What is the Difference Between an Agile Team Coach and an Enterprise Coach?

“What exactly is the difference between an Agile Team Coach and an Enterprise Coach?”

Our clients often ask us this question. The simple answer is scope, but there is much more to it. In this post, we discuss how the responsibilities of an Agile Team Coach and an Enterprise Coach differ, why both are necessary, and how these roles function inside an organisation.


The Role of the Coach

The Agile Coach helps the company follow agile principles and meet business goals and objectives. They continuously guide everyone to understand and adopt these principles, values and mindset.

Coaches do this by:

  • training groups of people
  • coaching individuals and teams
  • mentoring staff
  • facilitating workshops
  • building and maintaining relationships with everyone involved


The difference in scope between an Agile Team Coach and an Enterprise Coach

Agile Team Coaches work at the team level, usually with one to eight teams. Their focus is on improving team performance and operational efficiency. If they are experienced enough, they might focus on flow and dependencies between teams and bring about better business agility.

Enterprise Coaches operate at the organisational level, working across departments, developing leaders, and extending agility across the enterprise to enable the vision and strategic goals of the organisation.

What is the Difference Between an Agile Team Coach and an Enterprise Coach

A coach’s must-haves

Coaches must have a deep understanding of the Agile / Lean landscape.

All coaches are different, having different specialisms, such as technical, business, or transformation mastery. They vary in their own understanding and experience. An organisation needs a coaching strategy to ensure its group of coaches have a complete set of skills and experience to realise the team, department, or organisation’s objectives. It is unlikely to find a single coach that can cover all aspects of organisational change.

This is why you need to have both Agile Team Coaches and Enterprise Agile Coaches. Typically, there are many more Agile Team Coaches than Enterprise Coaches because there are many more teams that need support. Enterprise Coaches work strategically with leaders across the organisation. The number of coaches required will depend on the size of the organisation and the scope of the transformation.

Coaches have deep emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control, and evaluate emotions. This allows coaches to help others perceive and remove their own roadblocks that hinder growth and make it harder for a person to change. Coaches need to support others giving them the courage to open their minds to new possibilities. This requires experience, trust, and patience.

Coaches need to be free from hierarchical and political constraints.

To be able to open people’s minds to new possibilities, enterprise coaches must not be buried in the organisation’s structural hierarchy as this stops them from enabling collaboration across departments. They must have access to everyone. They need to have a wide scope. Without that, the right conversations will not happen; the mindset will not change, the tools, practices, and processes will deviate from what is required, and the agile journey (or worse, the organisation) will fail.

What else is needed?

There is some overlap in competency and skill sets as well as some significant differences which are outlined below:

What are the similarities between an Agile Team Coach and an Enterprise Coach?

Both roles require expertise and working knowledge of:

  • Agile and Lean
  • Professional Coaching
  • Facilitation
  • Mentoring
  • Training
  • Navigating the roles
  • Developing Self as Leader

The Enterprise Agile Coach role needs to be experienced in:

  • Guiding the change process
  • A much wider coaching range
  • Developing leadership in others
  • Guiding organisational agility
  • Being able to work with multiple different contexts and departments at the same time
  • Be comfortable working with senior leaders


Who performs the Agile Team Coach and Enterprise Coach roles?

The organisation may choose to grow existing permanent members of staff as Enterprise or Agile Team Coaches. Alternatively, they may wish to hire consultants who can temporarily fulfil these roles. If the Agile Team Coach roles are being sourced from within the organisation, then we typically see project managers, delivery managers, HR staff, and those who have a passion for helping people step up and be the best they can be.

On the other hand, the Enterprise Coach role is usually performed by those operating at a strategic level e.g. program directors, heads of transformation etc. However, it is worth noting that these coaches must have a passion for helping people on a wider scale since this role doesn’t tend to work on a one-to-one basis like the agile team coaching role.

We believe that all managers will eventually require some coaching skills and leadership capability. There will also be a need for some roles to work in the business delivering value and other coaches to work on the business improving it and keeping it fit for purpose. Our leadership program trains managers to become leaders with the right mind and skill set to succeed in an agile organisation.

Now we will take a quick look at the differences between building an internal capability and hiring external coaches. This is something which our clients frequently ask us to help with and they often wonder which option will lead to the best results.


Building internal coaching capability

Every organisation needs enthusiastic and motivated coaches to help staff navigate the changes they face. When you build an internal capability, you are building an enduring coaching culture within your organisation. At AWA we start by identifying a cohort of prospective coaches who embark on a training and coaching program that equips them with the skills, tools and mindset required to do the work of an Agile Team or Enterprise Coach.

We run two coaching programs that build internal capability. One for Agile Team Coaches, and one for Enterprise Coaches.

These rigorous programs are practical in nature. They involve real transformation work, resulting in rapid “on-the-job” learning and an evolving transformation at the same time. This option yields a sustainable change that lasts. It leverages your existing internal workforce and upskills and retrains everyone involved. In turn, this creates internal motivated champions of the change effort.

Another benefit of creating an internal capability is that the coaches can then leverage their knowledge of the company culture, processes and key leadership relationships to help achieve improved performance or overcome challenges.


Hire external coaches

One of the quickest ways to get the agile transformation ball rolling is to hire external consultants and coaches. These coaches are typically very experienced and since they are not affected by internal politics, external coaches can more readily offer sensitive feedback. However, this is usually a more costly approach and likely won’t result in your organisation having a fully functional coaching culture that helps your workforce to adapt long after the external coaches have gone. Therefore, we recommend that building an internal capability is crucial for sustaining long-term continual change.

Finally, our trusted approach helps thousands of organisations like yours create a thriving internal coaching culture that unlocks real enterprise-wide agility. If you would like to learn more about how AWA can help you build an internal coaching capability, then contact our friendly team today.

Curious about Agile Ways of Working? We answer your most frequently asked questions here.

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