ScrumMaster vs Agile Coach

Question

Joe:

I’ve found that an Agile Coach has been engaged to coach a Scrum Team.

What is the difference in roles between an Agile Coach and a Scum Master?  I thought the Scrum Master would be responsible for coaching the team?  Or possibly the Scrum Master is new and/or not as effective as expected?

Thanks, Debby

Answer

Hi Debbie,

Hmm. Good question.

Officially in the Scrum Guide there is no role of “coach”.

The word is used many ways by many people.

Here is (kind of) the definition that Scrum Alliance and I use.

Every Team (you recall I recommend the Team be 7 usually)…every team has a Scrum Master.

In a sense the SM is a coach to the team and to people outside the Team.

For beginning teams, it is useful to have (also) an Agile Coach or Agile Team Coach.  To help everyone, and especially to help the SM become a good SM.

Eventually the coach goes away and the SM is key person.

At Scrum Alliance, they have a certification for “Certified Team Coach” (CTC).

The Team Coach does not just coach the SM, and not just coach the whole Scrum Team, but also people outside the Team.  The Coach should not just talk (like a therapist maybe) but also take real action to get impediments removed or mitigated.  Again, the Coach should always be letting the SM get actively involved and really learn and become accomplished.

There is a lot of debate regarding how much time the Coach is available for one time.  I was full time for 2 months.  Often not enough but pretty good.

Problems

One problem is no coach.  And the beginning SM may be kind of lost.

Another problem is the Coach who never let’s the SM do the job and really learn.  So, the Coach needs the ability to slowly step away.  And the willingness to work himself or herself out of a job.

Other problems arise when other people are confused about who is doing what.  Takes some explaining.

So, the coach hopefully is good for you, especially if they leave fairly soon.

Next Level

We also have the idea (and practice) of a higher level coach.

At Scrum Alliance, this is called a Certified Enterprise Coach.

This can be very helpful too.

Commonly a higher level coach would be helping 5 or 10 teams. And be dealing with the (hard) organizational impediments.  And helping the managers become good agile managers (that is, a reasonable set of practice, patterns and concepts to be effective with the teams doing agile).

Help enough?

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