Increased competition and greater demands from customers mean that companies need to be more productive than ever before. An agile coach can help these businesses manage their projects more effectively by keeping teams focused, motivated, and on track.
If you’d like to take your career to the next level at the same time as providing a beneficial service to such businesses, consider learning how to become an agile coach.
What Does an Agile Coach Do?
Agile coaches started out providing support in IT departments. Since then, the agile coach job description has evolved significantly. Now, agile coaches work with all departments across all types of industries.
Today, an agile coach is responsible for supporting teams by implementing agile project management. This requires using transparent communication and facilitating collaboration among the team. Unlike a regular project manager, an agile coach takes an active role in the team — as opposed to just ensuring everyone knows what their responsibilities are.
The agile methodology places an emphasis on the core objectives of the project. This involves testing ideas and learning from your mistakes to prevent wasted time, finish the project sooner, and see better outcomes. It is completely different from the cascade style of project management.
To be a successful agile coach, you need to know how to adapt to each organization, project, or challenge you’re faced with. You need to use the tools available to you to reduce risk and empower team members.
By the end of the project, the organization should never need your services again. The company should have learned from you how to apply the agile methodology to future projects.
Agile Coach vs Scrum Master
A scrum master is far more basic than an agile coach. As a scrum master, you work with a single team, applying scrum practices to ensure the team stays on track with goals. Your main responsibilities are to oversee and scope the project, which includes anticipating problems the team may run into and preventing them from happening.
An agile coach needs to have a much broader knowledge base. Rather than supporting a particular team on a specific project, an agile coach changes the way the entire organization functions to improve projects in the future. This usually means working with several teams within the company at the same time. You may also need to provide coaching to management.
Agile Coach Career Path
There is more than one way to start your agile coach career path. No specific job title makes for the best agile coaches, but you will gain a head start if you have the right skills and experience.
Ideally, you should have worked in project management. In fact, one reason why agile coaching began in IT is because it’s common for IT professionals to be involved in project strategy, such as software development. However, anyone who has supervised projects from inception to execution has the necessary experience to become an agile coach..
You must also have superb leadership skills. Being an agile coach means you need to be able to communicate clearly, offer advice, and identify solutions. This goes beyond what makes a good leader in a workplace environment. The best agile coaches are willing to take on any task in addition to delegating. You’ll need to always put the team ahead of personal accomplishments.
If you possess the above, the best way to start out is by learning about agile practices and applying them to your current position. This will provide you with the practical experience necessary to land your first official agile coach job. For support, try to attend meetups or online events with agile coaches.
In addition, mastering scrum can be hugely useful. Although some agile coaches specialize in other methods, such as kanban or lean, around three-quarters use scrum. If you lack an understanding of the scrum framework, you’ll find it more difficult to stay ahead of the competition.
With all the above under your belt, you’re ready to start formal agile coach training.
Training and Certifications
Various organizations offer agile training and some even certify different levels of agile coaches. For instance, the Agile Coaching Institute offers three levels of agile coach certifications.
The first is Agile Team Facilitator. If you’re a scrum master, there’s a good chance you already have these skills. Still, it’s worthwhile taking the certification, as you may have gaps in your knowledge about agile practices. The training will also teach you how to improve your organizational skills and how to encourage creativity in a team. Once you’ve completed the certificate program, you will be prepared to work with existing teams.
Next you have the Agile Coach certification, which offers advanced training to prepare you to work with new teams as well as multiple teams at the same time. Successful certification at this level demonstrates that you have mastered teaching, facilitating, mentoring, and professional coaching.
Finally, there’s Enterprise Agile Coach. After working some time as an agile coach, you may decide to progress to this level — although it is by no means necessary for everyone. Enterprise agile coaches work directly with the leadership of an organization to bring permanent change to the way the whole business operates, such as in company culture.
An alternative route is to become a Certified Enterprise Coach with the Scrum Alliance. This certification shows that you’re an expert in all types of agile practices, that you understand the principles of scrum, and that you have experience in the real world.
Bear in mind that you can take as many agile coaching certifications as you wish — there are far more from other training institutes to choose from. You’ll find that each has something slightly different to offer and will help you fine tune your skills. To grow your knowledge further, you could also become an associate, professional, and, finally, master accredited coach through the International Coaching Federation (ICF).
How to Become an Agile Coach in 2020
This year, more people are choosing to take training courses online, since it may prove impossible to attend in-person courses for at least the next few months. Agile coach training offers great opportunity for those who have been laid off due to the pandemic to start a new career. In fact, companies will likely need agile coaches more than ever, as employees are facing new challenges working from home and may be suffering from a lack of motivation.
How Much Does an Agile Coach Make?
The agile coach salary is one of the greatest appeals of the job. In 2018, the average base salary of an agile coach was $161,377 — top agile coaches can make as much as $185,000. The amount you make will depend on how many projects you can take on, as agile coaches are hired on a contract basis. You can expect to earn around $1,000 or more per day.
Working as a Remote Agile Coach
Although agile coaching started out being a practice for teams working at the same location, this has changed over the years. Often, it’s more practical (or perhaps necessary) for agile coaches to work remotely.
With the tools and technology available today, there’s no disadvantage to working remotely. In fact, there are plenty of advantages. For instance, you can fit the project around a schedule that suits the team members — even working until late when you need to meet tight deadlines. This also allows you to bring together top talent, as you’re not restricted by geography.
That’s not to say that being a remote agile coach is easy. You’ll face additional challenges, especially if you’re working with a new team made up of employees who have never even met before. You’ll need to work hard to facilitate connections between team members.
Plus, if you’re working with a global team, you’ll have to take time zones into account, scheduling meetings at hours that work for everyone and ensuring you’re available for all the team members. Finally, you may need to work through cultural differences, language barriers, and misunderstandings.
If you’re to be successful as a remote agile coach, it’s important to start out with less challenging projects, such as with team members who already know each other and are in the same time zone. As you gain experience, you can work up to global teams.
Bonus: Book Recommendations
One last thing you can do at any point in your career is read agile coach books. Some top choices include:
- Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition by Lyssa Adkins
- Agile Coaching by Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Agile Coaching, written by coaches at agile42
- The Growing Agile series by Samantha Laing and Karen Greaves
- Enterprise Agility: Being Agile in a Changing World by Sunil Mundra
If you feel that you’re no longer progressing in your career and you have the appropriate leadership skills, becoming an agile coach could be the perfect move. This is particularly ideal for those currently working in program or project management, as you’ll be able to take the knowledge you already have to the next level. If you lack such experience, a career as an agile coach could still be in your future — simply find ways to start learning the agile methodology and apply it to your job now to gain the skills you’ll need later.