Ongoing State of Agile Coaching

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Ongoing State of Agile Coaching

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The First State of Agile Coaching report was published last year by a collaboration between the Scrum Alliance and the Business Agility Institute. I participated in the survey and I eagerly awaited to see what surfaced. Since this is the first of its kind, I knew that the insights would probably surprise me a bit. 

Links for you—

Here’s a quote from the preface of the report:

The idea for this report was born out of a sense of frustration and necessity. We had just read an article from Anand et al on, “Growing your own Agility Coaches to Adopt New Ways of Working.” The authors wrote something that gave us pause:

“While the role [of agility coach] has exploded on LinkedIn and many profiles claim to be agility coaches, there is no degree or accepted global accreditation that provides comfort around the skills and experience needed for the job.”

First of all, that’s not quite right. We know of at least two globally accepted certification programs for agile coaching: the Scrum Alliance® Certified Enterprise CoachSM and Certified Team CoachSM; and ICAgile Expert in Agile Coaching from ICAgile®. Each of these certifications requires a proven combination of agile education and experience. Fifty percent of the agile coaches who answered this survey had some level of certification from one or both of these certifying bodies. What’s valid about the McKinsey statement is that it captures the real struggle companies face when they want to hire an agile coach: It’s difficult to know what experience and certifications to look for, what services to expect, what a reasonable rate should be, and how to measure their success. In other words, what does “good” look like?

…skipping forward…

The profession of agile coaching needs clarity on the true value of an agile coach and the associated measurable knowledge, expertise, and skills. This report is the first step toward achieving that goal.

I disagree with what Howard and Evan stated in the preface and I believe McKinsey got it right

there is no degree or accepted global accreditation that provides comfort around the skills and experience needed for the job.”

And this is the dilemma. While Scrum Alliance and iCAgile are absolutely accrediting agile coaches, there is NO clear agreement in the community around—

  • The skills (breadth & breadth across the stances or even what are the critical stances);

  • The experience (across relevant domains, within each of the coaching stances; and

  • How to consistently and practically evaluate all of the competencies in a balanced fashion.

I’ll say it again. There really isn’t a clear, established, consistent, and agreed-on baseline for determining agile coaching competencies. And the largest gap is on the side of confirming skills. That is, determining that agile coaches can actually coach across a wide variety of stances, situations, and contexts.

It would be like certifying doctors without having a clear definition of what surgical competency looks like and not being able to observe and verify their surgical skills.

One of the biggest takeaways I had from the report is the call to action the above represents. You see, the field of agile coaching is literally in its infancy. If we want to develop and mature it, we’re going to have to begin defining and establishing clarity for and guidelines around what it means to be an agile coach. And that includes a Code of Ethics. 

(note: the Agile Alliance has moved forward in that regard here)

One role model for all of this is the International Coaching Federation, their coaching guidelines, and how they prescribe the path to becoming a coach.

I’d like to see the Scrum Alliance and the iCAgile leadership teams acknowledge that (1) there’s a long way to go in establishing what an Agile Coach is and (2) the role they both should be playing in actively and collaboratively defining that space.

Right now, each seems to be going it alone AND going it slow, which isn’t helping nor supporting our agile coaching community.

(note: the Scrum Alliance is sponsoring a volunteer group that is exploring redefining the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel as a baseline competency model)

And, while I said that we’re in our infancy, let’s not use that as an excuse. Lyssa Adkins wrote her agile coaching book in 2010. Part of what it did was establish a notion around the profession of Agile Coaching. So, we’ve ostensibly had ~10 years to provide the above clarity.

The point being—it shouldn’t have taken this long.

Folks, we need to change this conversation…

Hey Bob, what do you do?

I’m an Agile Coach.

What is that? What does an Agile Coach do? Or know? Or practice?

It depends.

How do you know if you’re a “good one”?

It depends.

If I’m a client, how do I find a competent Agile Coach practitioner? One who has the verified skills and competencies I desperately need?

It depends.

And so on…

and remove the “depends” and gain more CLARITY.

Stay agile my friends,


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