Agile coaches are currently in high demand. They accompany the transformation of a company from a classic to an agile organization. The job description of an agile coach requires special competencies that are conditioned by the complexity of organizational development. But what are exactly the professional and personal characteristics of an agile coach? What is specifically understood by agile coaching?
If you take a closer look at the topic, you will notice that neither in science nor in practice there is agreement on what constitutes an agile coach. Therefore, Tagueri AG has taken on exactly this problem to bring light into the darkness. We conducted a scientifically based, qualitative evaluation of expert interviews, with which we worked out the competencies of an agile coach.
Evaluation of Expert Interviews
The survey included both agile coaches and their directly coached customers in the corporate environment, in order to incorporate both perspectives into the results. This allowed us to learn about the following interesting aspects that are relevant in the context of agile coaching:
1. Differentiation between Scrum Master and Agile Coach
The agile coach acts more on the higher organizational level (organizational development) and is characterized by his neutrality. The Scrum Master, on the other hand, plays a role in the framework and is part of the team. His focus is therefore more on the individual and team level. An agile coach can also coach a Scrum Master.
2. Definition of Agile Coaching
Agile coaching supports organizations in the agile transformation and the associated paradigm shift in the human image. The coach acts adaptively (situationally & individually) to the customer’s needs and assumes an appropriate role (trainer, coach, mentor, consultant, mediator). He stimulates independent solution finding through reflection processes in the company. Agile coaches open up possibilities and solution spaces for the coached organization and its members through impulses and methodical support. Through their agile expertise, they can also provide clients with concrete solution proposals as needed.
3. Value Contribution of an External Agile Coach
Especially with regard to objectivity, an external agile coach is perceived as positive. This allows him to act impartially with the people in the project and also to be perceived as an independent discussion partner by internal employees. Above all, neutrality helps in corporate challenges. A further advantage is seen in the external expertise, in order to be able to give impulses in terms of content.
In this context, the professional experience of the agile coach is also considered very important. In addition, the expertise gives confidence in dealing with people and challenging situations. The interviewed customers are of the opinion that a single agile coach cannot yet achieve much in a corporate structure, but that increased use of agile coaches could initiate a full-scale agile transformation.
4. Competencies of an Agile Coach
The survey showed that personal and social qualities are the most important competencies of an agile coach. The content-related and subject-related orientation and know-how in agile working methods can be acquired and expanded as needed, whereas the human element is crucial. The interviewees consider the following listed competencies to be decisive:
- Empathy (knowledge of human nature)
- Self-reflection and personal maturity
- Constructive handling of criticism
- Strong communication skills including diplomatic skills
- Being able to take a step back and stand in the background
- Patience and perseverance
- Integrity and authenticity
- Respect and recognition of other points of view
- Structured way of working
5. Challenges in the Corporate Context and the Role of the Agile Coach
A closer look at the interviews reveals that the consulting service in agile coaching is strongly represented and desired by the clients, especially at the beginning of the project phase and at the organizational level.
Thus, there is a clear contradiction to the theory, in which neutrality in terms of content is increasingly emphasized. With regard to the understanding of agility, it can also be inferred from the interviews that for clients and coaches the factual and relationship levels have a different prioritization.
For the coaches, the agile mindset and the paradigm shift in the view of people are the basis for agility. However, this cannot always be read out explicitly from the client interviews. For them, obvious and visible aspects are more present, as the classic way of working is designed to achieve quick results.
Nevertheless, it can be deduced from statements that agile values are implicitly important to them. Therefore, in terms of both agility and agile coaching, it is important for corporate practice to strive even harder for a shared understanding between client and coach and to make awareness of the importance of the agile mindset explicit. This is necessary because cultural aspects and with them the agile mindset are the core of agility.