An agile coach is someone trained in technical or procedural change management who helps to set up agile teams during the early stages of development.
Agile project management, compared to traditional project management, is relatively flexible and iterative. Agile coaches guide the development team during initial implementation and change management phases as they adjust to this type of project management.
Portions of this definition originally appeared on CIO Insight and are excerpted here with permission.
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What Do Agile Coaches Do?
While most agile coaches specialize in technical or procedural change management, they are also trained to help with the many different aspects of setting up an agile strategy. Depending on the team and what kind of support they need, agile coaches may also manage the following responsibilities:
- Provide training on agile methodologies: This enables teams to get started with their own project management strategy.
- Recognize a client’s starting knowledge and pain points: Knowing a company’s starting agile knowledge allows agile coaches to identify potential roadblocks at each stage of implementation.
- Assist with agile plan designs: Agile coaches can partner with a team lead to design an agile plan that works for the business and its projects.
- Research and tooling for the team: Agile coaches research and provide appropriate agile tools and resources to the team.
- Teach and apply change management best practices: By frequently consulting change management best practices, agile methods can become a cultural part of how teams create and think about projects.
- Scaling methodology beyond initial teams: Agile coaches help scale agile practices to multiple teams and projects as a company grows.
- Creating documentation, processes, and procedures: Coaches work with teams on documentation and best practices to ensure the sustainability of agile in the organization. This is especially important if the agile coach is on a temporary contract.
What Are the Benefits of Working with an Agile Coach?
In addition to providing teams with knowledge and enthusiasm for managed change, agile coaches also provide the following benefits:
Improved project standards and accuracy
Through the establishment of standardized processes and procedures, as well as assistance with process documentation, agile coaches teach teams how successful agile projects run. These teams can use this knowledge to repeat past project steps and reduce the chance of user error.
Support for project management platform selection
Relying on past experiences, agile coaches can provide expert assistance with finding the specific project management tools and resources that best fit a team’s needs.
Clearer goals for employees
Agile coaches can also provide assistance with goal-setting for team projects, giving teams more defined goals to follow on how, when, and what they need to manage during different phases of a project.
Questions to Ask When Selecting an Agile Coach for Your Team
When searching for an agile coach that fits with your team or organization, be sure to consider the following questions:
What is the expected length of the coaching period?
How long will this person be needed to implement a sustained agile strategy? While a month or shorter period of time may work, some teams need a longer period of sustained help from an agile coach.
What is this coach’s industry expertise or background?
Does the agile coach understand your industry, or have they worked with other clients using a similar business model? You can also consider training someone on your team to lead the process internally rather than search for someone who understands the complexities of your industry.
How much does your team already know about the agile methodology?
How much familiarity does your team already have with agile strategy? Depending on how much your team knows about agile methodologies, an agile coach can start with more complex issues further into the agile implementation process.
Does this coach have relevant training?
Is your prospective coach certified or trained in agile project management? It is important to determine whether or not agile coach candidates are qualified to work with your team on any form of change management before signing a contract.
Is this coach a culture fit?
How well do your prospective coach’s personality and approach fit with your current and future goals for company culture? A poor culture fit can lead to delayed implementation or resistance to change.
Finding or Training an Agile Coach
Finding the right agile coach for your organization can be difficult. While you can find them on LinkedIn or Dice, many organizations turn to certification sites, like the Scrum Alliance, where you can search and filter through pools of certified coaching candidates.
However, if you still can’t find the right coach or would rather fill the role internally, you can follow the following steps to train or become an agile coach:
2. Get certified: Some of the top certifications in agile coaching include Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach, Scrum Alliance Certified Team Coach, PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP), and SAFe Program Consultant (SPC).
3. Build Connections: You can learn a lot about what an agile coach does by talking to those already working in the field.
4. Gain Experience: Smaller-scale projects are the best way to test your knowledge and develop new skills before working toward larger goals and projects.
Read next: Best Agile Project Management Tools