Agile Coaching myth 2: The Agile Coach needs to be an expert in all agile frameworks
This is one of my favourite myths.
The idea that the agile coach needs to be an expert in all the available agile frameworks. There are heaps of agile frameworks available and it is unreasonable to expect a coach to be an expert in all of them.
It just isn’t possible to have deep experience and expertise in all the frameworks.
I would start by asking where you think the benefit lies in working with someone who is an expert in all agile frameworks, concepts, models and tools?
What do you imagine you would get from this person that you wouldn’t get from an Agile coach who was a strong agile practitioner, a strong coach, and a strong agile coach?
To learn an agile framework, for example LeSS (Large Scale Scrum), and become a world-class expert and practitioner in that environment is a lifetime of work.
It takes many years of experience working within those environments, with single teams, with multiple teams, with individuals and with leadership and executive teams before you can call yourself an expert with world-class capabilities in that framework.
In my opinion, an agile coach doesn’t need to be an expert in all agile frameworks and processes to be a strong, valuable agile coach for your organization.
Does an agile coach need to be proficient in all agile frameworks?
That depends on what you mean by proficient. It’s more than simply being aware of the framework and its applications, it requires that they have actively worked in those environments and are competent practitioners, coaches, and mentors within that framework.
Again, in my opinion, I don’t believe it is necessary or more valuable for an agile coach to be proficient in all agile frameworks, especially if your organization are going to look at formally adopting one framework with a blend of other frameworks and processes.
Yes, it is super helpful if your agile coach is well read and understands other agile frameworks, models, tools, and techniques which they can introduce to your organisation, but it isn’t necessary for them to be proficient in all agile frameworks.
An ideal Agile coach
I think you should be looking for an agile coach that has very good general awareness of the agile world. Someone who has a good understanding of the ‘what’ and the ‘why’, and can explain the benefits of using LeSS (Large Scale Scrum) over SAFe (Scaled Agile Frameworks) for example.
Someone who understands the opportunities available to your organisation and has a proficient working knowledge of the framework that works best for that specific team or organization.
Remember, a professional Agile coach is going to bow out when the application doesn’t align with their expertise and skillset. If the organization really want to adopt SAFe and that coach has very little experience working with SAFe, they are going to recommend that you work with a deeply experienced SAFe practitioner and agile coach.
If they are great at Scrum but the organization want to adopt LeSS, they would recommend that you work with a LeSS expert who has deep experience with that framework.
They may well stay onboard as a deeply experienced Agile coach who is able to work with individuals and teams, but they would certainly recommend someone who is a strong practitioner in the framework you want to adopt as a guide and mentor through formal adoption of that framework.
The temptation for executives is to attempt to hire someone who is an expert in everything, but those people don’t exist, not in the agile industry nor in any other profession. You simply can’t be a deeply experienced expert in every nuance and niche within an industry.
It simply isn’t necessary that you hire an Agile coach that is an expert in every available framework, you want to invest in an expert coach who has very strong experience working as an agile practitioner as well as an agile coach.
If that fits the framework you have in mind, great, if it doesn’t, simply invest in the expert that is deeply competent and experienced in that specific framework and that has deep experience as a professional coach at the individual and team level.
If an agile coach loves working at the team level, there is no need for them to have deep experience and expertise with organizational change and working with executive teams. It would be great if they had that experience, but if they are to be working at the team level, it simply isn’t necessary.
The reverse is also true.
An Agile coach who has deep experience and expertise working at the organizational level with executive and leadership teams does not need to be an expert in a specific framework at the team level. Again, a nice to have, but not necessary.
So, in summary, an agile coach does not need to have expert knowledge and expertise in all agile frameworks for them to contribute value to your organization. They simply need to be an expert in the areas that you need them to be professionally competent and experienced.
If you are interested in becoming an agile coach and value mentored, coach-driven skills development in your journey to mastery, visit our Growing Agile Coaches page.
For more information on John McFadyen, visit https://www.growingscrummasters.com or connect with John on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnmcfadyen/.
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