start learning the agile frameworks: Scrum, Kanban, DevOps, eXtreme Programing (XP), SAFe, LeSS, etc
This will give you a big picture of some of the frameworks and tools you can adopt when coaching an agile organization.
As most organizations are currently adopting scrum, I strongly recommend that you devote more attention to this framework. Become a certified Scrum Master and/or Product Owner.
Learn to scale Scrum. SAFe, Nexio and Less can help you understand scrum scalability.
Very important: Get involved in the Agile Coaching community.
This will keep you up to date with current events and trends.
You will learn new ideas and best practices from your peers in this domain.
They will see that you are committed to adopting agile in your career, and they will be able to open doors to your next contract.
If you want to be an eagle, don’t live with chickens.
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