November 9, 2017

Workshop - The Scrum Master as a Manager

Today I facilitated the workshop "The Scrum Master as a Manager" at the conference "Agile Spain 2017" in Sevilla. Agile Spain is an annual event promoted by(800!) participants  that experience software development in a different way. Within a collaborative environment, participants are offered the opportunity to share knowledge and experiences around agility.

In this blog post I'll share the outline of the workshop "The Scrum Master as a Manager". I'm not going to share my thoughts about the topic, I've already described that in the whitepaper "The 8 Stances of a Scrum Master". It's my intention to explain how I've facilitated this workshop, and give you the opportunity to facilitate the workshop within your own organization as well.

What is the Workshop About?

In the workshop "The Scrum Master as a Manager" you'll explore who is responsible for management in a Scrum environment. Based on predefined topics, for example "stakeholders", "velocity", or "budget", the participants will decide who they think is responsible for managing it. The roles they can choose are the Product Owner, Development Team, Scrum Master, Project Manager and Line Manager. Below I'll share a more detailed description.

Duration

60 - 90 minutes

Material

  • Markers
  • Tape
  • Stickers
  • Cards with the roles
  • Cards with topics that need to be managed

I've used the roles of Product Owner, Development Team, Scrum Master, Project Manager and Line Manager. Of course you can always add/remove roles if that's more relevant in your organization. The same applies for the topics I've used. Feel free to add/remove topics as well.

The topics I've used are...

Product vision, stakeholders, velocity, Scrum process, release planning, product roadmap, scope of the project, product vision, return on investment, Product Backlog, stakeholders, budget, Sprint Backlog, Scrum board, technical innovation, bugs, technical debt, documentation, velocity, quality, team composition, personal growth, impediments, team health, culture, Scrum process, boundaries of self-organization

Part 1 - Impromptu Networking

15 minutes

We started the workshop with the Liberating Structure technique “Impromptu Networking“. This technique invites the group to rapidly share challenges and expectations, and build new connections. After asking the group to form pairs, everyone got 4 minutes to discuss the question:

How is the Scrum Master a management position?

I’ve let them change partners 3 times. Round 1 was 4 minutes. Round 2 was 3 minutes. Round 3 was 2 minutes. After the three rounds we briefly discussed the patterns that the participants discovered while doing this exercise. With this technique you engage everyone from the beginning and quickly learn what their take on this topic is.

Part 2 - Connecting topics and roles

15 - 30 minutes

  • Split the group into teams of 5 - 7 persons;
  • Divide the cards with the ±25 topics amongst the teams. Every team will have about 5 cards with a topic;
  • Ask them to determine what role is responsible for managing the topic in the ideal Scrum environment;
  • Put the cards with the roles on the wall or floor;
  • Invite the group to connect the topics to the roles;
  • Discuss the result with each other. What surprises you? What are the patterns? 

Important: at the end of this exercise I stop being a facilitator for a moment. I do have an opinion on what management in the ideal Scrum environment looks like. I'll share my opinion with the group and move the topics that don't match my view of management in a Scrum environment. So the result of part 2 are 25 topics connected to the Scrum roles by which it will represent the ideal Scrum environment.

Part 3 - Reflection

15 - 30 minutes

  • Ask everyone to individually think of 3 topics that are managed differently within their own organisation compared to the ideal Scrum environment;
  • Invite them to step forward and put a sticker (3 per participants) on the topic they've thought of;
  • Form pairs and ask them to discuss what's different in their organisation and what the effect is for the adoption of Scrum;
  • Pair up with another pair (so form groups of 4) and share insights and identify patterns;
  • Discuss it as a group and debrief patterns and observations;
  • Finish the workshop by asking every participants to write down gained insights and lessons learned. I often use the 1-2-Tweet format for this.

Tips

  • Create a safe environment. Often the Project Manager and Line Manager don't have any topics to manage anymore. If they are present, this might be confronting. Make sure you can have a constructive conversation about the results. It's not about bashing roles but more about having a discussion about management in the ideal Scrum environment and reflecting on the differences within your organisation.
  • Try to have the opportunity to extend the time-box. For sure the workshop will trigger nice conversations, it would be great if you've got the time to have these conversations in a bit more detail.
  • Be patience. Creating the ideal Scrum environment takes time. This workshop helps getting a shared understanding of such an environment. That's already a great achievement. Encourage everyone to help each other getting there.
  • Be flexible. The topics and roles I've used in my workshop are not set in stone. Alter them so they match your organisation.
  • Offer guidance afterwards. This workshop will raise questions and maybe uncertainty (for Project Managers or Line Managers). Make sure you've got time afterwards for answering questions or offering guidance.

Closing

In this blog post I've shared the outline of the workshop "The Scrum Master as a Manager". I've facilitated this workshop today at the Agile Spain conference in Sevilla. I think this is a great workshop to host in your own organisation as well. It will definitely trigger a discussion on how Scrum is managed in your organisation and what the differences are with the ideal Scrum environment.

I hope this outline is useful and that I've encouraged you to give it a try as well. If you've facilitated such a session, please let me know the result. I'm always eager to learn from your experiences as well!