What types of Agile Coach can you find on the market and how do they differ?

This is a very frequent question in new Agile organizations… is there a single type of Agile Coach?

Let me give you an example before giving you the final answer. If you are a soccer player, you will worry about your personal performance, playing strategies, team and personal skills, etc.

Is this the only perspective?

No, you can help the team and think about their inferior divisions, rest of the club, their vision, improve the relationship with sponsors, suppliers and all those things that are in the periphery of the team.

The same thing happens with Agile Coaches. There are activities related to the Team and the way in which they develop software, its quality, facilitation between groups, Scrum rituals and teaching techniques so that they can be successful.

There are other tasks that are related to the more peripheral activities, for example, coaching managers, team interactions with the rest of the company, growth of the organization towards agility, change of compensation and evaluation systems, changes in contracts with third parties, changes to the way that services are sold and all the areas related to the transformation itself. Here the Team is just a small piece of the engine.

That is why the industry usually prefers to organize the Coaches in 4 different groups:

  • Scrum Master (team facilitator)
  • Technical Coach (technical coach who works with the Team)
  • Agile Team Coach (work with several teams including Scrum Masters)
  • Agile Enterprise Coach (or Transformational Agent) (specialized in organizational transformations)

In general, an Enterprise Coach requires more experience on large-scale transformations and their dynamics, and while he might do tasks from a Team Coach, very often a Team Coach lacks the knowledge to perform the transformation of an entire organization.
Many times he (Team Coach) is the progression of the Scrum Maste career. The latter is the initial step, but not for that, it is no longer difficult and requires knowledge of many areas.
On the other hand, a Technical Coach specializes in tasks related to build software quality, tools, testing, programming, etc.

Can you spot the difference?

What you should not do is try to have the Swiss Army Knife, where a person covers the whole spectrum (Scrum Master who is an organizational coach or any other combination).
This not only lowers the focus (which is a main Scrum and Agile value!) but also increases the possibility of conflict of priorities. What would happen if a Team Coach had to do an organizational and a team task, both of equal priority? Logically one of them would have to be placed on hold and would cause a temporary block.
And that is precisely what we are trying to avoid!

Obviously nothing is white or black, but following certain recommendations helps create a safe environment and make the company more Agile, efficient and a better place to work.

If you need to know more about boosting your Scrum and Agile teams within your company, please visit our website.

Thank you for listening,
Erich.

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