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November 18, 2016


As I look back at my many years as an Agile Coach - helping organizations introduce, optimize and scale Scrum, I am amazed and disappointed by the number of contradictory things I have been asked to do as an Agile Coach. And in all humility, I am also disappointed by the things I have done and the person I have been as an Agile Coach.

The term "Agile Coach" has become overloaded to mean many different things to different people. This overloading can create a lot of mismatched expectations and suffering for Hiring Managers, Agile Coaches and Agile Teams because each person may have a completely different interpretation of who an Agile Coach is, what they do and what one might expect from them.

With the unflattering clarity of hind-sight, I wanted to jot down some of my thoughts in the hope that they will alert me when I start going down a path I will regret in the future. And also to help hiring managers, Agile Coaches and teams get on the same page when it comes to expectations of an Agile Coach.

So here are the 6 kinds of Agile Coaches I have been asked to be. And sadly, there are times when I have allowed myself to play almost all of these roles ...



The CTB Agile Coach is a Check-The-Box Agile Coach. The Hiring Manager couldn't care less about what Agile is and is not. They just know that everybody seems to be "doing it" and they are tired of answering irritating questions from people (especially their powerful stakeholders - leaders, customers, prospects, investors...) about why they are not "doing Agile". The Hiring Manager often thinks Agile is the fad and flavor of the month and will soon pass. So they decide to hire someone, anyone to play this role so they can put this conversation to bed and focus on doing "real work".



The TPST Agile Coach is a Trophy, Parade & Sales Tool Agile Coach. The Hiring Manager wants to hire someone charismatic with lots of TLA's and industry certifications who will shut up and sit in a trophy display case. At the appropriate moments, this Trophy coach is brought out of the trophy display and paraded to placate unhappy customers or to impress key prospects about how Agile the organization truly is.



The Legitimizer Agile Coach is someone who is brought out to endorse, legitimize, and "Agilize" whatever ridiculous, unethical, ineffective behavior powerful leaders are engaging in. The target audience is often an unhappy customer who is frustrated with the outcomes and needs to be confused and convinced into thinking that they are completely un-Agile and the root cause of all misery in the failing relationship. Often combined with the role of TPST Agile Coach.



The Selective Enforcer Agile Coach is brought out by the Hiring Manager to bludgeon and confuse anyone who dares to challenge the Hiring Manager's ideas about what Agility is, until they give up and align with the Hiring Manager.



The Ritualizer Agile Coach is used by the Hiring Manager to ensure that teams are blindly following the rituals of Agile like the "Daily Stand-Up" and "Demo". The Hiring Manager does not care about the underlying principles, values or intended outcomes of Agile Frameworks, they just want to be able to show some evidence that teams are "doing Agile". Often combined with CTB Agile Coach.



This is one of the rarest Agile Coaches - the Help Us Get Better Agile Coach hired by a rare  Unicorn Hiring Manager who sincerely wants application of Agile Values, Principles and practices to enable sustainable, measurable business agility.

This Agile Coach enables self-sustaining communities where self-organizing teams and servant leaders...


  1. Continuously gain a deeper understanding of Agile Frameworks, Values, Principles and Practices

  2. Continuously create a clear, shared understanding of what business value is in their context

  3. Continuously apply '1' to implement experiments that reveal actionable insights to generate sustainable business value as expressed through '2'




So I would like to end with two invitations that might help us reduce needless suffering in the name of Agile Coaching


For Agile Coach Hiring Managers:

Can you be courageous, authentic, unambiguous and unapologetic and communicate exactly what kind of Agile Coach you are looking for?


For Agile Coaches:

Can you ask hiring managers and leaders which of these Agile Coaches they are looking for?


Keep calm and Scrum On!

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