Agile Coaching

Agile Coaching Picture

The Role of the Agile Coach

What is an Agile Coach? An Agile Coach helps a team or individual adopt and improve Agile Methods. The most popular of which in the United States is Scrum. The Coach provides critical assistance as people work to rethink and change the way people go about the development process. A Coach is part trainer, consultant, and advisor.

Most agile initiatives begin with the team and/or organization taking a class in the particular agile methodology they intend to use before the project begins. 

The team then begins the first of many short iterations in an effort to deliver business value. Unfortunately, often that initial class is not enough for the team to successfully implement a new way of executing a project so the team struggles and the the project faulters.

An Agile Coach can dramatically change these results. The Coach provides just-in-time training to resolve specific issues the team encounters. He or she also acts as a mentor, counselor, and/or advisor for the Scrum Master, Product Owner and Development Team. The fact that the Coach is onsite dramatically improves the team’s ability to put their training into action. This is especially important in environments where agile methodologies are new to the organization.

The 3 Kinds of Agile Coaches

  • Technical Coaches - These coaches are often paired with developers, where the focus is usually on helping them apply test driven development and the process of refactoring or the other activities involved with continuous integration that are close to the code. Technical Coaches typically have extensive programming backgrounds.
  • Process Coaches - A process coach is also a subject matter expert. Their expertise is not with any process but is in the agile processes, management, and requirements. A Process Coach often possesses a background in project management, requirements development, and/or other soft skills and management. The primary focus for these coaches is on facilitating events that help create change and improvement through the use of agile methodologies.
  • Non-Directive Coaches - Both the Technical Coach and Process Coach represent forms of directive coaching. In this form, the coach works as an expert authority. In the non-directive role, the coach spends most of their time working with managers and senior organizational leaders.

Scrum Masters vs. Coaches

One of the most common questions asked is what is the differnce between a Scrum Master and an Agile Coach? The reality is there often is little difference between an extremely experienced, veteran Scrum Master and a Coach. However, in many other organizations the distinction is quite clear. In general, two distinctions exist. First, in Scrum the Scrum Master is tasked with ensuring the team follows the Scrum processes and rules whereas the Agile Coach is tasked with the more encompassing role of the organization’s change agenda towards Agile. The second major difference is duration. The Scrum Master works with the team in every sprint whereas the Agile coach only works with the team as needed.

Regardless of the type of coach you need, Looking Glass Development has the expertise to deliver superior business value.

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