Are we handholding a bit too much? -šŸŽ™ The Agile Audit Podcast – Sprint #8

Welcome to a new episode the Agile Audit podcast šŸŽ‰ – a podcast where I sit down with your fellow Scrum Masters to talk about working with Agile teams.

In this episode, I’m talking to Ryan. We had many great topics to discuss and inspiring stories to share.

As always, I asked Ryan to talk about his transition into the Scrum Master role because it’s inspiring to see people getting into this domain and succeeding.

We talked about how to show value and positive results a Scrum Master brings to the organization. Specifically, to the stakeholders who may be a bit removed from the day-to-day work of the team.

We also discussed the role of a Scrum Master as a connector, or glue, and why it’s important to let go of control and stop hand-holding your team so that they can self-organize.

Ryan also shared his A-ha moments when it comes to dealing with pushback and conflict.

All-in-all, it was a great conversation!

Meet Ryan

Ryan Scougall 1 - ScrumMastered 2024

My name is Ryan Scougall. I’ve worked in IT for about 18 years, and have really started formally in my Scrum Master role over the past two years.

Before this I worked for and with a range of different organizations from telecommunications, to law enforcement, aviation and many others.

I live in Canberra, Australia, with my wife and two kids.

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If you are interested in coming over to share your experience OR to get some coaching from me, then fill in this form.

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Daria: Hey everyone, it’s Darya here. Welcome to the Agile Audit, a podcast where we sit down with your fellow colleagues to talk about the real life Agile and Scrum, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Daria: Hi Ryan, thank you so much for joining me today on this episode and um, we’ll, we’ll be talking about The role of the scrum master obviously as always and

Did you know that you want to be a Scrum Master?

I am excited to hear more about Your journey your transition and kind of how did you become a scrum master? So I guess I will start exactly with this question

Ryan: To be honest, it was a little bit by accident.

Ryan: Uh, I mean, as often as these things tend to be, you know, I started out my career, um, doing a bachelor’s degree in it and it was in a rural town. Um, Where I was living out of home with a fantastic group of people and learning, doing as much learning in the classroom as I was doing, uh, learning about life and what it was like to party and get friends and all that sort of stuff.

Ryan: And really I started out just through, you know, you might say a normal career transition from there. So like I went into different IT sectors. Um, starting off in junior roles and then moving around as I went, you know, my role before I was a scrum master was really in operations. Um, and my background is around service management and service delivery.

Ryan: And I just had a chance, really was a chance encounter with a friend. Uh, they had a project where sort of virtualized infrastructure project that had been running for a little while, but they had this sense of, uh, these agile mindset that they wanted to embrace, but they really do really didn’t have anyone within the team that.

Ryan: That sort of owned and championed that my background, I’d worked around projects. I’d worked inside and supported projects and working in it and, and all that something, it was a, it was a good fit to support the project and there was a growth opportunity there really with the project. And so I just joined and really started.

Ryan: Taking that by the reins and running with it. And then from there, you know, I started getting certifications. I started doing all the reading up, um, and then really injecting that sort of the frameworks, the mindset, and starting to try to drive change within the team to sort of bring out scrum practices, agile mindset, you know, just the normal stuff that you do around running an agile project.

Daria: Okay, so and then that basically slowly, I guess you were more transitioning into that scrum master role? Or was it originally the you knew that this is something that you will be going for?

Ryan: To be honest, it was so organic. It’s kind of hard to explain. But I had an affinity towards it. I’d done other types of work, so yeah, within the team, and my boss gave me a lot of room to, to take this role where I wanted to take it.

Ryan: He has, I’ve known this guy for a long time, and his general way of working is just naturally, Agile. He likes to experiment. He likes to move fast and that can mean stuff breaks, but you can fix it. Um, it doesn’t always have to be perfect. It just has to be good. And you know, that sort of approach really let me then just sort of get into this role.

Ryan: I think there were probably some misconceptions about exactly, you know, how the agile mindset and the various frameworks and various things you do, how that, how that works exactly. And within the organization, this project Exists within it’s not a naturally agile sort of organization It’s very command and control sort of heavy, but somehow this project and you know this pocket of people We were able to really sort of take that take that further I started taking it in a direction like to go with a simple sort of implementation Initially, that was like sort of Kanban focused.

Ryan: It didn’t have a lot of the overheads that, that Scrum brings with it. We were trying to implement some of those things as we went. It was a learning journey for me and it was a learning journey for the project as well. However, as soon as we started going on this journey, it became quite obvious the benefits that it would bring.

Ryan: The project was already doing a lot right. I mean, it was, it’s a really successful project and it’s a great project, but I think bringing in these sort of these new elements, um, piece by piece, it really started to sort of supercharge what we could do. We started getting transparency around our work. We started getting more people on the same page about what was going on.

Ryan: And so I guess, yeah, it was that learning journey was really instructive for myself. It was instructive for the team and it allowed. In terms of, yeah, as we’ve gone back to the original question around, how did it sort of, how did this role sort of come about within the team? It really was a natural progression that just seemed to make sense.

Ryan: And then as soon as it started to click with me about what was going on here, I just wanted to keep running with it. And I’ve got really hungry to learn more and hungry to do, to do this work because it just in a modern sort of context, it just seems to make a lot of sense.

How were you able to show the positive results of implementing Agile?

Daria: I think it’s interesting. You’re talking about how. If you were able to see how small changes from agile changes implemented in the team, actually immediately you could see results. And I know that a lot of people are having trouble actually showing the value. Of whatever they’re implementing as a scrum master So I would like to hear more about how did were you able to show?

Daria: The results in some way or was it just so natural that even the management and the executive teams Who is involved were able to see huh? That is the way to go. We should definitely continue

Ryan: That is such a great question and I feel like that is The perennial question for all scrum masters and agile practitioners is like, Oh, how can I actually demonstrate that this is adding any kind of value?

Ryan: And I think I, yeah. And I’d love to put this question to you as well, because you know, I can learn something, maybe, maybe, maybe I’ll be more than one person will learn something from this, but look for us, I think it was so natural. It is so empowering to, you know, for example, you might go from a traditional team structure where you go, Oh, we just have a weekly meeting.

Ryan: Everyone gathers around the table. We talk about some issues. We talk about some next week’s objectives and maybe there’s a problem that we needed to resolve and you sort of jump around different things. And maybe the team leader or the project manager, whoever it is, sort of has an agenda that they want to run through for the meeting.

Ryan: And. If someone gets a chance to say something, you know, um, they’ll, they’ll chip in, you know, a problem they might have or whatever. And that’s sort of like a traditional kind of way that the team might run. And there’s, you know, that’s fine. And in fact, there’s lots of things I’ve worked within where that’s totally workable, everything just hums along.

Ryan: Um, I think it gets a little bit more tricky when you try to work within a fast paced environment, um, that has all the complexity around it, the unknowns, uh, you run into technical issues. You’re running into changes with customers expectations and customers requirements and things like that to have this week long gap between an exercise of everyone getting together.

Ryan: And so within our own project, we’d have sort of longer gaps between, um, you know, sort of inspecting what we were doing, checking how progress was going, those sort of formal events or anything in between that. That would let, that would just naturally let people sync up and, and, and, and, and sort of problem solve in real time.

Ryan: Um, of course, individuals within the team, it wasn’t like a toxic environment or anything like that. Individuals within the team would bump into each other. They’d sort of try to solve something and then they’d go on their way. But as you, you know, as I’m sure you can appreciate, that just happens in these isolated bubbles.

Ryan: It doesn’t really disseminate out. And so as soon as we started moving to a practice of like, in the most basic thing of like, okay, let’s just do a daily stand up. Let’s do that. Let’s put a Kanban process in, and we didn’t sort of half ass a Kanban process. It wasn’t, it wasn’t like, um, oh, Kanban, um, means you just have like to do doing done and just anything goes.

Ryan: Just as long as you’ve got tickets in there, anything goes. It wasn’t that. I spent a lot of time actually researching it and going, we’re having WIP limits. Um, we’re not moving stuff backwards in this queue. We’re mapping out our knowledge discovery process. Thanks. You know, how, how works to flow through.

Ryan: And then all of a sudden it was like. Yes, there was some pushback. What do you mean pull? Can’t I just push it to the next guy and all this sort of stuff? It was like you get the friction you get the pushback and all that sort of stuff and you sort of find the happy space and then once it’s Sort of soaked in with the team.

Ryan: It’s like ah, look, there’s a bottleneck. There’s a bottleneck right there testing. That’s a bottleneck Um our our review, you know our review phase Hey, we’re getting a bit of a bottleneck here because we have three people that need to do these reviews, you know And then you say oh, how can we sell that?

Ryan: How can we sell that? Yeah, and And it’s like, well, a daily stand up, you know, we’ve got this board, we’re seeing all this work in front of us now, a daily stand up is allowing it to be, you know, transparent, can inspect it, we can then come up with ways of changing what we’re doing. And so that started. And then it’s like, okay, cool, well now we’ve got, now we’ve got that going.

Ryan: And, and like everyone’s getting it, like it just makes working better. What else can we do? What can we do next? Well, let’s talk about sprints. Let’s talk about, you know, um, what, what do we get from that? Oh, we get all this focus and you know, my boss was like, Oh, let’s just do sprints. Let’s, let’s go for it.

Ryan: And it’s like, Whoa, okay, yes, let’s do it. This is a big change. Um, but, and we did it and we just lent into it and then naturally course you have to have. ways of managing that exercise. And you, you run into problems as you do it. You’re like, okay, well, we’re going to do, no, we’re already doing backlog refinement as part of our practice because.

Ryan: Yeah, again, you would, I did, uh, yeah, I did X. I made the, you know, I made the blue widget. What, what’d you make the blue widget for? I wanted the, I wanted the, um, you know, I wanted the green, the green doodad. Ah, I didn’t know that, you know, uh, it’s like, okay, we need to actually define the work. We need to make sure we’re going through this process.

Ryan: Now that wasn’t, again, I don’t want to make out it was really, really terrible, or like we were doing lots of good work, but keep bumping into these issues and naturally, Naturally, these things would just repair themselves and get better by, by putting in the, you know, those practices and those behaviors that, that Scrum brings with it and, and other agile sort of techniques that you can use to define things, run things properly, get that feedback that you need, have that constant communication, you know, that direct communication that you want to have sort of people in real time solving problems.

Ryan: So that was really organic for us. And it just seemed to make sense. It seemed to emerge and make sense. And then other people within, within our larger branch started to notice as well, like some of the stuff that we’re doing just through it again, just so it’s natural value.

How did you manage to show the value of your work to stakeholders?

Ryan: but I guess what have you found Daria, how, how have you, um, Maybe in not every case, maybe you might have a fairly high performing team and it’s like, Oh, we have a, you know, we have this incredible way that we can inject this, this process and it’s just going to make things better because you can solve all these just obvious problems or whatever.

Ryan: How have you found trying to demonstrate value to stakeholders around, you know, the Agile practice?

Daria: It’s a good question. It’s a hard one too, right? A lot of the work that we do is more reliant on quality, I guess, quality of the work, quality of collaboration, and you cannot really put numbers to it, so it’s difficult to show what’s going on, but I think I’m kind of aligned with what you’re saying is that naturally it would, it would show, and I think if you are doing a good job and, um, after some time, you will be able to see results, Even if you are not maybe saying anything or you’re you’re not promoting it to the management Usually the team will right and basically that would be the how you show the value and I think I was working with the Recent project I was working with so the new teams and because i’m not there full time.

Daria: I didn’t feel that I was Contributing as much. And I was kind of feeling, okay, is it, am I really bringing the value to this team? I’m not really feeling it the same way that I would normally do if I was there full time. And then I actually got the feedback from the executives who said, no, no, we have, so whatever you did, whatever you worked on, it got better.

Daria: I’m like, okay, good. I’m not sure how exactly, but you know, if you feel that it got better, Perfect. You know, that means that it worked right. Or, you know, just coming to facilitate a meeting, right? So starting off with one of the teams, when I first joined some of their meetings, like the spring planning, they have already been running.

Daria: There are still, still new. After that one facilitation, they went back and basically kind of spread the word. Oh, it was so nice to have Daria there because we were able to stay focused. And really do a really good planning that we were not able to do before. And so I feel like those small changes and small wins is how you show value.

Daria: And it’s not a number. It’s not something that I can put on a graph and say, The team happiness increased by 13 percent, right? So

Ryan: Yeah, we made 10 000 more dollars by running this meeting properly or something. Yeah, it’s So what is it? So you so they were so happy with what you brought to the team if you were going to say, you know In a sentence or paragraph or something like, you know, looking back on that feedback, what was the team not able to do or not able to recognize or do well when you’ve come in?

Ryan: It’s like, this is, you know, from their feedback and what I’m doing, this is really what I’m adding value. Like, it doesn’t have to be a number, but. Yeah, what do you think it is? What’s that little, that little extra bit of spice or that little thing that we add to teams?

Daria: I think it’s being that outside person, like a fresh eye that looks at things and notices.

Daria: It actually focuses the problems or notices the things that might become problems early on. Right. And usually for me, it’s more driving the team back and, uh, keeping them focused. So, okay. Where it seems like, we’re going off topic here. Do you remember why we’re here? We need to do this. Right. So let’s refocus or, um, actually helping them, I, I guess, think a bit more than just going with the flow.

Daria: You And that’s what I think helps, you know, like teams who are just putting in everything into their sprint and like it’s a hundred story points, but our velocity is 50. Huh, doesn’t matter, right? And so you would be the person who says, well, wait a minute, let’s get back and let’s actually think about it.

Daria: Let’s discuss it because We often, I feel, have this tendency to just, you know, start a school, go with the flow, doesn’t matter. And I feel like sometimes we need someone who can, like, pull you back in and say, hey, wait a minute. Let’s think what kind of like, you know, if we’re going to, uh, like a personal trainer for, for sports, which, um, The same, right?

Daria: If you are going and doing it alone, yes, you’re going to do something and progress. But when you have someone who is there to correct your, your posture, to say, okay, come on, five more, five more, right? You’re kind of feeling much more motivated and feeling more focused.

Ryan: That is such a good analogy of the personal trainer.

Ryan: Uh, I, I love that analogy. I’m going to use that from now. I’m totally stealing that now, Daria. I’m going to claim it as my own. No, I’m not going to claim it as my own. That was, that was really instructive.

Being a glue or a connector

Ryan: Yes. Um, and I think, you know, I look at what I’m doing within, within our team, and I know I’m not the only one who forms this role, but, um, just to add to what you’re saying, I guess, is you almost act like the glue as well, because it’s really easy.

Ryan: I find for especially technical minded people in my industry. For them to get into their zone, I’ll just sit in the basement. I’ll just tap away on my keyboard. It’s totally unfair, there’s a lot of great guys at YT, they’re awesome. But, but, you know what I mean, it’s like, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Ryan: I’ve done my bit and over to them. And it’s like, Hey, Hey, Hey, um, I heard such a, a great, um, thing the other day, uh, from someone saying, you know, you’re not a pipe, you’re actually a connector, and I thought that was a really good, a cool, um, metaphor to use because it’s like, I had even fallen into the trap of like, Oh, I’ll be the pipe.

Ryan: Oh, oh, you’re having a problem. I’ll go talk to them and I’ll go help solve that problem. And then I’ll come back and you’ll be happy and everyone will be happy. And then of course. I’d realize, Oh, hold on, hold on. I need these two people to actually come together and solve their own problem. And I need to be there, um, as that glue to make them feel safe, um, that they can share this, these issues.

Ryan: Um, yeah, they can be courageous. They can actually have trust in each other and engage in productive conflict. Uh, because I think that can at times be one of the things that, It can be a bit of a corporate no no. Sort of at the moment in the modern world, it seems to be like, Oh, everyone’s got to be nice all the time.

Ryan: And everyone’s got to be, you know, don’t say anything wrong. And I mean, of course, everyone needs to be respectful. It’s a hundred percent. It’s just goes without saying, um, and use diplomacy. But sometimes you need to, you need to be able to, uh, You know, Bob said this. I didn’t really, I didn’t really get it.

Ryan: I don’t think he gets it. Can you go talk to him? Yes, we can go and talk to him. Let’s go and get together. And so what did you think? This and that. Oh, I didn’t think that. And then there’s, there can be a little bit of, and then it’s like, ah. Now we’re happy, you know, uh, I think that goes a long way and I think it’s, it’s, I’ve joined teams before where, um, and even in the team that this team that I joined, there was a bit of it where it’s like, Oh, I think there’s some issues simmering here.

Ryan: Um, that if we don’t cast a bit of sunlight on, uh, then they’ll just continue to similar boil away and people won’t work productively together. And then, and then, yeah, again, and again, just having to, to reflect and learn that. You need the team to solve the problems. You need to that when you have these issues.

Ryan: It’s almost like, okay, so you’re having the problem. So what do you want to do about it? Then maybe, Oh, you’re not sure what the priority is. Oh, let’s do a little priority impact map or let’s do a little, whatever technique you want to use. Um, and then that’s the value. It’s like, Oh, now it’s easier to see what our priority is.

Ryan: Ryan didn’t tell me what my priority was, but we, we solved it through, you know, doing something like that. Do you feel that way?

Daria: I think that those are some definitely good examples and definitely that, um, metaphor around the community. Connecting right people. I think this is where I feel sometimes it’s hard for people to, how does it like dissociate from, um, am I actually the person who is resolving the problem?

Daria: Or am I the person who is connecting? The dots so that other people can resolve that problem. I think there’s often difficult to actually step back from that and really allow the team to potentially self organize and figure it out. But for you to just be there like a referee.

Ryan: To be honest, you know, I think that’s, I know one of the things that, you know, you sort of wanted to talk about is one of the biggest misconceptions in the industry, right?

Ryan: And I, I’ve had to learn this myself. Um, I’ve come from organizations that were sort of command and control driven. And, you know, you had formal roles and you had formal authority. I mean, those roles of course exist everywhere and they need to exist. But, um, you know, I, coming and moving into this space, You know, with that background in more of an operational role, um, with strict rules, governance frameworks, sort of prescriptive process around it, um, I brought some of that with me to the team.

Ryan: And they had that going on as well within, um, within certain aspects of, of our team. And within the greater organization that I work at, that’s, as I said, that’s part of it. And as I mentioned, I pushed the change within the team to, to sort of allow us to be more agile, to be more transparent, get the inspection going, changing what we’re doing, learning from doing and all that sort of stuff, um, which wasn’t completely foreign, but it was nice to have wrapped it up in a nice little bow.

Ryan: But what I found as I was doing that is I started to turn into an advocate and I can be a passionate person. And so that just naturally started to happen. And it’d be like, Oh, we need to do X and Y and you know, and these are the reasons why and you know, I’d explain it and people would ask questions and people would come along for the journey.

Ryan: Um, but then at times there’d be pushback and I’d start to protect, I’d start to protect the process. I’d start, Oh, no, no, no, no, no, we’re not going to do that. No, no, no, we’re not going to do that. And it was a self fulfilling prophecy a little bit because people would go, Oh, that’s, That’s Ryan, Ryan’s the Agile guy, and we just, we listen to Ryan about Agile, and it’s like, ah, whoops, no, no, that’s not, that’s, we’re all, we’re all on this journey together, and I need to get out of your way, and I, I need to be here to support you, remove impediments, facilitate things, you know, bring people together, all that sort of good stuff.

Ryan: And get you out of the mindset because that’s a lot of people have this mindset that you know Uh, you will tell us what the process is you you will tell us Um how this works and i’ve got a problem I need to go and ask I need to go and ask ryan if i’m allowed to do this or if i’m allowed to do that And and it’s like oh, yeah Okay, I get like I like that you’re coming to chat with me and we let’s solve this problem together Um, you don’t need me to be the the guy that says oh no, and oh, yes, and i’m a gate You And you can’t get past here without my okay.

Ryan: Yeah. I needed to, I needed to pull back for that. And then, and also I need to let people make mistakes and do that experimentation and then bring that own feedback to like a retrospective and go, Oh, you know, this happened. So we tried to do that. And now I think we need to do this, you know, and, and, and so on.

Ryan: And so, yeah, I guess to, to sum it, to sum it up is I think often in more formal structured organizations, especially larger ones, I think there can be this misconception around. Uh, or when we get this person in, they need to just be going and just sort of, you know, we, they need to be strong and they need to change people’s minds and they need to get their sledgehammer out and make sure that we’re, you know, we’re coming along for the journey and then you find out six months later that that, that, that role no longer exists, you know?

Should Scrum Master have formal authority in an organization?

Ryan: What about you? What do you, do you find that’s the case? Do you find that, that people feel like there’s a, if they’re not used to this, that they can sort of see the role as something of, you know, a formal leadership role? Like it should have formal authority over the top of it, or have you seen something else?

Daria: I mean, I think it, it depends my favorite answer, but, um, really it’s, it is a leadership role, but I don’t think that authority should be a part of it, like the official authority in the organization. And I think that’s where the differentiation actually happens between a scrum master and say, um, a manager of a team, right?

Daria: That where a scrum master can be a leader and the same, as you were saying, maybe you’re nobody’s manager. And maybe technically they can make whatever decision they want around the processes. But because they see you as a leader on this topic, they want to go and check with you, right? So now the question is.

Daria: Can you, instead of telling them what to do, direct them, right, and guide them, and let them figure it out. And I feel like that is naturally sometimes something that happens, right? If you are helping the team, and you say, you brought in some good changes that they have never thought of before. So to say, well, seems to be working, I don’t wanna ruin anything, so I’m just gonna keep walking in the same direction, or wherever you’re taking me, right?

Daria: Because it’s been working, but now you need to stand back and say, no, no, no, no. I just showed you the first few steps. Now it’s on to, up to you to actually find the rest of the way. And, um, I think that transition is very difficult because when we’re talking about like the, kind of the rules of scrum, what the scrum master role is supposed to be, it’s, we see, for example, the daily scrum or the scrum master is not in the daily scrum.

Daria: The scrum master doesn’t have to facilitate all of the events. So there are a lot of things where we can say, well, the scrum master doesn’t have to be there. But then if you all have a new team, well, you kind of have to hold their hands for some time before you can really let go. And now I think the problem happens is that We’re holding their hands for way too long.

Ryan: Oh my God. I was a hand holder. I was like a little parent with my little kids running along going, Oh, I’ll run this meeting. I’ll run it. So good. Daily scrum is totally it. Yeah. I’m at the front. Everyone tell me what you’re doing. And it’s like, And I even knew when I was doing it I was like I’ve got to get out of doing I’ve got to get out of being this guy I don’t even like being this guy, but I just feel like I need to yeah, so totally get it Yeah, the hand holding thing for too long.

Ryan: Yeah. Yep. Yep. I’m guilty as charged

Daria: I Think there are a lot of us who kind of feel this way a bit and I think one of the reasons is because it is kind of an expectation that a lot of people actually put on us and That well, you’re a scrum master, right? You’re here full time. So you got to do something if you don’t do facilitate meetings.

Daria: And if you don’t come to the daily scrums, so what do you do? Sometimes it’s so hard, I feel, to explain to people what is the change that you’re doing, because It’s like, you know, explaining what does the CEO do? I don’t know, but they are very, very busy, right? They are never available to come to a call, but what do they do?

Daria: Right? And I think it’s in the same way when you take roles like that, that are more leadership, more people based, that it’s hard to say, well, what are the things that you’re actually doing during the day? Um, and if you’re not in meetings and I feel that that’s why kind of keeps us longer in that role of facilitating and leading everything.

Ryan: Yep, I agree. Yeah, very much agree. Sometimes it can feel a little bit like I better justify my existence. Um, and sometimes it’s like, well, right now what else would I do? Like, I’m here. Um, like it’s kind of a natural fit, so I’ll do it. And you have to get a little bit uncomfortable sometimes. And in fact, I took an opportunity with our team where one of our guys was like, he just walked up to the board and it’s just like, oh, I’m just gonna start talking to it.

Ryan: And it was like, huh. This is, this is amazing. Oh, I’m stepping back and then we just went around the room and I’m like, ah, this is so good. This happened. And now we’re sort of, now we’re continuing to run with that. It can be a bit of an exercise sometimes in just showing people that you’re there to support.

Ryan: Um, you’re not always there to just run everything. Yeah.

Daria: Yeah, definitely. Um, I was telling them a funny story when I was, uh, teaching a class. About it when the same was kind of part of the dailies all the time and I was trying to get away from it and Stop being there and I what I started doing because we were in the office sitting in the same area I just started going for coffee breaks exactly at the time of the daily.

Daria: I’m like, sorry, I’m Guys do the daily. I need to go. And then I came back after one daily like this. And one of the developers came to me and said, I know you weren’t there, but I like felt as if you’re staring in my back the whole time. So I was always thinking about. Okay, if Daria is not here, but what would she say?

Ryan: That’s good in a way. I think it’s kind of keeping the discipline. It’s like, you know, people don’t just slack off and ah, whatever, you know? Yeah,

Daria: Yeah, it’s funny.

Letting go of control

Daria: I think like sometimes you just need to let go. And then that will sometimes show you that the team is really capable of doing a lot of these things.

Daria: And maybe they will not have the best solutions or on processes at the beginning, but eventually they will get there, right? And in the end, it’s not like. You have the best answers every single time.

Ryan: Well, yeah. And I think that also unlocks the power of the event. So, you know, if a scrum master is hanging around all the time in all of these different events and sort of running them, perhaps always, um, I don’t have a problem running these things on a fairly regular basis, but if, like you said, if you do give them that space, it’s like, Oh, this isn’t a status meeting anymore.

Ryan: Ryan’s not here or the scrum master is not here to be like, Oh, okay, and I’m talking to you, and I’ll tell you what I, what I did yesterday, and what I’m doing today, and all this sort of stuff, it’s like, I don’t know, you don’t have to do that. There’s a whole bunch of people in this room that you can sync up with, you can, you can, you know, unblock things with, you know, you can alert, they’ll pick up on something that you’ve said, and then they’ll want to problem solve with you, or learn what’s happening so that they can, they can navigate around that, or whatever it is.

Ryan: And if I’m not there, you’re suddenly going to ask, what is the point of this?

Daria: And

Ryan: if you’ve got a brain in your head, you’re going to go, well, I’ve got all my team members here and you know, I need help from, um, Sally. So I’m just going to tell her right now. I don’t have to give a status update. It’s Sally’s right there.

Ryan: And I’ll just, I’ll just sync up with her. So yeah, I think, I think sometimes the absence. Um, of, of a scrum master gives people the space to actually just recognize and have that the value of that meeting will actually land with them because they have to sort of take ownership of it from that point forward.

Daria: Yeah, good examples. There was something that you mentioned a bit earlier that I actually wanted to follow up on. It’s one of the things around, um, I guess making changes in the process, the rules, right? As you were saying that, uh, people would kind of say, Oh, we need to go to and check with, uh, Ryan whether this is a good change or that, like, we can Do this change and it’s aligned with whatever framework we’re implementing.

Daria: And there are some certain rules that we definitely want to keep, well, keep implemented and not change. We cannot really like cherry pick everything. So how do you find the balance between. Being like a scrum police, it’s like, no, no, no, we’re not changing that and Allowing people to find the way but still like keep them in the right boundaries

Ryan: I’ve totally been that person that says no we’re not changing that and then I’ve realized that was a mistake by the same token You know, you’re so on the money here with this question because there can also be this huge misconception Probably the other giant misconception is that anything goes they’re agile.

Ryan: Like that just means That just means tailor everything To our business. There’s no Forget standards forget documentation. Why would you worry about that? That can all come later. That’s document debt. It’s a tightrope walk sometimes Uh, which I fall off Regularly and I have to sort of again, you know Just relearn some of these lessons and you do you get I I get better at it Um as I go, you know doing courses like yours Has helped me to gain techniques on, on dealing with these sorts of things, but it’s like, I guess in some ways, every framework, it’s like every set of agreements and rules that we have.

Ryan: Um, one of the biggest things I’ve learned is to make team agreements explicit and it’s a journey because it’s this balance between going, I don’t want to have 50 posters on the wall with like. You know, 20 dot points on each one and then just pull out my little scrum guide and say, you know, cause people go, right.

Ryan: But I think making team agreements explicit and trying to get those agreements as early as you can starts to bring everyone in on the conversation. Everyone buying into what’s going on because they’ve actually created it themselves. And so when they come with a question, they, where they’re like, I have, you know, should I do X or should I do Y?

Ryan: In many instances, it’s a case of going, well, so do you think it, you think you’ve finished this job and you want to, you know, you want to close it out or whatever? Well, we have a definition of done, um, and we have a workflow here. So really, I guess I’ll just put that back to you. Is that, if we look at this, do you think we have done it?

Ryan: I mean, this is what we said, Oh, it’s just a small job. And like, you know, sort of already did it last sprint and this is just the clean up and don’t worry about it. It’s all fine. I’m like, that’s great. That is awesome. As long as you think everyone else within the team will agree with that. And as long as you think you’ve met our agreement here, then that’s fantastic.

Ryan: And then it just comes to light. Then in fact, maybe, maybe they have done it or maybe they haven’t, but it just, it just sort of all, it all just sort of washes out because there’s Other people, other interested parties within the team are going to start going, Oh, hold on a minute. The security aspect, you didn’t run it past me.

Ryan: And so, but then sometimes there’s actual gaps in what we’re doing, or we’re doing listening. I think is super important. And you have to take on board the feedback. Like, Oh, it says we do this, but you know, I don’t know. Like, is that really what we’re going to do? Um, sort of taking that on and going, Yeah, actually this, this is a good question.

Ryan: I think we do need to establish something here or change, change what we’re doing because otherwise we’re just going to get results that we’re not, we just aren’t valuable or we’re just going to double up on effort or whatever, whatever it might be. And then at other times, like I can give you an example of something where within our team, you know, we have review points along the way of delivering something and I form part of that review.

Ryan: I don’t want to form part of that review. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. While I might not necessarily think I add a lot of value, by being a part of that part of the process, I don’t really slow anything down. You know, there is a little bit of value I add to this, this step. It was the team’s idea.

Ryan: They wanted to do it. And I said, oh, am I really doing anything here? Am I actually sort of contributing to this process? It’s part of the review, but technically all this aspect is taken care of and now I’m doing this checkbox at the end. We think it’s important and, you know, there’s a quality aspect that you’ll be able to add to it.

Ryan: No worries. Okay. I can accept that. I can accept that.

How do you deal with pushback?

Ryan: One of the things I learnt from a book called Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which, You know, you probably know about it, it’s a fantastic book. What I really had to learn there was around moving from consensus to acceptance.

Ryan: That was a breakthrough really, a lightbulb moment for me, around going, you know, I don’t have to absolutely convince everyone of everything and have 100 percent agreement, you know, that this is perfect. We just have to be able to say, Oh, okay, okay, I’ll just stand behind this plan. I might not agree with every aspect of it, but I can live with it.

Ryan: I can live with it. We can run this experiment. And that’s something I had to do for myself. That might be a long winded way of answering your question about when people come and either push back against, you know, something or want to inject their, their ideas in. But I think it comes down to listening and just being honest about inspecting what we’re, what we’re doing, um, and making sure that it, that it really makes sense.

Ryan: And then where it does, the thing that I find most This is most powerful, and I don’t always do but I have to make sure I do it more often than I do, is bringing the team in. So you’ve said you don’t like that idea or you don’t want to do that thing, ok, cool. These are the reasons why but, let’s put it to the group.

Ryan: And if it’s a solid idea, almost always, The group will just start to defend the idea and people go, Okay, yeah, I get it. So, that’s my approach when I take those type of things. What about you? What, how do you deal with when someone maybe challenges something? Or, well, how do you deal with something that you go, No, no, this really is important.

Ryan: Like, I really don’t want to change this. What tactic do you use there?

Daria: Kind of in the same way to put it back to the team, but here is what I think is important is to say, okay, so say, oh, we don’t want to do a daily scrum every single day. For example, a common example. Say, okay, great. So here is why we’re doing daily scrum.

Daria: Um, the goal is by the end of it to have a plan for the day for the whole team so that we know that we are advancing towards our spring goal. Um, we don’t have to do daily scrums, but you need to explain to me how you’re going to create that plan otherwise. What’s your plan to create that plan? Like, how are you going to replace it?

Daria: Yes, we don’t have to do it that way, but you still need to achieve the goal of that meeting. Okay. If it exists, so what’s your approach? How do you want to do that? And then that’s up to you if you have no idea how to do it. Otherwise, well, then I guess it’s daily scrum

Ryan: So put it back to them to solve their own problem.

Daria: Yeah to say okay great Well, I mean, I don’t i’m not married to daily to the daily scrum We don’t have to do it every single day, but you still need to give me a solution for the same problem. And so in the same way, we can say, Oh, we don’t have the, uh, the time for, or whatever, for a sprint review. Great.

Daria: So when are you talking to the stakeholders then to collect their feedback before the next sprint? Do you know, like, do you have a plan? And I think that that’s often kind of going back to these questions and saying, kind of bringing back the purpose of the different events, like if we’re talking about events more specifically, or the purpose or whatever we’re doing, right?

Daria: For example, like, we’re talking about Kanban and we have work in progress limits. And right, someone says, no, let’s, Let’s increase our work in progress limits, you know,

[00:38:48] Ryan: working projects limits and apply to me. I can do 50 things at once.

Daria: And so it’s more of going back to why are we doing that? And okay. If you don’t want to use the work in progress limits, great. But what’s your solution to the problem? If you have one, maybe perfect, you know, that, that, that works. Right. For example, I heard of, um, a scrum, but they were actually doing mob programming.

Daria: All of the time. So they didn’t need the daily scrum because they were constantly working together as a group. It’s like the pair programming on steroids, right? Yeah, right. The mob programming. You know, if you’re getting to the purpose of that event, doing what you’re doing without having to have a 15 minute meeting.

Daria: In your calendar right then feel free to adapt it

Ryan: As long as you have an answer and it’s a good answer then go for it experiment with it Is that sort of the takeaway? Yeah. Yeah,

Daria: I think that that’s in a way but also, um, you know, sometimes just um, Letting it happen say well, you know, let’s see how it goes now an example.

Daria: I I often give here We had trouble with the dailies People coming on time for the dailies in the morning. And so I’m like, okay, we need to have this conversation somehow. Morning seems it doesn’t work. So what what are we going to do? Oh, let’s do the daily at 4 p. m I’m like, okay, that’s a terrible idea I’m like, okay, you know if you everybody is on the team thinks it’s a good idea everybody.

Daria: Okay, cool Well starting from today, we’re gonna start doing dailies at 4 p. m Didn’t last that long because it was a terrible idea Sometimes you just let it go and say, you know, go ahead. I’m gonna be there You To catch you when you fall, you know, but at some point also need you to Be able to explore and try new things and maybe make some changes and maybe cherry pick a little bit

Ryan: Now you brought up a really good example just a minute ago the sprint review and How do you like if I say the most?

Ryan: There’s some events sort of around scrum that just seem really obvious in their value Like a daily stand up you can kind of just sell it like you’re right at first people kind of can push back and go 15 minute every day. Oh, you say it’s only 15 Often, like within our team, it sort of just came about.

Ryan: It’s like, oh, okay, no, this actually works. This is fine. This, this makes sense, you know, the backlog refinement. It’s like, you quickly get confusion around. What is this? What does this item even mean? And we keep not delivering the things that we thought we’re going to deliver and backlog refinement comes around.

Ryan: I mean, that might be a little bit of a harder sell, but once people get it, they’re like, no, this is really valuable. Retrospectives, I think, emotionally, once you get a retrospective going, This is just my experience. It probably varies. The mileage probably varies across all different organizations. So maybe this is a little bit, um, parochial to my sort of experience, but you know, running retrospectives, the emotional investment from the team is high.

Ryan: And so I think they, um, sometimes they forget the value, I think, because they’re like, Oh, that. Do we, oh, we gotta run a retrospective. But then afterwards they’re like high fiving and they’re like, Mm-Hmm, , oh, thank God. We get to talk about and get these things off our chest and we’ve got some actions that we’re gonna do and all this stuff.

Ryan: And it’s like, this is the best meeting I’ve ever been to . Um, it’s like, well, it’s all about you guys. That was all you. And you’re like, how cool is it to, to actually have a space that you can improve and, and, and share some of your, your emotion in. That’s awesome. The sprint review is probably one of the ones that, what do you do?

Ryan: Like when you have a, maybe a product owner that isn’t so. Invested in the product, like you might work inside of a larger organization where they’re like, look, as long as this thing works, uh, I know there’s a team that looks after it and I know that there’s, um, some stuff going on and that’s great, but I really, you know, from my perspective, I just don’t want there to be fires and I want there to be people screaming about the product not working.

How do you show the value of Sprint Reviews?

Ryan: So, you know, it’s valuable anyway, and the team’s beavering away and then you sort of ask yourself, ah, what’s the, in that instance, what is a sprint review? Bring um, how do we sell? I mean, I know I have ideas on why you want to sprint review Even if it’s internal to the team so that you know That there’s a point that i’m not actually not even going to answer that question because then i’m just i’m going to throw this to you Actually, how do you yeah couch the value of the sprint review if you’re in a situation like that?

Ryan: Well, maybe the product owner isn’t totally non existent, but perhaps they’re a bit distant from the product They know that it’s worth it That it’s sort of working, but maybe their level of investment in its improvement and it’s, it’s general daily, like it’s general health, um, sort of thing, isn’t as high as some other really enthusiastic product owners who are all over the product.

Ryan: How do you deal with that from a, from a sprint review perspective?

Daria: In this case, well, generally you would want to find someone who cares because otherwise your whole team can just go home and not do anything, right? So who will be upset if the team doesn’t do anything? And so I think you’re trying to find the person who Does want to know, uh, who is, is interested in what’s going on with the product and, um, you’re trying to get them involved because that’s the thing is kind of the longterm and maybe that’s where you can coach the product owners.

Daria: Do you want to demotivate the team or not? If you want to demotivate the team, let’s cancel sprint reviews and never talk about what the team delivered. But if you want to have a motivated team, even a year from now, we need a way to show to them why they’re doing it. And I think in a way, it’s kind of thinking, yes, you are maybe in a good situation right now, but will you be in a good situation a year from now, if you’re continuing kind of doing some of those bad patterns, such as not having a sprinter?

Daria: Right. And I think it’s more of kind of planning in for, for that future as well. Um, and in the meantime, trying to find a person who could be coming in and uh, interested, whether it’s just an internal user or someone like that, who would be able to jump in and provide some feedback,

Ryan: Yeah, right.

Daria: What are some of your ideas on this?

Ryan: It’s really good. Like I like that motivation aspect that you just talked about. I think that makes a lot of sense because you’ve had some stakes that you’re dealing with. You’re, it’s like there’s someone else outside of this team. You know, the product that I work with, we’re a motivated team. It’s a great product.

Ryan: Um, you know, there’s a lot going for it. So the, the motivation’s there. Um, and we had someone who’s really working as the proxy product owner. There is someone who really. Sort of informally, they wouldn’t recognize themselves necessarily as the product donor. They call it something different than in our organization, but that’s what they do.

Ryan: And they do have an interest in, in it. They aren’t completely like they’re there. Um, but in terms of that sort of connection that perhaps that they would want to have with the product, if some other product owners would have, maybe isn’t as strong, um, as, as it could be. So what you talked about around this, around having those, those stakes around going, I need to show this to someone outside of our team.

Ryan: And they’ll give me feedback and now all of a sudden I’m super motivated to deliver something of high quality, really understand what we’re doing here because I’ve actually got to please someone and their needs, not just what my technical understanding of this product is. That totally makes sense. I’d also probably say, even internal to the team, one of the value adds, um, I think this, this event can add is, um, That you actually have a point at which we will look at what has been done.

Ryan: If you just miss that event, you go, you know, it doesn’t have to be a long and laborious exercise, but you just sort of go past the, we were doing a sprint, and now we’re doing a retrospective, where everyone gets to talk about how, you know, you missed it. The issues and the cool things that happened and all the great stuff and whatever else.

Ryan: But did we, did, was there any confusion about where we actually finished? Well, yeah, there was actually, there was confusion. Um, but just keep going with it. Don’t worry, just carry on and carry it over and do it in another sprint or, you know, You know, do it as a side thing until you just finish off that bit, whatever that bit might be.

Ryan: And so I think even internal to a team, I think if you have some kind of, uh, occasion where it’s like, Oh, I actually, we now need to sit around and look at this and ask the questions and make sure, you know, go back to the definition of done, make sure that we hit those agreements around that sort of stuff, because you might say it’s done, but it’s not actually done.

Ryan: Um, and that’s really important because then it will just. Yeah, our quality will improve. So,

Daria: yeah, I think, uh, just as you were also speaking, I thought about like an example that you maybe can try to maybe play more on the emotional side of things as well with the person who maybe thinks that it’s unnecessary is to, I’m pretty sure everybody in their career had this where someone comes to you on like Friday, you know, Late like almost end of the day and it’s like, oh, I really need this presentation I know it’s late, but can you please like I really need this And so you spend two extra hours at work to finish this presentation.

Daria: You send it out and you never hear back. Like, how does this feel? Well, do you want the team to have this feeling every single sprint? Right? Because they just send it out. And you And they don’t know what happens next. Something happened. They just hope. They like cross their fingers that someone actually cares.

Daria: Someone read it, you know.

Ryan: Yeah, that’s such a good way of putting it. Where I am, there definitely is a care factor. And we are going to be doing better. We’ve got sprint reviews programmed in now, but having that ammunition behind the idea to be able to sell it and to be able to get people to buy into it, I think that goes a long way.

Ryan: I think in the emotional aspect, to be honest, we’re emotional creatures and to give people that story and that sort of feeling, like you said, I mean, how many times have we been in that position where someone said, Oh, I need the report or I need the presentation, please get that done. And you send it off and you don’t have a clue whether what’s happened.

Ryan: And yeah, I think, I think teams could definitely pull into that trap lapsed. Absolutely fall into that trap and also fall into a little trap of, um, just a whole bunch of technical debt building up as well. So it’s like, uh, someone said that we’d done it, but I’m going to keep beavering away in the background and that’s going to take some of my capacity.

Ryan: And so it’s going to, it’s going to risk the next sprint that we go on. And eventually you find the little gremlins. Do you find that sometimes? You, the little gremlins are hiding in the corner. Yes. That are hidden under the rug and that are, whatever. You sort of trip over and go, hold on, I thought we, I thought we fixed that thing up and isn’t that done?

Ryan: Oh, it’s done. It’s not documented. And yeah, no one’s, no one’s updating it. And ah, so it wasn’t done. Yeah,

Daria: yeah, kind of, uh, you’re just basically every time, uh, opening the Pandora box and you’re like, is there anything there? Okay. Seems to be empty this time, close it, close it quickly.

Ryan: Empty Pandora’s box. Oh, wow.

Ryan: You’re lucky. Yeah.

Daria: Good. Yeah. That’s a good, good examples. And definitely, um, some ways of how you can get the Pandora’s box. People, the stakeholders, the POs on board with something like a sprint review, obviously it takes extra time. And, uh, that just may, might be difficult to show the value of it that easily.

One most essential piece of advice for Scrum Masters

Daria: I’m looking at the time and I think that we, uh, should be wrapping up, um, right now, I think it was an awesome conversation. I had a lot of fun, some great stories that we’re able to talk about. I still have one question for you, uh, that I asked everyone is. What would be one most essential piece of advice that you would like to give to Scrum Masters, people who are listening to us?

Ryan: One. Yes. You put me on the spot, Daria. Um, one essential piece of advice. I would say that if you are interested Scrum Master, absolutely anyone can do it, but I think you have to have, uh, the right personality for it. And. One of the best books I’ve ever read was called Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink.

Ryan: He’s a navy seal. And it has, the lessons from that book have endured with me ever since I read it many years ago. And I think that you have to be someone who can be humble, which I’m not always, uh, regularly fail at. My kids will tell you that. And you really need to be able to listen. So there are tools and techniques.

Ryan: Uh, online, uh, everywhere now. I mean, they’re all over the place. And the great thing about the Agile community is that they, is that they’re constantly sharing information, sharing different strategies and different tools and different bits and pieces around everywhere. And it’s really, really good. I mean, you know, your YouTube channel is a classic example of just, it’s free information that’s just flowing.

Ryan: And there’s lots of other, you know, Great YouTube channels out there. And so you can, you can start picking this up and there’s obviously certification courses and all that sort of stuff. But I think if you want to get into this role, you really want to have, you want to take ownership of failures. You want to take ownership of, you know, successes and share those successes with the team.

Ryan: Obviously it’s never about just you. It’s really, it’s honestly, it’s all about the team. And. Maybe this is just me, but I do feel like you need to have an inquisitive mindset as well. Again, this comes back to the personality thing. You can’t just sort of go cookie cutter. Yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep, yep. You need to take that feedback, let it sink in, you know, reflect back to the team, dig in a little bit into things.

Ryan: And not always think that you’re right. You know, you it’s sort of a motherhood statement, but you have to, you know, as I said in some of my other stories there, we sort of talked about, you know, not necessarily coming in as the, you know, drill sergeant and, uh, and just being like, um, that’s it. Let’s just do it this way.

Ryan: And did it as the as the manager. I think it really is important to stay humble, to listen, uh, and to. Keep adapting your own practice and have that hunger to adapt and learn in your own way. I think that’s, that’s probably the, one of the key things that I’ve learned from my exposure in this space.

Daria: An awesome advice.

Daria: I know that I put you on the spot there, but I think that’s how I get the best advice.

Ryan: What, what about you? What’s your number one? Do you have?

Daria: Oh, you’re, you’re throwing it back to me.

Ryan: Yeah, yeah.

Daria: Oh, one piece of advice. I think one of the things that generally, well, and not only as a scrum master, I think generally in life, I, something that would be important is to not be afraid of failure and actually be ready to learn from it.

Daria: Um, I think often we are actually not getting all of our opportunities. because we maybe haven’t tried because we’re, we’re afraid to fail. It’s like you are failing a hundred percent of the opportunities that right. You didn’t try, like you didn’t get. So it’s more of trying it out and sometimes it’s not going to work.

Daria: And I think I talk about, about it, especially when I talk about building facilitation skills, right? You’re going to fail. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to be extremely awkward, you’re going to hate it, but the most important thing is that’s how you’re going to be able to develop and continue to grow and, you know, build your skills.

Daria: And I think this is especially true about the Scrum Master role, because there are no, like, really ways to know what is going to work in which situation. So you need to try it out and see. What works, you know, some things that you maybe worked for you previously with one team are not going to be working for you with this other team.

Daria: And it’s more about, Hey, discovery, curiosity. Well, what else can I do? Let me try something

Ryan: new. I love that. That is so true. I’m going to make sure I hold on to that.

Daria: Awesome. Great. Thank you so much for your time today. It was really a pleasant conversation, lots of great insights, and thank you everyone for listening in.

Daria: And, um, I hope to see you in the next episode.

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About the author

Hi, my name is Daria Bagina. Iā€™m a Professional Scrum Trainer with and a experience Agile leader. I help teams and organizations to get the most out of the Scrum and Agile implementation by sharing my personal stories and practical advice.

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