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Agile Coaching

Posted by Kathy Harman, MCC | September 11, 2015 | Comments (7)

Are you a team coach looking to grow your business and add new skills to your toolbox? Consider making your practice more nimble by exploring Agile methodology.

Agile is a project management framework based on using small, efficient, self-managed teams to deliver project results in a flexible and efficient manner. It originally arose as a way to streamline software development, although non-technical organizations are starting to adopt the framework. Agile organically developed two “team coaching” roles: scrum master (the team coach) and Agile coach (implementer and coach for scrum masters). Since Agile demands more self-direction and leadership from team members, organizations need strong, experienced team coaches to step into these roles.

Few professional team coaches have heard of Agile and the Agile world is, for the most part, ignorant of the coaching profession. A couple of innovative Agile trainers educate technical Agile coaches and scrum masters on how to coach teams. At the same time, many experienced team coaches search for a way to build a sustainable coaching business. It’s time for the two worlds to come together.

Agile Methodology

Understanding Agile

Most organizations use project teams to complete work efficiently. Teams determine the work to be done, estimate how long it will take and manage their own schedules. In the mid-1990s, Agile was developed in response to traditional project-management methods, which tend to be cumbersome and process-heavy. Agile, which depends on self-managed, collaborative teams to continuously implement customer-driven solutions, offers a flexible, common-sense alternative.

Agile project teams are empowered to deliver value early and often. In Scrum, the most popular form of Agile, the team creates a prioritized backlog of work necessary for the project, and completes usable portions of that work in two-to-four week iterations. Each iteration includes a set of “ceremonies” enabling the team to engage the customer in the process and continually improve. Agile teams can easily change direction as market needs fluctuate.

Byproducts of Agile methodology include improved employee motivation and satisfaction. Employees on well-run Agile teams learn valuable skills that they bring to teams they join in the future.

Agile Methodology Offers an Efficient Way of Completing Projects

Driving Success

Although Agile methodology sounds simple, it is surprisingly difficult to implement without the aid of a knowledgeable team coach. Agile is a dramatic departure from familiar team approaches and has a steep change curve. Yet the team is expected to handle this change, learn Agile and increase productivity simultaneously. The coach supports the team in adapting to the change and moving toward self-management as its members learn the methodology.

Building a Thriving Team Coaching Business

For experienced team coaches who want to explore Agile methodology, there are some training programs that teach the basics of Agile from a professional coach’s point of view. Once a coach understands Agile basics, she can put her learning into action by taking on the role of scrum master. This real-world experience can lay the foundation for a team coaching process based on the Agile framework.

Although Agile originally was designed to simplify software development projects, organizations are finding that they need more than technically trained scrum masters. They need practitioners who understand how to empower a team to collaboratively move to high-performance while adapting to Agile methodology. This represents a significant opportunity for experienced team coaches interested in Agile training. Although organizations in the technology sector still comprise the majority of Agile users, the methodology is taking hold outside the tech world. For professional coaches with Agile training, any organization that uses project teams to get work done is a potential customer.

Services a professional coach with Agile training can deliver to organizations include:

  • Developing Agile implementation plans
  • Training and coaching scrum masters
  • Coaching Agile teams
  • Developing and managing organizational coaching programs in service of building an Agile-friendly coaching culture
  • Using Agile techniques and team coaching to coach leadership teams

Agile adds a proven methodology to the team coach’s toolbox that will lend a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Kathy Harman, MCC

Kathy Harman, MCC, offers a collaborative approach to the corporate world by coaching teams and individuals to thrive. She blended her Leadership Coach training with her information technology career experience to develop the PRISM Team approach to coach both technical and business teams to discover their own unique path to high-performance. A Certified Scrum Master and Certified Coach Mentor, she is the author of PRISM Teams: Coaching Prolific, Radically Innovative Self-Managed Teams (, 2012), and The ABCs of Living Well (self-published, 2010). Kathy offers online training in THE PRISM Team Approach and Agile for Coaches.

The views and opinions expressed in guest posts featured on this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). The publication of a guest post on the ICF Blog does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.

Comments (7)

  1. Gerard Chiva says:

    As an Agile Coach I’d like to express my opinion regarding some assumptions and conclusions in this article.

    I understand the context in which this post is published but, Agile is not a project management framework. Agile is a set of values and principles expressed through different behaviors, practices, methodologies, frameworks and tools.

    The moral of this article is if you are a team coach or professional coach and you take some Agile training you can work as an Agile Coach. Nothing further away from reality. Let me explain.

    Do you think anyone can be soccer or basket coach without having experience as soccer or basket player? I don’t think so.

    It is very unlikely you get any contract as Agile Coach unless you demonstrate strong experience in the software industry in roles as Product Manager, Product Owner, Developer, Manager, Architect, Operations or Project Manager.

    This doesn’t mean you cannot work as an Agile Coach if you don’t have software background, but it is very unlikely and it’s not as straightforward as the article suggests. I’ve met great Agile Coaches who don’t have a software background but they are the exception not the rule.

    In my opinion, expecting any professional coach with a CSM training can work as an Agile Coach is misleading and far from reality. I don’t think Agile is another tool for the team coach, but all the contrary. Agile Coach is a profession and team coaching is one of the skills you have to develop.

    Let me elaborate further my understanding on what Agile Coaching is about.

    An Agile Coach is a professional that has to master certain skills and be able to take different approaches. You have to be able to adapt your approach depending on the context. Sometimes you have to teach, others you have to mentor, or you have to be a coach, a consultant or a facilitator. Knowing when either approach is needed is the tricky part. You cannot excel in all of them but you have to have a basic level at each.

    What are the skills an Agile Coach has to master:
    – Large experience in the software industry. Most Agile Coaches I know have more than 10 years experience in the software industry in different roles.
    – Agile and Lean values, principles and practices. These include technical practices as well as process, management and leadership.
    – Change management, because most Agile adoptions are a disruption to “the way we do things around here”
    – Personal Coaching and Team Coaching
    – Facilitation techniques

    I believe team coaches have their space in the Agile world, and can provide great value if they do what they are good at, which is team coaching. But an Agile Coach, as seen above, is much more than a team coach with a CSM certificate.

    If you want to read about Agile Coaching, these are my favourite books:
    – Coaching Agile Teams, by Lyssa Adkins
    – Agile Coaching, by Rachel Davies
    – Scrum Mastery, by Geoff Watts

    I’d also recommend any aspiring Agile Coach to participate in an Agile Coach Camp and attend some Agile conferences. Then you will be able to figure out by yourselves.

    Gerard Chiva
    Lean & Agile Coach

  2. Coach says:

    Good for a Company.

  3. Ellie Davis says:

    It’s interesting to know how agile coaching departures from familiar team approaches and has a steep change curve. My husband is thinking about how he can improve his company’s efficiency, and we are looking for advice. I will let him know about agile coaching to see if it helps his company.

  4. Mirketa says:

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information

  5. says:

    Hi every body,
    Is there any newest article about agile coaching around?
    After 5 years it should be improved by more experiences.

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