Ivo Peksens on tools for defining Scrum Master success

Success is an endless journey for Scrum Masters, but there are tools that help us assess where we are, and also what are the areas we are already successful in. We discuss a Scrum Master self-assessment tool developed by Luca Minudel and refer to the Learning Guide for the Certified Team Coach program by Scrum Alliance (not freely available).

Featured Retrospective for the Week: Mad/Sad/Glad

The Mad/Sad/Glad retrospective format, inspired by the Core Protocols is a retrospective format that helps the team discuss the issues that are causing emotional reactions. Emotions are often symptoms of other problems the team needs to process, and this format helps address those problems.

We also talk about Kudo Cards from Management 3.0 as a way to help teams increase empathy and energy.

About Ivo Peksens

Ivo is an Agile Coach at heart. He tries to live that role every day. His view is that to be somebody like an Agile Coach is a lifestyle, attitude across everything you do. Ivo has been in IT industry about 20 years and has been a Scrum Master and Agile Coach for the last 5 years.

You can link with Ivo Peksens on LinkedIn and connect with Ivo Peksens on Twitter.

BONUS: Ben Aston on Project Management lessons that Scrum Masters can use

Ben is a project manager with experience in developing digital services and products for worldwide clients. He’s learned some very important lessons and shares some of his key insights with you in this special episode, where we dive deep into the project manager role and the project management world.

Continue reading BONUS: Ben Aston on Project Management lessons that Scrum Masters can use

Richard Griffiths on 4 clear success signs for Scrum Masters

When thinking about the role of the Scrum Master, Richard comes up with 4 clear signs that indicate we are on the right path with the teams we work with. In the end, Richard says, we must do ourselves out of a job to be successful Scrum Masters.

Featured Retrospective of the Week: The Amazon Product Review retrospective

Richard suggests the Amazon Product Review retrospective format. And although Retromat suggests this can be used as a “check-in” exercise, we can also use it as the core exercise for the retrospective.

In this episode, we refer to the Agile Retrospectives book and the retrospective outline defined in the book.

About Richard Griffiths

Lapsed software developer, agile and scrum learner, tenor, drummer.
Richard guides and coaches Scrum Teams and organizations on how to use Agile/Scrum practices and values. Helping to teach, facilitate, collaborate & mentor software development teams, enhancing their agile maturity through coaching technical practices as well as the ceremonies and techniques. Richard likes to help teams and organizations obtain higher levels of maturity, at a pace that is sustainable and comfortable for the team and organization.

You can link with Richard Griffiths on LinkedIn and connect with Richard Griffiths on Twitter.

Rade Zivanovic on success metrics for Scrum Masters

When thinking about the aspects that define our success, measuring the critical aspects of our work needs to be part of it. Rade challenges us to try to measure those things that we think we need to improve. We talk about how to measure interactions and the right kind of interactions in the team and between team and stakeholders. Are you measuring the key aspects of your contribution as a Scrum Master?

Featured Retrospective format for the week: Three little piggies

The Three Little Piggies retrospective format focuses on risk management. Asking us to consider what are our Houses of straw, Houses of sticks and the solid House of bricks. And why not ask: who or what is our big bad wolf?

About Rade Zivanovic

Rade is a compassionate Scrum Master, who enjoys helping and supporting teams in their work and seeing them succeed.

You can link with Rade Zivanovic on LinkedIn and connect with Rade Zivanovic on Twitter.

BONUS: Geoff Watts on what makes a great Scrum Master, the key challenges to Scrum adoption and much more about Agile

There are quite a few books out there about the Scrum Master job. However, the classic that many refer to over and over again here on the podcast is Scrum Mastery by Geoff Watts.

In the description of the publisher writes: “Scrum coach Geoff Watts has identified patterns that separate a good Scrum Master from a great one”.

As a podcast for Scrum Masters, we wanted to have Geoff on, to share the key insights in the book, but also what he learned since the book was first published in 2013.

But, before we go into those new lessons learned, let’s quickly review some of the key insights from the book

The key insights from Scrum Mastery, the book

Read on for the detailed show notes and all the links…


When Geoff was starting out his own Scrum Master journey, like many of us, he started as a Project Manager who was trying to adopt a new approach to the old work. Back then, we had very few books available. Agile Software Development by Beedle and Schwaber was the book we all read.

Like us, Geoff had to make a lot of mistakes and “learn by doing” what being a Scrum Master was really about. While in that journey Geoff started to appreciate the importance of a behavior that many previous project managers are not familiar with. Holding the silence in the conversation. We often get tempted to break the silence, but silence can allow team members and other stakeholders to come forward and take responsibility.

We also discuss what are some of some other actions that truly great Scrum Masters take as opposed to the good Scrum Masters.

Lessons for recovering Project Managers

Geoff also has a lot of lessons and ideas to share with those of us who are moving from a Project Manager position to a Scrum Master role. The key lesson is to give ourselves time to reflect. “Build time in your day to learn what worked and didn’t work, and detect your project managers traits.”

But there are many more lessons. Be open about your failures, your behaviors that come from the previous position. Be deliberate about what you want to change in your own behavior to adopt a Scrum Master role in all its depth.

Success for Scrum Masters according to Geoff Watts

This is the core question in our Success Thursday here on the Scrum Master Toolbox podcast. But what does success mean according to Geoff Watts?

Geoff takes a similar stance to the one many of our guests share on the podcast. A great Scrum Master aims to do themselves out of a job. In practice that means they help the team manage conflict on their own; work well with the Product Owner; collaborate with each other; and remove – by themselves – impediments to the team’s productivity or agility.

However, it takes time to get there, and we are sometimes too quick to judge the teams we work with. Perhaps one required condition before we can reach success is to accept the team as it is when we start working with them and pick a place where to start. The journey is long but worth it!

New lessons learned on how to be a great Scrum Master

When Geoff looks back to the book he wrote before 2013, he feels that it is as if another person wrote it. He’s collected many lessons since then and shares those on the podcast. However, there’s something he wants to highlight.

Today, Scrum Masters are expected to be coaches, and they don’t necessarily have the experience or education to perform that role. Geoff’s written a book about that aspect of the role of the Scrum Master, in The Coach’s Casebook Geoff  and Kim Morgan try to explain the 12 traits that trap us when trying to be a coach, and share case studies where “the coach shares their emotions, their thought processes and their reflections from coaching supervision as they try to understand the psychological origins of these behaviors and to work out how to help their client”.

But being a coach is not the only aspect that he feels should have had more space in the original Scrum Mastery book.

Why Scaling Agile is not about more teams or larger organizations

Another aspect that Geoff has studied and gotten a lot more experience on since the original book was published in 2013 is the Agile Scaling trend that we have seen emerge.

Geoff shares his unique perspective on the process of scaling as well as why scaling is not really about the size of organizations or more teams, but rather a cultural challenge that our organizations face.

The major obstacles to Scrum adoption in 2018

As we review how the Scrum Master role has evolved over time, it is inevitable to look at what else has changed. And the key question we all must face is about which obstacles we face when adopting or expanding the use of Scrum in our organizations. In this regard, Geoff does not see much difference, except in one aspect: it is now, more than ever, crucial that we adopt Agile and Scrum to enable our organizations to survive the competitive landscape. Back in 2001, when Geoff started with Scrum, there were not many organizations using Agile or Scrum. Now there are plenty of competitors, who are smaller, nimbler, more Agile than your organization.

Agile adoption has become a survival imperative.

Talent over processes, keeping the key people is critical for survival

Because Agile is now more spread, there’s a related challenge: people who want to work in an Agile environment will not stick around if your organization is not progressing in its Agile journey.

According to Geoff, retaining the talent you have is now a major challenge. This is more obvious in the Agile Coach and Scrum Master roles because people in those roles want to work in organizations that not only pay lip-service to Agile but are actually actively adapting that new way of working.

Geoff Watts on the part-time Scrum Master dilemma

Scrum Masters all over the world are faced with the necessity to serve multiple teams. In some companies, we still question the value that Scrum Masters can bring. This “meeting secretary” anti-pattern of the Scrum Master role is not easy to remove.

In this episode, Geoff shares his own view on this topic, as well as some tips on how to introduce the idea of a dedicated, and full-time Scrum Master to your leadership. A must-listen for anyone who is facing this problem right now.

Helping Product Owners as a key job of the Scrum Master

We end this episode talking about the role of the Product Owner. Geoff Watts wrote Product Mastery, a book that helps both Product Owners and Scrum Masters to understand that role.

Helping Product Owners is a key aspect of the Scrum Master role, so we must endeavor to understand and support people in that role. This, in turn, means that Scrum Masters must get up to date with that role, and develop experience in facilitating key meetings/workshops (see our FREE Vision Workshop e-course, and our Story Mapping Facilitiator guide) for Product Owners who need to be more focused on the content, and preparing the needed artifacts that support the team.

This is a value-bomb filled podcast episode! Happy listening!

About Geoff Watts

Geoff Watts is the founder of Inspect & Adapt Ltd and one of the most experienced and respected Scrum coaches in the world. Geoff helps individuals create great teams by developing a culture of reflection, empowerment, and engagement.
He started using Scrum at British Telecom, one of the first large-scale agile adoptions, Geoff, then coached organizations large and small through their agile journeys.
He’s also the author of 3 books, including Scrum Mastery, from good to great servant leadership. A book we explore in this episode of Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast.

You can link with Geoff Watts on LinkedIn and connect with Geoff Watts on Twitter.

You can also connect with Geoff Watts on Instagram and on watch Geoff Watts on YouTube.

Massimiliano Fattorusso shares 3 aspects to help you create your Scrum Master success definition

When it comes to being a successful Scrum Master, we need to have a clear definition that helps us make regular decisions about where to put our focus. In this episode, Max shares with us 3 aspects that he has in mind and reflects on when it comes to assessing his progress as a Scrum Master. We also talk about concrete practices that Max has found help reach his own definition of success.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: The Pre-mortem

Retrospectives are usually about what has happened. How the Sprint went. How the release went. However, sometimes it is useful for the team to reflect on their near future. The Pre-Mortem Retrospective format focuses on that near future. In this episode, Max explains how you can use that format to help improve cross-team collaboration in a multi-team environment

About Massimiliano Fattorusso

Massimiliano has a strong interest in agile methodologies and lean principles. He is keen on sharing lessons learned as a speaker at international and local conferences. Empathy, creativity and drive to innovate is part of his identity. Massimiliano is not afraid of addressing the uncomfortable truth, that’s how he helps bring teams forward.

You can link with Massimiliano Fattorusso on LinkedIn and connect with Massimiliano Fattorusso on Twitter.

Donna Marie Lee: Is the team facilitating their Scrum ceremonies when the Scrum Master is away?

A quick way to check if our work as Scrum Masters is having the needed impact is to check if the team is still hosting the Scrum Retrospectives when we are away. If that’s the case, then it is likely that the Scrum Master has done a fairly good work. In this episode, we discuss this and other approaches Scrum Masters can use to assess their contribution to the team.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: Retro Beers

When we think of retrospectives we typically think of a meeting room, people sitting down (or standing) and executing some prepared exercises over the course of the meeting. But that’s not what a retrospective is about. It’s simply a possible format. In this episode, we discuss the 5 stages of retrospectives and how those can be implemented in many different ways.

In this episode, we refer to Retromat, a useful resource to help you plan your retrospective.

About Donna Marie Lee

Former software engineer turned pragmatic change agent working in Tokyo. Enthusiastic about inspiring teams to be great and achieve their goals.

Certified Scrum Professional with more than 5 years experience in training, facilitating and coaching agile and scrum practices.
Previously worked as a Line Manager and Team Lead responsible for nurturing the growth and maturity of teams and individuals within the company.

You can link with Donna Marie Lee on LinkedIn and connect with Donna Marie Lee on Twitter.

Product Owner coaching challenges for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches

As part of our upcoming “Coach Your Product Owner” course, we’ve been hard at work creating simple and actionable tools you can use to help your Product Owner progress. But that coaching cannot happen unless we tackle the biggest problems we have when coaching Product Owners. So, last week I asked people who receive my Newsletter to help me answer this question:

When it comes to Coaching and Supporting your Product Owner(s), what is the single Biggest Challenge that you are facing right now?

The reason for this question is my belief that, as Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches, we must help the Product Owners as part of our duties. Sometimes those duties may be just about helping them manage/facilitate a particular session, but often we need to help the Product Owner grow their skills, knowledge, and experience with Agile product development. All aspects of it.

So what are the key challenges we face, when coaching and supporting our Product Owners?

Read on to find out…

Continue reading Product Owner coaching challenges for Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches

Daniel Heinen: a simple Success definition for us as Scrum Masters

There are many possible answers to the question: “what does Success mean for you as a Scrum Master”. And some of those answers can be very detailed and in-depth. But that’s not the only way to look at our success as Scrum Masters.

In this episode, we discuss a simple definition of success. Listen in to learn more about that simple definition, and see how that can help you improve your own work as a Scrum Master.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: Weather Report check-in

The Weather Report retrospective format is a metaphor-based format that helps the team highlight the “clouds” or “storms” they faced in the previous sprints.

You  use this exercise as a check-in (with a short phrase or two from each team member), or as a starter for a deeper conversation about what we might want to do differently in the next Sprint.

About Daniel Heinen

Daniel has been a Scrum Master since 2014 on a Scrum pilot at BMW. Since 2016 focusing on organizational change management, for example, facilitating communities of practices for Scrum adoption at BMW. Recently he started working as a Scrum Master and Agile Coach at Autonomous Driving BMW, who decided in 2017 to restructure according to the LeSS framework.

You can link with Daniel Heinen on LinkedIn.

David Denham on how Scrum Masters can overcome the Impostor Syndrome

Scrum Masters can easily feel the Impostor Syndrome. After all, we are there to help a team, that usually works with a technology we don’t fully understand, and develops a product for a business we might not be familiar with. How can we them overcome the Impostor Syndrome? David suggests that we should focus on a set of simple questions that guide our actions. These questions help us focus on the core role of the Scrum Master, and help us acknowledge our strong points and main responsibilities as Scrum Masters.

Featured Retrospective Format for the Week: Using metaphors to help generate creative ideas

There are many metaphor formats for retrospectives. The Speed Boat Retrospective, the Amazon Product retrospective, the Sailboat Retro, the Hot-air Baloon Retro, etc. All of these formats help the team be creative about finding the impediments they want to focus on. It helps the team get out of their day-to-day scenarios and think deeper about the issues they want to tackle. Metaphors also help the teams discuss problems that they would otherwise hesitate addressing.

About David Denham

David Denham works as a Scrum Master in Workday in Dublin and is one of the leaders of the Agile-Lean Ireland community and co-organiser of the ALI conference. He previously worked as a UX lead and believes in the power of Product delivery teams being involved in Product Discovery, through practicing Design Sprints. He practices failure every single day by attempting to use his agile coaching skills with his 2 small daughters!

You can link with David Denham on LinkedIn and connect with David Denham on Twitter.