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So, you don’t want to become an Agile Coach… How come?

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So, you don’t want to become an Agile Coach… How come?

What is this ‘Agile Coach’ role anyway???

I recently had my first experience as a full-time Agile Coach.

I did not like it.

Can you only imagine how HR reacted when I told them that I did not really want to dig into the Agile Coach career, instead seeing myself as staying in the Scrum Master role?

I was not lying. Maybe this was just this specific experience as an Agile Coach, but as much as I loved my experiences as a Scrum Master, I did not really enjoyed this experience as an Agile Coach.

I can understand the HR reaction. Agile Coach is often seen as an upgrade from the Scrum Master role.

Agile Coach is better than Scrum Master.

Agile Coaches are higher in the hierarchy than Scrum Masters.

You start your career as a Scrum Master before getting in the Agile Coach business.

If you’re an Agile Coach, then you can act as a Scrum Master.

Agile Coaches can do more than Scrum Masters.

Agile Coaches are paid more than Scrum Masters.

And the list goes on and on…

I disagree.

And I’m not the only one. For instance Christiaan Verwijs and Barry Overeem wrote an awesome post on why it might even be the other way around — that is, being a Scrum Master is actually harder than being an Agile Coach:

What is the Agile Coach role?

And actually, this experience made me think. What is the Agile Coach role, in the end? Compared to other jobs out there?

I can see several related roles:

  • The Scrum Master
  • The Enterprise Coach
  • The Software Craftsman

The Scrum Master

Please note that I am using the term Scrum Master even when the team is not using Scrum. Maybe the team is using Kanban, XP, or whatever homemade custom framework… The name may change but in any case you’ll want to have something with a similar purpose than the Scrum Master. So let’s call it Scrum Master and let’s keep rolling!

The link between Scrum Master and Agile Coach is obvious. The Scrum Master will help Scrum teams apply Scrum successfully; in a few words she’ll make it work.

The Scrum Master will also coach the team so that they become self-organized — but also less relying on the Scrum Master.

The thing is, once the team is up and running, while the team can still use the Scrum Master’s help, it’s really the organization which is in need of dire help.

And that’s totally in the Scrum Master role to move further in the company to drive the Agile transformation — at least the role was meant to be that way, originally. Maybe your local organization just made sure that Scrum Masters would not be able to reach outside the team. Meh.

So, you don’t need Agile Coaches to help Scrum teams as you have a Scrum Master in each Scrum team, and these Scrum Masters will also drive the Agile transformation, bottom-up.

But sure, you might need Agile Coach for some top-down Agile transformation, then?

The Enterprise Coach

There is also this role called Enterprise Coach.

The Enterprise Coach is clearly farther from the trenches, focusing on higher-level management and on organization at the company scale.

Also most Enterprise Coaches are professional coaches, which is a very regulated job, requiring for instance to be continuously coached by his peers. That makes sense, when you think of it: as a coach, you can be in position to alter your customer’s judgment. So that’s better if the profession as a whole makes sure that there is no impostor out there.

As such, Enterprise Coaches — as any professional coaches — are expected to follow a code of ethics.

In all these descriptions, I partly recognize the Agile Coach. I recognize the Agile Coach in the missions and abilities but not always in the ethics and in the level of effort that the whole profession puts in to makes sure there is no impostor.

Yet, the rates are not the same… Enterprise Coaches are reeeeeally expensive. So, maybe it makes sense to have cheaper Agile Coaches, doesn’t it?

Did I forgot something? Oh yes, what about the technical coach?

The Software Craftsman

One important aspect that Agile Coaches often underscore is their ability to train teams to technical practices.

When it works, a lot of things happen behind the scenes. In the end it has much more to do with pair-programming than with regular training.

What you really need is actual developers showing to the rest of the team how to work, doing the work side by side with the team. You need Software Craftsmen.

Technical practices are really important. Agile requires it.

Yet, can an Agile Coach help teams about technical practices? I would find this dubious as it’s really hard to do this unless to be a developer.

First because you need to keep practicing with the latest technology in order to provide actual advices. And second because if you are not a developer then it will be hard to convince developers. Show by practicing yourself before telling.

So, is the Agile Coach a real thing?

I’m not so sure… What do you think?

Hit the comments if you disagree! I always enjoy a good conversation 😁

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