This is the third in the ongoing series of articles focused on using the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel to find, hire and support the right people for the Agile leadership roles in their organization. 

The series started with How to Pick The Right Agile Coach, which examines whether you should hire a consultant or a full-time coach (TLDR: Hire both, read the article to find out why). The second article, Evaluating Candidates with the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel, demonstrates using the Wheel in the hiring process.  

What is the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel?

This article assumes you’ve either read the previous articles in the series and/or have read the Scrum Alliance article introducing the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel. For those that have not, the quick introduction is this: 

The Growth Wheel is a tool that allows anyone who desires to help people, teams, or organizations to evaluate and grow their skills with Agile practices and approaches. 

Agile Coaching Growth Wheel

What skills does my Scrum Master need? 

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: An organization wants to make a structural change in how they envision, design, and deliver value to their customers. They find a new set of practices, align on them, give key people a couple of days of training (if that), and then sit back to watch the successful change just happen. 

Change is hard. As I discussed in How to Pick The Right Agile Coach, the process is complex and almost always requires expert assistance to avoid disaster. However, hiring experts is not a solution in and of itself. If the internal team tasked with carrying out the change does not have the right level of skill, your change is probably still going to fail. 

Let’s look at a practical example. When I was in middle school (13 years old, for those of you mapping to international schooling), I took a summer “Kids Learning to Code” program at the local university. While it was clear our professor was brilliant, they assumed a level of mastery from us that we didn’t have. While we were at the basic book learning stage (Beginner), they were asking us to take various parts and put them together without any clear connections (Proficient). Yes, we had the book and we had individual examples of small snippets of code. We didn’t have the knowledge or instruction for how to connect that all together to make a greater whole. In the entire class, I think one or two students “got it,” while the rest of us struggled. They revamped the program the next year. 

Carrying this analogy into your company’s Agile evolution, you can see how you might face challenges: Your Scrum Masters are project managers with eight hours of additional training. Your Agile Coach was selected because they were the only person with previous Scrum experience in the organization. 

As Jim Collins says in Good to Great, the first step to successful change is to “get the right people on the bus.”


Using the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel to Define Role Ability

Recognizing that we need to ensure the right people, with the right skills, and the right skill mastery are in place to support our Business Agility change, the question then becomes “What are the right skills and level of mastery?” 

The following thought exercise is an exploration of competency skills of the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel and what levels I think different Agile Coaching related roles need to be successful in their roles. Please note that this is a thought exercise representing my personal views based on my experience. It does not represent any hard and fast requirements. The entire Growth Wheel is an iterative project and I fully expect these to change as we refine the wheel more over the course of 2022.

To that end, I encourage you to give your feedback both to myself and to the Scrum Alliance. Please fill out the Scrum Alliance survey for the Growth Wheel. This will help the working group to improve the Wheel. Email me directly with your thoughts on my chart of proposed competency skill levels for Agile Coaching Roles.

Mapping the Growth Wheel Competency Skills to Agile Coaching Roles

There are nine competency areas in the wheel with nineteen skills that define them. Each competency is assessed using the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition, rating ability from book-level learning to thought-leading catalyst. The levels are Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Proficient, Guide, and Catalyst. Future updates of the Coaching Wheel will define each of the competency skills in detail.

 For this thought exercise, let’s look at three roles along the continuum of Agile Coaching:

  • Practicing Scrum Master: This person has a certification or the equivalent learning and has been practicing as a Scrum Master for at least a few months. This would be the skill levelI I would advise a company to look for when hiring a new Scrum Master from outside to support a single team.
  • Team Agile Coach: This is your “average” Agile Coach. They work either inside an organization or with a medium or larger consulting firm. Their focus is on supporting individual teams and working with other coaches and typically under the guidance of a more experienced coach.
  • Certified Team Coach: Specifically a Scrum Alliance Certified Team Coach (CTC). This is someone with several years of hands-on coaching experience and extensive education. Their experience is in working from the focus of the teams in organizations to implement Scrum.
Agile Coaching Wheel Roles

*Proficient in the framework they are actively using, such as Scrum, Kanban or SAFe

The Practicing Scrum Master is primarily in the Advanced Beginner level of Dreyfuss. They have practical experience and can typically apply straightforward techniques on their own with an ability to learn and grow.

The Team Agile Coach sits mostly proficient in all save the leading/transforming competencies. They move from simply applying established frameworks into analyzing situations and applying solutions based on their insight.

The Certified Team Coach (CTC) has deep, tacit knowledge of the right hand side of the Coaching Growth Wheel. They have the ability to synthesize and adapt solutions to team and cross-team challenges with ease. While they may have strong leading and transformation skills, this is not their focus.


Let’s Start a Discussion

The Agile Coaching Growth Wheel is a tool. How we use the tool and techniques are going to vary. What are your thoughts? Do you think something is missing from it? Please fill out the Scrum Alliance survey and reach out to me with your thoughts. I’d be happy to meet Zoom to Zoom to talk over it, do a brown bag for you and your coworkers or speak at a Meetup. It is through the engagement with the community we will make the Growth Wheel a worthy successor to Lyssa Adkin’s original Coaching Model.