Retrospective of a Scrum Master

“The only source of knowledge is experience” – Albert Einstein.

I wrote my last line of code almost a decade ago. Since I had survived a life practicing C++, I assumed that any other path, especially the unpaved one of a scrum master, wouldn’t be harder. Back then, I had search engines to support me when I was stuck with compilation errors. Forgetting to release the memory within my code was one the biggest challenges that kept me and my operations analyst awake at night! Otherwise, I knew exactly what I had to do for the day even before getting into work. It was quite simple and straight forward.

It was fairly easy even being a project manager in a past life. I walked around with solid project plans and pretty colored charts informing who must do what and when. God laughed at some of my plans, but for the rest, meeting the project launch dates was a rewarding experience.

I was reincarnated from a Project Manager to a full-fledged Scrum Master few years ago. Reincarnated? Yes, it is like walking with a new soul. I realize being a Scrum Master requires seeing things using a whole new lens.

From a facilitation perspective, there are just five Scrum Meetings, but each requires varying levels of discipline and interaction. What fills in the remainder of the sprint would determine how quickly you can age. You are constantly attempting to choose a delicate act between what is preached by your organization or the industry and what your team wants to practice. If that doesn’t cut it, your friendly team member reminds you what he likes to do showing the URL to one of many agile approaches that supports it. There are moments you would wish team members like programs had clear code comments (okay, at least some comments) and manuals. Understanding them and their approach takes time, patience and practice.

I realize coaching, motivating or even influencing a team member, especially one who doesn’t report to you is quite a heavenly art. Depending on your organization, as a scrum master you would act without awakening the dormant command and control behavior hidden within us.  The beauty of being a scrum master however, is fostering an environment where your team derives pride in their actions or decisions, and begins to treat each other as part of a family.

The journey to being a Scrum Master begins with rewiring your attitude. You add color and life to people who were merely addressed as “Resources” in the project management world. If you are a dedicated Scrum Master, your primary focus begins with people and the processes built, followed by the focus on the product being developed. You may be the only person on the team who could have no tasks on the task board, but with most challenging scenarios to think, support and execute.  You would however help them understand that they don’t need to see gravity to believe or experience it.

Being honest would earn the trust from your team members. Let them know your true intentions mean good for the team and the organization. Protecting them from external distractions is quite a fun ride. With newly formed teams, you would observe how each member within the team interacts with the rest. Observe their body language, mannerism and choice of words. They may be some of the best tools you would rely upon. We measure success not by how well our team adopts agile, but how well they see us as a catalyst in their growth. Like a farmer, you would sow the (right) seeds, and watch them grow. Once sowed, you wouldn’t dig them up now and then to see if they have made any progress.

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