Scrum Master vs. Scrum Coach – What’s the Difference?


There is nothing terribly official about these terms except that Scrum Master is well defined in the Scrum Guide

Scrum Master

The role as defined in the Scrum Guide. In summary, the Scrum Master:

  • Acts as a servant leader to the Scrum Team and Organization, helping them to adopt and get better at Scrum.
  • Ensures impediments to Scrum Team delivery of high value software are removed.
  • Ensures that the Scrum Team adheres to the Scrum principles, values, roles, rules, and practices.
  • Helps Product Owners and Development Team members play their Scrum role, but otherwise does not in any way control or strongly influence how the software is developed and delivered.

A Scrum Master brings value to an organization in these ways:

  • A good Scrum Master helps the org adopt and progress towards good Scrum in a feasible way.
  • A good Scrum Master helps the Scrum Team deliver higher quality, higher value software faster, by maximizing the benefits received from Scrum.

Scrum Coach

One who can effectively teach and coach all roles as defined in the Scrum Guide(SM, PO, Dev, org). Ideally, IMO, the Scrum Coach will have actual past experience playing all three of the main roles(or very similar roles) somewhere in their background. Another very important trait of a Scrum Coach is experience coaching in a variety of organizational settings. In this way, the Scrum Coach brings best practices about Scrum adoption to the organization. No certification is required to do this, though certified coaches and trainers are usually better than non certified ones.  Typically, a Scrum Coach will have bill rates that are 50-100% higher per hour than a Scrum Master, but they also deliver about 400+% more value via their vast coaching experiences across multiple organizations and contexts.  Ideally, a Scrum Coach is responsible for taking the Scrum Maturity of one or more Scrum teams to a significantly higher level.

A Scrum Coach brings value to an organization in these ways:

  • Utilizing broader experiences and adoption best practices, the Scrum Coach helps the organization and (often multiple) Scrum Teams adopt and progress towards good Scrum in a feasible way.
  • A Scrum Coach progresses an organization’s Scrum Maturity much faster and more efficiently than someone with more limited experiences or someone who is playing solely a Scrum Master role.
  • Helps (often multiple) Scrum Teams deliver higher quality, higher value software faster, by maximizing the benefits received from Scrum.

What do you think?  Are there other key differences between the roles?  If so, click on the “Comments” link and post your thoughts.

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2 Responses

  1. Like any good position getting attention, the lines are being blurred between scrumMaster and agile coach. Anyone can be an “Agile Coach” these days… recruiting is picking up on this and now asking for Agile Coach/ScrumMaster positions… but do not understand the difference.

    Thanks for pointing these things out. I wrote a post on a ScrumMaster here to help give some more definition to it: http://agilescout.com/the-perfect-scrummaster-job-description/

  2. Peter, thanks so much for the comment. I enjoy reading your blog.

    A couple of things
    1. Nowhere in this article did I discuss the term “Agile Coach”, and I certainly hope you are not trying to say that Agile Coach means something similar to Scrum Coach or Scrum Master. If you are, I’d like to hear your definition of an Agile Coach.

    2. I looked at your post and I liked it. I believe you left out Scrum knowledge, but I left that comment on your blog.

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