Skip to content

Karim Harbott – My Journey to CEC

There are two questions that I am often asked about being a Scrum Alliance Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC). First, what is a CEC? Second, why did you choose to become one? I shall attempt to answer both of those questions here.

Certified Enterprise Coaches are experts in both the theory and practice of Scrum. They have often successfully guided many organisations through the multiple challenges of Scrum adoptions. Their focus is on the organisational level patterns that enable agility and on building the internal capability to support a sustainable adoption. In short, if you are thinking of adopting Scrum for more than a small number of teams, a CEC can be invaluable.

To become a CEC, one must demonstrate, as a minimum, the following attributes:

  1. Deep knowledge around Scrum, Lean and Agile, to the point of being able to guide whole adoptions,
  2. Experience with advanced coaching tools and techniques through formal training and practice,
  3. The ability to operate at all levels of an organisation: from teams to C-level executives to catalyse true enterprise transformation.

My Journey to CEC

Many years back, my interactions with a few CECs made a lasting impression on me. I was struck by their knowledge and approach to working with people and organisations. I was convinced that I wanted to be part of that small but growing, community. My journey to CEC was long, hard and ultimately, extremely rewarding. The bar is rightly high. If it were not, it would be less valuable. Organisations need to be able to distinguish between good team coaches and those who can guide whole organisations towards successful transformations. Whilst there is some overlap, there is a largely different skillset and mix of experiences necessary to be effective in the latter.

I did not do it alone. A few existing CECs were generous with their advice and guidance along my learning journey. I studied a whole range of disciplines and organisation transformation patterns, picking up tools and techniques that I use to this day. I took on clients that would give me the opportunity to put theory into practice. I attended Coaching Retreats and Global Gatherings to collaborate with some of the best in the world. I also enrolled in formal business and personal coaching training resulting in a deep understanding of how to coach people more effectively. This continues to be a great help when coaching teams, executives and whole organisations through tough changes.

I became a CEC in October 2014. Since then, through working with my clients, I have observed the following benefits.

Recognition of my deep knowledge and experience

When is a pebble too big to be called a pebble and is considered a stone? When is a stone too big to be called a stone and is considered a rock? It is not always clear where these boundaries lie. Similarly, it is difficult for most people to distinguish between the various leadership roles; ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Enterprise Agile Coaches. One is not better or worse than another, however, there are significant differences in their experiences, focus and skills. For organisations, it is important to be able to identify enterprise-level Agile Coaches. For individual coaches, it is important to be able to set oneself apart from other types of coaches in order to work with the right clients.

Being a Certified Enterprise Coach sends a powerful message to potential clients. Being able to quickly communicate this focus to organisations has allowed me to more easily engage with a sufficiently high level of leadership to enact real change.

Helping me to build great people

I am passionate about helping to build great ScrumMasters, Product Owners and Agile Coaches inside organisations. I have found that leaving behind an internal capability to continue the learning and growth mind-set is the best way to make change stick. I use the skills I acquired in pursuit of CEC every day. The ability to coach and mentor people, and help them to grow did not come overnight. It was learnt through years of formal and informal study combined with applying my learning in real-life situations. Being a CEC allows me to recognise the growth of new ScrumMasters and Product Owners whom I have coached by registering them with the Scrum Alliance as a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) or Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO). It allows me to support their journey to Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) by counting my coaching hours as Scrum Education Units (SEUs). I also spend time helping others to make the tough leap to CEC based on my experiences on that journey. It is a wonderful opportunity to give back to a community which has given, and continues to give, so much to me. The more CEC-level people there are out there, the more impact we can have on improving product development across the world.

Whilst certifications are not the be-all and end-all, they provide useful milestones for people in their journey of self-development. They are valuable to people and organisations as recognition of their knowledge and experience. Being able to help people to achieve their goals is extremely satisfying.

Fostering great collaboration

As a CEC, I have access to other CECs and lots of the thought leaders in the industry. Collaboration with this group has helped me immensely to learn and constantly challenge myself to improve. A week rarely goes past without me learning something new from collaborating with this passionate group.


An Agile Coach has two focal points: agility and coaching. I see many of my peers focusing primarily on the former, but I see very few who truly understand the latter. From my perspective, these are Agile consultants or contractors who may teach and do Agile, but very rarely impact organisational agility in a sustainable way once they have moved on. When I work with a fellow CEC, I know that they have the knowledge, tools and techniques to guide organisations through their transformation, build an internal capability through coaching and mentoring, and to catalyse real organisational change. Change that is not only effective in the moment but which can continue to adapt in the future to the changing landscape. I am glad I made the journey to become a CEC. It has forced me to become a much better coach and more self-aware of my strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness has thus enabled me to be, and model, a better ‘agilist’. However, becoming a CEC is not the end of my journey, rather it is a major milestone in my continued Agile leadership journey, and I fully intend to continue that journey and to help others to do the same.