Coaching advice for Scrum Masters (Part 11): The Agile Sniper

Coaching Scrum Masters – based on their years of experience – can practice laser focus power when it comes to track a target problem that Client has brought forward, but that does not mean their Client has such ability!

Clients tend to drift away – mostly subconsciously – due to fear of re-experiencing the pain associated with the issues or distraction of their daily firefighting and needed heroics to save their business (which in many organizations have become the norm).

Helping Clients stay on the path and maintain focus – better yet, grow stronger on that focus – is key to a successful session.

Staying focused is not just about them gluing their eyes on the target, but also about keeping them awake, inspired, energized and aligned to what they need to achieve in order to find a proper resolution to their problem.

This all begins with the Coach developing insight into the Client’s goals and intentions, which in return needs the Coach to maintain awareness of Client’s most important problems that need to be addressed and to identify the path of progress and using recurring pulse-checks to ensure Client is on the path to resolution.

In order to fish out the Clients’ purpose for the Coaching engagement, we need to get them to travel through certain stages:

The Dig: This is where / when we help the Client dig out ALL of their deepest issues out of the dirt! At this point with extract a number of the problems mostly wrapped in dirt of confusion and ambiguity. Some questions that the Coach needs to find answers for at this stage would be: What would we identify as the most important issues to resolve today? What would be the outcome of resolving them? Which ones are the most pressing?

The Wash: When we work with the Client to hand pick the top most pressing issues and then zoom in on them (wash off the dirt). Some questions that the Coach needs to find answers for would at this stage would be: Which of the top issues would give the Client the most benefit / positive impact, once it is resolved? Which ones would be in the best alignment with Client’s personal values / organizational goals / strategic targets.

The Catalog: When we help the Client to analyze, evaluate and identify the key issues and allocate solutions in response. Some questions that the Coach needs to find answers for would at this stage would be: What Metrics are we going to use to measure success? What are the action items we need to choose and with what sequence?

The Exhibit: When we set up a clear view to the issue and the path to its resolution. Some questions that the Coach needs to find answers for would at this stage would be: How do we make it easier to accomplish? How to turn this into an exciting and engaging activity?

The Report: Periodic Pulse-Check to see where we are with the defined action items that Clients selected and committed to against their key issues. This includes re-evaluation of the effectiveness of the solutions chosen – and re-doing the solutioning step if they prove to be lacking the needed effect.
Some questions that the Coach needs to find answers for would at this stage would be: Is this still a valid goal for this Client? Would this goal have the same positive impact that was identified before? Has this goal evolved into something else?

It is very important that the Coach does a pulse-check during each Coaching session to verify

How aligned are the Action Items defined to resolve the key issues with the actual resolution of the identified key issues (i.e. are they still relevant and do they still render as effective)


How aligned is the Client with the Action Items defined to resolve the key issues (i.e. is Client still targeting the issue that was selected for resolution? and is the Client still focus and committed to it?)

This pulse-check also serves to show Clients how far they have come to this date, and how much they have managed to achieve so far and gives them a hint on being proud of their achievements or wary of their lack of it!

If the pulse-check confirms good progress has been made, then finding a way to celebrate the great accomplishments so far, would boost Clients morale and pump new energy in their movement.

This also helps your Client feel strong and capable to finish the commitment, reconfirms with them what they need to do, inspires them to seek options and gives them purpose to move forward.

Coaching Scrum Masters periodically check the goal that Clients try to achieve (and if it looks like they don’t have a clear picture at this point, helps them re-target them or update their target).

a series of questions can help the Coach with the pulse-check:

  1. What would you say should be on our agenda today?
  2. As we discussed in our previous session, you were going to [do something] in order to [get something to happen]. How did that proceed? What did you observe in that experience?
  3. How would you feel towards the issue that we identified for solutioning? Do you still take them as the most important issues to resolve, or would you like to bring up another one as well, so we can go through it?
  4. If that issue was resolved today, what would be its positive impact to your [business / life / project …]? Would you say its positive impact has raised since we started we that target in mind?
  5. Regarding that goal, what do you believe we can do to make it more [exciting / possible / promising / rewarding …] to resolve?

The already have a good sense of what is most important to their Clients and use that context to help them find their target.

They also help Clients better define and clarify their goals to create a more clear and crisp image. (in many cases they may get their Clients to play a game or use self-assessment tools to help them find their answer).

They are also aware of Change as it is always an integral part of Clients world and incorporate that into their Coaching practice to help Clients re-validate their target in its new location.

They leverage Clients core belief system, values and strengths to facilitate the self verification process.

Good signs showing that these techniques are fruitful:

  1. Clients show readiness to take on more commitment in resolving their issues.
  2. Clients show high levels of engagement and energy towards future development.
  3. Clients look well-grounded and confident about where they stand today.
  4. Clients show initiative in removal of self-blocks (mostly mental block).
  5. Clients show interest and excitement about the re-targeted goals and show renewed energy towards their journey to resolve the issues.

Coaching Scrum Masters try to avoid these anti-patterns:

  1. Taking initiative to encourage the Clients to move forwards towards their previously stated goals without recurring pulse-check (which can lead to following an expired path towards a goal that is no longer on it).
  2. Trying to influence Clients decisions to shorten the journey (which would turn the Coaching relationship into Mentoring, and as result, deprive the Clients from the opportunity of self actualization and solutioning).
  3. Moving forward with the session based on assumptions on what Clients may be dealing with or trying to resolve (based on past experience with “such Clients”).
  4. Blindly following the Client without assessing the energy level and engagement they show in the session. (Not following the signs of fatigue, fear or confusion in Clients towards a goal).

We will continue in this subject in the next article


Arman Kamran (The Agilitizer)