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What is the difference between a project manager and an Agile coach?

Where to begin.

A project manager possesses a great deal of amazing skills in project delivery. They are primarily concerned with delivering a project within a specified time frame and within a specific cost structure.

They work with partners, suppliers, employees, stakeholders and manage all elements of risk, potential impediments to progress, and costs.

They plan the entire project and carry a great deal of authority in how the project is delivered. In essence, they are in charge of the project from point A to point Z.

They are thinking about what needs to happen, managing dependencies, and overseeing each element of the project because they are often the lynchpin of the project.

An Agile coach is not involved in delivery at all.

An Agile coach trusts the Product Owner and the development team to manage those elements as they are the most knowledgeable and experienced individuals to accomplish that.

An Agile coach focuses on creating an environment where the team thrive.

They work with individuals and teams to ensure that the team is working as creatively, collaboratively, and productively as possible.

Agile coaches are keeping a lookout for how the team is doing, how effectively they are working as both individuals as well as a team, and they are looking at potential challenges down the pipeline that may disrupt the flow of the team.

They work with s to identify individuals and stakeholders within the organisation that can help to ensure that impediments to progress are removed and that the team can deliver the most valuable work.

In the 21st Century, individuals and teams are often faced with complex problems with a myriad of variables that are mostly unknown.

An Agile Coach works with individuals and teams to find the best answers to those problems and helps the team with their decision-making capability. Actively helps them figure out the answers to those problems and produce results that were previously unachievable.

They are actively coaching people through problems and helping them tap into their best work.

In essence, that is the single greatest difference between a project manager and an Agile coach.

One tells people what to do whilst the other coaches them to produce the best available answer to the most compelling problems they may face.

A project manager is often isolated in solving the problem and has to come up with answers to questions they have never encountered before. It sets them up for failure and places a great deal of stress in their world.

An Agile Coach works with a team of individuals to come up with answers to questions they have never encountered before and leverages the expertise and knowledge of the entire team to create solutions that have never existed before.

If you are interested in becoming an Agile coach, visit our Advanced Certified course page, the Certified Scrum Professional course page and the Agile Coaching Academy course page.

You may also find the IC Agile Certified Agile Team Coaching course useful.

Agile Coaching FAQs

author avatar
John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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