How do I become a Scrum Coach?

Consult and develop teams and organizations

Submitted by Andreas Schliep on 06/21/2013

“I want to become an Agile Coach.” “How do I become Scrum Coach?” “What do I need to learn, to take better care of my team, my organization?”

Several people talked about this topic at the recent Scrum Gathering in Las Vegas. We addressed the question during the Scrum Clinic sessions, between talks and even at dinner. How do I become an Agile - Scrum - Coach? The question occured to us as unusual in the first place. Everybody, who works as an internal or external Scrum - Agile - Coach today, started as a career changer from a different profession. While there are several sound coaching trainings available, it is still quite unclear what one needs to accomplish, to become a specialized consultant for the introduction and improvement of agile principles, processes and practices. 

So, what is an Agile Coach? A quick survery of the industry sector shows: there are many consultants who call themselves that way. Among these “Agile Coaches” you may find

  • Software developers and testers, who are proficient in applying and teaching agile practices.
  • Graduates from one of the different available coaching apprenticeships, who can apply their skills and abilities of coaching individuals and teams to development projects.
  • Former managers, who had worked on one or more Scrum projects, maybe tried to introduce Scrum into their own organization - and started working as freelancers or employed consultants out of various reasons.
  • Employed ScrumMasters, who extended their scope beyond a single team to spread Scrum within their organization.

The Scrum Alliance does not provide many hints how to approach this young profession systematically. There is the Certified ScrumMaster as an entry level certification. Followd by the intermediate Certified Scrum Professional. Finally, there is a big gap, until someone could reach one of the highest Scrum certification levels, the Certified Enterprise Coach. There is a good description of the CSC and how to apply for it by Pete Behrens. But - what happens on the way there?

The career development paths of ICAgile, an agile qualification and certification organization, provide a first orientation for a couple of agile professions. Looking at the development path of Agile facilitation and coaching, you can find some parallels to the Scrum Alliance’s certification levels.

ICAgile level ScrumAlliance level Scope
Agile Team Facilitator (ATF) CSM plus specialized facilitation skills Team
Agile Coach (AC) CSP plus coaching, team development und communication skills one to many teams
Enterprise Agile Coach (EAC) CSC with advanced coaching, organizational development, change management, leadership competency enterprise

Some training offers that contribute to the Agile Coach destination are listed under Scrum Alliance’s “Extended Education” offers. You do not have to stick exclusively to Scrum Alliance - or even - Scrum education. A systemic or co-active coaching training can provide a sound professional improvement, and offers more flexibility. Before that, you need to cover the basics. We try to cover that by offering a special curriculum for practicing ScrumMasters in Germany and Switzerland, with our partners go-Agile and pragmatic solutions. The individual learning path depends on the existing skills and abilities. The steps towards an Agile - Scrum - Coach might look like these:

  1. Gain knowledge about Scrum and agile practices
  2. Work in an agile team
  3. Undergo Scrum / Agile fundamentals training (Certified ScrumMaster)
  4. Work as a ScrumMaster
  5. Undergo a ScrumMaster apprenticeship or similar Extended Education courses
  6. Become Certified Scrum Professional
  7. Take Coaching and communication trainings
  8. Work as a coach / facilitator for a variety of teams
  9. Get familiar with the areas of change management and organizational development.
  10. Work in agile companies / units, i.e. in a “Transition Team”, or in a coaching / consulting company
  11. Consider becoming a Certified Scrum Coach
  12. Continous learning, practice, community work and mentoring of new coaches.

So, the training is important, but not everything. You need two more pillars to support your bridge to becoming an Agile - Scrum - Coach:

  • Practice: “Learning by doing” can’t be replaced by theory. Would you like to have a diving instructor, who has avoided getting wet? We started with Scrum coaching back in 2006. We had about 2 years of Scrum experience, and no formal coaching training. Since then, we have consulted several organizations, learned about their special challenges and celebrated their successes with them. Agile Coaching is for practitioners, not for certificate hunters.
  • Community: Some Agile Coaches may work as freelancers, but they are no lonely wolves. We have created a widely spread network of partners, like-minded people, groups, mentors, supporters and supported in the last years. The network ensures a frequent exchange of experiences, new ideas and practices, and the important support when things go pear-shaped in your coached team, unit or organization.

The path of the ScrumMaster and Agile Coach is probably the most unusual, compared to the paths of developers and product managers. Surely no path for everyone. Those who walk it seriously, will become more and more important for organizations that want to employ new ways of thinking and acting.

Andreas Schliep

About the author

Andreas Schliep

Andreas Schliep is a founding member and executive partner of DasScrumTeam. He is a Scrum coach and trainer. He studied at the technical university of Bremerhaven, and worked as a software developer, project manager, team lead and group lead. Andreas has worked with Scrum since 2003. He became a full-time Scrummer in 2006.

Since then, he has helped to introduce and improve Scrum and agile practices in numerous companies all over the world. His favorite topics are quality management and scaling.

  • Experienced ScrumMaster, Product Owner, Coach and Trainer
  • Introduced Scrum at WEB.DE
  • Coaching of internationally distributed teams
  • Transition from RUP to Scrum at UOL Brazil
  • Scrum Trainings and Coaching in Germany, Switzerland and Austria

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