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A role of an Agile coach in the company: 5 things they do and 5 things they don't do

Agile coaches are an essential part of any organization that wants to be Agile. Their role is rather new, but their importance is growing as more and more companies realize the value of Agile practices. Agile coaches are responsible for guiding teams through the Agile processes, and they help organizations establish a culture of continuous improvement. However, the role of an Agile coach is still a bit mysterious for some people, and there are many misconceptions about what they do and don't do. In this post, I will clarify the role of an Agile coach and the key responsibilities they have.
First of all, let's talk about things you should expect an Agile coach to do in the organization.

#1 They Ensure Application of Agile Principles and Values Across the Teams

One of the primary responsibilities of an Agile coach is to ensure that Agile principles and values are being applied across the teams. This involves providing Agile trainings and helping teams find opportunities to become more flexible and customer-centric. Additionally, Agile coaches must call out the violation of Agile principles and values whenever necessary. By promoting and upholding these principles, Agile coaches can help teams stay on track and consistently become more Agile.

#2 They Coach Teams and Leadership on Agile Methodologies, Frameworks, and Tools

Agile coaches also coach teams and leadership on Agile methodologies, frameworks, and tools. This involves suggesting an appropriate framework such as Scrum or Kanban, and providing the necessary training to implement it effectively. Additionally, Agile coaches train team members on how to facilitate Agile events such as stand-ups, retrospectives, and planning sessions, and how to use tools like Jira or Trello to support Agile practices. They also ensure that teams are getting the necessary support from leadership to apply Agile principles effectively. Moreover, Agile coaches introduce continuous improvement practices, most importantly retrospectives, to help teams reflect on their performance and identify areas for growth.

#3 They Establish Best Practices to Maximize Efficiency in the Organization

Agile coaches also play a critical role in establishing best practices to maximize efficiency in the organization. While Agile frameworks like Scrum or Kanban provide a solid foundation, none of them can be applied as-is, and each organization requires some level of customization. Agile coaches develop best practices specific to the industry and the organization to ensure the Agile methodologies are implemented efficiently. Additionally, Agile coaches create playbooks and other documents to help onboard new teams and team members, ensuring that everyone understands the organization's Agile practices and is equipped to apply them effectively. By establishing these best practices, Agile coaches help the organization achieve maximum efficiency and productivity.

#4 They Ensure Cross-Team and Cross-Department Collaboration

Agile coaches also play a critical role in ensuring cross-team and cross-department collaboration within the organization. They support organizational Agility by promoting company vision setting, helping to define each department's OKRs or quarterly goals, and facilitating cross-team planning to align everyone's efforts. Agile coaches also work to foster stakeholder collaboration, ensuring that all relevant parties are involved in the Agile process and have a voice in decision-making. By promoting cross-team and cross-department collaboration, Agile coaches can help the organization achieve its goals more effectively and efficiently.

#5 They Build Self-Sustaining Cross-Functional Agile Teams

Finally, Agile coaches are responsible for building self-sustaining cross-functional Agile teams. This involves ensuring that each team can run Agile processes on their own and effectively facilitate Agile events. Agile coaches also work to build the necessary skills and provide support for teams to resolve conflicts and solve problems on their own. They ensure that each team has the tools, skills, and support they need to be successful, and empower them to make decisions and drive their own Agile initiatives. By building self-sustaining cross-functional Agile teams, Agile coaches can help the organization achieve long-term success and continuous improvement.
And here is what you should not expect from an Agile coach.

#1 They Don't Facilitate Every Single Agile Event

It's important to note that Agile coaches should not facilitate every single Agile event. While they may support the initial team setup by helping to create team vision, team norms, and first OKRs, they should not facilitate regular events such as daily stand-ups, sprint planning, or retrospectives for the team on an ongoing basis. Instead, Agile coaches should teach the team how to facilitate these events effectively and empower them to do it on their own. This means that teams should not expect the Agile coach to be present at every event and should be able to run them independently.

#2 They Don't Do Waterfall Project Management

Another thing that Agile coaches don't do is waterfall project management. While some Agile coaches may have a background in project management, it's important to note that Agile coaches are not project managers. They don't collect status updates or send project reports like traditional project managers do. Instead, Agile coaches support the transition from traditional project management to Agile teams, and they help the teams adopt Agile values and practices. Agile coaches work closely with the team to facilitate communication and collaboration, identify and remove roadblocks, and promote continuous improvement. They help teams become more flexible, adaptive, and customer-focused, which is essential in an Agile environment.

#3 They Don't Do Product Management

Another important thing that Agile coaches don't do is make decisions about the product. Although they work closely with product teams, Agile coaches should not be making decisions about the product or dictating its direction. Instead, Agile coaches support the Product Owners by providing them with the necessary tools, frameworks, and coaching to conduct customer research, experiment, prototype, and make the best decisions about the product. By doing so, Agile coaches help the Product Owners create a product that is aligned with the organization's goals and meets the needs of the customers.
Agile coaches cannot be involved deeply in the technicalities of every individual team's product. They work with multiple teams and must focus on establishing best practices and principles that can be applied across the organization. While Agile coaches can provide guidance on technical matters, such as the use of certain tools or technologies, they should not be the primary decision-makers when it comes to product development. Instead, they should work collaboratively with the product teams to ensure that the product development process is aligned with Agile principles and that the teams are empowered to make decisions that align with the organization's goals.

#4 They Don't Do People Management

When it comes to people management, an Agile coach's role is to coach individuals through 1-1 sessions, but they should not be their direct manager. The coach should not be responsible for setting goals for other team members either. Their focus is on helping team members develop their skills and achieve their objectives. In addition, the Agile coach can provide frameworks for conflict resolution within the team, but they should not be expected to act as a therapist or a judge. It is important for the coach to maintain a neutral stance in such situations and to facilitate discussions that enable team members to resolve conflicts effectively.

#5 They Don't Act Like Firefighters

Agile coaches are often seen as firefighters who rush in to put out fires and solve all the problems. However, this is not an accurate portrayal of the role of an Agile coach. While one of their responsibilities is to remove impediments, it does not mean that they should be the ones to solve all the team's problems. Instead, Agile coaches aim to empower teams to develop their problem-solving skills and take ownership of the issues they face. This means that Agile coaches act as facilitators, coaches, and mentors, rather than as problem solvers. They help teams develop their problem-solving skills by providing them with frameworks and techniques that they can use to tackle issues as they arise. Ultimately, the goal of an Agile coach is to create self-reliant teams that can operate independently and make informed decisions when faced with challenges.
In conclusion, Agile Coach plays a tremendous role in an organization. They facilitate Agile adoption, coach teams and individuals, and drive continuous improvement. However, it is essential to understand that their role is not that of a manager, therapist, or problem solver. They are there to guide the team and empower them to handle their challenges. Setting realistic expectations for their role within the organization is crucial. If the expectations are not aligned, it can lead to confusion, frustration, and ultimately hinder the success of the Agile implementation. By understanding their role and leveraging their expertise, organizations can maximize the value of their Agile Coach and achieve their Agile transformation goals.
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