What is an Agile Coach and How to Become One (2022 Guide)
Want to understand what Agile coaches do and learn how to become one?
Agile coaches are the Jedi Masters of the project management world.
When it comes to Agile project management, they know everything.
And it’s their job to teach all of this to the young Luke Skywalkers of the Agile world!
Agile coaches teach young teams about the Agile mindset and assist them in managing their projects effectively.
But how do they do that?
And more importantly, how do you become one?
To help you answer those questions, we’ll go over everything you need to know in this article!
Let’s get this started.
What is an Agile coach?
An Agile coach is someone who helps individuals and teams adopt Agile practices and principles.
Think of it this way:
An Agile coach is like Obi-Wan and you’re Luke Skywalker, trying to learn how to control “The Force.” The Agile coach’s job is to train you to understand the Agile practices so you can implement them.
But what’s Agile?
Agile project management is a modern management method where you divide a project into small cycles called sprints. You attempt each sprint separately and once you’re done with each one, you present it to your customers.
They give you their feedback and you incorporate it before moving onto the next sprint. You repeat this Agile software development process until you’re done with all the sprints in your project!
So what’s so great about this approach?
There are two key benefits of using Agile software development:
- As you’re dividing your project into sprints, you can make changes easily. Whenever something needs to be re-done, you’re only re-doing one sprint – not the entire project!
- As you involve customers in the Agile software development process, it’s easier to give them a final product they love!
Okay…but where do Agile coaches come in?
Companies and teams hire Agile coaches when they want to adopt this approach and replace their existing management style.
What are the different kinds of Agile coaches?
Just like there are different Jedi Master levels, there are different Agile coach levels.
Here’s a quick look at the three Agile coach types and what they do:
A. Agile team facilitator
The Agile team facilitator role is the most hands-on Agile coach role.
Because this kind of Agile coach is dedicated to helping a particular team transition to Agile and boost their productivity.
The Agile team facilitator is in constant contact with the team – guiding them every step of the way. Whether it’s helping them plan their sprints or organize their meetings – the team facilitator is there!
As the Agile team facilitator is so actively involved with the team, they often double up as the team’s Scrum Master.
What’s a Scrum master?
Scrum is one of the project management methods that’s based on Agile. Scrum follows the same principles and uses the sprint approach too.
B. Agile coach
This is the next stage of an Agile coach’s development.
Here, you’re tasked with implementing Agile development across multiple teams and throughout the organization. While Agile coaches might still interact with individual teams, they focus on making broad-scale changes to organizational processes.
Their main responsibilities are:
- Integrating Agile development across various teams and departments in a company
- Mentoring and coaching team members
- Monitoring the Agile transformation process and removing any obstacles
C. Enterprise Agile coach
The enterprise Agile coach is the Yoda-tier of Agile coaching.
An enterprise Agile coach focuses on organizational change to make companies more adaptive to Agile practices. Enterprise Agile coaches are more involved with working with senior leadership and helping them understand the benefits of the Agile approach in enterprise project management.
In addition to possessing the skills that other Agile coaches have, enterprise Agile coaches need to:
- Be well-versed with organizational change design
- Possess enterprise change management skills
- Learn executive leadership coaching
Additionally, enterprise Agile coaches must have a good grasp of some common enterprise Agile frameworks such as:
- Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
- Large scale Scrum (LeSS)
- Disciplined Agile Delivery (DaD)
What does an Agile coach do?
The role of an agile coach is to spark improvement, raise awareness, train team members, and remove barriers.
Sure, an Agile coach might know a lot, but how do they put that into practice?
Where are the epic lightsaber battles?!
While Agile coaches might not engage in any physical combat, they still do a lot!
Here’s a breakdown of what the Agile coach role entails:
1. Sparking improvement
Agile is supposed to make your work processes more efficient and thorough.
And since an Agile coach helps you adopt Agile practices, it’s their job to help your organization improve quickly!
Whether it’s eliminating unnecessary processes, redoing workflows or restructuring project activities, the Agile coach is focused on improving your company!
2. Raising awareness
Before the Agile coach can start changing things, they need to show the company why there needs to be a change!
They need to point out:
- What processes are inefficient
- What’s draining productivity
- Where there’s room for improvement
- What they can tweak
- And more!
But just pointing out what’s wrong isn’t very helpful, right?
I mean, they’re an Agile coach, not a food critic!
That’s why part of the Agile coach role is also promoting awareness of the benefits of Agile.
Most enterprise Agile coaches focus on showing a company how Agile can solve all the issues they pointed out earlier!
3. Training team members
This one is pretty obvious, right?
A core part of Agile transformation is teaching teams how to practice Agile project management!
It’s their job to teach them about all the principles and processes that go into Agile development. However, teaching isn’t the only part of the Agile coach role.
They need to actively help the team carry out what they learned and train them to implement it. As this training stage needs to be so hands-on, Agile team facilitators usually take this job up.
4. Removing barriers
Restructuring your company’s workflows isn’t easy.
Just like the number of Stormtroopers that Han Solo had to face, you’ll face tons of barriers and challenges when trying to transition to the Agile framework.
For example, you could face barriers related to:
- Redoing workflows
- Employee resistance
- Management apprehension
- The list goes on!
Agile coaches are responsible for addressing all these barriers and resolving them quickly. This will ensure that the Agile processes are swiftly adopted and effectively implemented!
What are the qualities of a good Agile coach?
Good communication skills, patience, and empathy are all qualities of a good agile coach.
So you think you have the coaching skills to take on the Agile coach role?
Becoming an Agile coach isn’t all about roles and responsibilities.
You need to have the right characteristics and temperament too.
Just like a Jedi Master, you need to have certain qualities if you want to use the Agile Force properly!
A. Good communication skills
Agile coaching skills all come down to communication.
- Talking to teams and helping them understand Agile principles
- Coaching managers to become Agile team facilitators
- Convincing top management to implement organizational change
Everything an Agile coach does revolves around communicating effectively!
And unlike Master Yoda or Chewie, you can’t be confusing.
Whatever you say as an Agile coach needs to be clear, concise, and comprehensible.
Because you’re dealing with people who aren’t familiar with Agile principles and practices. You need to clearly spell things out to ensure that they truly grasp things to teach them effectively!
You don’t become a Jedi Master in a day.
It takes years of hard work and dedication, right?
And while Agile transformation won’t take years, it’s definitely going to take more than a few days.
That’s why it’s important for any Agile coach to be extremely patient.
Remember, Agile practices may seem like the easiest thing in the world to you. But that’s because you’ve studied and applied them for years!
Agile is a completely new concept to the teams you’re coaching and that’s why it’s completely reasonable for them to struggle with it. Your job as an Agile coach is to stick with them and keep helping them adapt until they’ve finally mastered the Agile framework!
Jedis can sense people’s intentions and even their thoughts.
So it’s no surprise that another key quality for Agile coaches is empathy, right?
You need to truly connect with the team you’re coaching to understand the challenges they’re facing.
Because that’s the only way you’ll be able to see where they’re coming from and why they do the things they do. Once you understand that, you’ll be able to present the Agile mindset as a more attractive option and teach them how to use it effectively.
How do you become a good Agile coach?
There are multiple ways to learn about agile coaching such as agile institutes, agile courses, and workshops, or even certifications like the Certified Scrum Master course.
So you think you’re ready to become an Agile coach young Padawan?
Here’s a breakdown of what you can do to learn everything you can about Agile coaching:
1. Agile institutes
If there was a school for Jedi Masters, this would be it.
These institutes will teach you everything you need to know about how an Agile coach works.
These professional coaching institutes have all the professional coaching you need to quickly come to grips with the Agile development process and Agile community.
Here’s a list of the best professional coaching institutes in the world.
- Agile coaching institute
- Agile for all
- APMG international
- International Consortium for Agile
2. Agile courses
Are you a Jedi warrior in a rush to learn about the Agile development process?
Here are some of the best courses that will help you learn the coaching skills you need to manage an Agile project and become an Agile coach:
- ASPE Agile Coaching Workshop (ICP-ACC)
- Scaled Agile Coaching
- Agile Coaching Institute: Agile Coach Bootcamp
- cPrime Professional Agile Coach Training
- Professional Agile Coach (PAC) training
- Eliassen Group Agile Coaching Workshop
These courses will teach you everything you need to know to carry on with your Agile journey, whether it’s:
- How an Agile coach works
- Understanding the Agile development process
- Learning the Agile Manifesto and Agile values
- Connecting with the Agile community
- What different Agile methods are like Scrum Kanban and Lean
- And way more!
While those courses are very helpful, you can even get certified as an Agile coach to help you build your credibility in the Agile community.
Here are three great certification courses for Agile coaches:
- Villanova University’s Agile management certification
- ICAgile Certified Professional — Agile Coaching
- Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC)
Check out our Agile training guide for more courses and information.
3. Additional steps
If you’re a Jedi warrior who truly wants to harness the power of Agile, then you can opt for courses that cover some of the other Agile methods like Scrum, Kanban and Lean Agile.
But why should you do this?
Understanding various other Agile methods will help you develop as an Agile coach and continue your Agile journey.
You’re no longer stuck with one set of Agile software principles – you can take stock of every team’s situation and recommend the best course of action!
So where should I start?
Since Scrum is the most popular Agile software method, it’s a good idea to become a certified Scrum master.
The certified Scrum Master (CSM) course from Scrum Alliance is a good place to start.
The certified Scrum master course by Scrum Alliance will teach you about:
- What Agile Scrum is
- How Agile and Scrum relate
- The Scrum guide
- Scrum meetings like the daily Scrum
- How to manage Scrum teams
- How the Scrum Master and Agile connect
- Developing Agile software with Scrum
- And lots more!
Bet Master Yoda didn’t have to go through that much!
How to implement Agile coaching effectively
Han Solo and Chewie didn’t try and save the day all by themselves, right?
They needed the Millenium Falcon to get them there!
Similarly, Agile coaches need the right tool to help their teams adopt the Agile mindset quickly.
With an Agile project tool, you’ll be able to actually show your trainees how Agile works.
You can show them:
- How to track project progress
- How to build a backlog
- How to manage sprint lists
- And so on!
Additionally, once you’re done training them, they can continue to use the same Agile project tool to carry out their processes. This way, they’re already familiar with the interface and operations – making it easy for them to get off the ground quickly!
But what’s the Agile equivalent of the Millenium Falcon?
The best Agile project management tool for 2021: ClickUp
And while ClickUp might not be as old as Master Yoda, it’s just as powerful – and way easier to understand!
Here’s a look at how you can use it to coach your Agile teams:
1. Goals to help your teams conquer your sprints
If Star Wars was all about destroying the Death Star, then Agile processes are all about destroying project inefficiencies!
Goals play a key role in Agile project management as it gives your team something to focus on and build towards. For example, your product backlog contains everything that your team has to zero-in on – everything else is unnecessary!
But how do you help your teams focus on their goal and not get distracted?
With ClickUp’s Goals!
In ClickUp, Goals are high-level containers that are broken down into smaller, measurable targets.
Each goal can have a certain number of targets and once you finish those targets, you can complete your goal. This way, your product backlog in ClickUp can be your goal, while the targets are all the items you need to complete to finish your product!
It’s that simple!
I bet the Star Wars saga would have been far shorter if Luke and the gang had Goals to help them focus better!
2. Sprint Lists to easily track sprint progress
Star Wars revolved around the stories of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, right?
Similarly, Agile processes revolve around sprints!
And since sprints are such a core part of the Agile approach, you need to carefully go over them with the team you’re training.
Luckily, ClickUp is the best way to do this.
ClickUp’s Sprint Lists help you easily keep track of each sprint’s progress.
But what are these sprint lists?
A sprint list is a checklist that can break down the goals for each individual sprint.
This way, your sprint lists can contain all the items you’ll be attempting in a sprint and you can check them off as you progress
However, that isn’t the best part.
3. Agile Dashboards to track project progress
Your team can’t monitor their progress if they can’t track how their projects are going, right?
That’d be like fighting Vader without a lightsaber!
But don’t worry.
ClickUp isn’t going to let you get into that kind of fight without the right tools!
You can use ClickUp’s powerful Dashboards for quick visual summaries of all your Agile development projects and sprints. You can customize your Dashboard’s widgets to highlight different metrics, such as:
- Velocity charts: highlights your team’s task completion rate
- Burndown charts: shows you the amount of work you still need to complete
- Burnup charts: shows you the amount of work you’ve already finished
- Cumulative flow charts: help you visualize project progress
However, that isn’t all that ClickUp gives you.
This Agile software also has tons of other features to assist your team on their Agile journey, such as:
- Multiple Views: choose from multiple project views to cater to different team preferences
- Priorities: help your team always attempt the most important tasks first
- Gantt Charts: quickly chart your project’s progress
- Dependencies: ensure that your team always tackles tasks in the right order
- Custom Access Rights: include stakeholders in your projects to help them understand the benefits of Agile
There’s no doubt that Agile coaches are modern-day Jedi Masters.
They’re knowledgeable, helpful and help you fight the problems you’re facing.
Except, in this case, the problem isn’t (SPOILER ALERT) Anakin Skywalker.
Agile coaches help you battle low productivity and inefficiency with the powers of Agile project management.
And if you really want to experience the “force” when it comes to tackling project roadblocks, why not try out ClickUp today?