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Agile Coaching 101: How it Can Work For Your Business

Looking for a way to streamline your business without making painstaking organizational changes? Seeking out Agile coaching may be the perfect solution. An Agile coach can help your team make a necessary culture shift that allows you to thrive in the ever-changing professional world.

How do we know?

Well, at MentorCruise, we make it our job to know. Our platform helps connect founders, entrepreneurs, professionals, and lifelong learners with expert mentors and coaches who offer invaluable, practical guidance.

In this article, we’ll take you through what you can expect from Agile coaching and how an Agile coach can fit into your organization.

What is an Agile coach?

An Agile coach guides individuals, teams, or organizations as they make the switch from a traditional approach project management methodology to the Agile approach.

What is the Agile approach, though?

An Agile method is an approach to project management or software development that emphasizes transparent communication, collaboration, and constant feedback to make customers receive products and services quickly and efficiently.

Agile coaches typically use a three-pronged approach to help their clients:

  1. Education: An Agile coach will teach your team what Agile project management is, why it’s beneficial, and how to do it well. The teaching can be through one-on-one sessions, mentorship programs, or workshops.

  2. Tools: You’ll be provided with project management tools that make it easier for your team to keep Agile practices in place.

  3. Training: Depending on what your goals are, some Agile coaches will offer formal Agile project management mentorship and certifications. The training can be specific to a particular project or an organization’s collective skill set. Ultimately, your team will be able to apply the knowledge to all of their work in the long term.

Agile Coach vs. Scrum Master

Agile coach and Scrum master are similar roles—both exist to solve the same problem of higher customer satisfaction. What separates them is their method.

A Scrum master is a fixed role within a Scrum team for a single project or series of connected projects. The Scrum master’s goal is to ensure the client's expectations are met on time by using a structured methodology that focuses on iterative planning and rapid delivery. The structure and processes of the Scrum master’s team don’t necessarily extend to the rest of the organization.

On the other hand, an Agile coach isn't directly involved in the day-to-day organizational duties of performing these methods for an organization to ensure client satisfaction. An Agile coach focuses on ensuring teams and individuals at all levels of the organization are able to implement Agile practices themselves.

I'm other words, the goal of a Scrum master is to oversee and manage a specific team or project, while an Agile coach’s goal is to improve the organization as a whole by facilitating Agile adoption.

Different Types of Agile Coaches

There are different forms that an Agile coach can take depending on who is their target mentee.

Agile Team Facilitator

Agile team facilitators help teams and individuals.

The goal of an Agile team facilitator is to help a single team transition to the Agile approach with the goal of boosting their productivity. Agile team facilitators tend to be more granular in their approach since they are exclusively working with a single team.

Agile Coach

Agile coaches help the whole organization.

An Agile coach’s end goal is to ensure that Agile practices and values are implemented throughout an entire organization (or at least multiple teams). They also engage with teams individually, but they often do so by collaborating with an Agile team facilitator to quickly hone in on specific issues within the team that are preventing any progress.

Enterprise Agile Coach

Enterprise Agile coaches help business leaders.

As the name suggests, this type of Agile coach works at an enterprise level. They often need to have knowledge of executive leadership coaching, organizational design, and enterprise change management.

An enterprise Agile coach is focused on helping the overall structure of the company instead of the lower-level, day-to-day tasks associated with helping teams. They mainly work with company leadership to help them understand the benefits of implementing Agile practices and the structures required to make the switch seamless.

The Benefits of Agile Coaching

Fill key knowledge gaps

According to research from Dublin City University, Agile coaches fill essential knowledge gaps within the majority of the teams they work with. With these gaps filled, your organization will be better equipped to ensure effective project delivery despite any mounting challenges.

Increase transparency and flexibility in product development

When your organization works within the Agile framework, it works in small iterations. This is a major benefit because, after each iteration, management can see an interim result without needing to wait for a project to be completed. That means testing can be added to the development process and feedback can be used to adjust the project’s course.

Better team communication

With Agile coaching, you’ll find that consistent communication and interaction are encouraged to ensure that all team members are on the same page and working towards the same goal. Regular communication helps to eliminate confusion that can slow down the project delivery process. Additionally, team members will foster better collaborative skills that help them grow and develop into key players.

How Does Agile Coaching Work?

Now, let’s take a closer look at what Agile coaching looks like as a step-by-step process:

Step 1: Understanding your organization

Before an Agile coach can get to work, they need to understand your organization—what your goals are, where you stand, and what’s holding you back. They’ll usually hold an interview or assessment to address these points.

Some questions your Agile coach may cover include:

  • What does your business want to achieve regarding your products, customers, and stakeholders?

  • What project management and software development methods are your teams already using? Some methods (e.g., DevOps) share similarities with Agile that will simplify the coaching process.

  • Are there any Agile practices or tools you’ve already adopted? Lots of teams start using tools with built-in Agile features (e.g., ClickUp and Monday.com) before even considering making the switch to an Agile methodology.

Step 2: Restructuring the organization with Agile in mind

The reason for restructuring the organization is that everyone at all levels needs to be able to adapt and iterate their work to implement Agile. This can’t be achieved by sticking to a command-and-control process.

Agile methods often require team members to work in close proximity to peers and decision-makers. So, tailoring the organizational structure to accommodate that is a crucial first step that an Agile coach will focus on initially.

The restructuring process might include:

  • Making teams more cross-functional and autonomous by allowing them to work independently with open communication between all levels of the organization.

  • Redefining responsibilities and roles of individuals and teams based on their skills

  • Altering processes such as strategy, incentives, meetings, and budget planning to meet agile standards

It’s important to note that Agile coaches aren’t responsible for making these changes directly. They offer advice and guidance as leaders and team members restructure their organizations in a way that’s in line with the Agile goals and values they established at the start.

Step 3: Improving Agile processes in your project teams

Agile coaches need to work quite closely with individuals and teams to make sure that Agile transformation goals are actually being implemented. This is how they can do this:

  • Mentoring new teams or supporting existing teams to improve Agile methods through workshops and general recommendations

  • Recommending suitable tools for continuous improvement. These can be retrospective tools or backlog tools, which facilitate transparency and provide clearer alignment to their established goals.

Step 4: Facilitating Agile meetings

Agile coaches need a lot of face time with various people throughout the organization, so Agile-focused meetings are a core element of the coaching process. They can sit in on various meetings for different levels of the organization and facilitate brainstorming, group workshops, team Agile coaching sessions, and strategy sessions with leadership.

Your Agile coach should be able to listen to different sides, perspectives, and viewpoints in pursuit of the best solution. This is especially important because the transition to Agile isn’t always easy for everyone in the organization. People are bound to butt heads over changes and adjustments, and when that happens, the Agile coach will step in and help reach a compromise.

Ready to get Agile?

You may still be wondering if your company really needs an Agile coach. The answer is yes.

The Agile transformation is ongoing and needs to evolve in response to experience, buy-in, and organizational goals. Internal Agile coaching is your best bet to ensure that these principles are fully embedded into your organization so that you can reap the benefits.

Not sure where to start your search for the perfect Agile coach? MentorCruise is here to help! We’re dedicated to bridging the gap between professionals and successful mentors to help achieve progressive skill-building. With 140+ agile coaches already on the platform ready to be booked, you're sure to find one that suits your needs.

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