Whether guiding stakeholders, mentoring or training, from Kanban to Scrum and more, the Role of an Agile Coach lies in helping teams or individuals with their outcomes and therefore needs to be mastered and inculcated as a working habit beyond just basic project management. Being a function of human psychology, the Agile mindset is best imbibed when they are discovered, Agile processes tried and tested rather than just understood, learned and conceptualised (The latter being what most of us do with new-age learning; relegating them as a matter of academic interest with no outcome orientation). This is why the fundamental objective of agile practices is to ‘first do and then know’ then ‘only know and do nothing’. This vital and subtle distinction can be only be realised when a potential Agile proponent is open to shed what he ‘knows’ to ‘what he still doesn’t know’. To transit from the zone of ‘what you know you know’ to ‘what you know you don’t know’. Initiating and facilitating this exploratory journey is the main agenda for the Agile Coach.


Post Course Orientation

Once the agile training course is completed and you find yourself at work once again? What happens? Does reality smack in like a rambling fire truck? A course or programme can only create awareness and plant an inquiry into its participants across various team levels, the onus of translating the learning into practical reality lies outside its scope. This is natural because for most courses the effects last a maximum of 48 hours post conduct, tops!!

So what can an agile coach do? Indeed, without a proper structure to sustain the methodology, ‘intellectual vaporisation’ sets in and things seem to settle back into status quo mode with the agile methods and agile ways long forgotten. If this is how it is, how do you address the issue? Simple, either install a structure that ensures the Agile manifesto is sustained and developed, or have a post-course orientation where the new learning is fixed into context and aligned with the realities at work. Do you think you can get about doing this on your own? Who do you think best fits into this level of problem solving know how and helping you achieve this? Not rocket science to guess the answer, is it?

Setting the Act

“Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.” Albert Einstein’s now famous quote amply highlights why a Coach has a significant role to play in an Agile transformation. If just ‘knowing’ was the key to success, then 100% of the people who read a self-help book would find the solace they seek from it. A coach performs the vital function of setting the ‘action’ plan for organizational change. Getting things in motion to create a roadmap that can cater to unforeseen possibilities and assisting you in dealing with the impact of the outcomes is what he is meant for. If there is no action, there exists no movement and no movement results in entropy.

Professional Coaching leads to an agent of Change

The coach is an agent who enables the planned change to take place and facilitates the resultant transformation. Without him, since there exists no feedback channel or a facility to reflect upon, change gets transitional and not transformative, neither visible nor perceptible and irrelevant in time, distance and space.


Best Fit for a scaled agile framework

Roles and Task sets the modalities for conduct and the competencies of each individual in an organisation to collaborate. Hence, the Coach profile also needs to be calibrated to fulfil the need. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to types of agile coaches in the coaching world. The requirements for coaching and facilitation could vary from fulfilling a purely technical need to that which is process and management dependent. Senior levels of the hierarchy would seek executive solutions, while front-line managers would seek more knowledge-centric advice. Agile Coaches, therefore need to be selected based on their core competencies and hands-on experience.

Directive and Indirective Approach to an Agile Project

As an expert authority or as a consultant, the Coach is providing direct advice and recommendations whether to a development team or an internal group; he is visible and defined by his presence. A directive style is preferred where the visibility of a Coach has a desired psychological manifestation on the coachees. However, there also exists a non-directive mode wherein the Coach may – or may not – be an expert in the field but assumes the coachee is the expert and therein helps facilitate the learning. He has a more passive role to play and often may not be visible. This arrangement may be required when the coachee does not want it to be known that he or she is being coached.

Internal and External

Largely dependent on the human resource policy governing the training, internal coaches have the inherent advantage of knowing the team and domain. External coaches on the other hand benefit from eliciting original ideas and new perspectives. Since external coaches have limited influence over the appraisal chain and are themselves unaffected by authority, they have access to challenging assumptions more easily and suggest unbiased and alternative approaches with a greater degree of objectivity.

Is a Scrum Master a Coach?

A prevailing perception rests on the belief that Scrum Masters are veiled Project Managers with the sole purpose of facilitating the process flow mechanism. In such cases, the Scrum Master remains within the domain of specialisation and expertise. His coaching abilities are largely personalised and limited to adhering to processes and rules. As per the Scrum Alliance methodology, the influence of a Scrum Master is subject to the team he is assigned with, thereby limiting his capacity to influence other teams or members within his environment. Due to the limitations imposed by the role and task, Scrum Masters unless specifically assigned, have a limited coaching role to exhibit. However, with an Agile education and an intimate involvement with each team through the Agile ceremonies – planning, daily meetings, retrospectives, etc, the Scrum Master can reduce his active participation and provide avenues for team members to take over.

What an Agile Coach can bring to your team: Conclusion

A coach needs to be coachable first and then go about coaching others. His domain lies in that realm of knowledge and competence building where the coachee is completely unaware and ignorant of. Creating a space and an understanding for the coachee to fully comprehend the issues being addressed and enabling him with the skill sets to deal with them effectively is the hallmark of coaching. Agile coaching sets the stage for mind change and personality transformation. It is about resetting neurological pathways to achieve goals that otherwise have not been thought of. Agile is to remain in an eternal loop of unlearning and relearning so that one is relevant and alive to the realities of the world. Hence, an Agile Coach is constantly in a state of alertness, fully in aware and is persistent with designing outcomes and achieving them.

Find out how we can work with your team on Agile Coaching, Agile Principles and more by contacting Leadership Tribe today.