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

A common question if you are an agile practitioner or new to agile and trying to understand the difference between the top two commonly used roles. Before we discuss in detail the 2 roles, let’s understand the difference between Scrum (What is Scrum) and agile (agile basics). Skip this if you are already familiar with Scrum and agile.

The next aspect is to understand the two roles in detail. Go through this – Who is a Scrum Master and Who is an agile coach.

Let’s deep dive now with these 2 roles –

ParameterAgile CoachScrum Master
Scope of workThis role is spread across various agile frameworksRole is specific to team using Scrum Framework
Role DefinitionAgile coaching is understanding the situation, the values underlying Agile software development, and how the two can combine. Source – Agile CoachingAs a servant leader, a scrum master serves the scrum team, product owner and the organization.
Role – EngagementWorks with multiple teams, various groups & executivesWorks with few teams (not exceed 3)
Role – DurationEngaged with a team for a limited period for a specific goalEngaged with the team throughout
Role -KnowledgeDeep understanding of multiple Agile methodologies.View Understanding of scrum guide is sufficient (scrum ceremonies, scrum events, scrum artifacts.

Summarise –

Scrum Master works closely with the team/s throughout however agile coach is assigned for a certain period/ specific goal with the scrum team. An Agile Coach focus is to increase the performance threshold of the team. Post achievement of the goal, the agile coach moves out from the engagement. Both Scrum Master’s and Agile Coach’s role are different.

What is agile coaching

Agile coaching is coaching on agile by an agile coach usually for a certain period. Normally for every coaching you need a coach and a coachee, coach provide the training and coachee receives the training. You would have heard of various coaches i.e life coaches and football coaches. Coaching is working with people. Agile coaching can be done for people, team or organization.

To understand about agile coaching, it’s important to know who is an agile coach and what does an agile coach do?

Agile Coaching comprises of 2 words – Agile and Coaching. According to Rachel Davies and Liz Sedley in their book “Agile Coaching”, Agile coaching is understanding the situation, the values underlying Agile software development, and how the two can combine. There is no ready-made prescription for agile coaching as scenarios vary and coaching is done according to the situation. The Agile Coach can be  internal, external individuals who can play this role.