Are you contemplating a career as an Agile coach?

Wondering if it has any potential?

Well! Being in the field of Agile coaching since 2016 and having mentored and coached several aspiring Agile coaches, I can quite relate to your dilemma since many of my clients have faced the same.

To begin with, let us first look at the potential of a career in Agile Coaching. Data reveals that the Agile coach demand in the market is increasing at a rapid rate year after year. In fact, Indeed.com listed the job of an Agile coach among the top 25 jobs in the US in 2019 with an annual average salary drawn by an Agile coach being recorded as $161K!

(Source: https://www.indeed.com/lead/best-jobs-2019)

As adoption of Agile practices is expected to become a norm in years to come, the demand for an Agile coach will only increase with time. This is affirmed by BLS which forecasts the growth of Agile coach jobs 15% between 2014 to 2024!

(Source: https://study.com/articles/agile_coach_job_description_salary.html) 

As we proceed into the new decade, we realize that agility is no longer an option for businesses but is imperative to survive in this environment full of uncertainties.

An Agile coach can enable businesses transition seamlessly to an Agile model so that it can adapt to the changes in the marketplace. An Agile coach can affect this transition because he is not only an expert in Agile approaches but also other essential skills such as mentoring and training skills. There are usually three main patterns of the Agile coaching role i.e. Agile Coach-Process, Agile Coach-Delivery, and Enterprise Agile Coach. The diverse roles and responsibilities of the Agile coach have the ultimate objective of transforming the organization into self-learning and continuously improving one. As the demand for implementing agility continues to increase, a career in Agile coaching appears to be a rewarding choice.

Before we delve into what it takes to be an Agile coach, let us understand what an Agile coach is?

An Agile coach enables organizations to implement an Agile-based approach to managing the enterprise. He empowers Agile teams with the relevant tools, techniques, training, and knowledge to affect the transition into agility. For the last few years, the role of an Agile coach is not limited to software or product development but extends to enabling business agility of an organization.

When you think of a career in Agile Coaching Space, you will come across many job titles like Agile Coach, Agile Consultant, Team Coach, Program Coach, Program Manager, Center of Excellence Coach, Process Coach, Enterprise coach and many more.

In my observation, Agile coach related titles are involved in some of the activities from below:

  • Training teams on Agile-based approaches: An Agile coach needs to have knowledge and experience in Agile based approaches such as Scrum, SAFe, Kanban, Disciplined Agile, and others so that he can train teams on the relevant approach.
  • Coaching for Performance: Each business has its specific needs for change based on its objectives. An Agile coach should be able to enable the organization to reflect and find a path towards its business objectives.
  • Mentoring Teams on Agile practices: By providing examples and context-sensitive tools Agile coaches mentor the teams, scrum masters, and other stakeholders in applying agility in their work.
  • Creating high performing teams: When a business seeks the services of an Agile coach, they expect him to create high-performance teams. To improve the performance of the teams, the Agile coach will need to identify the areas for improvement and devise a system to empower teams with the essential skills to enhance performance.
  • Facilitating various events: An Agile coach is a focal point for the transition taking place in the organization. Hence, he is responsible for facilitating events such as big room planning, Scrum meetings, and other relevant events.
  • Evaluating and Advising Agile Frameworks: The goals of each client are different. Hence, the Agile coach needs to be able to identify the best Agile frame-work aligned with the goals of the organization. Therefore, he needs to have an in-depth knowledge of different Agile Frameworks so that he can evaluate and suggest a suitable framework for the client.
  • Evaluating and Advice Process / Product Management tools: Since an Agile coach is responsible for facilitating change in teams or at enterprise-level, he needs to understand the existing process/product management methodology in the organization and suggest process/product management tools that will benefit the organization.
  • Removing Impediments for Teams: As an Agile coach, you will be required to determine the impediments that teams are facing and eliminate them so that the teams can take the next step.
  • Coaching Senior Management on Agile Practices: Implementing Agility in teams/organizations does not imply training and mentoring technical teams alone. For change to be effective, an Agile coach needs to coach the senior management on Agile practices as well.
  • Advising process and structural changes at the organization level: When an organization looks to transition to agility, it will need to change its overall structure. An Agile coach will need to function as a change agent to suggest the relevant changes and ensure their implementation.
  • Suggesting organizations policies to support Agile ways of working: Implementing Agile in an organization requires changes in process, structure, policies, and several other areas. The onus lies on the Agile coach to determine the policy changes required to support Agile ways in the organization and work with the policymakers to drive the necessary changes.
  • Setting up governing policies to support Agile-based approaches: It is the Agile coach who decides the Agile framework to be deployed in the organization. Hence, it is the responsibility to set up the policies relevant to the Agile methodology to be adopted.
  • Suggesting ways of contracting with vendors and customers: When an organization is transitioning to an Agile model, there will be changes in every aspect of the way it functions to support agility. This includes new ways of contracting with vendors and customers as well. The Agile coach will suggest the changes required in the existing ways of contracting with vendors and customers.
  • Performing Agile Maturity assessments and audits: As the process of Agile transformation progresses in the organization, the Agile coach will need to conduct Agile Maturity assessments and audits at different stages to ensure that the process of change is on the right track
  • Facilitating Conflict resolutions: Conflicts may arise when Agility is being implemented in an organization. The Agile coach is responsible for facilitating conflict resolutions as and when required.
  • Overcoming Resistance to change: One of the biggest roadblocks in the implementation of the Agile approach in an organization is resistance to change. Resistance to change is not restricted to any specific rank in the organization but can occur at any grade. The Agile coach is responsible for communicating effectively with the teams/individuals who are resisting change and convince them about the benefits that the change will offer.
  • Facilitating change towards new ways of working: An Agile model is very different from the traditional methods of working. For effective agility in the organization, the Agile coach will need to facilitate change towards new ways of working.
  • Applying System thinking to expose bottlenecks: Agile implementation in an organization may face several bottlenecks. The bottlenecks can be identified only by looking at the big picture. And, the Agile coach will need to apply system thinking to expose bottlenecks in the path to agility.
  • Mentoring and Teaching teams on Engineering practices: An Agile coach needs to select the best engineering practices for a seamless transition to Agile. He needs to ensure that these practices are effectively applied. Hence, he needs to teach the teams relevant engineering practices to empower them to implement an Agile methodology.
  • Mentoring teams in solving technical problems: The Agile coach mentors teams to identify the technical problems they face and helps them by resolving these problems.
  • Mentoring Organization on Business Model: The business model of the organization will also change when agility is implemented. The Agile coach will need to understand the existing model and determine the changes.
  • Providing consulting on Business Domain: The Agile coach also works as a consultant on the business domain. As an Agile consultant, he asks the team relevant questions to enable them to identify the domain-related issues they are facing and helps them understand how an Agile approach can resolve them.

In my experience in the field of Agile coaching, I have seen that all these attributes are required in different mixes depending on the role of the Agile coach. In general, I have noticed five patterns:

Let us now look at the different types of Agile Coaches as per this pattern:

Agile Team Coach

An Agile team facilitator focuses on one to two Agile teams.

An Agile team facilitator could be a Scrum Master, Scrum Coach, Iteration Manager, or any Agile manager who enables a specific team to implement Agile practices.

Some of the following activities may fall under your Agile Team Coach Role:

  • Training and mentoring teams on Agile practices
  • Coaching for Performance
  • Enabling journey towards high performing teams
  • Facilitating various team level events to enable self-organizing
  • Helping teams to reflect and improve
  • Support tools to facilitate collaboration
  • Removing Impediments for Teams
  • Coaching Team Members and team stakeholders
  • Facilitating Conflict resolutions

Multi-Team Coach or Agile Coach

A Scrum Master who takes teams beyond getting Agile practices up and running into their deliberate and joyful pursuit of high performance is an Agile Coach

-Lyssa Adkins

A multi-team Agile coach affects spreading Agile at a multi-team level across the organization. In fact, experience as an Agile team coach becomes a strong foundation for beginning your career as an Agile coach.

Multi-team Agile coach can be:

Process Coach:

Many times he works with the Agile center of excellence or Agile PMO in the organization. He is a process champion for multiple teams.

He enables agility by sharing and improving best practices, new frameworks, and new models of learning in the teams.

He is required to conduct frequent audits, teach new concepts, facilitate retrospectives, generate audit reports to show where the team stands in agility.

Some of the following activities may fall under Process Coach Role:

  • Teaching Agile to multiple teams
  • Coaching and Mentoring Scrum Masters
  • Conducting Agile maturity assessments periodically
  • Occasionally facilitating team retrospectives
  • Facilitating organization-level process changes to enable agility
  • Coaching and mentoring Senior Management on Agile Practices
  • Setting up governing policies to support Agile-based approaches
  • Define the measurement system by way of identifying relevant metrics
  • Facilitating change towards new ways of working
  • Applying System thinking to expose bottlenecks
  • Evaluating and Advising Agile Frameworks
  • Suggesting ways of contracting with vendors and customers

Delivery Coach

A delivery coach resolves impediments, solves problems of team, coaches, and trains teams to improve their agility.

The delivery coach enables agility at multiple team levels and along with enabling agility he also participates in facilitating product/solution delivery. He owns resolving the delivery level impediments

Some of the following activities may fall under Delivery Coach Role:

  • Teaching Agile to multiple teams
  • Coaching and Mentoring Scrum Masters
  • Enabling high performance at the team of teams’ level
  • Resolve delivery impediments
  • Facilitating multi-team events like Scrum of Scrum, Big Room Planning, Retrospectives
  • Facilitating change towards new ways of working
  • Applying System thinking to expose bottlenecks

Enterprise Agile Coach

As the name indicates, an enterprise Agile coach affects the transition to agile at the enterprise level. An enterprise-level Agile coach focuses on changing the structure of the organization to facilitate Agile principles. how systems and components interact to bring agility end-to-end.

Some of the following activities may fall under Enterprise Agile Coach:

  • Evaluating and Advising Agile Frameworks
  • Coaching Senior Management on Agile Practices
  • Advising process and structural changes at the organization level
  • Suggesting organizations policies to support Agile ways of working
  • Setting up governing policies to support Agile-based approaches
  • Overcoming Resistance to change:
  • Applying System thinking to expose bottlenecks
  • Mentoring teams Organization on Business Model
  • Facilitating change towards new ways of working
  • Mentoring and Coaching Agile Coach

Specialized Agile Coach

He provides coaching in a specialized area. The specialized area could be technical, expertise in the domain, and many more. Expertise in the area in which he is coaching enables him to coach and mentor teams effectively in these areas. These coaches help organizations in solving specific problems. They are experts in specific areas for example DevOps. Specialized Coaches may operate at a team, multi-team, or organization level.

These are essentially the five different types of Agile coaches I see in the industry.

However, when you work as an Agile coach, there may not be a clear-cut distinction between these roles. You may be required to function as a coach who performs more than one role, sometimes all five roles.

Once you have clarity of what is expected of each type of Agile coach, you can choose your career path based on the role that is best aligned with your background and your area of expertise. Check out our blog to explore more about the roles and responsibilities of an Agile coach.

The next step in your journey as an Agile coach could be is the formal training on Agile Coaching. We do provide an Agile Coaching education program and our program is accredited by ICAgile for Certification in Agile Coaching (ICP-ACC). ICP-ACC is one of the most popular knowledge-based certification programs in Agile Coaching.