In Agile Coaching, Team and Leadership, Techniques
The Agile Coaching Growth Wheel

Developing yourself as an agile coach, our agile coach competency framework

Misconceptions exist with clients and Agile Coaches, in regards to what Agile Coaching is. This confusion has resulted in unqualified people presenting themselves as Agile Coaches with little experience and low competence.  This creates something of a lottery for clients when choosing the right Agile Coach for them.

This was the problem statement that a team at the Scrum Coaching Retreat in Copenhagen 2017 started to address, their goal to start to professionalise the world of Agile Coaching. To that end they produced whatisagilecoaching.org and came up with a working definition of Agile Coaching:

“Agile Coaching is a collaboration with people in a thought provoking and creative journey using coaching approaches with an agile mindset and principles to help individuals, teams and organisations be the best they can be.”

At the Scrum Coaching Retreat in London 2018 another team started to focus on the growth of the Agile Coach themselves, looking at how does one become a great Agile coach? There is no clear pathway, Agile Coaching is not yet a fully fledged profession. The team created an initial Agile Coaching Growth Wheel that laid down some core competencies, that allows an Agile Coach to go through a reflective process to go from good to great.

In 2011 Lyssa Atkins and Michael Spayed created a competency framework for Agile Coaches. Intentionally this was not a competency model, as it did not define specific behaviours, skills, knowledge or levels of proficiency. However the creators of WhatIsAgileCoaching.org and the creators of this Agile Coaching Growth Wheel believe that more definition is required in order to professionalise the world of Agile Coaching.

We believe that defining the Agile Coaching journey will allow educators and other coaches better support the growth of Agile Coaches by developing learning and development programmes.  It will also build confidence in industry around the future profession of Agile Coaching.  Making it easier for an organisation to select the right coach for them with confidence.

How to use the wheel

The wheel has 8 segments or spokes which represent main competency areas.  Within each competency area there are 1 or more competencies that an individual can reflect on.  This guidance identifies 5 levels for each of those competencies.

5 Levels of assessment

  1. Beginner
    • Knows the theory but has no real practical experience of application
  2. Practitioner
    • Has applied in at least 1 situation and may still require support in the application
  3. Journeyperson
    •  Can apply in most situations independently
  4. Craftsperson
    • Unconscious competence, has mastered the application and knows when to bend and when to break the rules
  5. Guide/Innovator
    • Capability to change to meet the current situation and innovate to create new techniques

The tread around the outside represents the supporting competencies, these are knowledge areas that in-turn support the skills of the other 8 competency areas.

There are many different ways that the wheel could be used in a coaching conversation, but it could go something like this ….

Step 1: Identify area of improvement

Talk through each of the competency areas (the 8 spokes and 4 tread areas), use the guidance to make sure the coachee has a high level understanding of each area.  You can’t improve everything at once, so get the coachee to select an initial area of focus to work on.

Step 2: Reflect on a competency area

For each competency within the competency area, go through the guidance and get the coachee to assess their own competence against the 5 levels of assessment. Some people will sell themselves short, others will overestimate their competence, your job as a coach is to try and hold them accountable to a true representation of themselves, ask for examples and be curious.

Step 3: Brainstorm options and generate actions

Use the insight generated in the reflection to brainstorm options for growth and then formulate a plan of action.

The “Agile Coaching Growth Wheel” is a tool for Agile Coaches and ScrumMasters to help them reflect and grow themselves on their Agile journey.  The latest guidance can be found here.

Feel free to use the wheel for your own personal growth and/or when working with other Agile Coaches.  There have been many contributors; currently I am acting as editor, so send me your feedback to [email protected].  The Agile Coaching Growth Wheel will continue to evolve with your contributions.

At BeLiminal we use the Agile Coaching Growth Wheel in our Advanced Certified ScrumMaster™ (A-CSM™) and Certified Scrum Professional® For ScrumMasters (CSP-SM®) programmes, as we guide ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, change agents and other empathetic provocateurs from good to great.

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