What is the difference between Agile Master, Scrum Master and Agile Coach?

In the context of agile methods, many companies stumble over the terms “agile master,” “agile coach” or “scrum master. Behind the different terms are a variety of tasks, expectations, and compensation models. In this article, we will introduce you to the individual agile roles and compare their activities in the agile environment.

The best-known and therefore most common agile role in the corporate context is the scrum master. The scrum master is the servant leader for the scrum team. Their main focus is to ensure the scrum processes are applied correctly.

Important: A scrum master is not a project leader in the traditional sense – instead he/she acts as a supporter and facilitator for the  team. The most important task is to clear obstacles and external interferences (called impediments) out of the way so that the team can work effectively and efficiently. In addition, this person can answer fundamental questions about the organizational model and resolve possible conflicts that may arise due to the use of scrum. A scrum master is thus a trainer, coach, mediator, and moderator in equal measure.

These are typical challenges that require the action of a scrum master:

  • The department manager goes directly to a team member and asks to interrupt  their work, because there would be a more important task to do right now
  • The team does not understand the story descriptions of the product owner
  • A project manager depends on the team’s work performance and requests status reporting

For some companies, the competencies of the scrum master are not sufficient, which is why an agile master is often brought into the company.

The agile master is able to perform all the activities of a scrum master. In addition, this person masters at least one other agile or lean method (usually Kanban) and has an overview of all individual requirements and activities of several agile teams at the same time.

The agile master takes care of the following issues:

  • The hardware team’s development cycles do not match the software team’s agile method.
  • The prioritization of dependencies among the teams does not fit together

In this context, what are the activities of an agile coach?

The agile coach masters all the requirements of an agile master, and also has hands-on experience with various agile frameworks and agile scaling. Agile coaches are able to extract success modules out of frameworks and implement them in the customer context in terms of an adapted and sustainable solution and to accompany the necessary changes in the organization, without the nee to fully roll-out a framework.

Typically, the agile coach deals with the following topics:

  • One department of the company is working successfully with agile methods. The neighboring departments now want to change their way of working as well, but they have very different customer requirements and a diverging process orientation
  • Many organizational units have changed their way of working to agile methods. However, the waiting times for product innovations remain unchanged for the customer
  • External service providers are to be embedded in the agile product development process. However, it is unclear how integration can take place
  • An organization wants to encourage all its employees to adopt a growth-oriented mindset and establish a changed culture of error

Many organizations are moving beyond the simple framework of agile methods and are looking at agile scaling. The most commonly used scaling framework is SAFe®. It is in this context that the term SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC) emerges.

A “Certified SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC)” is a Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe) change agent who guides all levels of an organization through a Lean-Agile transformation by training, coaching, facilitating, and mentoring employees. In other words, he/she is an agile coach with a specialization in the SAFe® framework.

Typical issues in the SAFe® Program Consultant’s scope of work:

  • In order to drive the SAFe® implementation in the company, trainings and change management support are necessary. These need to be coordinated and executed.
  • Product management translates projects into epics. These are not understood by the development teams and are too large for implementation.
  • The software teams do not understand the requirements for continuous integration. Testing is done in the specialist departments and according to predefined scripts.

Tiba offers suitable lean and agile coaching experts (scrum master, agile master, SPC or agile coach), who analyze your requirements individually and create the greatest possible benefit for your agile initiatives. Our experts support you and your employees true to the motto “help them to help themselves”. If required, our experts are also available to you for interim assignments and operational support.

Author: Christian Mengel, Head of agile methods, Tiba

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