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.

Give Christmas present to your ScrumMaster and leverage his/her knowledge

When I go around the Old Town in Prague I can feel the Christmas atmosphere – Huge Christmas tree is already decorated, a small market with gifts. The holiday season is here 🙂

#ScrumMasterWayIt’s a lot of tips everywhere what to buy as perfect Christmas gift to your husband, friends, children, parents. But I wasn’t able to find any tips for ScrumMaster gifts. So I decided to write some to make even ScrumMaster happier and leverage their knowledge.

There’s never enough knowledge and experiences. The first tip is to read a good book. I want to recommend my book The Great ScrumMaster: #ScrumMasterWay which is practically oriented, full of tips. It’s a field guide for every ScrumMaster, it got great feedbacks so I believe this book is a great gift. But let’s share more book tips – you can start with Essential Scrum from Kenneth Rubin which is the good starting point to understand the Scrum. If you want to move forward the next step is to get some coaching experiences. The Coaching Agile Teams from Lissa Adkins is the book you have to read. It’s great with a lot of knowledge from one of the best coaches I know. Another direction is scaling and a large project in huge organizations. The answer for scaling is LeSS – Large-Scale Scrum which is greatly described in the book Large-Scale Scrum: More with LeSS. If you are serious about scaling, this book is a must. Both authors Craig and Bas are excellent Scrum and LeSS trainers so it is worth to learn from them.

Prague - Old Town Square at Christmas timeIf you prefer a more entertaining way to get the knowledge you can join some training. It’s my second tip. Have you ever been in Prague? It’s one of the nicest cities in the world with charming Old Town, historical streets, Franz Kafka atmosphere, and a lot of good and cheap beer. So it’s a combo historical Prague & great party & awesome training. Take my Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) training explaining the #ScrumMasterWay concept and the way how to become the Great ScrumMaster. It will move your ScrumMaster knowledge to the next level! We also organize Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) class as well and the newest and most demanding CAL1 – Certified Agile Leadership class. Don’t wait and make this holiday & learning happen. Prague - Charles Bridge In addition to my already mentioned classes, you can join Certified LeSS Practitioner training with Jurgen De Smet who is regularly coming to Prague to enjoy the city and to deliver this great workshop. Check dates and availability here. Of course, you can join me at any place worldwide just check my Scrum Alliance profile or book private training for group of your ScrumMasters – team Christmas gift 🙂

Prague - Prague CastleMy last tip for ScrumMaster’s git is to attend the great conference. There’s a lot of great events I just want to mention two: Global Scrum Gatherings (in Minneapolis, USA in spring or London, UK in fall) or my favorite Agile Prague Conference 2018 (September 10-11, 2018) which is one of the best from Agile in Europe 🙂

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.

My Team – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept

The world dimension of #ScrumMasterWay concept represents three levels ScrumMasters shall operate. The first element is called My team. 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 people actively fighting against what you build at My team level, you shall be ready to move to the next level in about six months.

Level 1: My Team

The first level of #ScrumMasterWay concept is My team. Being ScrumMaster at My team level feels like being a team member. They look at things from the development team perspective: Explain different Agile practices, facilitate Scrum meetings, help to remove impediments, coach the team, and make the team great. If people are only aware of the existence of this level, we often hear that ScrumMaster can be a team member at the same time, or it can rotate, or it shall not be needed at all after some time. They are all huge misunderstandings of the ScrumMaster role.

#ScrumMasterWay - My Team

My team level is a great start. If you do it right, it will help you to demonstrate the success of Scrum, and show you a way to the next level of addressing product success, and building an Agile organization. If you do it right, the team becomes not only cross-functional, and self-organized, but high-performing as well. The team will be significantly better that anything you ever experienced before. More productive, always improving, proactive and taking over the ownership and responsibility for the overall goal.

You can’t skip this level, as this is something tangible, something which helps you to demonstrate success. Something which helps you to taste Agile for the first time. And get feeling how it shall be. The first Myself dimension will help you to address My team level and prevent you from falling into assistant or mother of a team. You are done when you build the great team from the group of individuals. You recognize it with a high level of energy, positivity, and activity in the team. Team members will be happy to go to work, they will enjoy it, and take other team members as friends.

Leadership – Myself Dimension – #ScrumMasterWay concept

Let’s continue with the last element of ‘Myself’ dimension. As we already said in the previous blog posts, each element of this dimension is represented by a dice which you can roll every day of Sprint and choose the aspect you are going to take. The fourth dice stands for leadership. If you want to transform the organization, your leadership style shall change first. In this element, we talk about being a servant leader, creating the culture, feedback, motivation, collaboration, and leader-leader style.

Servant Leader

ScrumMaster is a leadership role. One of the aims of ScrumMaster is to make others work better, they are servant leaders. They can heal relationships, create communities, listen to others, have empathy, and think beyond day-to-day tasks and short-term goals. Only when you become servant leader you can be the great ScrumMaster.

We Culture

Agile needs the right culture. It’s all about us, how we work as a team. Be collaborative, support each other, take over responsibility and ownership for the team. ScrumMasters shall be using their leadership skills to create such culture because without it Agile and Scrum can never be successful.

Feedback

Give and receive feedback is critical for every leader. It’s important prerequisite to inspect and adapt. ScrumMasters shall be actively searching for feedback and find creative ways to allow people to learn from it.

Motivation

Part of the motivation is coming from the environment and culture. ScrumMasters support intrinsic motivation factors as they are aligned with their goal to create a self-organized team. Motivate through an understanding of the purpose and clear goals, safe to fail learning environment, and open and transparent culture.

Collaboration

Collaboration is written in the Scrum DNA. Scrum is all about teams and collaboration. There is no individual work important in real Scrum, no individual goals. We do our best to achieve the goal – deliver value to the customer.

Leader-leader

The leader-leader model helps you to change the traditional leadership style of leader–follower where people are expected to follow orders into the leader-leader concept of servant leadership where leaders are here to help the other people to grow and become leaders themselves.

State of Mind – Myself Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay concept

Let’s continue with the next element of ‘Myself’ dimension. As we already said in the previous blog posts, each element of this dimension represented by a dice which you can roll every day or Sprint and choose the aspect you are going to take. The third dice is for choosing the approach – State of mind. The approach you take is important and can completely change the result you get from addressing the different situations. For every situation, you can choose one of the following aspects: observe, facilitate, coach, remove impediments, teacher and mentor, and increase positivity.

Observe

Start every situation with observing. There is no rush. Then choose any of the following approaches, address the situation by facilitation, coaching, teaching and mentoring or increasing positivity and return back to observing to see how it landed. If it works, you can continue with the selected approach, if not it’s time to change. Keep in mind that you work at system level and systems are complex by nature so hard to predict their reaction. You have to inspect and adapt.

Facilitate

Almost every situation can be addressed by proper facilitation. You can prevent conflicts by keeping the discussion in the problem space and prevent the situations when people takes it personal. Facilitator you shall be neutral. It’s their agenda, you only take care of the discussion flow.

Coach

Coaching can help when the other approaches can’t. Coaching will raise awareness and grow the interest to learn or change. It will start thinking process and creativity. Through coaching you can help team to reach the next level and become great team.

Remove impediments

This approach is actually a trap for ScrumMasters. Way too many ScrumMasters takes this approach as a destination and become assistants or mothers. Instead, you can help team to identify impediments by proper root-cause analysis and help them to solve the impediments by themselves.

Teacher, Mentor

ScrumMasters shall be the subject matter experts with hands-on experience from Agile and Scrum environment. This approach is about sharing the knowledge and experience so people understand the purpose of individual practices, Scrum framework and Agile.

Increase positivity

Finally, increase positivity. Celebrate success. Search for short wins. The more positive the overall team and company environment is, the higher chance they have to become great high-performing team and bring overall organizational a success.

Learning – Myself Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay concept

Let’s continue with the next element of ‘Myself’ dimension. As we already said in the previous blog post, each element of this dimension represented by a dice which you can roll every day or Sprint and choose the aspect you are going to take. The second dice is for learning. Scrum Masters shall learn new things every day. This element shows a direction where you can focus the learning activity to gain Agile, coaching, facilitation, business, change, and technical skills.

Agile

ScrumMasters you must be Agile enthusiasts, constantly looking for new practices, concepts, and ideas. Joining local communities, attending or speaking at conferences. Looking for trends where Agile is heading. The world is changing fast, so do Agile and Scrum.

Coaching

Without good coaching, you can’t create sustainable high-performing teams. So better start right away. There are many classes and books on coaching, plenty options to choose from. But after all, it’s all about practice. Start tomorrow and get better during the time.

Facilitation

Facilitation is critical especially when the team is not that mature. Be ready to facilitate not only during meetings but anytime. Every conversation can go wrong, and create a conflict or misunderstanding. Be on a watch for those situations.

Business

As part of the mentoring and teaching, you will need to understand the Agile Product Ownership. Have an idea on how to form a vision, how to prioritize, how to build the backlog. Help Product Owners with business Agility concepts.

Change

ScrumMasters are implementing change in organizations, they change their culture, and way of working. Such change is one of the hardest. You are change manager, change is your day to day job, so be better at implementing change.

Technical

Finally, the most controversial aspect of this element is technical. It’s controversial because as ScrumMaster you shall not be a team member at the same time as you will lose the overview. The technical aspect here points to the Extreme Programming practices as continuous integration, shared codebase, auto-tests and TDD, BDD, pair programming, regular refactoring, agile architecture and continuous delivery. They are critical for team success and every great ScrumMaster shall have a decent knowledge about them.

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.