How to become an Agile Coach
The role of the Agile Coach may have originated in IT, but it’s now in strong demand across other industries as organisations see the benefits of working in an Agile way. If you’re in the field of program/project management and are looking to upskill for new and exciting roles, becoming an Agile Coach is a great opportunity to take the next step in your career.
All large organisations now want projects to be delivered more quickly and cheaply than before, as they respond to market and consumer changes. Employing an Agile Coach for a project helps everyone to focus on the core objectives, to test and learn quickly, and to achieve a minimum viable product quickly rather than following the traditional waterfall/cascade style of project management.
As an Agile Coach, you’re in a position to create and motivate high-performing teams by imparting Agile methodologies through open communication and team collaboration.
The Agile Coach ensures that the team is working together in the most effective way possible. The role is different from the program/project manager whose task is to ensure that everyone is clear about the functionality of their role.
An Agile Coach requires a combination of project management experience and leadership skills:
Project management experience: this can be in IT, software development or other domains where you have been involved in overseeing the delivery of a plan from conception to completion.
Leadership skills: Agile Coaches have excellent leadership, advisory and consultancy skills, as well as being skilled communicators, facilitators and great at identifying different solutions to problems by understanding organisational development.
Importantly, just because someone might be in a management or leadership role, it doesn't necessarily mean that they'll make a good Agile Coach.
Agile Coaches are servant leaders, willing to jump in with the team to get things done. I've spoken to program/project managers who want to become an Agile Coach so they can run the team and not have to do paperwork any more. In fact, a 'command and control' leader will never make a good Agile Coach, and while the program/project may not need to produce documentation, the tasks will be more transparent than ever.
I look for the stories that candidates tell: the journey they've been on in their career and on projects, and the role of the teams within that. Good candidates for Agile Coach roles talk about 'we' and 'us'; if someone focuses purely on 'me' and 'I' and their own personal achievements, being an Agile Coach probably isn't right for them.
I've found that Agile Coaches can make the transition from a variety of previous job titles, including Business Analysts, Developers and Scrum Masters. It doesn't matter what your current job title is; what matters are the duties within your role.
Tips on becoming an Agile Coach:
- Start adapting Agile practices into your current role. Recruiters for Agile Coach roles will want to see practical experience.
- Do Agile training and consider certification. Being certified in Agile is not enough on its own to secure an Agile Coach role, but it demonstrates a willingness to learn and it will ensure you're up to date with best practice.
- Go to Agile or Scrum Meet-Ups and meet others in the field.
- Agile Coaches will have been through most delivery scenarios and would have made their mistakes and have their scars to prove it
The Agile Coach: typical role requirements and capabilities
Usually $160,000 - $185,000 base depending on experience, however most roles are contract roles and can pay upwards of $1,000 per day.
- Facilitate teams transitioning from a traditional development and project management approach to development through a complete Agile project life cycle.
- Assess and identify gaps in knowledge and understanding of how Agile works and lead the teams through training and enablement sessions.
- Work with the teams to identify and manage interactive dependencies within a complex systems environment.
- Work with the teams to identify and implement process improvements to improve both immediate and long-term productivity using Agile practices and tools.
- Work with the teams to identify and mitigate impediments and risks to the program.
- Proactively resolve conflict between people, teams, and organisations.
- Work closely with Project Managers to ensure the timely execution of the customer’s objectives.
- Act as the Project Manager when necessary.
- Manage dependencies between your team and other project teams.
- Facilitate an environment of team spirit and excitement around constructive changes.
- Maintain relevant metrics that help the team see how they are doing.
Act as an Agile champion and contribute to expanding the understanding and practice of agile principles and values throughout the entire organisation.
- Project management experience.
- Agile delivery experience of a hands-on and practical nature.
- Expert knowledge of Agile principles and practices, with the ability to transfer that understanding at all levels of the organisation.
- Consulting and facilitation skills in leading teams in the adoption and improvement of agile methodologies.
- Excellent training and presentation skills.
- Ability to learn and adapt in a fast-paced environment.
- Skilled in leading meetings, driving decisions, and negotiating win/win solutions.
- Strong leadership/relationship building skills, with a demonstrated ability to work independently.
- Excellent listening and communication skills (written and verbal).
- A willingness to provide instruction and mentoring.