An Agile Approach to Coaching – Scrum, Sprint, and Story

Nov 30, 2019

Agile is a process that was launched in 2001 publicly for software development. It is now used as a project management tool in several other areas. Agile is often linked with coaching, the term ‘Agile Coach’ being very popular in IT circles.

The good news is that this creates interest from technologists in coaching. The not so good news is that as a process, Agile is quite different from coaching. It has both, a few commonalities in approach as well as several differences in execution.

The Agile process is called ‘scrum’, a word borrowed from rugby to restart the game by having the team come together in intense focus to take control of the ball. Agile Scrum consists of several ‘sprints’. Sprints are short developmental cycles that continuously improve the development of the product or service. Each sprint journey is recounted as a story to informally capture its key points from a user perspective, consisting of three Cs – card, conversation, and confirmation.

The Agile process borrows from several other processes such as Lean Thinking, and Kanban. From a latter-day perspective, it also relates to Design Thinking.

Unlike the traditional ‘waterfall’ process used in software development earlier, Agile has these differences:

  • In the waterfall project, the scope is fixed and time is flexible. Money value is calculated based on time
  • In Agile Scrum, time is fixed and scope is flexible. Money value is calculated based on scope rather than time.
  • Simply put, customers love Agile since vendor inefficiencies are not marked up in cost and payables are based on value delivered.

Are Agile coaches paid on outcome or time? What if other coaches were?

The major principles of Agile are:

  • Client centricity is the most important factor. It is achieved through the speed of delivery and consistent value add on an incremental basis to manage change. This creates a competitive advantage.
  • Continuous collaboration with stakeholders through feedback.
  • Teams are self-managed, free of interference, and accountable to frequent, consistent, client-centric outcome value.
  • Ensuring quality, delivery time, productivity, process efficiency and effectiveness, flexibility to cope with change, and engagement

A singular drawback I noticed is a lack of client interaction and feedback. This can pose a major threat to complex VUCA influenced projects.

Coaching competencies supplement the Agile process very well.

  • The clarity in the outcome and continuous focus on the outcome through the sprint structure.
  • Empathetic collaboration within teams and with stakeholders.
  • Effective communication within teams through stories and with stakeholders through feedback.
  • Action learning between sprints to ensure client value add

Agile coaching requires both, mentoring skills in technology knowledge and project implementation as well as coaching skills in team building and maintenance. In many ways, these two approaches coming together would benefit customers.

What if coaches adopted the scrum and sprint approach?

What do you think? Please tell us on our coaching forum.

Ram Ramanathan, MCC
Ram Ramanathan, MCC


Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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