After a few conversations about my Scrum Master: Project Admin post, we delved deeper and added agile coaches to the mix.

One of the issues is how organizations use the agile coach role as a program manager. The definition of what an agile coach does is pretty standard. It was something that I was very interested in learning more about.

CIO Magazine provides a good list of duties

Here is one of the lists of things that Sarah White provides in the role of the agile coach:

  • Coach agile teams in the methodology
  • Integrate related methodologies within the company
  • Develop standards and requirements for the agile process
  • Provide training to employees on the agile process
  • Help teams navigate agile tools and software
  • Encourage employee and stakeholder buy-in

This description is pretty straightforward and consistent with my peers. Yet during the talks, it was found that people are calling themselves agile coaches who are not doing what was listed above but more doing this.

  • More concerned about updating multiple redundant reports than teaching the organization a more adaptable way to streamline information distribution.
  • Push hard deadlines for releases; everything is etched in stone. 
  • Concerned over the budget to the point where moving or removing resources in the middle of development
  • They are not talking to the team about resource needs or changes when the agile coach makes them.
  • Telling the team what to do with the development. Not letting the team decide on the value that should be worked on first.
  • In constant need of readily available information, they do not want to get themselves due to a lack of trust in the team. 

Is this a way to keep the traditional project management thinking in what they call an “agile environment”? 

Scum master = Project manager

Agile coach = Program manager

These scenarios will creep in more when the organization focuses on just implementing a framework. Once they have considered themselves “agile,” they will use these titles to keep up appearances of an agile organization without having the right behaviour changes across the board. 

Change is hard, yet disguising the difference does nothing for the organization except make a few people feel they accomplished something while staying in their comfort zone.