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The Scrum Master Can't Tell People What to Do

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The Scrum Master Can't Tell People What to Do

If you work in the office, then you hear about Scrum quite a lot. I talked about it with my coworker Radek to find out what Scrum mysteries he could unveil.

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If you work in the office, then you hear about Scrum quite a lot — either since people are using it or want to use it. People talk about it, but what does it really mean? I talked about it with my coworker Radek to find out — check out what kind of Scrum mysteries he decided to unveil!

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It's the second part of our Merix loves Agile series. In the first interview, I talked with Piotr, who described that one of the tools of a successful Scrum Master is chit-chat with the team. Today you can check out what Scrum is like in Radek's eyes!

  • What does it mean for you to be a Scrum Master?

For me, it is a broader issue that includes an approach to work and a relationship with people. By being a Scrum Master, I have the opportunity to promote BOTH partnership and independent work, as well as setting goals based on values rather than calculations. I appreciate the opportunity to support the development of my colleagues' skill, which also is very valuable to me.

  • What are the five adjectives that perfectly describe Scrum?

Clear, adaptive, respectful, focused, open-minded.

  • Which misconceptions about being a Scrum Master irk you the most?

Oh man, where can I start? Let me point out few attitudes that I find most irritating:

  1. Scrum Master as a logistician — takes care of booking rooms, meetings, etc.;
  2. Scrum Master as a go-between — forwards the arrangements and tasks;
  3. Scrum Master as a goader — reminds about deadlines and meetings;
  4. Scrum Master as an oracle — his/her word is final.

Lately, I've also heard about ScrumDude and Scrum Mum — the first one only acquiesces, while the latter treats everyone like children.

  • What are the main responsibilities of a Scrum Master?

Scrum Masters are in a unique position that allows them to keep a distance and therefore see a bit more. By listening to the conversation, observing the work, and having a direct contact with everyone, they can understand what is happening in the project. It gives them a chance to gently guide the team to the path of improvement (but it's only possible with more mature teams). First of all, they need to familiarize everyone with the basic rules. It all depends on who they work with and need to match up with the whole team.

  • How does a role of Scrum Master differ from the ones of Project Manager and Product Owner?

Project Manager is a role based on control and command; Product Owner works with the product. Scrum Master is a very enigmatic role since his/her work is concentrated in large part on the team, supporting their development, and cooperation. At first, it's easy, you explain what the rules are and how the development process will look. But the next steps must already be done by the team since Scrum Master can't tell people what to do and how to do it. So, in short, the difference lies in areas of interest and approaches to the tasks.

  • End the sentence: “If you are a Scrum Master, you have to be…”

...an example to others.

  • Let’s think about the people that would like to be certified Scrum Masters, just like you. What can they do to achieve that?

Certificates are a message to the world that you know something about the subject. In my opinion, people should strive to be masters in their field; therefore the certificates should only be treated as small steps toward that goal. As in every other area, Scrum Masters have to patiently expand their knowledge and learn from their mistakes through both theory and practice.

  • What is your advice for companies that are planning to introduce Scrum? What challenges await them?

Scrum is just a framework, but it's embedded in very important values. Each organization should ask itself whether these values suit them. Are they ready to bear the price of making changes until the whole process is finished? You have to give your organization time to learn, but you also have to set goals.

  • Talking about challenges, what are yours as a Scrum Master?

Really hard to tell.

  • Walk us through your day-to-day responsibilities as a Scrum Master.

Scrum Masters work in sprint cycles, both the beginning and the end of each one mean spending time with the whole team working on the project. They are listening, trying to help with cooperation and resolve conflicts. In the middle of the sprint, they separately analyze the situation and talk to team members individually. I try to be alert when it comes to the possibility of emerging problems and needs.

  • What do you have to do when it comes to motivating your teammates?

Being a Scrum Master is not about motivating people — that was a job of supervisors from the twentieth century. In my opinion, people don't need the proverbial carrot. They need to feel that they are doing something valuable. Scrum Master just helps them do their job.

  • What’s your recipe for dealing with problems in the project?

There are no universal rules to that. Let me know when you find them!

  • Which tools are essential for every Scrum Master?

An open mind and a sense of when it is appropriate to say something and when to keep your mouth shut.

  • What surprised you most when you became a Scrum Master?

How much of an incomprehensible role it is. Previously I was working as a Project Manager, and no one outside the industry knew what my job was about. Now I have the impression that the people I work with need some time to understand what I do and why I'm not grabbing the wheel and telling them what to do.

  • Tell me what are the most difficult parts of being a Scrum Master? What needs fixing?

There are many difficult elements.For instance, if there’s some kind of conflict within the team, then Scrum Master is bound to help people get through it and resolve every issue.

  • But let's end it on a good note - how does becoming a Scrum Master improved your professional life?

I became much more aware, as well as happier. I like my job and really enjoy that I can do something that is consistent with my beliefs.


And that's all for today! Next time I'll be talking with another star of ours, Kamil Grzyb, who's going to describe the life of a Product Owner. Stay tuned!

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Topics:
scrum ,agile teams ,scrum teams ,interview ,scrum master

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