What is an agile coach?

06 November

Agile coaching is about far more than being able to facilitate a retrospective or provide guidance on building a burn-up chart. Agile coaching requires a deep concern for the team, as individuals and as a cohesive group, and the ability to help others reach their full potential. The goal of the coach should be to make the team self-sufficient, arming them with the tools and practices they need to achieve greatness. They do this by modelling the agile values and principles.

Empowering self-organising agile teams requires a mindset shift that focuses on team improvement and the delivery of real value rather than just meeting targets. It is the job of the agile coach to foster curiosity, learning, openness and trust and to support this mindset change in leaders.

To be successful, an agile coach needs to understand how creative knowledge-workers are motivated, how to grow and develop teams and how to build a culture of high-performance and continuous learning. The coach questions the team’s practices, advises on ways to adapt their process, holds the mirror up to the team so they can examine their approach and continually encourages them to do better.

So, who should become a coach? Someone who sees their role as being to help others achieve their best. To do this and agile coach needs a certain set of skills:

  • Informing: providing information, for example on agile practices, remembering that people have different learning styles.
  • Monitoring: observing or noticing, for example how the team are using certain practices, will allow you to know when to best intervene, teach new approaches or leave the team to self-organise.
  • Giving feedback: guiding and reminding, for example when they stray from practices.
  • Consciously choose which skill to employ based on a given situation.

Being an effective coach means understanding where teams are at and knowing the right approach to support their growth and improvement. This means that intuitive understanding is not enough, a coach needs to know why they know things and be able to articulate those things in a way that others can learn from.

Organisations need agile coaches that are well equipped to drive change and improve work practices for better business outcomes. It is in this way that effective agile coaches are the key to the success of embedding agile in any organisation.