The trouble with becoming a Scrum Master

The Trouble With Becoming A Scrum Master

Many years ago, when I was starting out as a Scrum Master, I did all the same stuff that everyone else did.

I read all the same books, I went on a certified Scrum Master course, and began to apply all the things I was told to do.

  • I put up a board that said “To do -> Doing -> Done” and filled it with post it notes.
  • I painstakingly drew a burndown chart on the wall and started asking people “How many points are left on this?”
  • I showed up to boring planning sessions and asked people to use poker planning cards to estimate things.
  • And every week I asked my team to stand in front of their stakeholders and show things that they only got criticisms on.

And guess what? It didn’t work!

But it’s OK, I knew the solution; more tools!

So I scoured the internet, but unfortunately what I found was that there really wasn’t a whole lot more out there.

Most of the books I encountered were too philosophical.

They talked about building trust in teams or the importance to cross functionality.

But there were very few that had any advice on how to actually do it.

There were a few actionable things, but as I looked more into it I realised that everyone was just repeating the same ideas over and over again.

It was like one person would have success with an approach, write it down and that would be regurgitated all over the internet as “the next silver bullet”.

Now I have been an Agile Coach for a lot of years, and have had great success in many different teams, and I realise why a lot of the material wasn’t actionable.

Agile is a philosophy …

And you’re not going to have a lot of success …

… Until you understand the underlying philosophy behind it.

Now herein lies the rub:

The philosophy is one of experimenting and learning. And it’s difficult to learn when you don’t have a lot of things to try out.

If the burndown charts and the poker planning cards fail you, there really isn’t a lot of other inspiration available.

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”

If the burndown charts and the poker planning cards fail you, there really isn’t a lot of other inspiration available.

This means you need to start developing your own ideas from scratch.

Which in turn slows down the learning cycle.

But I kept at it.

I failed, and learned from that failure.

Eventually, I understood the underlying philosophy that truly helped me succeed.

I also developed a much larger toolkit based on the things I had tried.

Nowadays, I have enough things in my back pocket which help me find a starting point for most things I am trying to address.

Things like visualization techniques and workshop structures which allowed me to move beyond the early tools that hadn’t always worked.

In retrospect, what was lacking was inspiration!

Here’s what I now realise:

No matter how long you have been working in teams, you should be looking for new tools and approaches. And you should use those things as an inspiration to develop the activities you are already doing.

With that in mind, I decided to start sharing the tools I had developed over the years.

I attended Meetups. I introduced it to my friends, and they found inspiration in them.

People even gave me feedback on how they adapted my tools in their environment … which in turn inspired me to create more!

It’s like the more you give, the more you develop yourself.

Pretty great, right?

Eventually, I decided to write them down and share it in a format where they could be consumed by a broader audience.

And this is how I came up with my book, “Actionable Agile Tools”.

The tools in it are short, concise, target a specific issue, and above all are something you can actually DO.

None of these tools are  a silver bullet.

They won’t fix all the problems you have overnight.

And they won’t remove the need to understand the philosophy but hopefully they will provide some inspiration!

Download a Free Chapter

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If you would like to buy the book, you’ll have an opportunity to do so when you download the free chapter.



1 reply
  1. Rob Saddler
    Rob Saddler says:

    Sounds interesting Jeff… how similar is this to Coplien’s Organisational Patterns or Sutherland’s Scrum PLoP? I have found immeasurable value in each… case in point is a talk I gave to the APM in the UK last year which discusses this very subject:

    One thing though… ‘tools’ in this sense is an overloaded term. There is a risk that the way you mean it will be misconstrued with what was called out in the manifesto “We value individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” That was certainly my impression before I got to the end of your blog post.

    When is the book out?


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