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What is a Scrum Coach and How to Become One?

29 Aug 2019

Scrum, as one the major frameworks for Agile methodology, has introduced some interesting new roles in the world of software development, as well as other practices where Agile is used to its fullest potential, such as Product Owner (PO) or Scrum Master (SM). 

However, today we are talking about a new role that doesn't exist in the Scrum Guide but exists in practice nonetheless. This role is called the Scrum coach. 

So what does this coach do actually and what's the big deal about it, anyway? 

The simplest way to explain this role would be to say that a Scrum coach is actually a consultant. 

They have abundant experience with Scrum and while their responsibilities overlap somewhat with that of a Scrum Master, they are still different in many ways. 

Scrum Coach vs. Scrum Master

A Scrum Master is, among other things, responsible for helping an organization adopt Scrum and its practices. They play a servant-leader role to both the organization and the development team, thus helping them improve their efficiency in Scrum practices and get the most out of the framework. 

In addition, they also ensure that Product Owners don't overstep their boundaries when it comes to guiding the development teams on certain projects. In general, a Scrum Master has a specific relationship with the organization, POs and development teams. For instance:

Scrum Master relationship with an organization

  • Leads an organization on how to adopt Scrum, as well as how to properly adopt new systems.
  • Plans an organization-wide Scrum implementation.
  • Ensures that both employees and stakeholders understand the empirical way of product development, as well as that they endorse the Scrum framework in general.
  • Introduces changes that will improve the entire Scrum team's efficiency and productivity.

Scrum Master relationship with the Product Owner

  • Ensures that the product domain, project scope and important goals are understood by everyone on the Scrum team. 
  • Helps the PO find an effective way to manage and prioritize the product backlog.
  • Helps the PO understand how necessary clear and concise product backlog items need to be.
  • Helps the Scrum team understand how to plan for product development, as well as how to operate in an empirical environment.
  • Helps the PO understand the importance of maximizing value through backlog prioritization.

Scrum Master relationship with the development team

  • Instructs the development team on cross-functionality and self-organization.
  • Guides the team in creating high-value products.
  • Removes obstacles that stand in the way of the team's progress.
  • Supports the team in Scrum events.
  • Educates the team about the overall Scrum environment.

Now, the Scrum Master's responsibilities are quite specific, whereas a Scrum coach tends to be more in-the-background kind of role. As mentioned before, a Scrum coach is someone with a lot of experience dealing with both Agile and Scrum. 

In most cases, a Scrum coach was probably both a Product Owner and Scrum Master at some point during their careers. Their main responsibility is to coach everyone within the organization, including SMs and POs on adopting Scrum in accordance with the Scrum Guide. Here's an example of what Scrum coaches are responsible for. 

  • By utilizing their previous experience, a Scrum coach helps the organization and the Scrum teams adopt the best practices, as well as how to achieve good Scrum progress in a viable way. 
  • A Scrum coach helps organizations achieve Scrum maturity in a faster and more efficient way than inexperienced Scrum Masters. 
  • A Scrum coach will help the Scrum team create higher quality and higher value products by coaching them on how to maximize the benefits they can receive from the Scrum framework.

Simply put, a Scrum coach uses their expertise, in-depth knowledge and experience to guide entire organizations towards adjusting to both Scrum and Agile more efficiently. It's safe to say that this role is somewhere in between the Agile coach and a Scrum Master.

How to become a Scrum Coach?

In most cases, a Scrum coach is born out of their vast experience, which means no certification is needed. However, it's always better to have some proof of proper qualification than expecting from people to take your word for it. Therefore, if you want to become a Scrum coach, you'll most likely need to prove that you had previous experience in both Agile and Scrum practices. 

And plenty of it.

While you will most likely not be asked for any certificates as a Scrum Coach, you can still get certified by respected organization in similar fields. For example, the Scrum Alliance offers two types of certification, as well as training that goes alongside it, the Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) and a Certified Agile Coach (CAC).  More specifically, there's also the Certified Team Coach (CTC) for coaches who wish to work specifically with Scrum teams. 

Closing word

Roles such as Scrum coach come to life out of sheer necessity for organizations to adjust to changes that are going on in the market, as well as from their need to adopt Agile methodology and practices. Even though Agile as a concept has been around for a long while, many companies are just starting to embrace this methodology and shift their approach towards more efficient practices.