Confessions of a scrum master part 1 – A key role in collaboration by Guylaine Drolet

Ever wonder what a Scrum Master eats in the afternoon or sing in the shower?

Well, we might not touch these exact subjects, but I have no problem sharing what my job is all about.

Hello, Certified Scrum Master here!

I know you’ve got a lot of questions, so take a seat and ask away. As long as we have a common understanding about what I do and what is my added value to a team, then I think we can consider the mission accomplished.

Scrum Master? You’re a project manager!

Why must you make me cry? Project managers are awesome but no, I’m not one of them. Guaranteed, I’d have a lot to learn to do what they do. (And so would they if they decided to become Scrum Masters!)

I neither manage people, nor products or projects. I’m there to teach and coach the team to be more efficient and goal-oriented rather than scope driven.

Ok… Then what do you do?

I’m one of a Triad! In Scrum, a Triad is composed of a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, and a Development Team.

Ok… Then, the product owner drives the product. They talk to stakeholders to get a clear vision of the product and what it should do. They are the business guru.

The Scrum Master facilitates the Scrum processes and teaches about Agility. They remove impediments for the team and helps the product owner maximize value based on their team’s capacity.

The Development team is composed of 7±2 people with all the skills necessary to bring the product to completion. What that means is that the team is not necessarily only composed of programmers. The team can include marketing pros, programmers, designers… As long as they collectively have the skills necessary to bring value to the client with every sprint.

Any other role would find itself outside of this Triad and would have to deal with the Scrum Master who protects the team from outside disturbances.

How does the triad work?

The triad needs a LOT of collaboration and a LOT of preparation, which I am there to facilitate.

I make sure that the development team plans their sprints based on their capabilities and the goal communicated by the product owner. I plan retrospectives by giving the Scrum Team a safe space to speak their minds. And lastly, I organize reviews so that the team members can show off how great they are! These ceremonies do take quite a long time to prepare to be quite honest.

Being a Scrum Master means toning down the product owner and their dreams, sitting with them for hours on end hoping that we can get that last feature in the roadmap without breaking everything.

It also means pumping up the DevTeam to take ownership of their product and let their creativity take center stage. I mean… we hired smart people we trust, didn’t we? Let’s leave them the space they need to grow.

It especially means guiding the entire Scrum Team to be self-sufficient in every way.

I also organize workshops about small things like estimation and about the big things like the fact that Scrum doesn’t recognizes their work titles.

What’s the one word you say too often?

I don’t know if my teams noticed, but it’s two words actually: Common Understanding. I repeat this often and I also use them in my day-to-day life.

I’d rather a user story take 3 hours to discuss and that we leave knowing exactly what we are building and what needs we are trying to fulfill rather than just “leave it at that” and go our separate ways.

Most of the workshops that I prepare emphasize this notion of common understanding. Going back and forth to understand what we are doing or not doing is what I’ll generally be looking for in every meeting or ceremony that I host.

How would you define yourself?

Switzerland. I take no decisions and I’m on no one’s “side”. I just ask a lot of questions until someone raises a flag.  

I also generally make sure that everyone gets to speak. Everyone’s point of view is different and if we want… Yeah, I’m gonna say it again… If we want common understanding, then we need everyone to speak up about what they think we are or aren’t building. 

Scrum teams are composed of many specialities: business, quality assurance, front end, backend…. Name it! It is very interesting to see the results of all these people talking together and sharing their opinions. A solution that might have seemed unreachable alone becomes achievable with someone else’s input. 

And I think I might have to buy shares in Post-it… 

Very vague job you’ve got there… When do you know you did your job properly?

If you need constant recognition or someone to tell you that you’re doing good… I’m sorry to say that this isn’t the job for you.

In truth, with time, I’ll be less and less there for them because they’ll learn the processes and no longer need someone to teach. It’ll be a part of them. I’ll fade out until I barely have anything to say.

I’ll be proud and I’ll know I did my job well when I say to my boss: “You can let me go now. They don’t need me anymore.”

Do you want to create the mobile games of tomorrow, today?