If you’ve been involved with agile for some time, especially in the role of ScrumMaster or Product Owner, it’s a natural career path evolution to consider the possibility of becoming an Agile Coach.
If you’re at that point and you’d like to know if agile coaching is a good fit for you, take out a fresh sheet of paper and sharpen your #2 pencil, because we have a simple yes-or-no quiz you can take right now to see where you stand.
1. Are you currently a ScrumMaster, Product Owner, or a member of a successful agile team?
2. Are you comfortable with the common agile frameworks, such as Scrum, XP, Lean, and Kanban?
3. Would you be capable of taking over as ScrumMaster on a troubled team?
4. Would you be capable of taking over as Product Owner if necessary?
5. Are you comfortable with giving a 2-hour presentation in front of 20 team members?
6. Are you comfortable with giving a 30-minute presentation in front of 10 senior executives?
7. Are you proficient at tracing out root causes rather than treating symptoms?
8. Are you capable of maintaining an emotional distance from the problems being solved?
9. Are you comfortable managing conflict and having tough conversations?
10. Would you be comfortable removing an agile team member who is not working out?
11. Are you interested in “why’s” instead of just “what’s” and “how’s”?
12. Are you truly interested in moving beyond the team framework and working on an organizational level?
Basically, if you answered “no” to any of the questions above, there are aspects of the role of Agile Coach that you may not be fully prepared for. Twelve “yes” responses in a row puts you ahead of the pack on your way to success as an Agile Coach.
Let’s see why:
The Cheat Sheet
The first six questions…
deal with your technical and functional knowledge of common agile frameworks and specifically the roles of ScrumMaster and Product Owner, which an Agile Coach will be working with most commonly. If you are experienced in these roles, you have an easier path ahead of you than someone trying to breakthrough without hand-on involvement.
In addition, public speaking and an aptitude for teaching are important skills to become a successful coach of any type, and an Agile Coach is no different. You will need to be proficient at speaking confidently and persuasively at all levels of the organization.
If you feel you are lacking in knowledge or confidence, there are resources available to help bridge that gap and get you to the level of functional knowledge you need to succeed.
The last six questions…
deal with how comfortable you are on the relationship side of being an Agile Coach. Unlike the functional knowledge we discussed earlier, many of these factors are personality-based and are therefore more deeply entrenched in who you are as a person
To be effective, you’ll have to maintain an emotional distance from the people and issues you’re working with. This can be especially difficult for an internal coach who is working with former peers and bosses, perhaps with years of emotional investment in the company they are now coaching toward agile success.
You will also need to effectively manage conflict, be brutally honest when improvements are needed, and even be willing to take drastic action when someone is standing in the way of success.
As an Agile Coach, you’ll need to have a “big picture” view of the agile transformation and take a keen interest in understanding and communicating the “why’s” behind changes being made rather than just focusing on the process with a “do it because I said so” mentality.
It’s important to remember that taking on the role of Agile Coach will take you out of the small team environment and widen your horizons to the entire organization, or even to multiple organizations if you decide to build a coaching business of your own.
If you answered “no” to any of the last six questions, but feel you can improve in those areas, there are plenty of resources to help with that as well.
One of the best we know of is our Professional Agile Coach Training Course. In addition to covering common missteps that companies make along the way to Agile, it also shows how you, as a coach, can best serve the organization as it transitions.