The job role of a Scrum Master is ideal for anyone who likes working with people and helping them improve. As a Scrum Master, you’re responsible for guiding a team through the process of adopting and using Scrum, an Agile framework for software development (and product development, in general).
But what if you want to do more than just help a team adopt the Scrum framework? What if you want to become an Agile coach?
The responsibility of an Agile coach is to help individuals, teams, and organizations improve their understanding of and ability to apply the principles and practices of agility. As an Agile coach, you’ll work with clients to help them identify impediments to their success and then to remove those impediments. You’ll also teach, mentor, and facilitate the learning and growth of your clients through their Agile transformation.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what it takes for a Scrum Master to become an Agile Scrum coach. We’ll look at the skills that are needed and all the ways you can use to develop them.
Skills needed to be an Agile coach
An Agile coach needs to be proficient at understanding and applying Agile principles and practices. They must also have excellent people skills and be able to work with a wide variety of personalities. The ability to build relationships, trust, and rapport is essential.
We can divide the foundational skills needed to become an Agile coach into two broad categories:
1. Technical skills
2. Soft skills
The three most important technical (hard) skills for Agile coaches are:
- Knowledge of Agile practices
The most important technical skill for an Agile coach is a deep understanding of the principles and practices of business and product development agility. To be an effective Agile coach, you must be able to explain the concepts of Agile to others and help them see how these concepts can be applied in their own context.
You don’t need to be an expert in every Agile method or framework. Still, you do need to have a good working knowledge of the most popular ones, such as Scrum, Kanban, lean software development, extreme programming (XP), test-driven development (TDD), and more. After all, you cannot hope to coach others in the use of the Agile methodology if you don’t understand it yourself.
- Facilitation skills
An Agile coach must be able to facilitate workshops, training sessions, and other events. They must be able to engage with a group of people and help them learn and grow. Facilitation skills include being able to create a safe and supportive learning environment, being an active listener, and being able to ask probing questions.
Facilitation is crucial for ensuring that Scrum and Agile teams are effective. It is the skill that enables an Agile coach to lead a Scrum team through activities such as retrospectives, sprint planning, and backlog refinement sessions.
- Mentoring and coaching skills
The core of an Agile coach’s duties is mentoring and coaching Agile teams. This involves helping people identify their goals and then working with them to achieve those goals. Mentoring and coaching skills include:
- Being able to give feedback.
- Providing support.
- Helping people learn from their mistakes.
Agile coaches are usually outside consultants brought in to help a team or organization with their transition to the Agile principle. As such, they need to be able to quickly build trust and rapport with their clients. They also need to be comfortable working with people at all levels of an organization, from the C-suite to the development team to individual contributors.
Soft skills are just as important as technical skills for Agile coaches. In fact, some people believe that they are even more important.
Here are the three most important soft skills for an Agile coach:
The ability to understand and share the feelings of another person is essential. As an Agile coach, you’ll be working with people from all walks of life and from all levels of organizations. You need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of a team member, understand their challenges, and help them find solutions that work for them.
An Agile coach must be an excellent communicator. They must be able to clearly and concisely articulate their thoughts and ideas. They must also be able to listen attentively and understand what others are saying. In fact, listening is an even more important communication skill for an Agile coach than speaking.
This is because, as we’ve already mentioned, one of the primary roles of an Agile coach is to help teams and individuals identify their issues and resolve them. This can only be done if the coach is able to understand what the Agile team or individual is saying and then help them articulate their thoughts in a way that is clear and actionable.
- Analysis and problem-solving
You may not think that problem-solving is essential for Agile coaches, but it is. As an enterprise Agile coach, you’ll be working with clients to help them identify and remove impediments to their success. This requires the ability to analyze problems and find creative solutions.
Developing the skills to be an Agile coach
If you want to move from a Scrum Master position to that of an Agile coach, there are a few things you can do to develop the necessary skills. Here are some suggestions:
In this day and age, with so many constantly evolving industries, certifications have become essential not just for proving your competence but also for keeping up with the latest trends. There are many different certifications available for an Agile coach. Here are the ones that are most commonly asked for in job interviews:
- ICAgile Certified Professional in Agile Coaching Certification (ICP-ACC)
- ICAgile Certified Expert in Agile Coaching Certification (ICE-AC)
- PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
- SAFe Practitioner (SP)
- SAFe Practitioner Consultant (SPC)
- SAFe Scrum Master
Of course, attending courses and training not specifically meant for Agile coaches but that can teach you relevant skills is also a great idea. For example, project management, change management, leadership, facilitation, and mentoring courses can all be beneficial.
Follow experts in the field
In the vast expanse of the internet, you’re never more than a few clicks away from some of the world’s foremost experts on Agile coaching. Thankfully, many of them are generous with their time and knowledge and share their insights on sites like Medium, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
If you are serious about becoming an Agile coach, make sure to follow some of these experts and read/watch their content regularly.
We’re not saying that you should blindly follow everything they say but that you should consider their advice and insights. Filter this new knowledge through your own experiences and values and then decide what makes sense for you and what doesn’t.
Practice, practice, practice
If you are looking into moving to the position of an Agile coach, chances are that you already have some experience working as a Scrum Master. This is great news because it means you already have a solid foundation on which to build.
Whenever you learn something new from the field of Agile coaching, don’t be afraid to apply it in your current Scrum Master role. This will not only help you validate the new knowledge but also give you a chance to practice and hone your skills.
And, of course, if you ever have the opportunity to take on an Agile coaching project outside of your day-to-day job, grab it with both hands. These opportunities will be invaluable in helping you transition to an Agile coach role.
Finally, remember that the world of Agile coaching is always evolving. This means that, as an Agile coach, you will never be done learning. The moment you think you know everything there is to know about Agile coaching is the moment you start falling behind, just like in basically any other fast-paced field.
So, make sure to keep up with the latest trends and developments in the world of Agile coaching. Read articles, watch videos, listen to podcasts, go to conferences – do whatever you need to do to stay on top of your game. Only then will you be able to truly help your clients achieve success.
Will becoming an Agile coach be easy? No, probably not. But it will definitely be worth it. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can develop the skills necessary to become a great Agile coach.
Out of all the ways to develop these skills, we believe that the most important one is to get certified. As a certified Agile coach, you will not only be able to learn the required knowledge but also validate it in the eyes of potential clients.
If you are interested in going down this career path, we would love to help you get started. We offer several certification programs that will give you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed as an Agile coach. Visit our website today or contact us to learn more.