The scrum master philosopher
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The scrum master philosopher
"When the wise man points to the moon, the idiot looks at his finger" Chinese proverb
I was impressed with the readings of The 8 Stances of a Scrum master [i].
This excellent summary lists the postures that a Scrum master can adopt.
He can position himself as a servant-leader, a coach, a facilitator, a teacher, a mentor, a manager, an impediment remover, or a change agent. As I carefully read what these terms imply I have found that these descriptions can be applied to a philosopher.
What is a Scrum master philosopher ?
All depends on how we define the word Philosopher[ii].
The most common acceptance is one who loves or affectionate wisdom.
The philosopher also designates the one who seeks the truth and who aspires to become wise. The Scrum master philosopher is aware that he has not achieved wisdom. He improves daily and advances develops. He is a supporter of agility, he makes adopt and live Scrum’s principles.
“The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization »[iii].
The Scrum master philosopher is an empiricist, he also teaches Lean principles and develops an iterative and incremental approach.
“Scrum is founded on empiricism and lean thinking. Empiricism asserts that knowledge comes from experience and making decisions based on what is observed. Lean thinking reduces waste and focuses on the essentials. Scrum employs an iterative, incremental approach to optimize predictability and to control risk”[iv].
By the word but also by acts, he helps the team and the organization to set up an environment conducive to value creation. He “ Coach[…] the team members in self-management and cross-functionality”[v].
How does the Scrum master philosopher acts on a daily basis?
He listens to his team, he provides services “The Scrum Master serves the organization in several ways, including: Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization;
Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work; and, Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams” [vi].
The Scrum master philosopher consults opinions, publications, feedback from his peers, he participates or leads meetups on agility. Far from being contemplative of the world of ideas, he is an actor inside the organization, “Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value Increments that meet the Definition of Done; Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress”[vii].
The Scrum master philosopher also manages daily life. He is accessible and never takes control over the individuals, he prefers to coach so that they appropriate Scrum’s principles and tools.
“Helping [the product owner] finds techniques for effective Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management; Helping the Scrum Team understand the need for clear and concise Product Backlog items; Helping establish empirical product planning for a complex environment; and, Facilitating stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed» [viii].
The Scrum Master Philosopher brings people out of knowledge illusion and enlightens them.
By questions rather than answers, he facilitates the birth of the truth.
These interlocutors find the solutions by themselves and make them their own.
The Scrum Master Philosopher helps the team to understand that in a complex environment it is not possible to precisely estimate all tasks in hours. He encourages the Product Owner to experiments solutions and act with stakeholders to obtain empirical answers. It helps developers to self-manage in order to empower them.
Finally, the Scrum Master Philosopher is ethical, he develops the capacities of individuals so that they live the 5 values of the Scrum Guide which are: “Commitment, Focus, Openness, Respect, and Courage” [ix].
The Scrum Master Philosopher is still in the spotlight ?
« I know that I know nothing »[x] shows the inability of accessing to wisdom. The Scrum Master Philosopher is humble, he can also opt for a more detached attitude. He corresponds to the Scrum Master described by Bas VODDE in its article « Actively doing nothing (is actually hard word)[xi] ».
His Scrum master asks questions, he educates, he facilitates, he can interrupt in exceptional cases and he may also actively doing nothing. Its apparent non-action is a powerful tool that allows
“By actively doing nothing, you actually do something. You create the space for the team to take responsibility for the situation they are in”[xii].
Bas VODDE clearly distinguish voluntary inactivity which is beneficial from involuntary activity which is harmful. The Scrum Master Philosopher by his non-action aims for team unity « When a good or bad thing happens to a citizen, the whole city will share its joy or its pain »[xiii].
This uniqueness promotes the emergence of collective thinking. This set is made possible by the team's ownership of rules, responsibilities, events and artifacts that form a holistic whole[xiv]. This progressive efficiency is the result of a stand back scrum master which facilitates the team and the organization on a daily basis in revealing their knowledge.
The Scrum master philosopher is opposed to the Philodoxer.
The Scrum Master Philosopher is opposed to those who are full of certainties, who apply literally and not in spirit, to those who have ready-made methods that have already been implemented in other companies. I am thinking of the situations described in the Zombie scrum survival guide[xv].
Unlike the Scrum master philosopher, the Philodoxer loves the doxa. The doxa refers to the set of opinions, prejudices, assumptions, confuse or relevant that are generally accepted by society. This doxa breaks transparency, it masks the Aletheia, the unveiled truth. The philodoxer is the spirit of the V-cycle. He likes to foresee, anticipate by referring to his thoughts. He designs detailed solutions with phased achievements planned well in advance. He gives prescriptions because the X methodology indicated that it worked in a Y context. Thinking and progress have no place, what matters is following instructions. The Philodoxer believes in his principles, he applies long-established rules, he stays and keeps others in the dark.
What atmosphere does the Scrum Master Philosopher create ?
Gunther VERHEYEN wrote «In the house of Scrum people from different backgrounds, in different roles, with different skills, talents and personalities work, learn and improve together. The house of Scrum is an inclusive house of warm, open and collaborative relationship»[xvi]. The mission of the Scrum master philosopher is to foster the essence[xvii] of Scrum so that the team and the organization can bring it to life.
[i] OVEREEM, Barry. 2017. The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master
[ii] From the Greek Philos (love, desire) and sophia (knowledge, wisdom) it designates the one who seeks knowledge and admits he has not achieved it.
[iii] SCHWABER, Ken et SUTHERLAND Jeff. 2020. Scrum Guide.
[iv] SCHWABER, Ken et SUTHERLAND Jeff. 2020. Scrum Guide.
[v] SCHWABER, Ken et SUTHERLAND Jeff. 2020. Scrum Guide.
[vi] SCHWABER, Ken et SUTHERLAND Jeff. 2020. Scrum Guide.
[vii] SCHWABER, Ken et SUTHERLAND Jeff. 2020. Scrum Guide.
[viii] SCHWABER, Ken et SUTHERLAND Jeff. 2020. Scrum Guide.
[ix] SCHWABER, Ken et SUTHERLAND Jeff. 2020. Scrum Guide.
[x] « hén oȋda hóti oudèn oȋda ». With this maxim Socrates invites us to humility and to question our certainties.
The recognition of ignorance is the attitude to adopt in order to progress in the quest for knowledge.
[xi] Edited by VERHEYEN Gunther. 2020. Bas VODDE. 97 Things every Scrum practitioner should know. Edition O’reilly, p140.
[xii] Edited by VERHEYEN Gunther. 2020. Bas VODDE. 97 Things every Scrum practitioner should know. Edition O’reilly, p140.
[xiii] Plato. The Republic.
[xiv] Holism: This is a neologism created in 1926 that invites us to conceive a phenomenon within a global framework.
Holism favors wholes that it considers greater than the sum of their parts.
[xv] VERWIJS Christian, SCHARTAU Johannes et OVEREEM Barry.2020. Zombie scrum survival guide. The Professional Scrum series, Scrum Org
[xvi] VERHEYEN, Gunther. 2013. Scrum a Pocket Guide, a smart travel companion. Van Haren Publishing.
[xvii]. Essence is what makes a thing what it is, regardless of what happens to it without fundamentally changing its nature.
This is what constitutes a thing as it is, to give it its fundamental reality.