As a Scrum Trainer, I often get this question in my workshops during coffee or lunch breaks. My participants want to know “what it takes to become an Agile Coach?”, in this article I am trying to attempt to answer that question.
First thing I want to make it clear is, if you are a Scrum Master, you should be a Coach. But at what level you are extending your coaching may vary. As Scrum Masters, you may be coaching your teams most of the time. Agile Coaches work beyond teams and they also coach the leadership and management and they focus at enterprise level. Scrum Master may be proficient with Scrum and helps team with Scrum implementation through facilitation, training, mentoring and coaching depending up on the need. Agile Coaches will work beyond Scrum, they have experience with different other Agile frameworks.
So how can you become an Agile Coach?
Agile Fundamentals: Your Agile fundamentals should be very Strong. That means as a person, you should be “Agile” and have faith and strong understanding of Agile Manifesto Values and Principles. You should be very clear about the “why” part of these values and principles. If you are clear then only you can make others clear about these values and principles. In addition, you should be clear about Scrum Values and how they impact the teams and organizations.
Work as a Scrum Master: First step in becoming an Agile Coach is to have worked as a Scrum Master. This helps you to understand team dynamics and help experimenting your ideas within the team. I do not believe someone can become an Agile Coach without working as a Scrum Master.
Organizational Cultures: You need to understand what are various types of organizational cultures (example: Competing, Controlling, Collaborative, Creative) and how Structure, Policies, Procedures, People, Tools work in those types of cultures. Also, understand how you can help those organizations to become more Agile without compromising their culture.
Leadership Types: Different leaders behave and work in different ways. So unless you understand what are various leadership types (example: Expert Leaders, Achiever Leaders, and Catalyst Leaders) and accordingly you need to choose the coaching models to help those leaders to be more agile in their role.
Know beyond Scrum: As an Agile Coach, you need to help organizations to transform into Agile ways of working and Scrum is one way to implement Agile. So depending up on the need there may be other frameworks and methods may be required as part of transformation (Example: Kanban). So it is important to have deeper knowledge and experience in other frameworks. Also, it will be an added advantage to gain experience and knowledge in the areas of Product Management and Product Development so that you can expand your coaching to the Product Owners and Product Managers in the organization.
Technical Practices & Tools awareness: As a Coach, you should help your organization in optimizing the tools and Technical practices. So having knowledge and experience in such practices like Test Driven Development, Refactoring, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and so on will be an added advantage. Having experience of more than one tool will also be an advantage. But, never forget the basic Agile Value “Individuals and Interactions OVER Processes and Tools”.
Professional Coaching: You should have a Coaching Mindset and you should be familiar with the Professional Coaching and various coaching competencies such as Active Listening, Powerful Questions, Creating Awareness. You also need to know a bunch of change management models such as GROW, ADKAR, SCARF etc which are useful in coaching the teams and beyond.
Finally, I believe “Knowledge and experience is primary and certifications are the byproducts”. So a few certifications you can try to achieve which helps you to shape up your career as Agile Coach, here are a few that I suggest.
ICF – ACC (International Coach Federation – Associate Certified Coach): This helps you understand the 11 professional coaching competencies and create a coaching mindset.
Scrum Alliance CTC (Certified Team Coach): This certification helps you to become an effective Team Coach.
Scrum Alliance CEC (Certified Enterprise Coach): This certification helps you become an enterprise Agile Coach.
ICP ACC (ICAgile Certified Professional – Agile Coaching): This certification helps you understand various Agile coaching models, practices and tools.