BONUS: Rahul Bhattacharya on what do on your first 90 days of a scrum master for a new team

We start this episode by talking about why it is important to have a specific focus on your first 90 days when working with a new team. The first 90 days are all about setting yourself up for success, and that requires that you take certain actions. 

Start preparing before you start helping

Rahul suggests that we start preparing for our new role as a Scrum Master by asking specific questions (even in the job interview if that’s the case). Rahul suggests that to understand the expectations placed on you, you must understand what others have done before, what the team might be struggling with, but also how the context around the team works. What are the hierarchies, what do the team expect the Scrum Master to do, and more!

Do the Gemba: a critical step for your success as a Scrum Master

The gemba (a term from Lean that means “the place where the work happens”) walk is all about seeing with your own eyes, and talking directly to the people that you will be working with, or that your work will depend on. It’s important for Scrum Masters that are getting started that they not only talk to the team, but also to the stakeholders of the team, and possibly other teams that represent dependencies for the team you are trying to help. 

See the system: looking beyond software development

Finally, the third step in this structured approach to the first 90 days with a new team, is all about what’s around the team that you need to deal with, even if it is not at the core of what the team does. This is “the systemic view” or context for the team. Rahul shares some critical questions we should ask ourselves (and those around the team), so that you can understand what kind of pressure and expectations are placed on the team.

Mega tips to close off this episode (make sure you listen all the way to the end) 

Once we review the 3 main activities to prepare your Scrum Master assignment successfully, we dive into some of the tips that Rahul has collected over the years as an Agile Coach and Scrum Master. Rahul shares some critical insights that will help you overcome the most common challenges Scrum Masters face when taking on a new team. 

To know more about Rahul’s approach, check out this article for Agile Coaches and Scrum masters called “Needs-oriented model of Agile Coaching”. 

And check out Rahul Bhattacharya’s podcast, The Agile Atelier! 

About Rahul Bhattacharya 

Rahul Bhattacharya is currently working as an Agile Coach at Delivery Hero. He is responsible for optimizing the ways of working within the organization, coaching others on best practices while simultaneously guiding teams working on different products. Rahul is passionate about constant learning through experimentation and feedback

You can link with Rahul Bhattacharya on LinkedIn and connect with Rahul Bhattacharya on Twitter. 

And check out Rahul Bhattacharya’s podcast, The Agile Atelier! 

 

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!