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.

BONUS: Mirko Kleiner on Agile Procurement a new approach to buying software development

When organizations start with Agile, they typically focus on the work that needs to be done at the team level. In many organizations we have “water-scrum-fall”, a little bit of Scrum squeezed inside two big buns of a plain waterfall.

The reason for that is that organizations don’t change as a whole. Typically Agile adoption starts in Engineering/R&D and slowly spreads throughout the organization. At some point, it bumps against the slow moving, but very powerful finance department. Where are all the financial decisions are made, including how to fund projects, and where Procurement has a key role. How do we change Procurement (buying software development) to fit Agile organizations?

That’s the topic we explore with Mirko Kleiner, a pioneer in the Lean-Agile Procurement movement.

How Lean-Agile Procurement got started

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

Continue reading BONUS: Mirko Kleiner on Agile Procurement a new approach to buying software development

BONUS: Jeff Gothelf on how to redefine the measure of success for software development

When Agile broken into the scene, it was mostly about the techniques to develop releases of the product quickly. However, that was a time when products were released only a few times a year at best. Today products evolve continuously and that changes how product Owners and Product Managers need to interact with the teams. In this episode, we explore some of the key lessons Jeff has learned working with product organizations all over the world. In short: Product Managers also need to adapt to Agile, it’s not just the teams!

Continuous product development is different from what we used to know as product development

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

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BONUS: Jeff Patton shares his view on the Product Owner role, and what Scrum Masters can do to help

In this episode, we explore some of the critical lessons Jeff learned in his own career as a Product Owner. We review the missing aspects in most Product Owner role implementations and discuss the tools that have helped Jeff as a Product Owner first, and later his students.

The first steps of Jeff’s journey as a Product Owner

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

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BONUS: Patricia Kong and Kurt Bittner introduce Nexus, a framework for scaling Scrum by

For several years, the Agile community has been struggling with the use of Agile practices – developed for small teams – in the large. Large organizations or multi-team efforts are the rule, not the exception in the software world. In this episode, we explore Nexus, a scaling framework developed by to tackle just that: the use of Scrum in larger organizations and multi-team product development efforts.

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

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BONUS: Dean Leffingwell on scaling Agile and the Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe

scaled agile overviewFor this first Christmas 2018 special we focus on scaling Agile, and specifically how the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) can help organizations take Agile and apply it in the large.

There are many systems that require multiple teams to work together. As more and more industries adopt software as a core part of their services and products, we also see many organizations developing many products concurrently, and large engineering organizations that require coordination across tens or hundreds of teams, including non-software teams.

In this episode, we discuss how SAFe can help you take Agile to that type of environments and organizations.

Read on for the detailed show notes, as well as all of the links.

Continue reading BONUS: Dean Leffingwell on scaling Agile and the Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe