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Agile Coach and Scrum Master – The Difference

Agile Coach and Scrum Master – The Difference

An account of how Agile Coaches and ScrumMasters are defined in the Agile role structure by Joe Townsend here  (no relation!)  - Leo, Nov 12th 2013


I have to admit that when I first heard the term agile coaching I was wondering what in the world an agile coach is and what he does. Like most, I immediately consulted Wikipedia, but the term was not there. So I did the next best thing and found a great article that led me on this journey to figure out what “agile coaching” is all about.

The article mentions Rachel Davies and her role in agile coaching. It gives us Davies’ definition of agile coaching: “An agile coach helps teams grow strong in applying agile practice to their work.”

On her blog Rachel Davies, coauthor of Agile Coaching, talks about a recent keynote she gave on embracing change, tying it to her belief of how agile coaches fit in to the bigger picture of the change process. Davies covers many topics of interest to agile practitioners during the presentation, including a discussion about how agile coaches help in the change process.

writer on Computerworld takes a deeper dive into the term agile coach. For its meaning, the author traces the first mention of the term back to Kent Beck’s 1999 book Extreme Programming Explained: Embrace Change. So this term has been around for fourteen years, and I am just now hearing about it.

As I read the article I found a mention of a boot camp for agile coaches that was launched at the Agile 2013 conference in Nashville, Tennessee.

Thoroughly embarrassed by my ignorance on the topic, I asked myself the question, “If there is a need for agile coaches, where does that leave ScrumMasters?” For the answer I give you a May 2013 article that explores that very question. First, the author of the piece spells out the similarities and then sums up the biggest difference by looking at where the two positions reside in the chain of command. Basically, ScrumMasters are the front-line fighters, and agile coaches are higher up in the organization.

In contrast to the belief that ScrumMasters and agile coaches are inherently different, this April 2013 article says that a person should undergo a transition from first being called a ScrumMaster to being called a Scrum coach. The main reason is that no one respects ScrumMasters and that their role is much larger than previously thought. The writer lists seven duties of the ScrumMaster and agile coach as a start for the true role into which the agile coach is evolving.

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