A lot has been discussed, is being discussed and will be discussed about the value of Agile Coaching. As I have already mentioned in the first article on this subject, I believe that the debate is caused by a serious misunderstanding or lack of agreement on what Agile Coaching is and what it is not. I here follow up on what Agile Coaching is to me, assuming it is an extension of Professional Coaching as per the definition by ICF (International Coach Federation)1 and relying on the (learning) path proposed by ICAgile2.
From Leader Facilitator to Agile Coach: the way
Before I go deeper into the profession of Agile Coaching, I would like to say that in my opinion it is not a milestone, but a path built up of different steps. Relying on the ICAgile Roadmap for a development path for Agile Coaching, and adding some personal views, this is to me the path which an Agile Coach should follow:
The great majority of the professionals who start in the world of Agility as their work philosophy, do it through the framework known as Scrum. In this framework, the ScrumMaster looks after the correct use of Scrum within the team. For practical purposes, I like to name this stage the “zero step” to underline the fact that this is just the beginning of the path towards becoming an Agile Coach, and that the profession goes far beyond the knowledge of the correct use of Scrum.
2. Agile Team Facilitator
There are also many professionals who join the Agility community by means of methodologies, tools or frameworks other than Scrum. In this context, we cannot call them ScrumMasters, as they are not linked to Scrum. In any case, whichever agile work pattern is chosen, the team facilitator has acquired facilitation skills, (s)he helps make participatory decisions, and understands approach to the development of groups, notions of Servant Leadership, people’s motivation, solutions to conflicts and self-organization. If the professional has evolved from the “zero step”, (s)he plays the role of ScrumMaster and has added to his/her “toolbox” the skills mentioned above.
Following the definition by the ICAgile, the team facilitator typically operates within the borders of one or two agile teams. The team facilitator is not responsible for and is not qualified, according to this approach, to bring forward initiatives on agile transformation. Instead, (s)he is more suitable to facilitate the activities of the agile team.
3. Agile Coach
An Agile Coach is Agile Team facilitator who has reached an expert level in Agility. The Agile Coach has developed more advanced skills than facilitation, including training and mentoring. (S)he knows the clear difference between these disciplines and is able to identify which of them is required in what situation. In addition to skills in facilitation, mentoring and leadership, (s)he has gained skills in Professional Coaching, according to the definition by ICF. His/her focus shifts to working with numerous teams and (s)he relies on the family of disciplines (coaching, facilitation, mentoring and training).
An Agile Coach provides coaching and/or mentoring to ScrumMasters and Agile Team Facilitators.
The Agile Coach's focus lies in the relationship existing between different teams, possibly in the same department or sphere within the organization. (S)he has experience to initiate the transformation of teams towards Agility. Lyssa Adkins points out that this level is a possible “landing point” for many Agile Coaches. In the words of Agile Coaching Institute: “if we had more qualified Agile Coaches, the Agility would be much more beneficial.”3
4. Enterprise Agile Coach
At this level, the Agile Coach has gained systemic skills, is able to listen to the conversation at organizational level, provides Executive Coaching to the leading team of the organization, identifies different Organizational Cultures, understands Cultural Change Patterns and is able to facilitate strategies for facing and overcoming the organizational resistance. An Enterprise Agile Coach is capable of working with any level of the organization, operational as much as strategic, ScrumMasters, Facilitators, Managers, Execuitves and C-Levels.
Creation of evidence
Working with any of those levels, the professional continuously produces evidence for the community (colleagues and organizations), based on which he is considered an expert who is good enough to deal with any level. Even though it have a positive impact, taking courses and/or workshops are not enough to reach an expert level. The expert experiments, acts, shares.
My purpose, a confession
In a series of conversations I had during Agility 2014 in Orlando with Gustavo Quiroz, Roger Browns, Lyssa Adkins, Luis Mulato, Hiroshi Hiromoto, Michael Sahota, Dhaval Panchal and Claudia Sandoval (in no specific order) I believe I have discovered a new dimension of purpose in regard to Agility. I keep believing that we need organizations that are more humane, happier workers and contexts for major innovation. I also believe that we need to raise our expectations about Agile Coaches. Therefore, from now on I decide to be actively involved in trying to make Agile Coaching transform in a profession in itself, to have more and better Agile Coaches. What a statement I’ve just made!
As it happened to me with the book “High-Performance Teams”, I don’t have a clear destination yet, but I know it is not necessary, because what is important is not the destination, but the journey.
To me this path consists of sharing experience, discoveries, knowledge, being Mentor and Mentee, being Coach and Coachee, being Trainer and Trainee. And this is the path which I am going to follow on this blog and as my professional focus.
There is an extract I know from the book “The Teachings of Don Juan” by Carlos Castaneda, which I was shared with by the guys from GROW during my Coaching studies, that I share with all the participants in the CSM (Certified ScrumMaster) workshops:
“Look at every path closely and deliberately.
Try it as many times as you think necessary.
Then ask yourself alone, just one question…
Does this path have a heart?
If it does, the path is good;
if it doesn't it is of no use.”
I look forward to the company of many of you in this journey, in this conversation, which to me, does have heart. :)
Thank you for the time you have dedicated to read until this point.