More challenging than a Project Manager, because of the lack of formal authority, but more satisfying and sustainable through time because of the motivation derived from the feeling of belonging to the team, the role of Scrum Master is actively thriving in the software industry today. A scrum master new to the role, struggles with the apparent contradiction of being both a servant and a leader to the team and someone with no authority over team members. But the formal authority does exist, and it is the authority over the process, to ensure that the scrum process is lived and respected. We could also delve into the depths of defining the informal authority derived from the fact of actively participating every day in scrum, but that is another discussion.
I came across an analogy, which I believe fits well to describe this particular relationship: it is like a personal trainer and the person who is trained. The trainer can design a particular exercise, and the person is not obliged to comply in doing it, rather, the trainer will try to coach and motivate the person to perform the exercise, to be disciplined and not to skip repeating it as many times as necessary In order to derive a benefit from that particular training. The scrum master´s role is to ensure that self motivation to follow methodology is always alive and strong.
The Basics of Each Day
As a scrum master, we listen to each person describe what they did yesterday, and discover what didn´t work out as they thought and we listen to each person´s goal for the day.
If difficulties arise, that is, they ran into something they couldn´t resolve, the entire team listens and anybody who has experience in that area jumps in to help. Team members interact during scrum, they help each other discover pitfalls and resolve issues that might arise. Impediments originating from without the team are addressed by the Scrum Master, and tracked to closure, but for those issues originating from within, e.g. struggle with architecture and/or technology, team members participate with their expertise to be able to identify the problem and propose a solution. The people involved, as a team, come together to delineate alternatives and solutions with the sole purpose of ensuring that the committed work is delivered.
Goals are clear
When the goal for the day is expressed by each person, the personal commitment comes in, which gives each person the freedom to organize himself/herself, as well as ensuring the commitment for the current day. As goals are reviewed every single day, they become very clear, and if confusion should arise, it will be rapidly cleared. This promotes self organization on a personal level, and on the group as a whole. As a team, they commit to themselves, and to each other, to achieve the day´s goal. This implies a deep feeling of belonging in the team. In addition, identifying and keeping goals on a daily basis is a great way to manage goals, to identify them, and make sure they are attainable, and, of course, achieve them! When they are reached, and as time progresses they usually are, they offer a solid feeling of self satisfaction with a day´s work being done!
The day to day contact is the founding rock for the team and the customer, in the role of product owner, to become acquainted in the first place, and gradually develop a mutually satisfying relationship that grows over time, and often, over great geographical distances. It is the means to create confidence and build a trusting relation, in a way that a group of people become a team. This encourages teams to self manage themselves and indirectly, as interpersonal relations develop, means that values are known and shared. Effective teams can actually become quite passionate and specific about what they value.
The supportive attitude that scrum naturally builds is the key to personal empowerment, each person evolves and improves, strengthening their own abilities, knowing that they are important, and as each person is committed to the team as a whole, going the extra mile to aid a team mate, the team strengthens as whole.
Living the agile empowerment
Living scrum, living the spirit of scrum, which is living one of the agile methodologies, implies building a team, and all that that entails, building confidence, ensuring clear goals and ensuring team backing for issues that might arise, thus sharing values, and these are definitely very strong pillars to support scrum as a mutually satisfying relationship that grows and most important of all, gets the work done. If “we define empowerment as letting the power out”, in reference to the potential qualities a person has within, and given the right circumstances can let out, develop and grow, we are talking of personal evolution and strengthening, key issues to success and satisfaction.
Living scrum in our daily work encourages people to gain the skills and knowledge that will allow them to overcome obstacles in their work environment and ultimately, help them develop within themselves in their professional activities. It is clear why scrum, as part of the agile methodology defined as long ago as 2001, is still thriving today, and producing such good results!