"Just a team coach"...does it matter?


I haven’t posted in a long time due to my current job, but I’ve been actively lurking in the shadows consuming content and listening to all the podcasts. I even listen to some of the podcasts multiple times leisurely on my hour commute into work…because I have an obsession with wanting to always discuss all things agile, people, and technology related.

I revisited one of my favorites - http://agileuprising.libsyn.com/let-them-eat-points-agile-coaching-snobbery

During this podcast, the topic of differences between scrum master, agile coach, program coach, portfolio coach, and enterprise coach were discussed, and I loved the responses. While the conversation was great and I was nodding in my car with agreement, I couldn’t help but realize that having a conversation at that level of “awareness” can only be really understood by coaches who “get it”. People who have had multiple contracts, jobs, or client engagement can truly understand how all over the place these perceptions are and it gets worse globally. In my career however, I would say that 1 out of every 10 coaches (AKA: people who call themselves coaches/scrum masters) can clearly articulate meaningful thoughts and responses that provide an interested insight or practical experienced opinions outside the realm of frameworks or trained content.

I am currently titled “Enterprise Agile Coach”, but I only asked for that title (as a full time employee) so that people, executives all the way to teams, would take my coaching seriously and let me be engaged with strategic discussions the company wants to do. In my previous jobs, having the title of “Agile Coach” or “scrum master” in larger organizations was similar to what the podcast mentioned. “Oh, you’re JUST a team coach” or “So, you’re just a scrum master” was a natural reaction from the people who have a hierarchically driven mindset and immediately dismissed any recommendations, advice, or experiments they wanted to try towards continuous improvement.

As Dave Snowden has mention in his Cynefin event - Cynefin in Practice, does the hierarchy thinking and “tiers of coaches” correlate with the “end of an era”?
Perhaps the reasoning behind people not taking the titles of coach/scrum master seriously unless they have an absurd title that means nothing is because of the perceived “commodity” that Agile can simply now be bought and implemented. While this type of thinking shouldn’t shock me considering many companies still view software development as a cost to the business and/or software as a predictive delivery like manufacturing.

To sum up my rant, my opinion is that being called “just a team coach” matters most when we deal with people outside of the agile space who simply don’t “get it”. Have you ever wanted more pay, or a higher elevated title/role, or more client engagement work and have done so by differentiating yourself via title?..You’re probably part of the problem, but nobody would fault you for it either since the market and client engagements work (and almost dictate) that way.

Sidenote: I believe it was said on the podcast “All coaches should know how to coach teams” and that shouldn’t be taken lightly.


Enjoyed the rant. I definitely have seen this phenomenon pop up. Personally, I have more passion for coaching the individual teams and have focused my work in that specific area. I do think you need a combination of people with different skills working at different levels to drive sustained improvement in an organization and don’t understand the “you’re-just-a” comments.