I've always wanted to write about my experience as a first-time ScrumMaster. I take this opportunity to share that experience and my key learnings.
In general, others within the Agile community have a preconceived notion that the ScrumMaster and project manager are the same. This is absolutely not the case. The two roles are very different, and their approaches to projects are widely different. If anything, the product owner role is more closely aligned with the project manager role. In my opinion, it's one of the hardest roles a person can assume in his or her professional career. Without using the command-and-control strategy, the product owner should be able to exhibit characteristics such as responsibility, humbleness, collaboration, commitment, and influence and knowledge, to realize value for the customer.
A ScrumMaster should act as a servant leader and help the team in its journey toward becoming a high-performing, self–organizing, and self-managing team, thereby delivering continuous value to the stakeholders. A ScrumMaster is not someone who simply facilitates Scrum process/events and makes the team answer three questions in the Daily Scrum. The role is more than that, and I learned some of its other aspects the hard way.
My initial sprints as a ScrumMaster were like throwing a person who doesn't know how to swim into a rough sea. I was bombarded with:
- Team issues (such as the blame-game, inflated egos, etc.) as we transitioned from a conventional organization to a flat organization.
- Pressure from stakeholders to deliver more.
- Comparisons with other teams across the globe, working on the same backlog.
And our retrospectives used to be long and hard-fought battles rather than discussions about how to improve. The team always fought based on past incidents. Luckily, I had few deep-sea divers in the form of coaches to help me swim in these choppy waters.
Getting answers for a smoother transition
Based on my learning and experience, I have framed a few questions that you should ask yourself to render service at various levels.
- What are the next steps in coaching the organization to get more benefits from Scrum/Agile?
- Which audiences require different coaching?
- What is on the radar of the wider ScrumMaster Community of Practice?
- Organizations tend to incorrectly assign duties to the ScrumMaster. What are the next steps in refocusing those duties on other roles in Scrum?
- What are the next steps in helping the feature team be more self-managing/organizing so they can make their own decisions?
- What is on my feature team's improvement backlog right now?
- What are my feature team's next steps for achieving a higher degree of technical excellence?
- What things should I not do so that the team can become more self-organizing?
- What are my next steps in teaching/coaching the feature team to understand and enact Scrum?
Product owner-level questions
- What are the next steps in helping the product owner understand and enact Scrum/Agile tools and techniques, such as user stories?
- What are the next steps in coaching the product owner to realize value?
- To help my organization grow while on its Agile path, what are my next steps for my learning and self-improvement?
- Am I working at a sustainable pace? Do I need to coach others on what that means?
- What are the things that I should not do so that the Scrum team can become more self-organizing (repeated for emphasis)?
- What else do I need to focus on?
I had good coaches and mentors who were with me during the journey. The coaches and the books I read helped me with course correction. But not all first-time ScrumMasters will have such a luxury. I hope that my thoughts and views will help you in some way.