Some posts are too valuable to just stay as a post, it needs to be documented for everyone to read atleast once. When you ask for a clarification from the Agile community, they never disappoint you. Hearing things like “Training and Coaching are the same” or “My mentor is <an influencing personality who died a century ago>” – I started to question my own understanding of what they really are. Have I been thinking wrong the whole time?
So, I decided to throw the question out in public and let the community decide and help me restore my faith on the differences between (an Agile) Mentor, Trainer and a Coach. I have managed to categorise them in 4 parts to narrow down any duplication as follows-
A simple and effective visual to settle the Debate
Julie Hendry wrote about above – “As a coach you can be called upon to take different roles … much like a consultant ..here’s something from Jerry Weinberg that helps describe the stances I use in agile coaching practice…having said that training as a part of coaching practice doesn’t replace the need for formal trainers in my opinion.”
To this Paul Boos‘s view was – “… these are all potential roles a coach can take… And I am thinking a very different model from most. I think where the responsibility of delivery and responsibility for improvement are the axes… This would be 1/3 of the roles one might take on as a coach… Oh wait coach isn’t a role of a coach (no recursive refs), so 2/9….”
Clear Explanation by Community members
Rick Waters decided to clearly distinguish the roles in a “Lucid. Brief. Practical” –
“Mentor: Did you see what I did there?… Trainer: This is what you could do there… Coach: Do you see what you did there?… Guide: What you might see over there is…”
Frederic Ducros extended Rick’s depiction by saying –
“Coach: What do you feel happened? Or What else would you consider doing? And I would add: 4) Agile #Facilitators. Coaching is a skill set on its own. Learning agile doesn’t teach you all the coaching mindset and skills required. I had not realise how much there was to coaching when I went through CSM CSPO…”
Sanjay Kumar wrote – “Trainer helps trainee gain new knowledge. Mentor helps mentee acquire new skills. Coach helps coachee explore and enhance their potential.”
Can of Worms – oops !
The Pyramid Scheme
Travis Birch mentioned “There’s even a pyramid scheme for this.”
This out of nowhere opened up a large can of worms which I wasn’t even thinking about while finding the right answer.
Kevin D. Martin described how consultancies are using the Pyramid scheme and these roles to harvest top salaries –
“Yes! One Agile Poser gets a gig, then brings on more agile posers to carry the water, skimming $$$ of the top. Classic mob business model.
Based on my experience 80% are Agile #Posers, until they are discovered to be none of the 3 categories you listed. Then they are Agile #Available for next robbery.”
The Certification Business
3 very interesting comments caught my eyes and changed the way I looked any certification business exists in the world today, not necessarily in Agile community.
Murali Varadarajan started it by saying – “It starts with the certifications model on who can sell, resell or receive a paper. Check the model of any popular framework.”
Jonathan Kessel-Fell replied – “You see a prime example of this within Agile through PSM / CSM or DAD / SAFe. One you can self study, discuss in a group and gain for a one off payment of $150. The other has a huge sales team, you have to pay for their training and have to pay an on going fee.”
Julie Hendry extended the fact by saying – “I don’t see it as any different from ITIL, PMI, CMMI, any vendor certifications… most certifications are a commercial venture not a learning service. And folks eat it up – providers and customers!”
Mentors, Trainers and Coaches – Take “Agile” out of it
Reading all the views and analysing the outcomes it was clear that a Mentor, Trainer and Coach have resemblance on any industry and not just in Agile community. We have a tendency of adding “Agile” to everything which automatically seems like unique but it isn’t.
So Tom Mellor decided to finally explain the way I learned it to begin with – “There are people who understand agility and mentor others in understanding it. There are people who understand agility and teach train agility values, principles, practices and thinking, and guide people in understanding agility and practices. There are people who coach people to use their knowledge of agility and practices more effectively and become more proficient in agility.
So, there are mentors, trainers, and coaches who understand agility and help people understand it. I don’t believe there are agile mentors, agile trainers or agile coaches.”