How does a skilled agile coach help you identify the best way forward?

05 May 2023

Professional Coaching

So, if you are a professional coach, you would be engaged to help an individual or a team identify what might be the best way forward, given their circumstances and capabilities, and explore a path to future success based.

You may even guide them to explore what good looks like, what great looks like, and what goals and objectives inspire them. Something to aim for whilst we build the skills and capabilities we need to make that transition from good to great.

Agile Coaching

As an agile coach, there would be an expectation from your clients that you have the necessary agile knowledge, skills, and capabilities to provide guardrails that prevent them from making mistakes.

A genuine, deep, sincere understanding of agile that provides a context from which the coaching draws to help shape the best solutions moving forward. So, you could provide insight or advice if it were needed, but ultimately you would be doing the same as the professional coach – drawing on the individual or team’s collective experiences and capabilities – to identify the best way forward.

Agile knowledge

So, it’s for this reason that I recommend that you look for an agile coach who has a good understanding of the agile frameworks, and a deep understanding of agile values and principles, as well as the core elements that underpin agile.

  • You want them to understand Scrum.
  • You want them to understand Kanban.
  • You want them to understand Xtreme Programming.
  • You want them to understand the framework you are working with or exploring.

Delivering a product

Your agile coach should also have experience and competence in agile delivery.

It isn’t enough that they read the scrum guide, they have to have experience working in or with a scrum team to deliver a working product to a customer. They need to have a deep understanding of the challenges that accompany agile product development or agile problem solving.

If your agile coach has never built a product, feature, or service, it is unlikely that they can effectively help you, your team, and the individuals on your team build something valuable. They simply have no frame of reference for that and have nothing to draw on or relate to.

So, make sure they are a practised, skilled, and experienced agile practitioner too.

Business knowledge.

As an agile coach, they won’t be working as a therapist or helping people overcome personal traumas. They’re going to be working in an environment that has business objectives and goals, and they need to understand how businesses work and what it takes to achieve competitive advantage.

They need to know why agile isn’t simply a philosophy, but also a pursuit of excellence that helps teams build products that delight customers, creates environments where agile teams can thrive, and where the organization can create and capture economic value because of the team’s efforts.


Building on the element of business knowledge, is the awareness that when companies witness the power of agile product development teams at full throttle, they are going to want to replicate that success in other areas of the business.

They are going to want to scale the success of that single scrum team, and often it is going to be across multiple teams, in multiple geographies, working on multiple products and value streams.

Scaling the success of a single agile team into a team of agile teams is going to enter the equation so you want your agile coach to have a deep understanding of the scaling frameworks and the challenges associated with attempting to scale agile or scrum.

Agile coaching core skillset

An effective agile coach will be able to dance through the four (4) core areas of agile coaching:

  1. Professional coaching.
  2. Training.
  3. Mentoring.
  4. Guiding teams to success.

As an agile coach, you need to be able to communicate which of those 4 stances you are adopting to help the customer move forward.

In X situation, you may step out of the coaching stance and step into a consulting stance where you actively tell the agile team what would best serve them in this situation. What needs doing right now for the team to move forward.

In Y situation, you may step into a teaching stance and walk people through the core elements of empiricism that underpin agile and scrum, because their lack of understanding in this area is preventing them from succeeding.

A sports coach is very similar to an agile coach because they work with an athlete from all areas of the domain. If the style is incorrect, they help correct the swimmer’s form. If the swimmer doesn’t understand the rules, they walk them through the boundaries and parameters of the sport. If they need to develop mental strength and discipline, the coach will work on sports psychology and high-performance mindset in addition to all the other elements of coaching.

So, a professional coach will lean into your experiences to help you explore options and discover the best answer you can produce in that moment, and work with you to identify what you need to do in order to develop that skill, capability, or answer to achieve your highest potential.

An agile coach will do the same but will also draw on their own experiences as well as a broader repository of agile knowledge and case studies, to achieve the same outcome.

Take the time to identify an agile coach that really fits your style of work, your culture, and your objectives. It could be one of the best investments you make.

About Advanced Product Delivery

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