Practical Coaching Tips for Scrum Masters to Drive Change and Engagement

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Practical Coaching Tips for Scrum Masters to Drive Change and Engagement

A seasoned Scrum Master shares his thoughts on driving change in an Agile environment, and how to get a team to buy into the Agile way.

· Agile Zone ·
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Do you ever wonder what determines our actions?

Most people think that what we do is the outcome of our personality, however, the truth is more straightforward. It’s our mindset that controls our behavior. 

In this blog, I am sharing few practical coaching tips and tactics that a Scrum Master can apply to drive more engagement and the right behavior in Scrum Teams and organizations.

  • As a Scrum Master, transforming people and teams to adopt a growth mindset is the biggest barrier to Agile adoption. In fact, as per a study conducted by Forrester in 2015, behavioral change of people is the biggest barrier to Agile adoption. Carol Dweck mentions in his book "Mindset" that:

    • People with a fixed mindset seek approval; those with a growth mindset seek development.

    • The fixed mindset sees failures as disasters; the growth mindset sees them as opportunities.

    • People with a fixed mindset avoid difficulties; those with a growth mindset relish them. However, for this to happen, a Scrum Master needs to create a "circle of safety" where people feel safe to fail, explore, experiment, and learn from mistakes.

  • Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter described in their book "Triggers" that our belief triggers prevent us from making positive behavioral changes. One such belief trigger is that we already know everything and we don't need to change. This is how we've been working all these years and this is how things work here. Such beliefs hold people back from getting better. A Scrum Master needs to increase the circle of engagement in the Scrum Team by asking active questions like: "Did we do our best to set clear goals?"; "Did we do our best to make progress towards our goals?"; "Did we do our best to develop collaboration with the Product Owner and Stakeholders?"; and "Did we do our best to be fully engaged?" Such questions drive more open conversations and people feel more committed to creating a positive impact on themselves and their surroundings.

  • Trying to change behavior is like "riding an elephant." This analogy is described by Chip Heath and Dan Heath in their book Switch. The authors state that the elephant represents our emotional side, and the rider represents our rational side. Both the elephant and the rider should be motivated in order to move forward in the right direction. One of the great ways to get people moving in the right direction is by having compelling Sprint goals that are smart, measurable, and inspiring. Having said that, how do you get the elephant to climb the mountain? The answer is simple -  by showing the elephant that a small hill can be climbed. When people see change as a big thing, they tend to shy away from the challenge. Splitting the Sprint goal into smaller milestones creates more opportunities for the development team to achieve them - and small wins create hope that change is possible.

  • Coach teams on developing an outward mindset (this technique is based on the book The Outward Mindset). This enables us to explore scenarios that fulfill the needs of both others and ourselves. This requires us to follow three steps based on the acronym "SAM" where:

    • S is for: Seeing others with empathy.

    • A is for: Adjusting your behavior. 

    • M is for: Measuring the impact.

These are a few of the tactics that I have applied and found useful in my coaching engagements. I am sure that you've also got some great tips, techniques, and tools in your toolbox. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

scrum master ,coaching ,agile ,scrum

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