Scrum Mastery doesn’t come from repeating the same practices over and over again and thinking always the same way, instead it comes from doubting your own knowledge and keep learning.
Even if it’s true that constant practice is a path to mastery it’s not the mechanical and repetitive practice that will make a great Scrum Master; the opposite is true though, without practice of any kind there is no way one becomes a great Scrum Master.
Paradoxically only practice without reflection can produce that concepts initially learned deviate from the original form and mutate into something else completely deviated from Scrum.
In order to avoid this deviation from the original Scrum intend a Scrum Master can do two things: actively participate in a community of pairs and keep learning by reading good books.
¿Why are you a Scrum Master?
Asking me this questions over the years I’ve found different answers:
- I needed the job
- For the prestige
- I’ve been ordered to take the role
- I was sent to a course and took the rol the day after
- By accident
- Because it was a trendy role
- To be a leader
After answering that question the next questions will require more reflection and analysis: “do I want to stay in this role?” and base on the answer to that question comes this other question, “do I want to grow in the role?”
Another important question that a Scrum Master should ask to herself/himself is if Scrum values are present and alive in her/his personal life. Preaching Scrum values to the team but not practicing them could produce a fragmentation of the beingness in the Scrum Master.
If as a Scrum Master I talk about values but don’t practice them myself that would be perceived by the team that will question my authenticity and leadership.
Talking about leadership now, in Scrum we don’t favor imposed leaders from above but leaders that emerge from the team and people decide to follow because they want to. This type of leadership is not exclusive from Scrum and there are good examples of organizations that already implement it, organizations like Whole Food, W. L. Gore & Associates, and Google [Hamel07].
The Scrum Master Dealing with Conflict
El Conflict is not an exclusive thing for Scrum Teams or organizations that decided to adopt Scrum. Conflict is in the very nature of human interactions, in all type of interactions that can range from personal to organizational [Kaner07].
Notwithstanding the above, as Scrum Master you need to be prepared to deal with conflicts that can be very destructive and fracture relationships in the team. Generally speaking, conflicts can present characteristics like:
- Emotionality, that means that someone or several in the team yell, make gestures, hit the table and communicate aggressively
- Tone of voice, could be the case that no one is yelling but there is a lot of sarcasm and subtle critique in the communication. It’s worth to mention that is possible to hurt each other’s feelings without yelling or using bad words
- Lack of interest in solving the conflict, worn out relationships present this characteristic, everybody got used to the conflict and it doesn’t bother them anymore
Once conflict has been perceived, the Scrum Master needs to analyze the causes and what could be possible done to solve it. Taking empowerment into account is not advisable that the Scrum Master deals with the conflict by yelling at people and order them what to do.
Often times in helpful that the Scrum Master present to the team and the people involved in the conflict what possible reactions they might have, for instance:
- Neglect that the conflict exist by saying things like “here we always yell to each other, is all business but never personal and we’re even friends”
- Concede always in order to defuse conflict, conceding could also be symptom of indifference like people saying “do whatever that I’ll do just my part”
- Overwhelme others using all arguments to always win discussions
- Withdraw from conflict by simply cutting the discussion or by not talking
Even if there is silver bullet way to deal with conflict, the more we learn and study about conflict the better prepared we’ll be to deal with it.
There are many types of leadership approaches and the Scrum Master needs to be prepared to adopt that one that is best for each situation. Of all these leadership styles maybe the more difficult to master is the servant leadership because it requires not only conceptually understanding it but also mastering your own ego [Sinek17].
Mastering your hers/his ego is fundamental if a leader thinks in serving others and help them grow. It also implies acknowledging that the leader no longer grows in the organization hierarchy by instead she/he is more interested in growing internally as a human being.
Even though there is no single metric for gauging how good or bad a servant leader is, there some attributes:
- Think in the others first, and put them before the leader’s self interest or like Sinek [Sinek17] said “let other eat first in an act of generosity and respect”
- Communicate effectively leaving behind least effective ways to communicate like sarcasm or double meaning; learning how to communicate it’s a journey itself that requires practice and guidance
- Be a systemic thinker that not only considers here and now but sees beyond and anticipates the effects and implications that important decisions will have on people
Similarly a Scrum Master aspires to be a servant leader for both the team and the organization at large; organizations with this type of leaders tend to have deepen and lasting transformations.
Servant leadership again is no silver bullet, instead is just one more valuable tool for unleashing people’s creative power in an organizations that really encourages learning and experimentation.
Like Hamel [Hamel07] stated the future of organizations is uncertain and the more that its employees can learn and experiment the more chances organizations will have to arrive there, wherever the next great product will be.
The Scrum Master learning and growing path never really ends because like Ohno [Ohno13] said is about being a “lifelong student”.
Scrum is a light weight and barely sufficient framework but at the same time invites to walk a path, like a “do” in Japanese martial arts is not about the destination but also about every step that you walk on the path.
Hamel07 Hamel G., 2007. The Future of Management, Harvard Business Review Press
Kaner07 Kaner S., 2007. Facilitators Guide to Participatory Decision-Making, Jossey-Bass; 2nd edition
Sinek17 Sinek S., 2017. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, Portfolio; Reprint, Revised edition
Ohno13 Ohno T., 2013. Taiichi Ohno’s Workplace Management, McGraw Hill