3

The Scrum Master is the "owner" of the framework execution, as the Scrum Guide quotes:

The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide.

On the other side (as the title itself shows), the Agile Coach should not be only about Scrum... However, companies tend to use this professional mostly to help and support Scrum implementation, that's why I see that there's a thin line of practical difference here.

So, in which points do Agile Coaches help companies that differs from what Scrum Masters do on their daily basis?

7

The skillsets are exactly the same. It's the focus that is different. The Scrum master is a coaching and facilitating role. However, the scrum master is usually focused on and around their team. The agile coach takes a higher and more outside view.

For new teams, a scrum master will be much more hands-on guiding them, but in time that part of their job should shrink and they more more toward coaching.

If you are a scrum master and want to experience the difference, reach out to another scrum master and agree to attend each others' events and offer some light coaching (probably mostly observation to start). You'll see how the outside person gains a different perspective.

2

Esther Derby has done some interesting analysis on the skills and qualities that Agile Coaches and ScrumMasters have which might be a way to answer your question: http://www.estherderby.com/2011/11/scrummasters-and-agile-coaches-more-than-a-title.html

What I found in the UK, which may be different to Portugal, is that the term Scrum Master is used by recruiters as a general term for a change agent that works at team level, regardless of the method. I have been hired as a "Scrum Master" but the whole organisation uses Kanban. I agree with this interpretation as well. So I see a Scrum Master more focused on the team level and day to day activities team activities. This does involve Agile Coaching, but at a team level.

An Agile Coach would generally be hired in the U.K. for an Agile Transformation. So they would for example take a whole product and engineering department and introduce them to the values, practices and disciplines and mobilise this with help from rep's from each team whether it be scrum masters or team leads etc.

Some organisations call all their change agents "Agile Coaches" e.g. Spotify but they are in fact more like Scrum Masters. They probably use this term because the teams use Kanban or Scrum or whatever they want. So its like a blanket term.

1

tl;dr: a Scrum Master takes care for daily business, an Agile Coach works more on a meta level.

As you said, the Agile Coach is not limited to Scrum. Then again a Scrum Master shouldn't be limited to Scrum either (don't tell this to some Scrum teachers...). But the role of a Scrum Master is pretty clear defined (scrum.org). So her/his main business is the daily work with her/his team(s). And most important: we are mainly talking about project management here. On the other hand an Agile Coach has the task to teach agile values and principles (agilemanifesto.org) to an organization and to live these values. You could compare it to an Evangelist. This includes but is not limited to project management.

1

tl;dr The titles used may or may not reflect any specific skills or differentiation of skills in the services provided to an organization. High quality Scrum Masters are more well rounded than just knowing the Scrum framework.


One of the most common failures of agile product development efforts is a lack of understanding of the philosophy. Misunderstandings result in impediments and loss of value: organizations do not properly support self-organizing teams; customers do not collaboratively engage in the process; long term, plan driven mentalities remain over using emergent, value driven approaches.

Agile Coach should not be only about Scrum

Because the Scrum framework requires the role of Scrum Master, it can be a specific position to be filled. Others require or recommend different or additional positions. The position of Agile Coach is not, AFIAK, required or defined in any. The use of an Agile Coach to implement Scrum can be a differentiator of an experienced Scrum Master to help train and coordinate multiple teams each with their own Scrum Masters; sometimes it is due to Scrum In Name Only.

However that does not also mean that a Scrum Master should only be about the Scrum framework. Having knowledge of and experience in multiple systems, frameworks, methods, and processes results in a more valuable and effective Scrum Master. Scrum ... functions well as a container for other techniques, methodologies, and practices.

Scrum Masters cannot and should not be solely focused internally at their Scrum Teams. Looking at the Scrum Master section of The Scrum Guide, three of the five opening sentences are about everyone and not just the Scrum Team; the first sentence being the one that you quoted.

The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.

The Scrum Master is a servant-leader for the Scrum Team. The Scrum Master helps those outside the Scrum Team understand which of their interactions with the Scrum Team are helpful and which aren’t. The Scrum Master helps everyone change these interactions to maximize the value created by the Scrum Team.

The rest of the section is divided into three subsections of servicing three separate areas of concerns: the two additional Scrum Team roles plus one for the organization at large. Based on the five bullets for supporting the organization, there should be little to no difference in how either role would provide valuable service to the organization.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.