Being a Scrum Master is a great learning process. I have really enjoyed my experiences so far. To be honest, I learned the most through my failures, as did all of the Scrum Masters around me. Most of the time the learning was about changing my own attitudes and gaining new perspectives. Let me tell you two stories to share more about the attitudes of a wise Scrum Master:
Belinda was a new Scrum Master. Before that she was a great plan-driven project manager. She lived command-and-control. Then came the day when her new Scrum Team decided that having a Retrospective was only for softies. That is why they just skipped this needless meeting. It was a mess. The team themselves now missed the chance to learn and improve. What do you think Belinda did? No, she did not ask her team. She decided by herself that the team must have a Retrospective. She invited the team to the appointment and prepared the Retrospective. And then? Well, no one showed up. Surprising? Um, not really.
What happened? I have to admit, I made this mistake myself in a similar way. I learned something important about the following attitudes:
Controlling does not work with an Agile team. You really have to understand that it is not about you and your ego. You know the right answer? That is great. But again, just to be certain – it is not about you. You want to tell the team what they have to do? If you do so, they will never become a self-organized team. They will always wait for you to come over with the right answer. This may bask you in glory, because you know all the answers, however your team will lose any chance to progress. So stay humble and focus on them.
How can you achieve this? Sometimes you really have to let things go. Calm down. Sometimes a team is not yet ready to change. Then it is helpful to stay positive and help the team to address problems by asking them powerful questions. Doing this, I found that the team finds solutions by themselves. Always.
Change does not happen over night. I regularly thought myself, “This team will never change!”. But they did. After some time. After consistently asking questions again and again. Sometimes they move forward after I had already given up all hope. Be patient. Change will come.
Another story happened to Simon, also a Scrum Master. He told me, “This customer is killing me. They are everything but Agile. I am gonna leave the project.”. Simon had just been working with this team for a few months. In my opinion, it was way too early to give up. And on the other side, as a Scrum Master, I had seen this this situation myself. I also thought sometimes, “They won’t make it. I will leave them.”. What made me stay? The following attitudes:
Think about Confucius’ phrase “the journey is its own reward”. It is not only about achieving your goals right now. You will need some time to progress. This means that you will need each single step to achieve your goal. Therefore, take it one step at a time. It helps you to keep persistent. Otherwise, you will miss the chance to see the wonderful progress of your team. Do not give up too early.
In our universe everything is in motion. Life always means change. It is just natural. A Scrum Master can help a team to be open and creative to invent something new. Sometimes it is enough to simply bring new impulses to an existing situation. Other times your team will have to work through failures to progress. Then it is good to stay positive and learn from your mistakes. To achieve this, a Scrum Master needs a flexible mind. Socrates told us, “I know that I know nothing”. It is a great strength to know that we can’t know and predict everything. That we may fail. Also our own beliefs and opinions may be wrong. That is why we should stay open and flexible to learn about other people’s mindset. I promise, you will gain great new insights.
So what’s my point? It is not only important to have the right framework. You also need the right attitudes to succeed as a Scrum Master. At certain times this can be very hard. At some points you may well think, “What the hell am I doing here?”. The phrase “Learn from your mistakes” sounds nice in theory. Making mistakes does not always feels that funny. You will need a lot of courage and serenity. But it’s worth it.
I did not intent to use clever quotes from ancient history for this blog. But thanks to Confucius and Socrates for being that wise. Am I a wise Scrum Master, now? Not at all. I‘m still on my way, as we all always will be.