What Does an Agile Coach Do (+ Benefits of Agile Coaching)

Updated Aug 3, 2022.
agile-coaching

Many businesses are using agile project management methodologies such as Scrum, Kanban, and Scrumban as their preferred framework for managing projects. 

Motivating employees and managing the project can be challenging. Giving your project team all the documentation and tools needed to implement the project, and leaving them to execute it alone is an ineffective approach. 

You need an agile coach to work closely with your project team throughout the phases of the project management life cycle using proven agile principles, values, and practices. Completing an agile coaching certification does not automatically turn one into an agile coach.

An agile coach helps the project team execute the project and deliver the required deliverables successfully. In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about an agile coach including types, salary caps, and how to become one.

Let’s get started.

What is an Agile Coach?

An agile coach is a person who helps the project team deliver projects faster with better outcomes and solutions using the agile methodology. Most companies employ agile coaches either based on temporary or permanent contracts. 

This is depending on the size and needs of the company. A small-sized company might just need one for a short period, while a bigger one might need one for the long haul.

Agile coaches focus more on team performance and collaborative efforts that deliver the project while project managers focus on the performance and status report of the project.

An agile coach is responsible for creating and improving agile processes within a team or company. The role of an agile coach is to advise and guide on who to carry out a role in the project. What this implies is that agile coaches work closely with project managers to have an efficient team deliver a quality product.

The traditional days of one employee being an embodiment of different titles and work roles are gradually coming to an end. Organizations are moving to an era where different roles are assigned to different individuals with a specialty in their areas of expertise. 

However, a project manager acquiring the skills of an agile coach is a bonus. The addition of the prior knowledge in project management combined with the skills of an agile coach gives the project and organization a balanced equation. 

An agile coach profession plays a mentorship role to team members. When they get stuck, team members can approach the agile coach for guidance and advice on making the best decision or getting a new perspective on the current situation. 

However it is not the job of the agile coach to create or give solutions to these problems, they are like guides to the blind or confused. They can only lead the team towards bringing out the best in themselves to reach their full potential.

Agile Coaching Competency Framework
Source: Dandy People

Why Do You Need an Agile Coach

An agile coach trains and grows the project team to achieve the purpose of the project. The main focus of most organizations revolves around the goal or the end goal. An agile coach however focuses more on the body (team) that makes up the organization.

They are responsible for guiding the team through the implementation of tasks with agile methods. What makes an excellent agile coach is the ability to remain comfortable in uncomfortable situations. 

This is because during the process of achieving a goal things can easily go wrong. There is a need for someone who can think and lead the team out of these situations without affecting the goal. 

1. Identify Problems and Provide Solutions

An agile coach identifies problems affecting the project and proffers solutions to them. No matter how well you plan your project, you still need to prepare for unforeseen problems. 

The role of an agile coach is to help the project team spot problems affecting the execution of the project and solve them through the right strategies. They also guide teams through crises and support project planning.

2. Effective Implementation of Project Changes

Agile coaches help project teams and stakeholders to accept and entertain changes in the organization. Changes can be very difficult on the organization such as the change in leadership and change in structure. 

You need an agile coach to help your project team adjust to changes to your projects such as scope creep. The agile coach helps organizations adjust through these changes while achieving the goal.

Common Causes of Scope Creep
Source: PM Tips

3. Mentor Scrum Master

Agile coaches help to mentor Scrum masters. A Scrum master is a professional who leads a project team throughout a project’s life cycle using agile project management techniques.

The Scrum master coaches the project team in cross-functionality and self-management and helps the Scrum team handle problems and deliver high-value projects. 

Agile coaches also coach agile product owners on how to make daily decisions, retain the vision of the project value, and drive real business value. An agile coach assists the Scrum master to plan meetings, daily Scrum, and Scrum reviews.

ParametersScrum MasterAgile Coach
Focus Areas– Focuses on Scrum practices and complements them with other project management frameworks such as Kanban.
– Assists the project team with their daily workflow.
– Focuses on creating an overarching system for everyone involved in the product to follow.
– Provide advice on which tools and techniques to implement.
Role– Works in a single team.
– A transitional project manager that does not have extensive Scrum knowledge and experience.
– Ensures everything is moving properly in the Scrum process.
– Works with all teams including project stakeholders.
– An experienced Scrum master that has extensive experience with agile practices.
– Defines everything about the flow of the Scrum process.
Duration of Role– Throughout the duration that the Scrum team works on the project.– Until the goal is accomplished.
Knowledge– Masters the Scrum framework.– Masters the various agile methods such as Scrum, Kanban, Scrumban, and others.

4. Improve Agile Processes

The main reason agile coaches are in high demand is to create and improve agile processes within a company. An agile coach plays an integral role in helping team members cultivate an agile mindset. 

He or she instructs the project manager and team on the basics of agile tools such as Scrum tools and Kanban software.

5. Identify Project Risks

Agile coaches identify project risks and proffer solutions to them. They also help identify when the company is going through a transitioning phase. 

Since they majorly have an IT and project management background, they are usually efficient in coaching and guiding teams to figure out solutions for their challenges.

Types of Agile Coaches

1. Agile Team Facilitator

This type of agile coach focuses on helping single teams make the transition to agile principles to increase their work productivity and individual growth. 

The agile team facilitator takes very little part in meetings but focuses more on creating better conditions for effective work processes to achieve the aims and objectives from the meeting.

One of their major responsibilities is to introduce and maintain faster means of producing and delivering products and services. They help project teams achieve a successful outcome by fostering effective collaboration. 

An agile team facilitator helps the project team understand their common goals and plan how to achieve them. However, they do not force this growth nor does the team make fast changes due to the pressure from the organization. 

Agile team facilitators focus on infusing change in all hierarchies and generating a good team collaborative system.

2. Agile Coach

An agile coach functions in multiple teams in an organization. He or she engages different teams and levels of the organization. This type of coach focuses on improving team performance and efficiency.

No coach can cover all aspects of change in the organization. That is why different coaches specialize in different sectors.

Agile coaches must possess emotional intelligence. They need to be able to give support and encourage teams to new possibilities. An agile coach must be able to mentor, train, and coach the project team.

3. Enterprise Agile Coach

The enterprise agile coach is found in the enterprise sector. This type of coach focuses on the organization and the processes involved in delivering the project.

An enterprise agile coach operate at an organizational level across departments and focus on developing leaders and strategic goals for the organization.

Enterprise agile coaches need to have a solid knowledge of enterprise change management, organizational design, and executive leadership coaching. They should also know some enterprise agile frameworks such as Large-scale Scrum (LeSS) and Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), 

How Can an Agile Coach Help a Project Manager

Project managers and agile coaches are two different job titles that go hand in hand. Both job descriptions work closely with each other. Project managers and agile coaches can benefit from each other. 

  • Status Report: Through an agile coach, a project manager can get the project status report of agile teams. This will help the project manager in assigning tasks and achieving project plans.
  • Sets the Foundation: An agile coach sets the foundational work for the project managers. Without an effective and well-coordinated team that the agile coach develops, the work of the project manager will be invisible, no matter how good the team is or how simple the tasks are.
  • Training and Guidance: When the project team is well guided and trained, it brings out their best and reduces the workload of the project manager. Even with an average team, an agile coach can still train them to function at their best to accomplish the directives of the project manager. The training and guidance provided by the agile coach make the work of the project manager less strenuous. 

How Do I Become an Agile Coach?

One of the best ways to become an agile coach is through project management. Experience in project management especially when you serve as a project manager exposes you to agile methodologies you need to function effectively as an agile coach.

When a company needs to introduce the agile framework to its team, they often look first for project managers to take on the responsibility. 

Project managers tend to dive into this line of work due to their background in management and working with teams. Most agile coaches started as project managers before switching. 

A certificate or knowledge in project management can boost one’s path in the agile coaching sector. Some of the top project management certifications that can boost your chances of becoming an agile coach include Associate in Project Management, BVOP Certified Project Manager, Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM), and Certified Project Management Practitioner (CPMP),

  • Obtain an Agile Coaching Certificate: A certificate in agile coaching depends on the type of coach you want to be and the organization you want to work in. If you decide to work in an IT organization, you can start by getting experience in extreme programming (XP).
  • Gaining Experience in Scrum or Agile Roles: A certificate as a Scrum master gives you knowledge of agile methodologies, boosting your chances of becoming an agile coach.
  • Training Courses: This will also add to your value as an agile coach. As an amateur, you can start as an agile coach facilitator and work with single teams so you do not get too overwhelmed. 
  • Learn Directly from Agile Coaches: You can also connect or work closely with experienced agile coaches to learn from their experience.

Agile Coach Salary

The salary an agile coach earns depends on multiple factors such as location, level of profession, organization, and the sector of business. LinkedIn, in a 2017 report on the Most Promising Jobs of the year, ranked Scrum master (a type of agile coach) in 10th place and capped its median base salary at $100,000.

According to PayScale, the average agile coach salary is $125,277 per year. Glassdoor estimated the average agile coach salary at $137,881 annually. 

Agile coaches are in high demand with increased growth of 67% in job opportunities as of 2019. The top-paying cities in the United States of America are San Francisco, CA ($141,043 annually), Boston, MA ($143,379 annually), and New York, NY ($136,526 annually).

Salary also depends on the type of agile coach you choose to specialize in. An enterprise agile coach earns $121,992 per year while a senior agile coach earns $131,547 per year.

Anastasia Belyh

Editor at FounderJar

Anastasia has been a professional blogger and researcher since 2014. She loves to perform in-depth software reviews to help software buyers make informed decisions when choosing project management software, CRM tools, website builders, and everything around growing a startup business.

Anastasia worked in management consulting and tech startups, so she has lots of experience in helping professionals choosing the right business software.