Who is Driving a Change in the Organization

Managers are very often asking me who is driving the agile transformation and expecting some special position like VP of Agile or Chief Agilist. To their surprise, there is no such position needed. I already wrote here about Agile Organizations and hierarchy. Real Agile Organizations are flat and lean, so they don’t create any new position for a problem, issue or initiative. In Agile Organizations, we already have ScrumMasters to introduce change.

“If you want to drive Agile transformation, you need to become ScrumMaster.”

It’s simple and straightforward. We don’t need another role, we don’t need another layer. Referring to the #ScrumMasterWay model, ScrumMasters are not only responsible for growing great self-organizing teams (My Team level), helping the ecosystems around their team to be self-organized (Relationship level), but also helping the entire organization to be self-organized (Entire System) and embrace agility at all layers. Scrum Masters competencies cover not only agile, business, and technical practices, but are also responsible for driving a change because, at the end of the day, agile brings significant change, new culture, a new way of working.

ScrumMaster is a leadership role, so it’s a good fit for managers who want to make a difference in the organization, who care about helping others to become leaders, who are passionate about changing culture, who are Catalysts. ScrumMaster is a Servant leader. They are not having any positional power, they can’t tell people what to do. But they have an influence. They can coach and facilitate to unleash the potential, helping people to find their own way of working. That’s what self-organization is about in the first place, that’s what agile transformation is about.

Great ScrumMaster is a Catalyst Leader

ScrumMaster is a Catalyst leader introduced by Bill Joiner in his book Leadership Agility. Catalyst is the third step on the leadership journey from Expert to Catalyst. In a very simple way, Expert is the person who knows better and therefore can advise and lead others by example, using his own experiences. Achiever is oriented to the results, they are very competitive, like the stretch goals, clear objectives, and believe a good challenge is the best motivator. They take people as resources towards achieving their goals. Finally the Catalysts understand agile deeper beyond practices, roles, and frameworks. Their key focus is to create a space, an environment where people can be successful. They care about the culture where many-to-many relationships emerge, focus on collaboration, transparency, and openness. They empower people around them, work with teams not just individuals. They are good at complex situations, seeking different perspectives and diversity, looking for innovative and creative solutions.

At the first place, ScrumMasters need to be Agile believers, the highest enthusiasts about agile from far around. Otherwise, there is no way they help others to embrace true agility. They need to be good at all five ScrumMaster State of Mind approaches explaining, storytelling, root cause analysis, coaching teams, not just individuals, large group facilitation, and that not all. Their knowledge goes wider than a few frameworks, practices and methods. They need to improve their leadership skills, understand organizational design, structure and culture models, overall business agility and be good at change management because agile is a huge change of the way we think and approach things.

As Expert leaders, they only drive a car on one gear – teaching. The Achievers are adding a pressure which is not really helpful if you think about ScrumMaster’s goal of achieving self-organization. So being Catalyst is the only way how to become great ScrumMaster.

10 Most Common Mistakes of ScrumMaster

Great ScrumMasterBeing great ScrumMaster is a journey, where you have to learn a lot about Agile, Scrum, coaching, facilitation, change, business agility, technical practices, leadership… But all over it all starts with having the agile mindset. This time, I’m not focusing on who you need to be, but quite opposite what you should avoid, as one of the very common questions at the classes is what are the most common mistakes of ScrumMaster. So here is the list:

Being a Team Assistant

Taking care of the team, solve issues (impediments) for them, plan meetings… It’s easy to get there as it seems to be helpful. But only in the short term. Long-term, it will create unconfident people who rely on ScrumMaster and never take over responsibility and ownership. Instead, you shall show them they can solve most of their problems by themselves, and be a good coach, facilitator and servant leader.

Share ScrumMaster Role with Another Role

Such ScrumMasters have usually lack of focus. They don’t spend enough time observing, finding better ways for the team to become great, and are happy and done with the role once everything is ok. Instead of sharing ScrumMaster role with another role, have ScrumMaster full time, let them focus on how they can become great ScrumMasters and truly master the agility so it will help the entire organization. Give them space to invest more time to the other levels of the #ScrumMasterWay concept.

Team Only Focus

Speaking about #ScrumMasterWay concept, many ScrumMasters believe that their only role is to support their development team to be great. I mean this is fine, but it’s just a tiny part on the ScrumMaster journey. It’s like a kindergarten. You need to experience it. That’s where you learn and practice all State of Mind approaches, that’s where you get confidence in yourself as a leader and change agent. But even if you are super successful, it’s only changing at the team level. You need to go broader and follow the other steps of the #ScrumMasterWay model and change the entire organization into an agile organization.

Technical Expert

Being a technical expert is dangerous for ScrumMasters. They feel a strong need to advise people on what to do. If you know a better solution, it’s just easier to tell them, then help them to figure it out. Instead, ScrumMaster shall trust the team they are the experts and coach them so they become better.

Manage Meetings

ScrumMaster is neither manager of the Scrum meetings, nor responsible for scheduling them. Instead, ScrumMaster shall be a facilitator, who takes care about the form of the conversation, not the content.

Don’t Believe in Scrum

How many times you’ve seen ScrumMaster who is doubting about the core Scrum so much that no one is following them? You need to be sure it works, need to believe in it, need to be the biggest Agile enthusiast all around. Otherwise, you can’t make the others to follow.

Apply ‘Fake Scrum’

Sometimes ScrumMasters take Scrum as just a process, don’t search for deeper understanding. Just do it (Daily Scrum, backlog, ScrumMaster role, …) as Scrum says so. They don’t have the right mindset. Agile and Scrum is not about practices, it’s a different way of thinking. It’s about “being” not “doing”.

Waiting for Someone Else to Start the Change

ScrumMasters often wait for someone else to initiate a change. They are reluctant to take over responsibility and ownership and the organization is not moving anywhere. Instead of waiting forever, ScrumMaster shall be a change agent, responsible for the entire organization Agile journey.

Scrum and Agile Expert

It’s enough to understand Agile and Scrum. Which is simple so we are done. Being ScrumMaster is a journey, and you can never stop learning. Even if you feel you know Agile and Scrum, there is always something new. And there are those other domains you need to master: coaching, facilitation, change, business agility, team dynamics, technical practices, leadership, … The learning is never ending.

We Are Great Team, We Are Done.

Often ScrumMasters let their team believe they can be done. The team is good, we finished our Agile transformation. Don’t bother us with new ideas. We know how to work. We are self-organized. You can never be done in a complex environment. There is always a better way. So instead of this false believe, ScrumMasters shall coach the team so they see other opportunities to inspect and adapt.

Do we need CEO in Agile Organization?

Agile at the organizational level changes everything. I wrote here already about Agile HR, Agile Board of Directors, and Agile at the Executive Team Level. Let’s have a look at the top of the organization. Should it remain the same? Or shall we go one step further and change it as well?

Searching for an “agile mindset CEO” is frankly a nightmare. Everyone who tried it can confirm that. There are not many CEOs with enough Agile experience yet in the world and those few who has it are not likely looking for a job as they are usually quite happy in their current organization. So, no matter which executive search firm you choose, or what you write to the position description, the search firms are no real help here. Unless you already spent effort up front on growing the talent internally, you need huge luck to get someone who understands agile more than a basic theory. No matter how desperate you are searching for a CEO, this is still just a small obstacle, not the real reason for a structural change.

The real need for top-level change starts when most of the organization is having an agile mindset. The Agile transformation is about being agile. How many times you’ve heard this request: “How about if our management give us more support on your Agile journey?”, “How about if our executive team is Agile and don’t just push it to us?”, “How about if they practice the same way we work as well?”Would that make it a difference? Maybe. So why don’t we go one more step ahead and change from the top and become a role model for the entire organization? As the organization has changed and Agile is not solely the domain of the IT anymore, but the business agility got into every department, the need for a change at the top level is inevitable. Why do we need a CEO in the first place? Just because that’s how organizations always been? Shouldn’t we ‘eat our own lunch’ and change the way we work entirely? Shouldn’t we apply the same principles the team do? Sounds simple, right.

And as usually it is simple to understand, hard to do as it needs courage. Courage to say “We are going to be different.” We will have Organizational ScrumMaster and Organizational Product Owner instead of a CEO because it will be closer to the way we work at this organization, fits our values, and last but not least we believe it will help us to be more flexible and adaptive at the organizational level. And that’s worth of trying.

The Organizational ScrumMaster would be focusing on the right culture, mindset and structure, so we become high-performing innovative organizations which embraced agility, and Organizational Product Owner would be focusing externally to the business, vision a purpose to we know where are we heading and why and are value driven. Both roles need to respect each other and be open with each other, the same way as it is in a single Scrum team, as together they will be part of the Organizational Leadership Team, and the network structure of self-organizational teams. There are two roles in Scrum by a reason instead of one. When you ask people if they would suggest to combine them, no one feels it is a good idea. And at the top organizational level, we would still do it? The similar reasons are valid at this level as well. When you think about it, it fits the way we work much better, then a single CEO – supports the right organizational mindset, transparency, and collaboration, it is consistent with who we are.

From a legal perspective, it is perfectly possible, and it’s not that much work either. You might need to change the bylaws a little, but there is no reason why you can’t do it. From a hiring perspective, it’s much simpler, as you are not looking for that ‘superhero’ personality who would be great with both internal and external sides. Try it. As I said already, all you need is courage. And that’s one of the Scrum values anyway. Experiment, and from that stage inspect and adapt. Now, do I believe that this SM-CEO or PO-CEO will eventually make themselves out of job? No, I don’t. It’s the same as the team level. Even if the team is self-organized and knows the business well, there is still work for ScrumMaster and Product Owner. Similarly, at the organizational level, there is still a need for Organizational ScrumMaster and Organizational Product Owner even when the network of collaborative teams got self-organized, business value-driven, and customer-centric. The Organizational ScrumMaster and Organizational Product Owner would use Leader – Leader style to build other leaders around them, and if they are successful, the organization will become purpose driven where leadership will be emergent and structure liquid. The same way as it is in the Scrum team, the Organizational ScrumMaster and Organizational Product Owner will move from those who explain, tell and share, to those who coach, facilitate, and keep the system spinning. And that’s what is the Agile Leadership about.

Five books every ScrumMaster should read

I have several books here, I would recommend every ScrumMaster to read (check the five books every Product Owner should read, and five books Agile Leader shall 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