What brings stress to a Scrum Master -šŸŽ™ The Agile Audit Podcast – Sprint #6

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.

As always, let’s start with a little imagination exercise…

What if you are stuck with a company that doesn’t want to change? They do agile, but not really. And while your team is trying their best, it’s a lose-lose situation?

You can’t always choose the team or your employer if you are not a freelancer. How do you deal with situations like that?

Today I’m talking with Alessandro about these situations. We touch on some topics around stress in a Scrum Master role, as well as organizational challenges that may make our progress seem impossible.

We also touched on how to identify whether your potential employer is a good fit and whether they truly are Agile, or just pretending.

Meet Alessandro

He’s a Scrum Master since 2018. He used to be a developer. But since he learned about agility and Scrum, Alessandro discovered that he was “an agile guy” even before knowing about agility.

He loves the principles and the values behind agility and Scrum and he truly believes that living and applying them can improve the delivery of value to customers, not only in IT, but in every field where unknowns, unpredictability, and complexity are high, even in everyday life.

He’s 53 years old and lives near Milan (Italy) with his wife and son. He loves to go around with his bike and to walk surrounded by nature, to travel to nice places with his motorbike or his old sports cars. He’s also been enjoying improvisational (improv) theatre (that as he says sometimes is useful in his work life).

Let’s hear more about his Scrum Master journey.

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Daria: Hello, Alessandro. I’m very happy to be able to speak with you today. Thank you for your time. Thank you. And I think we have touched on some very interesting subjects and I think that you will be able to bring in some interesting topics in this conversation today. But I guess the first question I had for you is.

Based on when we talked and kind of how you talked about your Agile journey, one of the things that you said is when you learned about Agile and Scrum, you kind of felt, well, I’m actually the Agile guy. It all seemed so aligned with what I already was thinking. And I wanted to learn more about, like, what made you think that this is the thing for you, and why, you know, you believe that this is the way to go and the way to work.

Alessandro: Thank you for the opportunity to be here with you. And, uh, your, uh, audience and followers, um, about my agile journey and, uh, why I feel that it’s the right thing for me. I first encountered this concepts, uh, this, uh, approach mindset. Uh, it was 2016, so around seven years ago. Basically, the team where I was, uh, the time, uh, was told, okay, now you do this agile way.

Okay? No one knew ever. anything about that. So we started to learn about it and I like the idea of not having everything set up upfront because I had a strong feeling with my previous experience that That didn’t work. So I loved this thing and I started to study by myself to go a bit deeper on this whole set of new, at least to me, ideas.

And I liked the idea that the thing is based on empiricism. So we learn something, we adapt, we inspect, we adapt. Uh, and so on after that, uh, reflecting about, uh, that kind of approach, uh, I said, okay, but, uh, that should be our human being works because, uh, when we are very, very, very younger, we learn to work, uh, to speak, uh, everything in that way.

So it’s the natural way of doing things for us. But, uh, I don’t know why somewhere in the process it happens that we like Gantt, Excel, and plans, milestones, and it doesn’t work at least in a complex context, in a complex situation. Obviously, if we are going to produce one million of nails a day, we Scrum and this mindset. But, uh, for what we do in our business, uh, I think that’s the best thing, uh, that, uh, we can try to use, uh, for going better, uh, with our projects, our life, uh, working life and so on. So, more or less, that’s it.

Daria: Yeah, that makes sense. Definitely. I guess once you see what it is supposed to do, right, the value or the goal in Agile and Scrum, it makes sense.

It’s like common sense, right? So why are we doing it differently?

Switching from developer to Scrum Master

Um, and I think for you, it was, um, especially because I guess the big part of your career was as a developer, right? And then you switched into more of that Scrum Master people role. So what was that switch? I know that as a developer, you’re kind of more working, you know.

Less with people, more with machines?

Alessandro: No, uh, it’s, uh, simply that, uh, I started as a developer in, uh, 1997. So, uh, probably dinosaurs, uh, were on earth, uh, at the time, years. Uh. Passing things become, uh, very complicated. Um, technologies were, uh, bigger and bigger and more, uh, huge. And, uh, I worked with, uh, other colleagues that were, uh, 27 years old, 28, and they were very easy on those things because they learned that things that maybe at the university and, uh.

For me, it was something like running the 100 meters every day, but with the request of a performance that I cannot provide anymore, and I felt a lot of stress, so I started to look around, okay, what I can do other than Following , this thing and, uh, just, uh, in that period, the project, uh, that before, uh, started and I started as a developer, uh, in this agile context.

And in a couple of years I was able to be on the other side and, uh, have my first theme being, uh, scrum master for the first time. Now in five years, many things have changed and, uh, many has been learned. And many have to be learned in the future, but, um, at least, uh, I don’t have the stress, uh, to follow technologies, uh, that, uh, changing three months, six months, one year.

And, uh, super quick, uh, I have other stress as a, you know, as a scam master, we have other kind of stuff to, to manage, but, uh, it’s, uh, a bit more comfortable, uh, for me. Okay.

Daria: Well, yeah, that makes sense. I guess. Yeah. You started pretty early and then the more time was. Passing. I think the technology was developing quicker and quicker.

Yeah, so definitely adding a lot of that stress in here.

Alessandro: There are colleagues that have my same age and they are, they feel comfortable in spending their time, uh, learning about technologies and everything because they love that people as project and complex situation change. And I change it because I love the technology.

I love to be a developer. I have. fun doing that. But I changed and things have become different. So I tried something different maybe in the next 10, 15 years. Things will be different again, and after that I hope to retire, because I will be 79 in 15 years, so I hope that I can retire.

Daria: Probably time to retire, yeah.

Alessandro: I hope a bit earlier too, if it’s possible. I don’t know. We’ll see.

Common stress factors in Scrum Master role

Daria: Yeah. Well you talked a bit about the, I guess the stress you, you touched a bit on that stress that we feel as Scrum masters. Yeah. Like there are different types of stress. So tell me a bit more about what are some of those things that you think are especially stressful for Scrum Masters?

Alessandro: Okay. To me, um. It’s, uh, the thing that, um, in theory, uh, we have to move people, uh, uh, to do something without telling them how to do it and do it. So trying to extract from them knowledge, the inspection, to reason and to see, okay, this thing is not going, uh, how. We want, uh, what can we do? And, uh, this, uh, usually in translate, uh, in, uh, heavy silences with the team, and now that, uh, they are, we are, uh, since, uh, 2020, more often remotely that co-located in the office, it’s more difficult.

So you maybe ask a question like, okay, how, what we can, can we see from this thing? Uh, what we can put some sticky notes on the board about, uh, I don’t know, something. And nothing happens, silence. Nothing appears on the board. And that, to me, it’s terrible. I have to force myself to stay silent, maybe 20, 30, 40 seconds.

That is a long time, a very long, long time. And if nothing happens, then you have to try to suggest, try to move them. Because, in my opinion, this game, as every game, Have to be played by everyone. If, uh, the team is forced to play it and don’t feel the necessity, uh, don’t want to participate because maybe they say, okay, but why I have to do, you can explain whatever, but if they don’t play the game, there is no way that you as a scrum master can, uh, bring.

Useful and valuable to the team. So, okay. We try our best, but it’s very uncomfortable. That’s, at least to me, the biggest stress that I have, um, and I had with my teams. Sometimes it’s not even a fault of the team, but of the context. Uh, I lived for, uh, it was two years with the team in a context where, uh, probably, you know, this kind of thing.

Everything is waterfall in the company. . Mm-Hmm. . And you are a team that you do agile? Yes. But then, okay. We had a plan. Start the sprint. Uh, sorry. Sorry, we have to change. No, no. This Okay. Once, twice, three times. And, uh, at a certain point the team asked to me, okay. But, uh, why we do a retrospective or a sprint planning or whatever.

In five minutes, they change their ideas. Uh, so why we have to play this game? Okay. Uh, as a scrum master, I said, okay, you are right. Uh, but we should try to change, but it was, um, a lose, lose situation. Uh, there is a limit, uh, about the changes that we can bring in a company. If, uh, a huge company doesn’t want, uh.

To change, at least in that initiative, they, they, mm-Hmm. shouldn’t obviously change a whole company, , but at least for that initiative. But if even that, they don’t want to change. Okay. There is no chance to win. Yeah. So that’s the stress of me as a scrum master.

Daria: What do you think, uh, in, in those situations, and I definitely lived through.

Similar stuff, you know, in my career and same as like the big company and one time where Scrum Masters were kind of pushed into a career that was more of a delivery or project manager route for us. And some Scrum Masters looked at it and said, okay, I can, I can do that. That doesn’t matter. Right. But then some people, for me, it was a change towards like where we’re going backwards.

And for me, it was not something that I wanted to. Stay with right and that was one of the reasons that I moved from one of the companies because of I felt that We’re going backwards the changes like are not actually being implemented In such a way that I could see potential overall. And that’s why I felt that I need to, you know, not waste my time.

Alessandro: It’s difficult because, um, in my case, uh, I have a permanent job now with the company and, uh, before, uh, with another company. So it’s not easy to say, okay, I’m a freelancer, for example. So I can choose, uh, of my life, uh, and say, okay, I don’t like this, uh, what’s happening, uh, here in this context, in this situation.

So I can choose to change, uh, and go somewhere else. Uh, the thing that, uh, I was able to do, the best thing that was, uh, okay, things, uh, here aren’t working. So can you find me another project? But, uh, that’s more difficult that to have people to speak when they don’t want to speak because Yeah. Agility and Scrum here in Italy at least, and I feel that, uh, everywhere are not always perceived like something that can bring real change, but something that, uh, it’s like fashion.

Okay, we have the dot on the website. We do agile, but, uh, probably you. Do agile. You are not agile. And so it’s very difficult to switch from a situation to another and changing job continuously. It’s not a healthy, if it’s too frequent, in my case, I had to leave with the situation and try to make the best of it for, but more than for me, for the team itself, because it was evident that they are frustrated, that they are not happy, there were tensions, not an healthy situation.

So my desire was to try to make this session a bit better for them. Consequently for me too. Then, uh, another thing is that, uh, this kind of company sometimes, uh, change, uh, initiatives. So they close them, uh, abruptly and so they take you and put, uh, you somewhere else. And so this, uh, is an opportunity to try something d.

At least to try. In my case I changed company and job because I had the chance and so I tried different experiences, different

Daria: teams. And I think it’s a bit different in Europe, like the kind of how we look at the job market, but also like the career progression here. In North America, I feel like if you are changing, switching jobs every two years, that is absolutely normal.

Almost kind of seen as a positive thing sometimes because it shows that you have experience in so many different areas. When I worked in France, it was not the case, like you’re kind of staying in one place.

Alessandro: Uh, yes, uh, uh, things have been, uh, changed a bit, uh, in the last 20 years, uh, uh, so there are two kind of Uh, there are those like me that, uh, in my previous company, I worked there for 19 years and, uh, that was, uh, probably, uh, a record, uh, during these, uh, times, because, uh, even in Europe, things have changed, so you see a lot of, uh, turnover in the companies.

And people try to catch, uh, opportunities, uh, if they want. But that’s, uh, more true, in my opinion, for younger people. And for levels that are above of my level of career, because they switch more easily in in the middle and at my age, it’s not so easy to switch companies or jobs. Obviously, there are people that are independent, so they are they their own company and they try to find customers and they choose how to work better.

The fact is that, uh, they are hired by themselves, so they have their own company, so they don’t need to switch it, they create it like they want, and choose the customers and the clients how they prefer, obviously, that’s the opportunity that they have, with other advantages and disadvantages, obviously, because there are risks in owning a company.

Checking company fit during interviews

Daria: So, kind of looking into, as you say, we, some people, specifically freelancers or people who are working for themselves, they can choose companies, right? And they have a chance to look into, okay, do I want to work with this company? Or does it feel like it is the right fit? What do you think are some of the things that people should look out for when let’s say choosing a company, whether they are freelancer, or, you know, when you’re going through the interviews, you have a chance to sometimes You know, kind of pro questions.

Yeah. What do you think people should look out for?

Alessandro: Okay. To me, it’s important to, for example, read how the company write, um, down, uh, what are you doing? Uh, maybe you’re seeing LinkedIn, uh, what will be your responsibilities, what we are looking for. So if, uh, I see something like, uh, okay, as a scrum master, you manage people.

Um, Uh, or you’ll report to XY, I don’t know whether, with a plan that, uh, and results and team performance. Um, okay. This, uh, has to be examined, uh, well, so if should I obtain a, for example, an interview with them, uh, probably I would focus on that kind of, uh, things because, okay, uh, the writing maybe has be done by someone that uh,

Scrum and so on, so it could be a bad copy and paste of something that they don’t know. But for sure it’s something that should be explored well during an interview or in case of a freelance. Um, try to have the first contact to understand if, uh, it’s possible to work together. But, uh, there are signals of a company being more, uh, oriented to be agile or to do agile.

I felt that, uh, this is a very common thing because, uh, last year in October, I participate in an event that is named the Italian Agile Day, and there were, uh, some speakers that spoke about, uh, these kind of, uh, troubles. So even in, uh, outside Italy, uh, so it’s common around the world probably. And they just say that, yes, because the companies, uh, work like that.

Uh, someone decided that they want to do an initiative. Okay, good. They work a year to plan, uh, arrangements. And then they take five people and they say, okay, now you have Jira and you do Agile. It doesn’t work very well. So probably for coming back to your question, that’s it, uh, I would try to understand if, uh, the approach, the mindset is more oriented in a direction or just a project, traditional project management, uh, with a different, uh, name, just that.

Daria: So like the, a lot of the signs, right. Are kind of sitting in this project management domain where you see the words like management, performance, a lot of focus on velocity, I think. Metrics like this.

Alessandro: Yeah, reporting about progress, uh, something like that. Just, uh, yesterday or the day before yesterday, I see something like that, uh, on LinkedIn and, um, I said, okay, probably they try to do agile, but not to be.

On the other side, it could be an opportunity because, uh. Maybe a professional like us can be the right person to try to make them change because everyone has learned, I learned, you learned, everyone learns about everything. So maybe it can be an opportunity to say, okay, you are asking for this, this and that, but maybe it should be a different thing.

So that, that and those. Okay. Would you like to try the right way? We learn together and can be an opportunity for both. Then the game have to be played and the question is the one before do we want to play the game? So yeah could be an opportunity a risk to a risk.

Daria: Definitely It’s kind of like a tough decision to make because you can come into a company that is so perfectly agile.

When I say you can, it’s like the ideal situation. I think that first you need to find that kind of company, but you can come into a company that doesn’t have as many challenges or problems, and it will be like a comfortable environment where you probably can learn a lot of how to do things. But then it may also kind of became a bit boring, I guess.

Alessandro: Okay. Let’s say that, uh, once in a life, uh, it would be nice to be in a comfortable, boring situation for a couple of years. So, uh, relaxing a bit. Oh, wow. Things works. And, uh, what’s a theory we can, it would be nice to have, uh, an opportunity to see things working. As they are described in the book, uh, in the scrum guide and so on, obviously maybe not exactly as, but, uh, as best as possible, uh, reality is that usually it’s a very, very, very, very different thing and trying to move from That far away toward the ideal thing is, uh, between a very long journey, uh, to impossible on the other side, uh, speaking with another colleague, uh, Fabio Pansavolt, another trainer with Scrum.

org, he said to me. Uh, okay, but, uh, if you just, uh, if you are able to just bring one, uh, change, uh, that is, uh, in the right direction, uh, okay, you are doing your job. So, if you can improve a way of working of the team, uh, or you can change the mindset of a manager, you can bring an improvement. Okay, that’s already a success, so it would be a starting point.

Maybe not enough, but for sure a positive thing.

Recognizing positive changes

Daria: Yeah, definitely. I guess it’s about seeing those changes, right? Sometimes it’s hard to actually see them, especially we are a bit working in, like, from the back of the room in a way, right? We’re not really reaping the benefits of our work. It’s more for the team, right?

As you were saying at the beginning, I wanted to help the team. Eventually, it would have helped me. But the, the first goal is to, how can I help this team? team to, you know, feel better, be more organized, less frustrated, more motivated, right? So it’s first about others.

Alessandro: Yeah, exactly. It’s, uh, another thing because, uh, our success is a consequence of the success of the team.

It happened to me to say, okay, guys, uh, yeah. The situation is that all we play the game and try to do our best to improve together and so on. Otherwise, uh, we win together, and we lose together. But my winning or my losing depend on me, for sure, for certain kind of things. But on you, because if I do my best, and you do your worst, Anyway, so let’s say that my career or my working place depends a lot on how much you want to play the game and trying to do the best as possible.

Obviously, perfection doesn’t exist. We learn, we improve constantly and that will be enough. But if that is not happening, uh. everyone is damaged. Like you said, we work in the background. So as I said before, we try to make people doing something without telling them how and when and everything. So we depend completely on them.

That’s another point where our job is strange. We depend completely on them. On other people willing to understand and play this kind of game. So, not easy, not always easy.

Daria: Hard position to be in, right?

Alessandro: Yeah, yeah, sometimes it is. We choose, uh, this thing, uh, and, uh, so, okay, it comes with the benefits, uh, and not so positive things, like in every kind of job has, uh, the best and the worst.

So it’s like two faces of the same metal. You have the both sides everywhere

Daria: I think some people, when they look at this role, they say, well, I am accountable for the results, but then, as you say, I cannot really tell people what to do. And so sometimes it actually turns into that the Scrum Master feels like they need to control things and they need to be more of a manager and they kind of turn to that behaviors that actually then in the long term, actually not very helpful, right?

So they are not helping the team. They’re not helping themselves in the long run, but it feels like we’re more in control. Um, and then we can say that, well, if I’m a Scrum Master, I am accountable for the results. I cannot really tell anyone what to do. It’s not fair. How can this be fair? Why am I accountable for the results in a way?

So what do you think, um, we can do to, I guess, combat this feeling or, or find a way to manage?

Alessandro: Yes. I felt, uh, and, uh, sometimes I feel exactly this. It has happened to me. Uh, okay, guys, uh, there is this situation. Okay. So what? And, uh, it’s a personal thing to me in my job. Uh, I, I felt responsible. So, uh, sometimes it’s, uh, do that, please.

You think about, uh, okay, let’s try to devise a situation, a solution. Let’s see. Try to have an idea, whatever idea. Obviously, if there is not an urgency, I mean, uh, if there is an incident in production, okay. Stop everything. We address that and no doubt about it. But if there is no risks and there is time, it’s an inner battle to try to avoid, as you said, to say, let’s try to do this.

Um, on my, for me, sometimes it has been like, okay, I sit with you. You have a problem. You cannot solve it. Okay, let’s sit together. Explain it to me. I am not a programmer, sorry, a developer anymore, but I still can read a code and understand it. So, okay, let’s sit together and try to explain what you want to achieve, what’s wrong.

Because maybe just… Just, um, telling it out loud, explain it to someone else that as me, uh, is not, uh, too much into that code, uh, into coding and developing can help you, um, that you ever issue the block, uh, and whatever to overtake it. And, uh, sometimes it worked, uh, uh, if, uh, I see that, uh, two people, uh, doesn’t match very well together.

Okay. We can try to. Okay, why do you feel, uh, this way about, uh, him, or her, or whatever? And then, uh, while, uh, maybe to us, uh, there is an obvious way to solve that, but, uh, Okay, not to speak, not tell them, let’s try to make them, to define their own solution. And again, it’s, uh, up to them, uh, to be willing to play with you this game.

Otherwise, uh, we just tried and, uh, we see what, what happened, but, uh, yes, I find myself many times in that situation that, uh, it would be so easy to tell them, no, do that and do this, uh, and, uh, maybe it’ll work, but, uh, I try to avoid, uh, absolutely even because, uh, in, in particular in the last projects that I had with, uh, different teams, uh, Technologies, uh, and the topic itself, it’s so hugely complicated, uh, I don’t know, computer vision, deep learning.

Uh, things that, uh, most science fiction, I, for sure, I cannot propose any technical solution, so I can propose maybe a behavior in a mindset. Uh, I can try to help them to reason. On a particular situation, but, uh, on the technical side, okay, it’s not a problem because I don’t have the knowledge for, uh, doing that.

So, yes, it’s another part of the job that sometimes it can be frustrating. Okay. Do that. Do that. Because, uh, We depend on that. Uh, the positive things is that when they devise a solution, uh, and they can, uh, go over the block, uh, the impediment that they, they have and so on, uh, it’s a rewarding. It’s a nice thing, a nice feeling.

Um, it would be nice to have it more often, but, uh, we can do with, uh, what we have.

Working with very technical people

Daria: Yeah, definitely. I think it’s interesting that what you were saying just now, so I wanted to kind of look into that a bit more, as you say, well, what they’re talking about is so like science fiction, very technical, I don’t really know what they’re working on.

Now you’re a developer, so you, you used to be a developer. So you still have the technical knowledge, right? And even with that knowledge, you kind of feel, well, now the technology has went so far, I no longer kind of know what’s going on on the technical side. So I cannot really offer any solutions. And I think there are a lot of people who are becoming scrum masters and they don’t even have any kind of technical knowledge or any kind of developer experience, so they feel very overwhelmed.

And they’re start hearing all of this terms and words, and they don’t really know what it means. And, um, how do you kind of cope with that no longer understanding what your team actually works, uh, is talking about, you know?

Alessandro: What I try to do is, uh… To at least understand the basics, for example, uh, in my last project, let’s say, um, we worked on computer vision, deep learning, uh, uh, we were trying to make a machine to recognize a particular situation, uh, from videos, and, um, I didn’t, uh, know anything about that, so I said, okay, um, I’m here to try Thank you.

My game with you. On the other side, I would like to learn, uh, the basics. Uh, a bit of term terminology, a bit of, uh, differences about the one things another. I tried to have the basic knowledge about the concepts. Because, for example, the mathematical part that is behind that kind of project is, uh, beyond me.

Uh, I would need, uh, five years to studying, just for trying to understand, uh, that thing. Uh, maybe 20 years ago I would be a bit, uh, more quick on that, but now, uh, five years is the minimum and, uh, that would be obsolete, uh, in five years. So I tried to understand the basics so that when, uh, they speak to each other or they ask, uh, for something, I can at least understand.

And when, uh, I didn’t understand, I don’t, uh, feel any shame in saying it. This, uh, I didn’t understand, so can you explain to me, uh, okay, sometimes, uh, I do a wrong thing, uh, okay, sorry, I did it wrong, uh, how can, uh, change this thing, and, uh, I simply say, okay, I’m wrong, uh, I, this is wrong, so I try to do differently, uh, for helping you.

So, I think that, at least for me, it’s, uh, Uh, and help, uh, for, uh, being more comfortable, uh, with the team, uh, when they speak to each other, when they have, uh, the daily maybe I was there so I can try to understand, uh, what they are saying. And, uh, to help them, uh, maybe during a retrospective and, uh, so on, and, uh, more of that, uh, understanding what we are creating, uh, that will be useful because, uh, we have, uh, to explain that to other people, to the stakeholders, uh, some manager, and, uh, I think that can help.

So, uh, it’s, uh, obvious that, uh, we cannot have the knowledge about, uh, every project, uh, that, uh, we are, uh, To do with different teams, but at least the basics, uh, uh, have to be, uh, acquired, learned, because, uh, it would be useful for us as a Scrum Master and, uh, for the team.

Daria: How do you think would be, like, the best way to acquire those basics?

Do you do, like, an online course or something like that, or do you just… Talk with the team.

Alessandro: I spoke with them. I asked them if I had the chance. Uh, okay. I don’t know about, uh, tracking, uh, an object or a person in a video. Okay. Can you explain me a bit? Okay. Maybe sometimes they say, uh, try to read this article.

Uh, okay. I try to read. And, uh, then I ask question and then, uh, little by little, uh, you start to understand, uh, a little bit more, uh, and enough for worker with, uh, the team on that project, it’s valid that on the other way around, because maybe they don’t know about Agile and Scrum and, uh, it’s our duty to help them explain to them, uh, suggesting them, uh, some readings and so on.

So it’s, uh, It’s a two way road.

Daria: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, I can see that. And I think that’s a really good advice, generally, to just ask questions. And I think sometimes people are afraid just to ask questions, like, Oh, I didn’t understand what the team is talking about. What do I do? Ask. Tell them, I have no idea what you just said.

Can you explain it to me, like, for the dummies?

Admitting that you can’t know everything

Alessandro: The, the problem is that, uh, in our culture, it’s extremely difficult to admit, uh, okay, I don’t know this thing, or I’m not able to this, uh, task, or this other, uh, thing. Instead, uh, in my opinion, it shouldn’t be in that way, because, uh, no one, uh, owns, uh, the whole knowledge, uh, of the universe, and so, okay, this thing, I don’t know.

This thing, I have to learn it if it’s necessary. Can you explain that? Probably it’s a strange thing to be able to admit. And sometimes it’s difficult because it’s not easy sometimes to say, Okay, I don’t know. Or to admit that maybe you made something wrong. Okay, it happens. I’m not perfect. So let’s, let’s put it together.

What can I do?

Daria: What can I do? Um, do you think it can, may impact like whether the team respects you or not? I think there are a lot of times developers say, Oh, whatever you’re doing is so easy. Anyone can do it. What I’m doing is so unique that no one can do it. And so it creates that kind of weird imbalance between the developers and, uh, and.

Scrum Masters or just Agile experts, people, people who are working with people and focusing on like team building. Rather than something tangible ish.

Alessandro: In my experience, no one ever told me something or made me and make me understood something like, okay, but what you do, it’s, uh, it’s nothing. You, you’re going to play with, uh, the board, uh, creating, uh, the next.

That doesn’t happen. To be honest, uh, that thing, uh, it happen between me and myself sometimes. Okay. Because sometimes it happens to me, uh, that, okay, Matt, I’m really able to do this work. I’m doing it rightly. So. Sometimes I’m in doubt on my ability to be a good Scrum Master, but no one ever told me something like that.

So I don’t know, uh, how to deal with that kind of situation. Probably, trying to thinking about it on the spot, I would, uh, say, okay, next retrospective, you’ll be the facilitator or you’ll try to. I tried to be a developer and, uh, now you can try to be on the other side. Uh, it would be interesting because it’s an experience.

So probably that, uh, I would use that kind of, uh, approach. Uh, okay. It’s easy. Try it. Uh, why not? Uh, maybe you are better than me. I’m not perfect. Uh, and, uh, I have a lot to learn. So. It can happen that, uh, maybe you are even better than me, so maybe I learned something from you. Or maybe you learned something about me and my job.

That’s it. If it’s going to happen to me, I’ll let you know.

Daria: Nice, nice. It’s a good one, I think, definitely saying, hey, you know, seems very easy, go ahead and do that. Right? Show me what you got.

Alessandro: Experience, knowledge, uh, very based on empiricism. Knowledge, uh, but comes from experience, so try it.

Daria: Nice, a good one, definitely a good, uh, advice.

To whoever is, uh, you know Yeah. Might be finding themselves in a similar situation. Yeah.

Alessandro: Uh, we say that probably is, uh, common. Even US, Canada, uh, it’s like working in the shoes of someone else. Mm. It’s, uh, usually not easy because, uh, uh, sometimes, uh, but I think that is, um, common thing. Maybe we had a bad day and, uh, you are around and you see a person that is doing.

And easy work. And you say, wow, no problem, no difficulties, uh, your days are smooth and so on. Okay, but you never know. For real, what’s behind that work, the job, which kind of problem can have that person. And we have to be very careful to say, Oh, but your job is so easy. I can do that. Yeah. Try.

Not everybody can be a Scrum Master

Daria: Yeah.

Interesting. It reminds me of my experience before, before becoming a Scrum Master, I was a content manager and I think I talked about it, um, a bit in some of my videos or. Yeah. Yeah. And content management, as in like writing content also is seen as something like easy to do. Well, everybody can do it. Now everybody thinks that AI can do it too.

And so it’s like super easy. Even the machine can do it. And I had exactly similar experiences where. I was working with UX designers who thought that, well, writing content, it’s, it’s easy. Just, you know, I can do it. Until the moment where we went to do some user studies and we were trying out like a form and people were filling this form incorrectly.

Every time we had like five people come in and all of them are filling in the form incorrectly. And we’re like, okay, what’s going on? What’s, why don’t they do that? And I’m like. Wait a minute, I’m going to change something in the text, in the explanation. And I changed one line and immediately we could see the change and the, how people were able to immediately fill in the form correctly.

And I think that showed to, in this particular situation to that UX designers who I was working with are like, Oh, well, actually, yes, content management is a thing. It is a real thing.

Alessandro: Yes. It’s exactly that. There is, uh, a little fun story that says that, uh, a person call, uh, a professional for, uh, repairing, uh, it’s machine.

And, uh, this professional came, uh, and adjusted a couple of screws and asked him, uh, 1, 000. And he said, oh, wow, 1, 000 for five minutes, uh, and adjusting a couple of screws. Okay, so, the professional, uh, changed the invoices and said, uh, Uh, $1 for setting the screws 999 for knowing which screws to adjust and how to adjust them. it’s an interesting story.

Because it’s that, uh, and. It’s, uh, exactly what’s behind, uh, what we were saying, uh, that, uh, no job is easy and not any job, uh, have, uh, uh, only positive things, uh, and luckily not bad aspects only, but no job is easy, in my opinion.

Daria: Yeah, no, we just don’t know what’s in there, right, until you actually do it.

One advice for the listeners

Yeah, exactly. Awesome. Great. Well, I mean, that was really insightful. A lot of great ideas, I think, and a lot of great advice here. Thanks. I will be, I think, going towards the end of this discussion, but I do have still a question for you. You know, for all of the people who are listening to us right now, what would be maybe one advice that you would give them?

Something that you learned on your way? How they can, you know, become better, feel less stressed, maybe have a bit more confidence in themselves. What would you tell?

Alessandro: Related to Scrum and Agility. I feel that most important thing is to learn about it when we start to practice. In my experience, as I said, we started with the team that was told.

You do Agile, and no one knew near to anything about that. And, in fact, there was a lot of confusion, misunderstanding, and so on. And, um, instead, if we had, uh, just, um… A bit of, uh, I don’t know, some courses, uh, some way to learn about it. Uh, it’ll be, it’ll have been easier. So study about it. Learn about it will be agile team.

And you didn’t know about agility and Scrum. Okay. Uh, ask the Scrum Master if he’s a skilled one, learn, read some book, ask question, as we said before. And that, I think, we should decrease the stress and the tension about things. Then, we cannot be perfect, so don’t want to be perfect. We do good things, right things, and wrong things and bad things.

It happens. Okay, uh, okay, I’m sorry, I did it wrong. And put it together, be transparent as much as possible, because if I come to the office and it’s a very bad day for some personal reason, okay, maybe I can just say, today is a very bad day. Be gentle on me. Okay, that could be enough. Maybe you want to share more or no, it’s up to you, but be transparent.

If, uh, something, uh, doesn’t feel good with another team member or with other teams, let’s try to speak about it. So again, transparency and then, uh, decision can be taken even, okay, I cannot work in this team. Uh, why not? Uh, but, uh, that will be decreasing again the stress because you know that you will be somewhere else.

It’s not a bad thing. Uh, so that is, that’s it, uh, be, let’s have a base, uh, on which you can build your house or you cannot start to build an house from the roof. And so let’s start from the foundations and, uh, be transparent, uh, be yourself, uh, and be transparent, uh, be easy. Don’t pretend to be perfect every time, uh, and, uh, even once, probably that’s it.

Daria: Awesome. That is a really great advice and I really appreciate it, Alessandro. That was really great talking to you today, and thank you so much for sharing your advice, tips, and your journey with us. I’m really happy that you were able to kind of come in and really talk to the audience. And tell them a bit more about how to be a good Scrum Master.

Alessandro: Thank you, Daria. It has been a pleasure to be here with you and your audience. Thank you for the chance to be here.

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About the author

Hi, my name is Daria Bagina. Iā€™m a Professional Scrum Trainer with Scrum.org 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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