Agile Coaching Conversations: Scrum Master

Agile Coaching Conversations: Scrum Master
Joe Burroughs

Joe Burroughs

Many people are frustrated by uncertainty and complexity in their jobs. I use Agile principles to provide clear and simple strategies so that you can win at work!

Agile Coaches need to invest time into the relationship

As an Agile Coach it is important to see the value of effectively leading through the Scrum Masters you work with in your organization. This relationship will take quite a bit of time both in observing the Scrum Master with their team(s) and in one-on-one conversations. This is truly a train the trainer relationship and the ultimate goal must be long-term development of the Scrum Master rather than any immediate payoff in terms of metrics or other short-term organizational milestone. 

The value of the Scrum Master in Agile maturity

If one takes the view that Scrum Masters are the first coach of the team it becomes clear that strong Scrum Masters lead to mature agile teams and ultimately mature agile organizations. Weaker Scrum Masters demand more time and attention from Agile Coaches and have trouble leading their teams through the events and practices of agility. This leads to confusion, differing versions of Agile practiced by teams, a slower path toward agile maturity, and can even threaten the adoption of Agile within an organization. So, simply put the stakes are high!

Join our Pro Tips Pipeline

Agile Pro Tips respects your privacy.  Read our privacy policy on how we handle your personal information.

How can you engage with Scrum Masters?

New

When dealing with new Scrum Masters there are a few key topics to focus your initial conversations around. These are typically framed as “here’s how I can help you” style connections that the new Scrum Master will appreciate as they pay off immediately. 

Here’s a list of topics to use with new Scrum Masters:

  • Orientation to the department or company
  • How Agile is practiced in the company
  • What to expect from your team
  • Business stakeholders “Who’s Who”
  • Review of company Agile metrics
  • Sample retrospective scripts and talking points
  • Organizational structure and team alignment
  • Escalation process and practices
  • Documentation best practices, guides, and resources

Experienced

When dealing with experienced Scrum Masters there are very different expectations and demands of the Agile Coach.  You will want to provide any of the previous topics that make sense but more quickly you will move to advanced conversations.

Here’s a list of topics to use with experienced Scrum Masters:

  • How to “push back” on anti-agile practices
  • Getting the most out of retrospectives
  • Holding team members accountable for commitments
  • Increasing engagement with business stakeholders
  • Taking on the Public Relations role for the team(s)
  • Increasing visibility for pain points
  • Dealing with anti-agile role managers
  • Taking on leadership responsibilities
  • Career next steps and opportunities
Tips for Agile Teams Working Remotely

Tips for Agile Teams Working Remotely

Regain Morale • Establish Momentum • Increase Engagement

Getting it right

As you know, everyone responds to these types of conversations differently. The most important outcome of any of these engagements is that the Scrum Master feels valued and heard. To that end your goal is to be a resource that they can come to for guidance, advice, and even just to vent. Letting them know that these conversations represent a safe space where they can share and be heard is an important point to convey in EVERY conversation.

Final thoughts

Agile coaches will need to allocate a significant portion of their time to observe and engage with Scrum Masters. Observing them should occur during events and ceremonies as well as in one off calls and escalations. Coaches should consider approaching new Scrum Masters differently than they approach experienced veteran Scrum Masters. Positioning yourself as a resource is a good way to begin these conversations and having a variety of valuable topics to share and discuss prepares you for these interactions.

Let me know your thoughts!

I always enjoy hearing your thoughts and reactions so please leave a comment or suggestion for future topics below. Also, it would mean a lot to me if you would share this article on social media. We are trying to increase our audience and your help is critical to our success.

Cheers,

Joe Burroughs

Sharing is Caring!

We are working hard to grow our audience and you can help! Please share any content your find valuable or interesting. 

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on google
Google+
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on pinterest
Pinterest

2 thoughts on “Agile Coaching Conversations: Scrum Master”

  1. Katalina Weatherman

    Really enjoyed this read-very important topic!! Not sure if this is valuable to others, but one thing I like to look at is considering what metrics will be helpful to a team and PO. Once a team starts maturing, I like to suggest they start looking at the “age” of backlog items. Is it still valuable? If it’s a year old, why is it there? How long has an epic been open? And so on. This can really be a great angle for a scrum master to boost that partnership with their PO to help him/her keep that backlog from getting dusty or just too big.

    1. Katalina,
      I agree! Product Owners can often use a gentle nudge to weed their gardens of older stories that either no longer make sense or deliver very little value. This can help empower them to clean a bit further by allowing them to focus on the remaining issues with more clarity and a fresh perspective.

      Cheers,
      Joe

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *