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The role of agile coaching holds a dichotomy of views and opinions among leaders within an organization. Some see it as essential, and some see it as a cost overhead that is optional.

Under the title of agile coach, I have been a scrum master, a team coach of several teams, an enterprise coach working with leaders, and a coach of coaches. Sadly, one of the reasons why agile coaches are needed within an organization is the complexity and interpretation of the agile frameworks combined with a company’s propensity to circumvent them.

In many cases, coaches act as a check-and-balance of the process to keep the framework intact enough to give it a chance to succeed. Unfortunately, some organizations position the coaches to act as the process police to go ‘fix’ a team who is underperforming. This breeds distrust and low-transparency environments over time.

This has caused me recently to ask myself, ‘What is the industry telling me?’ When it comes to the role and perceived value of agile coaching, it has been sliced into various specialist roles. Along with the alarming perpetration and pigeoning of coaching roles into a ladder-climbing structure of scrum master, team coach, RTE, enterprise agile coach, and agile transformation coach, new coaching roles are popping up. Agile product coaches, agile DevOps coaches, and leadership coaches are just a few examples of these.

Regardless of the coaching title, I have concluded that it is difficult to carve out a long-lasting career with one company as a coach. The mentality of a coach should always be to ‘work myself out of a job,’ because that means that whoever I’m helping, they are now at a point of knowledge, practice, and maturity to where they can now fly on their own. Mission accomplished.

So, a job well done typically lends itself to more of hit-and-run, a swarm-and-leave strategy. Stick around too long, and the inevitable dreaded question is going to be asked from leadership: “What metrics can you provide that shows the tangible value you are bringing to the organization?” Though I’ve been able to successfully answer that from my view and perspective, it often doesn’t translate well to justify keeping me around. 

The other shift I see in the industry is in the role of scrum master. To me, I have always seen the value of this role, because this person is the boots-on-the-ground coach, embedded inside the team to spot-coach anti-patterns when they occur. Without a good scrum master, scrum is a chaotic mess within a team. However, leadership has diluted and devalued this role to the point where many companies are unwilling to pay for it.

Even in an environment where the default number of teams for a scrum master is 2-3, the financial investment is still too great from some companies. As a result, scrum suffers, and the whole foundation of scrum in which good scaling is built upon suffers as well. Hummingbird Agile has accepted this leadership mentality and the bend to assign multiple teams to a scrum master. As a result, we have created a role for a team agile coach of 3-4 teams, minus the ceremonies.

This way, they can be free to roam, focusing on day-to-day process clarity and improvement and never being questioned on the day-to-day value they are bringing. We have much more to say about this role in up-coming workshops and classes, but rest assured, even though Hummingbird Agile doesn’t do scrum and is absent of scrum masters, experienced and thoughtful agile coaches who are constantly working on their craft are highly sought after and welcomed. 

Register for a workshop to hear more about the Hover Agile Coach role within Hummingbird Agile.

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