What Is an Agile Coach?

Wondering what an Agile coach is and why it was voted one of the world’s best jobs by Indeed in 2019? Agile coaches improve productivity, teach people new skills, and transform operations. They also create a positive working environment for themselves and others. 

Keep reading to discover what an Agile coach is, the benefits they provide, and whether or not this career is right for you. 

What is an Agile coach? 

An Agile coach, also known as a delivery coach in some cases, teaches companies about Agile project management and how to use it. They also implement large structural changes and workflow processes so that teams become measurably more efficient. 

In case you didn’t already know, Agile project management is a project management philosophy that encourages continuous delivery, improvement of processes, and adapting to change. Agile Scrum teams typically work in short timescales called sprints. 

Each sprint has a defined set of tasks and a deadline of about two to four weeks. Teams take time in between each sprint to understand what went well and what could have gone better. They then apply these lessons to the next sprint, and the cycle repeats itself. 

Customers or project stakeholders may also provide feedback at regular intervals. This makes collecting requests more meaningful and actionable. 

Agile project management makes it easy to deal with changes and improve processes throughout an entire organization. As you can probably imagine, this system enhances projects’ success rate and their adaptability by a significant amount. In fact, 60% of companies experience revenue and profit growth after adopting an Agile approach.

What is Agile coaching?

Agile coaching relies on a three-step system for scaling production and making teams more productive. 

  1. Education
    Agile coaches teach people what Agile project management is, why it’s important, and how to do it. This can take the form of one-on-one coaching sessions, mentorships, and companywide workshops. 
  2. Tools
    Agile coaches set businesses up with the best possible project management tools they need to plan for and carry out their new system effectively. 
  3. Training
    Some Agile coaches offer formal Agile project management certifications, mentorship, and daily operations. Training can revolve around a specific project or a team’s collective skill set so that they can apply their knowledge to all of their work overtime. 

    Different training levels include:
    1. Technical mastery (teaching skills) 
    2. Business mastery (driving product innovation)
    3. Transformation mastery (organization change catalyst)

Because they offer a holistic set of services, Agile coaches can jump in to assist projects and companies at any point in their development. 

What are the benefits of Agile coaching? 

There are many organizational, interpersonal, and operational benefits of Agile coaching. 

Organizations who make it a priority to restructure or perfect their workflows with the help of an outside expert often report anecdotal evidence of:

  • Successful project delivery despite mounting challenges
  • Projects that are on time or ahead of schedule and within the original budget
  • A streamlined system for implementing significant changes
  • Improved company culture 

A survey conducted by Dublin City University on the value of using an Agile coach also found that:

  • Agile coaches fill a much-needed knowledge gap in existing teams
  • They’re great at streamlining operations at large and complex organizations
  • Agile coaches significantly decrease the risk of adoption failure
  • They can help organize teams that are spread out all over the world or telecommuting
  • Agile coaches motivate teams to continually improve and collaborate naturally, without supervision

In a nutshell: Agile coaching will help teams optimize their processes, communicate better, and more easily adapt to change. The benefits far outweigh the investment. 

What does an Agile coach do?

An Agile coach teaches, implements, and strategizes big picture project management changes for current and future projects. They help teams learn how to optimize their unique process using Scrum and Agile approaches. 

An Agile coach’s exact tasks vary from project to project. For the most part, you can count on an Agile coach to improve your business’s overall operations on every level. 

In this example of Agile coaching for a financial services company, the business had a few significant problems:

  • An increase in pressure to produce transformational results consistently
  • General resistance to Scrum project management
  • A decrease in critical resources such as time and budget
  • A significant lack of understanding of Agile frameworks and methodologies
  • No way to measure progress
  • Unclear instructions and ambiguous deadlines

After working with an Agile coach, the financial services company created a reliable system for extensive project planning, forecasting, and implementation that empowered all team members. 

Here’s what the Agile coach did to achieve this successful result: 

  1. Educated the team and corrected their misunderstanding of Agile project management
  2. Transitioned the project from its current organizational structure to Scrum
  3. Created transformational yet realistic team goals
  4. Identified and planned for potential roadblocks
  5. Conducted high-level planning and a review of all adoption cycles

As you can see, their duties ranged from education to high-level planning and everything in between. 

What are an Agile coach’s responsibilities? 

An Agile coach is responsible for consulting businesses using their knowledge and expertise. A great Agile coach will communicate the information in a way that is easy to understand even if their insights are complex. 

Because they’ll be working with employees at every level, they are responsible for providing context to each department. And, if there’s any resistance to adopting these methods, an Agile coach will have to build trust, strengthen those relationships, and get everyone on board. 

Are there different types of Agile coaches?

  1. Agile team facilitator
    Agile team facilitators lead a group of people in implementing and maintaining an Agile management plan effectively. They may split their time between playing Scrum master and managing products or development. 

    Takeaway: Agile team facilitators help teams. 
  2. Enterprise Agile coach
    Enterprise Agile coaches teach the leaders how to set Agile goals, develop viable plans, and implement a companywide Agile project management solution. Their role involves both education and strategy. 

    Takeaway: Enterprise Agile coaches help business leaders. 
  3. Agile coach
    Agile coaches support an entire organization’s project management needs and take the big picture into account as they strategize a new way of doing things. 

    Takeaway: Agile coaches help the entire organization. 

What are Agile coaching specialties? 

In addition to the types of coaches, there are coaching specialties within each group. A specialty is an area of expertise within Agile project management, teaching, or implementation. 

There are three main specialties:

  1. Technical
    Technical Agile coaches help the development team work out coding and integration. 
  2. Operations
    Operations Agile coaches set up a productive Agile project management structure by defining leadership, adopting tools, and outlining workflows. 
  3. Non-directive
    Non-directive Agile coaches are laser-focused on Agile problem-solving at an individual and team level. 

What is the difference between an Agile coach and a Scrum master?

Although they perform many the same jobs, an Agile coach and Scrum master have one key difference: their end goal. 

There is an old proverb that accurately illustrates this question. It goes, “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

If Agile coaching is like teaching a man how to fish, then being a Scrum master is like giving a man a fish. They both solve the same problem using similar methods, but their end goal is different. 

Here’s what makes that difference obvious in a real-world application: a Scrum master is part of the Scrum team, but an Agile coach is not. Scrum masters are there to support a single project or series of related projects. Agile coaches help teams learn and implement the systems themselves. 

  • In general, Scrum masters are in charge of:
  • Assembling a multifunctional team 
  • Organizing everyone's time
  • Supporting the product owner
  • Implementing Scrum routines

An Agile coach doesn't specifically help individuals or teams. Instead, they make sure  Agile processes are set up and implemented. The goal of Agile is to improve an organization as a whole, whereas Scrum is dedicated to overseeing and getting their hands dirty with a specific project team. 

A Scrum master and Agile coach often get confused because a Scrum master does help with teaching teams how to do things. But while a Scrum master can coach product owners, development teams, and the larger organization, their goals are laser-focused on the tasks at hand.

For example, as you can see from this Scrum master case study, the Scrum master supported an MVP launch three months into the project despite the challenges presented by a rotating group of developers. They did so by making sure the team adopted an Agile mindset and methodology. However, after the project was over, the Scrum master’s involvement with the organization was too. 

How do you become a Scrum master? 

To become an Agile Scrum master, you must first become an expert in what Scrum project management is and how to use it. Then, take and pass the Scrum Alliance certification exam to receive your two-year certification. 

How do you become an Agile coach?  

  1. Get the right training: To become an Agile coach, you need to learn Agile through a paid or free course. You can also use a certification class or online exam to build your credentials.
  2. Get the right experience: That being said, practice makes perfect, so look for more opportunities to learn on the job wherever possible. Look for projects that allow you to focus on your preferred specialty or type. The amount of experience you need is up to you. As long as you have a thorough understanding of Agile management and a knack for teaching it, you should be able to find work. 
  3. Get the right tools: In the meantime, get familiar with a project management solution like Wrike. This will help you be fully prepared when it’s time to take your classroom education and apply it to real-world scenarios. Plus, Wrike makes Agile project management easy with features that visualize data, facilitate communication, and organize multiple departments all at once. 

Pro tip: if you’re unsure whether you’re ready to become an Agile coach, look at current job listings and compare your resume to the requirements. Here are some examples:

  • A strong understanding of product development cycles
  • The ability to lead transformative change through creative thinking
  • Can teach, summarize, and promote Agile project management best practices
  • Always looking for new ways to improve
  • Can juggle multiple open projects and conversations at a variety of organization levels all at once
  • Can oversee and coach Scrum masters
  • Willingness to work independently while guiding everyone else

How much does an Agile coach make or charge? 

According to Glassdoor, Agile coaches make an average of $78,000 to $132,000 per year, depending on their experience level and location. But according to Indeed.com, an Agile coach makes an average of $161,000 per year. Clearly, there is room to grow in this field. Freelance Agile coaches can charge anywhere from $77 to $97 per hour for various services and specialties. 

What skills and traits do you need to become an Agile coach?

Here are some of the essential skills and traits you need to become an Agile coach. Add the following how to put remote work on resume through advanced training or trial and error: 

  • In-depth knowledge of Agile, Scrum, and Kanban project management
  • Real-world experience with Agile or Scrum project management
  • IT/Software development skills or an understanding of development
  • Positive attitude
  • Reward-focused mindset
  • Great interpersonal skills
  • Conflict management and resolution abilities
  • Strong listening skills
  • Interest in lifelong learning
  • An open mind
  • Ability to assess systems and data
  • Easy-going nature
  • A keen eye for detail
  • Ability to perform self-assessments
  • Passion for project management and productivity 

Why does your project need an Agile coach?

Your project needs an Agile coach if your company is transitioning from another management style, needs to scale quickly, or has staff that continuously rotate in and out and need direction. They can also help you accurately forecast and plan projects. Or, if it’s already underway, your business may need help taking on new work using limited resources. 

Master organizational change with Wrike

Agile project managers and Agile coaches work to help educate and implement these methodologies companywide. One of the best ways to increase adoption is with an Agile project management solution. Wrike gives all users transparency into projects while making data visual and easier to understand. Master organizational change with our two-week free trial.

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