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Why do organisations and teams need an agile coach?

Why do organisations and teams need an agile coach?

Welcome to part 12 of our agile coach interview questions series where John McFadyen answers common questions asked of agile coaches and scrum masters in interviews and client engagements.

They don’t.

Nice, easy answer.

You don’t need a coach, nor do you need an Agile coach. You need oxygen, you need water, and you need food. Coaching isn’t a need, it’s something you choose to invest in to create an environment where your team and organisation can excel.

A context for Agile coaching.

Understand that you don’t need to be good or great at what you do either. It isn’t a necessity that you or your team are world-class individuals who excel at creating products and services that truly delight customers.

A lot of organizations are mediocre at best, and they get along just fine without a coach.

A coach, or in this context, an Agile coach is incredibly valuable for teams and organisations who are committed to continuous improvement and achieving competitive advantage in their industry.

Coaching in Sports.

A great way to look at the value of a coach is to look to sports environments.

A good team will invest in a great coach with the objective of honing their skills, achieving excellence on and off the pitch, and continuously improving their practice and capabilities until they are the best in their division or league.

Technically, they are good enough to play the game well, so they don’t NEED a coach. Instead, they recognise that their competitors are improving with each practice session and understand that if they don’t commit to their own continuous improvement, they are simply going to be left behind.

A great coach helps the team design and develop a strategy that offers them the opportunity to achieve competitive advantage, and helps the team develop practices and disciplines to ensure that they incrementally improve in all areas of the game.

Mentally and physically.

An agile coach operates in the same fashion. They work with teams and the organisation to find the best practices and disciplines that serve the unique application and context of that organisation.

They work with skilled team members to identify opportunities for growth and continuous improvement and help design programmes and practices to achieve that goal.

Coaching skills and capabilities.

Using the same sports environment as a context for coaching, teams tend to have several coaches who help them develop their skills and capabilities in specific areas.

You might have a defence coach for team members who focus primarily on defending, whilst you may have a coach who works exclusively with the strikers to capitalise on opportunities.

You may also have a strength and fitness coach to help ensure that the players are in the best shape of their lives, and you may supplement that with a nutrition coach that ensures the team are getting the highest value returns on their nutrition.

Again, this isn’t necessary. It is something that the team choose to invest in because they can see the significant returns on their coaching investments. It is something that empowers the team to become the best version of a team that they can be.

Agile coaches can be deployed in the same fashion.

You may have an agile coach who is great with Kanban whilst another might be a specialist in LeSS (large Scale Scrum). As with sports coaches, these agile coaches will work together and across the organisation to help the teams achieve the best outcomes possible.

They will help grow Agility across functions and departments to ensure that the whole organisation is increasing their business agility and achieving competitive parity, at worst, and competitive advantage, at best.

What is a great Agile coach?

Just as in the sports context, the coach is not the most skilled player on the field. They aren’t the best at that discipline by a long shot.

They don’t need to be.

The coach is there to help that highly skilled and competent player become even better than they already are. They don’t compete with individuals on the team, nor do they attempt to force others to do things ‘their way’.

Instead, they work with players and teams to help achieve their best performances and learn from those performances to achieve an even higher standard of excellence in the future.

They work with the best players to create an environment where that individual and that team can excel. They help individuals and teams recognise where they can improve and identify a plan or programme that will help the team escalate from where they are to where they want to be.

So, you don’t need to hire the best agile practitioner or developer in the world to coach your team, you need to hire a great coach that has a proven track record of helping individuals and teams achieve their highest potential.

So, in closing, I would like to reiterate that you don’t need an agile coach. You choose an agile coach because you believe that both individuals and teams within your organisation have the potential to achieve excellence and competitive advantage in the markets they serve.

About John McFadyen

If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Scrum Masters website.

For more information on John McFadyen, connect with John on LinkedIn at

If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master and want to achieve internationally recognised and certified accreditation as a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master (CSM) course page.

If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill to a more advanced level of knowledge and agile coaching capability, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master (A-CSM) course page.

If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master (CSP-SM) course page.

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