Training to become an Agile Coach?

[Edited: Updated links 28 Feb 2011]

Today I received an interesting question – “What training is there to develop agile coaches as output of the training?”

The goal of an Agile coach is grow a productive Agile team that thinks for itself rather than relying on someone to prescribe the way to do things. Showing people how to be Agile isn’t enough. They need to change how they work and how they think in order for Agile to stick. A coach helps people to unlearn old habits and break the old mental models we are so use to before so people can work effectively as members of an Agile Team. As an Agile Coach, you must guide people through rough patches until they can find their own way.

The Agile Coach is also a mentor. They support engagements in exploring, adopting and optimizing Agile principles and practices. The Agile Coach mentors Scrum Teams and ScrumMasters, and coaches Product Owners. They help develop and sustain a simple measurement system for the Team performance and help teams and stakeholders to define and experiment with various countermeasures to the impediments uncovered in the work process. An an Agile Coach you may also need to develop customized training materials and deliver training for Management, Executives, product owners and other team members (business analysts, developers, testers, etc.).

To be a good Agile Coach you must have experienced the pain of working on Agile engagements. I think an Agile Coach is a natural progression by someone who has many years as an Agile practitioner and has the right mindset, lean thinking and then having the ability to help teams so they become better.

I think my past experiences have made me into a better coach and I certainly would not feel that I would perform my role properly as an Agile Coach without that experience.

There are definitely some good resources to become a better coach, but I wouldn’t think you could have a training program that turns someone who hasn’t experienced Agile into a Coach (well a good one anyways). Using an analogy – many sports coach (eg tennis, basketball, football) have had experience playing and studying their sport before imparting their knowledge to their protégé.

Here are some good related links on Agile Coaching that I have come across:

You might also want to check out Lyssa Adkins’ book, Coaching Agile Teams, which I am reading now.  I will post a book review when I am done.

5 Comments on “Training to become an Agile Coach?

    • PDUs via PMI does have some merit compared with CSM especially if it incorporates many different activities and not just be based on self-study and attending classes. Another consideration is that Agile Coaching covers a very broad range of methods, skills (technical, process and interpersonal) and varying disciplines and there is no one ‘right’ approach that will work for everyone. So it will be interesting on how to implement such a mesurement system for Lean and Agile when there are so many facets.

  1. A lot of resumes have come across my desk recently from candidates proclaiming their Agile Coaching credentials. Quite often, it’s more a case of individuals differentiating themselves from their competition. This “Senior Scrum Master” = “Agile Coach” deduction is tenuous and seems to be becoming more prevalent. An Agile coach demonstrates an enhanced, broader skillset than what you might expect from a typical practitioner.

    To me an Agile Coach must have deep & thorough understanding of agile & lean concepts, legacy mindsets, traditional IT delivery practices & team/inter-personal dynamics. They must be pragmatic, persistent, iterative & incremental in their approach and most importantly, they should be absolutely passionate about being an Agile evangelist.

  2. Great post Jason. I am trying to organize Lyssa to deliver “What Is An Agile Coach?” on her next visit to Melbourne, Australia in March 2011. I am so looking forward to hearing what she has to say on this topic in person.

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