Agile Coach or Scrum Master?

A very experienced agile practitioner I met recently, expressed some annoyance about people calling themselves “Agile Coach”. He spoke of the high status that a Scrum Master used to have, which has shifted to the Agile Coach. He said “Do you know how much training you need to be an Agile Coach? None”.

If your organisation is doing scrum, whether “Agile Coach” is your job title or “Scrum Master” is your job title, you may well have the responsibility of being Scrum Master on a Scrum team for your organisation. You may also support the developers and the Product Owner on the scrum team with coaching and facilitation. You may work with the whole organisation to influence the system conditions that allow agile teams to thrive.

One anti-pattern I have seen is when an organisation has people with the “Agile Coach” job title and people with the “Scrum Master” job title. The Scrum Master works at a team level and the Agile Coach works across teams or with the management team. The Agile Coach has more rank because of who they mix with, whereas the Scrum Master role is all about “delivery”.

When it’s a straight choice about whether the role should be called “Agile Coach” or “Scrum Master” then the question might be about whether the team (and the organisation as a whole) wants to commit to only doing Scrum.

I would rather be called “Agile Coach” because it encourages me to have a flexible mindset, and because it stresses the coaching aspect of the role. Coaching is about supporting others to develop capability and that’s something I want to keep in focus. I have also found that there is plenty of training and learning I can do to help me be a better Agile Coach.