I’ve been frustrated for many years by people calling themselves an “Enterprise Agile Coach”. All too often its people with zero — literally ZERO — experience in coaching people, teams, or organizations and zero experience with Agile teams, Scrum, Kanban or anything else related who suddenly discover the topic of Agile and change their LinkedIn job title. The main reason for this frustration is that Enterprise Agile Coaching is my profession and I am passionate about providing excellent coaching and consulting services to my clients by drawing on more than a decade of deep experience.

This feels like a parent who corrals 4-year old soccer players for an hour on Saturday afternoons and then tries to compare themselves to an NFL football coach. Totally different sport, totally different experience, totally different level of commitment, and totally different value to those seeking your help. However, Agile Coaching doesn’t garner headlines or national TV attention, and clients often lack the expertise to know the difference until its too late.

So, I’d like to offer a brief explanation of what an Enterprise Agile Coach actually is so that aspiring legitimate Agile Coaches, and clients who hire them, can have a common understanding of the level of expertise they should expect to be present.

For simplicity, let’s use the help of the Scrum Alliance. Scrum is the most popular Agile framework, and the Scrum Alliance is the most popular organization offering Agile and Scrum certifications, including the Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC). I hold this certification and would like to share some of the aspects which are required in order to even qualify for it…

  • Minimum of 3 years experience as a Scrum Team member.
  • Minimum of 3 years and 2,000 hours in coaching.
  • Demonstration of a journey of learning through education, mentorship and collaborative learning in coaching and related activities over a minimum of 3 years.
  • Demonstration of active engagement AND leadership in the agile community over a minimum of 3 years. Participation includes engagement in agile user groups, gatherings, retreats, camps, and conferences. Leadership includes writing, publishing, reviewing, presenting, facilitating, training, mentoring, organizing, etc.
  • Awareness, understanding, implementation and development of tools, techniques and frameworks while engaged with organizations. Coaching tools, techniques and frameworks may include assessments, surveys, retrospective or review techniques, build/integrate/deploy systems, lean tools and techniques, scaling frameworks, metrics, organizational or leadership models, etc.

If one is able to satisfy the qualification above, they must also…

  • undertake a review of their deep understanding and competency in various aspects of Agile coaching including detailed comparison of multiple scenarios when they have conducted personal, team, and leadership coaching, how they have learned from failures, applied different techniques to different scenarios, etc.
  • recommendations from clients, peers, and mentors regarding their coaching expertise.
  • They must also show that they have coached leaders and organizational change agents in multiple Agile transformation initiatives, organizational change initiatives where an Enterprise is undergoing an Agile transformation, which is fundamental aspect of being called an Enterprise Agile Coach.

I am not suggesting one needs a certification to call themselves an Enterprise Agile Coach, but if you don’t even come close to the criteria above (and haven’t done most all of it multiple times)… sorry, you are NOT an Enterprise Agile Coach.