Be who you are – Essentials of a ScrumMaster’s role

A ScrumMaster is a lot of things – Mentor, Guide, Buddy, Coach, Shoulder to cry upon, Teacher, Specialist and many more ..

But, if we think deeper….Can one person really be all of these at once??

I think the nearest super humans we know, who can pull of all of these responsibilities without batting an eyelid , is our mothers who can be awake at 4 am every morning, work till 1 am in the night and be raring to go once more at 4 am.

But obviously, we can’t be like our moms (even if we try), more so in a professional setting, so as a Scrum practitioner ( Read again, I did not mention ScrumMaster ), before you can decide to become a ScrumMaster or a Trainer or a Coach, you need to understand and decide who you are ..else just like our furry friend in the video , you might be thinking…ok now what?

Now, the next dilemma is how do I know what I want to be and where I want to be. So, here is a simple matrix to help you understand:

Excerpted from adoption of Choosing a Consulting Role: Principles and Dynamics of Matching Role to Situation. Douglas P. Champion, David H. Kiel and Jean A. McLendon by DandyPeople

As a ScrumMaster you are a teacher, coach, mentor and facilitator, but in your profile and future vision if you lean towards the other roles, may be its time for a realignment of priorities and career expectations.

Do reach out to your coaches and mentors to help you understand your own self better and then decide accordingly

PS: A little bit off the track, but unfortunately, most of the “Agile coaches” Job descriptions advertised these days, expect you to be a Hands-on expert (on everything!) and then when you take up that role, the misses and disappointments start popping up!!

Choose Wisely…. Does your future organization really understand the role of an Agile coach or a ScrumMaster?

Facilitating Events – The Essentials of a ScrumMaster’s role

A ScrumMaster wears multiple hats for a Scrum team – Facilitator, Mentor, Coach, Teacher ( and many more)..

While all these responsibilities sound similar ( and most organizations think so too), there is subtle and clear difference between each of these responsibilities, the ScrumMaster has to handle.

For today’s discussion though, I am not going to go into details of the other roles but focus on facilitation and the role that SM plays as a Facilitator.

Just to remind the readers about what facilitation means, here is a little definition excerpt of the word ‘facilitate’ from the Cambridge dictionary

“To help people deal with a process or reach an agreement or solution without getting directly involved in the process, discussion, etc. yourself: “

Now, that definition itself is important to understand.

The key part here is SM is not involved in the decision making or discussions rather they are ensuring that the team is able to discuss freely and (possibly) reach a solution. That means, as a facilitator for different team events (Including the Sprint, Sprint planning, Daily Scrum, Sprint Review and Retrospective), they are not participating but rather enabling the team to reach their stated goals for the event.

As a facilitator for an event, you need to be clear about your role :


OR a Scribe?

OR a Listener (The Fly on the wall) ?

OR an actual participant ?

Make sure that your role is clear to all the participants of the event beforehand so that they are clear about their expectations from you

Once you have established your role as a facilitator, the next step is to prepare for your event (And yes you will need time to think and plan about it). For any event that you need to facilitate , think about the following

Who is the audience/ participants?

How are they going to participate in the event ?

When is the event going to start and end

What is the agenda and what is the expected outcome of the event?

Make sure that your attendees have all this information beforehand so they can come prepared to the meeting

(and not just sleepwalk to the meeting a la Dunston 😉)

Next as the time keeper, as you get to the day and time of the event, make sure it starts on time and you have sufficient quorum to start the event.

Once the event starts, it is important that as a facilitator you make the environment easy for people to discuss the issue at hand, the team is on the right track towards achieving their event goals ( they might need course correction frequently) and they are ultimately able to reach a conclusion at the end of the event.

But as the event is over, you have one last thing to do before you take your facilitator hat off: Make sure you gather, record and publish the outcomes, collect feedback and feedforward on how you can make the next event better for the attendees and how you can help them better as a facilitator

This short description of your role as a facilitator aside, Facilitation is an art and science by itself. Fortunately, These days there are plenty of books, videos and sources which can help you practice and better your art as a facilitator. So, practice the art to help your team effectively.

The International Association of Facilitators (IAF) provides you a lot of resources and opportunities for you to collaborate and learn the art of professional faciltation

ScrumAlliance Advanced Scrum Master course also contains multiple learning objectives which help you learn the details of this very interesting field of knowledge

Here is wishing you some interesting reads and experience in your journey as facilitator till we catch up again to discuss more about the essentials of the Scrum Master’s role.

Is ‘Agile’ a substitute for your messy culture?

800 teams , more than 100 organizations that I have coached to build an Agile culture and practices, but a peculiar thing that I have noted.

I probably had not paid attention to this earlier, but as I was looking back and analyzing the pre and post transformation status of lot of my clients, I was almost amazed on how I missed it!

What I realized was for almost half of my customers who went for an Agile transformation, Agility was not about being more flexible or faster time to market or better employee satisfaction (though these were the stated goals) , what my team and yours truly ended up doing was, focusing on bringing discipline and actually documenting and tracking some KPIs (Where there were none!).

You must be wondering if my coaches are advising more documentation and tracking, how can it be called Agile?

Sample this: The project managers of one of the very large and global organizations, track their progress not in terms of days and hours but rather in weeks. Task A would take 8 weeks, Task B would take 16 weeks and more. All this is documented not in any tool or spreadsheet but in a powerpoint slide set and that is updated only by the Project Manager.

The culture is almost perfectly “Agile”.. team members decide the timelines, there is a great camaraderie between team members across the team, they respond to change as needed based on market conditions and change the plan, almost too good Agile … a perfect Agile team….!!!

BUT …..

…they deliver their projects on an average from 18 months to 27 months even though the mandate is 6 months or less for an average project.

…Whenever the status is updated, it is not in terms of number of hours (or days ) pending but just a simple percentage, 50% done, 80% done etc.

Because the organization is truly Agile and cares about its employees, employees reject team and project meetings half an hour before the meeting, because they simply couldn’t come to office that day or were too busy with other stuff.

So, would you call this organization Agile or not Agile. As a coach, if I call for the enterprise to be more disciplined first before using Scrum practices, would I be exaggerating?

Does Agile comes with just the employee friendly rules and culture or there’s more to it, which is as important as setting up a nice team culture?

I await your comments and any similar experiences you have in your organization?