The Agile Coach: What are their challenges and responsibilities?

Agile Coach

The Agile Coach is one of the most in-demand jobs in modern project management today. In addition to his expertise in agile methods, he convinces with multi-faceted coaching qualities. But what exactly is part of the daily business of an agile coach? What does he have to be able to do and how does one become an Agile Coach in the first place? Find out in the following article.


What’s the daily business of an Agile Coach?

When it comes to getting a team or a company using Agile mostly there will be help needed. Over the course of the last years a new job has emerged because of this: The Agile Coach. An Agile Coach is a person who helps companies become agile, i.e., adaptive and self-learning. In doing so, he not only helps to restructure individual teams and processes within a company, but also to change the mindset and values of everyone involved. In this way, the Agile Coach contributes to a long-term, because not only “external” change of the work structure.

But when do companies need an Agile Coach? As already mentioned, such a coach represents an important factor in change management, especially in agile transformation. In this context, the Coach represents not only the engine, but also the glue that drives the agile transformation of companies and at the same time holds it together with his competencies. He coaches executives and team members, he shares his experiences, passes on the agile mindset and helps methodically when something doesn’t work out.


Not a classic management consultant

This is also an excellent way to distinguish the Agile Coach from a conventional management consultant. In the normal case, a normal management consultant is hired when a certain problem has to be solved. In an ideal case, the consultant solves this problem and hands over a solved problem or the solution to the customer, i.e. the company. An Agile Coach, on the other hand, acts as a support in solving the problem and is much more likely to help the client learn how to solve their own tasks in the future.

Both of these services are quite different but for that very reason extremely valuable in different contexts. Contexts in this case means the particular industry, work and structure of the particular company. When deciding which consultant to use, one must always look at the big picture, i.e. structures, responsibilities and organization. However, much more important than the “right” choice or solution is that companies continuously adapt – even after a problem has apparently been solved. This is where the Agile Coach comes in handy again, as he or she also focuses on long-term adjustments when coaching.


Agile Coach: What is their biggest responsibility?

An Agile Coach observes their client and reflects on these observations. This helps the client become more aware. In agile and agile methodologies, this skill is essential as you are supposed to learn from your actions and draw the right conclusions. Reflection is one of the most important parts of agile coaching for this reason. It helps to understand agile principles and to recognize them in reality. Continuity plays an important role here as well, which is why reflection is practiced continuously.

Another important task is coaching. If necessary, the Coach namely takes on the role of a coach who conveys important content interactively. Conventional types of training here are, for example, working on SCRUM (for example, for Product Owners or Scrum Masters) or working on better communication. There are no limits for the Agile Coach. He always adapts to the context of the organization.

“A coach is needed to sustain change” – Arie van Bennekum

Reducing hierarchy

Often, the agilization of a previously classically structured company also entails letting go of leadership. This means: less direct instructions “from above” and much more decision space and self-organization for the team. Since this in no way means that the former leaders just passively watch and do nothing, the Agile Coach must also coach the leaders at this point. They also gain new capacities through the omitted tasks, which they can use elsewhere. They can give the teams more context and a clear framework within which to work.

On the other hand, there are of course also new and complex challenges for the now self-organized teams. Here, responsibilities (some new) need to be redistributed, revealing new room for error. Here, too, the Coach steps into the picture by promoting a conscious handling of responsibilities and coaching the employees.


The Agile Coach also is a mentor

It is not unusual for an Agile Coach to take on the role of mentor during the first Scrum retrospective. This way, for example fresh Scrum Masters can get a better impression of it and benefit from the mentor’s experience. As a mentor, however, the Coach can also present concrete suggestions for improvement and support with tricky decisions.

Since clear and unambiguous communication plays a significant role in Agile, they also help to improve internal communication. For example, through workshops or work in groups. Here, for example, he also pays particular attention to the new distribution of roles – is it being adhered to or does he have to “intervene”?


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