What is it that agile coaches do all day? It’s a question that I get asked a lot from both aspiring agile coaches and just curious people. So in today’s blog, I am going to break down a typical* day in my life as a remote external agile coach!
*Note that my days are different every day! I did try to pick a day where I had an array of things going on, but no one day is a reflection of all that I do.
And in case you are interested, I wrote a while back about what is like a day in the life of an agile coach in person/collocated and internal to a company. You might want to check it out!
If you’d rather watch a video than read, you can check out my Youtube video on this topic:
I am a breakfast person! I say no to any meeting, even casual chats, before I’ve had my breakfast. I do get up quite early in the day though so for most people, when they want to meet early, that works for me. What’s important here is the notion of boundaries: when does my day start? You see, you role model everything as you coach. So establishing your healthy boundaries will make a big difference in your life and in how you are perceived.
8:45 – Checking calendar
The next thing I do before I engage with people (or email!) is look at my calendar. I like to look at how my day is going to be, how many meetings I have, and understand where I need my headspace to be. It is also important to see if meetings were added, removed and see if something else important shifted.
I don’t look at emails first thing though. I like to start my day thinking about myself and my time. Emails are usually about other people and their time.
If I look at my day today, it was a busy one!
9:00 – Daily Scrum
I joined a team for their daily scrum. I don’t do this often but there was a new scrum master who wanted me present. When I do join, I mostly listen. If I notice something is off, I might ask a question or make a comment but I always speak last. If you are embedded in a team for a while you’re probably expected to join. It is also not impossible you had tasks yourself, such as talking to someone, sorting out dependencies, preparing a workshop for a team. You might also have impactful news to give the team. You might want to give people all sorts of updates and that is not unheard of.
9:15 – Impromptu chat
Think about all the things that happen in a day in a life of an agile coach and impromptu meetings are probably one of the most common occurrences.
I had a quick chat with the scrum master from the previous meeting at her request. Impromptu meetings like this aren’t uncommon, where people want to discuss something relevant to them or the whole group. We chatted about “scrum master things” as I like to call them, and although I didn’t give any advice in this chat, remember that agile coaches can give advice.
10:00 – Self Study
I blocked out some time to look into materials for my next meeting. Scheduling time to study or prep for a meeting is an important practice, otherwise people may ask for a meeting invite. Today I was looking into roadmap materials in preparation for a chat with the director about what our options were and what things should look like. I wanted to prepare my pointers and make sure I had a case to make. I never wing things. One thing you should remember is it’s totally normal to check back on your resources! You don’t have to remember everything. Look back on books, articles, or whatever it is to refresh your memory.
11:00 – Director meeting
I have the roadmap meeting with the director. It was short and sweet. I was prepared and everything went smoothly.
What happens in these calls? All sorts of things. You discuss the state of a roadmap, of the portfolio. You might help leaders sort out their strategy or they just trust you enough to want to run an idea by you. And those are great coaching and teaching moments where listening to the director, to her needs, and helping her figure out her next steps were key. I was holding the space, she was driving the conversation.
I get up early so I eat early! By noon I have to eat and I don’t look at any work during this time. I work from home so I like to cook, sit and have lunch with my husband, and enjoy some time not looking at the computer.
1:00 – Scrum Workshop
Starting and resetting teams is a common ask for agile coaches.
Today I start the afternoon off with a two hour workshop with a team that is just starting with scrum. I have a few favorite activities for a team that is new to the framework. Having favorite activities, as opposed to thinking anew every time or having death-by-powerpoint kind of slides is advisable.
Below I have an activity that can run from 1 to 2 hours. If you want more detail, read about it on my Instagram post.
3:00 – Virtual Coffee (just like in-person coffee breaks, but more intentional!)
I have a virtual coffee with a colleague. These can be just for socializing or for overcoming little hurdles. They are good to have with peers or people you are coaching. Just to make sure you have the time blocked in the calendar. In this case, it was just a check in but we talked about some pain points she was having with the Azure DevOps tool. I personally love this tool so we were able to solve her problem just in this meeting!
The meeting I had after this one was an important one so I made sure to keep my eye on the clock and end it with a few minutes to spare so I could gather my thoughts.
3:30 – Leadership Team Work session
I had a call with some members of the leadership team where we were discussing effectiveness, efficiency and why efficiency isn’t what they were really after at this point in time. The obsession of “resource utilization” can sometimes get the best of many seasoned leaders. So the conversation was about how creating value, even if people seem to be “slacking” is more relevant than optimizing the hours of people.
It’s not that optimization is bad. It’s that you should only optimize what works well. And resource utilization can’t come before . Plus, people are not resources.
I often times have short learning sessions on very specific topics and very hands on with leaders, so that they understand differences of Output x Outcome, or Effectiveness x Efficiency or even how to use a Portfolio Kanban. It is not uncommon in your life as an agile coach.
4:00 – Product Roadmap workshop preparation
Now we are going back to the product roadmap piece with a workshop. I scheduled this time to prepare the Miro boards, check the tech, and make sure everything is ready to go. It’s not just for me and my sanity: it’s nice to respect people’s time and have your 1-hour workshop be dedicated to the workshop itself, not to sorting out or setting up technology.
4:30 – – Product Roadmap workshop
We had the product roadmap workshop. A lot of product owners attended and we discussed what the roadmap could look like. It was an engaging discussion but I try not to keep these meetings too long, especially when remote.
Remember the word: workshop. So we are doing the work, not just talking theoretically. We left the session with a quick drawing of what the team of product managers wanted the roadmap to look like!
5:30 – Weekly Sponsor check-in
I have a weekly meeting with my senior sponsor. In this meeting, we look at our definition of success for my engagement as an agile coach. We discussed what happened in the week since we last spoke. I think you should be having these if you’re not already. Your senior sponsor should know what you’re doing and together you can look into the future and where you should be placing your focus.
So that’s what a day in the life of an external, remote agile coach can look like.
Before my day ends and I log off, one thing I like to do is a recap and consider the lessons learned. I recommend that you have your own prompt, but I consider:
- What took my energy?
- What gave me energy?
- What have I learned today?
Then I do a quick check-in on tomorrow’s schedule, just to make sure there are no surprises and I have an idea of what is going to happen. After this, if someone schedules a last minute meeting for tomorrow morning, I won’t know and I don’t worry about it. If you don’t book in advance, that’s too bad.
If you are an aspiring agile coach or scrum master, I hope this breakdown of a day in my life helps give you some insight!
If you are interested in learning about how to coach for team development and success, check out my Agile Coaching Program! It’s a month-long course of learning by doing! We have recently amped up the conflict navigation, team development, and agile principles in practice areas of the course so it is truly better than ever. In addition, we are proud partners with ICAgile so you will receive a highly recognized certification upon completion that will set you up well for a career as an agile coach.