The first time I learned the rules of backgammon, I was quite surprised by the simplicity of the rules. But as I read some more about backgammon I quickly came across the saying: "Backgammon: A minute to learn a life-time to master", and as I started playing more and more I came across new rules like The Crawford Rule, doubling and a lot of strategy principles! Gradually I realized that the key principles I learned about backgammon is merely a fundament, getting good requires hours and hours of training!
A couple of years later (2005), I came across Scrum for the first time and had some of the same feeling. The principles are few, are theory is very easy to understand! But as I started using scrum, first as a team member, and later as a Scrum master I discovered a never ending series of hard to handle problems and challenges. Today I see my self as an experienced Backgammon player and Scrum Master, but realize that both require both theoretical skills and years of experience!
Here I will present a couple of principles that can help you become a more valued scrum master!
Focus on people skills
Never underestimate the power and importance of people skills. If you need a quick overview, please read the following article: http://www2.sas.com/proceedings/sugi29/131-29.pdf
All considerations and limitations should be viewed in the the light of cultural diffences, a technique that works well in one culture, could be a disaster in another culture! In sum, consider the culture in which you are operating. These days, when so much business is conducted in “international English,” one can make the mistake of assuming that cultural issues are not in play. They are, and they need to be respected.
The four key interpersonal communication techniques are:
- OPEN-ENDED QUESTIONS
- ACTIVE LISTENING
- TRACKING AND RE-FRAMING DISCUSSIONS
- COMMUNICATION SUBTLETIES
As a Scrum master you will need to always be aware of both culture and communication techniques, as awareness of this can be great tool to manage your team and get a well functioning relationship between the team and the product owner!
Don't freak out
When working as a Scrum master there will always be times when you get caught up in panic, feeling you loose control, or feel your team don't have the progress you want. At that time it is very easy to freak out, leave your role and start doing micro management! The result is disastrous and you could easily destroy the teams commitment for good (or at least for a very long time)!
Remember your key role: "The Scrum master removes impediments and provides process leadership!!!!"
As a scrum master you will never sit back and relax! The inspect and adapt principles never stops, even with a team working together for years! Always follow the process, focus on your team and monitor temperature, progress and conflict lurking!
Don't follow all principles of Scrum without any considerations! Maybe in your project it is necessary to adjust some, maybe it could be to don't focus on potentially shippable product increments, maybe it could be a more pro-active product owner, or maybe it could be the team that creates and maintains the product backlog. Make it your process, but do this in a well planned manner!
Remember: If you remove some parts of Scrum, or adjust some of the principles it has an effect! Stay focused, and always keep in mind the consequences of adjusting the principles you use in your project!
Be reflective and informative
When starting out a new project always start they project with a general walk-through of Scrum, and later when you have important meetings, start with a quick run through of why we are having this meeting, and relate it back to the theory of Scrum. Do this for:
- Sprint review
- Sprint retrospective
- Backlog grooming
Especially in the start of a project or when new team members start you need to get a good alignment of what we are doing and why! By now, most people have some experience with Scrum or rather Scrum-but. Most projects end up in a Scrum-but as they adapt to the current company culture, special needs etc, so try to always get a realignment at the start of a new project on how you as a team want to use the principles of Scrum in the current project!