About Agile Coach role

Last post 01:24 pm April 22, 2021
by Eric Naiburg
15 replies
07:26 pm February 19, 2020

I have seen the agile coach role growing over and over, but, in my opinion, the instance of "coach" from scrum master should be the responsible for doing his job; am I right? Why would someone outside the team make suggestions and act as an agent of change better than the scrum master, who is part of the Scrum team?

11:08 pm February 19, 2020

Agile coach in general, does not fix any problems directly. If you read some of the topics here, you will see they have one thing in common, agile coaches make you realise your answers to your questions by asking. I have the same coach that whenever I consult or ask something, he would answer by asking me questions which later I would realise the approach or the answer.


12:28 am February 20, 2020

Scrum Master is an agile coach role, although a good agile coach is familiar with far more than just Scrum. The Scrum framework defines three roles - Product Owner, Development Team member, and Scrum Master. The Scrum Master is simply an agile coach who primarily works at the team level but also supports the organizational level.

I've found that this Agile Coaching in a Nutshell image is pretty accurate regarding the things that an agile coach needs to have competency in, different levels of agile coaching, stances, maturity, and more. Nothing is inconsistent with the role of Scrum Master.

01:11 am February 20, 2020

Why would someone outside the team make suggestions and act as an agent of change better than the scrum master, who is part of the Scrum team?

Because, if organizational change is to happen, someone must be paid a higher day rate and thereby establish credibility with management.

02:31 pm February 20, 2020

Agile Team Coach (keyword is "Team") and Agile Technical Coach (again keyword is "Technical") as collective terms on my cv, because "Scrum Master, Kanban Coach, DSDM Coach, XP Instructor, Lean Master" and "AgileITSM Practitioner, Agile Tester, Agile Requirements Engineer, Agile Business Analist and Agile Project Manager" is too bloody long to say or write everytime!

Once I'm in a company the title of Agile Team Coach changes in the correct title depending on which Agile framework is the dominant used in said company, mostly it will be "Scrum Master".
The term Agile Technical Coach can change if I'm there to teach specific techniques to specific roles, such as in my current mission where it is Agile Test Coach (guess which techniques I'm teaching to which roles...if you can).
Most of the time it stays Agile Technical Coach, because I'm teaching to all the roles in a Dev Team (3 Amigos, TDD, GUI Test automation, Risk Management, ITSM in an Agile environment, etc....).

I really hate the role/term Agile Enterprise Coach because 99.9% they are sweet talkers to the C-suites, implementing SAFe, LeSS, Spotify or there own concoction. Always top-down, always accompanied by expensive training/certifications and by the time the company sees the debris that they have caused, they already have counted there money and are gone.

The Agile frameworks and the Agile Manifesto started as a grassroots movement to implement an easier/better way to develop software for a small team (Scrum, Kanban, DSDM, XP). Later on, the capacity to work with several teams on 1 backlog was added (Nexus Scrum, Scalable Kanban...) and coordination between teams that had invested intrest, but did not work on the same backlog (Scrum of Scrums, Scrum@Scale...), so it makes no sense to me to implement a top-down approach. Proving to the C-suites that a bottom-up approach xworks and help the C-suites understand 'why' and 'How' they can facilitate it through the whole company is part of the responsibility of the Agile Team Coach a.k.a. the Scrum Master, Kanban Coach, DSDM Coach, XP Instructor or Lean Master.

04:46 pm February 20, 2020

I have used this analogy to explain to others.  Look at professional sports teams.  On a sports team there is usuallly a Head Coach and numerous Assistant Coaches.  The Head Coach is responsible for providing a clear vision for the team, providing the resources needed for the team to be successful and coaching the assistant coaches in their roles. Assistant Coaches will work with individual units usually based upon the type of players or special skills needed across all players.  The Head Coach is familiar with all the roles within the team and knows how each is important to the overall success of the team.  The Head Coach's contribution is more strategic while the Assistant Coach's contributions are tactical. The Head Coach also knows about other sports and how some techniques used in them could benefit their team in the sport which they play. 

Agile coaching is not much different.  In corporate worlds titles are important. So the Agile Coach title is usually the equivalent of a Head Coach of a sports team. Agile Coaches work at a higher strategic level providing vision for the organization that enables them to be more agile in their actions.  In a Scrum organizaton, the Agile Coach will help coach the Scrum Master to enable them to learn more about agile practices.  

Not exactly the same but it sometimes helps others visualize the relationships. 

10:32 pm February 20, 2020

Why would someone outside the team make suggestions and act as an agent of change better than the scrum master, who is part of the Scrum team?

Because an Agile Coach is more than a Scrum Coach. Scrum Masters are by definition a specific role in SCRUM, as we all know Agile is larger than a single framework. Good Agile Coaches are well versed and experienced in more than just Scrum. Another reason why someone outside the team can and should make suggestions is because having an outsider's opinion helps provide a different vantage point and hopefully leads to uncovering issues that the teams gloss over. Say Scrum is just not right for the team/product but the Scrum Master is not experienced in other frameworks, this is where an Agile Coach can provide some much needed help. 

Agile Coaches get a bad rap, it makes sense depending on the coach and consulting firm but don't put them all in a bad light. In large organizations that are wanting to transition to Agile, the Agile Coach role is very helpful and important. Typically, you'll have an Enterprise Agile Coach who works with executive leadership. This is vital because C suite folks need to have an understanding of the changes and need a broader view of what it looks like across the org. Then you'll have Agile Coaches and they may work with a few teams or they may work with full on business units in the organization. I've worked with great coaches and I've worked with terrible coaches, you typically can tell the difference after talking together for about 5 minutes.

11:16 am February 23, 2020

As Scrum Masters, we are letting ourselves and our fellow professionals down in the way we talk about agile coaching. I absolutely accept that there are roles for people outside of the Scrum Team, and in many organizations a person employed as an Agile Coach might be more effective; but we diminish the role of a Scrum Master at our peril.

Why shouldn't a Scrum Master be able to command the attention and respect of a C-level executive? Why should an expert who has demonstrated such proficiency to be employed as an Agile Coach only be fully respected if they work outside of a Scrum Team?

The Scrum Guide contains enough fodder for an assertive Scrum Master to take on the role of an agile coach in many organizations. I would consider it a failure of a Scrum Master who does not adapt when such a need presents itself.

06:56 pm February 23, 2020

An Agile Coach is supposed to be a senior role. Based on my experience, they are outside consultants who are brought in to advise management and leadership on organization change and development. At leadership's direction, they help get the Agile transformation started. Once Scrum Teams are established and running like a well-oiled machine, the Agile Coaches will leave and the Scrum Masters continue to evangelize agility in the organization.

07:40 am February 24, 2020

Dear friends, I don’t like the words ‘more’ or ‘less’ when talking about people or roles. If you label an experienced coach or Scrum Master as an Agile Coach I’m totally fine with that. If you want to indicate that an Agile Coach is more organisation oriented, that’s fine too, why not. But please don’t invent million titles. The essence of the roles are the same and the difference in real experience is what you want to look at. Personally i prefer to downgrade my title to a more modest label. The more I learn about Scrum and coaching.. the more I realise I don’t know much. I keep wondering if there is any normal person that can master all these ’advanced’ and complicated frameworks and at the same time not forget or ignore the essence of the dynamic of people working together in a team.

08:02 am February 24, 2020

The more I learn about Scrum and coaching.. the more I realise I don’t know much. I keep wondering if there is any normal person that can master all these ’advanced’ and complicated frameworks and at the same time not forget or ignore the essence of the dynamic of people working together in a team.

@Lars Devocht, I truly respect your courage in saying this. What you said resonates so well with me too.

08:25 am February 24, 2020

Thank you for this comment ;-)

There are way too many know-it-alls around anyway. 

For me the differentitation between the roles depends more on who you ask than on the actual work they do.

07:49 am April 21, 2021

Jeff Sutherland, the co-creator of Scrum, said quoting, "scrum master name changed to agile coach" because some company trying to adopt to Scrum didnt do well so they don't want to hear one more word of Scrum master

Search for his interview



12:40 pm April 21, 2021

@Kamal, that is not quite what Jeff said during the Scrum Guide launch that you are pointing to. What both Jeff and Ken have said is that Scrum Master is not a job title, it is a set of accountabilities and that you can use any job title that works for you or your organization to accomplish those accountabilities.  

11:15 pm April 21, 2021

@Eric Naiburg

All what you saying is right, but skip forward to the last min at about 2:16, and listen to the story of the company that lost so much and Scrum didn't do well and employees/managers, don't want to hear about, scrum, so they called it agile coach, 


01:24 pm April 22, 2021

@kamal, yes that is what I am saying, you can call the title whatever makes sense for the company. Scrum Master  is a set of accountabilities and not a job title. Jeff is saying don't get caught up in job titles, focus on the accountabilities.