Five books every ScrumMaster should read

I have several books here, I would recommend every ScrumMaster to read. It’s a mix which will help you to understand ScrumMaster role in much broader perspective. In addition to the ScrumMaster guidebook which summarizes all you need to know to become the great ScrumMaster, you need to get better at forming great teams, team coaching, servant leadership and change management. Enjoy reading 🙂

  1. Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasteWay is a guidebook for all ScrumMasters, Agile coaches and leaders who want to transform their organizations. It’s intended to give you a reference to general concepts which every ScrumMaster should understand and point you towards resources which may help you in resolving difficult situations. It was designed as a slim illustrated book, which you can read during the weekend and won’t get lost in too much heavy stuff. However, it is supposed to be your starting point in searching for help or ideas on where to go next. On top of that, it’s full of practical examples of how to apply each individual concept.
  2. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable is the world’s most definitive source on practical information for building teams. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team outlines the root causes of politics and dysfunction on the teams where you work, and the keys to overcoming them. Counter to conventional wisdom, the causes of dysfunction are both identifiable and curable. However, they don’t die easily. Making a team functional and cohesive requires levels of courage and discipline that many groups cannot seem to muster.
  3. Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition is a guide to the role of Agile Coach. Most people are wondering, “What is my role in a self-organized team?How do I help the team yet stay hands-off?”  Many respond by going too far to either extreme.  Coaching Agile Teams turns these questions into answers, and answers into action by offering practical ways to adapt skills from professional coaching and other disciplines to coaching agile teams toward high performance.
  4. Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders is how-to manual for managers on delegating, training, and driving flawless execution. Since Turn the Ship Around! was published in 2013, hundreds of thousands of readers have been inspired by former Navy captain David Marquet’s true story. Many have applied his insights to their own organizations, creating workplaces where everyone takes responsibility for his or her actions, where followers grow to become leaders, and where happier teams drive dramatically better results.
  5. Our Iceberg Is Melting: Changing and Succeeding Under Any Conditions has all you need to know about the change management. It is a simple story about doing well under the stress and uncertainty of rapid change. The tale is one of resistance to change and heroic action, seemingly intractable obstacles and clever tactics for dealing with those obstacles. The penguins offer an inspiring model as we all struggle to adapt to new circumstances. After finishing the story, you’ll have a powerful framework for influencing your own team, no matter how big or small.

It’s all about the relationship

Some time back I went through the ORSC – Organizational Relationship and System Coaching and wrote this article to share my learning with the Agile community. Now it’s time to share some experiences. I tried most of the concepts with maybe few exceptions (like Deep Democracy). I kind of digested the overall idea and simplify it back in my mind into “it’s all about the relationship”. I still remember my first ORSC class when one of the facilitators come and reminded us of not to coach the problem but the relationship. I looked at her with surprise. “If the relationship is strong, it will solve all the problems itself,” she said and I got my first aha moment. I guess it took me much longer to truly understand that.

As a time went I realized, that the whole idea of coaching the relationship and looking at organization and team from the system perspective is the key to 99% of my work with organizations, teams, managers and leaders and ScrumMasters. The ability to look at things from the top detached from details and stop evaluating what is happening, because “who knows what is right and what is wrong” and “everyone is right but only partially” was enlightening. It gave me a freedom in a sense and allows me to be much more effective in changing the organizations and working with leaders. As I wrote in the Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasterWay book, one of the key metaskills ScrumMasters need is curiosity, have a culture anthropologist mindset. This simple change in the approach will unblock the most of the ‘unsolvable’ situations. And it’s not only true for ScrumMasters but Agile Coaches, managers, and leaders of the organization.

Look at the organization from the system perspective. Don’t evaluate. Be curious. Focus on inproving the relationships.

Have a good team spirit and collaborative mindset. Good relationships solve the problems and enable the organizational success.

My intention was not to explain you any ORSC techniques as you need to experience them in several days program followed by your practical implementation but start a conversation with fellow Agile coaches about their experiences with ORSC and the need of ORSC in the Agile space.

So, if you write your experience with ORSC in a short text, I publish it or link it from here and if that goes well, maybe we can create a blogs series about ORSC@Agile.

Entire System – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept

The world dimension of #ScrumMasterWay concept represents three levels ScrumMasters shall operate. The third element is called Entire System. Though the time and energy ScrumMasters spend on each level differ based on the team or organizational culture and maturity level, they have to be present at every level to keep an eye on changes. As organizations are complex systems, you can stay here forever. There is always some change which needs your attention, there is always a better way how we can do things, there is always a better way of work.

Level 3: Entire System

At this level, ScrumMasters shall look at the organization as a system, from ten thousand feet distance. Searching for organizational improvements. They shall become servant leaders, helping others to become leaders, grow communities, and heal relationships. Bring the Agile values to the organizational level. Address the system in its whole complexity and make it a self-organized network of great teams. At this stage, you can see your organization as a living organism. This living organism has one goal of which no one has doubts. This system takes experiments and learns from failures. The safety, transparency, and trust are deep in the system DNA. The culture value collaboration and trust which gives us an opportunity to come up with more innovative and creative ideas then hierarchical traditional structures.

#ScrumMasterWay - Entire System

You might feel you are done, you made it. Please celebrate, it’s a huge achievement. And then let me remind you, there is no end of your journey. The goal is to achieve the right mindset of inspect and adapt every day. Being Agile is the star on the horizon, you can never touch it, but in short iterations, you can get closer. That’s what Agile is all about.

If you are struggling about how to create such Agile organization and how to work at this Entire System level of #ScrumMasterWay concept, join my Certified Agile Leadership class (CAL) which we now offer as the only ones in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Relationships – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept

The world dimension of #ScrumMasterWay concept represents three levels ScrumMasters shall operate. The second element is called Relationships. Though the time and energy ScrumMasters spend on each level differ based on the team or organizational culture and maturity level, they have to be present at every level to keep an eye on changes. If you do it right, and your organization is not too dysfunctional with a lot of politics and difficult stakeholders and product structure, what you build at the Relationship level, could be sustainable in about three years and gradually you may gain more and more time to the next level of the Entire system.

Level 2: Relationships

The Relationship level brings higher perspective. You are not focusing on the elements of the Myself dimension to the development team only but to the broader system. You look after all relationships your team has with anyone outside and use the mix of aspects from Metaskills, Learning, State of Mind and Leadership elements to improve them.

ScrumMasters focus their teaching, mentoring, facilitation, and coaching skills to improve relationships between the development team and Manager, Product Owner, customers, stakeholders, and other teams. For example, you may coach the Product Owner to build a great vision, facilitate conversation with other teams, help the manager to understand how to change the performance reviews, and much more. Whatever helps the bigger eco-system to become self-organized, consistent and coherent.

#ScrumMasterWay - Relationships

At this level, the eco-system begins to use the high capacity of the previously created high-performing teams in a meaningful way. We maximize work not done, is in the Agile manifesto. Too many companies are using Scrum just as a tool to deliver any idea which goes around. This level helps organizations to prioritize and focus on true value delivery. There are thousands of practices from this space you can teach (Story mapping, splitting patterns, Impact mapping, Lean startup, beyond budgeting, management 3.0). The list never ends, so keep in mind that it’s not about practices despite the fact that they can be useful but it’s about building the right Agile mindset. Increase transparency and openness. Help them to become a great team together with one goal.

Metaskills – Myself Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay concept

Let’s start with ‘Myself’ dimension. Each element of this dimension represented by a dice which you can roll every day of Sprint and choose the aspect you are going to take. The first dice is for metaskills. Scrum Masters shall be able to take the metaskills of teaching, listening, curiosity, respect, playfulness, and patience.

Teaching

Teaching is embracing the wisdom, ability to advise people, be a good mentor. Your knowledge and experience on different frameworks, concepts and practices are your ground here.

Listening

Listening is a critical skill to be able to learn from the feedback and choose the right approach. We as human beings are not listening enough. Too often, we jump towards the closest solution and ScrumMasters are not any different. Good listening is a prerequisite of being a great facilitator, coach, and leader.

Curiosity

Being curious helps you not to take sides. Be open to different situations and solutions. Find creative and innovative ways of approaching things. Working with team and organizations is a complex task. It requires different skills in order to address the complexity.

Respect

Respect will help you to build trust and create safety environment. Respect different opinions, who knows what is right and what is wrong. At the level of a complex system, it’s hard to assess. Openness and transparency are your best friends here.

Playfulness

It’s going to be a long journey, so make it fun. Bring the metaskill of playfulness to your day to day work. Take the same approach as if you were playing the strategic game. It is just a game, so enjoy every single day of it, don’t get frustrated when you don’t win the first day. The good game shall take some effort to play well.

Patience

You have unlimited time as ScrumMaster, there is no hurry. You are not responsible for delivery, nor the short-term goals. Your goals can only be seen long-term when the teams are getting self-organized and high-performance. Only then people can see the ScrumMasters are doing the right job. You will never be finished, as Agile is not a destination, but a star on a horizon. There is always a better way, there is always a need for great ScrumMaster to guide us on our Agile journey.

The #ScrumMasterWay concept

When I first time decided to write my new book The Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasterWay I have a clear picture in my head of what I have to write about. I wanted to share what I learned on my ScrumMaster journey, offer you hints on how to avoid problems, bottleneck, falls during the way, and give you an advice on how to become the great ScrumMaster. To make it consistent learning path, I combined all necessary elements which must be used to successfully get to the great ScrumMaster journey into the #ScrumMasterWay concept. At the beginning of my writing, I had only independent pieces. When I started to write the book, the elements clicked together and created the coherent whole of the #ScrumMasterWay concept which I’m now presenting in brief at a separate website and in the Great ScrumMaster book: #ScrumMasterWay which has been published in January by Addison Wesley.

The concept is formed from my personal hands-on field experiences as a ScrumMaster and Agile enterprise coach which I got during my 15+ IT and Agile journey.

In the following blog posts, I’m going to introduce the core elements of the #ScrumMasterWay concept. The #ScrumMasterWay concept is shaped in two dimensions: ‘Myself’ and ‘The world’. The first dimension is dedicated to your own mindset, attitude, and personal growth. They help you to develop yourself as a person and become a great ScrumMaster. They consist of four building blocks: Metaskills, Learning, State of Mind and Leadership. The second dimension is dedicated to the outer world represented by your team, broader product group or the entire organization. The great ScrumMasters shall be able to work at all three levels of the world dimension and use a mixture of all different aspects of Myself dimension elements.

I hope the #ScrumMasterWay concept will help you to start your great ScrumMaster journey and help your organization to be successful in nowadays constantly changing the world.

The #ScrumMasterWay concept series:

  1. The #ScrumMasterWay concept
  2. Metaskills – Myself Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay concept
  3. Learning – Myself Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay concept
  4. State of Mind – Myself Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay concept
  5. Leadership – Myself Dimension – #ScrumMasterWay concept
  6. My Team – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept
  7. Relationships – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept
  8. Entire System – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept

My new book: The Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasterWay has been published by Addison-Wesley

The Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasterWayAt the beginning of the last year I finished my new book called The Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasterWay. At first I self-published it and the book was available for Kindle at Amazon and as a limited series in full-color printed version. I was very happy to see that the book was selling well and also that I got an excellent feedback from readers. My excitement was even bigger when Mike Cohn, one of the Scrum legends, accepted my book into his Addison-Wesley Signature Series (Cohn) and the book was published by this excellent publishing house in January 2017. Thanks, Mike. It was a lot of work and I’m really pleased to work with so many great professionals from Addison-Wesley (editors, graphics, language corrections) to achieve such a wonderful result – the book which I have now finally in my hands.

The Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasterWay by Zuzana 'Zuzi' SochovaIt was a long journey for me to embrace Scrum and write this book. Ten years ago, when I joined my first Scrum team as a developer, I didn’t like it much. It was an awkward way of working, I thought. I was just as resistant as most of my current clients who are at the beginning of their Agile journeys. It was something new and different. And however hard our Agile coaches tried to explain it, I didn’t really get it. Six months later I was appointed to the ScrumMaster role. Lacking any other experience than as a team leader and developer, I ended up being a “Scrum team assistant” and a bit later a “Scrum team mom.” It took me a long time to realize why Scrum is so powerful and that it is all about the ability to enhance self-organization.

Only then did I realize that we were all missing a good explanation of the ScrumMaster role. Later I described it using the #ScrumMasterWay concept that I’m going to share with you in this book and which finally gave ScrumMasters the answer to their most common question: “What will the ScrumMaster do once the team is self-organized?”

After coaching many ScrumMasters at companies and teaching a lot of CSM and CSPO classes, I can say that an answer like “Move to another team,” “Do nothing,” or “There will always be some work needed” is not good enough. ScrumMasters are lost in the same way I was lost at that time.

It has never been so easy to become a great ScrumMaster, so let me invite you on the journey and you can learn from my experience and mistakes. This book is the best starting point to embrace the ScrumMaster role. I hope you will enjoy reading it and will find it useful and easy to apply in your work and that you will become a great ScrumMaster too.

Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to thank Linda Rising for her nice words in foreword. Does that all makes you curious? You can find more details at dedicated book pages greatscrummaster.com. The book is now available at Amazon, InformIT, and Barnes & Noble Bookstore to name at least the few most famous sites. I hope that you would like it. I appreciate your comments and reviews and if you like it, please help me to make other ScrumMasters great by recommending it to your friends and colleagues!

How to make your Retrospective great?

Retrospective is the crucial part of your success. Through Retrospective you implement Inspect and Adapt principles. Through Retrospective you learn and become better team, product group, and organization. So let’s have a look at a few tips about how ScrumMasters (but not only ScrumMasters) can make Retrospective great.

Understand the goal

The typical mistake in the beginning is that teams and ScrumMasters use the Retrospective only to discuss issues or complaints. The goal of the Retrospective is not to say what went well and what went wrong, but to improve. And in order to improve, you need to get clear list of action items actionable next Sprint as a result of every Retrospective. The frustration of some teams is coming from the fact that they can’t solve everything right away. ScrumMasters shall help them to find the first step and make sure they are able to make it. Then celebrate the success and find a next improvement. Don’t take too many action items. One, two or three are more than enough. Quantity is not the quality here.

Find root cause, don’t solve symptoms

Another tool which can help you to make your Retrospective great is root cause analysis. Too many times you spent time and energy in solving symptoms. The particular issue would got solved, but soon another two emerged. It’s never ending. Instead, whenever team identifies any problem, ask them to investigate it a little, why is it happening, when, who gets involved, what is the impact of it, what can cause it, etc. Once you understand it, in most of the cases you realize that the root cause is somewhere else then in the identified problematic situation. And more than that, once we address it, it solves many other issues we’ve been facing and didn’t know what to do with them.

root cause

Change the format of the Retrospective

Sometimes, even if you facilitate it right, teams are saying that they don’t get enough value from the Retrospective anymore. It used to be great but now we somehow lost the focus and it’s not that useful anymore. People are not coming with new ideas; it’s hard to identify any improvements. It usually happens when ScrumMaster uses the same format of the Retrospective all the time – i.e. “plus/delta”, or star with “Start, More, Less, Stop and Continue”. It became a routine. So here is the hint how to make your Retrospective again engaging. Every time you facilitate Retrospective, make it different. Use a different format, ask different questions. My favorite question is “What made you smile last Sprint? / What do you want to change?” You would be surprised like such a small difference change the energy of the meeting, brings different attitude and helps you make the whole retrospective in more creative environment. Once people get used to it, involve the whole team in designing the retrospective format.

If you find it interesting and want to know more, you can watch my conference talk on Agile Retrospective below or get my new book The Great ScrumMaster.

ScrumMaster State of Mind Model

The state of Agile and Scrum understanding in organizations is not, in any way, great. Many Scrum implementations are failing not because Scrum doesn’t work for the particular organization, but because companies lack the core understanding of the Agile and Scrum mindset. During the Certified Scrum Classes (CSM) I have taught across the world, I realized that even ScrumMasters who were supposed to be Scrum experts are often struggling with understanding the consequences. That was the key motivation for writing a book dedicated to all ScrumMasters and leaders of Agile transformation in organizations: The Great ScrumMaster – #ScrumMasterWay, which is published on Amazon.

ScrumMaster State of Mind model

One of the concepts described in the book is the ScrumMaster State of Mind. It shows ScrumMasters how their day should look like. What are the approaches, they should use in different situations. The ScrumMaster State of Mind model defines four quadrants, with four different approaches you can decide to apply. They are all equally important and each of them can be used in all team development stages.

Teaching, Mentoring, Sharing Experiences

This approach builds on top of your knowledge and experience. Especially at the beginning of your Scrum adoption journey, you have to be clear on the purpose of the individual practices. Teach individuals, teams, and organization about the mindset. In later stages, you shall share your experiences, teach new practices, and help people to improve.

Removing impediments

The second approach you can take is removing impediments. It’s critical to take off the team’s frustration, but this is not the goal of great a ScrumMaster. A great ScrumMaster is not any team assistant, so don’t take this approach too often.

Facilitation

Facilitation is more than just leading Scrum meetings. As a facilitator, a ScrumMaster should know how to make conversations efficient and smooth. A ScrumMaster should know how to help people and team to agree and make a decision. The ability to facilitate is critical for team success.

Coaching

As the last approach, there is coaching. The fundamental difference between coaching and mentoring is that as a coach, you don’t share your own experiences, but ask questions so the team will realize where they want to go. They are the experts, not a ScrumMaster. This approach is critical to your long-term success, as without good coaching, you can never create great teams.

ScrumMaster State of Mind Model
ScrumMaster State of Mind Model

Observing

Even though the mentioned approaches are important, there is one in addition in the middle. This middle circle is about observing and making intentional decision on where to go. It should always be your base position. The place where you start, and return back again when you apply one of the approaches, to see how it landed with a team. It helps you to react on different situations differently. Even when you make a wrong decision, and for example, teach a team who believes they know everything better already, using the State of Mind concept helps you make corrections early enough.