Lead the change! The Challenge we face as Scrum Masters – Scrum Master Summit 2022

Copyright by the owner – Unsplash.com

As Scrum Masters we are constantly dealing with change. That’s one of the topics we cover every week here on the podcast.

As Scrum Masters, we are responsible for helping progress all kinds of changes. Personal, team or organizational level changes. Perhaps the Scrum Master role is one of the few roles that specifically dedicates itself to helping organizations change. After all, it is one of our Agile Values (Responding/adapting to change over following a plan).

This year’s Scrum Master Summit is all about change. Not just change in the sense we deal with every day, but also change for us, as Scrum Masters.

This year’s Scrum Master Summit title is: “Lead The Change!”

Why is this year’s conference titled “Lead the Change!”?

Continue reading Lead the change! The Challenge we face as Scrum Masters – Scrum Master Summit 2022

Agile Coaching Survey: participate to help us understand your practice!

Hey friends!

Here’s a request for help understanding better you Agile Coaching practice!

Leigh Griffin, who has been a guest here on the podcast, wants your help, and he will come to the podcast to share the results of the survey, so please participate!

In Leigh’s own words:

Coaching Agile principles is a cornerstone of mature teams. The competencies required though are both deep and varied. We want you to participate in our anonymous survey on Agile Coaching competencies. Help us to better inform aspiring coaches of how best to improve by telling us where you are at in your journey’

I’d love to come back on and talk about the insights gained, already the results are surprising and a great talking point but I won’t spoil it!!

You can participate in this survey by completing the short form here.

Remember to share it with your friends and colleagues!

Keep sharing, keep helping the community!
Vasco

The untold, science based, truth about motivating and engaging Scrum teams

This is a guest blog post by Christian Heidemeyer, the developer of Echometer, a tool for Scrum Masters to run retrospectives, and collect data that helps reflect and develop  team’s performance

Why employee mindset is overrated

After interviewing hundreds of Scrum Masters, one of the most common challenges we at Echometer get is: “People don’t have the right, agile mindset.” 

As a psychologist, I think these Scrum Masters do not understand one of the key ideas of agile methods and Scrum. These people are overrating the importance of employee mindset over other – critical – aspects, which leads them down the wrong path. I will try to explain it with a simple story.

The story of Felix

Imagine Felix, an amazing software engineer who mostly works on his own. He created some creative free products thousands of people use. People celebrate him on Twitter.

But Felix wants a change. More and more of his IT friends, especially Sarah, talked about the magic of working in a great team. Where people inspire each other, or as they say: where ideas have sex.

Felix applies to a few jobs and ends up with two offers that seem to fit his needs. The two potential teams he could join are totally different.

The Performers

Team one, let us call them, “Performers”, seem to be a team of overperformers. Every single one of the team members is a legend in their area of expertise. Felix was able to talk to two of the team members. They seemed to be highly motivated and skilled. They are young and bold. But at the same time, Felix feels like something is wrong in that team after talking to the team members. They did not seem to be totally honest with him.

And then there is the way they organize: There is no clear structure. Everybody is supposed to have maximum freedom – because after all, they are all skilled professionals who know what to do. 

On the one hand, Felix likes this high-profile companionship. On the other hand, he is not sure how the team benefits from each other’s knowledge with so little communication and structure.

The Teamy-Team

In team two, we will call “Teamy”, Felix did not know a single one of the developers. None of them seemed to be specifically good at their job. Some of the developers in the team seemed to be relatively old and clumsy on first impression.

But at the same time, they are the team everybody talked about on Social Media. The challenge they worked on was the challenge everybody worked on – but they seemed to be the team with the solution: A simple, smart, and creative game-changer.

When he talked to one of the older team members, Robin, he saw the glowing enthusiasm in his eyes. That is nothing he saw in the “Performers” Team. So which team should Felix go for?

The system and the mindset

Let me tell you something about the two teams Felix does not know: Team 1 is not performing. Individually they are good and they are motivated, but they don’t work as a team. 

Colleagues of the “Performers” team know of their bad performance. And they also think they know the reason: “They just don’t have the right mindset”. 

Now imagine Felix would join the Performers team. I am pretty sure, Felix – a motivated and bright software engineer – would not have performed well over the long run. His colleagues would also say “he also does not have the right mindset, just like the others”. They would think there is something wrong with Felix as a person.

We are at the core of the problem here. These colleagues blame it on the mindset. But as you may have guessed, it is not the mindset.

Jeff Sutherland says it, too

The majority of people have what people think of as the “right” mindset. They are motivated and want to perform. But it is the situation, surroundings, or system they are in – the culture and structure of their team, company, or maybe private family – that affects their performance. 

This is the case for the “Performers” team. Individually they have good ideas and skills. But they are lacking the right structure and communication system. Therefore, these ideas go in different directions, tasks are not aligned, making progress really hard. 

Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum, puts it this way here: “We are all creatures of the system we find ourselves embedded in. Instead of seeking someone to blame, try to examine the system that produced the failure and fix the system.”

We tend to overrate the importance of personal character when explaining the behavior of others. Interestingly, we do not do so when explaining our own behavior, or did you ever hear someone say “I don’t have the right mindset”? No, that person could give a good – situational – reason why they are not performing.

In psychology, this is called “fundamental attribution error”. It is a natural, widely spread bias in western cultures that you can obverse everywhere in daily life.

Working on the root cause

Given the fundamental attribution error, people often think they can solve their problems if they could “fix” one or two persons in their team. Instead, they should work on their team and their surrounding as a whole.

Therefore, like many others, I believe the retrospective is the most important event in Scrum. There you can make your team aware of the root causes of the problems they face, which often lie in the situation, not the persons. This is the reason why I, as a psychologist and agile evangelist, decided to develop a tool for agile retrospectives in teams, Echometer – and not, e.g., a digital coach for the individual. 

If you really want to work on the psychological input triggers of team performance, I recommend having a look at the “team flow” model of dutch scientist Dr. Jef van den Hout. He developed a model that is a roadmap to bring the individual feeling of flow to a whole team.

You can find more about the model and get additional 12 practical workshops to bring it into your team – for example in your agile retro – in my free eBook. You can download it here.

Ah, by the way. Felix chose the right team, “Teamy”. He is really happy with his choice. Learning more than ever – and adding more value than ever!

About Christian Heidemeyer

Christian is a psychologist by training and a retrospective tool developer for Scrum Masters and Scrum Teams. His tool Echometer takes advantage of the latest science-based findings of team motivation and performance to help Scrum Masters run impactful retrospectives.

You can link with Christian Heidemeyer on LinkedIn.

Announcing the Scrum Master Summit by the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast

Update: The call for sessions is over, but you can still participate in the many live sessions and attend all the talks at the Scrum Master Summit. Register for FREE here.

Every year, we travel to a conference and make new friends. As Scrum Masters, talking to our peers and learning from their experience is something we must constantly do because there’s no Scrum Master University (yet…). So talking to, and learning from our peers is a critical aspect of our personal and professional growth.

We can join communities online, but nothing beats meeting other professionals face-to-face. Here at the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, we strive to bring the Scrum Master community to you, every week. But that’s not the same as meeting and talking with people “live”!

That’s why we’ve decided to organize and promote the Scrum Master Summit, an event thought and designed for you, the Scrum Master! And we will be focusing on featuring your experience in the talks and presentations that we will record. However, the key aspect of this Summit is that we will be hosting live events throughout the week of the conference (May 17th, save the date!). 

Submit your session, and share your experience with your peers. You will get immense feedback from the community, and develop your ideas. Ultimately our goal is to create a thriving community around the Scrum Master role because we believe that the Scrum Master role is critical for a world that needs a new culture of work, a culture of collaboration and achieving together.

Submit your session proposal now, and be an active part of the community. You will learn so much!

Scrum Masters are the future CEO’s, and a podcast by the Lean Enterprise Institute

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

I believe that one of the most well-kept secrets of the Agile community is that the Scrum Master role is the role where the future CEO’s are born.

I know, I know. This sounds like an exaggeration. True. But I do have some good arguments for this below, so read on!

Scrum Masters are about building organizations that work together

I was listening to this podcast by the Lean Enterprise Insititute (a non-profit that tries to advance Lean practice) with heard Alan Mulally, the ex-CEO of Boeing and Ford.

In that podcast, Alan explains how he implemented the “people first” model he learned about at Boeing (being involved in all of the plane projects at Boeing) and later implemented also at Ford.

His perspective is refreshing. But especially it is very much in line with what we think the Scrum Master role is. Take this quote for example: “Pull everyone together around the Vision for the Product, and around the Strategy for achieving that Vision”

“Pull everyone together around the Vision for the Product, and around the Strategy for achieving that Vision”
– Alan Mulally, ex-CEO of Boeing and Ford

For me, that’s a great description of what the role of the Scrum Master is about: pulling people together around the Vision for the product that the Product team has put together with their stakeholders, and pulling people together around the strategy to achieve that Vision!

Scrum Masters are about building organizations that put “people first”

The podcast goes on and talks about something that is incredibly important: how do we build high-performance teams. The lessons Alan shares are also crucial, and we’ve talked about this here on the Scrum Master Toolbox podcast: when a team member does not want to play by the rules the team has setup (low “working together skills, as Alan puts it), that’s poison for the team.

(On Working together and peer accountability) “Everyone who does not operate this way is poison”
– Alan Mulally, ex-CEO of Boeing and Ford

As Scrum Masters, one of our greatest responsibilities is to make sure that the team comes together and agrees on how to work together, and keep themselves accountable! Just like a CEO as Alan explains!

Alan shares his approach to bringing people together on the execution aspect of the work: be clear about the rules (work with the team to define those), and define a method for self and peer accountability!

“Most of the time, when you are clear about the process, and the rules of working together, people will come together and become great team contributors”
– Alan Mulally, ex-CEO of Boeing and Ford

As Scrum Masters, we are responsible for making sure everyone on the team understands (and contributes) to the rules of the work! Just like a CEO as Alan explains!

This was a great podcast with Jim Morgan (Lean Enterprise Institute) and Alan Mulally (ex-CEO at Boeing and Ford), and is filled with insights for Scrum Masters, who are the future of the CEO role!

One more quote to finish (from the podcast, at around minute 29)

“My biggest contribution, was holding myself and the team accountable for following the process and acceptable behaviours”
– Alan Mulally, ex-CEO of Boeing and Ford

That’s a quote from a CEO, not a #ScrumMaster. But it could be from a Scrum Master!

Help us grow as a Scrum Master community, share your best 2020 articles below.

Developing Teams the Scrum (and Lean) way! by Lean.Org’s The Lean Post

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

Scrum Masters are key participants in the teams, and key contributors to the improvement of productivity in the organizations they work in. Even if the Scrum approach and Agile, in general, are very new (from late1990’s, early 2000s), there are other approaches that have been with us for nearly more than a century now.

One such approach is “Taylorism”. In that approach, the main premise is that “some people” know “what needs to be done and how” (the planner/thinker), and other people “do it” (the doers).

“Take it to the team”: a Scrum Master Mantra

Unfortunately, that Tayloristic approach has become prevalent thanks to the work of some early consultancies.

In Scrum, one of the most important changes to the world of work is that the “doers” are also the “thinkers”. This is one of the reasons why here on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, we often say: “take it to the team”. In other words, anyone can raise an idea of improvement, but only the team knows what can/should be done to achieve the goal. Sometimes that team is the development team, sometimes it is the development team + stakeholders, but it’s “the team” that owns and develops the process of work.

This perspective is revolutionary for many, including many consultancies that still push “process improvement” à lá Taylor (you know which ones).

What’s better than Taylorism for developing our teams and organizations? 

That’s why I want to highlight this post in Lean.Org’s Lean Post blog: “Develop Your People Patiently Rather Than Rely on Super Taylorism”

As the article puts it: while the “west” was focused on separating the thinking from the doing, and using “Super Taylorism”,  “in Japan, Toyota was developing a different approach to strategy, one based on technical learning on the gemba through trial and error–a process that aimed to serve all customers with a broad product line of high quality and at the right price.”

Does that sound familiar? Scrum is exactly that kind of approach: “based on technical learning on the Gemba through trial and error”

Check out the post, and learn about the roots of Scrum and Agile. Don’t get stuck in a Tayloristic approach that leads to frustration, dis-enfranchising the team, and long term problems.

Help us grow as a Scrum Master community, share your best 2020 articles below.

Becoming a better Scrum Master by Manuel Müller

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

Manuel Müller is the author of Scrum Master that Matters – You

Manuel Müller wrote an article back in 2017 that reminded me of how important it is to keep tabs on our own personal development. He named the article “You”, which I think is a great title for what’s coming next. Are you puzzled by how you can be a better Scrum Master? How you can have more impact on your team and organization? Read on!

A Scrum Master That Matters

The Scrum Master role is not an easy role to take. After all, you’ve got a lot of responsibility, and none of the authority! (At least most Scrum Masters are in that situation.) So, how do you help your organization and your team in that situation? The answer is simple, but not easy: “you” have to focus on developing yourself!

Every team is new, and sometimes, even the old teams you thought you knew change! A new member comes in, and a team member goes out and everything changes!

10 Aspects For A Great Scrum Master

In this article, Manuel focuses on how we can develop ourselves as Scrum Masters, and be ready for that change. For any change. If you are interested, go on and read the whole article. For me, the most important highlights are:

  • Practice what you preach. Build your personal, Scrum Master role-related feedback loops, and keep on learning
  • Use conversations, not only as a way to advocate Agile and Scrum but as a deliberate tool to understand other people’s perspectives. Remember, you are there to help teams, and individuals succeed on their own!
  • Constantly reflect and learn about yourself. To be a better Scrum Master, knowing yourself is the most important asset you have. When you understand yourself, you learn to think before acting, and you are able to act deliberately, with a goal in mind, and the serenity to collect feedback, learn, and adjust. Never stop learning about yourself!

Manuel’s article is from 2017 but it is as relevant today as it was back then! What are the articles you read in 2020 that influenced you? Share those with me, and I’ll share those with the community here on the blog!

Help us grow as a Scrum Master community, share your best 2020 articles below.

Bootstrapping an working agreement with a Scrum team by Jimmy Jalén

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

Jimmy Janlén’s post on setting up working agreements with your Scrum team

What’s a “working agreement”, Vasco? Good question! As a Scrum Master, one of the things I worry about is if the team members are aware of the (often implicit) agreements they have with each other.

Not having a clear picture of what we have agreed to, may lead to conflict as an outcome of missed expectations. Most commonly, it leads to bugs in the software, and delays in delivery.

So, how can working agreements help reduce bugs and eliminate delays? A simple example of this might be a working agreement like: “share bad news early, even before there are any indications of delays or other consequences”

This agreement, will help the team keep in mind the need to discuss and solve problems early, before they escalate. But, as a single agreement, this would not be enough for a team to work with.

Take It To The Team: The WorkingAgreements Workshop

As a Scrum Master, I also know that the team itself will have a more complete view of the agreements they need to work well together.

I have a few ideas, and will bring those up in our “working agreements workshop”, but it’s up to the team to define and ultimately put into practice those agreements!

In 2017, Jimmy Janlén published an article that helps you prepare a working agreements workshop. In this article, he describes what has worked for him when defining working agreements with teams. Jimmy also shares tips and guides for each of the sections of the workshop.

Jimmy defines the working agreement as capturing “the expectations we have on each other within the team when we collaborate and communicate. I’ve seen teams call it “Code of Conduct” or “Ways of Working”. I call it Working Agreement. You call it whatever makes sense for you.”

Check out the Working Agreements Workshop blogpost by Jimmy to learn more about working agreements, and to get a facilitation guide for his approach to this critical workshop.

Have you had working agreements workshops with your teams? Share below your insights and questions!

The Best Blog posts of 2020 On The Scrum Master Role: collecting the best blog posts from 2020, and you can help!

I’ve been working on a collection of great blog posts about the Scrum Master role. If you have a favorite article on the Scrum Master role, or it’s goals and responsibilities, let me know by submitting it here: https://bit.ly/TheBestScrumMasterBlogPosts2020

To start off this series, I’ll review a post by Gilberto (who’s been a guest here on the podcast), and submitted by Emmy (thanks Emmy!).

In this post, titled “Scrum for the people”, Gilberto explains how he got inspired to look at the Scrum Master role differently after reading  “Por un Scrum Popular” by Tobias Mayer and Alan Cyment (English version: The People’s Scrum by Tobia Mayer).

As Gilberto puts it: “It showed how noble, people-oriented and not at all selfish the profession could be”.

Gilberto laments the idea many have, that the “focus is to leave that role as soon as possible instead of growing and developing it.” And he comments: “This is not the Scrum role I signed for.”

I agree with Gilberto!

He then goes on to explain what the Scrum Master role is about for him, and highlights what he thinks defines a great Scrum Master.

He finishes the article with his own approach on how to become a “Scrum Master for the people”.

Gilberto’s article is an inspiring reminder of what the Scrum Master role can be when we put our energy and focus on becoming better in the service of others. The core aspect of being a Scrum Master!

What articles about the Scrum Master role inspired you during 2020? Let us know by submitting your favorite article below, and let’s build our own “The Best Blog Posts about the Scrum Master role from 2020” list! A list by Scrum Masters for Scrum Masters!

Holding space, a Scrum Master guide with links and tips

As a Scrum Master that studies, and constantly tries to improve your craft, you’ve probably heard (and even used) the phrase “hold the space”.
For (some) native English speakers, this phrase may be easy to grasp, but as a non-native speaker, I can vouch for the difficulty of understanding what this means in practice.
As a Scrum Master myself, however, this phrase is too important to dismiss as “insider talk”, so I want to share some links and tips about “holding the space” as a Scrum Master.
First, let me refer to a blog post at Stanford’s site by Linnea Ann Williams called “Holding Space: A Scrum Master Overview”. The blog post is about the role of the Scrum Master, but it is also about what it means to “hold the space”. My key takeaway from this blog post: As a Scrum Master I must help the team and the stakeholders create the conditions the team needs to perform (hold the space).

The basics of the Scrum Master role and the meaning of “holding space” 

But there’s a lot more about the meaning of “holding space”. Many of the aspects of that approach are in the Scrum Guide (PDF version from the year 2020 here), and some are well described in this blog post by Aditya Chourasiya, titled “Scrum Master – Roles and Responsibilities”. Aditya describes “holding space” as a set of responsibilities that include:
  • Shield teams from interruptions to optimize the outcome
  • Facilitate effective Scrum ceremonies
  • Help Product Owners develop a positive rapport with their team and accept him/her as a part of the family
  • Step back and let the team learn from its own experience – successes, and mistakes.
Aditya’s article gets into the very practical aspects of the role, and I find that approach very useful when defining my own approach to “holding space”.

Taking Holding Space all the way up to “11”: Open Space Technology as a school for Scrum Masters

Open Space Technology, is an approach that helps people find solutions to difficult problems by working together, collaborating on possible answers to those problems.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because that’s what we expect Scrum Masters to do when it comes to the teams and their search for a solution. We want Scrum Masters to help the team find a solution (or more) for a difficult problem, by collaborating inside the team, and with outside contributors, other teams, or stakeholders.
That brings me to another resource (WARNING: this is a book, not a blog post!): The Tao of Holding Space, a book by Chris Corrigan. This is a long read, and I don’t expect everyone to read it. So let me review some key takeaways from the book.
Chris is a seasoned Open Space Technology facilitator and often writes about facilitation at all levels and all kinds of organizations. Therefore he has a lot of experience to share on “holding the space” and what that means in practice.
One of the inspiring phrases from his book is right there in chapter 1, and I think it describes perfectly what the Scrum Master role is about: “Harrison Owen wrote that “holding space” is an act that is at once totally present and totally invisible”.
And the book goes on with inspiring phrases. In chapter 2, Chris writes: “Sitting in stillness invites [other] people to move.” This reminds us that when we don’t take action – as Scrum Masters – we are helping others “find the space” to express their own ability to lead and help the team.
In chapter 10, we are reminded of one of the key aspects of Open Space Technology: “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have”. This encourages us to work with what happens in the team, instead of trying to direct the team towards what we think is “the right thing”. Accepting what happens in the team, at every turn, is also part of “holding the space”

Conclusion

This is a short blog post about what “holding the space” is for Scrum Masters.
It has some very practical blog posts and a resource that inspires us to look at the activity of “holding space” from a different perspective: the Open Space Technology perspective.
“Holding the Space” is not just a phrase, it’s a very practical and pragmatic thing we do as Scrum Masters.
What is your approach to “holding the space”? Share your thoughts below!
Do you want to grow as a Scrum Master?
Get an invite to the Annual Global Online Scrum Master Summit. Enter your email below to be notified when the Summit registration opens
Do you want to grow as a Scrum Master?
Get an invite to the Annual Global Online Scrum Master Summit. Enter your email below to be notified when the Summit registration opens
Get The Booklet!
How to deliver on time and eliminate scope creep By scoping projects around outcomes and impacts, not requirements!
Get the Product Owner Booklet!
Avoid scope creep! And learn to scope projects around impacts and outcomes, not requirements!
Get These Valuable Lessons Today!
Down-to-earth, hard-earned Scrum Masters lessons and the Tips from the Trenches e-book table of contents, delivered by email
Enter e-mail to download a clickable PO Cheat Sheet
This handy Coach Your PO cheat-sheet includes questions to help you define the problem, and links to handy, easy techniques to help you coach your Product Owner
Enter e-mail to download a clickable PO Cheat Sheet
This handy Coach Your PO cheat-sheet includes questions to help you define the problem, and links to handy, easy techniques to help you coach your Product Owner
Enter e-mail to download a checklist to help your PO manage their time
This simple checklist and calendar handout, with a coaching article will help you define the minimum enagement your PO must have with the team
Enter e-mail to download a checklist to help your PO manage their time
This simple checklist and calendar handout, with a coaching article will help you define the minimum enagement your PO must have with the team
Internal Conference
Checklist
Internal Conference
Checklist
Download a detailed How-To to help measure success for your team
Motivate your team with the right metrics, and the right way to visualize and track them. Marcus presents a detailed How-To document based on his experience at The Bungsu Hospital
Download a detailed How-To to help measure success for your team
Read about Visualization and TRANSFORM The way your team works
A moving story of how work at the Bungsu Hospital was transformed by a simple tool that you can use to help your team.
Read about Visualization and TRANSFORM The way your team works