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What Is an Agile Coach and How to Become One?

We often hear the word ‘Coach’ in the field of Sports like Football Coach, Cricket Coach, Tennis Coach. Off late, we have been hearing about the word ‘Coach’ in different fields like healthcare, Enterprise, Leadership, Personal, Team, Strategy etc. 

Who is a ‘Coach’?

Coach is the one who has immense knowledge, wisdom and command over the subject and can guide and enable people to address their problems and achieve greater heights. He coaches, mentors, gives feedback and brings the best out from his ‘Coachee’.

Coach is the one who:

  • observes
  • gives feedback
  • enables you to find the solution

Anybody who wish to EXCEL in their profession (which they are already good at) needs a coach. Coach helps to rectify the current practices followed, enable them to address and overcome the issues or blockers.

In the technical fields – such as Software/hardware/ embedded/mechanical industries that are following Agile practices, we often get to hear the term Agile Coach’. 

Organizations who wish to excel the Business Agility would need Agile Coaches.

Charles Darwin’s quoted – ‘Survival of the fittest’, centuries ago, the very said quote applies to current businesses too. Whoever can manage the competition and address the ever-demanding customer requests effectively, can only survive in the industry. Agile helps organization to quickly deliver value with high quality to customer in incremental way. It also helps in addressing the ever changing demands by the customer.

As we all know, ‘Agile’ is 4 values and 12 principles, that was initially introduced to enhance the Software development process, later got adopted by different industries. Agile focuses on ‘Incremental value delivery’ to the customer through ‘Iterative approach’. 

Agile would accommodate the changing needs of the customer, teams work in smaller groups which are cross functional and self-sustained. Value is delivered in smaller increments to customers, than a everything being delivered at one shot at the end. 

Agile Teams would Design, Develop, Test and Release to Customer in a time span of 2 weeks, which is called as Sprints/Iterations. 

Feedback is collected at regular intervals from the customer and incorporated effectively.

What is the need of an ‘Agile Coach’?

In large organizations, which are transitioning towards Agile from conventional or waterfall, there is a need to educate the employees/teams about the purpose behind the Agile transformation.

Then Educate the teams on ‘Agile Principles’ and then implement them in the daily practices, include the relevant Scrum processes, support the teams throughout the transformation journey, collect customer feedback at regular intervals and incorporate them in the upcoming iterations.

To execute these things, we need very good Agile Coaches.

What are the Attributes of a Good Agile Coach?

A person who has had a good experience in Practicing Agile, has good facilitation skills and has experience in coaching can become a good Agile Coach.

  • Coach should be Unbiased
  • Should not give the solutions directly,
  • By Asking Powerful Questions, enable the Coachee to find the solution
  • Avoid Boolean questions _ because they would tend to end the conversations with mostly ‘yes’ or ‘No’ answers.
  • Questions should be leading to get more informations
  • Keep the questions to be short
  • Questions should be more of Inquiry based

Agile coaches are the change agents who help the organisations to achieve the Vision. These change agents understand the vision first and then enable the employees to work towards the vision of the organizations. One size does not fit all, similarly same solution might not work for all organisations. Agile coaches first need to understand the problems of the organisation and then offer the right solution to solve the problem.

Agile coaches play an important role in the transformation journey of any organisation, as they have to alter the mindsets of the leaders, executives and the teams across the organization. They also help in eliminating the Organizational Impediments.

Agile coach should lead by example and maintain a sustainable pace for people to give their best without burning themselves out.

Who can be a Good Agile coach?

Agile Coach is the one who has a strong expertise in a specific domains / Agile practices/ process and also has great mentoring skills and enables people/organization to perform very well that they achieve their goals. The Strong expertise can be related to Technical/Business/ Transformation.

Agile Coach needs to have the skillsets of Teaching, Mentoring, Professional coaching and Facilitation.

Agile coach would play the role of a ‘Teacher’ in the initial stages of Agile Transformation Journey, when the Agile Principles are to be taught to the teams and also to explain the idea behind the need for the change.

He acts as ‘Mentor’, when the teams are practicing the Agile Principles and are implementing them in their work.

He acts as a ‘Facilitator’ when teams / individuals needs support in facilitating an event / process implementation. Teams need to learn and use right facilitation techniques to make it more effective – for ex., liberating structures.

Facilitation is an art, where the Facilitator should not have any Authority, No Biasing, should be accepted by all and mainly do not give direct solution, instead through sufficient inquiries enable the person/teams to identify the solution.

While these 4 are distinguished skills, they will be interchangeably used during initial stages of transformation.

When the team is matured, there is need of an Agile Coach to do the ‘Professional Coaching’ to make the teams to become more sustainable and excel the performance.  In definition, Coaching is questioning, hence the coach will question the team / individuals and make the Coachee figure out their solution to the problem.

Is there a need to train the Internal employees of an Organization to be the Agile Coaches or External Coaches would be better?

To start the journey of Agile transformation, it is recommended to have an External Agile Coach with internal employees supporting them. This would help in understanding the overall org’s problems and come up with the unbiased solutions. Over a period of time, with sufficient experience in the agile transformation journey, employees would get scaled up and perform better as the Agile Coaches.

To become a Successful Agile Coach, there are different Agile Coach certifications available which would help in enhancing the required skills. Below diagram gives an idea of different orgs offering certifications on Agile Coaching. 

Agile Coaching report

Please refer to the link for more about certification
–  ICP-ACC Certification

Agile Coach Glossary: 

Coach – One who coaches. 
Coachee – Can be an individual or a team who undergoes coaching.
Org – Organization