Team Up with an Agile Coach

Findings from the first-ever State of Agile Coaching Report

Making significant team and organizational changes that motivate employees can be challenging. That’s where an agile coach comes in.

In late 2020, Scrum Alliance and the Business Agility Institute collaborated to create the first-ever State of Agile Coaching Report to focus on the profession of agile coaching, with the goal being to bring clarity on the true value of an agile coach and the associated measurable knowledge, expertise, and skills.

One of the many learnings from the report is on agile coaches’ value  and impact — on individuals, organizations, and especially on teams.

Many themes emerged.

Coaches reported having an impact across multiple levels of the company, from organization-wide, to team-level, to customers and products. Others, while achieving positive impacts at the individual or team level, were unable to introduce agility more generally across the organization. A variety of reasons were given for this, including a lack of access to leadership, leadership resistance, and the perception of agile as being for ‘IT only’.

The following impacts on teams were reported by agile coaches  from the State of Agile Coaching Report.

Improving agility across the organization
Of no surprise, one of the most prominent themes that emerged was that coaches had helped teams and organizations to improve their overall agile maturity. This included increasing trust in agile, improved team self-management, better alignment of value streams, and wide-spread adoption of agile processes. A number of coaches also reported having impacted a change in organizational culture toward an agile mindset and behaviors.

“I have helped the teams begin to trust the process and more fully invest in the events that lead to quality and transparency.”
~Respondent statement

Improving communication, collaboration and transparency
Many coaches report an improvement in the level of communication, collaboration and transparency in their organizations and teams, with this being seen as a key benefit and enabler of agile, and an important part of breaking down silos.

“We’ve made problems visible, introduced empirical decision making, driven collaboration at the team, program and executive levels. It’s led to effective management of teams and clients.”
~Respondent statement

Improving delivery speed and quality
A number of coaches reported having increased the speed of delivery and reduced lead times, while also bettering the quality of products delivered. Respondents mostly attribute this to developing better processes to facilitate delivery and shift in focus towards delivering value.

“[I’ve seen a] 36% cut in lead time, no drop in NPS.”
~Respondent statement

Improving individual, team, and organization metrics
Coaches reported seeing their impact on agility translating to success at all levels, from individuals, through team, and up to the organizational level. Some reported general success, while others were more specific, citing increases in business development, customer satisfaction, and productivity, among others.

The past two years have shown 22% growth in staff, 200% increase in profitability, significant increases in employee engagement, 242% increase in velocity on team 1 and 165% increase in velocity on team 2.
~Respondent statement

Improving management mindset
Coaches reported mixed success when referring to management. While the majority found middle and upper management were a hindrance to the implementation of agile for reasons including lack of access, old mindset and culture, politics and ‘kingdoms,’ and general resistance to change, there were some coaches who reported having had a positive impact on managers and leaders in their organization. This was due, in large part, to having influenced changes in the mindset of leaders toward more agile thinking and culture as opposed to command and control or waterfall.

“…I now have a director level manager who is behind me, and my influence has spread and continues to spread throughout the enterprise.

~Respondent statement


What is an Agile Coach and Why Does My Team Need One?

“Agile coach” means different things to different people. Here’s one definition, as created by Scrum Alliance coaches:

Agile coaches aren’t just responsible for organizing an agile team; they also help the company embrace agile as a culture shift. To properly implement the methodology, an agile coach needs to encourage buy-in from employees and key stakeholders.

So, how does one find the right agile coach to help with teams, culture shift, and encouraging buy-in?

One of the key findings from the State of Agile Coaching Report discovered that the vast majority of people who consider themselves agile coaches do not hold master-level agile or coaching certifications. Only 33% reported holding one or more coaching certification; of those, only 18% held certification at the master level. (Note: For this report, Master-level certifications are defined as those that require a significant demonstration of competence and experience. Examples include the Scrum Alliance CTC or CEC, ICAgile ICE-AC, International Coach Federation MCC, or ScaledAgile SPCT certification.)

The salient point is, for agile transformation to be successful and sustainable, a properly trained and vetted agile coach can make all the difference. And to make things more complicated, companies do face a struggle when they want to hire an agile coach because it can be difficult to know what experience and certifications to look for.

As an example, Scrum Alliance Certified Agile Coaches (CACs) have both professional passion for excellence and dedication to a lifetime journey to help people improve. They focus on helping companies achieve maximum productivity results and the ability to carry forward these values for the future. Within the sphere of CACs, a Certified Team Coach (CTC) focuses on a subset of an organization in a project or program, or across multiple teams, also working with Scrum teams, stakeholders, and management.

Every business wants to thrive and be sustainable. Teaming up with the right agile coach can make the difference.

Learn more about the State of Agile Coaching Report.

The Teams of Scrum Alliance

Two years ago, Scrum Alliance embarked on a mission with a vision to become its own best example. The company itself is a living, breathing model of how successful cross-functional teams are working together in an agile culture. The not-for-profit certifying organization works in collaborative, self-organizing, cross-functional teams to deliver value.

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