This has been a series of posts that talk about the power of a Scrum Master and whether such a person can drive the decision making in a Scrum team. The basis for this entire discussion started from a discussion whereby one of my colleagues was running into some problems in the progress of the Scrum team and was itching to show them what they were doing wrong; he wanted to drive them in a specific direction for some time till they caught up with the expectations on them from management. We involved some more colleagues, talked him out of his desire to take control of the team and had a long discussion about what was the way ahead. We did sympathize with him about his problems – he was the senior-most person in the Scrum team and he was being hauled up by senior management who felt that the introduction of Scrum had slowed progress, with the rate of completion of work having reduced in the early months of Scrum. In the previous post (Scrum Master challenging the team to do better), I talked about how the Scrum Master can, without driving the decision making, start the team on the mode to figure out what they are doing wrong and coach them through the process of recognizing problems, and then working out various possible solutions. I will continue on this line in this post as well, trying to ensure that you understand what this actually means for a Scrum Master (and would be very interested in hearing about techniques you use, please do mention those in the comments).
So, since you are not allowed to drive the team, and need to act more as a coach, what are some of the properties of a Scrum Master that would help them drive the team in a certain direction without making it explicit ? Here are some of them (and you would need to keep in mind that these are a sample, you need to figure out what works for you).
– In order to earn respect, you need to ensure that you are showing respect to the team members. If you are more senior than the team members, it is easy to start from a position of authority and turn off somebody; you need to ensure that you earn the respect of your team members.
– Honesty and integrity: You need to be seen as someone who does not bend processes or rules, especially when there is a lot of stress in the teams due to team lagging behind in terms of the schedule.
– Empowering others: If you feel that you are able to help others build up their skills and abilities, and can foster such an environment, you are ideally suited for the role of a Scrum Master; part of this empowerment would be to build up the ability of people to decipher problems and come up with solutions.
– Working well with team: The team should see you as someone who is easy to get along with, who can be approached if there are any problems or other conflicts. They should also see you as someone who can work (if necessary) with people outside of the Scrum team to resolve problems. Once they see that, they will treat your questions and challenges with more respect, and this is an important step in the way to drive the team for decision making.
– Listening: This is one of the most important areas for a Scrum Master. The Scrum Master should be seen as somebody who listens to people and then reacts rather than trying to impose their own ideas on the team. If you are seen as somebody who listens and then asks questions, it makes it easier for teams to trust you, and winning that trust ensures that they listen more to you.
More points in the next post (The Scrum Master and decision making – Part 6)