On Being Scrum Master
My manager asked me to be scrum master for my team a little over two years ago. Initially I was reluctant because the role seemed a bit tedious and would incur some overhead. I’ve always had a healthy (to me) cynicism of process, especially the Agile™ product. And the role of scrum master seemed to embody many of the negative aspects of that whole industry. Even the name is bothersome—are they really masters of it? Seems presumptuous. But he wasn’t really asking, either. So I said yes.
Over the years, I have found my assessment to be true—it does get tedious and it does take some time away from other activities. And I can’t say I love those parts, nor can I say I love the role, but I’ve embraced it and come to enjoy parts of it. The funny thing is that almost every other scrum master I’ve talked to came about their position in a similar way—taking up the role because no one else wants to. Why is that?
I’m not sure—maybe it’s just my organization. But here are some thoughts around the role:
- You’re there to help the team execute. Even though it’s the entire team’s responsibility to get things done, you have a more explicit role in that. Since this is a big thing that managers care about (execution), this is a great opportunity to be a partner with leadership on this front.
- Since you interact with the team every day, you can be a manager’s eyes and ears on the ground. In many ways, you have a better perspective than they do on how everyone is doing. Do you see any signs of burnout, boredom, or other problems?
- It’s an opportunity to exercise muscles that people leaders use: leading meetings, learning to be diplomatic, getting consensus, being empathetic, considering how others are doing holistically, serving others, motivating a team.
- Intrinsic motivation works way better than extrinsic. How does that happen? One main way is connecting the team’s work with the larger vision of the organization. How does this feature benefit our customers and impact the business? Gain this context and internalize it so you can share it with the team.
- Since you’re first in line to address team issues, you end up interfacing with other teams and leaders. You can become the face of the team.
- Think of ways to organize the work, keep teammates stay engaged, have fun.
- It will never not be hard to get people to talk.
Monday, January 3, 2022