What you need to learn about being a Scrum Master, but will never get from a CSM course

No matter how many courses you attend, there are things that, as a Scrum Masters, you only really learn the important lessons on the field. Doing the work.

One of the reasons I don’t think certification courses are enough for Scrum Masters that certifications courses very often focus on the rules and regulations of the job, but not on the problems, the hardships and the obstacles we face, day-in, day-out when we try to do a good work as a Scrum Master.

So, what can we do when courses aren’t enough?

Continue reading What you need to learn about being a Scrum Master, but will never get from a CSM course

Samantha Menzynski and Brian Ziebart: helping Scrum teams have difficult conversations, safely

When a team started to have “backchannel” conversations and excluding some team members from those conversations, it was clear that something was going on that was not allowed to be discussed in the wider team. Samantha and Brian then focused on helping the team share what was going on in a safe way. Listen in to learn about what was holding the team back from discussing the important topics. 

Featured Book of the Week: Ideal Team Player by Lencioni and Difficult Conversations by Stone et al.

In Ideal Team Player by Lencioni Samantha found a great reference for a team that had to go through a recruiting process. The book helped the team reflect and choose the right candidate, by working together to define what they were looking for in a candidate beyond the technical skills. 

In this segment, we also refer to Difficult Conversations by Stone et al, a book that discusses conversation techniques to help move from emotion to productive problem solving.

About Samantha Menzynski and Brian Ziebart

Samantha Menzynski has spent her entire career in software. Starting in support and account management, moving to customer support management, and with Penta’s transformation to Scrum becoming Scrum Master for the Core product team.

You can link with Samantha Menzynski on LinkedIn

Brian Ziebart started his career in software as a developer, but found himself wanting to move towards coaching and developing people rather than product development.  When Penta’s Scrum transformation started in August 2019, he jumped at the opportunity to work more with people while still staying involved with development.

You can link with Brian Ziebart on LinkedIn

You can read more about Samantha’s and Brian’s work and the Agile transformation they were part of in this Scrum.org blog post.

Samantha Menzynski and Brian Ziebart: When setting a high-bar for the Definition of Done is a bad idea

Brian’s story is enlightening regarding the value of the Definition of Done. A team that had set the DoD bar too high, and chose to not change the DoD. That led to an anti-pattern that had to be untangled by the Scrum Master. 

Samantha shares the story of a Scrum Master that had the tendency to lead all the conversations and how she was able to recover from that pattern with a technique she calls “the pregnant pause”. 

About Samantha Menzynski and Brian Ziebart

Samantha Menzynski has spent her entire career in software. Starting in support and account management, moving to customer support management, and with Penta’s transformation to Scrum becoming Scrum Master for the Core product team.

You can link with Samantha Menzynski on LinkedIn

Brian Ziebart started his career in software as a developer, but found himself wanting to move towards coaching and developing people rather than product development.  When Penta’s Scrum transformation started in August 2019, he jumped at the opportunity to work more with people while still staying involved with development.

You can link with Brian Ziebart on LinkedIn

You can read more about Samantha’s and Brian’s work and the Agile transformation they were part of in this Scrum.org blog post.

Samantha Menzynski and Brian Ziebart: The PO and the Scrum Master as the dynamic duo to help teams succeed

The relationship between the PO and the Scrum Master is one of the most important and impactful relationships to develop. In this episode, we talk about how the right approach from the PO (with the Scrum Master’s help), can help elevate the team to a new level. 

Another aspect of success for Scrum Masters is the team’s ability to handle conflict. In this episode, we talk about what is “constructive conflict”, and why that’s an important aspect of the Scrum Master’s success.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: Expert tip for Remote Retrospectives

When facilitating remote retrospectives, the impact of overbearing team members is even bigger. In this episode, we talk about how to use the break-out rooms in your conference system as a way to ensure that every one of the team has a say. 

The Meta-Retrospective is a moment when we discuss the values of the Agile manifesto and reflect on our journey as an Agile team. In this episode, we talk about the meta-retrospective, and why that might be an important tool to add to your toolbox.

Do you wish you had decades of experience? Learn from the Best Scrum Masters In The World, Today! The Tips from the Trenches – Scrum Master edition audiobook includes hours of audio interviews with SM’s that have decades of experiences: from Mike Cohn to Linda Rising, Christopher Avery, and many more. Super-experienced Scrum Masters share their hard-earned lessons with you. Learn those today, make your teams awesome!  

About Samantha Menzynski and Brian Ziebart

Samantha Menzynski has spent her entire career in software. Starting in support and account management, moving to customer support management, and with Penta’s transformation to Scrum becoming Scrum Master for the Core product team.

You can link with Samantha Menzynski on LinkedIn

Brian Ziebart started his career in software as a developer but found himself wanting to move towards coaching and developing people rather than product development.  When Penta’s Scrum transformation started in August 2019, he jumped at the opportunity to work more with people while still staying involved with development.

You can link with Brian Ziebart on LinkedIn

You can read more about Samantha’s and Brian’s work and the Agile transformation they were part of in this Scrum.org blog post.

BONUS: Collaboration between Product Owners and Developers with the Digital Product School

Every 4 months, about 8 teams comprised of University students, other students, and partner-company employees start working on a new product idea at the Digital Product School (DPS).

These teams become their own mini-startups, and work to develop, and sell their products in a 3-month accelerated program. They experience hands-on what it is to work in a start-up and to go from a fuzzy idea (the problem space) to a product they can sell in a very short period of time. 

This learn-by-doing program helps companies educate their employees in rapid product development methods, and helps students get hands-on experience with product development in a very short period of time. 

The most common problems teams face in DPS

The teams that join and complete DPS usually have the same problems all other teams face, but because of the accelerated time-frame, and because the DPS team has seen more than 10 batches already, the problems are obvious! And we can learn a lot from those problems when it comes to the more normal product development we participate in. 

The first challenge teams face is that they have a hard time locking down the problem they want to solve. As it happens, they want to solve too many problems, which is a common affliction of many teams and leads to confused and confusing products. 

The DPS team expected that it would be hard to convince developers to work with users and do user research. However, it turns out developers actually embrace that work, and the biggest problem is getting the Product Managers (PMs) to make decisions. PMs tend to expect that the “process” will ensure they have a good outcome, and that leads to having a hard time making decisions. 

In this segment, we talk about how to help PMs make decisions and the transformation that happens when PMs are faced with the need to make decisions. 

The biggest problem in the Developer-PM collaboration

In such an accelerated program (3 months from idea to product), it is natural that the pressure is high at some point. PM’s work needs to include facilitating and motivating the teamwork. Why are we doing certain decisions? What’s the goal of a certain user test? And many more questions come up during the work. 

This brings one of the biggest problems in the Developer-PM collaboration: the motivation of the team when under pressure. In this segment, we also talk about the most common anti-patterns developers and PMs fall into when under pressure. There are also some great insights for Scrum Masters about team building and coping with pressure!

Enabling good Developer-PM collaboration

One of the usual sticking points in the Developer-PM collaboration is the fact that these people speak different languages. Many Scrum Masters also experience that when they see PMs and developers fight about estimations, for example. 

At DPS, special attention is put into helping PMs understand what developers do and vice-versa. From explaining and using tools that developers use, to helping developers understand Story Maps and other PM tools, the way the DPS team helps developers and PM’s collaborate is especially about helping each other and learning each other’s job and responsibilities.

Why Product Manager and not Product Owner?

At DPS, the team decided early on to call the role of the product person the Product Manager, and not the Product Owner. Why did they do that? 

In this segment, we explore a question that most companies adopting Scrum will need to struggle with: what to call the product roles. 

The DPS team shares how the idea of “product” is owned by the whole team, and that the product manager role is much more than looking at the backlog or defining priorities, it’s about being responsible for user experience, business, and technology!

This emphasizes the idea of the DPS program: product development is a team sport! 

Resources for rapid product development

At the end of the episode, we talk about what resources DPS suggests teams to study, and we list the following books: 

About Digital Product School

DPS is an accelerated product development program in Munich that helps students from University and employees in partner companies experience hands-on what it is to work in a startup. In 3 months they go from idea to a product, and some ideas are brought back to the companies for further development. 

About the DPS team

Michi / Michael Stockerl is director of DPS and has worked as a software engineer with several teams in different setups. Before that, he gathered experience in smaller Startups in Munich and Germany’s biggest Q&A platform.

 

Steffen is a trained journalist, who slipped into product management through Content Management and e-commerce. He worked with Amazon and Haymarket media, did several hundred user interviews and tests, witnessed dozens of teams at DPS, a Digital Product School of the Technical University of Munich in Germany.

Bela is a Software Engineer at DPS. She helps teams with various software and hardware engineering tasks. She was previously also a participant at DPS. 

Jeffrey Koors: The full-stack Product Owner

The Product Owner role is not a simple one, so it is critical we help them understand the complete spectrum of topics the PO should be aware of. Even when the PO does not take care of all of those topics, they are critical in enabling the team by thinking about process, business and collaboration.

The Great Product Owner: The full-stack Product Owner

Product Owners that are able to manage their time to be present when the team needs them are sure to have a great contribution, but PO’s really excel when they are able to collaborate well with the team, and understand that reducing WIP, running-tested-software, and good communication with stakeholders are critical aspects of their role.

The Bad Product Owner: The PO that didn’t care about the details

When a Product Owner fails to discuss the details with the team, that leads to many possible misunderstandings and a deteriorating relationship between team and PO. In this segment, we talk about how to help PO’s go through the details enough so that the team feels confident they understand the story and are able to implement their vision.

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Jeffrey Koors

Jeff started his studies and career as a fine artist and has gone on to use his creative thinking and vision to help many organizations find ways to design systems, solve problems and embrace Agile. Jeff is also the co-founder and host of Coaching Agile Journeys.

You can link with Jeffrey Koors on LinkedIn and connect with Jeffrey Koors on Twitter.

Jeffrey Koors: Defining actions from Agile Retrospectives with the sphere of influence

The question that Jeffrey asks when reflecting on this work is “how may I be able help others?” That question drives the reflection on how to achieve success as a Scrum Master as it helps Jeffrey focus on the specific needs and support each team member may need. Not all team members struggle with the same problems.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: The Sphere of Influence

Jeffrey likes to follow the 5 stage process that Diana Larsen and Esther Derby write about in the book Agile Retrospectives, however, he focuses on bringing in different exercises for each of the stages in the process. 

In this segment, we also talk about how to find the issue to work on as a team and discuss how the concept of “sphere of influence” helps teams find the right topic to address.

Do you wish you had decades of experience? Learn from the Best Scrum Masters In The World, Today! The Tips from the Trenches – Scrum Master edition audiobook includes hours of audio interviews with SM’s that have decades of experiences: from Mike Cohn to Linda Rising, Christopher Avery, and many more. Super-experienced Scrum Masters share their hard-earned lessons with you. Learn those today, make your teams awesome!

About Jeffrey Koors

Jeff started his studies and career as a fine artist and has gone on to use his creative thinking and vision to help many organizations find ways to design systems, solve problems and embrace Agile. Jeff is also the co-founder and host of Coaching Agile Journeys.

You can link with Jeffrey Koors on LinkedIn and connect with Jeffrey Koors on Twitter

Jeffrey Koors: Helping Scrum teams when the blockers are outside the team

Even when we try to help the teams we serve, we often encounter problems that the team itself can’t solve. When that happens, what’s a Scrum Master to do? In this episode, we explore what Scrum Masters can do when the issues plaguing the team extend beyond the team’s boundaries.

About Jeffrey Koors

Jeff started his studies and career as a fine artist and has gone on to use his creative thinking and vision to help many organizations find ways to design systems, solve problems and embrace Agile. Jeff is also the co-founder and host of Coaching Agile Journeys.

You can link with Jeffrey Koors on LinkedIn and connect with Jeffrey Koors on Twitter

Jeffrey Koors: Searching who to blame is what destroys many Scrum teams

In certain teams, there’s a need to find “the fall guy”, a person that takes the blame for the collective misses of the team. However, even when there is a fall guy, that search for someone to blame leads to many anti-patterns that destroy the team. In this episode, we talk about how we can help teams get out of this anti-pattern and be ready to take the steps necessary to succeed as a team

Featured Book of the Week: Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willing

In Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willing, Jeffrey found a great reminder that we must always be asking “how may I contribute to help this team/these teams?” This helped Jeffrey understand how to communicate this aspect to teams and stakeholders. It’s only what we think we own that we are ready to improve.

About Jeffrey Koors

Jeff started his studies and career as a fine artist and has gone on to use his creative thinking and vision to help many organizations find ways to design systems, solve problems and embrace Agile. Jeff is also the co-founder and host of Coaching Agile Journeys.

You can link with Jeffrey Koors on LinkedIn and connect with Jeffrey Koors on Twitter.

Jeffrey Koors: Collaboration at scale, the challenge that scaled Agile poses 

Agile at the team level is not easy, and it has serious challenges that need to be overcome for a team to reach their potential. However, agility in the large is even harder. We have to help teams collaborate across departments, functions, and sometimes even across different companies. In this episode, we dive into collaboration at scale, the challenge for Scrum Masters working with multiple teams in a scaled agile context.

About Jeffrey Koors

Jeff started his studies and career as a fine artist and has gone on to use his creative thinking and vision to help many organizations find ways to design systems, solve problems and embrace Agile. Jeff is also the co-founder and host of Coaching Agile Journeys.

You can link with Jeffrey Koors on LinkedIn and connect with Jeffrey Koors on Twitter.

Charles Rodriguez: How to help the PO focus on value

In this episode, we talk about the PO’s role inside the team, and how we can help Product Owners focus on value.

The Great Product Owner: The PO who focuses on team success

The Product Owner in Scrum is a very difficult role, maybe even a super-human role. Unless we start thinking about the role as part of the success of the team, rather than the only responsible for the product. Great Product Owners focus on helping the team succeed, and learn to say “no” to everything that gets in the way, even if that’s a feature they “love”.

The Bad Product Owner: The PO that focuses on the “how” instead of the “why” 

When a PO focuses on the “how”, they miss their ability to communicate with the team in a way that describes what value is. The Value should be the center of the PO’s attention, but when the PO starts telling the team “how” something should be developed, they lose time outside the “value conversation”. In this episode, we explore ways to help the PO focus on, and define value for the team.

In this segment, we refer to an insight by David Hussman called “Dude’s Law” (Value = Why? / How?).

Are you having trouble helping the team working well with their Product Owner? We’ve put together a course to help you work on the collaboration team-product owner. You can find it at: bit.ly/coachyourpo. 18 modules, 8+ hours of modules with tools and techniques that you can use to help teams and PO’s collaborate.

About Charles Rodriguez

Charles has been working in software development for 16+ years with roles ranging from a database developer to manager to agile coach all in an effort to ‘try to make things better’ for future generations joining the IT industry.

You can link with Charles Rodriguez on LinkedIn and connect with Charles Rodriguez on Twitter.