The various hats of a Scrum Master

Process Champion, Facilitator, Buddy, Coach, Mentor, Ear to listen to, Shoulder to cry upon, The friend you can confess with, The non-judgmental listening box, the savior, the rescuer and more…

Well, if you combine all these adjectives , what you get is your Ideal Scrum Master.. but..

but but.. nothing in this world is IDEAL not your wife or husband , girlfriend or boyfriend … and the checklist to find one is something like this :D…

But this is what gets your there, yes, right there up to the top.. but then the question arises, how do we take those first steps to become that ideal one?


Well, unfortunately, no institute or certification can guarantee you to be perfect in your work as a Scrum Master and be able to handle every single situation. But, for sure, these are things that can be learned, imbibed and practiced.

So, let’s start this journey. TBH, there is no one good place to start, you can go in any order you want but make sure you learn and practice as much:


Scrum Master as a facilitator:

By definition, facilitation means to make an action or a process easy or easier.

So , here you are not an expert but much rather helping your Scrum team, your unit, your management complete the processes in an easy way. This could be a sprint planning event or that difficult meeting with the client or conflict resolution between two team members, you are helping the team go through those seamlessly by calling for the meeting, identifying the right agenda and people, identifying a suitable place and ensuring that the event goes on smoothly and the event goal is reached. You may actually feel like Doraemon, and rightly so…

There are many facilitation techniques that you should be aware of here including effective listening , non verbal communication, visual facilitation, facilitated conversations and more and it’s important for Scrum Master to learn as many of these to help the team

Scrum Master as a teacher:

A teacher is the one who shares his knowledge with those who listen and want to learn. It require skills, attention , preparation, practice and patience.

Imagine being on a stage, with 800 eyes focusing on every move that you make, every word that you say, every expression that you give. If you cannot engage your audience and they sleep mid-way through your play, you have lost the plot.

As someone who is expected to know Scrum framework and Agile philosophy in and out, you would be expected to teach Scrum to your team, your business stakeholders, your customers et al. So, it’s time to tighten your seat belts and practice as much as you can.

Scrum Master as a coach:

This is where it gets more interesting. As a coach, you may not answer all the questions but you are there to help them find the answers.

Yes, that’s where it gets difficult too.

To keep your mouth shut, to help them learn.

It’s easy to jump in and be the shining knight in the armor and solve all the problems of your team, but for the team to be self organized, it is important that you ask them the right questions, so they can discover solutions by themselves . Yes, they would hem and haw and fail occasionally, but that’s part of the learning process the team has to undergo to be in-charge of their own destiny and be truly self-managed.

There is so much material available on the web today about how to become a good coach , there are so many instant potion classes which claim to make you a coach in three days; but, to me, it’s truly a journey, where you discover yourself too as you help your team

Scrum Master as a mentor and guide:

Mentoring is the longest engagement out of all the above. This requires that you are invested both in the outcomes as well as the process. You are there with your team and team members, almost through the lifetime.

This is where you are helping them identify their team and personal goals and helping them as a teacher, facilitator or a coach at every step to help them reach those goals. So, it requires patience and perseverance and yes, true Agility (Responding to change over following a plan).


Ok, to summarize, you are almost like a parent to your team. Being there for them , always, in many forms, many situations and many ways.

Enough of reading…

Now, go figure out and make a plan how you are going to put all of the above in action from tomorrow morning 😀

Did you keep your currency?

Well, not the Greenback or Gandhiji kind I mean here.

I more talk about what the aviation industry uses this term for.. ‘Recentness of experience’

You got your certification, CSM, CSPO, PSM, PMP, SAFe, LeSS practitioner and all those acronyms that you could earn, but what after…

Did you put them aside just like we do to the user manuals of our phones or did you actually put the knowledge that you earned spending all those up against some very boring instructors like me ??

As the psychologists say, lack of currency in any profession can affect performance and level of preparation.

As a practitioner of the fine art of Agile philosophy and the related, your learning does not finish when you are out of that darn dead workshop but it is a life long journey.

So, if you are not practicing it, your are just killin’ it dude!

In working with 25000+ co-learners from across the globe, I have seen learners many a nary, who come back to me after 5-6 years having never used the knowledge they gained in their first workshop and wanting to get to the next level of the rugged certification ladder ..but is just getting a STAMP enough???

It’s about time Y’all ScrumMasters & Product Owners of yore, get your lazy bums out of that cozy chair of urs, go get down and dirty helping your team learn, relearn and forget Agility, Bring them all together as a team and get them to the path to achieve their goals

For, The sun can give you endless energy, but how you use them is totally up to you..

You can hide inside your cozy dark house OR go see, how bright the world is when it shines and gain the energy from it.

The choice is yours!

Your best chance to be an Outlier!

We all have been to a zoo once in our lifetime, sometimes as a child, some times accompanying our children.

Do you remember that excitement that we used to have as kids to see an African Giraffe or a Gorilla or Sea Lions, all the way from a different country and continent ?

But while watching all those calm, lazy animals , did you ever wonder how the world looked like from their perspective. Caged, confined with nothing much to look forward the next day.

No, I am not starting a lecture about Animals Rights and PETA (Though i have been a closet animal activist all along).

I am steering this discussion to a different paradigm. The paradigm of human intelligence and preservance (and IQ).

When animals are confined and caged, they don’t have many other things to do as their mind just know a few things to do: Eat , Sleep, Play/hunt…and repeat.

But in these strange times of 2020, as a Human being, are we also doing the same?

True, some of us are working in WFH, Virtual mode and yet others have resumed officers, but are we repeating the same routines all over again, pre and post lockdown?

On that note, let’s talk about Outliers.

Who are outliers? These are people in our society, from amongst us, who are considered geniuses, in any domain, business, sports, religion, politics, software et al.

And some notable examples I would talk about here: Michael Jordan, Bill Joy, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahatma Gandhi, M C Mary Kom, Chattrapati Shivaji, Dhirubhai Ambani,Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Jack Ma.

These are all considered geniuses of their times and field. But what can be common between Chattrapati Shivaji and JackMa (apart from their innate talent, of course).

It’s that one word which we have heard since our childhood, but we keep on ignoring:

“Practice”

We want to have all the comforts in the world, we want to be respected and well known in our field, we want to enjoy the fruits of our labor , but when it comes to practice, our ‘excusist’ syndrome takes over and you often listen yourself saying that dreaded phrase “Oh, I don’t have time”.

A counter-argument that I always hear, oh, I practice my skills when I am working so I can easily become a master at my work…

But, just ask yourself at this moment.

The job, the work that you are doing, Is this where your passion lies? Is this what you see yourself doing 15 years from now? Is this something which will give your fulfilment and fond memories in future.

If not, this is the perfect time to take a pause and think!

Are you riding the hamster’s wheel or have you really started practicing towards your ultimate purpose/ Goal of life?

And this lockdown , caged period we humans are/have faced is probably the best opportunity to practice those skills and gain mastery over what we really want to do?

But, how much practice is enough to gain Mastery/ Expertise on a subject/ topic/ skill ?

It’s a very simple number:

10,000 hours*

(*Taken from Outliers: By Malcolm Gladwell)

So, even if you start practicing your art/ skill for 1 hour per day for 5 days a week, it would take approximately you approximately 40 years to be the master in your field of choice.

But, what if you got a chance to practice, 3-4 hours per day for 5 days a week? The same time period reduced to 10 years ( now that sound more reasonable, particularly for young minds)

Let me ask a question then:

Are your still cribbing about lockdown and and reading this article?

OR

Has your wonderful super-computer already started planning on how to master your skills and be the Outlier in your field by making best use of this stay-at-home opportunity ?

As I leave you with more questions than answers, reflect, set your goals and start your journey.

-MK

What do I do in lockdown?

It’s May.. and most of us have been locked down since almost 60 days. Everytime we think it will open, the number of cases rise and authorities have to extend it. Yes, some of us are working from home but what about those who can’t work. Either the business is shut down, or simply we lost the job!

We have already spent hours on talking about how life is unfair, how 2020 should be cancelled and what not ! But what after that?

We are still in lockdown and the mayhem doesn’t seem to end anytime soon.

Being in a similar situation, I have been pondering about it but as the divine light shines sometimes, I read a story which ignited a light. And as I have been sharing my little rumblings with you, here is this one too:

I don’t know if it is mentioned in Hindu mythology or not… but I like the context, so I am sharing it ..

Once Lord Indra got angry with the farmers, he declared that there will be no rain for 12 years .. you will not be able to grow crops …

The farmers begged for mercy from Lord Indra.

Lord Indra said that it is possible for it to rain only if Lord Shiva plays his Damru (small drum) ! But he had secretly discussed with Lord Shiva and requested him not to agree with these farmers. When the farmers came to Lord Shiva, they said that after 12 years, the Damru (drum) would be played.

Disappointed farmers decided to wait for 12 years.

But a farmer was regularly plowing the field. Was sowing seeds. Other farmers were making fun of that farmer. A few years later, other farmers asked him, “Why are you wasting your time and energy when you know it will not rain for 12 years?”

He replied, “I know there will be no rain and no harvest. But I do this only as a” practice. ” After 12 years I will forget the method of growing crops and working in the fields. The body may forget its habit to toil, so I do it every year so that after 12 years it will not be difficult for me to work when it rains. “

Hearing their argument, Goddess Parvati was appreciative and said to Lord Shiva, “You may also forget to play the Damru after 12 years!”

Lord Shiva was also worried. He tried to play the Damru to check if the Damru were playing. It started raining as soon as Damru’s voice was heard .. and the farmer’s field, which was working regularly, was full of crops, but everyone else regretted it ..

“Practice” makes you perfect. Practice is the essence of quality. Practice is the secret of youth.

Sometime after 2 weeks, 2 months or 2 years, the lockdown will end. Instead of staring at it, do one thing. Sharpen your skills in whatever business or field you are in. Keep growing.

Focus on your skills today, focus on how you can improve yourself.

… so that when the time comes to work again, you are ready to meet all the challenges ..