Red Flags in Agile Coach Job Descriptions — Ignore at your own peril
The market for agile coaches is so hot right now! Everyone is in a mad rush to be agile. Moving your career to be an agile coach or switching jobs if you already are one has never been easier. But there is one catch. Many organisations have an abysmal understanding of what an agile coach should do. So you might end up at a very wrong place.
This is not a challenge if you are focused on riding the agile bandwagon and making hay while the sun shines. However, suppose you love agile and want to work in environments where you actually do some authentic agile coaching and help organisations transform. In that case, you can spot things in agile coach listings — red flags that could help you be more discreet and maximise your chances of landing at the right place.
OK, so let’s get on with the red flags. The snapshots for the job descriptions were taken from LinkedIn. I have of course taken out the employer and location information for discreetness.
🔺 They want a project manager.
This is a poorly written job description for an agile coach. However, even if the title would say “project manager”, there are still some serious challenges here. The fundamental understanding of how an agile environment operates or is supposed to operate is missing.
Stand meetings are alignment meetings, not to “review project status.”
There is no self-organisation here. Daily follow-ups are needed to micro-manage individual team members who most likely are given tasks to complete.
Last but not least, this whole deep-rooted thinking of considering “people” as “resources” is such an anti-pattern and probably drives other negative behaviours in the organisation.
This is not how a project manager, let alone an agile coach, should operate today.
🔺They want a decorated 5-star agile coach — a Certification Junkie.
This one is so special. The person needs certification as a “scrum master” and “product owner”. To be doubly sure they have the right skills, this is required from two certification bodies — Scrum Alliance and scrum.org. SAFe is currently hot in the market, so SAFe-Agilist is a must. And for completeness, let us throw in PMI-ACP and ICP-ACC too. Whew !!
Interesting to note here is that SPC is left in the desirable qualifications !! Maybe they want to keep the costs low, as SPCs definitely do command a premium these days !
If you wonder if they will ever really find such a candidate, be assured they will. I know quite a few people who have all of these and more !! They hog on certifications like it is junk food !!
Whether this person can coach or not is a separate topic altogether. But yeah, that’s beside the point. If you see such an advert, be sure they have no interest in transformation. They are probably looking for an overqualified coach to help them declare to their leadership that they are agile. It is done — and they have crossed the finish line.
🔺They are doing something, but it ain’t Agile for sure.
It gets interesting in this one. The Agile coach is supposed to elicit requirements, gather requirements, showcase and manage requirements and definitely document requirements too. Isn’t this the job of a business analyst? But wait — did we not move away from the requirements world and now capture user stories (or features). Probably they use SAFe. Did you know SAFe has a “requirements model” by the way?
This seems to be the classic case of someone wanting to hire a business analyst in a traditional, methodology-driven environment. Still, approval was only for an agile coach, so let’s make our agile coach do all of this.
Why do hiring managers do it?
If you wonder why this happens, given that you assume these hiring managers are often intelligent people who are running successful businesses. They do understand what an agile coach does and cannot do. If you link it to agile, it is easier to get budgetary approvals for positions these days. If you ask for a project manager, it might get shot down. It could get through if you ask for an agile coach, especially since you can do a beautiful slide on transformation and promise them the moon. It does not matter what the agile coach exactly does on the ground.
🔺JIRA JIRA JIRA !!
Jira is an excellent agile life cycle management tool. However, when you see it at the top of the responsibilities list for an agile coach, you can rest assured that this is a tool and process implementation they are driving.
If Jira was not enough, rest of the job description points to our red flag 1, this is actually a project manager position. Nothing wrong about it. We definitely need project managers and they are some awesome people (I was one myself for many years). But instead of opening a position as PM, they open for the much swanky title — agile coach.
Nevertheless Jira master or project manager, there won’t be much to do in terms of authentic agile coaching for sure. If that is what you would like to do, give this a pass !!
While job descriptions are where you can spot such red flags early, the interviews are also an excellent place to dig for such red flags. In some cases, they may be something not to worry about. A few clarifications in the interview and expectation management could set things straight. However, ignoring such red flags could be perilous. A little caution goes a long way in preventing heartburn later.
You might also want to read my book “Perspectives on Agility”, available on Amazon in print as well in Kindle format. Kindle Unlimited users read it for free. You might enjoy a quick summary of the book before you buy.