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On-the-spot questions for an agile coach

As an agile coach it is imperative that you know your agile tools/frameworks and how to apply them.

I am frequently put on-the-spot with a range of hypothetical situations, and then asked for the agile silver bullet. Specific questions about Scrum or Kanban are easy to answer, however it is the 'why' questions which really require the in-depth understanding of the 4 values and 12 principles of agile.

Here are four common on-the-spot agile questions and my responses

1. How would you define agile? Agile isn't something that you are doing (e.g. I'm doing agile), it is something that you are being (i.e. you are being agile in the way your work). Agile isn't a tool or methodology, it isn't Scum or SAFe. It is simply living by the 4 values and 12 principles outlined in the manifesto of agile.

If your team is frequently talking to the customer(s), working in a collaborative way and constantly adjusting the solution based on changes & feedback; you are being agile (i.e. customer collaboration over contract negotiation, responding to change over following a plan, welcome changing requirements etc).

2. What is one thing you would recommend to improve an organisations agility? This depends on the level of commitment and maturity of the organisation and the type of problems they face.

Assuming you have executive & senior management endorsement for the agile cultural shift, and the organisation already has a few agile teams/squads.

One thing that the squads can do is to uplift their end-to-end customer metrics and focus on measuring the impact their changes have on the customers.

A common problem for many agile transformation programs is to rush into the implementation of Scrum or SAFe and only measure the amount of output and velocity of the teams, as opposed to the actual impact to the customer experience.

3. What is the difference between an Agile Coach and a Scrum Master?

The two terms often have different definitions depending on the organisation. I define it in the following way:

A Scrum Master is a role in Scrum. The person in this role will take on the responsibilities as defined in 'The Scrum Guide'. These responsibilities are mainly focused on their team and immediate key stakeholders.

An Agile coach role I see as broader, working at the department/organisation level. As the name suggests the role is coaching teams, scrum masters and management on how to be agile. It is becoming the catalyst for a mindset/cultural change.

4. What are three attributes of a self-organised team?

  1. An ability to solve complex problems without specific instructions. They only need a clear understanding of the customer problem.

  2. Flat structure in the team. People are less concerned with titles and are focused on the customer and solving the problem.

  3. High level of trust within the team. This leads to increased collaboration, teamwork and commitment.

What do you think?

Do you agree? Do you have another response?

What other questions do you encounter?

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