Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum?

TL; DR: Agile Coaches vs. Scrum Masters

Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum? Don’t get me wrong; my LinkedIn profile states “Professional Scrum Trainer, Agile Coach, and Scrum Master,” as ‘agile coach’ is an important search term. (Many seem to confuse agile coach with Scrum Master or believe both terms can be used interchangeably. However, that should not be a reason to reduce your chances of meeting a new employer or client.)

I like to point at a scheme, though, that I have encountered several times in the past, particularly in organizations, where the people folks still believe in orchestrated career paths: The Scrum Master is a role at the team level, while the agile coach is dealing with organizational issues.

I do believe that this construct is flawed: When practicing Scrum correctly, Scrum Masters are all you ever need.

Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum? — Age-of-Product.com

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Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022 — Age-of-Product.com

📈 Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022.

You can download the Scrum Master Salary Report 2019 here.

The Scrum Master Accountabilities According to the Scrum Guide

Scrum Guide 2020 reserves a lot of attention to the role of the Scrum Master; for example, including ways to support the organization in practicing Scrum:

  • Page 7: The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption.
  • Page 7: The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization.
  • Page 7: The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work.
  • Page 7: The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams.

Source: Scrum Guide 2020. (The aggregation is taken from the Scrum Guide 2020 Reordered.)

How Scrum Masters Allocated Their Time when Working with Scrum Teams

It is a fallacy to believe that the Scrum Masters’ accountabilities revolve around the Scrum team. If we were to limit their role to the Scrum team level, all we would accomplish is creating tiny islands of limited agility in an otherwise non-agile environment. (Consequently, these half-hearted approaches of agile transformations result in statements like: ‘We tried Scrum, and it did not work.’)

The fact is that Scrum Masters, when a Scrum team becomes more fluent in Scrum, allocate more time to working with the organization. Let’s take Dominik Maximini’s pyramid to visualize the work of a Scrum Master with a newly formed team and add a timeline. We can then imagine working with an experienced Scrum team by turning the original time allocation pyramid upside down. Now, Scrum Masters dedicate more time to support the organization in fine-tuning adjacent and organizational processes to meet the needs of embracing business agility.

Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum? — Age-of-Product.com

Source: Dominik Maximini. (The site lacks SSL encryption; hence I am not linking to it directly.)

If this is a plausible scenario, why would you then seek to limit the work of Scrum Masters to the Scrum team level and engage agile coaches to do the work at the organizational level? Wouldn’t it be advisable to task people with that kind of job who have a thorough understanding of the challenges Scrum teams face in daily operations? Again, what is the benefit of creating a chasm here?

The only argument I have encountered so far is a perceived career path that starts with the Scrum Master role, and if you prove worthy, you are promoted to the next level—working with management and organization—represented by the ‘agile coach.’ (Some may say that Scrum Masters often lack a proper coaching education. However, in my experience, this is also true for many ‘agile coaches.’)


The Agile Community Needs You: Join the Scrum Master Salary Report 2022

The purpose of this anonymous survey is to create a clear, data-backed benchmark that allows everyone in the agile community to understand whether their compensation is adequate. (And yes, the report will cover Scrum Masters as well as Agile Coaches, both employed and freelancing.)

The goal is to have a sufficient number of replies – that would be at least 1,000 – by the end of November 2021 to create the report in time for January 2022. Of course, the report will be available for free.

Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022 — Age-of-Product.com

📈 Join the Anonymous Poll for the Upcoming Free Scrum Master Salary Report 2022.


Conclusion: Do We Need Agile Coaches when Practicing Scrum?

I do believe that the construct of employing agile coaches for work at the organizational level while limiting Scrum Masters to operational tasks at the Scrum team level is flawed: When practicing Scrum correctly, Scrum Masters are all you ever need.

Is your organization employing agile coaches as well as Scrum Masters? If so, please share your learnings with us in the comments.

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📅 Join Our Scrum Training Classes, Workshops, and Events to Improve your Skills

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🖥 💯 🇬🇧 October 19-22, 2021GUARANTEED: Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; English; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 💯 🇬🇧 October 26, 2021GUARANTEED: Hands-on Agile #36: Real Cross-functional Teams w/ Jutta Eckstein & Maryse Meinen (English)Live Virtual MeetupFREE
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🖥 🇩🇪 November 23-26, 2021Advanced Professional Scrum Master Online Training (PSM II; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
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🖥 🇩🇪 Nov 30 — Dec 3, 2021Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇬🇧 December 15-16, 2021Professional Scrum Master Training (PSM I; English; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.299 incl. 19% VAT
🖥 🇩🇪 December 20-21, 2021Professional Scrum Product Owner Training (PSPO I; German; Live Virtual Class)Live Virtual Class €1.199 incl. 19% VAT

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Evidence-based Interventions — Agile Camp Berlin 2021

TL; DR: Evidence-based Interventions w/ Viktor Cessan — ACB21

In this highly engaging speaker session from the Agile Camp Berlin 2021, Viktor Cessan shares lessons learned as an agile coach when working with systems, resulting in evidence-based interventions.

Evidence-based Interventions with Viktor Cessan — Agile Camp Berlin 2021
Continue reading Evidence-based Interventions — Agile Camp Berlin 2021

Scrum Master Trends Report 2019 — Prepare for Your Next Career Step

TL; DR: Scrum Master Trends Report 2019

Back in 2017, we started the Scrum Master Salary Report 2017—the first industry report that covered in-depth the educational background, working experience, industries, and organizational details of the companies Scrum Masters or agile coaches work for. In 2019, we partnered with Scrum.org—to create the 2019 edition. Moreover, we plan to continue the collaboration in 2021 with the next edition.

If you have to make a career decision early next year, you will find the industry data the Scrum Master Trends Report 2019 contains still very helpful.

Download the Scrum Master Trends Report 2019 by Scrum.org and Age-of-Product.com
Continue reading Scrum Master Trends Report 2019 — Prepare for Your Next Career Step

Lipstick Agile — 15 Signs You Probably Need a New Job or to Roll-up Your Proverbial Sleeves

TL; DR: Lipstick Agile — Happiness in the Trenches?

Have you noticed how many people in the agile field are unhappy with their work situation? A situation where an organization already struggles doing agile, not to mention ‘becoming agile?’ This is what I call lipstick Agile.

Scrum Masters and agile coaches are close to either burnout or indifference. Product Owners who “own” the product by name only, and developers questioning why “Agile” is imposed upon them and often turns out to be just another form of micromanagement.

Lipstick Agile — 15 Signs You Probably Need a New Job or to Roll-up Your Proverbial Sleeves
Continue reading Lipstick Agile — 15 Signs You Probably Need a New Job or to Roll-up Your Proverbial Sleeves

Speaking Truth to Power 2.0 — Taking A Stand as an Agile Practitioner

TL; DR: Speaking Truth to Power

Do you need an emergency fund as a change agent—whether you are acting as Scrum Master, Product Owner, or agile coach—because conflict is inevitable, but change is not? Speaking truth to power probably comes at a price.

In my experience, speaking truth to power, pointing at the emperor’s new clothes and the reality in the trenches, is necessary a trait for every change agent — including Scrum Masters and agile coaches — in organizations that lack strong leadership.

Learn more, how this form of professional honesty can backfire when the incumbents, privileged by the existing system, strike back.

Speaking Truth to Power — Taking A Stand as an Agile Practitioner When the System Strikes Back— Age-of-Product.com
Continue reading Speaking Truth to Power 2.0 — Taking A Stand as an Agile Practitioner

Quo Vadis, Scrum Master: The Results of Our Virtual Strategy Session

TL; DR: Results of a Virtual Strategy Session for Scrum Masters Regarding Remote Work

Last week, 30-plus participants in the 23rd Hands-on Agile meetup had a virtual strategy session where they explored Liberating Structures’ Critical Uncertainties microstructure. They identified robust and hedging strategies for Scrum Masters and agile coaches regarding the challenges of remote work and distributed agile teams.

Read on to learn more about wildest dreams, overconfident teams, and Scrum Masters to the rescue.

Results of Our Virtual Strategy Session for Scrum Masters with Liberating Structures’ Critical Uncertainties — Hands-on Agile #23
Continue reading Quo Vadis, Scrum Master: The Results of Our Virtual Strategy Session