Back in 2012, I worked with a colleague to develop a new course for ScrumMasters (and other Agile change agents).  Our goal was to figure out a way to support learners on a progressive educational journey from ScrumMaster to Agile Coach (CSP-SM).  While the specific offering we developed did not make much of an impact, many of the ideas in that program shaped the original CSP Fast Pass program.

I still remember this great dialogue we had one afternoon on just what is a ScrumMaster and what are they expected to do as they reach higher levels of experience and education.  Specifically, we identified the various hats the ScrumMasters are expected to wear as they progress along the path to Agile Coach.  Our original dialogue was specific to ScrumMasters, but upon reflection it was clear we were referring to Agile Coaches.

  1. Visionary – has a specific point-of-view and is passionate about what they see as the future for their team and organization.  As a visionary, an Agile Coach could be an evangelist or an individual who possesses the calm confidence of knowing what they really want.
  2. Facilitator – while an Agile Coach must have a point-of-view of vision, when they work with a self-organizing team they must be neutral.  When they are acting as the facilitator, they create the space for collaboration and self-organization to occur and refrain from providing content.
  3. Leader – since an Agile Coach works in the space of “no authority”,  they need to draw followers to them through the power of their ideas, the strength of their conviction and the ability to communicate their vision.
  4. Mentor – one of the strengths of an Agile Coach is that they care and respect the people they come into contact with each day.  In order to excel as a mentor, an Agile Coach devotes much of their day building genuine, personal relationships with everyone they interact with.
  5. Teacher – an Agile Coach needs to possess a deep understanding of Scrum, be knowledgable on the current set of Agile variants (XP, Crystal, DSDM, Kanban, Lean for Software, etc.) and provide thoughtful answers on how to apply Scrum outside the lines.  I expect an Agile Coach to be comfortable explaining Scrum in a variety of ways, in a variety of forums, to variety of roles and to a variety of people with different levels of understanding about Scrum and Agile.
  6. Coach – sometimes people need “an answer” and sometimes people need help finding the solutions to the challenges on their own.  A skilled Agile Coach knows the difference and can regularly create effective coaching conversations which produce actionable results.
  7. Change Agent – Scrum is much more than a set of activities or practices we do at work.  Scrum is about change.  As a change agent, the Agile Coach brings change to all parts of the organization and socializes the impact of change with stakeholders.
  8. Expert Communicator – Scrum is about having the more interesting conversation, the conversation that we need to have and about fostering a dialogue about how to improve.  To support this, the ScrumMaster as an Agile Coach must model the crucial skills necessary to start and maintain dialogue.

What was true in 2012 is still (sadly) true in 2017 – the role of an Agile Coach (or ScrumMaster) does not exist in organizations today and many of the roles we listed as crucial for an Agile Coach (and ScrumMaster) could be in conflict with one another.  However, remains clear today, there is no one person who does all these things.  Some people might do some of these activities sporadically but no one does all of them all the time.