Pieter Verbaarschott: Helping teams feel safe, and empowered as a success metric for Scrum Masters

There’s one phrase Pieter heard that made him understand that his work had had a positive impact on the team. The phrase was: “Psychological safety is more than a buzzword in our team”.

Pieter shares how important it is for us to focus on the dynamics between Scrum Master and team members that help create that aspect of safety, and the ability to contribute at all times.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: Retrospectives for Engineering minded folks

Not every team member will appreciate having games in the retrospectives they participate in. For those folks, it is important to have some simple, to the point formats in our back pocket to help them engage without feeling awkward. 

In this episode, we talk about simpler formats that focus on triggering conversations between team members.

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 Pieter Verbaarschott

Pieter is a hands-on generalist with a background in software development. A passion for helping teams work together better. Agile aficionado since his first endeavors in Extreme Programming. Happened to be among Agile Manifesto authors when the discussion was hot. And he refuses to work the traditional way. 

You can link with Pieter Verbaarschott on LinkedIn and connect with Pieter Verbaarschott on Twitter.

BONUS: Tim Ottinger on practical ways to enable psychological safety: The Trust Transaction

Psychological safety has been claimed to impact greatly the productivity and well being of teams. Building trust is how we reach psychological safety, but trust is a touchy topic for teams. Scrum Masters try to build trust between team members, with stakeholders, with other teams, with the Product Owner. Trust maybe one of the critical ingredients that allows collaboration to emerge. But how do we build trust? How do we learn what works, and what doesn’t when building trust?

Tim Ottinger shares his learning in this BONUS episode on trust, with a very practical approach, just like we like it here on the podcast.

Read on for the details on the Trust Transaction…

Continue reading BONUS: Tim Ottinger on practical ways to enable psychological safety: The Trust Transaction

Susan McIntosh on what psychological safety means IN PRACTICE, no buzzwords

The story that Susan has to share with us starts off, as usual, a team, struggling. What happened next? Susan acted in a way that made her understand what psychological safety means in practice. No mumbo jumbo, no buzzwords. What it means for you! Listen in and share the journey with Susan. You’ll learn a lot!

About Susan McIntosh

Susan McIntosh is an agile coach and scrum master, especially interested in training and agile transformations – both fast and slow. She finds analogies to improving workplace culture in her experience in theater, teaching, cooking, and parenting. Susan is an active participant in the agile community in Denver, Colorado.

You can link with Susan McIntosh on LinkedIn and connect with Susan McIntosh on Twitter.


BONUS: Joshua Kerievsky introduces Modern Agile

In this BONUS episode of the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast, we explore the idea of what Agile needs to be to continuously adapt to what we have learned about what works and what does not work in Agile.

Agile is soon 20 years old, the Agile manifesto was published in 2001, and as it says right there in the first phrase: it was about discovering (the active word) new and better ways of developing software.

Nearly twenty years on, Joshua Kerievsky has started writing about what he has learned and started a movement with his article Modern Agile.

He starts by making a point that practices need to evolve. Agile has never been about the specific practices, but rather about the value and principles described in the Agile manifesto. And as practices evolve, some should be changed, and others completely removed or at least replaced. In the #NoEstimates movement, for example, the call is for a completely different way of scheduling/predicting project releases, this is just an example of a practice that is a big contrast to the usual Story Point estimation techniques of the first few years of Agile.

Joshua mentions a concrete example: trunk-based development. An approach to software development that foregoes the idea of needing to have multiple branches, but rather has the code integrated at all times. Something that not all Agilists would even support today.

The 4 principles of Modern Agile

We review the 4 principles of Modern Agile:

– Make people awesome: Where we discuss how the goal of our work is to make people excel at something that matters to them. Either users, customers, programmers, or whoever it is that we are serving. In the context of Agile, this principle means that the practices we use are in the service of those developing the products and services with the Agile approaches we support

– Make safety a prerequisite: While discussing this principle we review books like The Power of Habit and Smarter, Better, Faster. These books inspired Joshua to bring the idea that safety needs to become a habit, and together with the story of Paul O’Neil (CEO of Alcoa), it created the link between safety (physical and psychological) and productivity.

– Experiment and learn rapidly: One of the key ideas of Agile was to bring speed of delivery, satisfying customers early and often, thereby creating a feedback loop that helped teams and organizations learn faster and therefore improving their products/services faster than their competitors. Experimentation is one of the key ideas that Joshua built into Modern Agile.

– Deliver value continuously: from the fake features that prove demand, to constantly delivering something concrete in a short-time frame. Modern Agile is about the value cycle: deliver, validate, learn, rinse and repeat.

We discuss how these principles are linked and why we need all 4 principles to be present.

The Modern Agile community

At ModernAgile.org, the Modern Agile community is active in discussing their lessons learned as well as what new ideas come from applying the principles. All the material on the site is open source and available for you to use.

Listen in to learn about Modern Agile and see how you can apply the ideas that you resonate with. Agile is adapting to the new reality, and so should you.

About Joshua Kerievsky

Joshua is the founder and CEO of Industrial Logic, a pioneering Extreme Programming/Lean consultancy that radically improves the software development capabilities of organizations around the globe.

In the mid-1990s, Joshua was among a small community of “lightweight methods” practitioners experimenting with better ways of developing software. Since then, he’s helped thousands of people across hundreds of organizations learn better ways of making software. Today, he leads an effort to modernize Agile by removing outdated practices and leveraging the best of what the software community and other industries have learned about achieving awesome results.

Joshua is an international speaker and author of the best-selling, Jolt Cola-award-winning book, Refactoring to Patterns, numerous Agile eLearning courses, and popular articles like Anzeneering, Sufficient Design and Stop Using Story Points.

BONUS Episode: Alicia McLain on Psychological Safety for Scrum teams

Alicia re-joins us on the podcast to talk about a topic that she has been developing over the last few months. Alicia talks about Psychological Safety as a concept that was developed in the last century and can help Scrum Masters understand how to allow teams to express themselves without fear.

In this talk, Amy Emondsen explains what Psychological Safety is and how it originated:


Alicia explains her journey through this topic and how she researched the topic to be able to present it and use it with the teams that she works with. In her research she found The Journal of Organizational Behavior to be a good source about this topic.

We then discuss how Alicia applied the concept of Psychological Safety in her work with Scrum teams, and she also shares concrete practices and tools she uses to bring this concept to life.

In this episode we mention the following resources:

About Alicia McLain

Alicia joins us from San Diego, California, and she is the first repeat guest here on the podcast! Alicia was with us on week #66 back in April 2016.

Alicia is a Lean Agile Transformation | Executive Coach with over 20 years of experience in the technology industry

She coaches, trains and transforms mid-size to large companies domestically & internationally.  

She has led both program management and software development organizations using Agile practices and has had 10 years in the Agile community as a hands-on transformation leader, trainer and coach.

Alicia is passionate about using Agile practices to build high performing teams and psychologically safe work spaces!

You can link with Alicia McLain in LinkedIn, and connect with Alicia McLain on Twitter.