February 19, 2020

The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master  -  Brazilian Portuguese Edition

Last year, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the Portuguese speaking Scrum community in Portugal and Brazil. By contributing to Agile Portugal, Scrum Day Brazil and by providing a workshop for Emergee, I’ve experienced their passion, enthusiasm, and willingness to learn more about Scrum. 

Workshop at Scrum Day Brazil

Pictures of my Scrum workshop at Scrum Day Brazil

Therefore, when Fabio Fioratti Azevedo and Danilo Almeida asked me if they could translate the paper “The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master” into Brazilian-Portuguese this was a no-brainer: of course! Scrum.org supported this initiative by changing this into an official Scrum.org paper and making it available via their website. You can download the Brazilian-Portuguese version here.

The 8 stances of a Scrum Master is a paper I published in 2016. It contains my experiences being a Scrum Master and using the different stances required to become successful in this role. Being successful as a Scrum Master is challenging. Being aware of all the stances is a start, knowing when and how to apply them is a continuous learning journey. 

In this article I’ll offer a summary of the paper, if this triggers your interest, check the English & Brazilian-Portuguese edition for more details.

Workshop at Emergee

Pictures of my Scrum workshop at Emergee in Sao Paulo, the company of Alexandre Magno

The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master

Scrum Masters are servant leaders. They help the Scrum Team be successful by providing the services and support they need to do so, without drawing attention to themselves. Their approach to change is holistic and involves the individual members, the team, and the broader organization. They recognize that in complex work, bringing people together and shaping future actions together is the best way to be effective. Although servant-leader used to be a separate stance, I now often explain it as the ever-present mindset and attitude by which you fulfill all the other stances.

These stances are:

  • Teacher: explaining the Scrum Framework and how it helps to be effective in complex environments. Approaching teaching as “the art of assisted discovery” rather than “presenting the facts”;
  • Impediment Remover: supporting the team in solving problems by themselves. Resolve the problems that exceed their self-organizing capabilities;
  • Coach & Mentor: helping the Scrum Team grow by asking the right questions and drawing attention to the reasons for an empirical process. Finding ways to help members grow on an individual level through mentorship or finding suitable mentors for them;
  • Facilitator: facilitating the empirical process (transparency, inspection, adaptation) by helping teams find the best way to make work transparent, and to inspect and adapt. Facilitating the Scrum Events in such a way that the empirical process and self-organization are emphasized; 
  • Change Agent: helping organizations as a whole work more effectively with Scrum. This requires collaboration with other Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and stakeholders. Don’t focus solely on the team. 
  • Manager: managing impediments, eliminating waste, managing the process, managing the team's health and managing the boundaries of the Scrum framework.

The Scrum Master does so by acting on 3 levels: Scrum Team, building relationships with others and supporting the entire organization.

Preferred stances of a Scrum Master

The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master

The 8 Misunderstood Stances of a Scrum Master

Besides sharing my view on how the role should be fulfilled, I also describe the often misunderstood stances of a Scrum Master. These are stances I’ve been guilty of using myself as well. 

  • Scrum Police: Enforcing the rules of Scrum without considering the context and without explaining why the rules are important;
  • Chairman & Scribe: Acting as a chairperson during Scrum Events and keeping tight, unilateral control of the discussion and the agenda. Making notes of the events and sharing them in reports afterward. Writing stickies for the team;
  • Admin: Taking ownership of configuration and management of the tooling used by the team. Making the team use certain tooling. Or updating the physical Scrum Board on behalf of the team; 
  • Secretary: Tracking time spent by everyone in the team. Managing vacations, sick days and holidays;
  • Hero: Solving all the problems for the team, although they could have solved the problems themselves as well;
  • Coffee clerk. There’s nothing wrong with getting coffee for your team members. That’s even very collegial. But if you’re the main purpose during the day is providing the team with coffee… then you’re missing the point of being a Scrum Master.
  • Team Boss: Taken together, Scrum Masters are often considered, or consider themselves, as Team Bosses. Their purpose is to keep everyone busy, to reassure the organization through reporting, to focus solely on the team and ignore the broader environment and to make decisions on behalf of the team;

For organizations starting with Scrum, the stances are often easy to understand and translate to their current understanding of management. Changing this perception is where your role as a Change Agent starts. 

Misunderstood Stances

The 8 Misunderstood Stances of a Scrum Master

From 50% Agile Coach to 100% Scrum Master?

After having worked as a Scrum Master for many years, I got ‘promoted’ into the role of Agile Coach. Not only did my salary increase, but I also got the responsibility to help the entire organization succeed with Scrum. This enabled the Scrum Masters to focus on their team only, as Agile Coach we would spark change in the wider organization. 

Long story short, I didn’t enjoy being an Agile Coach. I wasn’t able to have an impact on organizations I used to have as a Scrum Master. I felt lost in a ‘grey’ area organizations. Not being part of anything. Not really understanding what was going on, while being responsible for a large Agile transformation simultaneously. A recipe for disaster…

Although real disasters didn’t occur, I wasn’t very successful either. Over time, my understanding of being a Scrum Master improved as well. My take on the difference between both roles is that a Scrum Master is an Agile Coach who takes responsibility. The responsibility to change the organization from the inside out, while being part of the Scrum Team, closely working with Developers and the Product Owner. 

That’s why I decided to fully focus on being a Scrum Master again and help create an environment where Scrum Teams could be successful. In the paper, I explain this in far more detail.

Closing

If you’re interested in learning more about the preferred & misunderstood stances of a Scrum Master and my take on Agile Coaches, the paper “The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master” is definitely worth exploring. I’m really grateful that Fabio Fioratti Azevedo and Danilo Almeida volunteered to create the Brazilian-Portuguese edition. It makes me really proud to be part of such an awesome community! 

Sharing this article amongst your Brazilian-Portuguese speaking friends and colleagues would be highly appreciated because obviously, not everyone will be able to read this English article…

One more thing… the 3rd Edition is in the making!

The first edition of this paper was published in 2016. A year later, I’ve included new visuals, the misunderstood stances of a Scrum Master and why I stopped being an Agile Coach. This edition has now been translated into Brazilian-Portuguese.

Although I still fully agree with the message of the paper’s current edition, my understanding of Scrum has evolved. Luckily, I’ve learned many things in the past years. For example, servant-leadership is an attitude and mindset you should always have. It’s something by which you fulfill all the other stances. In the Scrum.org PSM II class, which Christiaan Verwijs and I designed together with Scrum.org, the Manager isn’t mentioned as a separate stance anymore either. Although it’s definitely a valid stance, we’ve noticed that it often doesn’t trigger the desired conversations and results in confusion instead of clarity.

Therefore, I’ve decided to completely rewrite the paper “The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master”. Once the book “Zombie Scrum Survival Guide” is finished, I’ll start updating the paper. So stay tuned!