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How to become an Agile Coach

Before we move on to discuss an Agile coach we first need to understand a few things., starting with, What is Agile?. Some say it’s a methodology whereas some argue that it’s a mindset but in reality, Agile is a philosophy unlike what many others say about it. The dictionary definition of Agile is “to be able to move easily and quickly” and in the true sense Agile in Software/Non-Software development is the ability to release faster to market at a sustainable pace. It’s all about the pace at which the team can deliver products without feeling the burden and the pace at which the investors, stakeholders, and customers get value from the product.

Now let’s move on to the next question, What is coaching? It is simply the process that aims to improve performance focusing on the present instead of the future or past. It helps one to identify and solve problems and make a decision on their own and the person who is tasked with the responsibility to ensure that a person gets coached properly and learn in such a way that the individual may bring out the best in them is known as a Coach.

Everything we talked about brought us to our topic. An Agile coach is a professional who coaches corporate teams and helps develop great products. They are tasked with guiding the teams through the implementation of the Agile methodology and processes and are tasked with encouraging workers to embrace the Agile mindset. They use their industry knowledge and experience to help in implementing various tools, techniques, and frameworks surrounding Agile product and delivery.

The path to becoming an Agile coach is quite a journey in itself. It takes time and patience. To start, one must try to adopt an Agile mindset and try getting exposed to the various teams and companies which have adopted the Agile methodology; Actively participating in Agile communities, engaging with professionals will make you realize that coaching becomes easy with time and as time passes there has been a growth in the number of jobs directly and indirectly related Agile as more and more industries are adopting methodologies. According to LinkedIn in 2017, Scrum Master (a type of Agile Coach) was ranked 10th in the Most promising jobs with over 104% job opening growth and having a base salary of $91,393.

It’s a very common misconception that one only needs a certificate or a degree to get a position but in reality, to become good at what you do, you need to know the ins and outs of that particular position. Without further delay let’s dive further into what you need to do in order to become a better Agile coach.

Areas that you need to be focused on: 

  • Be able to understand people’s problems and maintain a good understanding of your team members.
  • Be able to learn from your mistakes and have good support systems in place and convincing people to agree to important points that will prove beneficial in the long run.
  • Have values such as respect for others, courage, a sharp and sound mind, and commitment to the work.
  • Be able to use tools and techniques such as data collection, visualization, feedback, and Agile process tools.
  • As the coach has to mentor the team till the product is delivered successfully, you as an Agile coach have to be prepared to stick with the team at all times and ensure that the team not only delivers the product in time but also ensures that the customer’s satisfaction is met. You have to focus on developing the thought process to identify the positives as well as negatives of the project and provide the team with words of wisdom whenever needed

As an Agile coach is an important part of the team thus he/she has to meet certain expectations from the team members and company, but sometimes people expect more than they should; Knowing what an Agile Coach can deliver and not, will help you understand a lot more about how Agile coaches work; Knowing about the work of an Agile coach is a small step in your path to becoming a competent Agile coach.

Expectations/Job of an Agile Coach:

A competent Agile coach is expected to deliver a healthy Agile capability evidenced by frequent and high-quality product delivery through:

  • Assessing the status by seeing the systems and inner-working at play, within a team or among a set of teams.
  • Choosing interventions wisely after assessing the situation and tending towards what will provide the best impact for the problem instead of choosing the easy path or which seems similar.
  • Holding crucial conversations with all the levels in the organization, to tell the truth, and persuade the system to change and doing all of this without being despised.
  • Provide vital feedback on each and every process which will help people move fully into the roles.
  • Pairing with others in order to cover all the aspects of technicality and business of a company in order to implement changes over time.
  • Removing obstacles systematically in the immediate surroundings.

Things a Competent Agile Coach must not do:

  • Resolve organization-wide hindrances without the involvement of the significant department or senior management.
  • Coach professionals at the level of senior management such as leaders and executives.
  • Comment inappropriately or crack an ill-conceived joke as it may lead to professionals shutting you out.
  • Talk more rather than listening.
  • Always come up with the right answer on their own without consulting with others.

It’s important to understand what separates a good Agile coach from a normal one as you would be tasked with the job of leading a team and helping them create a wonderful product. Thus knowing one’s own weaknesses and strengths will help you move forward into becoming a good Agile coach.

One thing which people don’t realize before joining a course is that what kind of Agile coach they want to be as there is a common belief that an Agile coach is a profession of a single type but in reality it’s divided into 3 levels based on the knowledge, learning path and mindset of Agile coaches. Knowing your priorities beforehand will help you set a clear goal.

Level 1: Agile Team Facilitator:

The Agile Team Facilitator is tasked to manage a single team. Titles such as ScrumMaster, Scrum Coach, Iteration manager fall into this category, The primary goal of the Agile team facilitator is to help a single team transition to Agile and in turn increase the overall productivity of the team.

Level 2: Agile Coach:

Agile coaches are expected to have some prior experience and knowledge as an Agile team facilitator as it is the foundation in the process of becoming an Agile Coach. An Agile coach is tasked with spreading Agile at a multi-team level, Normally they coordinate with Agile Team facilitators and other internal ambassadors but sometimes they might engage with teams on an individual basis.

Level 3: Enterprise Agile Coach:

An Enterprise Agile Coach works at an enterprise level, though the working of an Enterp Agile Coach is similar to an Agile coach they need to possess knowledge about enterprise change environment, organizational design, and leadership coaching and they should have a bit knowledge of some enterprise Agile frameworks such as Large-Scale Scrum(LeSS) or Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe).

So, we have come to know all about an Agile Coach, Beginning from “what areas to focus while developing your skills” to the “types of Agile coach in the industry”.Now let’s answer the main question that you have been looking for.

How To Become an Agile Coach?

One thing individuals need to understand is that there is more than one way to start a career as an Agile coach, no specific job titles make for the best Agile coaches, but if you already have some experience working with Agile; you will gain some experience.

Ideally, Managing projects as a Project Manager is considered to be one of the best ways to become a competent Agile Coach, as a Project Manager you are likely to be exposed to Agile Methodologies and it’s generally seen that Project Managers are the ones who are asked to introduce Agile into the team and take the role as an Agile team facilitator.

Few tips and tricks to help you:

  • Obtaining certification such as Agile coach or ScrumMaster is one of the first ways to get selected as an Agile coach in an enterprise as companies give bonus points to candidates who have such certifications as these courses not only provide you with all the tools and techniques but also help you apply it in real-life scenarios.
  • Apply for projects that use Agile methodologies to gain experience if you have not been exposed to Agile yet.
  • Try gaining experience from an Agile coach, as companies generally tend to employ or outsource an Agile coach
  • Try applying for projects that aim for Agile transformation in a company, as it will help you experience how Agile is introduced into the company.

Certifications:

Various organizations and institutes offer Agile training and certifications.

Depending on your type of experience and preferred position you could opt for different types of certifications. But it is preferred that you start as an Agile Team facilitator by getting certification such as  Certified Scrum Master. PremierAgile’s CSM course will provide you with all the knowledge and tools you need to know in order to start your career as an Agile Coach.

You can take as many certifications as you want but at the end of the day, if you don’t learn from the course you won’t be able to progress further as each institute offers a slightly different course to help you fine-tune your skills.

Salary: 

The average salary of an Agile coach is $122,980/year

The Agile coach is designed to act as a guardian of performance and quality in an organization and it’s no surprise that they are in demand, there may be lots of people who can claim to lead the team but to actually provide a quality product on time one need to have the experience and skills to back their claim, and nothing can be better than being the team lead as an Agile coach.

If you are looking forward to choosing this as a career path, don’t wait. Pick a course and start working on it now.

As it’s rightly said, “The early bird gets the worm”, So what are you waiting for?? 

References:

https://blog.linkedin.com/2017/january/20/linkedin-data-reveals-the-most-promising-jobs-of-2017
https://www.scrum.org/resources/blog/3-steps-becoming-agile-coach
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