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Scrum Master: Facilitate, Coach, Mentor, Teach

Last post 08:37 pm October 24, 2019 by Curtis Slough
8 replies
08:40 pm October 23, 2019

Can someone please explain real life situations in an agile (specifically Scrum) environment when to use coaching, teaching, mentoring and facilitation and why to use the specific approach as opposed to the other. I understand some situations can call for more than 1 skill as I mention below.

I was recently asked in an interview if a situation called for which skill, and why to use one skill over another:

Such as if someone asks what happens at the end of a sprint, you Teach then a review and retro. 

What if there is conflict between two DEV members? Am I correct in saying facilitate a conversation and solution between the two by coaching techniques to communicate such as asking each other questions; Why do you think the other person is upset, so we can understand each other? When did this issue really start? What can we do to work together and enjoy working together?

If someone asks why we have to use Scrum I can teach them the principles, but also coach them on how to be more open and collaborative such as suggesting visiting other DEV members and asking how the task they are working on is going? If they are having an issue with a task they are working on, being open and understanding agile. I can even facilitate communication by creating retros based on communication such as How well do you think we communicated? What could be done to increase communication?

Anyways you get the idea. I feel like there is so much overlap. Maybe having concrete examples of when and how to use a skill over another would be productive.



08:56 am October 24, 2019

coaching, teaching, mentoring and facilitation are generic helpful methods in specific stages of problem solving and maturity. Regardless of Scrum, you can easily find generic answers to your question.

12:32 pm October 24, 2019

I was recently asked in an interview if a situation called for which skill, and why to use one skill over another:

If their real-life situations compartmentalize nicely in terms of which skill to use, I'd question if they need a Scrum Master at all.

12:58 pm October 24, 2019

Case in point: I've just spent the past 20 minutes improvising a screwdriver out of blu-tack to help fix a team member's laptop.

02:53 pm October 24, 2019

Thanks Xander the question was for examples within Scrum. 


Ian that is a good point. Just looking for examples here.

03:05 pm October 24, 2019

Facilitate: Facilitating events

Teaching: Teaching about agile and/or Scrum principles and "the basics" (1 time session)

Coaching: Continued teaching, typically a short term engagement (3-6 Sprints) where you work with the team and help them continue to grow and improve. This is usually done on a team level.

Mentoring: Usually done on a 1:1 level. Journey together with another Scrum Master (or someone in a similar role) and walk daily together through situations that come up. The goal is to help each other grow, think like a Master and Apprentice relationship. The Master will continue to grow and learn as they mentor the apprentice.


06:30 pm October 24, 2019

Curtis thank you! So the Mentor part is actually a Mentor of Scrum Master and Entry-Level Scrum Master? I was trying to think of ways to mentor as a scrum master.

06:57 pm October 24, 2019

They way I see it; a Mentor has a lot of knowledge and expertise, which he or she shares with other who ha the need to improve their knowledge and/or skills. More or less lead/explain by example.

A mentor is a Subject Matter Expert. He or she surely can and probaly will use coaching techniques while mentoring.

A mentor will be asked to share knowledge or experience on demand, so it is a pull system.

A coach is someone who tries to help the coachee improve from within, let the coachee find his or own way to improve.

a coach does not need to know anything about the subject matter, he or she will simply try to make the coachee find a way to improve.

A teacher will teach (theoretical) knowledge. It is a push system, it will push knowledge. A teacher does not have to have experience in the field, but at least needs a lot of knowledge. A teacher does not (or not much) focus on personal growth or improvement of the subject, but more on increase in knowledge.

So depending on the state and call for help of the subject, you know what works best ;)

08:37 pm October 24, 2019

Kevin, it doesn't always have to be a Senior Scrum Master with an Entry-Level SM for a mentorship. It could be a 5 year SM and a 3 year SM or a 10 year and 9 year SM's in a mentorship.

Think like Yoda: "Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice."  

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