How can a Scrum Master serve the organization?
There is a very sad joke about Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters regarding work at organization level – “an Agile Coach is a person who works with the organization and makes sure the Scrum Master doesn’t ” . It is both very wrong towards some of the Agile Coaches and unfortunately very right in other cases.
The idea behind this comes from a various misconception about Scrum Masters and Agile Coaches work description, different company standards and no clear guidelines.
However, there is no misunderstanding when it comes to the Scrum framework. It clearly states
“Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization.”
In this article, I will try to give you some ideas on how a Scrum Master can serve the organization and also some practical examples. So, let’s start with the first idea we find in the Scrum Guide:
Leading, training, and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
I often hear from Scrum Master ‘but we are very far away from our Management, and there is nothing we can do’. It might seem impossible at the moment to reach all the relevant management, but whatever you do, keep in mind “they chose Scrum for a reason – if you want to have what Scrum promises you, you should abide by its values and frames”. So, my idea would be – find the reason WHY is the organization going towards agility in the first place. Is it to bring products to customers faster? Hence improve release frequency? Or maybe to make sure what we build is relevant to the market, to our customers? Start there, and explain how Scrum can support those goals.
When it comes to leading, as Scrum Masters we are bound to show examples of Scrum values, Scrum pillars and its boundaries by our day-to-day actions. By embedding agile principles, we are a real-life example on how Scrum can help as in day-to-day work.
Same goes for coaching – either if it's 1on1 coaching for anyone outside the Scrum Team, or having multiple workshops on Scrum Fundamentals across the organization. It’s up to you. From my experience it’s hard for some people to join a full day workshop – I encourage you to create short, 1h-2h workshops on certain aspects of Scrum and send invites to everyone in the company. Maybe via an internal newsletter?
The other thing we can read in the Scrum Guide is:
Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization;
When an organization is looking to hire a Scrum Master, usually is has some idea on how this accountability works. Even though you might find yourself in an already assigned team or area, keep in mind there are always areas in organization that still might need a little help. Maybe accounting? Legal? Or Procurement?
There are always few approaches to consider – do we go evolutionary or revolutionary? or a mix of both? In my experience it is mostly common to mix those approaches. We coach a certain area of organization, show the value of our work and agile approach, prepare them for change that might happen and then BAM! Comes a day, when we just start with all Scrum events and Scrum accountabilities in place. It takes a lot of work, but to make sure a change is really taking place, sometimes that’s what is needed. And hey, if it worked in my case – it doesn’t necessarily mean it will work in yours☺ the idea is to experiment.
Maybe experiment in small parts? Establish a small Scrum Studio as a trial basis? Let the rest of the organization see the difference in their way of working, and learn from that.
Doesn’t work? Ask your stakeholders. Ask your teams. Ask your managers. What is their biggest challenge right now? And tackle that. But to have that in place we need to...
Help employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work;
Show the value in it. What’s in it for them?
You can do it from the system approach, or one by one conversations with key people.
Establish responsibilities and accountabilities within the organization. Who is responsible for this exact process? Where does it start – where does it end? What happens next?
Ensure the use of metrics in your approach. As Deming famously said” without data, you are just another person with an opinion”. Gather data. But not only gather – act on it. With gathering data, you should focus on 4 questions: What? What for? How? And What’s next?
Workshops, training, not only those never-ending-long-ones but short, clear and concise ones. Try to focus on what is your core message on those short ones. What would you like people to remember from this? One meaningful message is better than ten noisy ones.
And once you do that, you can also focus on
Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams
For this last part, I have already written an article solely focusing on helping Product Owner and organization remove those barriers – you can find it here.
This is a very short summary of how a Scrum Master helps an organization on its way to agility. I hope it can give you a little direction and inspiration on this journey.