The time has come: your company’s board of directors has finally decided to join the Agile transformation. Yet, it may be tricky to implement it properly in a world that is still dominated by the Classic (or Waterfall) approach. But fear not! Your Agile Coach is here to help. How? Well, they have some aces up their sleeves.
Who is an Agile Coach?
Let’s look at the definition from Scrum Alliance®: An agile coach helps organizations, teams, and individuals adopt agile practices and methods while embedding agile values and mindsets. The goal of an agile coach is to foster more effective, transparent, and cohesive teams and enable better outcomes, solutions, and products/services for customers.
So the definition is quite simple yet remains a bit nebulous. Like the Scrum Master or the Product Owner, other roles associated with the Agile approach have much more precise tasks and responsibilities. Meanwhile, the Agile Coach must implement Agile in the whole company, so not only their knowledge of the Agile approach must be top-notch, but they also need to have high social and soft skills.
What does an Agile Coach do?
The Agile Coach is a transformation leader who “sells” this approach to employees on each level from team members to managers and board members. Yes, even the people that decided to implement the Agile approach can be reluctant to use it. This can be seen in resistance to ditch the old, Waterfall-related work habits and procedures. They must diagnose and respond to this kind of resistance. Teaching people about Scrum Ceremonies or Kanban is one thing.
Yet, convincing them to use an approach regularly is something completely different. In the worst-case scenario, employees will use Agile techniques artificially to appease board members and managers, and the real work will still be done in the old way. In the best-case scenario, the company adapts to new approaches, merges good practices from Classic and Agile, or creates a Hybrid approach that suits their needs best.
Characteristics of a Good Agile Coach
Changes can be challenging, especially for some people. An Agile Coach must be prepared to explain how and why these changes will affect everyone’s work. There are many questions and hesitance within the Agile transformation, so a short temper definitely won’t help.
This is something vague, as charisma is in the eye of the beholder. An Agile Coach must be perceived as charismatic to lead and sell the Agile revolution. Charisma helps convince people to try new things and diminish the possible dissatisfaction in case of failure.
Ability to know when not to interrupt
For some, an Agile Coach isn’t only a leader but more of a “silent leader.” This term refers to their ability to show people the overall direction without making them feel forced by boards’ directives. This is about a more empathic, people-oriented leadership. Less shouting, more listening.
The Agile Coaches cannot fake it till they make it. People can smell grifters miles away. Thorough knowledge of different Agile approaches is necessary, as it complements the whole soft skills set. No wonder many Scrum Masters decide to become Agile Coaches, as they have got solid foundations.
Last but not least, an Agile Coach is a facilitator, a person listening to different perspectives and points of view and trying to find the best solution. The board members and team members may have completely different ideas on the whole Agile transformation process, and it’s up to the Agile Coach to listen to both sides and find the best solution.
Does your company need an Agile Coach?
There is always a more straightforward solution: hire external experts or companies, make some seminars, and that’s it; everyone’s trained for the Agile transformation. This approach, however, can be insufficient because the Agile transformation is an ongoing process that evolves with time. The rules of Agile aren’t carved in stone.
On the contrary, adaptation and change are its core principles. An internal Agile Coach can supervise this process for a much more extended time than external lecturers would be able to. It’s a safe and good choice for every company that wants to get the most out of the Agile transformation.