Scrum Master as an encourager …

The Scrum Guide refers to Scrum Master as a teacher, a facilitator, as a change agent and as a coach.  His power is indirect and is largely due to his expertise in Scrum. One of her responsibilities is to help Development Teams, Product Owner and the whole organization adhere to the rules of the framework.  But he does not have any direct authority to tell people what to do. So how would he help them?  Here are some ideas

  1. Encourage people to experiment.: Most people are averse to change, but are open to do small experiments. More importantly, ask if you can make a suggestion to the team (or PO or others in the organization) and then suggest an experiment. Example – rather than saying, “Lets try an experiment”, try asking, “May I make a suggestion? (and usually the other person says yes) and then asking, “Can we try an experiment with …..? Let us see how it works for us, and we can always inspect and adapt based on the outcome of the experiment”.  Why does this two step approach work?  Because of “commitment and consistency”.  Robert Cialdini, in his book  “Influence- The Psychology of Persuation” talks about commitment and consistency as one of the principles which can “influence” people towards making decisions. It is far more difficult for people to say “no” to  “Can we try an experiment… ” when they have said yes to “May I make a suggestion?”  because they have already committed to the suggestion by saying “yes” and they would want to be consistent with their commitment.
  2. Encourage people to be curious: Curiosity is one mental state which opens up our mind for learning and experimenting.  According to David Rock, mild uncertainty attracts interest and attention.  Children are always curious, but as we grow, in order to avoid uncertainty, we replace curiosity with control and knowing.  This undermines others’ intelligence and problem solving capabilities.  If people were to learn, they have to be curious and should also willing to take modest risk (in failing). The the trick here is to manage the nature of challenge at hand. When faced with new  or modest challenge, there is a surge in adrenaline and dopamine levels.  A good Scrum Master (or a coach) will capitalize on this to help  them take action (or try something different).

4 thoughts on “Scrum Master as an encourager …”

  1. Very nice article Ram.

    The perception I have about the role of Scrum Master is that he/she is the one who is more focussed on developing a self organized team, and helps the team/organization/stakeholders to make the transition in the Agile world.

    Correct me if I am wrong, Scrum master is not the one who focusses more on the technology like Java/.NET/PHP. His/Her main contribution is to help organization transform, act as a catalyst to the change. Make the life of the Team/PO/Stakeholders easier by guiding them on how to be empirical, be open to changes, yet very often I see (mostly on job portals) there is a specific requirement of a .NET Scrum Master/Java Scrum Master. How good does it stand in the Agile world?


    1. Hi Piyush –

      Scrum Master is a change agent, a facilitator, and a coach. And he is focused on helping the team get better at delivering a quality product.

      And yes, I have seen job descriptions where they are looking for a “technical Scrum Master”. It is unfortunate and probably is a misinformed posting, IMHO. Nevertheless, the Scrum Master should point the team towards achieving technical mastery. Remember the Agile principles

      1. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
      2. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
      3. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.

      And good technical practices have helped teams build quality product, maintain a sustainable pace, and also enhances business agility



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