The Scrum Master is described as a true leader who serves the Scrum Team and the larger organisation.
During the many years I served as a Scrum Master I gained a special appreciation for this role and I know how it can be both incredibly rewarding and challenging. It’s amazing to see a team grow and become autonomous and increasingly efficient.
But the Scrum Master is often seen as the team leader or even a project manager with expectations that have little to do with the Scrum principles or mindset. This is certainly the least understood role in the Scrum methodology and source for some of the biggest myths in Agile.
Today, navigating the end-tail of the COVID-19 pandemic as an Agile Coach to many of our Scrum Masters, I am hopeful and positive about the future of our Agile practice. A great deal of that optimism lies on the shoulders of the amazing scrum masters we have.
I invite you to join me in this daily stand-up led by Filipe, a fictional scrum master dealing with some not-so-fictional situations in those short 15 minutes of a call.
(Filipe) Alright, who’s next?
(Filipe’s thoughts) I’m tired. I really need to stop going to bed so late. Maybe I should cancel Netflix. But then what?
(Inês) “Still working on wrapping up user story 346. No, not that one. The one under. Yes. I predict it’ll be done this afternoon. I’ll connect with Priya for testing. Did you see Mike reached out asking when we can show him the new correlation feature? The sprint ends Friday and he seemed worried that it won’t be ready by then. That’s it, no impediments”.
(Filipe’s thoughts) Sweet and short. Inês never fails.
(Filipe) Priya, will you take care of that? I think the correlation feature is ready for Mike’s review, no?
(Filipe’s thoughts) I need to go out. Can’t stand being home anymore. Maybe I’ll go to the store. I hope we need something. Everything else is closed. I really need to get something on this wall. Look at Justino’s background. Love it! The frame, those books, the plant. Wonder if he came up with it. Didn’t picture him as that stylish. Focus.
(Leonor) “Dad, can you review this before I submit it to my teacher?”
(Filipe) Hi, Leonor. Not now, sorry. Give me 10 more minutes to finish my daily.
(Filipe’s thoughts) My kids have been doing home-schooling for half of the school year by now. Their teachers don’t seem to care if they are well or not, they micro-manage their tasks so much. Don’t give them a break. Their stress is visible and badly contagious. Ah! The internet is acting up again! I should probably turn off my camera.
(Filipe) Guys, I’m going to turn off my camera. My WI-FI is awful today. Priya, you’re on mute.
(Priya) “Yeah, sorry, I was on mute. Yes, I’ll reply to Mike. The feature is ready for acceptance. If he has time today, I’ll show him.“
(Filipe’s thoughts) Mike understands scrum. He never waits for the end of the sprint to accept a new item. I wish all our customers’ POs were like that. If you’re a PO, you are part of the team, which means you’re delivering something yourself, not just receiving code from the developers.
I feel more tired working from home, looking at a computer all day. At the office, I would interact with the team, get my eyes off the screen and that would help. I have noticed that walking while taking some calls helps. I wonder if the team feels the same… I’ll ask them in the next retro. André, for example, seems like he needs a break. Should I suggest some days off? I think I will. But then who works on the reports for go live?
(André) “… and also today I won’t be able to work past 6 pm. I have a doctor’s appointment”.
(Filipe) Thanks André, that’s alright. That’s our wrap-up time anyways. Remember to update Jira before leaving.
(Filipe’s thoughts) My WI-FI keeps breaking and my earphones are not syncing again. I couldn’t hear what Justino just said.
(Filipe) Justino, sorry I missed that last part.
I’m not so sure I missed much. Justino usually takes a while until he gets to the point. I need to give him that feedback. Dailies are hard. How are we supposed to be done in just 15 minutes? Especially since the pandemic… it’s just impossible to get the team to cover all the topics of a sprint in 15 minutes. Every time I interrupt someone for time-keeping sake they roll their eyes. “Post daily”. That’s all I have to say. They know. I’ll suggest that daily toast thing on the next retro.
(Filipe) Wait, which item? This one?
(Justino) “Yes, that one. We can delete that. It won’t be needed anymore since the integration with M3 is not going to be done this release. I just talked with the security team yesterday and they said it’s not ready until July. Let’s put it back in the backlog”
(Filipe’s thoughts) Visualising work is critical. I love that we can all be looking at the same board and interact in real-time, make team decisions on the spot. It makes us more of a team.
(Filipe) But if we have to wait for July how will the portal be safe to go live? Our leadership was clear when they said we need to get tight security implemented from day 1.
(Filipe’s thoughts) And just like that, another dependency on our critical path. If I could make all dependencies with external parties disappear, just like that, I would. Magic. Unfortunately, that’s our reality. What we need to do is actively manage, visualise and navigate through the changes and impacts.
(Justino) “Well yes, ok. I’m just saying what they told me. You can schedule another call with them and see if they can prioritise us.”
(Filipe’s thoughts) There is not a day without someone perceiving the Scrum Master as a scheduling master. Or a project Manager. I’m neither. My focus is the team’s growth, it’s the Scrum process, the way we follow the Agile principles as a team and as individuals. I often remind myself that my job is to facilitate the team’s growth, not just book meetings. It’s in moments like this that I can make that clear.
(Filipe) Yes, let’s do that. Why don’t you schedule it and copy me? Happy to join you. We’ll make sure they understand that the portal can’t go live without security. Ok, everyone, didn’t hear any call for a post-daily. So… I think that’s a wrap. See you all at 2 pm for our refinement. Bye.
(Filipe) Hey sweetie, I can look at that now… Leonor?
Written by Pedro Mota Santos
Pedro Mota Santos
Agile Coach, experienced SCRUM and SAFe Agilist, high-performance consultant, with a background of projects in various business areas, ranging from Entertainment, Energy, Insurance and Healthcare to Construction or Telcos. MBA graduate and highly entrepreneurial. Achieved top 5% assessments repeatedly, result of leading core teams and managing fundamental client relationships. Owner of a solid international experience, a strong multi-cultural awareness and a wide perspective of global and strategic topics.
Founder of Inedia, Innovation Media, a Strategic Marketing and Communication Consultancy company - www.inedia.pt.
Presently Agile Coach at Celfocus.
Specialties: Agile, SCRUM, SAFe, ePMO and PMO, System Implementation, Process Optimization, Marketing and Finance functions, Strategy Planning and Execution, e-commerce, Digital Content Management.