ScrumMaster: Servant Leader or Secretary? (Webinar on Demand)
Learn what good Scrum Masters REALLY do, what skills they need to improve and what items in the organization they need to focus on to become GREAT Scrum Masters.
Check out the Webinar on Demand
Additional resources on this topic include:
Case for the Dedicated Scrum Master
Multitasking Gets you There Later
Angela: Scrum Master: Are you a servant leader or do you see yourself as a secretary? A little bit about me, for those of you who don’t know me. My name is Angela Johnson. I’m a Certified Scrum Trainer with the Scrum Alliance scrumming and one of the newest credentials at the Scrum Alliance is path to CSP approved educator, which we’ll touch on at the end of the presentation, which means that I’m one of the first folks that’s able to deliver the advanced A-CSM course. So, I’ve been in the information technology space a little over 23 years. That’s just where I grew up, but I’m fortunate enough at Collaborative Leadership Team to have clients in all kinds of industries: hardware, electronics services, industries, marketing who are using Scrum. My roles there are listed probably in priority order, no disrespect to my husband, but mom first a then wife, then teammate. And I consider myself a lifelong learner. Collaborative Leadership Team is based in Minneapolis. We are cPrime’s. Premier Midwest partner. Teammate is important because our team actually uses scrum to run our services business and that’s exciting for me to be able to share our team’s learnings with the very framework that we’re trying to help others learn. I believe Myriam and I are going to kick this off with a poll question for all of you to weigh in on.
Myriam: All questions are now open. So our first poll is what certifications do you currently hold? Your choices are Scrum Master with CSM from Scrum Alliance, credentials from another organization, Scrum Master with no formal credentials or you’re not a Scrum Master. We’ll give everyone a few minutes to respond. Alright Angela. So, it looks like about eighty five percent of our attendees are Scrum Masters with a CSM from Scrum Alliance and then two percent for credential with the credentials from another organization. Eight percent are Scrum Masters with no formal credential and six percent are not Scrum Masters. How do you find the results? About seven percent being Scrum Masters. but with no formal credentials.
Angela: I find that’s pretty common. I know that when I was working as a Scrum Master, I started doing so by simply reading the Scrum Guide and doing the work. I didn’t get around to getting my Certified Scrum Master with the Scrum Alliance until 2008. And at that time, I had already been working as a Scrum Master for two years. The nice thing is that it’s not really required to start the job. You certainly may learn some things in choosing the CSM credential. But that’s pretty typical since it’s been several years that the CSM has been out. It’s no surprise the number of respondents you got who do have the CSM credential. So let’s dive right in to my objectives for you folks. I’d like to share a little more with you about Scrum Master servant leader to the development team.
And that’s what people more readily understand. They more readily understand, oh, I’ve got responsibilities where the development team is concerned, but what often gets overlooked is the service to the Product Owner and to the greater organization. And when you really think about that, it’s two thirds of the job. So, we’re going to talk about those two aspects and then I’m going to share some more information about the new advanced CSM program from the Scrum Alliance. So on the screen we’ve got the scrum team, which most people are familiar with. If you’re not familiar with the term, the scrum team, think of it as shorthand. Think of it as shorthand that encompasses all three roles, Product Owner, Scrum Master, Development Team, the one giving us the work direction from the customer’s perspective, from the business perspective, empowered to make decisions, scrum master, servant leader, coach, teacher to the Product Owner, development team and the greater organization and development team. And I always like to clarify, especially for those of us who don’t come from the IT world, it doesn’t mean software development necessarily. The Scrum Guide is clear to point out that they mean product development team.
So, whatever that product may be. So if you’re in a marketing team listening, you know you’re a services organization, you still have a development team who’s doing that work. Now, some of you say, but my product is software. Great. If you think software development team describes that, just know that the development team is intended to be agnostic to the type of work or product that we are developing. So, the scrum master servant leader, and I’ve got the URL there that simply Scrum Guides.org, that is the home of the official Scrum Guide is free. The two creators wanted it to be open source, if you will, to be free to the world. But what does this really mean? Well, the scrum master is responsible for supporting scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by not only teaching people, but helping people outside of the scrum team, how to understand the theory, the practice, the rules, and then certainly they’re responsible for those interactions within the scrum team going as well or as effectively as possible.
So, servant leadership was something we didn’t really talk about in the business world a decade ago. The first time it started coming into consciousness in the secular world, if you like. The business world was a paper that Robert Greenleaf introduced in the seventies in 1970. He wrote an essay called The Servant as Leader, and he was appealing to people in organizations to use their level, to use their authority, so to speak, not to be micromanage, not to be top down, do it because I said so, but to use it, to really raise people up to help people become better versions of themselves, become more autonomous, grow in their knowledge, and in turn also become servant leaders. So that was when we really started talking about this in the business community. Now, if you think all the way forward to 2018 where we are today, you can’t look at a book store or the New York Times best seller list without seeing a leadership book that’s touting servant leadership as all the rage.
So, Scrum was a little ahead of the curve there when they started introducing this scrum master needing a servant leadership attitude when scrum was introduced in the mid-nineties. So, when you think about servant leadership, it’s not necessarily wheeling around a coffee cart or whipping out your pad and Pen and asking people for their lunch order. We’re talking about helping people help themselves. If we do for someone. In other words, if we step in and do their work or you know, take a teachable moment away from them, will they ever learn to do for themselves, and that’s, that’s the anti-pattern. That’s the dysfunction I’m seeing with a lot of Scrum Masters out there. They’ve fallen into the trap of taking other people’s work away or taking the ball away from their team, if you will, and what they’re actually doing is taking those teachable moments, those experiential learning opportunities away from the very people they’re supposed to be serving.
Now, scrum is pretty simple. That doesn’t make it easy, but the rules are pretty simple and we don’t refer to it as a methodology for very good reason. Methodologies tend to be very prescriptive. They give you a number of rules in addition to those rules, they tell you how to enact them. They tell you who’s supposed to do what. They provide you templates. They give you an enormous amount of prescription. Scrum is what we call minimally prescriptive. Think of him as a guideline. We have to have a few guidelines because if there’s no shared understanding, well we call that anarchy. We need some common reference, so we have some minimum rules. The minimum prescription and the reason it cannot possibly be overly prescriptive is due to its contextual nature. One of the things I always point out to my classes is you’re not going to be Spotify.
You’re just not. You can’t copy another company’s culture. I mean, you could try, but you won’t be successful. It’s contextual. Every business is different. Companies could be privately held, publicly traded for profit, non-profit not for profit, which is different than nonprofit. How could scrum speak to the particulars of any of those and then we haven’t even talked about what kind of accounting method you’re on. Are you on an accrual method of accounting or cost method of accounting or retail method of accounting. You’re going to have that stuff. Scrum doesn’t seek to tell you how to run your businesses. Presumably you’re good at that or you wouldn’t be in business. So what we are giving you is a framework that can help the business improve by focusing on customers and delivering value to those customers. Now, I had mentioned if there’s any sports fans out there, whether you watch NFL football, whether you watch soccer, whether you watch rugby, whether you watch tennis, whatever you watch, there are rules of the game, there’s shared understanding for people playing the game well.
Speaker 1: The Scrum Guide contains the rules of this game. The Scrum Guide provides shared understanding of the framework. One of the things that I like to point out for folks who aren’t necessarily in the know, is that this is updated all the time. When you think about the Agile Manifesto, talking about continuous improvement, it wouldn’t be very congruent. It wouldn’t be a in alignment with our values if we put the Scrum Guide out there back in 93 when it was first created 95 when it was formalized and said, there you go. Good luck with that. It’s constantly revised based on community feedback, based on what’s working, what’s not working. And you all can be an active participant in that. So if you go to Scrum Guides.org, and then sharing the URL there, again, not only can you get a free copy of the current Scrum Guide, you can provide feedback, you can weigh in on what you think needs to be updated and who knows, maybe your suggestion will make it into the next round of Scrum Guide revisions. But the last revision we had was November 2017. So it’s good to be current with the current version of the guide so that we are operating from the same set of rules, the same framework or shared understanding. And this brings me to a question I have for all of you. So, I’m going to ask for Miriam’s help again in opening our second poll question.
Myriam: how important do you think it is for a scrum master to stay current with changes in the Scrum Guide? Very important, important, somewhat important, not important, or what’s the Scrum Guide? I’ll give you a few seconds to answer the question. We’ll close the poll and let’s see what we get. So, we can see that 49 percent people think that the same current was from guide changes is very important. Thirty one percent say it’s important. Sixteen percent say somewhat important. Some people say it’s not important and then some people fell into my little joke and said what the Scrum Guide again. So, I’m thinking and maybe those people don’t know what the Scrum Guide is, especially for those that are not formally trained. So maybe you can you know make sure that everybody understands what the Scrum Guide is and then maybe address that. The fact that 16 percent say that it’s somewhat important.
Angela: Absolutely. I’m going to just toggle back to the screen where we do have the Scrum Guide for those who fell into your joke thing. What’s this Scrum Guide again? The Scrum Guide is the minimal set of guidelines that provide shared understanding for a team who says, yes, we want to work this way. So it’s a set of minimums, not a set of maximums. It’s not going to be an exhaustive list. It’s not going to tell you what to have for breakfast and that you need to get dressed in the morning. It’s going to give you a set of minimums that a Product Owner is responsible for, that a scrum master is responsible for, that the development team is responsible for. Beyond that, it’s really up to every organization to do what’s right for its customers and for its product in addition to the roles. It gives us a few guidelines on events that help maximize transparency and keep the value of delivery flowing to our customers.
Things like sprint planning, where we decide what we’re going to work on and how we’re going to work on it, the sprint review where stakeholders get to come and see the product every sprint, whether that be every two weeks, every three weeks. So, it’s rules of the game and for those of you who have worked in a different way in the past, maybe I have some project managers out there and you may be familiar with the Project Management Body of Knowledge. Well, this is our body of knowledge. If we’re using scrum, this is our reference. You know, maybe some of you have a different type of working with a governing body of rules or guidelines. These are the guidelines. If we’re going to use scrum, it is still maintained by creators and as I mentioned earlier, revised by them periodically, so you can definitely go review it.
You can definitely stay current with it. And for those who mentioned somewhat important, I’m going to move on to that to where we’re going to go with that next. So if you’re a scrum master for a living, you know if you consider being a scrum master, your profession, I want to go back to my professional sports analogy earlier. If you’re watching an NFL game of football or you’re watching the World Cup, you’re watching a soccer game. What happens when players don’t follow the rules of the game? What happens if coaches don’t follow the rules of the game? Usually there’s fines, there’s penalties, there’s flags on the play. There’s stuff that happens that isn’t necessarily positive. So, if we’ve got a scrum master who sees this as their profession and they’re not current with the rules of the game, how likely are they to be serving the company, the Product Owner and the development team to improve if they don’t see it important to continually improve themselves.
Think about coaches, have a sports team not staying current with techniques or in their profession. I don’t know about you guys, but I tend to watch American football. I tend to watch NFL games. And if a team’s not making it to a superbowl, usually the coach gets fired. So if, if we’re not taking scrum master as our profession, seriously, how well does that bode for your own future? Let alone the people that were supposed to be serving that we’re supposed to be raising up. So let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the coaching aspect of this. The scrum master is a coach. I always say you never need an external Agile coach if your scrum master is allowed to do the job as intended because some organizations just don’t understand this, you know, it’s kind of like paying two people to do the work of one now in a large organization where an external Agile coaches coming in temporarily to help new Scrum Masters get up to speed.
I get it. That’s exactly what cPrime and my team are good at doing, but we don’t see ourselves staying there indefinitely because once the Scrum Masters got those reins and can do the job, we’re either on to the next team or out the door. So external coaches are not what I’m talking about. Those are your personal trainers. Those are the coaches of the coaches, so to speak. I’m talking about the full-time scrum master who is supposed to be coaching, not only the Product Owner and the greater organization. Also the development team and I see people misunderstand that and they flip it around and just focus on the development team first, which is great. It’s just that you’re going to see very quickly based on the way the framework works, where the organizational impediments are and where product impediments are via the Product Owner, so your job doesn’t stop scrum master, it’s your job to continue to work with the Product Owner in the greater organization.
So, I see new Scrum Masters tend to latch onto the mechanics, the events of sprint planning, review retrospective, the artifacts, you know, is there a sprint backlog, big invisible that the team is working off of. But here’s what I see people overlook. I see new Scrum Masters overlook what I call the people skills, the people aspect of the job, and that’s quite frankly the more important part in a CSM. I can be heard saying about a thousand times, is this a scrum problem or is this a people problem? 99 percent of the time it’s a people problem. So, Scrum Masters need an amazing amount of people skills. If you’re somebody who shies away from confrontation, probably not a good candidate for the scrum master role. If you’re somebody who sees Administrivia, and by Administrivia I mean writing in documents or taking notes, this probably isn’t the job for you.
What you need to be paying attention to is all the people stuff. Are they collaborating? Is Information available transparently? Is it understood? Even if it is transparent, are there organizational impediments and impediments aren’t always tangible things that you can hold or see. Like you know, my computer blew up. Impediments can be people you know, you can have a person who says, nah, I just don’t want to play nice. That’s a people problem. That’s not what the scrum problem, or maybe it’s a policy the company has that’s actually at odds with delivering value quickly. Wow. That’s also not a scrum problem. That’s an organizational problem. So scrum is what exposed that stuff. It’s the scrum master, the servant leader, the neutral who’s supposed to be supporting the organization to resolve those. You don’t see coaches at the world cup run out onto the field of play and say, I’m going to take that ball. You’re not doing a good enough job, team member. So why do we have Scrum Masters think that they should be the ones writing down tasks on a sprint backlog or worse writing down stuff into the product backlog. So, we want Scrum Masters to get their hands off of everybody’s work and pay attention to what you’re supposed to be paying attention to, which leads me to the fact that you’re not a secretary and if you think you are, this probably isn’t the role for you. When we talk about coaching someone, let’s say coaching the Product Owner on are your backlog items ready has refinement been performed to the point where it’s ready for the team to engage with you. That doesn’t mean sitting there typing what they’re saying for them like you’re an administrative assistant. In fact, anybody can add to the product backlog at any time.
It’s crowd sourced, if you will. It’s a transparency, inspect and adapt mechanism for anything that might be in the product. Now, yes, the Product Owner gets to say where those items fall in relation to each other. They get to say which items are going to be refined next, but that doesn’t mean the Product Owner has to do it all themselves, so if the Product Owner needs to engage with subject matter experts, customers, the development team for further refinements, our scrum master is instrumental in pulling that conversation together and facilitating that conversation neutrally and facilitation is not about note taking and we’ll talk about that in just a bit. Coaching the development team on working together in a self-organized manner and in a cross functional manner doesn’t mean stepping in and taking tasks away from them. The focus is on creating a learning organization and when you take learning opportunities away, what actually happens is you wind up with an organization of learned helplessness.
Nobody’s learning and growing because they just rely on, oh, the scrum master always does that, or, oh, this one person always does that one thing. Well, if your organization is willing to be held hostage by the limitations of only one person knowing one thing, that’s as far as you’re going to go and that’s not what I hear organizations today asking for. They want innovation, they want creativity, they want to get ahead of the competition. It’s not going to happen if you have a bunch of people who can’t think for themselves and who don’t understand how to do for themselves and the Scrum Masters instrumental in making that happen. So, all this people stuff, all this warm, squishy values and people’s stuff I’m talking about. Some of you might be going, does that mean I’m more of an armchair psychologist? I mean, what are we talking about here?
While the guide says, your job is to help everyone improve their interactions so that we can maximize value created. Helping people does not mean fixing them. Coaching isn’t about fixing someone or fixing what you perceive to be their short comings. That is not realistic. That is not what we’re talking about. The goal is helping people help themselves, so it’s generally a good idea whether you’re a scrum master coaching the development team or your scrum master coaching the Product Owner or people in the greater organization to make sure they understand your role isn’t to judge or to criticize or to try to fix them. Your goal is to help alleviate whatever the problem is, so it’s a good idea to ensure that people are open to being coached and they consented and they consent to having a dialogue with you as the coach about possibilities, about opportunities to be as neutral sounding board, but it’s not really about fixing anyone, and that’s a very important distinction because sometimes people think, well, I was a project manager and when I was a project manager, I did all this stuff for other people. It’s quite the opposite here. We’re asking people to do for themselves and so in order to be able to do that, we’re going to need to make sure that they see us as a coach and they understand coach doesn’t mean doer coach doesn’t mean ripping the ball out of your hands. The other part that I said, we get to hear his facilitator facilitation also is a skill and it takes work. It’s defined as making it easier, helping bring about, and that is a perfect definition for Scrum Master. A Scrum Master in a scrum event helps people bring about what they’re trying to do to make things easier for people to collaborate. Let’s take sprint planning as an example. Sprint planning is intended for the Product Owner and the development team to agree on the sprint goal based on the team’s past velocity, upcoming capacity, and how long the sprint is ensuring that we understand definition of done for the items were about to pull it to that sprint.
Well the scrum master is going to miss all kinds of coachable moments. Misunderstandings between team members, misunderstandings between team members and Product Owner. If he or she has got their nose to the keyboard typing like their court reporter, they simply miss exactly what they’re supposed to be paying attention to, so the scrum master would facilitate those conversations, ensure that the activity of building the sprint backlog is happening, and then certainly the things are happening after that event as intended as well. Facilitation takes work. It takes preparation and focus. It’s not about writing on the whiteboard or taking notes, so in order to focus on what they do need to be paying attention to, the Scrum Master is going to need to be watching faces. They’re going to need to be watching body language. They need to pick up on what’s being said and more importantly, what’s not being said.
This is active listening. I always share with my CSM classes that if you want to be one of the best Scrum Masters on the planet, facilitating, get really, really good at watching eyebrows because when you see somebody’s eyebrows crinkled up in confusion, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out that that person has a question and a really lame facilitation technique would be to say, does anybody have any questions? We’ll isn’t it so easy to shake your head no, and to want to save face so you don’t want to ask the seemingly dumb questions so everybody just stays silent. A more effective facilitator understands that their job is to make it easier for those folks to participate. A little more skilled Scrum Master would look at the faces and say something like, wow, it looks like there’s some crinkled eyebrows and the rooms and furrowed brows, which tells me we are confused about what’s being asked here.
Who has the first question for the Product Owner? That is more active facilitation. And now I used language like, we, we’re all in this together and hey, we’re kind of confused. So I’ve made it easier for people to open up and I’ve even proactively asked who has the first question saying, hey, we’re kicking this discussion off here. I’m more likely to get some responses than some head shakes or some head nods. So why isn’t this a project manager? I mentioned, you know, this is really different. If you’re interested in a book that took this head on by one of scrums creators, “Agile project management with scrum”. And I got to tell you guys I’ll confess as a card-carrying project manager who was making a transition at that time to becoming a Scrum Master. This is the first book I read, even before I knew there was a Scrum Guide.
I ran out and grab this book and I’ll tell you, it’s a little bit of a head fake title. It’s intentionally trying to hook us as it did with me, uh, because I said, oh, that’s what I need to learn Agile project management. And as I read the book, the whole point of the entire book is to tell you why there’s no such role as Agile project manager. Why there’s no such role as scrum project manager in one of the quotes that I’m sharing with you from Ken is that he wanted to highlight the extent to which responsibilities of the Scrum Master are different from those of a traditional project manager. Now I tell my CSM I had a mini meltdown. I probably cried because I saw my whole career flashing before my eyes. I saw myself standing downtown Minneapolis with a cardboard sign on a street corner. Will manage your projects for food. Totally thought I was out of a job and then somewhere in reading this book I had an aha moment and I went, oh, this is different. I’m that type of project manager that loves the people stuff. I’m always getting people together to talk. I’m trying to get out of the way. Man, I hate doing my project plan. I’m terrible at notes and status reports and let’s be honest, nobody read them anyway. I happily kissed Microsoft project goodbye. I happily let go of seeing my profession as writing in word documents and I embraced the people stuff. I embraced scrum mastery. Now this is a personal choice for everyone listening and anybody looking at the job to be quite honest. There are people I know who say, whoa, whoa, whoa. I am an excel mastermind. I love creating pivot tables and macros. Great. This probably isn’t the role for you. Doesn’t mean you don’t have strengths. We’re just going to find somewhere else to leverage those. So here are some additional excerpts from the book if you’re interested, and I won’t go through all of them. You’re certainly capable of reading those on your screen, but some of this stuff can really highlight it as being completely different. It’s the teaching role, you know, teaching the Product Owner how to maximize value, teaching the development team, teaching the organization. Sometimes that’s going to be one on one. You know, teachable moments don’t always happen in a classroom. They might happen in the moment. Heck, they might happen at the Keurig machine in the morning getting your coffee. Sure, a scrum master might hold a little scrum fundamentals training for a group of new hires at a company, that’s their job. They’re improving people’s productivity, they’re helping people improve in their own craft and in their own professions, and the biggie of course is the 100 percent admitted. What that means is there’s no such thing as time slicing somebody across scrum projects. That’s the opposite of what we’re talking about. That’s just project management, which is great. It’s not that project management is bad or good. It’s a different way of doing work. So if somebody’s saying, well, we’re just going to assign you to multiple scrum projects, one of the first questions I’d have is why do we want to use scrum? Because it’s not going to deliver any faster than we’d deliver right now. We’re just doing project management with a bunch of scrummy language. We’re just putting lipstick on the pig here because as a card-carrying project manager, I can tell you I was never on one project. They always had me and diced 10 ways to Sunday. I was on four projects, five projects, six projects. That’s not the case with the scrum master. You’re a hundred percent dedicated to a scrum team because your job is to coach the development team, the Product Owner and the greater organization on their behalf and with all this people stuff that is not easy.
The people stuff is certainly not easy and it takes a lot of work. Not always in a group setting. There’s going to be a lot of one on one conversations and that’s going to take you quite a bit of time. There’s no way you could be times sliced across multiple scrum teams and think about what your calendar would look like. Let’s just take an example. Let’s say you’ve been asked to serve two scrum teams. Well, what do you do if they both want their sprint planning on the same day at the same time? Do you make them schedule around you? Well right there you’re not being a servant leader because you somehow think it’s about you, not them. You’re not neutral because which of those teams is your favorite and things start to break down very, very quickly and I always say, why do you want to bother organization?
Why do you bother working this way? Because it’s different. Not Bad, not good different. So, a day in the life of the Scrum Master, what does that even look like? Once again, I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list, but one of my colleagues and mentors when I was new to scrum is Michael James. He has written the scrum master checklist and it’s available to the world for firstname.lastname@example.org and Michael has given us a minimal list of what your day should look like and it’s certainly not the three things that I have on the screen, it’s about eight printed pages long. I believe this is merely an excerpt of some of the things that are on his list and what I love about the full checklist. If you do get a copy to go print it and go through it, it really helps you do your job, Scrum Master because it’s teeing up with your day should look like and the last couple of pages are a working tool for you to talk about impediments you’re going to tackle, whether those are for the development team, the Product Owner or the company, and it helps you prioritize those and remember impediments aren’t always specific computer things. They can be people, process technology policies and so on. So let’s get to the credential and then we’ll get onto the fun stuff with the questions. The scrum alliance has the certified scrum master, which the majority of our respondents in our first poll question said they hold, awesome, so there is a new path to becoming a certified scrum professional, which is the higher-level credential that the scrum alliance offers that does recognize your experience as well as the lower level credential. The CSM was never meant to say that you have experience in any way, shape or form, and a lot of the haters on social media that I’ve seen lately demonstrate that they don’t understand that. It wasn’t ever meant to say, I’m this all knowing all powerful certified scrum master. No certification can do that. It’s an entry level credential. It’s like your driver’s license. I mean, if you get a driver’s license, do you think you’re an expert driver? I know I’m not, but I’m permitted to drive on the streets and hopefully I get better and I pay attention to the rules such as the CSM. You’ll learn scrum from somebody who took you through the rulebook. You’re permitted on the streets. Go do good scrum. We certainly hope you get better at it. We certainly hope you continue your journey. So, if you’ve been working as a scrum master for 12 months and you have a CSM, you can join any advanced CSM program from an approved educator and achieve your advanced CSM. Now you don’t need to do those in order folks. So, the people who responded to Myriam’s pool l about, yeah, I’ve already got some experiences for a master, but I don’t have a credential. That’s OK. If you go get your CSM tomorrow and you already have over 12 months of experience, you can go get your advanced CSM. Now after advanced CSM then what the scrum alliance is looking for another 12 months of experience as a scrum master and additional education from an approved educator to achieve your certified scrum professional. Now is one of the first people who achieved that approved educator status? I can tell you in the 8 CSM’s I’ve already held, the advanced CSM I’ve already held in December and this year, my classes are filled with people who have more than 24 months of experience working as a scrum master and they have their CSM. So they’re going to achieve that CSP more quickly, so please don’t think that you have to do these in order. It’s not a sequence of CSM, 12 months, a CSM, another 12 months.
You could already have the CSM in 24 months. Go get your ACSM and then move on to your CSP educational opportunity. The path is replicated by role for Product Owner or developer and I’m including the link on the scrum alliance website to where you can get more information first about the ACSM specifically since that’s tied into our topic today, but under scrumalliance.org get certified, you can find the particulars about the advanced Product Owner and then coming this year is Advanced Developer so we’re going to be holding a number of advanced CSM courses through cPrime all over the country. We’re kicking one off in Minneapolis just after the global scrum gathering and these are guaranteed to run. So, no panic that they will be canceled on you. So, come to Minneapolis in April and see me or you can join my colleague, Christian Antwan who is also approved. He is going to be visiting New York, Phoenix, Dallas, and Atlanta, so I’ve got the dates listed on the slide there. If you need to check calendars and check back with us, you just need to visit, cPrime and under our training offerings you will find advanced certified scrum master or advanced scrum master under our public offerings. So we’d be happy to see you in an upcoming program. The program is relatively new, so I’ve already explained that you can take the ACSM without experience and then you can achieve it once you do get it. How do you renew? Right now, it’s going to be good for two years. The renewal process beyond that is a iteratively being determined. So, with that, I would love to open it up for questions Myriam.
Myriam: Thank you so much again for a great presentation showing us how we can improve as Scrum Masters and really show our value to teams and organizations. We do have a lot of questions that have come in. So we’re going to start off with our first question. Actually, before we go to our first question, Tori says, hi. She believed that you trained her in a Chicago, so she really wanted to say hi to you. And then Carl was really happy that you highlighted the people aspect because he thinks that so many people miss this completely. So maybe as we go through the questions that, you know, that’s something that you can highlight as well. Um, so Cathy asks, most people, uh, migrate to the scrummaster role from within a company. She asks if you have any suggestions for getting hired as a Scrum Master, her background is in tech and quality assurance, but she’s currently working in legal.
Angela:That’s a great question. One of the things I always ask for is to highlight the people skills, and so it, regardless of your background and it sounds like she’s got a very diverse background, which is going to show that she’s a versatile player because we’re looking for that versatility and sometimes when you have too much expertise, like let’s say I’m a rock star java developer for example, and I decide I want to be a Scrum Master. I may find it personally challenging when some java conversation kicks off to keep myself neutral. Do you know what I mean? I might find troubles zipping my lip and avoiding giving an opinion. So, one of the things to demonstrate when I say demonstrate your people skills and your versatility is to say, even though I have an appreciation for these skills in my background, I can leverage those to listen where people don’t understand each other and then to ask questions to get them on the right path. So, she mentioned quality as well. I can think of a perfect example where one of the Scrum Masters I was coaching had a quality insurance background and when testing would break out, you know, for conversations, he would say something silly like this. I’m taking my scrum master hat off right now and I’m putting my Qa hat on to tell you first of all guys, there’s no hats, right? So, there’s no hats. What he really was telling his team is, I know better than you. I’m smarter than you when it comes to testing and let me just take the ball away. So, what we got him doing that made him a more effective scrum master is saying things like, I haven’t heard you guys talk about not breaking what was working before, what’s that called again? And the team would happily jump in and go, all regression testing you’re right, we forgot about that. Now he’s seen as, more of the coach. He’s showing them that, hey, I’m ok with asking the question in a seemingly dumb way to get you guys going where you need to. I don’t need to browbeat you with my expertise. The other thing, when you say getting hired, not only highlighting your team player aspect, your servant leader capability, but also something that I can point you to, if you follow me on LinkedIn, there is a graduate of mine by the name of Mcclure Christiansen who is in a hiring manager role. She has written a wonderful series of posts that I’ve published on LinkedIn called Scrum Master, why I didn’t hire you. So you may find value in that because she’s got mistakes you make on resumes. Mistakes you make on a phone screens, mistakes you make in interviews. And my gosh, and we could hold a whole webinar on that topic alone, so there’s some additional things to point our viewer too, but I would say highlight your versatility, highlight your, the building aspect of your capabilities and that you can leverage your background not to be the expert, but to help other people grow to being experts.
Myriam: We have a lot of those coming in, but we have a question, uh, how does a scrummaster encourage team members to play ball and jump into participating in the details of backlog maintenance?
Angela: Yeah. So, when you talk about backlog maintenance, the coach in me wants to say which backlog do you mean the product backlog or the sprint backlog? So you have no idea how many arguments I’ve solved with that question. You get two people arguing over the term backlog and I say, I’m sorry, are you talking about the product backlog right now? Or the sprint backlog? And at the same time one person goes product, the other person goes sprint, and then they look at each other and go, oh. So right there we confuse ourselves and we can confuse each other. So, Scrum Masters, you want to be an immediately better Scrum Master? I want you listening for the very ambiguous term of backlog and I want you to ask a clarifying question about which one people are talking about. So let’s start with product backlog.
So, let’s say it’s product backlog and what the team members trying to do is to ask really great questions so that they understand what done looks like and can better serve the Product Owner. So, you’re going to be asking them to share that expertise with the Product Owner. For example, I had a Product Owner who is talking about a page rendering faster on a website and I could see the team members going call. So I said, OK, it looks like you guys are confused. Who has the first question? And somebody said, well, what is faster mean? I’m like, exactly, what other questions does that bring up for the rest of you? And immediately they start playing ball, right? They start going, are we talking rendering in milliseconds is it 60 seconds? Is that too long? You know they had great questions, so you’re going to have to see that like that, make it safe, pepper it to get it going. Totally different if our question asker meant sprint backlog, because sprint backlog is the artifact owned by that development team. That is the way they are supposed to manage their own work, so Scrum Master, get your hands off of it. So what I like to do in sprint planning, if you’re co-located, it is spread post-it notes and sharpies all over the table. Now you can be good cop, Scrum Master, and when somebody starts talking, you can walk over and hand them a Sharpie and a pad of post-its and say, what a great idea to write that down for us. That would be enabling the behavior you want. By doing that and being good cop Scrum Master, I can also see people be bad cop Scrum Master where the sharpies in the pads are there, but their hands are firmly crossed over their chest and they say, this is really great discussion.
These are great questions guys. Are you going to remember this for your sprint? Oh, well then somebody should probably write a note. Oh yeah, you wait. You let the silence become uncomfortable for they start, right? Because that’s the moment they’re going to learn for themselves that this is now their job because if you reach in and take their ball away, they will never respect you as their coach. They will always expect you to do it for them. Now, some of you are going, yeah, but Angela, I’m not co located. That sounds great. I’m pretty sure 3M post-its all over the world, but I digress. If you are on a Webcam or skype or Webex and yes, I want your Webcams on people. You can have post-it buddies. You can have board buddies in other locations. People can write stuff down for themselves. What will bog a sprint planning session down very quickly is sitting there watching somebody type. Don’t do it. Everybody can write down stuff for themselves, either democratically taking turns, either each person that says something, writes it down. Once the session is over, you can say everybody grabbed the post-its or the sticky notes in front of you. Go back to your own desk and make sure they get into Jira or make sure they get into Jira, or TFS, or version one or whatever. And it’s a non issue. So again, resisting the temptation to take the opportunity away from them, find the opportunity to enable the behavior you want and you’re going to find your own personality, whether you’re good cop, Scrum Master, handing them the pen or whether you’re a bad cop, Scrum Master and letting the silence hang. They do it themselves. We can grab the next question Myriam.
Myriam: So we have kind of like a related group of questions. I’m going to try to pose it as a holistic fashion as I can. Questions that came in from Ellen, from Amy, from Archana. Basically, I think they were referring to the fact that you said that, you know, the, the master should really be committed to only one team. But it seems that there are some situations where, you know, either management demands that there’s going to be Scrum Masters from multiple teams or their team members are split into two different projects and they have limited resources. So, what are some of the ways that they can handle being put in a situation where they must be a Scrum Master for multiple teams or even we can add in the component of, you know, remote or distributed teams.
Angela: For multiple teams, I’m going to tackle that first before remote, for multiple teams and this is going to overly trite and I don’t mean it to be. I want every Scrum Master listening to understand that this is the whole point. This right here is the whole point. Your very first question to leadership because you are the coach to the leadership. It’s right in the Scrum Guide. Why do we want to do this? Why does the organization want to do this? Because it’s completely different than project management. I’ll give you the typical answer. The number one answer in the version one state of Agile survey is to go faster to deliver product faster. That’s not the real answer to that question and I want you aware of that because we cannot quantify, go faster, faster than what? What does that mean? Well faster than we deliver right now. Still not the answer to my question, and if you’re gulping and shaking in your boots, Scrum Masters, one of the values is courage. It’s not fear. You need to have the courage to have the conversation and say, what do we hope to gain? Now, let’s just say the answer is eight months. We need to deliver product faster than eight months. Great, time slicing people the way we’re doing right now won’t do that. We’ve already been time slicing people for years and if it was serving us well, we would just keep doing it, we don’t need to call it scrum. That’s called project management that has a rule book of its own. Why do we need to confuse everybody with new vocabulary? If we don’t want to change, don’t change. There’s no value in doing fake scrum and doing fake Agile. Everybody knows that what you’re doing isn’t working, so I would really ask that the Scrum Masters challenge that situation first because the data that’s been around for decades show is it has nothing to do with people. You said resources. I’m going to say people, another one of our values is respect. I am not a resource. I am a human being and we don’t time slice human beings. In scrum, you’re 100 percent dedicated because when you dedicate people, guess what? They deliver faster because their focus, which is another one of our values, so hopefully you’re seeing how holistic the stuff is and it breaks down very, very quickly. The other thing we’ll send out in the notes from the q and a is something called the case for the dedicated scrum master. There’s actually been a study performed on teams’ performance when their coach, when their scrum master is time sliced versus when they are not. I’ll go ahead and spoil the results for you. The time slice Scrum Masters teams missed goals, lower performance, unhappy customers, missed deadlines. Dedicated Scrum Masters on time, or they beat the timeline, happy customers, and I’ve actually used that case study. I printed it and I’ve actually handed it to leaders that I’m coaching and I said, I just want to make sure I understand. I just want to make sure I’m meeting your expectations. You’re signing up for the lower performing teams, right? Because the data shows that’s what you’re going to get. So I just want to make sure I understand expectations. Now that you’re saying I’m not willing to do any of that. Then you’re going to have to live in the limitations of what you’re also signing up for because you have two feet. There’s the law of two feet and you’re going to have to work it out, but I don’t want you to delude yourself thinking that you’re going to deliver any faster or that this is going to be effective. You’re going to be tap dancing on your calendar. Something is always going to suffer. Whether it’s quality of the work team A is doing or it’s quality of the work, team B is doing by team I mean Product Owner and development team, scrum teams, so you have to understand that some things are going to get missed. Distributed teams, agile or no agile. If we take a trip back to the nineties for a minute, when the whole offshoring boom happened, it was never intended to time slice people across continents. If you remember what was intended back then was follow the sun. Remember that? Follow the sun. Use the time zone to your advantage. The idea was to have whole teams in respective time zones just like effective scrum. And then you’re using the time zone to your advantage to keep working around the clock. So, if the organization says, we don’t want to again, this is an organizational impediments and Scrum Master, you’re going to have to tackle that.
What do we hope to gain? If again, they say, sorry, this is just the way it is. You got to get creative with multiple communication modes. And I always say, turn your Webcam zone and people freak out. And I’m like, put a shirt on, put a baseball cap on your head, right? You don’t have to look pretty, but turn your Webcam on so that we can see each other’s facial expressions, body language, and I realize we have, we’re limited with that today. If you could see me, I’m talking with my hands. I’m using all kinds of facial expressions so we miss a lot with just voice, right? So, you’re going to have to get creative with multiple communication modes and working out what you can do despite the limits of those time zones. And I realize we’re at time and we could go on. I’d love to take one more question if we could sneak one in Myriam. But there’s a lot of great stuff out there about distributed teams too that I can include in the notes that we’re going to send out with the answers.
Myriam: Yes. Angela, we actually do have a lot of, still a lot more questions coming in, so I will give you a couple more questions, but if you need to leave the Webinar for any reason. Again, we want to thank you so much for participating. Reminder that you will get the recording and the slides for this webinar. So, one of the questions that I thought was quite interesting is asking, have you seen a trend where companies are moving their test or dev team leads into, functioning in place of a Scrum Master.
Angela: I personally have not. When you talk about test leads, I’ve seen test leads do all kinds of things. I’ve seen some definitely become the Scrum Master. I’ve seen some choose to be on the team because they want to flex their automation testing skills and add value that way and do paired programming with their development partners to deliver even faster. There’s one in particular who was an interesting case study for me, was she didn’t want to do any of that. She wanted the champion quality in the company. You know, thankfully the leadership team said, what does that look like? And she said, I want to teach everybody how to use automated test tools. I want to make sure every team knows how to use them and that we’re doing a hundred percent coverage and then doing a hundred percent automated regression and she achieved that goal so they actually let her create her own role calling herself an internal quality consultant. Great, right? I mean, scrum isn’t trying to tell you these are the only three roles you’re ever going to need it in your company, but if you have something you want to do and you have talents and abilities that you want the company to leverage, a Scrum Master can certainly help you gain audience with the leadership team to talk about what that looks like because if you’re going to be on the development team, that is those guardrails are in the scrum guide. We really want you working on sprint goals in tandem with your buddies on that team to deliver every sprint. So if there’s something about that that you don’t want to do, because these are all just choices that we’re presenting here. You’d have to make your case for that, but I know plenty of testing folks who say, no, no, no, I’m ready for the people stuff, I’m ready for facilitation stuff. But when we say trend personally, I haven’t seen a trend and it might just be because I work with so many different companies because I’ve got services companies where they wouldn’t even know what a tester is, you know, all my clients are not software clients. I have some hardware and firmware clients too, so, haven’t seen the trend, but I’d say back to what do you want to do? So those are a few examples that I have seen either join a team, become the Scrum Master, make your own role, right, make your own role and become the quality champion. You said you want to take a couple Myriam, so, let’s sneak another one in.
Myriam: Let’s sneak another one in related to specifically training. So, there’s a few questions that came up regarding like what should be their next steps, etc. Melissa asks, she already have the CSP certification and she asked if you were to recommend the advance class for additional learning.
Angela: Great question. We have a bunch of graduates who exactly are in her shoes. Two of them and my team as a matter of fact, they already held the CSP under the previous process and so they still came because the previous process put all the burden on you guys as the credential holder. If you remember, you had to prove to the scrum alliance that you had all this work history, you had this work experience. The new process shifts the burden, if you will, to the educators. And so what they asked us to do is in addition to people’s experience that the scrum alliance would take care of collecting. They wanted us to craft a program that gave people the environment to test those people skills, to flex their facilitation chops, and to work in a safe environment on their coaching skills. And so, I’ve personally had more than my team. I’ve had CSPs in the Minneapolis area. I’ve even had a couple of people fly here to take the class who were already CSPs and they wanted the education to be able to get facilitation coaching and more of the people aspect of the job under their belt in the two day A-CSM. So a great question.
Myriam: Ok, great. so we’re going to wrap up our session. We still have questions that were unanswered, so we’ll do our best to answer those individually. Once again, I’d like to thank Angela very much for participating in this webinar today. She provided some really great insights for a becoming better Scrum Master and we’d like to thank you all very much for taking the time to join us. As a reminder, we will be sending out the recording and we really hope to see you on one of our other webinars and I’d like to wish you a wonderful rest of your day!