Sometimes it gets asked as “What do you DOooooooooooooooOOOooooo?” This blog entry will not explain “what” a ScrumMaster does, but more about HOW *I* as a ScrumMaster help get it started.
My style when going into an organization is to watch and listen.
I have learned that silence can teach me — and others learning with me — more than I can sometimes even teach my talking or yapping away.
And it looks like I am just “sitting there”.
This is a usual pattern of mine since I work with a lot of teams making the transition from waterfall project management to the Scrum framework. And it requires a big shift in change and patterns from the team making the transition to Agile and Scrum.
It — “the shift” — does not happen overnight. Trying to go commando-uuber-religion-Scrum-like is a turnoff to any team. Trust me (licking my wounds).
So… pigs (who are busting their asses sometimes working 24*7 and trying to really see that a work-life balance may work for them) and chickens (who may be paying for me to sit and watch them) ask this question a lot.
Even if it is not to me directly. Actually, people sometimes ask me directly, “Mike, do you even know what you are doing?” Um. Yes. I do. Am I always successful with this technique? Nope. I am human. I make mistakes and move on. And learn from them.
When do I engage?
I usually wind up engaging pretty quickly. But it is the “how” I engage that sets me apart as a ScrumMaster versus a traditional Waterfall Project Manager.
I have the greatest respect for Waterfall Project Managers. I used to be one. Felt powerful. And “in charge.” I also used to be a work-a-holic and had no work-life balance to speak of. I then made the “impossible” choice to look at — and implement — more agile techniques. It was a personal choice and it is not for everyone.
How is a Traditional Waterfall Project Manager different than a ScrumMaster?
Well, one way that became very clear to me recently is that Project Managers manage to Budget and Time along the Iron Triangle. With Scrum, those two lines are “fixed” — and Scope is the negotiable factor. It leads to a lot of interesting conversations if you are open to receiving feedback from some Project Managers about how Scrum is non-managable. I literally saw some Project Managers’ head almost blow up when talking to the them about this situation. Wow.
As a ScrumMaster, instead of saying things like, “Instead of doing such and such….” I will talk about ways I engage at a subtle level and allow the team to make a choice.
I think most regular readers will of this blog know that Silence works. For those of you who may be reading my blog for the first time, or have not seen me write about it… think about this. Over my phone (on my monitor) I wrote a sticky-note that reads, “Shut Up. And Listen.”
Most people I speak with like the act of talking and being heard. Hey, I like it too (you are reading this blog with no real opportunity to speak with me about it other than via email or picking up the phone to speak with me). But I have found that when I am done “talking” — I stop.
This can be hard. Many people do not like to hear the sound of silence, and usually someone will jump in to fill the void. I work hard to make sure that person jumping in is not me.
See what you can learn.
“But Mike, people PAY you to give advice.”
That may be the case for a lot of my clients before I work with them. Before beginning any engagement, I do try to set expectations — and this “silence” thing is one that is tough to swallow.
Why do I insist on it? Other than past learnings (ouch)….
I want to help the team — from day one — start to start thinking and acting on their own. Once I jump in to “answer” a question — or anyone does for that matter — it can lead to a dependence on some one person always having the answer. As a Waterfall Project Manager, I thought one of my jobs was to always “have the answer.” Where did that get me? Sigh. That is fodder for another blog entry (smile).
Your job as a ScrumMaster is tough sometimes. This is one area of advice I wish someone had shared with me when I started on this journey.
Is this tact something that all ScrumMasters should start using?
Find out what works for you. And the team.
Now… I will shut up. And listen…..
February 5, 2007