I’m a scrum master and we’ve just hired an agile coach. How do I work with them?
It depends. First and foremost, you as the scrum master are an agile coach as well. Own it. Celebrate it. Scrum masters are agile coaches who are focused exclusively on scrum.
Agile coaches may or may not be. They may be focused on teams or they may focus on executive level coaching and working with leadership teams. They may be focused on scrum or they may be working on a different agile framework.
Step 1 – Acknowledge that you are an Agile coach
So, you need to start by accepting that you are an agile coach as well and take responsibility for helping your team create an environment where everyone can excel. The agile coach that has been hired is not better than you, they are simply there to perform a different role to you.
Step 2 – Have a conversation with the new Agile coach
Your second step is to go have a chat. A good agile coach will be open and honest about why they are there, what they are attempting to achieve and provide you with the insights and clarity you need to help them achieve their goals.
If they have been hired to support you, great, accept their help and have a conversation about the areas where you will be working together, how they intend to assess and help you, and what you can do to participate in the process and help both of you achieve your objectives and goals.
If they are there to support a number of teams and achieve a specific goal, great, having a conversation with them helps you understand where they are going to need support, what you can do to assist, and it empowers you to contribute in a meaningful way.
If they are cagey about the reasons they are there or you find that the conversation doesn’t provide you with any insights, I would doubt whether they truly are an agile coach. They may just have assumed the job title rather than actively demonstrate any great coaching skills but at least you will be aware of what you are dealing with.
Remember that an agile coach working across the organisation needs the help and support of others to succeed. In most cases, they will appreciate your openness and willingness to contribute, and they will value your contribution and assistance.
Take their lead and assess how you can assist, when you can assist, and where you can assist.
Step 3 – Understand the context of their role
A great agile coach will be tasked with delivering specific outcomes within the context of the industry and organisation they are working with.
If an agile coach evangelised the benefits of Agile to a leadership team but couldn’t point to an organisation within the client’s industry, or even better, to a department within the organisation itself, the leadership team will simply reject their pitch because of context.
So, the agile coach needs the support of scrum masters, product owners, developers and product stakeholders within the organisation to demonstrate the benefits of adopting agile within the context of the organisation and point to improvements that have been achieved during their tenure.
Knowing which metrics are important and having a clear understanding of what outcomes the agile coach is trying to move the needle on will help you understand how you can contribute within the right context of their engagement.
It will position you perfectly to assist the new agile coach and make you an invaluable partner in the achievement of specific goals and objectives defined by the leadership team and it could prove to be a valuable period of your career.
Something you can point to, in the context of your own career and working environment, that demonstrates your own competence and capability as both a scrum master and agile coach.
Step 4 – Don’t view the Agile coach as a threat
Remember that this is a partnership, an alliance.
Talking to the agile coach will help you understand how you can help them and how they can help you, in the context of your current role and working environment.
Taking the proactive step of actively seeking out the new agile coach and having a conversation with them helps them a great deal. They don’t need to find you. They don’t need to hunt for people that can assist them. And you will find them to be especially grateful for you coming forward and having a chat.
It isn’t that the agile coach is going to take the organisational change off your hands, instead, they are going to support what you are doing and in many cases, help mentor and coach you to become better at what you are doing.
Being open to their help and embracing their mentorship and coaching will go a long way to helping you grow your career. See it as a great opportunity to grow a relationship that may lead to exciting new opportunities in the future.
If you like the idea of becoming a scrum master, visit our Certified Scrum Master course page.
If you are already a scrum master and want to upskill, visit our Advanced Certified Scrum Master course page.
If you have several years’ experience as a scrum master and want to both validate and certify your professional skills, visit our Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master course page.
If you have mentored and coach-driven skills development, visit our Agile Coach Academy.
For more information on John McFadyen, visit https://www.johnmcfadyen.com or connect with John on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmcfadyen/
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