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Agile Coaching Capability

I’m a bit of a rugby fan and often find myself wanting to run out with the lads, moving through the field like a wrecking ball and scoring the winning try as the opposition lies in my wake, sobbing with disappointment.

The problem is, I’m not good enough to play rugby for my country. I’m not even good enough to play for my town. 

Why? Because I haven’t played rugby since I was at school.

I didn’t follow the same path as Johnny Wilkinson. I didn’t move through the same elite rugby academies, nor did I devote thousands of hours to become the best flyhalf of my generation. 

Nobody runs out for their country’s first team and shines like a supernova without a solid progression through each of the stages that stand between novice and elite professional. 

It must be earned the hard way. 

Time. Effort. Dedication to Craft.

Levels of Coaching Capability

The rapid progression and adoption of Agile over the past decade has created a vacuum of highly skilled, deeply experienced Agile coaches. 

People who have deep expertise in the field of ‘coaching’ as well as the sphere of Business Agility.

One of the unfortunate side effects of this vacuum is that a growing number of people with a year or two’s experience as a Scrum Master have self-declared as Agile coaches despite having no coaching expertise, certification, or experience.

Something which is increasingly proving problematic as the world becomes more volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. 

Problematic for the individuals who are putting themselves way out of their depth as well as for the organisations who hire and/or contract them to help solve unique and complex problems.

So how do you know whether the person you are interviewing or potentially contracting is the right person for the job? How do you know whether your Agile horse is fit for the course? 

If you are the self-proclaimed ‘Agile Coach’, how do you know whether you are ready for the gig you are pitching your services for?

Over the coming months, I’ll be creating a series of “capability” articles that will help you understand the process of apprenticeship, journeyman and mastery. Mastery as a demonstration of capability and the propagation of Apprenticeship; instilling capability and embedding skills within others.

Pep Guardiola versus John Smith

In its simplest form, most people understand coaching in the context of Sports, and we can put Agile coaching into a similar structure. 

Entry Level

At the entry level, we have the Sunday Little League coach. At this level, there isn’t much in the way of coaching; it’s more teaching. These coaches are teaching kids how to play. Teaching them how the game works, the rules, and how each of the different roles integrates into the team.

Great teachers instil a love and passion for the game, and in the Agile world, this is often why training is so valuable at the outset. Agile Centre specialises in this kind of training, but it is also valuable to have a great teacher on-site, leading you through the foundations and intermediate levels.

Intermediate Level

At the intermediate level, we have the Public League coach. Most often, they are a player-coach. 

Everybody on the team gets how the game works, they know how to play the game well, and the player-coach is often the best player on the team.

They are the cheerleaders that support and inspire others. 

As the best player, they command respect and act as a captain in moments of crisis or uncertainty.

In the Agile world, these are the people who are considered good Scrum Masters with a fair degree of experience and Scrum capability. 

These would also be people who are on a Journey to certification and validation for Professional Scrum Mastery and coaching. People who are developing and honing their craft, being mentored by others who are deeply skilled and experienced in coaching and Business Agility.

A great example of this journey in terms of the Scrum Alliance path to Coaching would be:

  • Certified Scrum Master to Advanced Certified Scrum Master
  • ACSM to Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master
  • CSP-SM to Certified Team Coach and Certified Enterprise Coach.

Professional Level

At the Professional level, it does not make a difference how good a player you are; you would still need to rebadge as a coach. 

It takes time, effort and evidence throughout their progression from practitioner to coach. 

If Lionel Messi stopped playing for Barcelona tomorrow, he would still need to retool as a professional coach before he could coach and manage the team despite being such a hugely influential and competent professional footballer.

Professional coaching levels are about progressively improving and validating your skills. 

Validation and Certification paths like Scrum Alliance are great for this. 

  • How are you progressing? 
  • Have you acquired the necessary skills to coach at this level? 
  • Where are the gaps? 
  • What are the industry standards, and how do you compare?

At this stage, a professional level coach is receiving a great deal of mentoring and coaching themselves as they work through the active experimentation and creativity phases of their own coaching progression.

Different Horses for Different Agile Courses

A Sunday Little League coach is very different from a Professional League coach in terms of their focus and the support they require. In the Agile world, it is the same.

A good Scrum Master and/or entry-level Scrum Coach is a good way to launch your first Scrum Team and help them progress through the learning and practice phases.

If you’re looking to impact 50,000 people in an organisation and cultivate a high-performing, Agile organisation that unleashes people’s creativity and passion, you’re going to find that an Enterprise, Executive-level Coach is going to thrive in that environment.

Our industry has done clients a disservice by not having greater regulation around levels of coaching capability and insisting on validation and certification as a prerequisite to consulting and coaching.

Over the coming weeks and months, I am going to be producing a series of articles and workshops that focuses on levels of competence and capability for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches.

If you suspect that your horse may best be put out to pasture or doesn’t quite know its way around the race track the way it should, stay tuned for more insights into the journey toward Mastery and valuable tools/frameworks for capability assessment. 

Touch base with us at if you’d like to chat with our team about Agile training or Coaching.