Scrum Master vs. Agile Coach

Scrum Master vs. Agile Coach: Why Successful Transformations Need Both

July 01, 2022 6:00 PM

 Scrum Master vs. Agile Coach

It is difficult to implement agile transformations. These transformations require fundamental changes in how people think, react, and behave. They are, by nature, difficult. Many organizations underestimate the magnitude of these challenges and fail to prepare or provide adequate resources. It is a good idea to have an expert to guide and support teams, individuals, and leaders during an Agile transformation. He is the Agile coach. Although there is no one definition of an Agile coach, the role generally involves extensive Agile knowledge and experience and responsibility for improving and defining Agile processes within an organization.

Coaches can help you navigate any issues that might arise and ensure your journey to organizational agility. Agile coaches are often expected to be responsible for the team's performance, in addition to being charged with operational agility. It is wrong to hold the coach solely responsible for team success. This would also allow the Scrum master to be ignored and, even more importantly, it would allow teams to avoid accountability for their results.

Scrum adoption takes time and practice

Scrum adoption is the most widely used Agile method. Scrum is known for its simplicity, but it is difficult to master. This is why so many years of research and practical experience went into developing the principles and applications. The Scrum guide summarises the framework. Although the Scrum Guide makes Scrum simple to understand, reading a 14-page document doesn't automatically make you a Scrum practitioner. Agile can only be learned with experience and time. This includes agility in adapting to complex and rapidly changing situations. This approach to working will be against deeply ingrained habits that cannot be learned overnight.

It is unrealistic to expect newly formed Agile teams to perform at a high standard after just a day of training with a professional. However, this approach to achieving expert results is often used by organizations that are moving to Agile. Teams are formed, given basic training, and then left to their own devices to bring agility to the organization. This approach is risky and can give the impression that Agile is a trendy trend. Scrum requires that people think and act in unfamiliar ways. This is difficult without support. It is dangerous to just teach Scrum Guides and expect professional-level results. This is where the Agile coach/Scrum Master relationship comes in.

Responsibilities and Roles

The Agile Coach

Industry professionals created the Agile Coach function to help teams succeed, but it is not officially recognized by Scrum Guide. Many organizations don't see a coach as an integral part of an Agile transformation. Although the roles share many similarities, the expertise and scope of an Agile coach are more expensive than that of a Scrum Master. An Agile coach is an experienced Scrum Master who has received advanced training. An Agile coach is a skilled Scrum master with advanced training. He or she helps to improve overall agility and provides support for multiple teams as well as the leadership level.

A good Agile coach encourages continuous learning and discipline through practice. Coaching is about teaching servant leadership. The coach helps people understand the difference between training and mentoring and when to apply each. Coaches help teams find creative and effective solutions. They don't feed or foster dependency on them. It takes effort, wisdom, and patience. But the rewards are huge.

An Agile coach's day-to-day responsibilities include:
  • Communication of the Agile methodology and best practices
  • Teams can be trained to use Agile strategies and tools.
  • Facilitating stand-ups and initial retrospectives
  • Monitor organizational progress and work to overcome any obstacles.
  • Encourage leadership and stakeholder buy-in.
  • Standardization development and maintenance
  • Assisting company leaders in adapting to the Agile mindset

The Scrum Master

Many of the same responsibilities are shared by the Scrum Master and Agile coach. I believe that an organization with enough experienced Scrum managers would have a reduced need for an Agile coach since Scrum masters could take on coaching responsibilities. However, many new Scrum masters have transitioned from project managers, so their experience may not be relevant to Scrum. They need agile coaching.

Scrum masters have a narrower scope than Agile coaches, and they are usually focused on a single team. Scrum masters are often embedded in teams, so it is normal to expect them to have a good understanding of their team's strengths, weaknesses, potential problems, and growth opportunities. A Scrum Master who is effectively uses this knowledge to achieve better results by using strategies and practises that are specific to their team. A Scrum Master is an advocate for their team and a source of motivation. If a scrum master doesn't pay attention to the needs of their team, individual and collective growth will be lost.

Scrum masters have the following daily responsibilities:
  • Scrum Theory and Practice
  • Assisting individuals in improving their Agile skills and knowledge is a goal.
  • Facilitating productive, positive meetings and Agile ceremonies
  • Facilitating team communication
  • Assist the team with sprint planning and backlog management.
  • Monitoring and improving team outcomes

This allows the team to meet their commitments and produce high-value increments.

The Scrum Master/Agile Coach Relationship

My recommendation is that Agile coaches empower and develop strong Scrum masters as a force multiplier in line with Scrum principles and values. As a coach, I believe that they are best as consultants rather than employees. An ideal Agile coach will eventually leave their job because they are skilled at helping Scrum masters develop enough knowledge and skills. After some time and positive momentum, it is possible to coach a group of Scrum masters in a Community of Practice. A coach can be hired as needed if a situation arises.

These guidelines will help you implement this approach, optimize both roles, and bring your teams to high performance.

Coaching Scrum masters should be complemented by agile coaches who can provide guidance and support their professional development.

Scrum masters must ensure they have the authority and access to do things for their teams. They should also focus on specific growth strategies for their team.

Scrum masters can mature and become Agile coaches, which is something organizations should expect.

The coach should encourage organizational and team maturity.

Leaders are doing their organizations a disservice by expecting Agile coaches to lead teams. The organization will be better served if empowered teams can outgrow the need to receive intensive Agile coaching. There is a problem if team members fear what will happen if a coach leaves. This could be a sign that the coach has made teams too dependent on him/her or their scrum masters.

An error made by some organizations is believing that one person can take on the roles of Agile coach or Scrum master during an Agile transformation. Recognizing the unique roles and responsibilities of each person can help strengthen your organization and allow you to move forward with agility.

The Scrum Master's and Agile Coach's Relationship

My recommendation is to have Agile coaches train and empower exceptional Scrum masters. This is a force multiplier that adheres strictly to Scrum principles and ideals. As a coach, I believe they are more useful as advisers than workers. The ideal Agile coach will eventually be able to quit their job because they are effective at encouraging Scrum masters to build sufficient knowledge and skills. After some time and positive momentum, a group of Scrum masters can coach. A coach might be needed on an as-needed basis if it becomes necessary.

These are some suggestions for how to put this strategy into action, maximize both roles, and assist teams in reaching their peak performance.

Scrum coaches must enhance Scrum masters' training and support them in their professional development.

Scrum masters must ensure they have the access and power they need to make things happen for their teams. They should also focus on specific growth methods for their team.

Scrum masters will be able to anticipate and grow in their Agile coaching skills and competence as their careers progress. The coach should encourage maturity in the organization and the team leaders who expect Agile coaches to lead teams are doing their organization a disservice. Empowered teams that can manage the requirements of extensive Agile coaching will do a better job for the business. If team members worry about what will happen if their coach leaves, this is a problem. This could indicate that teams have placed too much emphasis on the coach and not enough on scrum masters.


PerfectionGeeks has a Scrum Master and an Agile Coach in India who can help you build better software development services. Hire a Scrum Master in India and an Agile Coach to help your product owners and teams coordinate their product activities. Work with us as our experts can see the inner workings of teams and help improve their delivery flow.

A scrum is a tool that allows people to solve complex adaptive problems and produce high-quality products. Scrum is used to facilitate team collaboration when working on complicated or complex products. Although Scrum can be a bit difficult to grasp, it is easy to use and understand. An agile coach is someone who has a deep understanding of the various agile methodologies. 

Hire a Scrum Master in India and an Agile Coach to get access to an array of resources that include domain expertise, excellent logic, problem-solving skills, and subject-matter expertise.

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