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Agile Coach Competencies

Last year I participated in a working group to develop the first version of the Certified Scrum Coach program at the Scrum Alliance. Early on, we wanted to identify the characteristics of a successful agile coach. Note that we purposely widened the scope beyond just Scrum and team coaching since no one on the group can practically limit their work in that way. While we all Scrum practioners, our coaching extends into other areas including engineering practices and organizational development.

Drawing from our own experiences, the agile principles and the wider field of business coaching, we developed a set of core competencies that we thought would form the basis of a solid definition of a successful agile coach. We used these to develop much of the assessment process for the program. I have also used these in two other ways:

  • to identify gaps in my own coaching competencies that need to be filled through study and practice 
  • to guide development of program for selecting and training agile coaches in one of my client organizations

These compentencies appear in a narrative form in the CSC application form. I thought it might be useful to share them here in the outline form that we initially developed. If you are averse to the Scrum brand name, these work just fine if you substitute the term “agile”. We thank the International Coaching Federation for inspiration.

  • Knowledge and Experience in Scrum
    • Scrum Principles: Utilizes Scrum and agile principles and practices 
    • Collaborative Workplace: Promotes and enhances a collaborative work environment
  • Agile Leadership Skills (professionalism)�
    • Ethics: Understands and adheres to the CSC Code of Ethics 
    • Diverse Situations: Applies knowledge in diverse situations 
    • Leads by Example: Coaches behavior and actions are a model for the client
  • Advisory and Consultancy Skills
    • Trust: Creates trust and familiarity with the client 
    • Coaching Relationship: Establishes the coaching business relationship (including fees, schedule, scope, strategies and outcomes) 
    • Coaching Presence: Creates a healthy coaching presence (open, flexible, confident, congenial, focused). 
    • Organizational Levels: Relates effectively with all levels of the client organization 
    • Accept and Reflect on feedback: becomes a better coach by listening to feedback (good and bad) and using it as the basis for improvement.
  • Communications 
    • Active Listening: Uses active listening skills in client interactions 
    • Observe Verbal and Non-verbal feedback: Detects and utilizes feedback from verbal and non-verbal cues 
    • Powerful Questioning: Uses powerful questioning to discover information
    • Direct Communications: Communicates directly and clearly 
    • Adapts to cultural norms: Becomes familiar with the different cultures that they deal with.
  • Facilitation 
    • Create Awareness: Creates awareness of options and tradeoffs 
    • Fosters Learning: Creates an environment conducive to discovery and achievment 
    • Manage Progress: Manages progress and accountability 
    • Effective Meetings: Guides a team in achieving efficient and effective Scrum meetings (planning, daily, demo, retrospective)
  • Organization Development
    • Problem Diferentiation: Able to differentiate Problems exposed by vs. caused by Scrum 
    • Organizatonal Alignment: Able to recognize and advise when the organizational structure may impact the implementation of Scrum

I welcome any opinions on what may be missing from this list or perhaps does not belong. I also welcome comments on how others may find these useful.

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