What It Takes To Become The Best Agile Coach

Ruth Hadari
Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert
Posted on
Jul 25, 2022
Updated on
Mar 26, 2023
Table of Content

The need for Agile coaching has grown as organizations transform their operational methods to motivate their employees and cater to their growth.

Experts at the Global SAFe Summit 2020 stated that 93% of businesses that deployed the Agile model before the pandemic performed better than other businesses.

Additionally, KPMG Global Agile Survey 2019 reported that 69% of organizations deliver faster and more efficient product delivery by prioritizing agility as their primary key performance index.

This, of course, begs the question:  what is Agile coaching?

Let's explore this phenomenon in further detail.

What Is an Agile Coach?

An Agile coach is responsible for assisting organizations and businesses in adopting Agile practices and methods or improving existing Agile methodology. For this, they need an Agile Coach Certification.

When an organization upgrades its practices to enhance operational infrastructure, they usually get help from an external certified, well-trained, and experienced Agile coach. These experts can help businesses, groups, SMEs, and individuals sail through cultural transitions with human-friendly practices that enhance efficiency and yield.

The transition is smoother when you have an Agile coach to guide your people through it. A study from Harvard Business Review concluded that when businesses transfer from old to new Agile practices, their CEOs spend more time creating or improving their strategies rather than wasting it on unnecessary operational management.

Agile coaches have diverse backgrounds. They can be from IT, software, HR, project management, and other industries. However, they all have a few things in common: they are well experienced, highly skilled, and well-trained to provide promising results.

Agile experts take various approaches, depending on the organization's needs and requirements. Popular Agile practices are:

·       Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

·       Scrum

·       Kanban

Every business has its unique needs; an Agile coach identifies these and proposes the right solution. There are three types of Agile experts:

1.      Agile Team Facilitators

They aim to increase the teams' productivity by shifting them entirely to the Agile framework. When you focus on a single team, communication improves; you get a detailed insight into the framework, where the team is lacking, what are the areas of improvement, and methods that are suitable Agile methods for the team

Agile certifications like Scrum master, Kanban, and Agile Iteration can help you become a successful Agile team facilitator.

2.      Agile Coach

Agile coaches are the next level of Agile team facilitators. An Agile coach works on multi-teams in an organization to achieve Agile goals.

Agile coaches are skilled and can handle multi-tasking; it is an important skill set for Agile coaches, which they use to bring out the desired results from each team simultaneously. Agile coaches can work on individual teams, but their primary focus is working on multiple teams.

3.      Enterprise Agile Coach

Enterprise Agile coaches work for big businesses, specifically on their higher hierarchy. Being an enterprise coach requires leadership, management, and knowledge of business operations. If you plan to become an enterprise Agile coach, get certified in scaled Agile framework (SAFe), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DaD), and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS).

Why Is an Agile Coach Needed?

Agile coaching sounds like a simple task, but it is a difficult skill to master. People who play a leading role in organizations understand the difficulty of the transition. Many CEOs underestimate the complexity of Agile transitions and attempt to do it themselves without proper expertise and process; this is often met with failure and unsuccessful attempts.

On the contrary, Agile coaches take a suitable approach to get the best possible results instead of giving unrealistic expectations to Agile practices. As we said above, Agile has different methods; a popular one is Scrum because it offers maximum benefit and solutions to most issues.

Managers keep using Scrum for Agile, but there are no significant results because Scrum may not always be the required method. Due to the diverse nature of businesses and their operations, they need to identify their areas of improvement and select a suitable Agile strategy.

The statistic shows that many industries are hiring Agile coaches to improve their operations; Fortune 500 companies hired the most number of Agile coaches. 

Keeping an organization on track is no easy task. That's why the management is constantly actively monitoring and improving many factors like sales, revenue, and brand image. These factors require continuous attention.

The best option for companies is to hire an external Agile coach to take care of their cultural factors while staying focused on their primary goal; it is an excellent approach to save time and money.

How to Become an Agile Coach?

Becoming an Agile coach is an option worth considering; currently, there are about 500 Agile coaches in the United States, and there is a massive gap in demand and supply which means that this field offers good pay and benefits.

Agile coaching depends on the needs of organizations and businesses. SMEs initially hire Agility coaches on a contract basis to improve their methodology, while large organizations with vast numbers of employees may need permanent guidance to maintain the cultural values consistently in the organization

 An Agile coach must implement a swift transition of work culture and seamless adaptation of new practices. It is the main reason that companies hire Agile coaches: if you are changing your career to become an Agile coach, you should know the responsibilities and objectives of Agile coaching. 

Agile coaching is still evolving and making its way worldwide; there is no specific path to becoming an Agile coach. Several methods can lead you to become an Agile coach; however, the best course for you is to make your current occupation a base for your organizational learning.

Agile coaching is not an old field; it has been around for approximately a single decade. People are still learning and working on methods of Agile; as a result, it is being adopted in new industries and implemented in different teams, work cultures, and environments. Below are the first step to take for entering the Agile coaching industry

1.      Learn Scrum

Scrum is a popular Agile methodology in the Agile coach industry; other Agile methodologies include Kanban, eXtreme Programming, and SAFe. There are many reasons a person should start their career by learning Scrum.

Scrum is a good starting point for learning the Agile framework, as it gives a clear foundation for the Agile mindset. The Agile domain is not as easy as people may believe, but starting from Scrum methodology is a good way to get insights into Agile principles and values. When we say Agile coach vs Scrum Master, the difference is in the methodology and approach.

For beginner Agile coaches, Scrum is a great way to gain experience in the industry. You can work as a trainee when coaching an Agile team, facilitating the following agile scrum roles:

·       Development team members

·       Product Owners

·       Scrum Masters

2.      Aim for Scrum Master Certification

Are you wondering how to become an Agile coach? Get certified! Certifications always help make your skill set credible and act as a means of verification. Starting to learn Scrum is one thing, and getting a Scrum Master certification is another. Scrum Master certification polish your skills and abilities.

Understanding Scrum gives a basic understanding of Agile, while Scrum master certification provides a comprehensive understanding of the Agile framework. It is a gateway for more extensive opportunities like coaching Agile teams and working for enterprises.

3.      Get More Agile Certifications and Training Courses

Scrum certification is just one of many certifications out there. To become an expert in Agile you have to get more relevant certificates that play a significant role in your resume.

Certifications give you more skills and expertise to work under different circumstances and environments. There are various Agile certifications and while you do not need them all to be an expert, they do open doors to multiple industries. Below are helpful Agile certifications and training courses

·       SAFe® Agilist

·       PMI-ACP

·       Agile Coaching Institutions

·       International Coaching Federation

·       Lean-ACP

·       Leading SAFe®

·       IC Agile

4.      Agile Requires Continuous Learning

Agile coaching means continuing to learn and expand your knowledge and skills. Expert Agile coaches know a variety of Agile methods. If you are through Scrum Master, then a good idea for your next goal is learning the Kanban framework.

Kanban is an essential part of the Agile framework. Kanban methodology includes both Lean Portfolio management and Agile Program management. It helps create an effective plan to scale work and improve workflow and task management flexibility.

Final Thoughts

Agile coaching is a growing industry in high demand. It is worth considering if you are aiming to get certifications or specialized courses. However, you must fully understand what people and organizations expect from you.

Shifting a company culture to new practices is not easy; it requires many skills and efforts. Start your career by learning the Agile frameworks with basic models. Get help from Go Retro and improve your organization's productivity using our free retrospective tools and features. 

About the author

Ruth Hadari
Agile Advocate, Engineering Ops Expert

Highly experienced in leading multi-organizational teams, groups, in-shore as well as off-shore. The go-to person who is able to simplify the complex. An agile advocate, experienced in all common methodologies. Responsible for the entire software development lifecycle process from development, QA, DevOps, Automation to delivery including overall planning, direction, coordination, execution, implementation, control and completion. Drives execution, and communicates on status, risks, metrics, risk-mitigation and processes across R&D.

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