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The Agile Coach who wears different hats

Updated: May 27, 2020

As Agile Coaches (Agile Practitioners, Scrum Masters, Agile Mentors and Consultants) we wear different hats at different times. We have different clients with different needs and we have different experiences that might be helpful for our clients.

What is an Agile Coach? Isn't it someone with solid and useful experience in agile ways of working and someone with an ability to collaborate and where applicable impart that experience to somebody else who will benefit from that experience. This process of imparting knowledge and experience can be done in different ways (teaching or mentoring for example). There are some different models to help us with this.

The Agile Manifesto talks about "business people and developers [that] must work together daily throughout the project." And then building "... projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done."

Scrum describes the Scrum Master role and the skills required in the Scrum guide. "The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team." 

The Agile Coaching Institute (ACI) describes the Agile Coaching Competency Framework. Lyssa Adkins is well known for presenting this framework. The framework shows the different skills that an Agile Coach has. The starting point is solid experience in agile ways of working, much like Medical General Practitioner has a solid base of experience in Medical Practice.

Then each Agile Coach will have a more specialised knowledge in one or more particular area or areas. These can be as a Master or 'expert' in a particular field in the Technical, Business or Transformational domain or these can be skills in the way the Agile Coach engages with other people (as Teacher, Mentor, Coach or Facilitator). So you could see the former as more concrete skills for the self in terms of knowledge and experience whereas the latter might be more to do with the skills that we have in engaging with other people (having empathy and being non-directive for example). And these skills extend more deeply into the world of professional coaching when we consider the Coaching and Facilitating areas.

No one is an expert in every single element of the framework above. We all have areas where we are better than other areas and we all have areas where we can improve. So the notion of continuous improvement is highly relevant here. And the Japanese Shuhari approach can be applied to help guide us here (both for ourselves and for our clients).

We might find ourselves at different points on the journey for different competencies within the framework. And we can turn to each other for guidance and coaching (depending what is most applicable) to help us along that journey. So somebody who feels they are at the 'Shu' stage in their development is more likely to benefit from teaching whereas someone who is at the 'Ha' stage might benefit from mentoring and someone who is at the 'Ri' stage might benefit from coaching.

Thanks for reading . What do people think? I appreciate reading your thoughts below.

Here's a link to our next workshop that takes participants on a detailed journey through this; Coaching for Agile Coaches

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