As a Beginning Scrum Master- I don't just take notes...

Scrum, Daily Scrum, Refinement, Sprint Review, Sprint Retrospective, Sprint, Stand Up, Kanban, Lean, Black Belt..

The list goes on and on. When I started as a ScrumMaster it felt like my head was spinning between the technology terms like “on-prem”, Java and lambdas. Jumping from event management into the world of Scrum is an adventure that continues to teach me new words and ways of work. So let’s break down some of the things that can happen as a beginning ScrumMaster.

You get asked to take notes and set up meetings: This was my first encounter in the Scrum-world. I readily stepped up, excited to learn about making positive change and delighting the customers. Then I quickly become bored and wanted more voice in the conversations going on. Why was that? Just an incorrect role? Misalignment of responsibilities? Did I misunderstand the Certified ScrumMaster class I went to?  

None of the above. As it turns out, a ScrumMaster is not supposed to take notes or set up meetings. Yes, they can help in that way, but so can anyone on the team. As a ScrumMaster, I’ve found that my actual responsibilities include watching and listening for that moment in conversations when things dive too deep, go off-topic or everyone seems to be losing interest. They also include asking the hard questions, like why are we doing this in the first place? What problem are we trying to solve?

In the Daily Scrum or Stand Up in particular, this involves asking questions like, “Are we going to complete the work we initially committed to? If no, why not? Should we really be bringing in different work? Does the Product Owner know that we won’t make our commitment? Why aren’t we swarming to get the work done together, as a team?”

Being a ScrumMaster doesn’t automatically make anyone an expert, specialist or even good at facilitation, strategy or communication. This looks different for each person and each company. However, becoming a ScrumMaster has allowed me to see why facilitation isn’t about taking notes and scheduling meetings. Or how strategy isn’t just high-level executive work, but something that teams need to use in every day development. It has also shown me that communication is so important when it comes to persuading a team to take a risk.

Have you ever thought about how one role can be armchair psychologist and courageous proponent of change at the same time? The Certified ScrumMaster class explains how our interactions directly impact the work being done for our organizations. It teaches us that first we need to trust ourselves, our teams and our organizations and the ScrumMaster is a key part of that.

If you are interested in learning more, click here to connect with our team or see the upcoming classes on the calendar.  

  As a ScrumMaster I gotta do what????? (Self-Awareness)


Every ScrumMaster must have basic skills in facilitation, coaching, mentoring, teaching, conflict resolution and, above all else, self-awareness.   The responsibility for a good ScrumMaster to become a great ScrumMaster is to build up these basic skills with practice and time. 

 This is a series of blogs.  Each blog will take a look at a particular skill necessary for a ScrumMaster to progress in their role from basic to experienced ScrumMaster. 

ScrumMasters must have self-awareness

"There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one's self.”

- Benjamin Franklin

Know thy self:

As a ScrumMaster that has the responsibility of facilitating, coaching, mentoring and teaching you must be aware of what you bring and do not bring into each engagement you have with individuals, teams and outside of the teams – the organization.  How you think, what your values and assumptions are, may bias your service to others.  In The Skilled Facilitator by Roger Schwarz, Schwarz stresses the need to understand your mindset (your values and opinions).  In order to effectively serve as a ScrumMaster, you need to evaluate your core assumptions and fundamental beliefs.  Not so that you can change them or persuade others to join you in your mindset.  Do this so that you can better prepare to serve as a facilitator, coach, mentor or teacher.  In order to do this you will need to take the time to explore and reflect on who you are as person and as a ScrumMaster. Yes, self-reflection and introspection!  Critical activities for growth and development. There are thousands of tools and sources to take on these critical activities – available at your fingertips, just Google it! 

In additional to what you may find on the Internet, consider behavior assessments like Strengths Finder, DISC or Myers-Briggs.  Also, talk with friends and colleagues.  Ask them for input on your approach, delivery and behavior in different settings. 

And, remember, you cannot help others if you have not helped yourself first.  Put your oxygen mask on before assisting others!

Prepare and be Aware: 

Once you have taken the time to know yourself better you can focus on preparing for specific session you will engage in as a ScrumMaster.  As you prepare to step into each interaction, be aware of who you are in that moment.  What is happening or just happened that may alter your mindset?  Did you just have an uplifting call from a colleague?  Did you just read an email from a client ranting about poor service?  Was it an uber struggle to get the kids out the door this morning?  These moments have the potential to alter your abilities as a coach, facilitator, teacher or mentor.  Do a self-check before you engage - have you level set?

Don’t get hooked: 

We have all had moments when we are caught off-guard by what was said by others.  As the ScrumMaster, an individual may have touch on a sensitive area for you.  A word, phrase or opinion may catch you and take you to a place of judgement and opinions. This will hinder your ability to actively listen.  What ‘in the moment’ techniques do you have prepared?  Relaxation, breathing, compartments. If you become overly distracted, suggest a break so that you can take care of yourself. 

It’s not personal: 

As a ScrumMaster working to improve your skills, you can at times find yourself trapped in self-analysis.  At times you may allow emotions such as;  judging, defending and annoyance to creep into a session or engagement.  Stop!  Be in the moment with the individual or group.  Promise yourself that you will inspect after the event – and keep your promise to yourself!

If you would like to learn more about the ScrumMaster role, please join us at our next Certified ScrumMaster class. Details here.










Aren't Product Backlog Items just User Stories?

Aren't Product Backlog Items just User Stories?

So just what is a product backlog item in the Scrum framework? One of the Scrum artifacts is the Product Backlog.  A Product Backlog Item, or PBI, is similar to the intent of the user story. It was a place to note conversations that needed to be held with the Product Owner and anyone else necessary to flush out more information about the item. As conversations are held, results of those conversations can be added to the PBI in plain old words. No prescription necessary!