• Home
  • Category: scrum master

The angry scrum master

agile catI once met an angry scrum master.

He took “protecting the team” quite literally. So every time someone disagreed with the product owner, or had bad news or a question to share…he did it for them.

The battles between scrum master and product owner were painful. As a distributed team (UK/US) they needed to make the most of their opportunities to work together. But every time they tried to do some planning there would be many misunderstandings and disagreements. And usually people left the conference call feeling low. After a while the team just stopped delivering.

So, behind closed doors, the angry scrum master and I had our first coaching conversation. And much to my surprise the angry scrum master was a caring but frustrated individual. He was stressing and striving to do all he could for his team’s success.

Over the course of our chat he came to realise that “protecting the team” did not mean inflicting help on them. Or always doing it for them (whatever “it” may be). We spoke about how it had affected his relationship with the (influential) PO. We spoke about how that in turn had affected how the team felt and how if had affected their work. We spoke about how he felt at the end of each day.

He changed his outlook and made some resolution when that first meeting ended.

Encourage the team members to speak for themselves. If they can’t make the sprint commitment – speak up. If they had a question for the business or each other – speak up. And if there was something that the team just couldn’t agree as a sensible thing to do – speak up. He realised his job was to help them feel comfortable opening up and to help them be mindful when someone else was sharing.

In just a few short weeks the relationship between PO and scrum master recovered quite well. The team meetings became joyous, raucous exchanges of ideas, thoughts and personal commitments.

They made their next release to boot!

Scrum Master..An Agile Oxymoron

One of my favourite transitions is helping people become a successful Scrum Master.  It’s very heartening to see an individual become a whole human being, not simply concerned with timelines and figures but happy, empowered and delivering to boot.

Too often though this can be the most challenging task and far too often the individual is blamed when the impediment exists in the very title Scrum Master. Let’s consider the top 5 definitions from dictionary.com.

 

master
    1. a person with the ability or power to use, control, or dispose of something: a master of six languages; to be master of one’s fate.

 

  1. an owner of a slave, animal, etc.
  2. an employer of workers or servants.
  3. the male head of a household.
  4. a person eminently skilled in something, as an occupation,art, or science.
The top four definitions imply ownership or control – the opposite of the Scrum Master Role, and very far removed from Agile.  Not until number 5 do we come even close to what we mean.  A Scrum Master is expected to be skilled in Scrum, to coach and help the team keep a heartbeat, to always strive for better and to feel he can effectively remove anything that blocks the teams progress.  With these descriptions of Master in mind, is it really so unbelievable when the new Scrum Master resorts to command and control.  Or indeed when the organisation diverts his attention to reporting and is shocked when he tries to effect change.