About “The Great ScrumMaster”

“The Great ScrumMaster” was recommended to me during an Agile workshop I attended several weeks ago. The book is not thick which mainly introduces how to become a great ScrumMaster through building a self-organised team. As Linda Rising suggests in the foreword of this book, “this is a guidebook along the path, the way, for ScrumMasters and Agile coaches“. However, I reckon that it is not only applicable to the people who work as ScrumMasters but also to the entire Scrum team.

There are three parts of the content of this book I have divided into roughly as follows: the ScrumMaster role, team building and the toolbox including useful methods, models and techniques that can be employed to help the team become better. From the ScrumMaster’s point of view, “The Great ScrumMaster” interprets the responsibilities of this role explicitly which are all around team building. And it provides various relevant models and methods for ScrumMasters to analyse, plan and implement. The reason why this book could be applicable to all members of the Scrum team is that it can help members to understand the purpose of applying Scrum, clarify the goals of the team, and identify the current situations accordingly, so as to collaborate with the ScrumMaster efficiently and effectively.

At the beginning of the book, the author exposes a rather common but serious phenomenon that the ScrumMaster is usually deemed as a valueless role subconsciously. I suppose there are two situations that cause this kind of bias. First, the team does not have a deep understanding of Scrum. Second, the ScrumMaster does not help the team reveal any apparent improvements. As a result, the role of ScrumMaster becomes formalistic and bureaucratic and may even turn to be mixed with other roles. For example, there is a person who works as the ScrumMaster, in the meantime, as the Product Owner of the team. In this manner, there would be a great conflict between business needs and team self-awareness.

This brings up a quite interesting topic, whether the ScrumMaster needs to be responsible for delivery. In this book, the author states that the ScrumMaster only needs to serve the team and determines the team’s self-organization as the ultimate goal (while I have some different understandings on this point of view, and I will explain it separately in another post). However, I cannot agree more about that encouraging self-organization is the ultimate goal of the ScrumMaster. In the Agile Principles, it is mentioned that “the best architectures, requirements and designs emerge from self-organising teams“. Only if the self-organised team owns the competency to accomplish the work and meet its goals efficiently and effectively. Additionally, there is a fact that needs to be highlighted:

Every self-organised team is self-organised only inside the given boundaries.

As I mentioned in An Overview of Agile, Agile is a set of ideological values that can not only improve productivity but also contribute to a better working environment. However, we should be aware that it would be impossible for teams and organisations to become Agile without applying any rules due to the complex circumstances. In fact, the widely-used Agile frameworks, like Scrum, have been proven as the powerful approaches to contribute to Agile culture. Therefore, defining boundaries is necessary for any Agile teams or organisations in order to achieve the values of Agile. With regard to the boundaries of Scrum, Zuzi (the author of “The Great ScrumMaster“) suggests “Scrum boundaries are determined by the process – limited by Sprint Goals, Backlogs, and delivering working product at the end“.

Scrum is not a methodology – it is a pathway.

Ken Schwaber (2005)

I always believe that a great ScrumMaster can be deemed to a great parent who takes the right way to educate their kids. Normal parents only teach their children in a way that they understand or feel is correct, but great parents will guide and facilitate their children according to the different stages of the children and current deficiencies. Kids will always grow up. It is very difficult to face this world independently if they always live under the protection of their parents. This view also coincides with the author of this book.

Unless the ScrumMaster gives the team the opportunity to take over these tasks, she ends up as their ‘mother’ who is so loving and caring that her ‘kids’ are low-confidence grown-ups, dependent on her even in their thirties

So, A Great ScrumMaster should

  1. believe in Agile and Scrum.
  2. believe in people.
  3. be a servant leader.
  4. focus on observing and listening first.
  5. aim to encourage self-organisation.
  6. try to change the world to be better.

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