5 Questions to Ask Agile Coaches Before You Hire Them

Agile, Agile everywhere and nary a good Agile Coach to be found! Why is it so hard to find a good great Agile Coach? Avoid wasting time and money by hiring an Agile imposter with these 5 simple questions:


1. Prior to becoming an Agile coach, what digital products did you help build?

This should be the litmus test that separates good coaches from kick*ss coaches, where they should have awesome experience at companies you’ve actually heard of. Make sure you dive into the details and ask them to provide product names, companies, their role on the Agile team, KPI’s/success metrics, etc.

animated - supermanThis will help sort out folks that are knowledgeable of the Agile framework versus those that are highly capable of deploying Agile successfully based on years of actual experience. I tend to lean on experience more than certifications (i.e. theory), but that’s just me. And I’m pretty awesome.

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2. What Agile certifications do you and your team possess?

This may seem obvious, but a lot of companies don’t ask. There’s no Agile police that will arrest people for coaching Agile without a certification, so make sure you ask them to send you their current credentials before you even meet with them. Check the Scrum Alliance website for the latest list of certifications.

I confess that I’ve coached teams before without the prerequisite Certified Agile Coach (CAC or CEC) certification, where I only held the Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) certifications. But I also had over 10 years of relevant experience with Agile and it’s many flavors (Scrum, Kanban, XP), as well as customizing Agile to fit the needs of a team and company.

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3. What are your Agile skills?

Just like ninja skills are important to ninjas, Agile skills are important to Agile Coaches. So here’s a few ways to kick their tires:

  • Discuss their skills and experience in the Agile method you’re currently utilizing. If you’re just getting started with Agile, make sure they’re qualified in the main Agile methods: Scrum, Kanban, Lean, and Extreme Programming (XP)… as well as implementing the various hybrid approaches (e.g. Scrumban, Scrum/XP, etc.).
  • Agile is a framework and flexible, so ask if they have relevant experience helping organizations customize the Agile process to meet their specific needs.
  • For deeper insights on their Agile skills, I suggest using the Agile Coaching Institute framework as a guide. Complete the template for the skills you’re looking for, and have your candidates do the same.

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4. What’s your approach to Agile coaching?

This will help you determine their particular style of coaching, i.e. if they’re comfortable working with individuals, a single product team, multiple product teams, PMO, executives, company-wide Agile training, etc. Make sure that their approach aligns with your expectations.

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5. What are the last 3 companies/products you coached, and do you have recommendations from them?

All great Agile Coaches will have plenty of recommendations available from recent clients, so feel free to call a few previous clients and check their skills and approach.

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So how do you feel now after talking with the Agile Coach candidate? You should feel extremely confident and comfortable with them before hiring them, so if you still have concerns, then consider doing a 2-3 week trial run with them to better gage their skills and approach before signing a contract.

Also, I highly recommend that you read my next Agile post, Developing a Digital Product Strategy and Roadmap that provides step-by-step guidance on the Strategic Product Planning process that helps fully prepare your Agile team for Sprint 1.

And continue reading my other Agile topics:

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