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Lessons From A Scrum Master

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This blog post is inspired by Barry Overeem’s whitepaper — The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master.

After reading Barry’s personal experiences, I had an epiphany about the different stances of the Scrum Master role and I realised that I could relate it with my own Scrum journey. While strolling down memory lane, I reflected on one of the most important aspects of experience — continuous learning.

As a Scrum Master, I have always maintained the importance of learning and experimenting. This belief has not only pushed me to improve, but also helped my teams to learn and grow alongside me.

What it means to adopt the stance of a student:

1. Drop your Knowledge Ego (“We come nearest to the great when we are great in humility” — Rabindranath Tagore): You may have read every book on Scrum available on this planet, but may still learn something new from someone who experiments more often at work. I was an aggressive reader during my initial years as a Scrum master, and read quite a lot of books and articles during that time. It gave me a false sense of mastery resulting in an “I KNOW EVERYTHING” attitude. Fortunately, I decided to enrol myself for Professional Scrum Master training where I had the opportunity to get rid of my ego. I went with an intention to validate my knowledge and came out learning so much more about Scrum. (P.S. The biggest takeaway from the training was the importance of upholding the values behind the framework.)

2. Curiosity (“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” — Albert Einstein): The experience that we have should not stop us from being curious. On the contrary, it should promote curiosity to enrich our overall development. As a Scrum Master, I came across numerous occasions where I provided a direct solution to my teams based on my past experiences. This made me feel very happy and proud. However, I soon realised that I was paralysing my own team by depriving them of the opportunity to be creative and exploratory while crafting a solution that best fits their situation. I was not only hindering my team’s growth, but my own as well. After this realisation, I created a system around this “solution habit” which enables me to ask why (to myself and to my team) before jumping into solutions. This new “Why” system has been quite effective in keeping me inquisitive.

3. Questions (“The Greatest gift is not being afraid to ask the questions” — Ruby Dee): Even though we read a lot of books, articles or blogs during our lifetimes, how often do we question ourselves while reading or after reading? This include questions like “How does this relate to my situation?”, “Will this help in my current situation?” or “How different is my situation?”. These are some of the exploratory questions we must ask ourselves in order to relate and learn something new. We can experiment with this at our workplace. After all, most of us don’t ask a question thinking “I may sound STUPID”. The best way to refrain from being called stupid is to be upfront, and ask the question for clarity and validation.

4. Keep Sharing (“With great knowledge comes the greater responsibility to share it”): Sharing is an important part to learn and grow. Our understanding of anything is only as good as our capability to share and teach. This does not mean we must always block people’s calendar involuntarily and speak for hours on a topic which may not interest them at all. It can be as small as a discussion with your mentor over tea/coffee or even a lunch with a set agenda for the people who may be interested. If nothing works, then write an article/blog. This will help you improve your skills as a writer and validate your knowledge at the same time.