3 things that I would never do as a Scrum Master.

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As a Scrum Master, it’s crucial to steer clear of certain traps and habits that can hinder the effectiveness of your team. Here are three common mistakes I’ve made and learned from, so you can avoid them:

1. Telling, Not Asking

One of the most subtle yet powerful principles to remember as a Scrum Master is the importance of asking rather than telling. This shift is a cornerstone of effective leadership and is a key reason for the evolution of the language in the Scrum Guide from “servant leader” to “true leader that serves.”

Why Asking Matters

  • Empowers Team Growth: By asking questions instead of giving directives, you foster an environment where team members can grow and mature in their collaborative processes.
  • Promotes Self-Management: Encouraging teams to think through their decisions helps them become self-organizing and, ideally, self-managing.
  • Enhances Learning: Active learning, which involves engaging directly with tasks, is proven to be the most effective way to retain knowledge.

How to Implement “Ask, Don’t Tell”

  • Use Open-Ended Questions: Instead of giving orders, pose questions that stimulate critical thinking and problem-solving.
  • Facilitate Discussions: Guide the team through discussions that help them understand their context and make informed decisions.
  • Encourage Reflection: Help the team reflect on their actions and learn from their experiences.

2. Falling into the Mechanics Trap

It’s easy to get caught up in the mechanics of Scrum, especially when you’re just starting out. This trap involves focusing on the motions—ticking boxes and following checklists—without understanding the underlying values and principles.

Dangers of Mechanical Scrum

  • Lack of Value-Based Decisions: Decisions should be based on the five Scrum values, which underpin trust and enable transparency, inspection, and adaptation.
  • Tool of Oppression: When Scrum is implemented mechanically, it can become a tool of micromanagement and oppression, leading to team dissatisfaction.
  • Missed Intent: Without understanding the purpose behind Scrum events, teams may see them as burdensome rather than beneficial.

Avoiding the Mechanics Trap

  • Focus on Values: Ensure that every action is aligned with Scrum values, promoting empiricism and trust.
  • Create Space for Understanding: Allow time and space for team members to understand the benefits of Scrum events.
  • Encourage Engagement: Foster an environment where team members are encouraged to engage with the process and propose changes during retrospectives.

3. The Admin Trap

Another common pitfall is falling into the admin trap, where you end up doing too much for the team, limiting their ability to self-manage.

Consequences of the Admin Trap

  • Hinders Team Autonomy: By taking on too many administrative tasks, you prevent the team from developing their own capabilities.
  • Busy Work: You can easily get bogged down in busy work, detracting from more valuable activities that support the team’s growth.

Balancing Admin Tasks

  • Delegate Responsibilities: Encourage team members to take on administrative tasks themselves, fostering ownership and responsibility.
  • Focus on Coaching: Use your time to coach and support the team, rather than doing everything for them.
  • Empower the Team: Help the team develop the skills they need to manage their own processes and tools.

Personal Experiences and Recommendations

Learning from My Mistakes

Each of these traps is one I’ve fallen into during my journey as a Scrum Master. Here’s how I learned to overcome them:

  • Telling, Not Asking: Early on, I found myself defaulting to giving directives. By consciously shifting to an “ask, don’t tell” approach, I saw my team become more engaged and self-reliant.
  • Mechanics Trap: I used to be very checklist-focused. It wasn’t until I started emphasizing the values and intent behind Scrum that my team truly began to thrive.
  • Admin Trap: Initially, I did too much for the team. By stepping back and encouraging them to handle administrative tasks, I empowered them to take ownership of their work.

Recommendations for New Scrum Masters

  • Practice Patience: Change takes time. Be patient with your team as they adjust to new ways of working.
  • Seek Feedback: Regularly ask for feedback from your team and stakeholders to continuously improve your approach.
  • Stay True to Scrum Values: Always align your actions with the core values of Scrum to foster a healthy, productive environment.

Conclusion

Avoiding these common pitfalls requires awareness, intentionality, and a commitment to continuous improvement. By focusing on asking rather than telling, avoiding mechanical Scrum, and steering clear of the admin trap, you can become a more effective Scrum Master and help your team reach their full potential. 🌟

Remember, your role is to serve the team, guiding them towards greater autonomy and success. Keep these lessons in mind, and you’ll create a positive, empowering environment where your team can thrive. 🚀

Connect with Advanced Product Delivery.

APD offer private, tailored training courses as well as business agility and coaching. Our public training courses are delivered by practicing Agilists: Product Owners, Scrum Masters and coaches who are expert trainers and facilitators.

Whether you are looking to become a #scrummaster or #agilecoach, we have a range of internationally certified and recognised #agiletraining courses that are perfect for you. Visit Professional Scrum Training courses for more information.

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