There is currently a big demand for Agile Coaches. But what is the difference between an Agile Coach or Scrum Master? People often ask us what such a coach can add to a modern, self-managing organization. Aren’t the teams already coached by the Scrum Master? Yes they are! There are many similarities between the two roles. Both the Scrum Master and Agile Coach help organizations to develop an Agile mindset. They both use similar techniques to support and facilitate teams in this respect. The difference between them lies in their scope.

The Scrum Master

The Scrum Master is part of a specific scrum team and plays a leading role in this team. He or she is in the workplace every day, knows the team inside out and knows exactly what’s going on.

The Scrum Master’s concrete tasks:

  • Ensure that the team works according to the Scrum rules.
  • Organise practical aspects: plan meetings, look for process improvements and ensure that the developers have the right tools, etc.
  • Solve problems (impediments) that the team can’t solve itself.

In addition, he or she supports the team in the broadest sense of the word, for example by helping the Product Owner with the user stories or by stepping in during testing.

The Agile Coach

Unlike the Scrum Master, the Agile Coach isn’t part of a specific Scrum team. He or she has an independent role and will coach several teams and/or the management. The focus of the Agile Coach is not on supporting individual team members or teams but rather on implementing an Agile working method in the organization as a whole.

Agile Coach or Scrum Master

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The Agile coach’s concrete tasks:

  • Make the different teams and individual employees aware of their strengths and weaknesses so that they can develop towards an Agile mindset.
  • Promote a healthy group dynamic by offering the teams new tools and techniques (e.g. for the retrospective).
  • Allow teams and activities to work together effectively, for example by implementing the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

Agile Coach or Scrum Master?

So although there is a lot of overlap between the roles of Scrum Master and Agile Coach, there are also big differences. Agile Coaches don’t deal with the content, but above all with the process. They are primarily active during a company’s transition to an Agile organization. Experience teaches us that this transition is a very radical and time-consuming operation that is never 100% finished. So the Agile Coach has a bright future.

Gladwell Academy trains Agile Coaches and trainers at a leading Dutch financial service provider Nationale-Nederlanden

How do you get Agile way of working truly established in your organization? By training your own Agile Coaches to be Agile trainers of course! This is what Nationale-Nederlanden did with Gladwell Academy. CIO Dennis Brussel from Nationale-Nederlanden Bank tells us about his considerations; three Agile training course graduates tell us about their experience. Read more here. (Dutch article)