Something I really love about the Agile mindset is that it fosters a sense of empowerment among team members. People are given agency to make decisions, to take initiative, to take ownership, to add true value to the team and the product.
Leading by Example and Invitation
In September, I got pulled into a Scrum team as a developer and began serving as Scrum Master shortly thereafter. The team was working in two week sprints but having trouble getting things released to production. They were having daily Scrum meetings and sprint planning meetings, but no sprint reviews or retrospectives.
When I suggested we start doing reviews and retrospectives I met with resistance from some folks on the team. Some of these people had influence over the team and its decisions. So I needed to take a subtle tact to help others see the value of reviews and retrospectives.
I began questioning why we were even doing this project? We were rewriting a legacy application. But who requested that? Were we sure we were working on the right priorities? Did we know if we were adding value? Were all the legacy features still used by the business folks? Were the features adequate or could they be improved?
As my teammates realized they didn’t know the answers to most of those questions, I was able to suggest having a review of the previously completed sprints. I asked what everyone thought about giving a demo to our business partners? The team saw the value in this. Different people took ownership of the several parts of the review meeting and demo. The outcome was positive and valuable. Read about that here: The Scrum Diaries – #1: Steps in the Right Direction.
I find that showing the value of an activity and inviting teammates to join in is more effective than commanding people. When people feel motivated to contribute, when they feel a sense of ownership to the extent that they want to take responsibilities for team activities, it builds lasting value in the way the team functions.
Someone Steps Up
After our first review meeting, some folks became more motivated. Some of them were taking initiative to read about Scrum and understand the Scrum events. One of those people came to me with questions about sprint retrospectives. When I explained the retrospective’s purpose of inspecting and adapting the team and how we work together, my colleague said, “Let’s do that! We need to do that!” I asked if she would like to send out a meeting invitation to the team. She jumped right on it. Her invitation stated: “Team, let’s have a retrospective meeting to talk about what’s working well, what’s not working well, and what we can improve as a team.” She got it! And she put it into action. Perfect.
I am learning to function as a servant-leader. It fits my personality. I am seeing results already on my team. I think I need to be careful that I do not be too lax. Sometimes I’m too laid back. I think there are times when I should have initiated things like review meetings even when I didn’t have complete buy-in from the whole team. I’m walking that line between my responsibilities to facilitate things like Scrum events since I’m the Scrum Master and the idea of inviting folks to participate so that they are doing so willingly. I want everyone’s active engagement. That’s the goal of my facilitation. The term “Scrum Master” is unfortunate. It seems at odds with servant-leader.
(The Scrum Diaries are accounts of my experiences with Scrum teams during an organizational Agile transformation. There have been, and continue to be, many bumps in the road along the way. We are learning and growing together as a team. I am a certified Scrum Master (PSM I) and a developer. I fill both of those roles on my team. These Diaries primarily address topics related to Agile and Scrum.)