I've been working as an agile coach for little over one year for one team. Recently I became a line manager for the same team.

So now I'm agile coach and line manager in one.

How can people change knowing that in the end you will be the one that decides about salaries? What to do to avoid unwanted consequences? How to prepare for it? How to take advantage of it?

  • Thank you all for valuable answers.Although all of them contribute value according to my question, the most inspiring for me is from Bartek. So far I've noticed consequences stated below, especially that people treat my suggestions as orders. The idea of having hats is nice. I mean - even phisically some indicator.I've already took advantage of being line manager on performance reviews. I did it in coaching-way asking what their goals are and what motivates them to reach them.But still I'm considering the advice of being SM in one team and line manager in the other.BTW: bit.ly/xhyOMR Jan 11 '12 at 8:28

Unlike colleagues, I would not be so pessimistic in assessing the situation. Yes, this is not a simple case. It's even slippery. I can imagine multiple scenarios depending on your company's culture of work.

I don't believe it can happen in a harsh environment with a very strict, hierarchical management style as no one can fit two different personalities in one person. But as well, I don't believe such management style could work for a long term agile software project. So let's assume you have rather soft relations and your team is driven mostly by intrinsic motivations.

Cons are:

  • You will not have enough time for both roles. Each one is a demanding one and you will most likely sacrifice some quality factors or will be forced to delegate some tasks.
  • You will need to check what hat are you wearing, need to check it frequently and also make sure it is clearly understood by people you are communicating with. Even if you manage to do it, it may be difficult for others to switch their thinking so often. And it is like being an AA, it never stops, it is never over.
  • You will be empowered, so it will be easy to switch hats and danger is that you will want to use the manager's decisiveness to solve the problems of a coach. Bang! A Joker card!
  • They will try to make you make decisions. From time to time there are problems to solve or difficult decisions to make by the team. You may be involved and think you gave just an advice to consider, but later you will hear "We talked, and YOU decided...". So, avoiding micro management and giving a (shared) responsibility is not simple task.

On the other hand there are also pros:

  • Both roles can have a common goal - to help the team. Not every manager remembers about that and not every manager is so much aware of the problems as Scrum Master is.
  • You will be empowered and it is rather a good thing if used wisely. As Zsolt said: ...you can get budget for improvements, protect the team from external issues, escalate issues sooner and more effectively ...
  • The close relationship. I don't agree it won't work. You can set goals to achieve, give some harsh feedback, make unpopular decisions and maintain the relationship. But some managers go for short-cuts and they forget about honesty, openness and trust. Maybe it is easier to lie, feel omnipotent and make empty declarations but don't blame the relationship. It gives you a chance to know people's true motivations, receive their feedback and have a healthier atmosphere.

Well, about the advices...

As a coach ask questions, clarify the rules and give examples. I would avoid sentences like I recomend..., I would like having it that way etc. Avoid stating your will, instead ask the questions and give examples: Let's consider the possible solutions..., What would be better...?, What are the pros and cons...?

Let them think, a coach makes people think.

Be a manager when you supposed to. Manager is an observer on a daily stand-up meeting and on a retrospective. Scrum Master is supposed to talk, let the other hat be silent. But then, management is supposed to remove the obstacles, give someone a feedback, shield the teams from the outside (and do many many more). You can not end your work where SM would.


I'm not sure that you can be a coach and a classical line manager in one. If I understand your questions correctly the line manager role at your organisation has a command & control background (I assume this from the salary related question), which means a vertical structure, while coaching is more likely a horizontal approach. They are in a contradiction.

How can people change knowing that in the end you will be the one that decides about salaries?

If you have a close relationship with your colleagues it won't happen, sorry. The'll see you as a "buddy", unless you state it clearly that you are their boss now. In this case, if you put your "coach" hat on, and you give some advice they see it as an order not an advice. So I recommend not to put too much emphasis on this issue. I imagine that you have some management problems and the "salary" approach may help you solve it. Try to find out why you need this management tool.

What to do to avoid unwanted consequences?

Always make it clear which hat are you wearing at the moment. For example, start a sentence like "as a coach I recommend to do this ..." which will show that you are giving an advice - later on you can leave the "as a coach" - and start a sentence like "I want you to do this..." when you ask for something as a manager.

How to take advantage of it?

As a line manager you can achieve things a Scrum Master will never be able to: you can get budget for improvements, protect the team from external issues, escalate issues sooner and more effectively etc.

My general advice is to be a line manager outside of the team and be a Scrum Master inside the team.


I don't think that's a healthy combination of responsibilities. People behave differently with their line manager in the room, particularly if you have responsibility for setting salary.

Would it be possible to swap line management responsibility with someone else so you line manage the team they are Scrum Master for and vice versa?

  • what exactly do you mean by statement 'behave differently'? I think there is some hidden knowledge, whould you share it ? :) I think that is possible to swap, but I need arguments. That's why this post came up. Jan 9 '12 at 13:03

To learn to be an effective line manager, the material at http://www.manager-tools.com is great. It has made a world of difference to me and my team. Start with the "basics" podcasts for best results.


I think, more than how people would take it , a larger questions is as to how you would cope with two heavy responsibilities.

I dont think it as not doable , but in order for people to react positively to the change , you would have to -

  1. Have clear demarcation of roles you play as a coach & line manager

  2. Not let one role's responsibilities influence decision making in other areas or blur/bias your thinking

  3. Align & balance both roles , so that the business/organization mission is not compromised.

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